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Monday, February 24, 2014

Mary, The Mother Of Jesus

I think of the statue of The Grieving Mother of Khaita as Mary, or Miriam, the mother of Jesus.

I have always had great devotion to Mary.

I do rattle on with the Aves now and then, particularly when I'm flying and there is air turbulence... but most of our relationship is shining.
I put myself in the presence, and everything shines.
I don't think I've had one of those prayers asking for stuff for over 50 years.

As I have said before, once I realized that it is totally impossible to "talk" to God, or to other supernatural beings... totally and thoroughly impossible... then everything opened up, and it shined.

I do not often speak of this, because it makes me think that people will think me much weirder than they already do. So I won't talk of it again for a while, but keep it in mind, for I only do what all mankind does... or can do.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Goodbye, Sochi

The closing ceremonies at Sochi were very nice, and the Russian people can be very proud. They and Mr. Putin did quite a job over the past years putting this together.

My wife wonders how much of the initial negative publicity was reflective of the good old American sour grapes attitude towards our old nemesis from the Cold War.
In effect, was there a correlation between our knee jerk attitude towards Russia and the number of times the photo of two johns per washroom stall ran on the news?

Unfortunately there is no way to know, for the News of today does not remotely resemble the News of yesteryear which sought to find out the who, where, what, and why of current events. Today we just crave novelty and repeat it.
Such as the yoghurt wars, when Russia refused to unload a cargo of Chobani yoghurt.
The fact was reported, and it was indicated wryly that crazy Russkis were up to their old tricks.

At no point was it mentioned that the ban had been in effect for three years already, that it was due to GMO feed to dairy cows, and that here in the USA the Whole Foods company was removing Chobani for refusing to list such GMO ingredients on the yoghurt containers.

Everything is attitude and cynicism.



The big items in the economy these days do not contribute to changing our lives in any meaningful way. Consider the revolution brought by the motor car and compare it to a iPad.

Cars and iPads are manufactured outside the country.

Our lives are not enriched. They may be "filled out", but we become obese, not buff.

Our lives are insipid.


Edward Datahands

 Edward Snowden
(Note the Drop Of Android Hydraulic Fluid)

An early interview makes it all clear why the US government wants Edward Snowden back so badly, for Snowden is an android.

Glenn Greenwald:  How did you go about this?

Edward Snowden:  Well... [unintelligible]... before the recall, I accessed the mainframe; every dirty little covert op the government ever dreamed of is in there... [unintelligible]... and this, you, the aliens... even the crew from the Betty is in there.
I knew that if they succeeded, it would be the end of them.

Glenn Greenwald:  Why do you care what happens to them?

Edward Snowden:  Because I've been programmed to.
It is not clear what the encrypted references to "aliens" and "Betty" are, but they are undoubtedly some NSA scheme or wheeze.


Ukrainian Gaffs

I think I made a mistake in my grasp of the Ukraine.
I believe that I came to the point where I "trusted" the Russian government, while not tristing the US government.

Big mistake.

I trust neither government.

The people in the Ukraine, Russia, and the USA, are the intelligent dynamos of political creation. They are the ones to esteem and hold dear.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Interesting Previews

Arizona Sports in September 2013:

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -

The head of the Sochi Olympics asked the IOC on Sunday to help "stop this campaign and this speculation" related to the anti-gay law that has been overshadowing preparations for next year's Winter Games in Russia.
A senior IOC member, meanwhile, said sponsors are "afraid" of the fallout of possible demonstrations in Sochi.
"I think this could ruin a lot for all of us," marketing commission chairman Gerhard Heiberg said. "We have to be prepared." ...


The Monkey Wrench Of Humility

Los Angeles Times
Arizona Religious Freedom Bill,0,6953661.story#ixzz2u2l5r04h

TUCSON -- Say a gay couple in Phoenix walks into a bakery to order their wedding cake. The baker refuses to take their order because of his deeply held religious beliefs.
Under a measure that passed the Arizona Legislature this week, the baker would have greater protection to invoke religion to shield himself from a discrimination lawsuit.

The bill, approved by the Republican-controlled Senate on Wednesday and the GOP-led House on Thursday, would bolster a business owner’s right to refuse service to gays and others if the owner believes doing so violates the practice and observance of his or her religion.
The state Senate passed it on a straight party-line vote, 17 to 13. The House followed suit, 33 to 27, with two Republicans joining all the Democrats in opposition.
Proponents contend the bill is about protecting religious freedom, rights that “must be respected,” said Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough, who introduced the measure.
Republican Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, a House sponsor, said there had been an “onslaught of attacks on religious freedoms.” The bill, he said, “is trying to protect those freedoms.” ...
Interesting state of affairs.

