Major General
Pirates of Penzance-- Gilbert and Sullivan

February 2005 

If New York’s Mayor Bloomberg didn’t exactly “dis” computers   when talk show host John Gambling mentioned their use in high schools, he certainly shrugged them off saying only that they are useful tools. 

They are of course much more than that, since they provide a portal to all or almost all of the information in the world in whatever language you choose. The educational system for some reason plays down the importance of the Internet and thus minimized, the value of the computer, the tool that takes you there. 

To gauge the power of the system I copied the words of a well-known song, and followed the links. Here is the song and what follows took about an hour or so to accomplish and it was fun as well.  

Sung by the Major General from The Pirates of Penzance 

I am the very model of a modern Major General

I’ve information vegetable, animal and mineral

I know the KINGS OF ENGLAND and I quote the fights historical

From MARATHON to WATERLOO in order Categorical  

I’m very well acquainted to with matters mathematical,

I understand equations both the simple and QUADRATICAL

About BINOMIAL THEOREM I’m teeming with a lot o’ news—

With many cheerful facts about the square of the HYPOTENUSE. 


I know the scientific names of beings ANIMALCULOSE

In short in matters vegetable, animal and mineral,

I am the very model of a modern Major General 

I know the mythic history; KING ARTHUR’S AND SIR CARODOC’S,

I answer hard acrostics, I’ve a pretty taste for paradox,

I quote in ELEGIACS all the crimes of HELIOGABULUS, 

Mythology - History: King Arthur, Sir Caradoc (Caractacus) British general fought

Romans 51 AD? Heliogabulus (Roman Emperor prior to its fall),

Babylonic cuneiform ancient glyphs

Caractacus Uniform (Carodoc)

Marathon see “war”

Waterloo see “war

WAR: Mauser; Mamelon and Ravelin medieval fortification protuberances or other things; Gunnery;



HOUSE OF WESSEX: Egbert (802-839);Athelwulf (839-855); Athelbald (*855-860); Athelbert (860-866); Athelred (866-871); Alfred the Great (871-899); Edward the Elder (899-925); Athelstan (924-940); Edmund the Magnificent (940-946); Eadre3d (946-955); Edwig all fair (955-959); Edgar the Peaceable (959-975); Edward the Martyr (975-978); Sthelred the Unready (978-1016); Edmund Ironside (1016)

DANISH LINE : Svein Forkbeard 1014; Canute the Great (1016-1035); Harold Harefoot (1035-1040); Hardicanute (1040-1042);

HOUSE OF WESSEX RESTORED: Edward the Confessor (10432-1066); Harold II (1066);

NORMAN LINE: William 1 The Conqueror (1066-1087); Wqilliam II Rufus (1087-1100); Henry 1 Beauclerc (1100-1135); Stephen (1135-1154); Empress Matilda (1141);*

 PLANTAGENET ANGEVIN LINE:Henry II Curtmantle (1154-1189); Richard The Lionheart (1189-1199); John Lackland (1199-1216); Henry III (1216-1272); Edward I Longshanks (1272-1307); Edward II (1303-1327); Edward III (1327-1377); Richard II (1377-1388);

PLANTAGENET LANCASTRIAN LINE: Henry IV Bolinbroke (1399-1413); Henry V (1413-1322); Henry VI (1422-1461, 1470-1471);

PLANTAGENET YORKIST LINE: Edward IV 1461-1470, 1471-1483); Edeward V (1483); Richard III Crookback (1483-1485);

HOUSE OF TUDOR: Henry VII Tudor (1485-1509); Henry VIII (1509-1547); Edeward VI 1547-1553); Lady Jane Grey (1553); Mary I Tudor (1553-1558) Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

HOUSE OF STUART: James 1 (1603-1625); C harles I 1625-1649);

THE COMMONWEALTH Oliver Cromwell (1649-1658); Roichard Cromwell (1658-1659)

HOUSE OF STUART RESTORED: Charles II (1660-1685); James II 1685-1688);

HOUSE OF ORANGE AND STUART: William III Mary II ( 1689-1702)

HOUSE OF STUART: Anne (1702-1714)

HOUSE OF BRUNSWICK HANOVER LINE: George I (1714-1727); George II (1727-1760); George III )(1760-1820); Geoprge IV (1820-1830); Willuiam IV (1830-1847); Victoria (1837-1901);


In conics I can floor peculiarities PARABOLUS.


I know the croaking chorus of the FROGS OF ARISTOPHANES,

Then I can hum a FUGUE of which I’ve heard the music’s din afore,

And whistle all the airs of that infernal nonsense PINAFORE.


Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic CUNEIFORM,

And tell you every detail of CARACTACUS’ s uniform;

In short in matters vegetable, animal and mineral,

I am the very model of a modern Major General.


