Sunday, July 30, 2006

Post Jam

On this, the fourth attempt, I have at last written and uploaded and published the previous three posts centering on the Bed of Procrustes. The first three times I tried to make one long post. But the machine kept crashing for its or my reasons.
After a mobo transplant I am finally able to post my feeble effort to underscore that myths are important to understand our lives.
It may well be that the Bed of Procrustes has little relevance to your life. Be assured another myth will. Also you may not take the same meaning from the myth that I do. That too is fine.
But of what value is the unreflected life? Myths can be tools to find those reflections.

-- ml
nb, 2/18/2007: This is the final addendum to a three part series nominated for the 2006 Koufax best Series. To read the fine work of other nominees click here.
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The Things of Fitness

Once there was a beautiful city by the shores of a big lake. The city was noted for the generous ferocity of its climate, the generous oner of its work, and the generous warmth of its people. Here the Navy had a boot camp.
All military camps are interested in physical fitness and their training camps are very rigorous. But the Navy adds a special twist to its rigor: emotional training. Young men brought up on the myths of rugged individualism and the wide open wild west spaces are crammed together in a confined space with no off time. Ships are like that. Naval regulations permit each seamen a bunk six feet long by 24" wide by 18" high. that was the space from the top of one bunk to the bottom of the next. On shipboard they might be stacked six high. We called them racks. All your personal belongings fit in a locker 2' wide, by 15" deep by 18" tall. Living in such confinement is a psychological challenge. To train young men to live in such close quarters as a team completely subservient to the Captain is the function of boot camp.
The process begins with stripping. All your civilian clothes -- even the ones you stand in -- are packed for shipment to your former home. You join an immense line of several hundred nude men shuffling around the perimeter of a drill hall. Think of a large football field inside a hangar. Doctors poke and prod. Corpsman inject. Audiologists check hearing, Oculists examine eyes, Dentists oversee group self teeth cleaning as we brush with pumice laden bristles. The trench sinks run with gore.
Finally we are measured and uniforms are issued.
One canvass sea bag
Three sets dungarees
Bell bottom denim pants and long sleeved chambray shirts
Three sets White Summer Uniforms
Two undress short sleeve shirts, one dress middy blouse, and bell bottom pants.
Three sets Blue Winter Uniforms
Two undress middy blouses, one dress middy blouse with piping, bell bottom trousers with the thirteen button flap. One button for each of the thirteen colonies. Take hold of the flap corners and tug smartly and it opens faster than a zipper at need. Tug lubberly and you get to resew the buttons.
One jacket.
One pea coat.
One rain coat.
One ball cap.
Two Dixie cups.
The traditional silly white thing sailors wear. it is useful, at need, to carry water.
One pair oxfords, one pair boondockers.
New words -- new jargon -- issued with the clothes.
One neckerchief.
One Blue Jackets Manual.
Think of the Boy Scout Manual expanded to include such items as removing blood stains from whites, how to use your neckerchief as a tourniquet or sling, etc.
Various Smalls: Tees, shorts and socks.
A ditty bag
Of needful items from razors to wash powder.
And clothes stops.
But no little red wagon to carry them all, just your arms and shank's mare.
What are clothes stops? Something only the Navy would have. Patience.
Laden with all the possessions we are permitted we stagger into the stenciling room and proceed -- under direction -- to stencil every article of clothing with our name and serial number. These daubs of white or black paint in specific places not ordinarily visible to the world, and our rank and rate (job) insignia, are the only differentiation allowed among garments.
At last we are permitted to pull on one set of dungarees. And the boondockers, or high top work boots. We clomp over to the Navy Exchange building, hoicking our seabags along as best we are clumsily able, to pass under the buzz clippers of the scalpers (putative barbers). We emerge as bald pated teens, old beyond our years and as uniform as possible in our appearance: Cowed, and ready.
In the barracks our company commander (actually a first class petty officer) informs us that our new clothes are filthy and all must be washed -- by hand -- and hung to dry in the yard. So we scrub and so we dub. Then we tie our clothes to the clothes line with the clothes stops which are short lengths (6-8") of 1/8" cotton line. The navy has a particular way to do this, of course. In the middle of the clothes stop tie an overhand knot around a corner of a shirt tail or belt loop. place this in proximity to the clothes line and wrap the ends, in a tight coil, around the line for 6 or 8 turns, then tie the ends together in a square knot. Neat and trig. Shipshape. Even.
And that was the first day.