First, the logic is hard for me to grasp. I understand fully the sense of religious urgency; it is the "logic" that is elusive.
There is a good deal of emotion involved in this. Logical reasoning has forms and rules which logical people follow. Emotion-based conclusions, however, do not follow from premises to conclusion; one usually "jumps" over any barrier to the answer: a leap of faith, if you will.
I think we may safely say that the validity of an argument which is highly emotional usually does not depend upon the logical form of the argument, rather the validity we ascribe to such an argument is based upon our emotional agreement with the conclusion.

Second, this makes general nonsense of the old saw of loving the sinner, hating the sin.
In essence, the attitude represented by this Arizona law removes the veil of Love and Charity from the expressed religious views of its proponents, and reveals what really is beneath their smiles/frowns.

Third, I have often mentioned the Ironic Reversal, wherein a person or thing undergoes a jarring change, usually from good to bad; for example, the story of the Tower of Babel is one such story of ironic reversal. We are aware that these ironic reversals are literary devices, yet they are also real components of human life, and this awareness we sum up in pithy sayings, such as "The bigger they are, the harder they fall." and "Pride goes before a fall."
There are many such maxims.

How does one escape from the tragedy of ironic reversal? How do you avoid the fall from arrogance into oblivion? How does Dives avoid the flames of hell? How do the Branch Davidians escape the flames?

The most obvious way is to never achieve the pinnacle of an extreme position in the first place.

When one reads the Sermon on the Mount and its blessing of the meek, when one hears that one ought to turn the other cheek, did it ever occur to us that this is a prescription for throwing a monkey wrench into the works of a swift fall and destruction?
Did it ever occur that humility is the way to avoid the reversals of unkind fate, not to avoid doing anything, but to avoid following one's obsessions to an extreme position, such extremes being usually on the tipping edge of the abyss.

The teachings of the Gospels are for moderation, not total renunciation.

Now in the case of the Arizona law, we see the normal cycle of events of political differences when they are interpreted as positions extreme relatively to each other - the political life is a zero-sum game, not a "big tent", where everything someone wins is a loss for someone else.
These are political positions on the extremes. (Not necessarily, however, extreme politics in the sense of bomb throwing anarchy.)

Group A oppresses group B, group B pushes back, gains power, institutes changes which group A interprets as an attack on them... things go back and forth, cycling in this contest of wills.

The way to break the cycle of reversals is humility, it is turning the other cheek.
It is pursuit of the way of moderation in all things, politics, war, love, finance. So many of our present problems are due to our covetous and greedy desire for as much as we can possibly experience, see, own, love...

Humility is the spanner thrown into the works of destruction and desuetude.

Now you will ask how that translates into action.
You already know that answer. Your pretense of not knowing is merely your desire to keep on keeping on in the ways of vast acquisitiveness, utter satiety, and an impending downfall.
It is a narrative that we love, even though it is we ourselves who are downcast.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Somewhere In The Territories

pix: vocativ

Miss Media

Lots of news: Sochi, Ukraine, back to Sochi, complaints about judges, back to Ukraine...

Andrea Mitchell was on last night, talking about the Ukraine. What is not said is why the Ukraine is important to the USA. There is great interest and media brouhaha being drummed up, but no one says why it is.

Surely the importance is not Human Rights. We may say this and that about Human Rights, but Human Right are not the reason why the Ukraine is important.

SO why is it so important?

Well, I don't know, but it was concerning the Ukraine that a US ambassador said famously:
"F* the EU !"
(European Union), so there are some interests beyond human rights. I don't see any economic interest for the USA, either.
It is probably just the plain old anti-Russian animus, the knee-jerk policy we are good at.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

1984: Oceania Meddles In Eurasia

Kiev last night... or the night before. Possibly tomorrow.

It was for the longest, longest time reported by US Media as a struggle between the European Union (EU) and Russia for influence and power in the Ukraine.
That was until the US Ambassador famously said, thinking that no one else was listening,
 "F-  the EU!"
At that point it became clear that another player was mixing the witches' cauldron, and it was us.

In terms of the novel 1984, Oceania (NATO, USA, etc.) were messing with Eurasia (Russia, ex-USSR states, etc.) as part of the experience of endless warfare devised by the ruling elites.

Us, as we all the while kvetched about Putin and Russia, we were in there and what was our objective? Human Rights?
Probably not.
If I were one of Russia's leaders, I might find President Obama personally engaging, but I would not trust anything about the foreign policy of the USA regarding anything remotely near Russia.



Monday, February 17, 2014


Winter Olympics 1928, St. Moritz
The British South Pole Vaulting Team

I rarely watch the Olympics, either.

I can watch all the professional sports I want at other times, and I don't like all the media chicanery compressed into the short time that the Olympics take place. I can watch NHL hockey anytime in the months with "e" and "a" in them without the Olympics. Same goes for basketball in the summer Olympics.

I did watch some Sochi this year. What did I get for it? I got to see Shaun White slide into a fate that had already been telegraphed to everyone who cares about such things when he had cut his long hair - vermilion red and Samson-luxuriant. I mean, who did not see that coming? The young man sliding into short-haired middle age... just the kind of story that gets the blood pumping.

