Breaking down a Billion

As the world gets more and more billionaires, and the income disparity gets wider with each passing day, I thought it made sense to comprehend how much a billion actually is. I found these on Twitter, UC Berkeley site, and various other places on the internet. Each one attempts to explain a billion in a relatable way, and blows your mind in the process.

  • If you were born in 1492 and made $5,000 every, single day from then until today you would still not have a billion dollars.
  • A billion seconds is 32 years.
  • If you make $100,000 a year, you would need to work for 10,000 years to earn a billion dollars.
  • If you save $100 per day it would take you 27,398 years to save a billion.
  • If you start saying the numbers that make up a billion at an average rate of one number every 3 second (which in reality is probably a lot faster than you can say the bigger numbers), it will still take you over 95 years to say all the numbers.
  • Asterisks on paper – if you fill up one piece of paper with 4000 asterisks – you will need 250,000 pieces of paper to show 1 billion asterisks.
  • A billion step hike – you could circumnavigate the equator 15 times with 1 billion steps.

Hope that helps make sense of the staggering wealth of the word’s richest, and the wide impassable chasm that seems to exist in income equality.

(Images courtesy Humphrey Yang’s Tiktok)

Sunday Seven – Walt Disney

Last week at a debate tournament, the impromptu speaking event was based on Walt Disney’s quotes – which seemed too perfect to not use them for this week’s Sunday Seven. These quotes make you realize what a happy and positive person Walt Disney really was.

  • I only hope that we will never lose sight of one thing – that it was started by a mouse.
  • All our dreams can come true, if we have courage to pursue them.
  • When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are.
  • It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.
  • There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.
  • The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.
  • We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
  • When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.
  • When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably. The more you like yourself, the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.

Sunday Seven – Kobe Bryant

As we all mourn the loss of the legend and his daughter, I thought it would be appropriate to honor his legacy with some of his quotes.

  • If you’re afraid to fail, then you’re probably going to fail.
  • I’m going to do what I always do: I’m going to break it down to its smallest form, smallest detail, and go after it. Day by day, one day at a time.
  • Once you know what failure feels like, determination chases success.
  • I can’t relate to lazy people. We don’t speak the same language. I don’t’ understand you. I don’t  want to understand you.
  • I’m reflective only in the sense that I learn to move forward.  I reflect with a purpose.
  • The beauty in being blessed with talent is rising above doubters to create a beautiful moment.
  • I have self-doubt. I have insecurity. I have fear of failure. I have nights when I show up at at the arena and I’m like, “My back hurts, my feet hurt, my knees hurt. I don’t have it. I just want to chill.” We all have self-doubt. You don’t deny it, but you also don’t capitulate to it. You embrace it.


As I started thinking about the superstition and fears connected with today,  Friday the 13th, I came across the brilliant name for this fear –paraskevidekatriaphobia – now that’s a final round American Bee Spelling word right there!!

Paraskevi – which in Greek means Friday

Dekatria – Greek for thirteen, and

Phobia – fear in English.

The word led me to thinking about other phobias. If you are fearful of number 13 you have Triskaidekaphobia – so  Paraskevidekatriaphobia without the Paraskevi.

Sesqui Chocolate Chip Cookies and milk

Ironically, Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia is the fear of long words, it’s also called sesquipedalophobia for short!!

Sesqui – Greek for 1.5 – as in I had sesqui chocolate chip cookies and milk for lunch today .

Pedalis – Greek for anything related to feet.

So a fear of words that are a foot and a half long, with hippo and monstrose thrown in for good measure.

Another really useful one is Arachibutyrophobia, which is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth – hmmm…should have saved some of my milk for the arachibutyro instead of finishing it with my sesqui cookie treat.

Arachibutyrophobia – Need Milk?

Arachi – Greek for peanut

Butyro – from the Greek word for Butter

So did the Greeks have peanut butter? And not sure what part of the word means sticking to the roof of your mouth. But an important word nonetheless for when one finds themselves in this sticky situation. 

One that I definitely do not have is Turophobia – a fear of cheese – on the contrary I have an absolute love for Parmesan, Gouda, Cheddar, Swiss – but I digress.  The Greek word Turi which means cheese, gives this phobia its name.

Ah .. for the love of Gouda, Parmesan, Swiss, & Cheddar

My parents sometimes behave like they have Ephebiphobia – a fear of teenagers though I can’t imagine why. 