The Navy is obsessed with cleanliness. Our company's ugly duckling was forced to suck his shorts in front of the company because the commander found shit stains on them.
After fire training -- in which we were locked in a closed space adjacent to an oil fire to emerge ready for a minstrel show (even the blacks among us) hacking and coughing. Those who pushed against the iron bars came away with stains. These did not wash out. In trepident trembling we faced the CC who informed us that "Those are clean stains and will not be noticed at inspection."
Twelve weeks more and the Navy considered us ready to train for our jobs.
We were stretched, or trimmed, to suit the requirements of the service.
-- ml
nb, 2/18/2007: This is the third part of a series nominated for a 2006 Koufax. A final explanatory part is here.
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The Fitness of Things

Once there was a beautiful city by a bay and the sea. The city was noted for generosity. Generous climate, generous opportunity and generous people. One of many, I came there to seek my fortune.
First I found a rooming house where the landlady offered me room and board in exchange for waiting tables at breakfast and dinner. "That will leave you plenty of time to look for work." The attic contained two or three cots and as many slaves. Breakfast began at 6:30 and lasted to nine when I was allowed to do up the pots in a sink in the basement. At ten I was about to sit and read the classifieds when the landlady arrived with a full cleaning kit and "just get the parlor picked up, dear, before lunch at eleven" By one I was ready to look at the paper but here she came again with dust mops and squeegees for me to clean the entry hall and stairs -- all four flights. At five thirty it was time to set the table for dinner. At 8:30 I hung the last towell to dry and placed the broom back on its hook and went off to my cot in the belief I had earned my rest.
Tomorrow proved to be much of a muchness. So on the third day I announced I was leaving for a job interview.
As indeed were several hundred others.
At the radio station that offered free training for both on and off air positions, I joined an ad hoc team of three. Our assignment was to develop a show concept and figure out how to sell ads for it. Then, if we sold enough ads, they would let us put it on air.
At The Red Hot Diner I asked to be their dish washer. "Ya gotta union card?" "Uhm, no." "Can't hire ya." So I went to the union office. "Please, I'd like to join the union." "Ya gotta job?" "Uhm, no." "Can't let ya in the union."
I went to an employment agency. The counselor was very generous with his time as he inventoried my various points. But at last he shook his head with a sigh. "I can't find you a job even if you pay the fee. Look, every employer will know that, come fall, you'll go back to college." " But I won't." "They won't believe you. Next, look, you don't fit in -- you don't even tie your tie right. Maybe a half Windsor is okay back East, here we only wear four-in-hand knots."
Everywhere I went I was either too long or too short for what they offered.
So I joined the Navy.
While waiting for orders I went to the library and borrowed "Three Soldiers" by John Dos Passos.
-- ml
nb, 2/18/2007 This is the second in a series nominated for a Koufax award. The third part is here.
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The Fitness of Kings

Once there was a beautiful city on a bay by the sea. It was ruled by the most generous of Kings. At the close of every day he would stand in the traveler's road where it joined the way to his city in search of journeyer's.
"Well met far comers!" he would greet them. "You must be weary from your long travels. Pray be my guest for the night that I may send you forth in the morning refreshed. The baths are heated and await. By the time you are clean and dressed in the robes that are prepared for you the new killed lamb will be grilled to a turn. The summer's first fruits were picked today. Come. Stand on no ceremony, time enough for civilities when the day's cares accept amendment."
So he would cajole them, giving them no chance to demur, until they found ease in the bath and content in the sumptuous gowns -- far richer then their own travel stained cloaks -- in which the King arrayed them. The scent of the roasting lamb drew the travelers forth to the hall where all the King's people greeted them and made much of them. Here they all set to meat. Here great ruby drafts of the past year's grape gushed without stint. The City folk knew many drolleries to entertain their guests. With jokes and tumbling calling for hearty slaps of the stick and tender songs of valiant deeds fit for telling in such a wondrous gold adorned hall.
At length, satiety stayed, fatigue commanded and the King knowing their needs better then themselves commanded the revels cease and the folk escort the guests to the bed chambers prepared for them. "There you shall find an exact duplicate of the very bed in my chamber, for I have decreed that every guest shall be treated as though he were myself. That includes a night's rest as like my own as may be made."
The King and his folk escorted each guest to a bed chamber and made him lie down. Most often the traveler fit the bed very well and the King would wish them a good night.
Yet some there were who found the bed excessive in length. These the King had seized and pulled, by means of levers if needful, until they stretched the full length of the bed just as the Kiing did. Others found the bed too short. Some part -- usually the feet and legs -- dangled past the end unsupported. These the King had lopped off so that the guest fit the bed just so as he, King Procrustes, did.