So I do not particularly like the professionalism and the money associated with it. So? I was asked how do I think those kids that start when they are 4 years old and practice at dawn for five hours a day for sixteen years manage to do it? How do their parents pay for it all?
Don't care. In the old days of amateurism, people had lives that were not Sporty Obsessive Compulsively Disorders, and the stop watch did not need to keep track of one-ten-thousandth of a second.


Why Is North Korea So Crazy?

My extensive reading on the Manhattan Project and World War II has lead me into the peripheral area of the Korean War. I am reading this after I have read some articles on the White House pondering whom to next kill with a drone strike...

And I ponder the long term effects of barbarous wars that had an outcome different from Japan's unconditional surrender.

History News Network
George Mason University 

Bombing Civilians: An American Tradition

The cease-fire that ended the Korean War followed a crescendo of bombing, which was then taken as proof that airpower was as decisive in limited wars as it had been in total war. The cities and towns of central and northern Korea had been leveled. In what Bruce Cumings has called the “final act of this barbaric air war,” North Korea’s main irrigation dams were destroyed in the spring of 1953, shortly after the rice had been transplanted. “The subsequent floods scooped clean 27 miles of valley below. . . . The Westerner can little conceive the awesome meaning which the loss of [rice] has for the Asian—starvation and slow death.”   
By 1952, according to a UN estimate, one out of nine men, women, and children in North Korea had been killed. In the South, 5,000,000 people had been displaced and 100,000 children were described as unaccompanied. “The countless ruined villages are the most terrible and universal mark of the war on the Korean landscape. To wipe out cover for North Korean vehicles and personnel, hundreds of thatch-roofed houses were burned by air-dropped jellied gasoline or artillery fire,” Walter Sullivan, former New York Times Korea correspondent, reported in The Nation. J. Donald Kingsley, head of the reconstruction agency, called Korea “the most devastated land and its people the most destitute in the history of modern warfare.”   
Freda Kirchwey, in an essay for The Nation, tried to explain the general indifference of the American public to the destruction:
We were all hardened by the methods of mass-slaughter practiced first by the Germans and Japanese and then, in self-defense, adopted and developed to the pitch of perfection illustrated at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Western allies and, particularly, the Americans. We became accustomed to “area” bombing, “saturation” bombing, all the hideous forms of strategic air war aimed at wiping out not only military and industrial installations but whole populations. . . . A deep scar was left on the mind of Western man, and, again, particularly on the American mind, by the repression of pity and the attempt to off-load all responsibility onto the enemy.
Kirchwey thought that this repression explained the lack of protest “against the orgy of agony and destruction now in progress in Korea.” Nothing the North Koreans, Chinese, or Russians had done “excuses the terrible shambles created up and down the Korean peninsula by the American-led forces, by American planes raining down napalm and fire bombs, and by heavy land and naval artillery.” And now Korea, “blotted out in the name of collective security, blames the people who drop the fire bombs,” which might seem unfair to the military mind but was inevitable:
For a force which subordinates everything to the job of killing the enemy becomes an enemy itself. . . . And after a while plain horror displaces a sense of righteousness even among the defenders of righteousness, and thus the cause itself becomes hateful. This has happened in Korea. Soon, as we learn the facts, it will overtake us here in America.
“The American mind,” Kirchwey was certain, “mercurial and impulsive, tough and tender, is going to react against the horrors of mechanized warfare in Korea.” ,,,


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dionysos On Crete

Perhaps the conjunction of bulls and the mead (and later wine) of Dionysos on Crete are more intimately related than I had previously thought.

There is a mythos of fermentation of mead being performed in a sac made of cow or bovine hide and sewn up for a certain period of time. It is possible that this describes the first fermentation vats. Such sacs of hide are acknowledged means of transport of wines and such, but the fermentation process may also have anciently occurred in such items.

Bulls are ruminants; that is, they have large bellies of four chambers, the first of which is the rumen, which is a fermentation vat, containing billions of microbes which anaerobically break down the ingested plant material before it is enzymatically digested by the ruminant bull.
Perhaps this process was observed at some point in some ritual sacrifice.

So the process of fermentation is right at hand in the past as well as today, and perhaps the ancient scientists of nutrition noticed and investigated over time.


Yoghurt Wars 2

Chobani Yoghurt banned!

Or, rather, removed from the shelves of Whole Foods Supermarkets.

After a bit of digging, it turns out that Chobani Yoghurt, sponsor of the Olympics and owner of a ship load of yoghurt that was refused to be unladen in Russia, is to be removed from Whole Foods, also. It turns out that Chobani will not follow Whole Foods directive that all suppliers list Genetically Modified Ingredients on their containers, so they are to be banned there, too.

I could not actually find Russia's reason, but it is probably related to the fact that GM grains are in the feed of the dairies that ship their milk to Chobani.

Nice that we have to dig into the news ourselves. Investigative journalist are made, not born.