No Ephebiphobia causing teenagers here

Ephebi – from the Greek word ephebos meaning youth. The word was coined in 1994 – wonder what the teenagers were up to in 1994 to trigger their own phobia.

Here’s one I have for sure – Nomophobia – the fear of being without my phone.  The word is a portmanteau of no – mobile phone – and phobia. Maybe this is what Munch was warning us about in The Scream.

Nomophobia – I’m not making it up – actually it was made up during a 2010 UK Post Office Study about the world’s obsession with their cell phones.

What are your favorite phobia words ? Please share them in the comments section.

#mauerfall30: Homage to Germany

 Night Thoughts
At night I think of Germany,
And then all slumber flies from me;
I can no longer close mine eyes,
The hot and bitter tears will rise.
The years pass close upon each other;
And since I last beheld my mother,
Full twelve years long have come and gone,
And ever has my yearning grown.
My wistful yearning e’er has grown,
Or o’er my soul a spell she’s thrown;
From her my thoughts I cannot sever,
The dear old dame – God bless her ever!
She loves me well, the dear old dame,
And in the lines that from her came,
Tis proven by the words all blurred
How deep her mother’s heart was stirred.
My mother’s in my mind always;
Full twelve years have passed away,
Full twelve long years have joined the past
Since to my heart I clasped her last.
Oh! Germany will ever stand!
It is a strong and healthy land,
And with its oak and linden trees
I’m sure to find it, when I please.
I should not thirst for Germany so,
Did I not there my mother know;
The fatherland will ever stay,
The mother may be called away.
Since I have left my native land,
On many Death has laid its hand;
I loved them once – I call the roll
And count them now with bleeding soul.
Count them I must; yet, as I count,
Still higher does my torture mount,
As if the corpses, one by one,
Climbed on my breast! Thank God they’re gone!
Thank God! Now through my window, glance
The cheerful morning rays of France,
My wife comes with Aurora’s bloom
To smile away the German gloom.

Heinrich Heine (1797 – 1856).  Translated by Frances Helman, 1892.

On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall – a poem for Germany by exiled German poet Heinrich Heine, as he longs for his home, his mother, and his country. 

#mauerfall30: Thierry Noir

In January 1982, an unemployed and broke French artist moved from Lyon, France to Mariannenplatz in West Berlin.  His inspiration for the move was the music and cultural scene in Berlin – David Bowie and Iggy Pop both called West Berlin home at this time.  His tiny one bedroom rental faced the Berlin Wall, and every day for two years he looked at the Wall and the East German guards patrolling on the other side. The area around the wall was always empty and abandoned. An idea began to grow in his mind, and in 1984, in a revolutionary act of defiance he started to paint the wall. With that defiant act, Thierry Noir became the world’s first graffiti artist. 

Fast Form Upside Down – a Fast-Form Manifest

Painting on the wall was illegal, because the wall itself was set a few feet within the dividing line, and was actually in East Berlin. Noir would paint, and quickly run away from the wall as soon as the East German guards saw him. Over time he developed a style that allowed him to paint quickly; simple figures with three colors that he could finish fast and run at a moment’s notice. He calls it the Fast Form Manifest and we have large simple cartoon like figures in yellows and pinks. From 1984, until the wall fell, Noir painted many miles of the wall. The Elephant Key, which looks to Picasso, Miro, and Basquiat for inspiration was one of his first paintings on the wall. Some figures, like the dinosaurs, represent an unnatural mutation – like the wall was an unnatural mutation in the city.

Another section of the wall was painted in 1985, “Red Dope on Rabbits,” – an homage to the hundreds of rabbits that lived along the wall. 

Thierry Noir opened the floodgates and inspired thousands of graffiti artists to paint the wall, and between 1984 and 1989, the wall was covered with layers upon layers of artwork and graffiti. 

From 1984 to 1989 the Wall had layers upon layers of art work and graffiti .. here a protest takes place on top of Noir’s artwork.

Noir said painting the wall made him feel stronger than it.  By painting the wall he changed something oppressive into something that became a symbol of the 80s, of the young – their passion, energy, creativity, and unfailing hope for a better future. The East Side Gallery, and the many pieces of the wall all over the world are, in my mind, some of the greatest works of art in the world. And for this we have to be grateful to the young unemployed artist who looked at the wall from his apartment window, and dared to dream, and dared to hope

Noir with his most iconic and well known figures (1986).
Noir finally gets to paint on the East German side of the wall in 1989.