nb, 2/18/2007: First in a series nominated for a koufax award. The second piece is here.
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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Plus Ca Change

From O to $3,387 in only 9 months:

My blog is worth $3,387.24.
How much is your blog worth?

That looks like I can pay the rent and eat maybe two months out of the year.

Oh. Wait.
That's asset not income.


-- ml

Friday, July 21, 2006

Bleg 07/21/06

Ann writes to ask if it is fashionable to name brand names in contemporary writing. She notes that I do so and that a young friend she mentors also does. Comments, opinions and -- if you must -- facts will be gratefully entertained. Please.

As for myself, any one who gives a cursory reading to this blog knows that fashion and I are unacquainted to state it as neutrally as possible. I do name brands when I think it will increase the reader's appreciation for what I am saying. For instance a "White Mountain ice cream maker" is the classic statement of a particular design. It is as informative to the reader as saying "unlike the Beatles" in a music review. I don't think I name brands otherwise. (Pray correct me if I am wrong oh august reader.)


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Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Superb Post

Brad Delong describes our dilema:

Filia: Why did you buy this book?

Pater: I didn't. They just sent it to me.

Filia: Why?

Pater: In the hope that I'll read it, and talk about it,
and write about it, and influence people to buy it, and then they'll sell more copies.

Filia: But you are probably not going to do that.

Pater: I might.

Go read a perfect post.

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Summer Ought Six

In time of great danger when dangerous persons hold power everywhere:

If I could speak of politics with honesty and probity -- but others do that.

If I could exhort -- but others shout, already, louder than I.

All that remains is to testify: This is my life. This is my experience. This is my thought. This is my dream.

Let that be the substance of my "hear ye" for restraint.
For Peace.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Rain Gods Laugh

Some part of my computer began failing intermittently about a month ago. On Sunday it turned in its notice -- without signing its name -- so that I was left as ignorant as before.
On Monday It went in to the local shop for a "We'll See" for a mere $59 bucks. Actually sounds reasonable in this inflated age.
But not until well into next week.
So the rest of Monday and today went in to combining two AMD K6II boxes into one that might work given a trip down memory lane with SuSE 9.3.
As of 7:30 PM I can receive mail but not send it. Book marks are not yet installed. Firefox is back to 1 point oh something. Passwords? I wrote them down so I wouldn't have to remember them as Dr Jones memorably said.
I must face up to it:
I cast my swine before pearls.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Word Play

"The great tragedy of Science -- the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact."
-- Thomas Huxley

-- ml

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Monday, July 03, 2006


Your Boss demands: "What happens next?"

There's no union to protect you. If this guy points at you some muscle will lean on you until you are dead.

So you tell him. You make it up of course. You use the brain you've got and hope to hell it's better than the Boss' and your luck holds.

And the Boss says: "How do you know that?"

So you make up some rigmarole to explain it which so befuddles the Boss that he doesn't send the muscle after you. Yet.

98 times out of a hundred it blows up in your faces. If your Boss survives he sends the muscle and you don't. If the Boss doesn't survive you have to find a new Boss before you starve.

One time out of a hundred the Boss drops dead before you find out. His heir could give a shit about that. He wants to know: "What happens Next?"

Begin again.

One time out of a hundred it all works out just like you said. The Boss shoves rubies and emeralds into all your available orifices.

Life is sweet.