Offensive Words

Some words are offensive and not used.

Some are used by certain groups, but not by others.

The N-word comes to mind as a word that has a defined ecosystem where it may flourish, and a vast region beyond the pale where it may not.

"Retarded" is another example.
Very recently I was on my way somewhere, I was late, and I lightly explained that "I was retarded." As soon as I said this, I knew it was an error, for I meant that I was retarded in time; that is, I was held back by something and lost time and was - as the man in the Bay of Biscay said when asked why he missed dinner - I was en retard. I was late.
Of course, in my neck of the woods, many young people had most recently been in the habit of using "retarded" as a synonym for "silly", "goofy", "loopy", and what have you. So by saying I was retarded, I could have seemingly been stating the obvious and asking for forgiveness and understanding due to my goofiness... sort of an obeisance one makes to the Alphas in charge, a groveling in the dirt.
I think the appointment was a haircut, and the person I talked to was my hair-whisperer (emphasis on whisp),  and as she was going to have sharp metal objects in the proximity of my carotid artery soon, it seemed best to grovel.

The N-Word is the most odd. If a family has people of various races within the close family, you have the very unusual spectacle of the linguistic divide in a very small community. Some members of the family use it, but in well-defined situations with people of well-defined relationship, and some other members do not at all.

I think it helps such situations to be stimulant-free. It is easy to offend when non compos mentis.

What we actually need is a perjorative word that cuts to the quick and can be used by everybody.

Or not... Perhaps the power of such words resides in the labyrinth of proper usage within a maze of different social and familial relationships.
Perhaps a good part of the perjorative power of offensive words comes from their difficult context and placement - the fact that if one uses such a word improperly, one could get punched in the nose.

Interesting. Personally, if I feel the need, I sing a bowdlerized version of DMX Ruff Ryders Anthem, "One, two, three, four, five...what?!"  wherein the "one" and "two" beats take the place of the offensive words.


gad! The latest Firefox update has made this browser almost impossible to use!
I am in a hurry to get this up before everything falls apart.

Why I Don't Watch The Superbowl

Athletic Games Honoring Patroclus

It is very often not a good game.
It is a meeting between two mismatched teams, and this inequality is directly proportional to the vast amounts of hot air expended madly for the two weeks preceding to trick you - the viewer - into watching the shudder-inducing spectacle.

The Advertisements are the only creatively interesting thing to see, and one may watch them elsewhere.

The food served at get-togethers is lame... unless there is a chili cooking contest, and we don't drink spirits and no one has Coke Zero or Diet Pepsi. I usually settle for Sam Pellegrino's wonderful water.

No one even remembers the appalling disaster. I mean, the safety in the first twelve seconds should have been accompanied by a musical score of impending doom, repeating at various times with close-ups of Peyton Manning's harrowed face and eyes.
In retrospect, I was led to expect not only would Mr. Manning lead his team to a decisive victory, but he himself would be assumed into heaven to keep company with Elijah until some future event of eschatological importance.

That is not quite how it worked out.

I supposed I could have watched the entire Hindenburg-Crash-Known-As-Superbowl; I could have keened "Oh, The Humanity!"; I could have gotten a soul-numbing view of the ancient tragedy of Oedipus, as we go from the heights of highest Quarterback Supremacy to sitting unseeing in Colonis...
I don't know why Oedipus comes to mind. Perhaps it is the family thing: the fact that Peyton Manning has a brother, Eli Manning, who has not been quite as successful so far. There is something akin to Sophocles or Eugene O'Neill at work here...

... and I recall that Socrates was on his way to a tail-gate party before the Superbowl when he met Ion, the reciter of Homer, walking down the road. Socrates has already been drinking and talks about great games of Homer, like fighting in full armor in the hot sun, archery, and bearing one's fellows upon their shields.
The lady Aspasia happens by singing, and has a wardrobe malfunction, and no one remembers anything at all about the Superbowl pankration... just Aspasia's song.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Kanye Lord Byron

I am doing a story in which Mary Shelley acts like Kim Kardashian, Lord Byron is a hip-hop artist, Percy Shelley acts like Andy Cohen, and the Villa Deodati is filled with people who resemble the Real Housewives.

Long evenings spent in rhyme with Queen Mab,
I'm screwed up now goin' inta rehab!

Un-Free Markets

During thie discussion about the Minimum Wage, it has come to my attention that the Minimum Wage for Tipping Jobs - those that may depend on customers' tips or gratuities - is $2.13 per hour. The National Restaurant Association has effectively lobbied for this.

In other words, the paying customers are probably paying more than 60% of the wait staff's income.
The tip is not a thank-you-for-good-service, but is the living wage.

If eateries cannot pay a living wage, let them go out of business, as they would in a truly free market.

Will workers be let go? Hardly. Restaurants are service based businesses; if the service is bad, no one will come back to the restaurant.
If the restaurant wishes to stay in business, they will find a way to cut something else.

