Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Music Makes You Braver

That is a tag line for the music of Two Steps from Hell founded by Thomas Bergersen and Nick Phoenix. When I was working as a clerk-typist (information specialist) for the Texas Military Department editing, distributing, and sometimes writing plans, procedures, and policies, I searched out music on YouTube to put in my headphones in order to keep out noise while I tried to concentrate. I found their album Battlecry. I signed up for the channel and bought access and then a download for that, Skyworld, Invincible, and Unleashed.

Katica Illényi delivered a full-bodied performance of Vittorio Monti’s “Csárdás.” (I find it acceptable that the best Hungarian dance would be written by an Italian.) It is just the first half of this YouTube video:
She also has a violin performance of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 a work usually scored for the piano. (At least, that was Liszt’s intent.)


Speaking of things Hungarian (such as my maternal grandparents), serving in uniform, I identified with this guy, whatever his mission was that day. 

“Ide Születtem” by Hungarica


My brother’s band, Styrenes, recorded “Minstrel Boy” as a mock, but I liked the energy (and Paul’s brogue).

I think that the Hans Zimmer version is the best modern instantiation. Written for Blackhawk Down, it goes well with a similar yarn, Battlestar Galactica. We were fans of the first three seasons, though Ron Moore’s post-modernist sense of life took the plot and theme  into entropy. Minstrel Boy/Battlestar Galactica


The performance of “Men of Harlech” from Zulu is iconic. “Very good, mind ye, but they have no top tenors.” Of all the versions I listened to, Charlotte Church’s performance takes the prize.


One May Day, I went looking for The Internationale and following links, I ended up at “Minka.” It was a song that we learned (in English) in grade school. Our neighborhood was very ethnic. When the teacher passed out the sheet music, one girl said, “Our dog’s name is Minka!” and another girl rejoined, somewhat saddened, “My mom’s name is Minka.” 


Minka with Ukrainian lyrics and English liner notes.

A more modern theatrical rendition here:


Arturo Toscanini conducts The Internationale

Billy Bragg version

Oddly enough, in We the Living, Ayn Rand describes the song in positive words. What she hated about communism was communism. For her the October Revolution was a betrayal. She was all for modernism, globalism, and an end to nationalism and racism.


Also misunderstood, I believe, is our own national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. We sing it as a dirge. It drags the hearse down the street and the carriage is a travois. It should sound like this: 

1814 Version

It was set to a drinking song for a reason. We celebrate a victory. Drink to it!

“The Anacreontic Song” Soloist: Jacob Wright Conducted by Jerry Blackstone from the University of Michigan’s American Music Institute.  “The myrtle of Venus with Bacchus’s vine!” here:


When I was very young my heroes were cowboys, of course, and they were men on their own, not members of large groups. I liked Gene Autry. (“Whoopee-tie-aye-ay! I go my own way ... Where you sleep out every night and the only law is right.”) “Back in the Saddle Again.”


“The Ballad of Paladin” here:


Being on your own is fine until it is not. Of the very many versions of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” I sent this one to Laurel.


Previously on Necessary Facts 


After Action Report: Heartbreak Ridge 

Financing a Revolution 

Rebels: A Well-Regulated Militia 


Saturday, January 9, 2021


I learned of the song from The West. Wing episode where Secret Service agent Simon Donovan is killed in a convenience store robbery. The song plays while White House Press Secretary C. J. Cregg sits on a bus stop bench and cries. It has had many cover artists. The best version is by Jeff Buckley. Different lyrics have been written by Leonard Cohen, creating more versions. I was insulted when I heard it again in Shrek.

I've heard there was a secret chord

That David played and it pleased the Lord

But you don't really care for music, do ya?

Well it goes like this: the fourth, the fifth

The minor fall, the major lift

The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah


Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley Official Video)

Well, your faith was strong, but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew ya

She tied you to the kitchen chair

She broke your throne and she cut your hair

And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah


Well baby, I've been here before

I've seen this room and I've walked this floor

I used to live alone before I knew ya

And I've seen your flag on the marble arch

And love is not a victory march

It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah


Well, maybe there's a God above

But all I've ever learned from love

Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya

And it's not a cry that you hear at night

It's not somebody who has seen the Light

It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah


Well there was a time when you let me know

What's really going on below

But now you never show that to me do you

But remember when I moved in you

And the holy dove was moving too

And every breath we drew was hallelujah


You say I took the name in vain

I don't even know the name

But if I did, well really, what's it to you?

