Archive for October 2012

NOV 6 STRANGE EXPECTATIONS

October 31, 2012

Remember this guy?   Gloomy Gus.    Sort of a self-mockery here.    He’s a personification of my gloomy feelings;  pesky pessimism and portents of doom.

Oh – it’s still Halloween as I write.   How interesting.   I dragged Gus out on the day of spooks and goblins.    But it’s only a coincidence;  I really am feeling melancholy.

I suppose we’ll soon be transitioning from watching the tragedies that Sandy has left behind in the northeast portions of our country and  moving on to be spectators of another difficult time in our country – the presidential election.

We the People have made this a dangerous and difficult time.   That is, I see our country faltering and weakening in every way that a nation can, but I don’t hear any discussion of principles and values and intelligent solutions.    I hear only feelings and wants and opinions and personalities and preferences and plans meant to attract voters.

There has always been that latter element, I know.  Crowds gathered around politicians that shout out “We like him!”  and “We don’t like him!”      But we were told by the Founders of our country that we won’t be able to hold on to our Republic if that’s all there is, if that’s how we pick our leaders, if that’s how we behave.

It’s a dangerous and difficult time for us.

Perhaps our bad behavior during election time is only a perception that the media creates for us.

If it’s more than just a perception, though, we have some strangely high expectations for the results of such behavior.

 

 

HURRICANE FRINGE

October 30, 2012

Really, my apologies for the humor in my last post at the expense of the creative writers at NOAA .    Their later bulletins were much more to the point – and unfortunately accurate:

500 PM EDT SUN OCT 28 2012   …SANDY EXPECTED TO BRING LIFE-THREATENING STORM SURGE FLOODING TO THE MID-ATLANTIC COAST…INCLUDING LONG ISLAND SOUND AND NEW YORK HARBOR… …WILL BRING COASTAL HURRICANE WINDS AND HEAVY APPALACHIAN SNOWS…

They were accurate for our region of the country too,  the far western edge of Sandy:

That’s icy stuff on my deck, blown around and precipitated by Sandy’s forces.    People who had to travel to work this morning faced very slippery roads and not a few accidents.   The winds have been strong and steady, but the gusts have died down now.   It was all as the  bulletins for our region stated.

Out here, in the Far North,  on the western fringes of the storm,  we were spared, this time;   we watch with concern and interest and with our prayers, good wishes, and whatever other actions seem appropriate and useful.

It’s a little bit of:  “Don’t ask for whom the bell tolls…..”     Do you know the rest of that sentence  in John Donne’s poem?

 

WARNING! GOBBLEDYGOOK APPROACHING!

October 27, 2012

Beautiful, isn’t it – as long as you’re looking at Sandy from space:

Fall brings a lot of interesting things to look up at in the sky:

Here’s a weather front that was going through a while ago, pushing the clouds together into a series of giant ripples.  I’m glad Son was looking up at the time and pointed it out to me.  He was actually on the roof that day, reclining against the shingles, and watching the patterns:

Soon the parallel waves had become all jumbled up:

The winds had come down to where we could feel them, and we ended up with quite a rainy windstorm.

Now there’s all kinds of “excitement” from the news services as we anticipate Hurricane Sandy, which will bring danger and hardship to many people.      I thought I’d check with NOAA and read the actual weather service bulletin – see what the real story is.    Ready?    Here’s what I found:

VALID 12Z MON OCT 29 2012 – 12Z THU NOV 01 2012 …HIGH IMPACT MERGING OF ENERGETIC SYSTEMS ANTICIPATED OFF THE MID ATLANTIC COAST… DESPITE A MODEST CLUSTER OF OUTLYING DETERMINISTIC SOLUTIONS AND ENSEMBLE MEMBERS FROM THE VARIOUS MODELING CENTERS, THE LION’S SHARE OF GUIDANCE INDICATES THAT THE CIRCULATION ASSOCIATED WITH HURRICANE SANDY WILL PASS CLOSE ENOUGH TO THE AMPLIFYING POLAR TROUGH OVER THE EASTERN UNITED STATES TO BECOME INCORPORATED INTO A HYBRID VORTEX OVER THE MID ATLANTIC AND NORTHEAST NEXT TUESDAY. THE HIGH DEGREE OF BLOCKING FROM EASTERN NORTH AMERICA ACROSS THE ENTIRE ATLANTIC BASIN IS EXPECTED TO ALLOW THIS UNUSUAL MERGER TO TAKE PLACE, AND ONCE THE COMBINED GYRE MATERIALIZES, IT SHOULD SETTLE BACK TOWARD THE INTERIOR NORTHEAST THROUGH HALLOWEEN, INVITING PERHAPS A GHOULISH NICKNAME FOR THE CYCLONE ALONG THE LINES OF “FRANKENSTORM”, AN ALLUSION TO MARY SHELLEY’S GOTHIC CREATURE OF SYNTHESIZED ELEMENTS….