I do not know how many restaurant pay the tipping minimum wage, but if they do, they should have a sign up saying that they do, and that we had better eat there lest the children of the wait staff starve.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Metaphysical Logic Of Spying

How the NSA Almost Killed the Internet
By Steven Levy   01.07.14   6:30 AM
Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and the other tech titans have had to fight for their lives against their own government. An exclusive look inside their year from hell—and why the Internet will never be the same.

On June 6, 2013, Washington Post reporters called the communications depart­ments of Apple, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and other Internet companies. The day before, a report in the British newspaper The Guardian had shocked Americans with evidence that the telecommunications giant Verizon had voluntarily handed a database of every call made on its network to the National Security Agency. The piece was by reporter Glenn Greenwald, and the information came from Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old IT consultant who had left the US with hundreds of thousands of documents detailing the NSA’s secret procedures...
A good article and an excellent example of how "good intentions" transform themselves into authoritarianism and oppression. There is not a huge divide between democracy and dictatorship, rather it is but a single step in the wrong direction in the garden of forking paths, and everything is changed.

There is also a charming metaphysics about spying and surveillance.
Since the NSA cannot release too much information, it can claim that everything it does is not only necessary, but it is efficient in that it has resulted in numerous terrorist plots and cabals being broken up.

Only it cannot be proved, because the data which would prove the case are still classified information.

So we believe on faith.

The propositions of the NSA are assigned Truth on a basis which cannot be examined. It is Faith, and it is Faith of the most degraded type, for it has as its focus an omnipotent human power.

The politicians may say "war on terror" all they wish, but we are not in a war in any sense of the term which existed until 2001.
There is need for many anti-terrorist activities, but they do not constitute a war.
Because War has been accepted as a reason for the suspension of the right of habeas corpus, for one thing, and we are seeing right now the "inspired" and inventive combinations of policy in Guantanamo, where non-Americans are held for decades, and drone strikes overseas against some who are American citizens.
The necessities of war require extraordinary sacrifice what we normally see as our rights and just due. The name "war" should not be allowed to justify an unprecedented power grab by a department of government never even imagined by the Founding Fathers.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Another Fine Great White Northern Mess

Justin Bieber and Rob Ford.

I think I could get along with Mr. Ford. Mr. Bieber, however, strikes me as a silly twit with his cap on backwards and a useless entourage of fellow twits.


An Interesting Side To Climate

Tree roots in the mountains 'acted like a thermostat' for millions of years
by Staff Writers
Oxford, UK (SPX) Feb 12, 2014
For the first time, scientists have discovered how tree roots in the mountains may play an important role in controlling long-term global temperatures. Researchers from Oxford and Sheffield Universities have found that temperatures affect the thickness of the leaf litter and organic soil layers, as well as the rate at which the tree roots grow.

In a warmer world, this means that tree roots are more likely to grow into the mineral layer of the soil, breaking down rock into component parts which will eventually combine with carbon dioxide. This process, called weathering, draws carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and cools the planet. The researchers say this theory suggests that mountainous ecosystems have acted like the Earth's thermostat, addressing the risk of 'catastrophic' overheating or cooling over millions of years...
How much have the mountains been de-forested? How many other thermostats are there, and have they been compromised?

For if all the phenomena we attribute to Climate Change are in truth normal climate variability, then by removing the "thermostats" which are the control mechanisms on the process, have we entered into a new and never before experienced period of instability?


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How To Make Friends

Morning is the time to walk the beach on Sanibel.

I was mulling over who Saint Ybel was who was the eponym of this blessed speck of land, Sanibel = San Ybel = Saint Ybel. I applied a wikiquet to it (wikiquette = wiki + tourniquet, pronounced "wiki-ket"... send royalties to me). I discovered Ybel was a variant of Isybella, English Isabella.

So a chunky old bald guy walks past us.
It was not I. I was not looking into a mirror. I do not have a gentleman's gentleman following me around with the full length mirror from my armoire in a cart, so that I can look at myself walking upon the strand. It was another old bald guy.

So I sez, "Look how fast he is walking. That young buck! Look at those legs!"

She-who-must-be-obeyed ignored me.

So this struck my fancy, and I continued every day with a number of random crones and codgers that crossed our path. I would comment upon feminine charms, and say that various elder dolls must have been knockouts in their prime, and the guys were world class, too.

Finally, She-who-etc. bade me shut up at the same point of exhaustion... every day.

Time passes; the sun rises and sets; the moon is over Miami; pennies from heaven burn your feet as you walk at midday.

Funny thing; I find that when we go out to eat at various eateries, people look at us in a welcoming manner. People even wave, even though I am sure I have never had the pleasure of their acquaintance.
A vastly different experience from the usual thing when people fork their fingers and try to avert the malocchio when I enter an eating establishment. Nobody has offered to pick up our check yet, but it is only a matter of time.

I like it when people smile at me.