There's a blaze of light

In every word

It doesn't matter which you heard

The holy or the broken Hallelujah


I did my best, it wasn't much

I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch

I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you

And even though

It all went wrong

I'll stand before the Lord of Song

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah


Irene Louise Babos Marotta Joseph 

Happy Birthday, Paul 

World War II Sweetheart Dance (2019) 

Love Actually Quote-Along 


Thursday, January 7, 2021

Gershon's Equation

 Today, I discovered the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers, founded 1 March 1947 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I had no idea that they exist, even though we  lived in Las Cruces for two years, and I worked with one of the founders, Walter Haas. Today, I joined.

On 1 December 2020, lining up on Mars, I saw a pair of stars that looked like a binary. I noted the time and their approximate position. Eta Piscium was discovered by S. W. Burnham in 1878.


"But Gershon, you can't call it Gershon's equation
 if everyone has known it for ages."
(Sidney Harris, What's So Funny About Science?)

It turns out that there is a Gershon's equation which "everyone" has known about for 700 years.

One year later [1322], at the request of the bishop of Meaux, he wrote The Harmony of Numbers in which he considers a problem of Philippe de Vitry involving so-called harmonic numbers, which have the form (2^m) * (3^n). The problem was to characterize all pairs of harmonic numbers differing by 1. Gersonides proved that there are only four such pairs: (1,2), (2,3), (3,4) and (8,9). --


Saturday, January 2, 2021

Ten Years of Necessary Facts

This blog was launched on 2 January 2011. It was inspired by Gregory Browne’s Necessary Factual Truths (University Press of America, 2001). I met Dr. Browne at Eastern Michigan University in the fall semester 2007. Waiting for a class in police operations, I was walking the halls and heard him lecturing. It was obviously a philosophy class and he sounded reasonable. I looked in and saw “Ayn Rand” on the blackboard closing an array of philosophers in historical sequence. A couple of weeks later, I heard him actually mention Ayn Rand. So, I introduced myself. And I bought the book format of his doctoral dissertation. It derives from a refutation by Leonard Peikoff of the Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy. 

All-time Readership Frequency
(The anomalous spike is Hurricane Harvey)

All-time Readership Geography
At times Russia, India, or China dominated.

Before EMU, I was at Washtenaw Community College. Taking a class in symbolic logic (required for criminal justice majors), the instructor was Elizabeth E. Goodnick. She displayed a nervous habit typical of high-IQ children. So I took a Platonic interest in her and asked about her research. She said that she was pursuing David Hume even though she herself was a rationalist. I replied, “So you accept that A is A, but you are not certain that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow?” She said that was correct. That is the Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy: rational versus empirical; logical versus real; theoretical versus practical; moral versus practical; art versus science. 


Reclaiming the worldview of Aristotle, Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is a modern instantiation of the rational empiricism of the Enlightenment. We commonly know it as the scientific method. Theories explain facts; facts validate theories. Contradictions do not exist. Existence is identity: to be is to be something. The senses are valid. Knowledge is possible because reason works. Moral actions are practical and money is a valid measure of moral action. It is not the only measure. 


Ten Most Popular Posts

Second Ten Most Popular Posts

After ten years posting 668 articles, resulting in 351,444 page views, I have seven followers. I stopped taking comments this year after a spate of spammers inserted their own links. I have had offers from search engine optimizers to help me monetize this blog. I turn them all down because here I write for myself. I do get paid to write what other people want and I am happy for those opportunities. For myself, writing here is research and development, or maybe just keyboard practice. Socially, for myself, this is like a concert violinist taking his guitar and a bottle of wine down to the park to jam, or Itzak Perlman playing klezmer. 

Speaking of music, though, I do not, or at least have not yet. That seems a curious lacuna.

A Partial Index of Ideas Within This Blog (2017)



General Topics:

Imaginary Numbers are Real: Pegasus is Not 

Sociology: A Defense and a Call for Reform 

The Economic Value in a Liberal Education 

Why Evidence is Not Enough 

Supplies and Demands 



Leaders are Readers 

Hurricane Tejas 



Integrating Criminologies 

Employee Theft 

20% of Scientists are Crooks 


Ayn Rand:

The Influence of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism 

Ayn Rand and Star Trek 



The Scientific Method 

Science in the Middle Ages 



Seeing in the Dark: Your Front Row Seat to the Universe 




Numismatics: The Standard of Proof in Economics 

Numismatics: History as Market 



Linguistics Debate: What Colors are Your Rainbow?  

