It’s good to know this.

But can we trust them? Time will tell!

Ten Reasons Why America Should Stop Singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”

1. It celebrates a racist sport, having originally been written back in 1908 when baseball was still segregated and African-Americans were barred from the major leagues. Baseball’s subsequent integration cannot erase this song’s tainted origins.

2. The song is about a young lady named Katie Casey or Nelly Kelly (depending on the version) who was keen on baseball. It not only relies on gender-role traditionalism for its premise, but is also culturally insensitive toward persons of Irish ancestry.

3. In the song, the protagonist asks her young man to “take me out to the ball game” and “buy me some peanuts and cracker jack,” displaying a totally outdated sexist attitude. Why can’t she take herself out to the ball game and buy her own peanuts and cracker jack? Or she could take a friend, without regard to gender identity.

4. As originally written, the song describes this lady as being “baseball mad—had the fever and had it bad”. This is not only demeaning to those with real mental health problems, but also disrespectful to the millions of people who die of infectious diseases each year.

5. According to the song, Katie (or Nelly) “told the umpire he was wrong, all along, good and strong.” Such disruptive behavior and disrespect for authority should not be condoned, much less celebrated.

6. The words “root, root, root for the home team—if they don’t win it’s a shame,” encourage pure partisanship, perpetuating baseball’s inherent unfairness arising from the home team advantage. If the best team doesn’t win it’s a shame; statistically, in 50% of games that won’t be the home team. In addition, this line overemphasizes the importance of winning, at the expense of the fair play and fun that should be the primary objectives of what is, after all, just a game.

7. The references to peanuts and cracker jack are socially irresponsible: they encourage unhealthy eating habits, while deliberately ignoring the imperialism, environmental impact and human rights abuses associated with peanut farming. Also, the eating of peanuts could prove fatal to nearby spectators with allergies, and the toys formerly included in cracker jack boxes have been a significant contributor to oceanic plastic pollution.

8. The song is the inauthentic product of cultural appropriation; its writers had never attended a major league ball game.

9. The song is now out of copyright. Perpetuating its popularity deprives struggling present-day songwriters of an opportunity to earn royalties.

10. Most troubling of all is the line “I don’t care if I never get back.” Apart from its dangerist implications, this is female submissivism at its worst. The singer is prepared to risk death (and perhaps a worse fate) just in order to watch baseball. Her priorities are clearly in need of adjustment.

A Mechanical Problem?

I encountered this web page late last night:

Is their website powered by a clockwork engine that needs rewinding every 12 hours?

Opportunist advertising


I suppose it makes sense to take care of two errands at once, but I’m a little perturbed by the idea of a “walk-in” smog check: just what tailpipe emissions do they propose to test?

Distraction-free shopping?

One minor annoyance about supermarket shopping can be the background music played over the store’s loudspeakers. I have no problem with instrumental tracks (as long as they only play one at a time), but hearing song lyrics can be a real distraction while reading the labels along a shelf. For example, on the day I snapped this sign OUTSIDE the store…

IMG_0147the speakers INSIDE the store were playing that old song by the Archies. You know, the one that goes “Sugar, ah honey honey, you are my candy girl and you got me wanting you, honey, ah sugar sugar…” when what you really want is marmalade (and I don’t mean the kind that went ob-la-di ob-la-da).

Of course if supermarkets REALLY wanted to make life easy for their shoppers, they would alphabetize their products, like video stores did. But I suppose that’s too much to ask.  Ah well….

Missing a W?

Here’s a 1987 British advertisement for squirt-cream which I recently unearthed from the vault. I can’t help but feel that a W is missing from the very top of the page….

missing a w

Breaking the omelette

All the recent fuss and confusion over Brexit reminds me of a British newspaper cartoon I saw round about 1971, before Britain entered the “Common Market” (as we called it back then).  As I recall, it showed a group of eggs bearing the faces of Europe’s political leaders, perched on the rim of a frying pan.  The egg with the face of Edward Heath, Britain’s Prime Minister, was speaking, and the cartoon caption was something like: “Gentlemen, suppose I don’t like being an omelette and want to go back to being an egg again?”

This prophetic cartoon deserves another airing.  If only I could find it and see how accurate my recollections are.

Who is spying on my texts?

Yesterday morning at home I got a call on my cellphone regarding a broken window (not at my house but in another building), after which I exchanged a number of text messages on the subject.

Imagine my surprise when I turned on my computer a few minutes later to visit one of my favorite websites, and up popped an advertisement for an emergency window replacement service. I’m sure this was no coincidence, as I’d never seen this advert before.

How, I wondered, could the Internet suddenly “know” that I was in conversations about a broken window, unless it was somehow spying on my cellphone traffic and linking it to my computer? I think it’s because I have a cellular signal booster that routes my cellphone traffic through my internet connection, and/or because my cellphone connects to the WiFi in my house. Either way, it means that someone, probably my cable/internet provider, is monitoring the traffic going to and from my IP address, looking for keywords and selling the information to advertisers. (They could also be listening in on my phone calls, which, although scarier, seems less likely as it is technically harder.)  It would be interesting to devise an experiment to test this hypothesis….

