Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pogues from Anonymous

This song is on continuous for me since Thanksgiving.

Reminds me of my Mom's post- from the Shane, "The Little Drummer Boy"

Also, from last year, James' reminisce on time spent in New York.

Favorite Toy

It's easy to tell when you become an adult. It's when you feel it really is better to give than to receive. Wired has a GeekDad article which lists the 5 best toys of all time. GeekDad must have been a normal child since he gets it right. Actually, I'd be suspicious of anyone who didn't answer the top two toys correctly. Like meeting someone at night in the woods during WWII when you ask them a baseball question (What was Andrew McCutchen's batting average in 2011? Ans: .259), when the world is invaded by shape shifting aliens and you need to tell who is human, just ask them to name their top two childhood toys.

I still constantly find sticks placed in the garage at mom's house which I dare not throw out, and every time I go to Pete and Lisa's house there is a stick made into a bow just waiting to put someone's eye out. Some of my happiest times were spent inside a big box. I might question the entire list of five, however. I would probably put dirt/mud higher on the list, especially if that includes sand, and somehow would fit blocks into the top 5.

Anyway, what is/was your favorite toy? (other than the one's named in the article)

While I'm tempted, as others must also be, to name a toy I dreamt about but never received, like the Red Ryder BB Gun, that is against the rules since an actual toy often is nothing like the one you dreamt it was. (For example, any toy you received from sending in box tops—oh, except the baking soda submarine. That was awesome!)

My favorite would probably be water, in the bath tub, down the basement, out in the back, and in the ocean. A less generic toy would be Miss Hetherington's blocks. They did have a sort of dream quality about them since I only played with them once or twice. They were stone blocks of many various shapes, ideal for constructing fantastic castles.

Also in my top five would be a Hopalong Casidy 2 gun & holster set because I got to show them off at school and the Sittman's walk-on-water shoes for riding in waves at the beach.

What toy(s) do you feel gave you the most fun?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kidnapped! - episode 6

[in my apartment between Brookline and Brighton, near Cleveland Circle, in Boston]

All this time I had dutifully kept my eyes away from my attackers. Whether it was fear of "He saw me, so we now must kill him!" or simply being an obedient victim, I still had not seen their faces. My one huge regret—something I would do differently, and my recommendation to anyone who has a future adventure of this type—I did not pay enough attention to all the other ways in which I could have identified them. I should have considered their height, weight, body shape, and, most importantly, memorized all of their clothing. As it was, I completely neglected all of this, which was foolish.

When we reached the third floor and entered my apartment, I was tied and blindfolded. They found a scarf, which had been knitted for me by one of my students at St. Catherine's, in my closet and tied it over my eyes. Then they found an extension chord, and my hands were tied behind my back.

Now, where I was an mere amateur at identifying assailants, in the field of shackles, I was an expert. Hardly a day went by in my childhood that I didn't manacle, chain, handcuff or tie someone's hands behind their back or had my own hands similarly bound. We knew everything about imprisonment. Perhaps I should have shown them how to tie my hands behind my back and loop the rope around my neck to ensure that if I tried to escape, I would strangle myself. No, I had offered my last bit of advice back at the parking garage.

As any child who has brothers or sisters knows, there are two fundamental principles in the art of restraint. Number one, you must pull as hard as you can to the point of cutting off circulation. You learn quickly that if you don't use all your might in tightening the rope, your victim will escape before you have a chance to find a decent hiding place. Number two, when you are being bound, pry your hands slightly apart, cupping them ever so slightly, as best you can. Your assailant thinks your hands are flat together, but they are not. This technique has been documented in any number of Saturday morning cowboy movies. Well, as I have hinted before, my assailants had a lot to learn in the field of crime. One, they didn't pull nearly hard enough, and two, I kept my hands apart. The result was pitiful. I could pull my hands out of their bounds anytime.

Blind folded with my hands (weakly) bound behind my back, I was placed on the toilet in the bathroom. For good measure they took another scarf and tied it around my feet. Then they went about their business of emptying my apartment of anything of value.

