One Hundred Years of Ermintrude, by Tom Evans

This was my first official review as a Kindle Book Review team member.

First, don’t let the three star rating decide for you.

I consider Robert Service to be a different writer from Robert Frost and from Robert Finch, and I have always enjoyed reading all three. If you want an interesting and fun read, One Hundred Years of Ermintrude is for you.

While the title recalls “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, the content is a bit like Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. What you will read is essentially a large poem that tells more than one story. The first story works backwards in time, and tells of events in one life that are also events in other lives we will meet again later in the work. The second story works forward toward an ending already foreshadowed. Meanwhile the complexity of the previous lives gets revealed in additional incidents. The third story fills in yet more details. If I had to make a tiny carp, it would be that occasionally the rhythm could have been made smoother by removing an unnecessary word. If you are expecting perfect rhymes absolutely every time, you will have to be tolerant.

The work ends with a view of the universe that implies its purpose was to make it possible for a woman to want to buy a cat. Again, this is a fun read.

One Hundred Years of Ermintrude is a great bang for the buck. Different, thought-provoking, and fun. Enjoy.

John Boehner, Barack Obama, and the fiscal cliff – plus some dumb questions

There is a CRS report on income inequality in the USA. Here are some quotes from that report:

Estimates derived from federal income tax data, which allow researchers to look within the top 5% of the U.S. income distribution, suggest that those at the very top have reaped disproportionately larger gains from economic growth. These, among other measures of income dispersion, have led analysts to conclude that inequality has increased in the United States as a result of high-income households pulling further away from those lower in the distribution.

Based on the limited data that are comparable across nations, the U.S. income distribution appears to be among the most unequal of all major industrialized countries and the United States appears to be among the nations experiencing the greatest increases in measures of income dispersion.

This information can be found at the Federation of American Scientists, CRS Reports, Miscellaneous. A link to this page is provided here. Search for ‘income distribution’.

Since this is a Congressional Research Service report, I expect that both Messrs. Boehner and Obama have access to it, and even have read it. It is quite relevant to the fiscal cliff. The cliff was created to force lawmakers to come to an agreement. This is not happening.

If you will pardon an atrocious pun, an agreement would have to be a No Boehner. The Republicans seem to want to keep tax breaks for the rich, and to remove social spending for the poor: in other words, to exacerbate the already absurd level of income inequality in the USA.

Not that I think Mr. Obama is blameless. I believe his insistence on compromise has compromised … himself. He should make it stunningly clear that if certain boundary conditions are not met, he will veto any legislation.

I believe George W. Bush threatened to veto more than any other president, and was forced to actually veto probably at the extreme low end of historical frequencies. I also believe the legislature of that regime should have forced the president to veto, thus making it clear where the legislative decisions, compromises and non-compromises, were coming from.

Now for the dumb question. These tax cuts for the rich are tax cuts, right? The rich once paid these taxes and were rich, right? So why are they so onerous now? Is Warren Buffet the only millionaire with a conscience? (No, actually, the Gates’ come immediately to mind, and there are other philanthropists who really do try to make a positive difference with their wealth. Apologies to all of them.) Still, the majority of the rich would have agreed with Mitt Romney’s audience, at a (gasp!) $50,000 a plate dinner, that 47% of the USA does not matter to them at all.

The dumb questions: why do they always have greed for more than one’s share, no matter how much they have already? Have they no humanity?

And: Can Barack Obama cause something to happen that meets his beliefs? Will he?

Cold Comes Through as reviewed by Shell Tidings, KBR Review Team

I cut and paste the entire review here. My first book of poetry was given a five star rating by a member of the Kindle Book Review Team.

Review by Shell Tidings

A modern day Wasteland.