Sándor Kőrösi Csoma 

The Living Fish Swims Under Water 


Popular Culture

Nerd Nation 4.5

She’s Such a Geek! 

World Peace Through Massive Retaliation 


Friday, January 1, 2021

When Worlds Collide

Over the course of a couple of weeks, I watched the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn while reading about Bronson Alpha and Bronson Beta approaching Earth. 

Good science fiction depends on good science. The narrative starts out strong. By the climax, I was less sanguine about the empirical evidence and theoretical explanations. All of the characters are men, except the daughter of the physicist; and she is named Eve. The hero, Ivy League athlete Tony Drake, came before Ivy League athlete Flash Gordon (1935). Pluto had been discovered in 1930. So, the fact that unknown planets exist beyond our system was common news. What if one entered our solar system? What if we knew that it would destroy the Earth? 

Paperback Library Edition
J. B. Lippincott 1932

The world of 1932 is not unfamiliar, though some of the cultural norms were best left in the past. It was interesting to discover that atomic power and space travel were presented as attainable. The scientists who have formed the League of Last Days hide their activities with phony press releases about making progress smashing the atom. (Ultimately, the scientists do develop a fission engine to power their spaceship.) According to Eve Hendron: “We could send a rocket to the moon to-day if it would do any good, if anyone could possibly live on the moon when he got there.” Whatever its flaws this book may have created the disaster genre. Certainly, it was echoed in Lucifer’s Hammer by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven (1977). 


Eve Hendron is presented as a computer. She performs calculations, reducing the data from photographic plates for her father, industrial physicist Dr. Cole Hendron. To me, that indicates that the work of the women computers at the Harvard Observatory was known to the common culture. She explains to Tony that with three observations, an orbit can be plotted, adding that they have hundreds of determinations and know much about the planets. After all, she continued, “Tony, you remember how precise the forecast was in the last eclipse that darkened New England. The astronomers not only foretold to a second when it would begin and end, but they described the blocks and even the sides of streets in towns that would be in shadow. And their error was less than twenty feet.” 


From that scene the book tracks another theme, the religious implications of the complete destruction of the world by one planet coupled with the chance for rescue (if not salvation) by flying to another planet. The characters, especially Tony Drake, often speak reflectively (though inconclusively) about the theological impact of doomsday. The chances of this event happening were astronomically against it. The planets had to have to passed close enough and at the right velocities to be captured by the Sun and then not merely fall into solar orbits but strike the Earth. Moreover, when Bronson Alpha obliterates our planet, it gains enough velocity to leave the system, which I found difficult to accept because of the energy considerations. But that’s how miracles work: if you could understand them, they would be mundane, not be miracles.


Also miraculous was the release from the Earth’s mantle of a metal that could withstand the forces of atomic energy. The want of such a metal destroyed the French spaceship which fell back to Earth when its engines melted. The Americans believe that they alone survived in two ships. Part Two, After Worlds Collide, is an epic conflict against the communists and fascists who also succeeded to Bronson Beta. It is a brave new world on several levels. As in Huxley’s myth (also 1932), the scientists here decide that monogamy is counterproductive. With their small gene pool of 100 to 200 survivors, they decide early on to make serial mating mandatory.  

1951: George Pal Productions

I believe that the collapse of the world and its regeneration along radical lines was a result the Great War that destroyed the 19th century. Optimism was dead. I have on my shelf a find from a library sale, The Marvelous Record of the Closing Century by Charles Morris, 1899, American Book and Bible House, Philadelphia. I can hear its tone in contemporaneous works on more focused topics by William Graham Sumner, James Ford Rhodes, Charles Beard, and Henry Cabot Lodge. Today, it is derided as “the Whig theory of history” that social evolution is social progress toward liberalism, democracy, and globalism, of trade and commerce replacing war and conquest. For me the hallmark of that is The Romance of Commerce by H. Gordon Selfridge, 1918, John Lane the Bodley Head, London. 


The wars of the 20th century may be ending. We thought they were over when communism fell. In 1990, we underestimated the God that did not fail, the actual religionists, the Muslims, Hindus, and Christians who refuse to enter the brave new world. The return (and eventual exit) of 21st century new nationalists—Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Viktor Orban, among too many others—was predicted in another science fiction work, Islands in the Net (1988) by Bruce Sterling. 