[To be continued…]

Friday, November 25, 2011

James Carse and Charlie Brown

I’m still preoccupied with James Carse’s The Religious Case Against Belief. At one point, Carse talks about the nature of poetry. He says that poetry – or any form of original expression “from hairstyling and dramaturgy to oratory and ceramics” – “says nothing.” Poetry’s only meaning is its own creation. “Poetry is… not about anything.” As Carse says, “If we could agree on what Oedipus Rex is about we could focus on the agreement and ignore the play. But the play defies replacement by anything besides itself.”

My sense is that Carse overstates his case a bit, or doesn’t quite state it correctly. Poetry or art is about something: it is just not about anything that can be bottled up in some definitive understanding or replaced by other language. Carse recognizes that there is some content to poetry. Elsewhere, he says that poets “exercise the freedom of opening doors” and that poets are the “sources of unexpected wisdom.” But the attempt to sum up the meaning of a poem, or reduce it to a few words or a few pages, is likely to hide more than it reveals. As Carse says, poetry “does not translate into belief, or into rational thought of any kind,” and its meaning cannot be captured. Poetry, nevertheless, discloses reality in some way and enriches our lives. To attempt to translate that disclosure into something familiar and manageable inevitably obscures it. There is a possibly apocryphal story about Robert Schumann. After he had just finished playing his most recent composition, an earnest young man approached him and inquired: "Extraordinary, Herr Schumann! But what does it mean?" Schumann simply sat down and played the piece again.

Carse, unlike many of religion’s critics, does not consider religion to be some attempt to compete with science with an alternative explanation of the universe. Religion, rather, for Carse, is closer to art. Or, perhaps more accurately, it is a great mosaic of art forms: literature, music, liturgy, architecture, the graphic arts amassed over thousands of years in one great collection. Carse says that “[r]eligion in its purest form is a vast work of poetry.” “[A]s richly verbal as religions are, like poetry they say nothing.” I might qualify this by saying that they say nothing that can be encompassed by some other form of expression.

Perhaps, this is why the conclusion of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is so deeply satisfying. In total exasperation Charlie Brown cries out, “Isn't there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about? Rather than give Charlie Brown some common bit of boiler plate – you’ve heard them all: Christmas is all about Jesus, or family, or giving rather than receiving, or love, or children or wonder – he simply recites the Luke birth narrative. This, of course, just begs the question because Linus never explains what the chapter from Luke means. Just as the meaning of religion cannot be captured, neither can the meaning of Christmas.

Although to be true to Carse's point, Linus would have to read, not just the Luke passage, but Matthew's account as well, and every other treatise, story, poem, song, liturgy or anything else that's ever been written about Christmas in the last two millenia or so. He'd also have to display every piece of art or sculture that's ever been created that focused on Christmas. Once that was complete, Linus could finally and truthfully say: “ . . . And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,” The meaning of Christmas runs deeper than any description. There's simply no explaining it away.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The March of Civilization

Though some have probably seen this, I couldn't help but post it; not so much as another—there is nothing like it—"awesome", but as a treatise on current society and the march of civilization.

Topics for conversation:
  • "Hey you bastards, I'm still here."
  • No matter what you do, if you wave the flag, people will cheer.
  • The TV camera has replaced the lab coat.
  • Everything in life should have musical accompaniment.