You now have enough to establish a following. Enough: stature, money, chutzpah, moxie, or what ever it takes.

Syncophants gather around you. You can provide the means to, if not actual, careers. They challenge you. You respond. They pick you apart. You whup them.

Maybe they win. Maybe you do.

Doesn't really matter. History (as written by those in need of a justification for the Boss) names you a founder. A system exits because you picked the answer that panned out in the near term. And worked damn hard to keep the other SOBs from claiming it.

Many generations later we venerate you. Oh great and glorious moral philosophe.

Without you, a different industry would exist.

-- ml

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The Ice Cream Post

Earle enters the back porch bearing a large carton with Craftsman printed on it-- a sure sign he went to Sears.
Inside it is a wood bucket with a shiny stainless steel drum inside that connects at the top to a hand crank.
"What's that" I ask.
"An ice cream freezer" Earle said.
He washes the parts in the great green enameled sink where we do all the dishes and where Dorothy connects the Easy Washer to do the laundry.
"Ready?" Calls Dorothy from the kitchen.
"Yes," Says Earle as he sets the bottom of the drum on its socket.
She steps down to the porch with a large sauce pan containing the mixture -- chocolate custard -- she made the day before and chilled overnight in the GE Monitor top refrigerator. It fills the drum about two-thirds full. Earle lowers the dasher, a paddle like thing, inside; then settles the lid on top and fits the yoke and crank. He fills the space between drum and bucket with cracked ice pausing now and again to add rock salt to make the ice colder. When the drum disappears beneath the ice crystals he turns to us and says with a grin: "Who wants the first turn?"
The four of us look at each other. Henry steps forward. Earle shows him how to turn the crank: "Nice and slow at the start. Later, when it gets stiff you can go faster." Henry goes for several minutes before he surrenders the crank to Ann. She hums at first and then says "Gosh, Leonard, maybe you won't get a turn." That's all that's needed for Leonard to demand fair dues. With a show of reluctance Ann yields the crank. Soon a grim, determined, look suffuses Leonard's face in place of his usual wide grin. "Don't you want a turn?" he asks me. "Sure," I pipe. The crank in my hand -- stops. I put both hands on it and lean into it. It turns a quarter turn to stop at bottom dead center.
More interested in ice cream then the frustration building within me, Henry resumes the position and sets himself to the long pace. Earle spells him when Henry begins to pale. Ann and Leonard watch from a good position in back of Earle.
"There," Earle announces at last. And stops cranking. He changes the ice for a saltier mix to finish hardening. Earle wipes the sweat from his brow and goes out to the front porch to lay down on the glider to read until dinner is ready.
The ice cream is wonderful.
The next day Earle packs the freezer back into its box and puts it in the Chevy to take into town. He returns with a different ice cream freezer. This one has an electric motor.


There are two styles of ice cream freezer. One has a short, squatty can and the other has a tall narrow can. The latter does a superior job of freezing, not just in my opinion, but in that of many experts. Mine is a White Mountain, now part of Rival. Its can holds a bit more than four quarts. So I fill it with two quarts of mix. When I started making ice cream myself I tried the Philadelphia Ice Cream recipe in Fannie Farmer. It has the virtues of being both simple and good.
Mix each quart of cream with 3/4 cup sugar and a few grains of salt. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Chill. Add 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Vanilla or 1 teaspoon of grated vanilla bean. Freeze in a crank freezer to make 3 pints.
It is so good that I rarely make any other recipe. I have varied it by replacing a cup of cream with a cup of very strong coffee. That's good if you like coffee ice cream. A lot. Then I replaced the Vanilla with Root Beer concentrate which was also good. But not to the end of the gallon. It might be different if I had a big freezer and could keep the rest of the batch in reserve. Then I could vary the flavor without waste. With no more freezer space than comes at the top of my refrigerator one batch takes too much room. So, for ease of eating all the way to the bottom of the can, I mostly make Whistle Stop #6, as follows:

Pour half a gallon of cream into the can. Add a cup of sugar, three tablespoons of vanilla, and a half-teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg, Set the dasher and lid and place all in the churn. Fill the bucket about a third full of ice around the drum and plug the motor in. Scatter a cup of rock salt over the ice. Add more ice to near the top of the drum. Spread two-thirds of a cup of rock salt. Cover the can in ice. Sprinkle a third of a cup of salt. Add more ice as needed. I get two bags and generally have about a third of a bag left over. Do not add more salt. The White Mountain will run without lugging down. After about fifteen minutes stop it and move the ice cream into a container that goes in the freezer -- or serve it out to the party. When disassembling the mixer be careful to keep the salty ice out of the can. The lid can come loose easily. With another mixer it will probably lug down when done.