I had a hard time finding this book. My city library no longer shelves it. One ABE Books seller cancelled an order. You can tell from the cover art that this was a late 1960s paperback reprint. I read it pretty hard, making a lot margin notes and tags to longer notes in the front. I found a lot here to enjoy, consider, and reflect on.


Paragraphs of narrative have the conspiracy of scientists planning the biology and ecology of their next home. The sociology of science is a continuing thread. It was also telling that in 1932, the wealthy had not been affected by the crash of 1929. What we now call The Great Depression actually had not yet begun—and I have other facts to support that claim. They even mention in passing the relative value of gold versus common stocks during times of panic. Market panics pass. This one did not.


Previously on Necessary Facts

Forbidden Planet 

Firefly: Fact and Value Aboard “Serenity” 

Star Trek: Discovery and the Conflict of Values 

Armadillocon 41 


Sunday, December 27, 2020

Heller Coins of Medieval Hall in Swabia

For about 300 years, these small silver coins, nominally worth half a penny were an important medium of daily commerce in central Europe. They originated in the town of Hall in Swabia and were therefore called Häller (Haeller or Heller). 

In response to an advertisement from my longtime friends at Liberty Coin Service of East Lansing, I bought 12 medieval hellers to give out at Christmas. The 2x2 inserts from Liberty Coins say, “Silver Hand heller / City of Hall / 1189-1500.” Denied access to the University of Texas libraries because of Covid-19, I went looking online for references and found very little information. 


Five typical häller. 
Hands top center and bottom left.

The American Numismatic Society lists about two dozen, giving them all the same general descriptions, although their fabrics—diameter, weight, fineness—speak of historical complexity. The attributions depend on who worked the coins when they were donated to the ANS. The ones acquisitioned in 1927 are dated 1240-1437; the acquisitions of 1953 are dated 1300-1400. German haeller are catalogued from Württembergische Münz- und Medaillenkunde by Christian Binder (Stuttgart, 1846) because the free city of Hall in Swabia was entered into the Württemberg hegemony in 1802.

The Bohemian heller are listed in Beschreibung der sammlung böhmischer münzen und medaillen originally catalogued by Max Donebauer and then privately published by Eduard Fiala; Prague, 1888-1889. In each case, all häller are given the same catalog numbers. Clearly, the small half-pennies, lacking legends or inscriptions, easily with no mint control marks—little crosses or mullions, stars, etc.—are difficult to date or place. The 24 coins catalogued with pictures range in weight from 0.3 to 0.817 grams: median 0.525; modes 0.52 and 0.53; mean 0.546. The diameters all seem within 16.5 to 17.5 mm. Some of the coins are torn in the fields, a common flaw among Medieval coins which tended to be larger rather than thicker. 

Civic Coat of Arms

The American Numismatic Association provides even less data.  The ANA Numismatist has one entry for “Hall am Kocher.” (The river is often an identifier in German, for instance, to differentiate Frankfurt-am-Rhein from Frankfurt-am-Main). That citation is in an article from February 1961 by Dr. John Davenport: “European States Issuing Dollar Size Coins” clearly, not about the half-penny. More recently, Usula Kampmann’s “Around the World” column for September 2020 centered on the coins of Schwäbische Hall. Unfortunately, it was as light as the coin itself on facts. She said only that the heller was originally worth half a pfennig.


I attribute them to the rise of Friedrich Barbarossa.  Whether the western half of the Roman empire actually “fell” or “collapsed” can be debated. Clearly, many aspects of society had changed slowly, almost imperceptibly one generation after another. And just as slowly, the Holy Roman Empire became a new cultural context. Low points of chaos punctuated a general trend toward production and trade, technology, literacy, art, and (ultimately) science. 


Friedrich, the duke of Swabia, was the son of two powerful local families. Born in 1122, he died in 1190 on a Crusade. Friedrich inherited the title of duke of Swabia. Hall’s position as a center of exchange dated back to the salt trade of the Celts. 


Friedrich consolidated his central European realms and was crowned a king in 1152 and then Holy Roman Emperor in 1155. During his wars of expansion, Italians gave him the soubriquet “Barbarossa.” In his lifetime, he increased the royal mints from two to 28. 