Kidnapped! - episode 5

[Somewhere in Boston]

As I drove around Boston, my strategy to be submissive was working almost too well. The more I played the part of the helpless victim, a role for which I needed no extra motivation, the more sympathetic they became, to the point of being almost compassionate. I'm not sure how much was acting and how much was sobering up to my current situation, but I started to shiver a bit. They could see my hands shake on the steering wheel. 
Perhaps their concern was simply survival instinct. They didn't want to get into a car accident because of my excited state. Also, looking back, I suspect that they must have been apprehensive in their own right. Despite living in Boston, apparently they had hardly ever been out of their own neighborhood. They had no idea where they were. Seven or eight miles from their home must have been a foreign country to them. This was taking much longer than they had anticipated. And how could anyone not know where they lived? 
They started to assure me that they did not want to hurt me. They just needed some money. Certainly I could understand that. Just get us to your apartment, and we will get what we want and be gone. I didn't say anything, but continued trembling. 
Eventually, whether by dumb luck or the realization that I could not delay any longer, I arrived at my apartment. I stopped the car right in front. By this time it was well past 9:00 o'clock at night. I gave them my keys and, while one kept guard over me in the car, the other went up to inspect the apartment. They were afraid that someone else would be there. 
Satisfied that it was empty, I was led up to what was, for the last two months, my own living quarters on the third floor. 

[To be continued…]

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Kidnapped! - episode 4

[We just left the parking garage and I made $5.]

Soon after leaving the Government Center Garage we made a wrong turn and went over the Charlestown Bridge into Charlestown. Like many cities, Boston is quite segregated, and Charlestown was not where these two wanted to be. We pulled to the side of the road. There was a change of plans. I would now drive with one in the seat next to me. The other with the gun at my head would be in the back. I was to drive to my apartment…and instructed to get out of Charlestown.

As I said, this was the first time I had driven to work. I knew I could follow Beacon St. or Commonwealth Ave. and get to my apartment, but I was in no hurry to do that. Also, I am not blessed with the greatest sense of direction. I'm not certain of all the places I drove—Cambridge, Newton, Back Bay. Between not wanting to take them to my place and my unfamiliarity with Boston, I managed to drive for a couple of hours around Boston without finding my apartment.

At various times my assailants were incredulous.

"Do you believe this guy?" was said more than once. "How can anyone not know where they live?"

But I continued to drive. All the while I was thinking of how I could outsmart them and escape. I ran through every TV crime, cowboy, or detective show trying to think of how the stars got out of their impossible situation. Once I was stopped at a traffic light and I thought I could quickly open the car door and roll out before I would be shot. As I looked over at the car door, I realized I had put on my seat belt. Why did I do that? Scratch that plan.

Another time we were stopped at a light and at the opposite end of the intersection, facing us, was a police car. Unfortunately, they saw the police car also, and the one in the back put the gun up against the back of my head and cocked it.

"Don't do anything foolish or you are dead," he said or words to that effect. By this time I felt that the gun must be empty. The way they were handling it; if it even went off accidentally, they would be facing a murder charge. In fact my real fear was getting hit on head with the gun rather than getting shot. Of course, I later learned it was loaded.

[To be continued…]

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Is there a difference between science and magic?

Despite the old Arthur C. Clarke quote, "Any significantly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.", I have firmly held on to a reverence toward science, at least the scientific method of observing and testing nature. Certainly some areas of science, such as medicine, chemistry, and Newtonian physics have provided us with rational benefits. Now, however, there are parts of science that are hard to distinguish from magic.

As you might suspect, it is all related to quantum physics. Matter just doesn't exist at a certain time and place, it has a probability of existing. This is starting to lead to all sorts of magical things. We learned about this weirdness during Quantum Week, but this new experiment is, well…magical.
Phys­i­cists in Swe­den say they have man­aged to cre­ate light from vac­u­um, the clos­est thing to emp­ty space known to ex­ist. 
In find­ings pub­lished this week in the re­search jour­nal Na­ture, the sci­en­tists said they ver­i­fied an ef­fect pre­dicted over 40 years ago by cap­tur­ing some of the par­t­i­cles of light, or pho­tons, that con­stantly ap­pear and disap­pear in the vac­u­um. 
Taken from here.
The experiment is based on one of the most counterintuitive, yet, one of the most important principles in quantum mechanics: that vacuum is by no means empty nothingness. In fact, the vacuum is full of various particles that are continuously fluctuating in and out of existence. They appear, exist for a brief moment and then disappear again. Since their existence is so fleeting, they are usually referred to as virtual particles.
Chalmers scientist, Christopher Wilson and his co-workers have succeeded in getting photons to leave their virtual state and become real photons, i.e. measurable light.
Taken from here

I always question how main stream media reports science experiments, so be sure to search for more reports on this experiment. I'm sure there will be plenty of reports. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire?

