Saturday, December 28, 2013

Poetry Sunday -- an offering

I don't know if the following is poetry or prose.  I wrote it several years ago after I heard one time too many the phrase:  "I'm not really religious -- but I'm spiritual."

Spirituality is individualistic. Religion exists in community.

Spirituality tends toward the spooky, esoteric and ethereal. Religion is realistic and pragmatic.

Spirituality includes beliefs that the affairs on earth are being controlled from an alien spaceship parked behind a cloud.  Religion – at least all the major religions – believes in some version of the golden rule:  do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Spirituality offers a refuge from the world. Religion is engaged in the world.  It builds hospitals, runs schools, delivers relief to people in need, and assists the poor and marginalized.

Spirituality appeals to celebrities and the well heeled. Religion is for all people.

Spirituality focuses on self-improvement. Religion is concerned with the needs of others.

Spirituality emphasizes feelings. Religion calls for action.

Spirituality is self-indulgent.  Religion demands discipline and sacrifice.

Spirituality is trendy and likes to turn political correctness into religious precepts.  Religion is backed by centuries of tradition.

Spirituality is smug and proud of itself.  Religion teaches humility.
Spirituality produces book tours. Religion has produced – just to name a few -- Notre Dame Cathedral, the Golden Temple of Amritsar, and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul; the poetry of William Blake, Dante, Rabindranath Tagore, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Milton and Rumi; the music of Bach, Hayden, Mozart and Schubert; the sculptures of Michelangelo; the paintings of El Greco, Titian and Raphael, the novels of Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Graham Greene and a long line of great thinkers from Augustine to Averroes to Reinhold Niebuhr.

In other words, religion builds civilizations; spirituality, not much.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Creepy Christmas Song Revisited

Another take on the Christmas Classic (sorry, you have to endure an ad):

Christmas Quotes of the Day

"The record is fragmentary, inconsistent, and uncertain...But there can be no doubt as to what elements in the record have evoked a response from all that is best in human nature. The Mother, the Child, and the bare manger: the lowly man, homeless and self-forgetful, with his message of peace, love, and sympathy…"
— Alfred North Whitehead

"Who among us will celebrate Christmas right? Those who finally lay down all their power, honor, and prestige, all their vanity, pride, and self-will at the manger, those who stand by the lowly and let God alone be exalted, those who see in the child in the manger the glory of God precisely in this lowliness."
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

And, of course, the line that has sat in our basement forever:

"We have to become clear in the presence of the manger in the stable of Bethlehem how we want to think, from this point on, about what is high and low in human life."
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Poetry Sunday - Acme Bar and Grill

Acme Bar and Grill

by Stephen B. Harvey

On occasion we go out to a local spot
Juke and talk a bit, drinking beer followed by a shot
A burger joint with sticky chairs and a lengthy wooden bar
Playing with some local band with twanging old guitars
Waking from the empty house where we pass our days
The kids are gone, the spark as died, we’re set within our ways.
I come here on a Friday night, to the bar and grill
To open up my eyes again and give myself a thrill
It’s not too hard to notice the cute ones here and there
The ones without their boyfriends, the ones with streaked blond hair.
And if I had that one right there, sitting at that table
I wonder if could keep it up; I wonder if I’m still able.
The brown eyed girl who’s sitting beside that struttin’ queer
She stares at me and other guys while nursing a cold beer
The cute one at the bar who smiles while giving me a glance
I’m sure if we were alone outside I’d get inside her pants
The blond one too, the one with rouge smeared on her pasty face
I’m sure she’s quick but lacks the social grace
But I think I like the one in black, her skirt above her thigh
The one I am more than sure been givin’ me the eye.
She’s tall and light and has good teeth, black paint upon her nails
Her number’s on the bathroom wall so I’m sure to get some tail.
My mind is wild and crazy now I need good stiff drink
I wish I’d left my golden band on the bathroom sink
The girl I’m with is old and worn about the seams
While I’m still 21 years old wearing tight blue jeans
Ah, this song I know from many years ago, an old forgotten dance
It’s when I met another girl; I thought I take a chance
So I look beside me at the woman staring to the crowd
I see she eyes of some younger guy so I ask her right out loud
To dance with me for old time sake, to spark that old desire
In trying once again to catch that passion and that fire
I grab her hand and with a jerk I spin her to the floor
And reignite the evening time of many years before.

So Long, Tom Laughlin, 1931 - 2013

Everyone has heroes growing up.  One of ours was Billy Jack, the principal character of a movie bearing the same name.   Tom Laughlin produced, wrote, financed and starred in the movie.  When adjusted for inflation,  it is the highest-grossing independent film of all time.