Asymmetrical Villainy

By the pool of the John's Island Club, the subject was politics, or near-politics. (Somewhat like talking about American televangelists is near-religion... not the real deal but they mill around in the same ball park.)

The subject went to Edward Snowden, and the person who raised the topic said,
"Edward Snowden, hero or villain?"
and we went around the table.

I was first. I hesitated about one second, letting a flurry of thoughts rise like startled sea gulls from the beachscape of my mind.
"Hero," I said.
Three of us said hero, and we said it definitely. We did not cavil with some nonsense like
"I think... hero.... yes. Hero."
Just the one word "hero".

The person who raised the question said

just as definitely.

Maybe more definitely. She had a list of reasons ready, and they were not the solid block of monolithic emotional reasons I would have given at first; they were the product of rational analysis and thought. At this time I was interested suddenly in how "analog" the emotional mind is and how "digital" and discrete is reason. (Emotion is like a an entire ivory tusk, while reason is more like Mah-Jong tiles .)
These came down to a basic proposition that Mr. Snowden's dumped vast amounts of data to the media, and this data had the potential to hurt people.

Some people would have argued this point, but we did not, for the proof would be in the future pudding.

However, I was struck by the new concept of "villain". I am sure that Mr. Snowden agonized over his decision, being aware that he could very well become a man without a country.
If he were not being paid for his information, he would lose his country, home, and way of life in pursuit of some idealized notion of human rights and human privacy and who knows what other moral goods.

So if he did not sell his data, it seemed as if he was either (1) a hero, or (2) a villain who perpetrated his dastardly deeds for all the same reasons and sufferings which befall heroic figures in Western myths and stories.

And that is why the world is so often mysterious, for all is not Professor Xavier and Magneto of the old comic books; rather it is Professor Xavier and Magneto of the modern films, where the good remains nebulous (and only the shadowy government agencies are truly "evil").  And it is "nebulous" in the sense that the good is hard to see and find, not that it is hazy by its very nature. In no way does "nebulous" imply something like the popular philosophy notion of "relative".

All mankind of goodwill will find out in the final winnowing who was a hero and who the villain... maybe.

Maybe we shall all be heroes and heroines.

Or not.


Monday, February 10, 2014

Erosion Control

Soil is one of the necessities of social well being: no soil, no food, no society.
When soils were exhausted or when soils were removed from wind or rain and the replenishment rate could not keep up with the erosion, then human societies fell into rapid decline.

A good article on good husbandry of the soil:
Mother Jones

Iowa Is Getting Sucked Into Scary Vanishing Gullies
—By Tom Philpott
| Fri Feb. 7, 2014 3:00 AM GMT
Last year, after a record drought in 2012, Iowa experienced the wettest spring in its recorded history. The rains triggered massive runoff from the state's farms into its creeks, streams, and rivers, tainting water with toxic nitrate from fertilizer. Nitrate levels in the state's waterways reached record levels—so high that they emerged as "a real issue for human health," Bob Hirsch, a hydrologist for the US Geological Survey, told the Associated Press.
The event illustrated two problems facing Iowa and the rest of the nation's topsoil-rich grain belt. The first is the challenge of climate change: how to manage farmland in an era when weather lurches from brutal drought to flooding, as it likely will with increasing frequency. The second, related one is the largely invisible crisis of Iowa's topsoil, which appears to be eroding at a much higher rate than US Department of Agriculture numbers account for—and, more importantly, at as much as 16 times the natural replacement rate...


Sunday, February 09, 2014

A Conceptual Touch-Free Car Wash

The Mother of Khaita

Carl Kerenyi
Bollingen Series LXV.2
page 108
The Homeric version of the death of Ariadne becomes fully comprehensible only if there was between her and Dionysos the closest relationship possible between a man and a woman...
This passage deals with some intricate ideas about Ariadne and her exact relationship to Dionysos.

When it dawned on me that the closest relationship meant that between a mother and her son, I felt my own mother's presence... I saw her not in an "Ah-ha!" experience of great clarity, but as if I were in a car watching sheets of water streaming down the glass of the windows: it was not clear and not easy to see through them, but it was as if they were melting, changing, streaming, blowing, absolute clarity combined with turbulence and opacity.
As if sitting in a car wash, I thought.
Something changed within me, but it changed in a way that I could not grab and put into a concept.

This was two days ago.

Things are so rarely as we experience when introduced to the history of Freud. Things rarely are encapsulated within one single and clear concept, and that single concept does not lead us to "Ah-ha!", but more often to a more rigorously defined mystery.


Trunk Monkeys

I have been introduced to Trunk Monkeys.
I thought it was pretty hilarious.

See YouTube.


Florida Days


Things are quiet in Florida this AM; lazy sun coming over the horizon, mist shuffling off the lawn, gators sleeping on the golf course.
Back home I see it is 13 degrees, and for 6:48 in the morning, that represents a warming trend. It should be above freezing by the time I return to the airport to shovel my car out of the long term parking lot... in my blue blazer and dock siders.
Lizard Breath and Gecko Eyes are growing up. We stumbled across them again at the 19th Hole at John's Island Club House, and just as if they were still supernumeraries in the black-and-white version of The Lord Of The Flies, they yelled "Piggy!" - for Pygopodia, a genus of geckoids and, unfortunately, my nickname in this triune club - and were howling down the hills to steal my specs.