When Pete the elder stayed overnight this week, I tried to draw him into a conversation about the Republican presidential campaign. He simply said something along the lines of that he hadn't been following it because "I've better things to do." And, who can blame him?

Rick Perry makes a speech in Manchester, New Hampshire, that was "so obscurely digressive, so marked by airy hand gestures and slurry intonations" that the Governor found himself forced to answer questions the next day as to whether he had in fact been drunk. To say nothing of his subsequently forgetting the name of departments he'd like to eliminate if he were president. It's always bad to end an answer to a question posed in a debate with the word "oops." Cain's level of intellectual sophistication is revealed in his sage 9-9-9 tax plan. Meanwhile, Cain can't remember what Obama's Libyan policy is. And the candidates demonstrated that their fealty to orthodoxy triumphs over any sense of realism when a moderator asked the candidates to raise their hands if they would walk away from a deal that cut ten dollars from the deficit for every one dollar in tax increases and every last candidate said they'd reject that deal. Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum hardly deserve comment.

As David Remnick of the New Yorker says: “The lack of independent thinking on the notion that real economics matters anymore, as well as science, is just devastating. This party is in ideological crisis.”

In fact, this campaign has prompted Remnick to observe: "Sometime in the future, when a twenty-first-century Gibbon searches for a moment to use as a starting point for a chronicle of American decline, he or she might want to alight on the late-October and early-November days of 2011."

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

As we continue to follow some extraordinary claims in science recently, here is a bit of confirming evidence that neutrinos travel faster than light.

Kidnapped! - episode 3

[I'm curled up in the back of my Chevette]

Before I continue I should mention one other event that took place while I was still trying to negotiate with these two ski-masked men. During this time one of them called the other, "Thomas." As soon as he realized what he had done, however, he turned to me and said in a very deliberate tone, "His name is Jefferson and my name is Cochise." Just to make sure I wouldn't forget, he had me repeat it. 

"His name is Jefferson and your's is Cochise," I said as convincingly as I could, while vowing to never forget "Thomas" and wondering what type of person would be so naive as to draw attention to his real name by having me repeat such obvious aliases?  This event had two repercussions. One we will see much later, and the other was that I now knew my plan: I would out smart them! 

Meanwhile, I was curled up in the back of my Chevette. They started the car and promptly stalled as the driver didn't have much luck with my clutch. Backing the car up and driving to the exit was a succession of starts, stops, jerks and stalls. Finally, we got to the exit and the attendant asked for the parking ticket. Now, I assume they had taken their ski masks off at this point, but they had told me to keep my head down and I obliged. I also assume that the attendant could not see me in the back—the white guy in a suit lying down. (We will learn later that the two were black, as I suspected from their voices.) In Boston this would be suspicious. 

I had given them the ticket, but no money. They were anxious to get away from the attendant and the parking garage so they paid the $5 parking charge. At this point I felt pretty good. I was $5 ahead of the game.

[To be continued…]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Jack and Steve

Jackson Ward Harvey

For those of you who have not yet heard, the newest addition to the Harvey family arrived yesterday, November 15th at 2:30am. Mom and baby are doing great. Jack was 9lbs and 22.5in. Just in time for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kidnapped! - episode 2

[So where were we? Ah yes… I was being assaulted by two unsavory characters in a parking garage, one of whom had a gun and was threatening to blow my head off.]

The first thought that went through my endangered head was of the Norwegian fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff. I had only recently moved to Boston after spending all my money and time in grad school. My first pay check had gone to the one nice thing that I owned, my new Brooks Brothers suit. Obviously, they had picked me out for my splendid clothes. They had made a terrible mistake.

