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Archive for July, 2016

Today I thought I would share this great anti-war song – “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival. It was released in September 1969, and is specifically about the lucky men who were born into families which, somehow, meant that they were not called up for the draft to fight in the Vietnam war.

These were the senators’ sons, the millionaires’ sons, the fortunate sons. Sons like George W. Bush, who miraculously found himself in the National Guard, far away from any danger, rather than in Vietnam fighting. I wonder why? Oh, maybe because his father, George H. Bush, had the political clout and importance to make sure his precious son didn’t go and fight in the jungles of Vietnam, unlike the poor white and black men who were drafted there.

As the draft went on, it became more and more apparent how many fortunate sons were avoiding going to war, thanks to their family’s influence in bending the rules. And how many poor blacks and whites had no choice, they were forced to go and would be jailed should they refuse. The Vietnam war was wrong on so many levels, but the inequity of the draft was certainly one of its wrongs.

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“Fortunate Son” was released in September 1969, and talks of the privileged few who, somehow, avoided the Vietnam war draft.

“Fortunate Son” is rated at 99 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. It really is a great song, I am surprised that I haven’t blogged about it before.

Some folks are born, made to wave the flag
Ooo, they’re red, white and blue
And when the band plays “Hail to the Chief”
Ooo, they point the cannon at you, Lord

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no senator’s son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no

Some folks are born, silver spoon in hand
Lord, don’t they help themselves, y’all
But when the taxman comes to the door
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yeah

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no millionaire’s son, no, no
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, no

Yeah, yeah
Some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
And when you ask ’em, “How much should we give?”
Ooh, they only answer “More! More! More!”, y’all

It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no military son, son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, one
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no fortunate one, one

Here is a video of the song. Enjoy!

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This interesting story about the Mars Curiosity Rover recently came to my attention – that its software has now been upgraded to allow the on-board computer to make decisions about choosing targets for its laser to zap. You can read the NASA press release by following this link.

It interested me for two reasons. Firstly, it is a reminder that we have two rovers actively studying Mars as I type (the Mars Curiosity Rover and the Opportunity Rover, which has been operating on the surface of Mars since January 2004!). Whereas Opportunity is about the size of a shopping trolley, the Curiosity Rover is about the size of a car, and has a whole suite of scientific instruments to learn more about the geology of Mars. This includes a chemical laboratory, which can analyse the composition of rocks. The laser is used to vaporise nearby rocks which are thought to be of interest. As the laser strikes the rock the gases emitted are analysed by a spectrometer, but Curiosity can also scoop up rock samples and place them in an on-board oven to heat them up and further analyse them.

But, the second interesting thing for me is that this marks a step forward in “artificial intelligence”. Now, I am very far from being an expert in “artificial intelligence”, so someone who knows more about it than I do may well correct much of what I am about to say. However, it is clear that the on-board computers on the Mars Curiosity Rover are now making decisions about potential targets for the rover’s laser, presumably based on analysing images of previous rocks which Mission Control (at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena) have chosen as targets. Thus, the computer has been learning which kind of rocks the geologists/experts on Earth have been choosing, and is now choosing its own based on some criteria of similarities. I find this very interesting (maybe I’m easily pleased!)

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NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover can now fire its laser on its own, making decisions at to which rocks to fire it at, without mission control’s involvement.

Such computer-based learning and decision making are vital as we continue to explore the Solar System with robotic missions. The delay time between sending a command to a robot on a distant world and getting the response becomes longer and longer as we explore more distant planets and moons. With Mars the delay is not too bad, typically 20 minutes, but with Saturn it is more like 160 minutes between sending a command and getting the response. Nearly 3 hours is too long in some circumstances, so a rover on e.g. Titan in the future would need to be able to make some decisions on its own, after a period of being commanded and learning from those commands.

Having rovers which use artificial intelligence is, in my opinion, still no substitute for having a human being on Mars. The work which the various rovers on Mars have done in the last 12 years could have been accomplished by a skilled geologist in a few days. And, as the excitement over Tim Peake’s 6-month spell on the International Space Station has reminded us, nothing gets us more excited in the matter of space exploration than seeing a human being doing things in space; no matter how impressive are the things that robots can now do.Hopefully, I will see human beings on Mars in my lifetime.