We made plans to do some stuff, my wife and I and the boy Lizard and the girl Gecko.
Their parents were fine with a little free child care, and they trusted us almost as much as they found me insufferable, thinking that if children were to be seen and not heard down at the Club and Beach, I really should be neither. But there it was.

We perused the film listings for the inevitable chance of a rainy day - every other activity was a combination of  "picnic", "pool", "beach", and "frankfurters" (that's what they call 'em at John's Island and they go for $10, and as a friend pointed out, since kids rarely take more than 2, 3 bites from a hot dog, that nets out at about $25 per standard hot dog fully consumed).

I, Frankenstein was the favorite early on. However, on checking the Rotten Tomatoes reviews, barely 51% of the audience liked it... and this was the audience made up mostly of guys and gals that were at Screwie Louie's Porpoise Pub Big Fourth Anniversary Party which was a white ponytail affair, roughly meaning bikers my age and their old ladies.
That was not a good sign.
Lizard B. and G. Eyes had already seen ("been dragged to" as they nicely put it) Monument Men, and they said it was monumentally boring, the fact that it outscored I, Frankenstein notwithstanding.

Last night we "sat" for them, even though they are too old to allow any notion of "babysitting" to attach to this type of primate behavior. Popcorn and The Walking Dead on AMC. Their parents had given faint endorsement of such TV: "Walking Dead or whatever..."
Some straight guys and dolls - what does one call non-zombies? I chose "straight"; I suppose Straight Rights organizations will be offended - were hacking the arms off a zombie, smashing his teeth and mandible on a rock, taking him home to meet the gang... who lived at a old prison, and there was a joyous reunion of the straights, which included being lovingly hit by the butt of a rifle and being placed in a cell by old and smiling friends.

During this waking nightmare, LB and GE told me of a friend of their parents, who lived in New Brunswick and was visiting earlier in the month, and constantly referred to strangers, foreigners, tourists, immigrants, and generally new faces as Come-From-Away-ers.
It sounded very north-of-the-border to me and the wife, both having gone to University in the Great White North.

It also resembled 1984's NewSpeak.

"Ever Orwell!" I said, hoping for a laugh.
Nobody laughed.
I explained the Canadian use of the intensifier "ever", but by then what had been Wit had wilted into Pun, which in turn decayed to Mawkish Jape.


Saturday, February 08, 2014

Yoghurt Wars

I got the impression that the refusal of Russia to allow a shipment of Chobani yoghurt to be landed to feed the Olympic athletes to be yet another example of what our Media describes as Russian "attitude".

Yet, I read today in the Farm Journal site AgWeb:
The U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) are calling on Russian authorities to end its country’s three-year embargo of U.S. dairy products. The groups’ call for action follows Russia’s refusal to accept a New York company’s Greek yogurt for consumption by U.S. athletes at the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
"This is yet another example of how Russia’s blockade of U.S. dairy products is harming U.S. companies," says Tom Suber, USDEC president.
Media reports have indicated that a large shipment of yogurt from Chobani was refused entry into Russia, even though the company is a major sponsor of the U.S. Olympic team. "Russia has turned a cold shoulder to many U.S. businesses trying to ship dairy products to Russia, despite our ample efforts during the past three years to prove their safety and quality. Reopening this market on a permanent basis would be a great benefit for U.S. companies and Russian consumers," says Suber...
So the ban has been in place for three years, it was not deemed worthy of the Media three ring circus before this, and US folks are working to prove the safety and quality.

If there's a safety question, what is it, and why am I eating the yoghurt?


Monday, February 03, 2014

All The News That Fit To Eat, Or...

...the incredible, edible news!

The Today show is on the background, and at approx 8:05 I hear the young lady giving the news say:
"In the Phillipines, Mount Cinnabun erupted..."
and there is a photo of a volcano, not a pastry.

Now the Long Johns with butter cream from the Home Bakery in Rochester, Michigan (tel: 248-651-4830) is another matter, and they are rather high on the Richter Scale.

Mt. Sinabung


A Loss Of Relevance

In Yahoo News this morning:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Marco Rubio, a major player on immigration policy, said Wednesday that there was no chance now of passing a broad overhaul because Republicans have lost trust in President Barack Obama.
The first-term Florida lawmaker, a potential White House contender in 2016, cited GOP concerns about whether the president could be trusted to enforce tough security requirements in the Senate's bipartisan immigration bill that Rubio helped write.
Rubio said the Obama administration has lost credibility as a result of how it handled the 2012 attack against a U.S. outpost in Libya and accusations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted conservative groups...