In addition, I had just spent most of my cash buying drinks for my fellow workers. I think I had to borrow a few dollars as I left the bar in order to have cash to pay for my parking.

So I immediately began to explain to the gunman and his friend that, "No, no, no…I'm not the one you want. I just moved to Boston. I have no money. Let me go and I'm sure someone with more money will come along, and it will be worth your while."

Unfortunately, the more I tried to explain the situation to them, the madder they got. As I now look back upon the incident, it seems like such an archetypal moment. Despite my slightly inebriated head, I was seeing the situation clearly and giving them the best advice that perhaps they had ever received in their lives. Take a pass on this guy and you won't regret it. Yet, as is often true in life, good advice is rarely received in the same dispassionate manner in which it is offered. The more I tried to convince them we were the wrong match, the more violent they became.

The plan was that they would drive me to my apartment and would rob me of all my goods. I had explained to them that I did not have a TV set (perhaps the one common thread of my life), but they refused to believe me. It was about this point—when I observed their complete incredulous reaction to "no TV"—that I resigned myself to the fact that we had some trust issues. I finally realized that, if I kept this up, I was going to be injured as well as robbed, so I completely changed my position. From that moment on I would be as passive and submissive as possible. I started doing whatever they said, and they calmed down considerably.

I gave them the keys to my Chevette and, per their orders, climbed into the back part of the car. The car was a hatchback and, as I have said, had no back seat, so I was lying curled up on my side in the back, seatless trunk. In addition to no back seat, the car had no automatic transmission. And neither of my assailants had much familiarity with a stick shift. Clearly they had not fully prepared for this line of work.

[To be continued…]

Friday, November 11, 2011

Jim's Inspiration

Jim has recently posted two poems on the blog: "Birds" and "Words." I gotta believe that this was his inspiration. (N.B. This is from a time when lyrics meant something.)


[Since it's Veterans Day, and Ellen is taking a creative writing class, I thought I would relate an old tale of greed, daring and crime.]

I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of November, the 11th, to be exact—Veterans Day in Boston, as elsewhere. I took out my car keys to drive to work at the downtown offices of Arthur Young & Co. for the first time since arriving in Boston in September. Normally, I would be heading to a client, but, as this was Veterans Day, many of our clients' offices were closed, and we had scheduled an in-house training session. Previously I had always taken the "T" downtown, but since traffic would be light today, I thought I would experiment with the car. Little did I know that by the end of the day I would be surrounded by flashing police cars, shaken to my very core, and rewarded with the best story ever for impressing the opposite sex. 

The sun began to shine as I drove passed the whistling blackbirds and the mist that was beginning to arise and die away. It would be nice to share some time with my fellow accountants who had started with me at Arthur Young this fall. And that was true for, after the day of training, we went out to a nearby bar for a couple of laughs and drinks.

It was dark, past 7 o'clock, when we left. In good spirits I went to get my car at the Government Center Parking Garage. I had been able to park on the first level so I walked right to the car. There were only a few other cars parked there. As I opened the door to my Chevette—a remarkable car not only because the make was perhaps the least notable car of this or any other era, but also because mine had no back seat, just a hard plastic floor where the seat should have been—two darkly clothed men with ski masks over their heads emerged from behind a nearby parked car. One had a gun pointed right at me, "Don't make a sound. Put your hands on the car or I'm going to blow your head off!"

[To be continued…]

In the vein of Can Troy Get Any Cooler

Performance artist Lui Bolin prepares for one of his "Vanishing artist" performances/photos. (But he doesn't play football.) 
I have a feeling Dan has done this many times, but we just haven't been aware.