(All images coutesy

The Power Shift

How do you roll up the Vietnam War, the civil rights marches, the youthful and modern presidency of John F. Kennedy, the voice of Martin Luther King, the Greensboro lunch counter sit-ins, the landing on the moon, Twiggy, the liberation of women, and above all the magic of the Beatles into one thing? For me the answer lies in the Museum of London in a simple short black and white polka-dotted mini dress with a diagonal line across it;  the faces of the Beatles on one side, and a guitar on the other. 

The power of this dress lies in its simplicity, its lack of fussiness, and its revolutionary length – all of which defined a generation.  The generation that was born at the end of World War II, came of age with the uselessness of the Vietnam War, spent their college years marching for equal rights for all, refused to dress like their parents, or listen to their parents music – this generation perhaps made the world a better place for future generations more than any generation before or since then.

It was a simple shift dress, the kind that is worn by a young girl – it defied the hold of Paris couture houses and rose from the streets where the young people marched and demanded a better life for the rest of us.  It was a dress that an unskilled young girl could have stitched together – but it made the most skilled designers in the world sit up and take notice.  The shift was shifting power – from the couture houses to the street tailors, from the upper classes to the middle classes, from the elite to the masses, from Harvard to Greensboro state college, from Oxford to Liverpool, and for the first time, in tiny amounts, from men to women.

A sense of gratitude washed over me as I stood in front of this dress, and the generation that wore it – they made it possible for me to be in control of the length of my hemline – and of my future. 

Beatles Dress.4

This is a guest post from Tara Sawhney who is studying in London for one semester.  This was a vignette she wrote after a visit to the Museum of London.

Scaramouch , should we fandango?

I fell in love with Queen when, strangely enough, I was working on my National History Day project in 8th Grade.  The topic that year was a person who had made a difference, and I picked Bob Geldof for his work in the 1980s to help the Ethiopian famine victims.  It was while working on this that I saw Queen’s Live Aid performance and fell in love with their music.  For the next few weeks I heard “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “We are the Champions” endlessly – especially “Bohemian Rhapsody.”   The song just mesmerizes you – it’s a magical combination of opera, rock, with international melodies thrown in and the most unbelievable lyrics.  The song was written by Freddie Mercury himself – and it’s evident from the lyrics that there was a lot more substance to him than one would expect from a self-centered rock star.  Let’s look at some of the words that one never hears – Scaramouch – what exactly is a Scaramouch?

“I see a little silhouette of a man

Scaramouch, Scaramouch will you do the fandango”

According to the Webster dictionary a Scaramouch is a character in the Italian commedia dell’arte that burlesques the Spanish don and is characterized by boastfulness and cowardliness.

Ummm….. Ok? – well that clears that up.

And a fandango for those who care to know is “a lively Spanish dance for two people typically accompanies by castanets or tambourine.”

No one really seems to know what exactly the song means – and that perhaps adds to its enduring popularity.

Freddie Mercury T-Shirt
Freddie Mercury’s Image on T-Shirt

Freddie was born Freddie Bulsara to a Parsi family. Like so many colonial families, his family relocated from India to Zanzibar, and then to England.  All of these influences shaped his life and his music.

Freddie was not only a brilliant songwriter, singer and piano player – he was also a marketing genius. By the time of Live Aid, Queen’s popularity was on a decline.  Freddie knew this, and saw Live Aid as a chance to change all that. In a short performance, he sang all of Queen’s best hits and was in complete control of the crowd on both sides of the Atlantic.  He gave an flamboyant, charismatic performance – perhaps the best ever in a live concert.   With that he ensured his  music would live on forever.  And last week, more than 25 years after his death,  when I walked into a store, I realized he had managed to do just that.

Freddie Mercury.1

Geldof in Africa: The Road to Live Aid

I returned to England, my mind reeling with visions of intolerable destruction, political ineptitude and mass death.  As I landed I felt I understood the impulse which sometimes prompted people to kiss the ground. It was good to be home, but I now knew that we had not yet done enough. Bob Geldof

Band Aid was a huge success, £5 million were generated from sales just on Christmas Eve 1984.  The money was turned over to representatives from several accounting firms for distribution.  Little did Bob Geldof realize that trouble had just begun – the purchase of grain and food and its transportation was bogged down in a maze of red tape.

And so after the staggering success of Band Aid, Bob Geldof had to address the issue of distributing the funds.  He was not keen to involve any charitable organizations as they would keep a portion of the money to cover their overheads.  He had given his word that every penny donated would go to Africa for the famine victims.  After some amount of hesitation – because he had no money of his own and he did not want the trip to be perceived as a self-promotion tour – he decided to go to sub-Saharan Africa to appraise the situation himself.  His ticket was paid for by the Daily Star newspaper that wanted to get exclusive rights to his story but relented when he refused to give them exclusive rights.