* * *

Where did the name come from? Once we lived across the field from an old railway station. My daughter and I frequently walked past it on our way to wherever. Then Tommy Thompson began to build a very narrow gauge railway in that area. Melissa and I, among many others, helped him lay track. Tommy was not sure what his final route would be. I suggested he make it a circuit of the field. Then he could make our house whistle stop #6.

* * *
Del, who told me of the boy who wouldn't eat his cereal until it got warm, Pointed out that I should get my ice the day before and put it in my freezer.
Bill queried my doing so.
"To make the ice cold," said I.
Bill snorted with delight. Until I repeated Del's explanation. Store freezers are kept near 30˚ -- just cold enough to stay frozen -- to save energy. My home freezer is at 0˚. Overnight the ice becomes colder.

* * *

British Columbia Folk-Jazz singer Diane Campbell once asked Diana to go with her to get an ice cream cone when we all worked at the Folklife Festival in Spokane.
"But I just had lunch!" said Diana.
Diane exclaimed, "You don't have to be hungry to eat ice cream!"

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Our First Holiday is the Fourth*

Dorothy wakes us too early for a summer morning. Thin sunlight passes through pine trees dancing in the zephyrs to dapple the counter panes that cover Leonard and I in our cast iron framed, narrow beds in the darkly varnished bedroom of the summer cottage my Great-Grandfather built from the odds and ends of his lumber yard on a small lake in western Michigan. Rubbing sleep from my eyes, I watch Leonard pull on his bathing suit instead of underwear and remember: Picnic! Now it's all right to be up in the cool early. I too pull on my suit and then my corduroys and struggle into a shirt and shoes on the way to the closed steep stairs. Dorothy at the bottom calls for us to: "Hurry, we're waiting."
Henry and Ann are taking boxes of buns and eggs and bacon and matches and foil and hamburger and a watermelon and chips and chocolateandmarshmallowsandgrahams and the forks to cook hot dogs and the shovel looking tool to cook hamburgers and the frying pan and the old refrigerator shelf to serve as a grill and the catsup and the mustard and the picklelilly and the cheese and the Squirt ('cause we don't do sodas) and the milk (see last parens) and the water and the ... and the ... "Damn, what did I forget?" Queries Dorothy. And the salt and pepper and the cups and the napkins and the cookies and the wooden spoons and forks and the cole slaw and the tomato-cucumber salad and ... any thing else? The spatula and the ... "We'll live without it," says Earle and so we pile into the Chevy and the engine starts. "Everyone has towels?" inquires Dorothy. "Yes" we chorus and Earle lets out the clutch and the gravel grumbles under the tires as we move around the circle of cottages through the trees to the road that leads toward Lake Michigan. Another time we might take the 16' aluminum skiff, an Arkansas Traveler with a seven and a half horse outboard motor, to the end of our lake where it empties into the Big Lake. But that beach is too crowded on the holiday. At the end of our lake we bounce across the little bridge which spans the junction of our lake with its outlet.
On the other side we pass the bible camp and then the steep dune which, at the end of the month, will be crowded with motorcyles roaring their way to the top from a dead start at the bottom. Heat and noise and speed. Pure American. But now it is quiet. Next is the BPOE beach. "Yay for the Biggest Pigs On Earth." says Henry. "You mean," rebukes Leonard, "The Best People On Earth." "Just ask them." says Ann.
Earle turns into the trees at the park entrance. We pass the main parking lot and travel further behind the dunes to a less developed access point. Parked, we pile out and Dorothy vocally grabs each of us to make sure we each have our towels and a suitable box, bag or carton. Up the long flight of wooden stairs the forest loam gives way to sand as we mount the dunes. The steps lead to a saddle between two peaks. At the top they stop and a view opens of blue horizon flecked with whitecaps. The blue is lightest in a band following the shore line maybe five feet from shore. This is the first sandbar where the water is about half way up your shins. Follows a darker blue as the lake bottom descends to maybe four feet before rising again in the second sand bar -- not as light as the first, but just above the knees. A darker band where the water rises over my head -- this is the real swimming area, not just splashing and paddling and wading and lolling. The third bar gives an exciting place to rest as I can touch bottom standing. Beyond here is forbidden lest the dreaded undertow claim us. This bar is perhaps forty feet from shore.