Comings and Goings

Good News! Ellen is coming to Pittsburgh and will be at her grandmothers' house Friday evening to lend comfort and good spirits. The bad news, as you may know, is her grandma broke both bones in her wrist from a fall on Wednesday.
Update: There are some shifts. Ellen's grandma may shift temporarily to Providence Point (for a few weeks), so Ellen may be shifting among 149 and 245 Jefferson and Providence Point.
Further Update: The plans did not go as planned. Mother has a room, 5103, in St. Clair Hospital for the next 3 days. Then she will probably be at Providence Point for a couple of weeks. I can't really explain this online, but many thanks to Mary and Maureen.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To follow birds

by James Harvey

Suppose that God does not make birds,
But something else, for lack of words,
Identical in every instance — 
Unnamed, unknown, but with existence.

Imagine no modality;
Ubiquitous totality;
Everything is still all there,
But without words, we're unaware.

Or are we? Ah, now that's the game.
The world's the same, as some would claim.
Just what in life would be withdrawn 
If played with all our language gone?

No representation of sensation;
It's taxing, when up against creation.
In other words than words incurred
Wordlessness is just absurd.

But chances are that we'd get by,
As birds do now; they even fly.
There's something lost, but much more gained
When Nature's framed by how we name. 

As being, God is intervening, 
But words for us make up the meaning.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New York Knicks: 1967–1975

One of the multitude of discussions Jim and I had at the beach this year centered upon the one time in my life I had was an NBA fan: when I followed the New York Knicks of the late sixties to mid-seventies. This was the team of Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Jerry Lucas, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere and Phil Jackson, just to name a few. I arrived in New York in 1971 at the height of Knicks' popularity. We didn't call them the most talented team; we called them the smartest team in basketball.

Now it seems that the gods were listening in on our conversation, and I recently read of a new book out, When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks. The New York Times begins its book review, "The Glory of the Knicks," as follows:

Who made the most dramatic entrance in New York City history? A historian might say it was George Washington, who led 800 soldiers into town on Nov. 25, 1783, as the British evacuated the city. For New York sports fans of a certain age, that is wildly off the mark; we all know it was Willis Reed. The captain of the Knicks strode — not limped, strode — onto the hardwood court of Madison Square Garden on the evening of May 8, 1970, moments before the start of the seventh and deciding game of the National Basketball Association finals, rallying from a crippling injury, inspiring his teammates to vanquish the Los Angeles Lakers, winning New York its first N.B.A. championship.
Indeed, my memory is more or less correct. The Knicks were the perfect team for the uber-sophisticated New Yorker. As the review states:
Knicks fans took pride in believing they had the basketball smarts to appreciate disciplined team play. Bradley says: “You began to hear the fans applaud the pass that led to the pass that led to the basket. You could hear the anticipation as the ball moved around the perimeter that something they would appreciate was about to occur.”
Anyway, it was a wondrous but brief moment in time which we may never see again: when smarts, team play and strong defense meant something in professional basketball.

Walt Frazier

Falling Down is Funny on Every Planet

Sunday, November 6, 2011

You know…language

by James Harvey

Suppose a flock of birds sing prose
Opposed to verse by murderous crows,
Or covey of quail, gaggle of geese,
A peep of chickens, or hawks on lease.

Imagine rasps of guinea fowl
Squawk and squabble like parliament owl;
Ascending larks' loud exaltation;
Or starlings whir in murmuration.

But what rite is the spring of teal
Or wisp of snipe, which seems unreal?
Are Lapwing false in their deceit?
No doubt doves dole is but conceit.

This game of swans is just a cluster;
Magpie tidings won't peacocks muster.
A siege of cranes can not assail
The day watch of the nightingale.

Yet ere we're reined by plain refrain,
(As V-shaped geese in flying skein),
There's something gained despite the harm
When Nature's loosed by finches' charm.

Fools like God create mere birds
But only man can make up words. 

From the New Yorker

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Screenings -- Moneyball

I finally saw Moneyball. Co-written by Aaron Sorkin, it was not as frantic as The Social Network, but it was still about smart people being pretty smart. It's essentially a movie for people who love talking about baseball and also love statistical analysis (I'm thinking Jim here). Brad Pitt is impressive, as is Jonah Hill, and they make a great team.