Numismatists can often distinguish the genuine English pennies of good sterling silver (0.925 fine) from copies made elsewhere, such as the Papacy, which were also of sterling silver. To my knowledge, no one has attempted this for the haeller. The fact is that like English pennies, gold florins, and other popular issues, the haeller could have been copied in many places and likely were. That fact speaks to a fundamental principle of economics: trade crosses borders. As long as the coins were good, they were accepted prima facie.


By our modern measures, the nominal häller weighed 0.546 grams and were 0.545 pure silver. In their time, they were valued against the standard Köln (Cologne) mark which at 233.8 grams modern was about half a medieval (not ancient) Roman pound. Each unze was divided in to 32 pfennig. The haeller was accepted as half a pfennig or a twelfth of a schilling.  


The fact that it was debased to just over 50% pure is the reason why it survived in daily commerce: it had more utility as a coin in local trade, wherever it was used, rather than being exported for exotic goods. 


(Both images Wikimedia Commons)
The Hand is taken to be a sign of blessing, perhaps the Hand of God, according to some modern interpretations, epigraphic evidence being lacking. This is assumed to be the obverse. The Cross on the reverse is easy. However, some are the only element while others are within a Shield. Most are saltier crosses, often with at a pellet in two of the noches. In some the reverse exergue has pellets separated by bars. While these details can differentiate varieties, no numismatist has attempted to decode them. In the exergue of one coin that I had, two pellets are in one field and could look like the crossed bishop’s staffs known, for instance from the coat of Basel. But Hall was never a seat. So, if this coin was issued by a bishop’s mint, that was someplace else.


Into modern times, the word “heller” continued as a generic term for any small coin, whether or not it was a lawful denomination as a fraction, for example, of a silver thaler (“dollar”). The currency reform of Austria-Hungary in 1892 re-established the heller as 1/100 of a corona in Austria. (The Hungarian korona was divided into 100 filler.) Germany used the heller as a fraction (1/100) of a colonial East African rupie on the Indian standard of 1 rupee = 2 UK sterling shillings. Therefore the  rupie and rupee were about the same as 50 cents US silver of the time. So, the East African heller was about the same as half a US cent. The heller denomination was last struck by the former Czechoslovakia up to 1993. The separate Czech and Slovak republics kept the denomination – Czech plural haléřů; Slovak plural haliers. 

 In German, anything from the town of Hall would be a häller. The plural is the same word, rather than hällerer or hällern or hälleren. (In English we still have the archaic deer not “deers” for a plural.) The umlaut double-dots are a medieval convention to represent a little e over the a to show the vowel shift upward. So häller becames haeller and then heller.


Additional Sources:

I now wish that I had seen earlier this most excellent write-up Common Medieval Coins: Info Thread by Orielensis (Apr 23, 2019) on CoinTalk here:

“Frederick I Barbarossa and Political Legitimacy,” poster by Brian Sebetic; Faculty Mentor: Dr. Monique O’Connell; Wake Forest University online atäbisch_Hall,_Holy_Roman_Emperor

Previously on Necessary Facts

City Air Makes You Free 

The Cure for a Failing Empire 

Numismatics Informs Economics

Science in the Middle Ages 

Rescuing Aristotle and the Church 

Astronomical Symbols on Ancient and Medieval Coins 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Jupiter-Saturn Conjunction 2020

I have them in my notebook going back months, of course. They are finally slipping behind the roofs and trees. See the previous post. But with some exceptions, conjunctions are only aesthetically important to us: we do not learn more about anything. Occulations do offer opportunities to compare and contrast observations and measurements.

Mostly, it was a social event. I took the occasion to post on-topic at discussion boards that I visit: Cloudy Nights, The Sky Searchers, the British Astronomical Society, the Society for Amateur Astronomy, and Star Gazers. Astronomy has long been an international community of amateurs and professionals. I met someone from Houston on a British forum.

I purposely put the 70-mm National Geographic
to work because any telescope is better than none.

Back in the 1970s, I participated in a fanzine called The Libertarian Connection. We sent in two pages (mimeographed until about 1976, then photo-offset) and the hosts printed them off, bound them, and mailed them out every six weeks. In 1977, while working at a computer terminal at Michigan State University where I had hacked some time, I got a message on my screen from a friend on a computer at Lansing Community College. In 1983, I joined a bulletin board, and connected with a 300 baud modem. So, the online discussion board is a medium that I understand. 



Ground Truth 

Jupiter-Mars Conjunction

Defending the Hobby-Killer Telescope

In Support of the Entry-Level Telescope