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At number 14 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “She Loves You”. This song was recorded in July 1963 and was The Beatles’ 4th single release in the Disunited Kingdom, in late August 1963. “She Loves You” had advance orders of half a million copies in the DUK, and of course shot straight to number one in its first week of release. It remained in the charts for a staggering 31 weeks, with 18 of those being in the top 3 and spent 6 weeks in total at number 1.

“She Loves You” is a true joint Lennon-McCartney composition, both of them contributing to its lyrics and melody. Interestingly, it was credited as “Lennon-McCartney”, which would remain the credit of any song they wrote, either together or separately, from this point until The Beatles’ split in April 1970. But, prior to this single, their 2nd single “Please Please Me” and their 3rd single “From Me to You” were credited as “McCartney-Lennon”, something I did not know before I did the research for this blogpost. I have included photographs of the labels of their first four singles below so you can see how each was credited.

 

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At number 14 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “She Loves You”

Here are the lyrics of this incredibly catchy song. Paul McCartney once said in an interview that his father did not like the Americanism of “yeah, yeah, yeah” and asked why they could not have sung “yes, yes, yes”. An interesting suggestion, but I don’t think it would have worked in quite the same way!

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

You think you lost your love
When I saw her yesterday
It’s you she’s thinking of
And she told me what to say
She says she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad

She said you hurt her so
She almost lost her mind
And now she says she knows
You’re not the hurting kind
She says she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad, ooh

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
And with a love like that
You know you should be glad

You know it’s up to you
I think it’s only fair
Pride can hurt you too
Apologize to her
Because she loves you
And you know that can’t be bad
Yes, she loves you
And you know you should be glad, ooh

She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
With a love like that
You know you should be glad
With a love like that
You know you should be glad
With a love like that
You know you should be glad
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

Here is a video of a live performance of “She Loves You”. Enjoy!

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided not to serve Russia with a blanket ban from the upcoming Rio Olympics (they start 5 August). This, despite the finding of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that wide-spread doping was (is) being conducted in Russian sport with the implicit knowledge and cooperation of the Russian government and sports authorities. I am flabbergasted that the IOC has been so spineless.

Doping is ruining sport. In almost any event which involves a test of speed or endurance or strength, one can only wonder how clean a winning athlete is. When all eight of the athletes who started the 1988 mens’ 100 metres sprint were later found guilty of having taken performance enhancing substances at some point, and when a two-times drugs cheat like Justin Gatlan is still allowed to compete in athletics, the world of sport is in serious denial if it thinks that it is not in crisis.

Thankfully the IAAF has been a bit more bold; Russia is banned from competing in the athletics (track and field) at the Rio games. Individual athletes can, as I understand it, make an appeal against this blanket ban if they feel they can prove that they are and have been clean. The IOC should have done the same thing. By not doing so they have ducked the issue, in my opinion.

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Russia has escaped a blanket ban by the IOC from the Rio Olympics.

For me it is very sad when one watches the Olympic Games, one of the highlights of the sporting calendar, and one wonders how many of the athletes in each final are clean, and how many have managed to beat the testing system. Russia has been shown to have a state-sanctioned doping system, the evidence gathered by the WADA investigation is overwhelming. For that, Russia should be banned from the Olympics. No ifs or buts. An outright ban, until it can be shown to have cleaned up its act. The IOC has missed a big opportunity here to send out a clear message that doping should not be tolerated in sport.

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Yesterday (Sunday 24 June) cyclist Chris Froome won his third Tour de France, and his second in a row (he also won in 2013). He becomes the first cyclist to retain the Tour de France title since Miguel Indurain did so in 1994 and 1995 (Lance Armstrong’s wins have been erased from the record books, as they should, for cheating).

Winning the Tour de France is quite an achievement, one could argue the hardest achievement in sport. 3 weeks of cycling for 5-6 hours each day, with only two rest days over the 21-day race. It is the supreme test of endurance, which is sadly why doping is (was?) so common; if you can gain just a few percent in your recovery or endurance it will add up to a large advantage over 3 weeks.

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Chris Froome is a Kenyan-born cyclist who spent his childhood in both Kenya and South Africa. Whether he is “British” is a matter of debate, but he is a first rate cyclist!