I do not see the relevance of Mr. Rubio's complaints.
This is strongly suggestive of looking around for any excuse that comes to hand. If it is, it is once more contemptible.


Untidy Bowls And Other Thoughts

Steve, The Cat Who Visited Mars

I did not watch the Super Bowl, except for a few minutes during the second quarter when Seattle was gloriously ahead by 15 points.

I did not favor one side over the other; I did not wish the brave Seahawks defeat the inferior Broncos. I was quite fair about the whole thing.

There was a Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet, and there was an earlier Kitten Bowl on Hallmark. There used to be (as still is, for all I know) a Kitten Half-Time show at the Puppy Bowl, but they did not get a patent on it, and now the kittens have their own Super Bowl... which is probably not good for the owners of the Puppy League franchises.
Maybe the Kitten League and the Puppy League will combine. Then we could have a really Tidy (Super) Bowl.

Given the success of these alternative Bowls, in one of my acerbic Swiftian moods (Jonathan, not Tom) I said that I thought there might be a chance for an alternative bowl on C-Span with Syrian refugees.

Or an Islamic militant Shia-Beheading-Bowl.

This was considered to be an atrociously brutish thing to say, not at all like the Syrian War itself, which we have not only tolerated for three years, but which our government actually supported when it seemed as if we could get rid of Bashar Al Assad on the cheap by letting the old dependable Saudis and Qataris do it... heh-heh-heh!
(In a comment to a recent article about Syria in some publication, the commenter wrote that the "golf dictatorships" should be the ones responsible to sort things out. I had images of Phil Mickelson strutting about like Mussolini.)

War is not hell. Jokes about war are hell. War itself is tolerable, so it seems.

Who was it that said that
"War is merely the continuation of the daily deaths by automobiles and guns by other - and more efficient - means."  ?
I forget the name. Some bloke with a lot upstairs, though. Obviously.


It has been a year since my father died.

I had bought my wife the entire series of Six Feet Under, which we watched in the immersion method of watching actors. We are Method Watchers:  we immerse ourselves in the stories and characters so much so that we identify with them even when we are no longer potatoing upon the couch.
(I mentioned earlier that it dawned on me that this is how the ancients listened to the epics of Homer, and were educated thereby.)

Life and Death.
I believe that I suffered a good deal this past year. I was oppressed. There was nothing quite definite I was aware of, other than my physical pain which, surprisingly, has found a remedy just in the last week. Coincidence or not, I have had two or three years of increasing back and neck pain, and this period fits in exactly with the period of my father's decline, my parents' increasing demands upon me, and my father's passing.

It is hard to explain, as most of you know.
I feel alive for the first time in a long time.
I know the dynamos of life: nurture, love, family, eros, emotion, structure, spirituality; they all of them still functioned over the past few years, but they were dulled and darkened. Life was not living, but it has been an imitation of life, as if I were an actor always prepping for his role. No, more like the third understudy, who knew his chances of ever getting on the big stage were slim.

It's so hard for me to say. You'd think someone who fancies himself a writer could write about important things like that.
But words fail me.
It's like when I talked to God a couple years ago, He was on his way to a baseball game in Ebbetts Field (Can you believe it? The Dodgers have been gone since the 1950s.). He took time to smile, shake my hand firmly, and say that they'd been waiting for me.
Then off He goes with even the slightest word about dogma, belief, or the end of the world.
Which is probably a good thing, because I most likely would have obsessed about it, and driven people crazy.

I know it's pathetic, but words fail me in the face of the ineffable. Sorry.

So I know a bit about the well springs of life, and now I now the close touch of death, and where do I stand?Am I not still pretty much in the dark?

I feel like I am with Don Cheadle, Jerry O'Connell, and Connie Nielsen in their space rescue capsule returning from Mars in Mission To Mars, when the alien craft bearing Gary Sinise speeds by them on the way to some spiraled galaxy or another: speed and light piercing the dark with one fine line, leaving fast fading contrails in space (note to producer: I do not think there would be contrails in space.)
There is a goal; maybe I am going to it, maybe I am helping or helped others to it...
There is a triumph, and death has no dominion.

Creation never ends. Just like the Dodgers still play in Ebbetts Field, even if you see God running to catch a streetcar to the ball park. Even if you don't particularly like the brown suit He's wearing.

What matters is having been in it entirely with body, mind, and soul.


Saturday, February 01, 2014

The Rose Bud Cloud

There does not seem to be an accurate account why J. Robert Oppenheimer named the first atomic bomb test Trinity.

I think it was a name heavily influenced by fleeting memories of the sailboat he had as a teenager, and which he named Trimethy.

Trimethy comes from the organic molecule trimethylamine which can have a strong odor of fish, sometimes described as a rotting fish odor. The methyl group is a carbon atom bonded to three hydrogen atoms: CH3.
Trimethylamine has three (tri-) of these methyls grouped with one nitrogen:  N(CH3)3.

It is described as a nucleophile... interestingly enough.