In fact when I know what is meant by “MAMELON” AND RAVELIN,”

When I can tell at sight a MAUSER from a javelin,

When such affairs as sorties and surprises I’m more wary at,

And when I know precisely what is meant by “commissariat,”

When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern GUNNERY,

When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery—

In short when I’ve a smattering of elemental strategy,

You say a better Major General has never sat a GEE.

For my military knowledge, though I’m plucky and adventury,

Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;

But still in matters vegetable, animal and mineral, I am the very model of a modern Major General etc.  

NOW TO THE INTERNET – Yohoo – Yahoo-- and Google 

BATTLES Marathon, the battle in which the Athenians defeated the Persians 490 BC. A Greek ran about the same distance as modern marathon races, 26+ miles to tell the Athenians of the victory. Waterloo, the famous battle won by the Duke of Wellington that ended the career of Napoleon


MATHEMATICS: Quadratic equations (from the internet: a quadratic equation is a second order polynomial in a single variable x. AX2+BX+C=0  with A not equal to zero. The first known solution of a quadratic equation is the one given in the Berlin papyrus from the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2160-1700 BC) in Egypt


Binomial Theorem Leads to Pascal’s triangle

Hypotenuse geometry and trigonometry=mathematics of ancient Greece

Calculus the mathematical system invented by Sir Isaac Newton and animalculus i.e. animalcule or a microbial, a subject of biology

Parabolus referring to a mathematical curve drawn from the equation y2=4ax



Gerrit Dou (Gerard Dow), Raphael, and Zoffany, artists who painted in the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th century respectively.


Aristophanes ancient Greek playwright who wrote five comedies, The Birds, The Knights, The Clouds, Lysistrata, The Frogs.


HOUSE OF WINDSOR: George V 1910-1936); Edward VIII (1936); George VI (1936-1952); Elizabeth II 1952. 

Wow, check out all that information in less than an hour. During that hour I became informed about and directed to links with ART, MATH, MUSIC ENGLISH HISTORY, ROMAN EMPIRE, AMCIENT GREECE, WAR implements, reminded of  some famous Battles. Learned why the marathon races are set for 26 miles 385 yards, which (decimalized with a calculator), turns out to be 26.218 miles. 

Mayor Bloomberg, the president, the congress have a problem with education. To solve this they throw increasing amounts of money into the educational system, while increasing numbers of sophisticated parents rely on home schooling. What does that tell you? The system in many places is shot. Discipline is lax, and teachers too often are prevented from maintaining order in their class rooms due to factors ranging from “let’s be nice to each other”, to the Constitution of the United States of America. Violence in the schools if not prevalent, infiltrates enough neighborhoods to keep well meaning students from getting an education. Is there a solution? Certainly. Decentralization for one thing.  

Eliminate compulsory education after the eighth grade! Create Internet Cafes in school neighborhoods. Put them in warehouse space that can be monitored.  Provide fast cable connected computers to the kids who want to pursue education and degrees! Stock the places with teachers who are versed in their specialty subjects as well as others. Let kids come and go during the day but give them assignment deadlines. ‘Bring them back for no nonsense testing. No doubt as long as education would no longer be  required, kids and parents would be clamoring to get in, in which case rules would be enforceable.  

Advantages to this system would be manifold. One that comes to mind is that the aptitudes of students would become manifest and visible to alert teachers. Those that clustered around math modules, or theater sites, or art sites, or vocational sites would be identifiable. Another, equally as important, is that finding ones way around the intricacies of a computer, learning how to use a data base or a spread sheet, solving problems when things don’t work out right, are educational in themselves. Computer problem solving is great education; teaches how to “think”.

 All of this would be less expensive than maintaining a bankrupt “education industry” or even a bunch of school buildings, some decrepit, others too sprawling to monitor. And text books--we hear that they are either in almost total disrepair, or exorbitantly expensive; that because of the rapid accumulation of information they have to be exchanged for new books periodically and still are behind the times. That turmoil is eliminated by the Internet, always up to date--but the students have to ferret out the information, and that becomes a  scholarly endeavor, an exercise to invigorate the brain. Of course we have choices--do nothing, remain stodgy, travel through the universe of information on a donkey, or navigate on an educational jet.

 After all, if everybody, from the president, to the congress, to parents, admits that school kids are not getting a proper education, why not change things so that those who want one can get one? Why not rearrange the system and its priorities? Why not make use of the most exquisite educational tool available, namely the Internet, and the means of using it? Why not act as though we are the most advanced and innovative country in the world, and not stay stuck in the muddy provinces of the past that no longer provide optimal service. Get rid of the train wreck; don’t try to reassemble the wreckage.