Froome is a quiet character, very determined but not particularly interested in being a friendly, chatty sports star. This is probably the reason that he has not really been taken to the hearts of the British public. He is not as obviously funny or entertaining as Bradley Wiggins, who was the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France, in 2012. Whereas Wiggins has been made a “sir”, Froome has not, and surely this will be rectified in the New Year’s honours list at the end of this year. Not that getting a knighthood should be any validation of anything, but it is patently not fair for Wiggins to have been so honoured and for Froome not to have been.

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Froome won his third Tour de France yesterday (24 June 2016), having also won in 2015 and 2013. He thus becomes the first cyclist to retain the title since Miguel Indurain (as Lance Armstrong’s wins have been erased from the record books).

Froome is now 31 and, according to an interview I heard on the radio with the Sky team manager David Brailsford, there is no reason why he cannot go on for several more years and win a fourth and fifth (and even sixth) title. Brailsford thinks Froome has the ability physically to win 2 or 3 more, it is really a question of whether he can motivate himself to make the sacrifices necessary to do so.

There are four cyclists who have won the Tour de France five times,

  • Jacques Angquetil (1957, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964)
  • Eddy Merckx (1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974)
  • Bernard Hinault (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985)
  • Miguel Indurain (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995)

Of these, only Indurain has won the five titles consecutively. With 3 wins now under his belt, there can surely be no greater motivation for Froome than to join this elite group of 5-time winners, and even to try to surpass them and win a sixth.

 

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One – U2 (song)

Today I thought I would blog about one of my favourite U2 songs – “One”, from their 7th studio album Achtung Baby. “One” was released as a single in March 1992, and was the 3rd single to be released from Achtung Baby, following on from “Mysterious Ways”. The words to “One” were written by Bono, with the music by the band.

The lyrics to “One” talk of the fractures that Bono felt were developing in the band, but also which he saw in Berlin, where they went to record the album just after the wall had fallen. Whilst, in theory, by then a united city, Bono saw dislocation and isolation all around him as the city struggled to become one after over forty years of being divided.

Is it getting better
Or do you feel the same
Will it make it easier on you now 
You got someone to blame

You say…
One love
One life
When it’s one need
In the night
One love
We get to share it
Leaves you baby if you
Don’t care for it

Did I disappoint you
Or leave a bad taste in your mouth
You act like you never had love
And you want me to go without

Well it’s…
Too late
Tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other

One…

Have you come here for forgiveness
Have you come to raise the dead
Have you come here to play Jesus
To the lepers in your head

Did I ask too much
More than a lot
You gave me nothing
Now it’s all I got

We’re one
But we’re not the same
Well we
Hurt each other
Then we do it again

You say
Love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love the higher law
You ask me to enter
But then you make me crawl
And I can’t be holding on
To what you got
When all you got is hurt

One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
Sisters
Brothers

One life
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other
One…life
One

Here is one of the official videos of this song; the other one was a mesmerising black and white video showing a bison. I am sure that you will be able to find it online. Enjoy!

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At number 15 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Help!”. This John Lennon song is literally that, a cry for help. Lennon wrote it when he was depressed over the winter of 1964/65. It was recorded in April 1965, and was released as a single in July of the same year. It is also the opening track of their album Help!, which was released in August of 1965, a week or so after the movie of the same name was released.

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At number 15 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “Help!”

Not surprisingly, Help! got to number 1 in many countries around the World, including the USA and Disunited Kingdom, but also Canada, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Help, I need somebody
Help, not just anybody
Help, you know I need someone, help

When I was younger (So much younger than) so much younger than today
(I never needed) I never needed anybody’s help in any way
(Now) But now these days are gone (These days are gone), I’m not so self assured
(I know I’ve found) Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me

(Now) And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
(My independence) My independence seems to vanish in the haze
(But) But every now (Every now and then) and then I feel so insecure
(I know that I) I know that I just need you like I’ve never done before

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being ’round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me

When I was younger so much younger than today
I never needed anybody’s help in any way
(But) But now these days are gone (These days are gone), I’m not so self assured
(I know I’ve found) Now I find I’ve changed my mind and opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I’m feeling down
And I do appreciate you being round
Help me, get my feet back on the ground
Won’t you please, please help me, help me, help me, ooh

Here is a live version of Help!, performed on a British TV programme some two weeks before the famous concert at Shea Stadium. Enjoy!

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