Quaver #atozchallenge

We ended yesterday with music, today is all about music, and a little bit of math.


Quavers (eighth notes) and quaver rest. By DoktorMandrake (Eighth_notes_and_rest.png) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When I started playing guitar, my teacher made an attempt at teaching me to read music. One of the first thing I had to learn was the notes and what each shape signified. I learned that a whole note was equivalent to two half notes, a half note was equivalent to two quarter notes, a quarter note was equivalent to two eighth notes, and an eighth note was equivalent to two sixteenth notes.

It wasn’t long before I realized that it was just as easy to listen to the song on the record and pick it up from there, which would have been easy, except Mel Bay’s Modern Method for Guitar (books 1 through 6) didn’t come with records, at least not in 1967, so I was basically shooting in the dark as far as reading “Etude #1” and “The Volga Boatman.” I knew what the notes were, I knew what tones they represented on the staff, blah blah blah, but I had no idea how to make them sound like they were supposed to. Finally I said “screw this noise” and taught myself by ear.

Logan’s Tutor (source: Amazon.com)

Ten years later, I decided to take up the bagpipes, and got a copy of Logan’s Tutor, edited at the time by Pipe Major John MacLellan, at the time the principal of the Army School of Piping. This came with a tape of PM MacLellan reading through the material and demonstrating it on the practice chanter. All fantastic, except both the book and MacLellan used English terminology for the note values. I was now told that a semi-breve was the equivalent of two minims, a minim was the equivalent of two crotchets, a crotchet was the equivalent of two quavers, a quaver was the equivalent of two semiquavers, and a semiquaver was the equivalent of two demisemiquavers. Now, I was smart enough to know that it was the same whole note-half note stuff I already knew, but whenever MacLellan used the English names, I had to flip back to the page that explained each one.

Anyway, a quaver is an eighth note, then it gets cool: a semiquaver is a 16th note, a demisemiquaver is a 32nd note, a hemidemisemiquaver is a 64th note, then you tack on a “hemi,” “demi,” and “semi” for each successive power of 2 (e.g. semihemidemisemiquaver, demisemihemidemisemiquaver, etc.). In pipe music, grace notes and patterns (e.g. taorluaths, leumluaths, and crunluaths) are written as 32nd notes. In practical terms, people don’t generally use anything shorter than a sixteenth (or semiquaver), and if they do, they deserve all the grief they get for it.

Back in my piping days, I met a guy who had been a piper in one of the Scottish regiments, and he told this story. One day, Gordon (probably not his name) was helping the person who was trying very hard to teach a large group of slow-footed young Highland laddies how to do the Highland fling for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. After a while, he started playing the decidedly non-Scottish “Pop Goes The Weasel” for them to dance to. PM MacLellan heard this, and had Gordon thrown in the stockade for it. He got out when his commanding officer said, “hey, MacLellan isn’t your boss” and had him released. I don’t think he went back to playing “Pop Goes The Weasel,” though.

I hope you’ve had as much fun reading this as I had writing it.


Five “Queen” Songs #atozchallenge


Happy birthday to Mary, the Queen of my Heart! This is her favorite…

In honor of her birthday, and because it’s Q day in the A to Z Challenge, I present five songs with “Queen” in the title.

Queen of the House – Jody Miller: A parody of Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” it was written by Mary Taylor. Jody (no relation to Roger) released this in 1965 and it rose to #12 on the Pop chart and #5 on the Country chart. Connie Francis covered it in 1966 on her Live At The Sahara album, and The Supremes covered it on their 1965 album The Supremes At The Copa.

Killer Queen – Queen: Queen’s first international hit as well as their first US hit, it reached #12 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Cash Box Top 100, and #1 at WLS (The Big 89) in Chicago, in 1974-75.

Little Queenie – Chuck Berry: Released in 1959, it only reached #80 on the Hot 100.

Little Queen – Heart: Response to the last time I posted Heart in one of these music countdowns was overwhelming, so I decided to do it again. Title track from their 1977 album, it was released as a single after “Barracuda,” which outshone everything else that year, and only reached #62 in the US and #58 in Canada.

Queen of Hearts – Juice Newton: The lovely Ms. Newton recorded this for her 1981 album Juice, and it was a breakthrough hit for her, reaching #2 for two weeks in 1981 (behind Diana Ross’ and Lionel Richie’s “Endless Love”) and being certified Gold in the US. It was also an international hit, charting in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and Switzerland, with limited success in Austria, The Netherlands, and Germany.

Happy birthday again to my beloved one. Did I include your favorite song with “queen” in the title? If not, let me know what it is…

#atozchallenge: Quasar

quasar =
quasi-stellar radio source


A quasar is the most energetic and distant of a class of objects called “active galactic nuclei.” They normally occur when two galaxies collide and their central black holes merge or become binary. They’re very bright, kind of like stars, and their energy has a high “redshift” quality, meaning the waves of electromagnetic energy lengthen as the universe expands. Most of them can be found at the edge of the known universe, two to thirteen billion light-years away (a light-year is about 6 trillion miles; you do the math).

The show from The History Channel that I showed part of yesterday goes on to describe quasars. They blow my mind.

In the 1970’s Motorola came out with its “Quasar” line of color TV sets. They probably called them that because the picture tube was so bright.


QQQ (#atozchallenge)

Today we’re going to wander into the world of finance and investing. No, wait! Don’t run away! I’m going to keep it simple, I promise. And I promise not to try and sell you anything.

A popular way to invest money for retirement is to take money every payday and invest it in a mutual fund. The mutual fund collects money from you and other holders of the mutual fund and invests it according to its investment objectives. There are all kinds of funds: growth funds, income funds, large-cap stock funds, small-cap stock funds, total stock market funds, bond funds, bond and stock funds, precious metal funds, etc. etc. etc. (When you decide to invest in a mutual fund, be sure and read the prospectus and make sure you understand everything there is to know about it before investing.) At the end of the day, the fund figures out the net asset value (NAV) of the fund by taking the total value of their investments and dividing it by the number of shares they have outstanding.

One of the most popular types of mutual funds is the index fund. The fund manager invests the money of the fund into the stocks that make up a specific index. So, if you had a fund that used the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which consists of thirty large companies on the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ, the fund would invest in those thirty stocks, and the NAV of the fund would rise and fall with the index.

A few years ago, a couple of investment firms came up with the idea of exchange-traded funds, or ETF’s. ETF’s were like mutual funds in that they held stocks in other companies, but instead of the prices of their shares being set at the end of the day, they would be traded as any other stock and the value of the shares would be set by market activity.

One such ETF is PowerShares QQQ, sold by Invesco PowerShares Capital Management LLC. It tracks the NASDAQ-100 Index, but the price of the ETF can vary greatly during the day, where the net asset value of a mutual fund changes only at the end of the trading day.

I don’t want to get too deeply into this, because I already see some eyes glazing over. I know the feeling. For the longest time, I believed the stock market was a three-headed beast that would eat you alive, kind of like King Ghidora. The more I learned about it, the more I understood what kinds of risks I was willing to take. There are people who buy sophisticated software and play the stock market like some teenagers play with their PlayStations and XBOXes. The best way to start is by reading everything you can about the stock market and about trading. I recommend the books by Charles Schwab and The Motley Fool as good books to start with. Regardless of where you are or what exchange you’ll be trading on, the principles in these books will help you.

As I said, I’m hardly an expert on investing and trading stocks, but I’ll bet some of you are, or at least better at it than I am. What books on investing have you read that you would recommend to people who might be reading this? What advice can you give your fellow readers on investing?