Beb Geldof in Western Sudan, 1985.

He made trip after trip to Africa, never using any part of the funds for his expenses.  The conditions in Africa were heart breaking.  On one such trip he walked so much to reach the villages that his shoes fell apart and he completed the trip in carpet slippers.  In Africa he met numerous heads of states and dignitaries, but to this day the highlight of his life was meeting Mother Teresa in Africa.

Bob Geldof with Mother Teresa, 1985. Geldof considers meeting Mother Teresa the highlight of his life.

With his trips to Africa, Bob realized that the money generated by Band Aid would not be nearly enough, he knew he had to do so much more.  The answer came to him in the spring of 1985. 

Band Aid: Making, Impact & Legacy

We watched the 6 o’clock news.., the scenes were absolutely riveting and this from the get go did not look like television, it looked like Spartacus, something vast and it was gray, these grey waves moving in this grey moonscape.  And the camera was pitiless, it was like a cyclops, just there it would not let you off the hook. Bob Geldof.

Bob Geldof was among the millions that saw the BBC documentary on the evening of October 23, 1984.  He could not get the images out of his mind.  He knew he had to do something.  He woke the next morning, and had an idea of doing a song with other singers.  He wanted to record and release the song for the Christmas season. He called Midge Ure, a popular artist at that time, who agreed to work with him on the song. Within a week he wrote the lyrics to the song “Do they know its’ Christmas time?” and he and Midge Ure put the music together.

 Bob Geldof had access to a studio for one day and so the song was recorded by this group of 45 in a single day on November 25, 1984.  Every single person who worked on the song did so for free. 

With his feverish, almost manic, desire to do something and the looming Christmas deadline, Bob Geldof recruited the top British and Irish singers of the time, and created a mega-group from 45 of the biggest superstars of British music including George Michael, Sting, Phil Collins, Boy George, U2, Duran Duran, Culture Club to sing the song.  The superstars united under the name “Band-Aid’’ in a bold act of charity that was unprecedented at the time

The song was released on November 29, 1984 and was an incredible success right from the start – it sold 1 million copies in the first week and stayed number one on the charts for more than a month.  The song became the biggest-selling single in the UK and held that title for 13 years. 

The song provided immediate relief for Famine Victims. Bob Geldof had hoped to raise £72,000 – instead he raised £8 million ($11 million) to benefit famine victims of Ethiopia.  He started an organization called “Bad-Aid Trust” which was used to collect and disburse the funds.  Instead of using charitable organizations, he decided to use the Trust to disburse the money as he had pledged that every penny would help famine victims.  This took him to Africa where he realized he had just dipped his toe in the pool – he knew this would not be enough. 

The money raised from Band Aid helped buy, among other things, 150 tons of high-energy biscuits, 1335 tons of milk powder, 560 tons of cooking oil, 470 tons of sugar and 1000 tons of grain.

The song became the conscience of the rock and roll world. In the height of the 1980s, Band Aid reconnected rock stars with their consciences – forever linking celebrity to charity.  Bob Geldof had harnessed the power of celebrity singers and the consumer – and brought them together for the first time.

The enormous success of Band Aid and “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” paved the way for using the powerful force of celebrities for charitable causes. It inspired USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” for famine relief which was released on March 3, 1985, and went on to sell 20 million copies and raised $75 million.  Others records inspired by Band Aid for famine relief included Austria for Africa, Chanteurs Sans Frontieres, among others.  Additionally records such as Steven Van Zandt’s “Sun City” in protest of South African apartheid; and a Dionne Warwick remake of the Burt Bacharach ballad, “That’s What Friends Are For,” for Aids research were inspired by the siccess of Band Aid.

Band Aid forever connected celebrities with philanthropy.

The success changed Bob Geldof’s life, it made history.  In the middle of Thatcherism, Band Aid came along and made people aware.  It also made charities incredibly cool.  Young people were getting more and more involved in charitable causes. Something had changed. Midge Ure.

This is the way I feel I pay for my citizenship – by using my fame whenever I can to transmit an idea.” Sting.

Bono, the lead singer of U2 and one the world’s biggest philanthropists credits his philanthropic roots to Band Aid. 

George Michael gave the entire profits from his single “Last Christmas” to Band Aid.