But before that is the beach, an expanse of about sixty feet of sand which now is cool but, once the sun clears the treed dunes, will scorch. This has two striations. Near the water is compact dark sand good for canal and castle building and running and walking. It's covered in the seawrack of the waves: drift wood and dead fish and bird feathers and weeds. This is in two lines: one marking the higher winter storm line and one closer to the water that marks the gentler -- but still tempestuous at times -- summer extent. Between the wet sand and the base of the dunes is light dry sand dimpled with waves by the wind. Running in it is absurd as the sand gives way opposite to your impetus. But all that is at the bottom, farther vertically than horizontally from where I stand (or so it seems) and all of that same treacherous dry sand that flees my toes as I try to step. Bunches of saw grass turn the dune into an obstacle course requiring switchbacks rather than a straight plunge. This is good because the straight plunge leads to spilled boxes and broken bags of chips. Down I go, trying not to run, but sooner or later having to, just to keep my feet under me.
At the beach level a suitable spot is scouted, examined, squabbled and chosen. It needs large logs for adults to sit on or against. These must offer some protection from the wind for the fire. Everyone scavenges drift wood suitable for the fire and within a few minutes the Pyromaniac in Chief (supposedly a rotating honor) has a nice blaze going between two cooking logs. Dorothy starts to fry the bacon.
Henry and Leonard grab the melon and start to dig a hole in the dark wet sand. Kneeling they dig to the reach of their arms where the sand turns to a slurry of watery sand. In goes the melon and a mountain of sand is shoved on top. Great fears of misplacing the hole cause us to mark the spot well. After lunch, some hours ahead, the retrieved melon will be exquisitely chilled by the lake water in the sand.
The bacon gets crisp and makes lots of fat to fry the eggs. In they go. Rusk buns (a Dutch bread which is most often double baked to toast, is wonderful as a hamburger bun if only once baked) warm on the grill rack. When they crisp, Dorothy butters them, places bacon and then an over easy egg inside and hands it over. An essential though unplanned ingredient is sand which announces its presence with a grind at the end of a nice satisfying bite.
There is a thermos of steaming Droste's cocoa for us and a thermos of Chemex coffee for Earle and Dorothy.
It is the best of breakfasts.

The day passes in swimming and castle building and other activities -- once Ann paints a beachscape and can't get the sand right, so she just applies a handful of sand where she wants it. Works.

The fire is built up again to grill the hamburgers and hotdogs for dinner with chips and salad. the melon follows. Satiety.
Replete with water, sand, air and food we gather the modest remains into a smaller number of boxes. We make sure the trash is burned or buried and the fire out so that the beach is clean for the next comer.

Then the price is exacted. The dune we ran down in the morning must now be ascended. This experience gives me an instant understanding of the phrase "two steps forward and one step back." Each step is upward, forward then sinks and slides back. Somehow we make it and turn at the top to watch the sun over the still sparkling water. Down the steps and into the car for the homeward voyage.
That night we take our sparklers and squibs down to the dock which offers a fine view of two public firework displays and many private accompaniments.
Once Earle disposes of a few old railroad flares. I get one and am very happy waving it about until a drop of magnesium falls on my new shoes. They are canvass and the magnesium burns straight through.
I get out of those shoes in a hurry.
Another time Earle asked me "How far can you see?" I think maybe a mile or two, knowing that is the distance to the other side of the lake. "I can see 93 million miles," he said and pointed to the sun.

Points of view. Different ones. That's what I celebrate.

Happy Independence Day!