Billy Jack was the complete package.  Half-white, half-Navajo, he was a former Green Beret and Vietnam veteran, a hapkido master, a lover of denim and a student of a Native American shaman.  In one scene, he participates in the ancient sacred snake ceremony in order to obtain a vision.  (It doesn't seem to help much, though.)  He does, however, suffer from a serious case of PTSD, and is liable to erupt into violence at any moment ("I just go BERSERK!").  

He also endorsed and supported practically every liberal viewpoint imaginable.  As Roger Ebert observed:  "the movie has as many causes in it as a year's run of the New Republic. There's not a single contemporary issue, from ecology to gun control, that's not covered, and toward the movie's end you're wondering how these characters -- who are just ordinary folks in a small Southwestern town -- managed to confront every single ethical hurdle in a few weeks of living."

Even when I saw the movie, I knew things were being ladled on pretty thick.  Now, the movie is almost unwatchable.  But that does keep it from being a fond memory. 

Poetry Sunday - On Poetry That Doth Rhyme

It's Sunday once again
For fictive things to pen.

Here is a little poem which has a companion which I'll save for later. Appropriately, it is about poetry. This is not a particularly subtle nor sensual poem, but it's fun, hopefully, for children of all ages. Call your kids. You get to make your own, and then decide which one you like better.

On Poetry That Doth Rhyme

I don't prefer to waste my time
On reading words because they tune,
And even worse, there's no excuse
For singsong verse like Mother Duck.
Our language, I affirm, is wrought
So no rhymed term promotes deep view,
As humdrum bards but place their faith
In slotting words to make an octet.
Forsaking head, they beat retreat
To think instead by using tootsies.
As rhyming replaces thinking and thinking's replaced by fun,
One need select a pattern, a rhyming word, and fini!
Unbuckle! profound adventure from selfsame sound.
Break! novel thought from a jingle round.

If poetry is using words to go beyond them,
Then notably, why choose mere turds for rhyming bond when
Life most clearly dressed, oft fails in rhymingness.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Poetry Sunday - Untitled

I wish we could find out who wrote this, but it at least deserves its own post. Great first submission.



Have you noticed I’m fading away?
Nobody there by the end of the day
Becoming transparent--from colors to grey.

I feel like I’m just about gone.
I may look like I’m here but I won’t be for long,
All that is left are the words to this song,

I feel that I may disappear.
You may not recall that I used to be here.
Used to be noticed by those far and near.
Loved and respected by those I held dear.

I may just dissolve into mist.
Remembered? Perhaps but maybe not missed.
I was somebody once who had fervently kissed
A warm willing mouth with moist luscious lips.

You may say, as I fade out of sight,
“Was someone here recently, maybe last night?
We can’t quite remember his bulk or his height
Or whether his hair was black, brown or white.,
But we seem to recall that he duly performed
All we expected so he could conform
To his place in the world without ever transforming
It however slight.”

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Holly and the Ivy

I've often maintained in this blog and elsewhere that Christianity has never strayed far from its pagan roots. A case in point is the Christmas carol "The Holly and the Ivy."  Both holly and ivy were were important to pre-Christian Europe.  Holly was sacred to druids who associated it with the winter solstice.  Holly was also the sacred plant of Saturn and was used at the Roman Saturnalia festival. Ivy was dedicated to the Roman god Bacchus who is often depicted wearing a wreath of ivy and grapevines.  

Curiously, except for its appearance alongside holly in the opening stanza, ivy isn’t even mentioned in the carol.  Why is this?  To get the answer, you must understand the sexual association with holly and ivy.  In the forests of northern Europe you will offen find ivy entwined with a holly tree.  Holly being rigid and prickly was considered a male plant and ivy, being softer, was considered female.   A body of songs grew from this imagery which extol the virtues of either ivy or holly, as a way of promoting either men or women.  Here is one song, "Holly and Ivy"

Holly and Ivy made a great party,

Who should have the mastery
        In lands where they go.

Then spake Holly, "I am fierce and jolly, 
I will have the mastery
        In lands where they go.

Then spake Ivy, I am proud and loud

And I will have the mastery
        In lands where they go.

Then spake Holly, and set him down on his knee,
"I pray thee, gentle Ivy,
Say me no villany
        In lands where they go.

 In other songs such as "Ivy, Chief of Trees, It is," ivy ends up winning out.

The most worthy is she in town;
He who says other, says amiss;
Worthy is she to bear the crown;
    Veni coronaberis.

Ivy is soft, and meek of speech,
Against all woe she bringeth bliss;
Happy is he that may her reach:
    Veni coronaberis.

Ivy is green, of colour bright,
Of all trees the chief she is;
And that I prove will now be right;
    Veni coronaberis.

Ivy, she beareth berries black;
God grant to all of us his bliss!
For then we shall nothing lack;
    Veni coronaberis.

So, back to our question, the carol, "The Holly and the Ivy" must have come from one of these songs which pomoted holly.   So, holly gets all the endorsements and ivy is hardly mentioned.