Cold Comes Through’  offers up a highly personal collection of a son’s memories of his father’s disappearance into Alzheimer’s and his father’s eventual death. The initial Author’s note resonates, stating that poetry belongs to us all (regardless of the monetary siftings of publishers say I). Throughout this work, objects take on the imprint of Jim Bennett’s father, not only as all he has left of his loved one, but also as an extension of the human being himself. In ‘Made to Last’ the malleability of cedar wood becomes a metaphor for life’s twists and turns, losses and loves. Loss is personified in the season of Fall, the edges of a life browning like leaves and migrating birds winging like a soul, leaving the mourners behind to face cold December. In one of my favourites ‘White with Aluminium’, even peonies in Spring are hidden underground in an image of sub-terrestrial hope. In other favourites ‘One Second’ describes a captured moment between loved ones and ‘The Gatekeeper’ beautifully evokes in countdown the expectation of an unamed thing in a relationship. If had one tiny quibble, the poems could occasionally have ended sooner. There is no need for a poet to explain meaning. For example, I would have liked the brilliantly realised metaphor ‘Picture of Wolves’ to finish with the tail of a sock, as death relentlessly chases down its prey.  Yes, I have many favourites in this evocative collection that speaks to all of us who have experienced loss. The indents of the lines themselves hint at the washes of the tides of grief and meet the literal tides of a lake, whose ‘algal clouds’ and ‘tall sky mirages’ in ‘On The Bridge’ allegorise the depths of relationships. Pain is etched out in grit and vivid imagery of a grief-stricken landscape, thrown into relief by ‘ragged lids from tin cans and brown glass shards of beer bottles’, the ravages of which remind me of T.S. Eliot’s ‘Wasteland’.  And yes indeed, I am aware of the comparison I make.

An interesting list of persons of interest

Let me start with Rob Ford, who ran on the promise of reducing the gravy train in Toronto city hall. He is now in danger of losing his job due to a conflict of interest over a mere $3,150.00.

Let me continue with KPMG, the consulting firm who went over the city’s expenditures and found that little could actually be cut. I believe this audit cost us $100,000.00.

Now we move on to Laurel Broten, our provincial education minister. Thanks to a strange law, put in to prevent a strike that had not happened yet, we now have walkouts and strikes in the Toronto GTA area.

To make matters worse for us taxpayers, it turns out that education is a big piece – approximately half – or Toronto property tax charges. Now we find out that the Toronto District School Board pays ridiculous amounts for simple fixes to the physical plant which is our schools and their facilities.

So, given the above list of persons of interest, we can now ask the following dumb questions:

  • Did Rob Ford promise gravy train cuts for which he had no logical means of delivery?
  • Did KPMG overlook the TDSB in their audit of spending?
  • Did Laurel Broten do us a favour by pre-emtively settling a strike before it happened? Is it going to be easier to settle now?
  • Who exactly is responsible for the TDSB’s methodology of contracting out school installations and repairs?
  • Should Rob Ford lose his mayoralty over $3,150.00? Given that he said it was too important for him to pay himself, can he claim it was of no serious concern to him?
  • Are all Toronto taxpayers stupid? Will we continue to put up with this nonsense?

Writing, publishing, and reviewing

I write poetry. I have three books available in various formats, including Amazon’s Kindle format.This format can be read on a Kindle device, or any PC with the free PC Kindle Reader.

My first book (Cold Comes Through) has been reviewed somewhat favourably by Shell Tidings, who is a member of the Kindle Book Review team.

Since then, I have been accepted as a member of the KBR team as well, and have posted three poetry reviews already. Expect more.

This is in part a salute to Amazon, for organizing a review team with a bit more guidance and guidelines for review contents and star counts, than informal reviews. Informal reviews are valuable, as they allow readers anywhere to freely express an opinion and recommend a work. Formal reviews with standards allow somewhat more precise comparisons, and may sometimes be more informative.

Finally, a word of thanks – to all who work-shopped and critiqued me, to all who asked for my input, and especially to those who trusted me to review their work in a fair and intelligent manner. From the feedback so far, I’m doing OK in the last part.

Thanks for reading. That’s why I write.

Why (Business) Growth is Required

Businesses run on debt. Debt interest compounds. Inflation increases costs. Inflation compounds. Thus businesses are always trying to increase their revenue.

If we had no interest (as in Islamic financing, at least much of the time) and no inflation, a business could be in steady-state with a steady-state population.

Instead, it’s grow or bust, or more likely, grow till you burst.

The planet was possibly, at one time, in something approaching steady state between ice ages. Civilization fixed this.

Have a nice day.

One small mathematical fact

Those who dislike mathematics should skip to the next post.

Algebra class. 0 = x^2 -11x +30 = (x-5) * (x-6). We are now told that, if the product of two numbers is zero, one of them must be zero. so x-5 or x-6 is zero, and x = 5 or x = 6.

I remember this, and remember thinking, ‘can you prove that?’, but decided it was true, and let it go. At the time.