-- ml

*Walt Kelly

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Saturday, July 01, 2006

What Works

Airing our predjudices: - Comments
Putting the Ass back into Astrology, I'll merely note there isn't any evidence showing it has any basis in fact.

We've got enough computer power these days to find out whether there ARE any correlations between the stars and the predictions based upon them. The same can't be said for, say, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, because it moves in "mysterious ways" like many other deities. (Yes, I know, Hitchhiker's Guide re Without faith, God is nothing.)

Astrology, numerology, magnetism's alleged health benefits and the like are different - they can be tested using the scientific method. For that matter, I've made it quite clear to the Supreme Being(s) that any time the Northern Lights spell out "Get your butt down to the Xxxxx church at Hh:Mm on Dd" - I'm there! Especially since the Northern Lights don't make it down my way very often.

(Note: If something works, it works. Just because we don't know why something works, or the reasons someone gives for it working are wrong, doesn't mean it doesn't really work. The Romans used concrete centuries before science discovered WHY concrete hardens. Thing is, I'd like someone to run the study showing evidence of astrology actually working.)

If you believe in something based on the evidence, and are willing to change your mind if new evidence comes along, you're a scientist. If you believe in it because of what someone else said, or your intuition, or faith - it's a religious belief.

Example: Many scientists around the turn of the century treated Newtonian physics as a religion. The more evidence supporting Einsteinian relativity grew, the angrier they got - and the more they refused to listen. Interestingly, Einstein refused to believe in quantum mechanics despite all the supporting evidence - another religious belief. (God does not play dice with the universe.
RepubAnon | Homepage | 06.27.06 - 10:57 pm | # - Comments
I think astrology endures because it ties into the whole human fascination with the night sky. Since early man people have put forth a lot of effort aligning pyramids, creating sophisticated sun/moon clocks, navigation techniques, you name it.

Those stars are hardwired right in the DNA somehow in a way so fundamental that we can easily suspend logic or belief when it comes to their mystery.

Astrology is an attempt to explain something that can't be explained. It offers up an explanation to an incomprehensible universe. It is kind of like playing dice with the universe because there are rules and I think that's the comfort. Like a universal lottery or scratch off ticket.

I tend to agree that God does not play dice with the universe but I wouldn't be surprised if we found out he was playing the part of the Ultimate Pit Boss.
SunWah? | 06.27.06 - 11:44 pm | # - Comments
I have the right to believe what I want, profess my beliefs, and (within the obvious legal limits) live by my beliefs.

Everyone else has the right to call me a fool.

Fair enough?
MellowMonotheist | 06.28.06 - 12:20 am | #

sincere belief in astrology has killed far less people than sincere belief in one's religion, so astrology is morally superior to religion in this agnostic's eyes.
renato | 06.28.06 - 12:40 am | - Comments
We should let WS have the last word on astrology:

This is the excellent foppery of the world, that when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and stars; as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on.

He didn't have anything much to say about religion either, something which has always been surprising, considering he had something to say about everything else in the universe.

Daily Kos: Science Friday: The Edge of Infinity
D(ark)S(yde): What is Dark Matter?
S(ean)C(arroll): "Dark" is a euphemism -- it means not only that the stuff is completely invisible, but that it isn't anything ever seen in a laboratory here on Earth. Clearly, we'd rather not have to invoke such stuff. Nevertheless, the data have forced us to believe that ordinary matter is only about 5% of the universe; another 25% is "dark matter," and the remaining 70% is "dark energy."
So, per a physicist who has spent a lifetime puzzling at this, we are able to perceive -- unaided -- about 5% of the universe if it is close enough for us to notice. We infer the existence of the the other 95% because that is -- currently -- the only way we can explain what our devices tell us.
Of that 5% that we can perceive with our senses, more than 90% is filtered out by our conscious minds as uninteresting noise. If we paid attention all the time to everything we can sense we could never focus on what is most important -- at the moment -- for our continued existence and well-being.

Still we proclaim ourselves masters of the universe. Knowers of the true path. And free to sneer and poke fun at all rival claimants.

Still we claim dominion.

Thank god for the first amendment.

And the wit to understand that, just because somebody said it, doesn't mean I have to believe it.


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