All that's left is the question, what's the running of the deer all about?  This refers refers to the custom of going hunting in the forest on the day after the long night of the Winter Solstice. 

And it comes down to…

Maryland and Notre Dame, Sunday for the championship!


(For the first time, really, Notre Dame is No. 1 in football. As you can see, I'm trying to push this 'football' business to get us in tune with the rest of the world.)
I have to add it was not a well refereed game in deference to Maryland.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Yuengling to MA

I am excited to announce (or remind anyone who already knew this) that Yuengling will now be distributing in MA. While not everyone in western MA is excited (dad, I'm looking at you), I personally will enjoy that epitome of fine craft brews

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Another year, another name change: Cold Fusion to CECR

Each year about this time I present what's new in the field of, well,….

Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann called it "cold fusion". Fleischmann, who died in 2009, said he regretted the name. Cold fusion was more than discredited. It was the most ridiculed scientific announcement since Columbus declared he discovered the East Indies. But that didn't deter some from pursuing the research.

As mentioned last year, there now are a lot of countries, companies, universities, and individuals working on what formerly was known as cold fusion. The most notably has been Andrea Rossi's Leonardo Corporation which developed the 'reactor' called the E-Cat. The description of their technology is LENR or Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions.

Second is the Greek company, Defkalion, which started as a partnership with Rossi, but since has separated. They call their process HENI, Heat Energy from Nuclei Interactions.

The third major player is Brillouin Energy Corporation, an American company in California. Their invention is CECR, or Controlled Electron Capture Reaction. Here is a video on their web site explaining the physics of CECR.

So take your pick on what the future will call the new technology, Cold Fusion, LENR, HENI, CECR or snake oil.

There's too much going on in the field to summarize quickly, but the internet is for the interested. One major problem in discovering what is happening is the tendency for individuals to take strong positions on one side or the other. It has become controversial, as science often is. The best I can make out (I don't know) is that thousands of experiments have recorded excess heat from supposedly nuclear interactions. (Wikipedia claims "cold fusion articles are rarely published in peer reviewed scientific journals" while another article, rejected by Wikipedia, claims "There are about a thousand peer-reviewed papers published in recognized journals.")

But much of the controversy could be changing soon.
  1. ECAT, Rossi's device, is now taking pre-orders on a 1MW plant. 
  2. Defkalion left Greece for Vancouver, Canada and demoed its new Hyperion reactor at National Instruments NiWeek in August. It says it will be shipping in 2014.
  3. Brillouin entered into a formal agreement with SRI International (Stanford Research Institute) to further develop their technology towards commercialization. They also agreed with Sunset Securities for $20 million in capitalization when certain conditions are met.
I do know this: for such possibly breakthrough technology, events are progressing rapidly. Hopefully we will soon see if this is a false positive or not.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Calling People Evil

There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys.
There's only you and me and we just disagree.

Dave Mason

'Good guys and 'bad guys' in the war on terror

The following are lines from the movie Joyeux Noel, but they were taken from an actual sermon given in Westminster Abbey in 1915:   
Christ our Lord said, “Think not that I come to bring peace on earth. I come not to bring peace, but a sword.” The Gospel according to St. Matthew. Well, my brethren, the sword of the Lord is in your hands. You are the very defenders of civilization itself. The forces of good against the forces of evil. For this war is indeed a crusade! A holy war to save the freedom of the world. In truth I tell you: the Germans do not act like us, neither do they think like us, for they are not, like us, children of God. Are those who shell cities populated only by civilians the children of God? Are those who advanced armed hiding behind women and children the children of God? With God’s help, you must kill the Germans, good or bad, young or old. Kill every one of them so that it won’t have to be done again.

Hour of Code

We all know learning a new language is useful—from increasing brain size, IQ, and communication skills to starving off Alzheimer's, as well as expanding how you think.

The Hour of Code is an effort to have 10 million people participate during Computer Science Education Week, which runs from Dec. 9 through 15. Programming will surprise you. There may not be another activity that better pulls skills from both the creative and the logical parts of you. Artists love it, as do accountants. And, of course, it is the future.

There are sites on line where you can start your "Hour of Code" or even sign up at an Apple Store for a free course on Wednesday.

Evidence that we will never discover laws for human behavior

You will never come across a stream running up hill (even though Chesterton says it's not impossible). Nor will you ever be electrocuted touching an insulated electric wire, or will both ends of a magnet ever be north. Our universe, generally speaking, behaves with consistency. However, not everything in our universe is consistent. Some things will continually break any laws we establish. Those things are called humans.

On black friday, which I will not capitalize for capitalism's sake, Cards Against Humanity, a card game in the vein of Apples to Apples, raised their price for the game 20% from $25 to $30. Their sales rose slightly from last year's sales.

