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Showing posts from December, 2011

Why did Dickens love Christmas?

Christmas Time!  (from 'A Christmas Dinner' )And therefore, Uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good and will do me good: and I say, God bless it! (Fred explaining his attitude to Christmas to his Uncle Scrooge) All his life Dickens loved Christmas. As a young man he hosted parties like those found at Dingley Dell or at Mr Fezziwig's Ball. He loved to organise riotous games and show off his very impressive magic tricks - including a sensational one involving a flaming Christmas pudding. On the Twelfth Night he wrote sketches for family members to perform, often taking the lead roles himself. 

Many have speculated that Christmas represented everything Dickens aspired to as a troubled, insecure child: family, fun, festivity, tradition, security and order. And according Claire Tomalin's  biography (Charles Dickens: A Life) he never gave up on the festival even in the latter, darker period in his life when he c…

Where does the word/name Emmanuel come from?

The word Emmanuel is the Hebrew for 'God is with us'.  For Christians the birth of Jesus is the physical incarnation of this: Mt:1:23: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. Luke:1:26-39: 26: This is made explicit in  Hark the Herald Angel Sing: Glory to God in the ... Jesus our Emmanuel. ... 
It is also the the theme of the most beautiful carols:

Why do we dream of a White Christmas?

The sun is shining, the grass is green,
The orange and palm trees sway.

The less well-known verse of the ubiquitous Christmas song give a clue to its origins.  Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas in the summer of 1940 in sunny California (another heatwave in 1949 also inspired Sleigh Ride. According to legend he told his secretary that he it was the 'greatest song ever' but there seems to have been no hurry to get it to the public.

It finally surfaced on Christmas Day, 1941 when it was performed publicly by Bing Crosby for the first time in a radio broadcast. Again this received little attention.

A year later  Crosby sang White Christmas in the film Holiday Inn:

The song was on a soundtrack album released in July 1942. It was not the first single released from this LP and its initial popularity came via requests to armed forces radio stations. When it was finally released at the end of October it rose rapidly to the top of the charts, where it stayed until the New Year. Over t…

What is a T-Bill?

Treasury Bills are what the US government uses to borrow money. A T-Bill has always been seen as one of the safest forms of investment because it offers a guaranteed return - barring the complete collapse of the world financial system!

WiseGeek  explains how it works:

The smallest face value for a T-Bill is $1,000 US Dollars (USD). The T-Bill is sold at a discount, which is determined by the Bureau of Public Debt, but the Treasury pays the full face value when it is redeemed. For example, an investor might purchase a 90-day T-Bill for $900 USD, and earn a $100 USD return on the investment when the T-Bill is redeemed. Unlike many other securities, a T-Bill does not bear interest, but the return on a T-Bill is highly predictable and very stable.

 T-Bonds have come to the fore recently as the US Treasury struggles to manage the financial crisis - see here



What is the Flynn Effect?

The Flynn Effect is the theory that intelligence (measured in IQ) is rapidly increasing with each new generation. Flynn posits that this increase is universal (across countries and cultures) though varying in degree.

The Flynn effect is often cited as evidence of a progressive direction in human history - that despite setbacks and localised problems 'we've never had it so good'. Critics suggest that the data is misleading - see here