A few months ago, insomniac, this problem re-presented itself to me, and I decided to attempt a proof. I studied groups/rings/fields in UofT, so I used the axioms of a field to prove the assertion, a*b=0 implies a=0 or b=0, for any field. The proof does not require commutativity of multiplication, so it applies to Hamiltonian Quaternions, as well as to real numbers, rational numbers, algebraic numbers, and integers mod a prime number, and other Fields in the mathematical sense.

I will not go into the tedious details of what an ‘operation’ is. It is a mapping from F*F into F. Instead I’ll simply say, a+b is always in F if a and b are, and is always defined and always unique. Similarly, the operation * follows the same rule: a*b is always in F if a and b are, is always defined and is always unique.

The relationship “=” is supposed to be reflexive, symmetric, and transitive. That means, for any a, b, c in F we have: a=a;  and a=b and b=c implies a=c; and a=b implies b=a.

Now for the axioms of a field F:

F is a set, and has members. There are operations on its members, which we will write as + and *. These operations work much as you’ve seen numbers add and multiply, but we’ll have abstract axioms that could apply to totally different operations (rotations in space, permutations, et cetera) on different sets holding different members entirely.

Associative law of addition: a + (b + c) = (a + b) + c.

Commutative law of addition: a + b = b + a. (we won’t actually need this if we assume left- and right- identity elements).

Identity element for +: We will write this element as 0 and it has the property that

0 + a = a for all a in F. We can either assume commutativity, or another element 0
with the property a + 0 = a for all a in F. If you consider the value of 0 + 0, depending on which identity element you remove, you prove they are equal.

Inverse element for addition. For all a in F, there is another  unique element a say, such that    a + a = 0. You can either assume commutativity, or assume a left- and right- additive inverse, and the expression a(left inverse) + a + a(right inverse), with the associative law, can be evaluated to be either inverse. In any case we will from now on write -a for the additive inverse of a. You should remember that b – a is really b + -a. We don’t exactly have subtraction, we have adding the additive inverse.

Multiplication. This runs quite similar to addition with two small twists.

a * b is always defined. a * b = b * a and we won’t actually need this axiom (commutative law of multiplication).

a * (b * c) = (a * b) * c for all a, b, c, in F (associative law of multiplication).

There is an identity element for multiplication, which I will write as 1. It has the property that

1 * a = a for all a in F. Again, we can either assume commutativity or assume both a left-identity and a right-identity and prove they are equal simply by multiplying them together.

So I can write 1 for the multiplication identity element and 0 for the addition identity element without ambiguity.

As in addition, there is a multiplicative inverse for all elements in F except 0.

For any a not zero, there is a unique element z say, such that a * z = 1.

We can either assume commutativity of multiplication, or assume both a left-inverse and a right-inverse, and by evaluating (left-inverse-of-a) * a * (right-inverse-of-a) using the two interpretations given by the associative law for multiplication, and prove the left inverse is the same as the right inverse.

I will write, 1/a for the inverse of a. If I accidentally write b/a, what I really mean is b * 1/a. Again, we have multiplication by the inverse, not division as a new operator.

The second thing unusual about multiplication is, it interacts with addition in a very specific way.

a * (b + c) = (a * b) + (a * c).     or, a*(b+c) = a*b + a*c where we ‘read’ the * as happening before the +. This is the distributive law of multiplication over addition.

We are now ready to prove a small lemma we’ll need in a few more lines.

Claim: for any x in F, x * 0 = 0.

Proof:  x = x * 1 (multiplicative identity). 1 = 1 + 0 (additive identity 0, special case).

so x = x * 1 = x * (1 + 0) = x * 1 + x * 0 (distributive law). Restating, x = x + x * 0.

Now we add -x to the left of both sides: -x + x = -x + x + x * 0; which gives 0 = x * 0. QED.

Now assume a*b=0. we are to prove a=0 or b=0.

if a=0 we are done. If it does not, we have 1/a such that 1/a * a = 1.

multiply the original equation, a * b = 0, by 1/a on each side. This gives us

1/a * (a * b) = 1/a * 0. By the associative law, the left side equals (1/a * a) * b which is 1 * b or b. The right hand side, by our lemma, is a case of x * 0 and is zero.

So we have,  if a * b = 0 and a is not 0, then b = 0. QED.