Of course it may have something to do with the people who like this type of game, but this is also good evidence that no theory of education or psychology or economics will ever be developed which will be more useful than a good teacher, psychologist or salesman.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Poetry Sunday

Sunday was made for poetry. It is the supreme fiction after all. We have a few published poets in our ranks. Bill, in junior high, and Steve, shortly. If "I think, therefore, I am" then "I think, therefore I write poetry." Everyone writes. It would be great fun to see some poetry on the site on Sunday.

Last week Myk got Bill to remember some old favorites about 1) shapes rolling and 2) the earth. I'd love to start out Poetry Sunday with those two poems. So this is a shout out to Bill to post them. Anyone else, also please consider posting a poem of yours (or from someone else, recognized or not) for Poetry Sunday, today or any Sunday.

Privacy is not the issue comment comment

In a post that was a comment, Myk revealed this humorous logo:

Now the NROL, the National Reconnaissance Office (yes, Virginia there is such an entity), has launched a new spy-satelite, NROL-39, on December 5. Here is the logo:

No, this one is not from the Onion, as here is the logo on the rocket:

As Alex Tabarrok says on Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution site, "When the history of how the United States became a dystopian, surveillance state is written no one will be able to say that we were not warned."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Some Holiday Music

In keeping with tradition, some music for the season:

You can't help but wonder how these folks would have fared in the competition in Pitch Perfect.

Incidently, according to Ellen, Pentatonix is one of her roommate's alltime favorite musical groups.


 I am not sure how many of the blog readers know about bitcoin, I assume many more do nowadays as its been in the media recently and the US Senate held a hearing on digital currency 2 weeks ago. Anyway I first discovered bitcoin when it was a fledgling crypto-currency, worth only $10 a coin. As of today each coin is worth $1200. Although at this moment bitcoin does not have many practical uses (besides these mentioned here), the idea of a decentralized online currency is an interesting one to think about, with obvious flaws but perhaps even greater upsides. Recently more companies have been acknowledging bitcoin as a legitimate currency and this man even bought a Subway sandwich with bitcoin in Allentown, PA. I basically know next to nothing about bitcoin as I have only been interested in it for a short while and there are many experts out there. I usually go to to try and learn something but still my knowledge is minimal compared to some of the people on here. Anyway just wondering what other people thought about this topic or if anyone knew anything else about it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mud Bowl Squad


8 Ways 'List Articles' Make You Stupid

1. They are trivial.
List articles deal with things you all ready know, unless you have severe learning disorders or think reality shows are concerned with reality. Let me guess, the "7 Warning Signs of Heart Attacks" are shortness of breath, fatigue, obesity, chest pains, sweaty palms, occasional blackouts, and waking up in the emergency room.

2. They are useless.
The list articles that aren't concerned with things you all ready know, are concerned with things which will make no difference in your life. For example, "The 10 Best Strategies if Aliens Attack During the Zombie Apocalypse" or "10 Stains Which Most Resemble the 'Crusaders Entering Constantinople'". You can practically feel your I.Q. lowering.

3. They are written to grab eyeballs not minds.
No list article, other than "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird", is written to push the limits of human knowledge or aesthetics. They are written to entertain and, more often, to get you to a web site where, after reading the list, your intellect has so suffered that you may actually click on a banner ad.

4. They cater to and promote ADD.
Let's face it, all these learning disorders are scientific names for being stupid. Granted you could be brilliant in some areas of thinking and deficient in others, but why promote the deficiencies? List articles cater to people who can't keep their mind on one particular thing for more than ….

5. They have no depth.
The articles' appeal is knowing each item will be described in one or two short sentences or paragraphs. There is time enough only to give a gross misrepresentation of the subject without nuance, subtly or dialectic. No thinking is required, only rage when you discover your favorite singer-songwriter, Bobby Goldsboro, is included in the list of 25 artists who most often generate nausea or failed relationships.

6. They appear in society's wastelands.
No Yale or Harvard professor will title his next publication "10 Reasons Promoting the Ineluctable Modality of the Visible" or "The 5 Best Mathematical Representations of Schrödinger's Cat" if he wants to make tenure. Serious papers are titled, "Are Cows More Likely to Lie Down the Longer They Stand?" or "Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beer Holder: People Who Think They are Drunk Also Think They Are Attractive".

7. They are born of doubtful inspirational origins.
List articles arguably received their inspiration from either the aforementioned Wallace Stevens poem or the fine Nick Hornby novel, "High Fidelity" where list making was a favorite pastime of a very self absorbed, emotionally stunted character, who was really a jerk throughout, but somehow you, the reader, lowered your expectations of humanity to such a level that you liked him.

If the poem is the origin, then every subsequent list has been slowly spiraling downward into unrecognizable depths.

8. They are a waste of time.
Consider what you have just read.