The Modern Raymond Ingersoll

Here’s a song I wrote for Professor Raymond Ingersoll, who’s being honored today in a special session of the 20th International Sedimentological congress in Quebec.

I am a great emeritus professor of geology,
I specialize in paleotectonic sand petrology,
I know the names of stratigraphic ages prehistorical,
From Hadean to Holocene in order categorical.
I’m very well acquainted too with matters geochemical:
I write on them extensively in papers academical;
I say in our department no-one studies better rock than us…
[bothered for a rhyme] rock than us …. rock than us… Ah!
Especially the specimens we find to be autochthonous.

CHORUS: Especially the specimens we find to be autochthonous,
Especially the specimens we find to be autochthonous,
Especially the specimens we find to be autochtho-tochtho-nous!

I scrutinize the stones of ancient monuments and palaces,
And classify them stepwise by Discriminant Analysis:
In paleotectonic sedimentary petrology
I am the great emeritus professor of geology!

CHORUS: In paleotectonic sedimentary petrology
He is the great emeritus professor of geology!

I’m good at making inferences paleoclimatical
From Pliocene and Miocene deposits amagmatical;
I quantify and analyse the provenance of sediments
Performing palinspastic reconstruction of their pediments.
I know just how to implement consistent methodology
In second-order actualistic petrofaciology,
I slice the sample rocks and microscopically scan ’em all…
[bothered for a rhyme] scan ’em all … scan ’em all … Ah!
For information vegetable, mineral and animal.

CHORUS: For information vegetable, mineral and animal,
For information vegetable, mineral and animal,
For information vegetable, mineral and anim-anim-al!

I stratify the layers in a manner that’s splendiferous,
Dividing late Devonian from early Carboniferous:
In paleotectonic sedimentary petrology
I am the great emeritus professor of geology!

CHORUS: In paleotectonic sedimentary petrology
He is the great emeritus professor of geology!

VERSE 3 (slower)
I’ve time to play the trumpet on my permanent sabbatical;
I criticize the use of Oxford commas ungrammatical;
My knowledge of great music is particularly large in Bach;
I understand dissection of a continental margin arc.
I contemplate subduction in the zones that are orogenous;
I moan at stone that’s overgrown with biomass exogenous;
At tennis I complain whenever umpires make a dodgy call…
[bothered for a rhyme] dodgy call …. dodgy call… Ah!
(a tempo) And go to every congress that is sedimentological.

CHORUS: He goes to every congress that is sedimentological,
He goes to every congress that is sedimentological,
He goes to every congress that is sedimentologi-logi-cal!

I overturn the field of rocks and rock the world scholastical
With new ideas volcanometamorphiconoclastical,
For in the realm of paleotectonic sand petrology
I am the great Emeritus Professor of Geology!

CHORUS: For in the realm of paleotectonic sand petrology
He is the great Emeritus Professor of Geology!

–Nick Mitchell


The Odds on Bingo

Today, having plenty of better things to do, I decided to amuse myself by calculating the odds involved in the game of bingo. Specifically, I am considering the standard US version of the game, in which the numbers run from 1 to 75, the cards use a 5 x 5 grid with the central cell marked as “free,” and the winner is the first player to complete a horizontal, vertical or diagonal row of five marked cells.

What, I wondered, are the chances of two or more players getting bingo at the same time and having to share the prize?  Well, in order to calculate this I first had to find the chances of a single player getting bingo as each number is called. This can happen after as few as 4, or as many as 71 numbers have been called, although these are both very remote possibilities: only about 1 chance in 300,000, and 1 chance in 700,000 respectively. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the bingo will come somewhere between calls 14 and 62, with the most likely time being on the 43rd call (about a 1-in-25 chance).

Armed with these figures I was able to calculate the chances of sharing a prize. This of course depends on the number of players in the game, but not as much as you would expect. (With more players, there is a better chance that one of them will go bingo fairly early on in the game, at a point when the chances of any other individual player winning are still quite small.)

No. of players

Chance of 1 winner

Chance of 2 winners

Chance of >2 winners









































































This table shows that even with up to 40 players, there’s less than a 1-in-10 chance that the prize will have to be shared (and an even smaller small chance that it will have to be split among 3 or more players). Bingo is obviously well suited to being played by groups of different sizes.

Another attraction of bingo is that most non-winners feel they came very close to winning. In order to calculate the figures above, I looked at all possible configurations of cell markings on a card (well, my computer did the actual looking, as there are a total of 2^24, or 16,777,216 possibilities). Of these, there were 10,624,010 configurations that a non-winning player might hold (those that did not include a row of five marked cells).  And 8,950,584 (over 84%) of these non-winning combinations were “pregnant,” that is, they had one or more rows with exactly four marked cells. As a result, most players in a game will be only one number short of having a winning card, before one lucky player calls “bingo”. This not only increases the excitement of the game, it also encourages repeat play.  No wonder bingo is so popular!