Got that?

I think “somebody”  has TOO MANY KEYS on their keyboard!!!!

Part of me would like to enjoy the creative humor here, but this comical collection of words doesn’t really convey what’s approaching people – people like my sisters and my mother who are currently living under this:

That’s where my family lives, somewhere under that mess.

Well, at least the Experts seem to have come to some sort of agreement about the storm.  The next bulletin states:

THERE IS INCREASING CONSENSUS AMONG THE GUIDANCE FROM THE VARIOUS MODELING CENTERS… THE ENTIRE ATLANTIC BASIN SEEMS DESTINED TO BECOME DOMINATED BY BLOCKY HIGHS AND LOWS, WITH DECREASING WIGGLE ROOM FOR EVEN LARGE FEATURES LIKE SANDY. ”

I hope everyone has a chance to WIGGLE out from under this COMBINED GYRE.

 

 

WHENCE? (FREE SPEECH)

October 26, 2012

Another thought during this Free Speech Week…Where do we get the right to “free speech” in this country?

The accurate answer affects lovely, simple people like that Russian peasant lady above, in the photo.

We know Americans can find our right to free speech, as it’s commonly understood, in our Constitution, specifically in the Bill of Rights, the  First Amendment.     But that doesn’t mean that our Constitution is the source of our rights.    The document is only a recording of our rights.

The Constitution is intended to limit the rights of our newly formed, and now ongoing government system.   So it was never intended nor implied that this new government is the source of any of our rights.

Our Founding Fathers looked around for transcendant principles that are the source of such rights as free speech, and found them in the very reality of our “personhood” – the fact that we are individual persons who have been created and that this Creator has attached to us certain rights for our benefit.

Since our Creator is the source of our free speech, and other rights,   these rights cannot be “alienated” from us by any power on earth, not our own government and not any other government entity.

The Russian lady above looks like she could be one of my ancestors.   I’m not  Russian,  but way up there in the Far, Far North — close enough — my grandmother’s people were sometimes under Russian rule, and so  this lady has a familiar “feel” when I look at her.    What changes she and all the others Russians have seen!

I was reading a book review in the WSJ today, a book called “Former People”  by Douglas Smith.   In the review a writer was quoted, a poet and a critic he is called, and his name was Boris Sadovskoy.    In a discussion of the “former” Count Golitsyn who tried so hard to hang on to the good things of Russia, Sadovskoy’s words were applied:    “….the former count and the former peasants, former owners, former masters, former people, former Russia.”

These sad words struck me as describing the heart and core of the process of losing one’s rights – all our rights, one by one.     If indeed a government, a State, a ruler, or a king gives us our rights,  the rights can be taken away, and there will be nothing left.

If we retain the knowledge that our rights are God-given  and that they are un-alien-able from us, then we may just be able to hang on to our country and re-build what is best about it.

We have a duty to be vigilant.

 

OCT. 22-28 “FREE SPEECH WEEK”

October 25, 2012

I guess someone has decreed that this week we should recognize and appreciate our right to free speech in this country.

It’s a good thing to put things on our common calendar so we can pause and stop to think about certain things we hold dear, and in common.     We are fortunate to live in a nation where we can speak out freely, without legal retaliation.    Common sense and courtesy are really the only principles we need measure our speech against, and they are basically self-imposed.  We are a FREE people.

We read horror stories, of course, about people getting into trouble for what they’ve spoken out loud.   We begin to get a little uneasy.   Is common sense and courtesy really disappearing?    Is there something taking the place of intelligent self-restraint?

Perhaps we are unwittingly submitting ourselves to … what we’re expected to say?  And to not say?    Is political correctness becoming our guide?

I was reading an article in some east coast newspaper the other day, and then I read a few of the comments.   One commenter wrote this:  “To learn who rules over you, simply find out whom you are not allowed to criticize.”  (Voltaire)

So, hmmmm.   Sounds good.   Short and meaningful.   A couple of comments later, someone wrote, “Of course you  know that  Volatire never said that!”      Okay.    Such is Internet information.

But  I’d already thought about the quotation, whoever made it up.   I’m not a fan of Voltaire anyway.  He said a lot of half-baked things that were novel in his day that he didn’t think through to their final implications, but such was his command of language that the presentation made his thoughts sound profound.

On the other hand,  who does rule over us?  Who are we afraid to offend when we give our opinion?   What thought-trails do we not go down because they lead us into new territory?    Who wants to stand out like an individual anyway?

IT’S FREE SPEECH WEEK!

Our founding Fathers told us that our Republic was made for a well-informed, educated, moral, vigilant,  and courageous citizenry.    More than just a “pause and stop to think” for a moment.    Exercising Free Speech is a way of life!

 

WHAT’S ON YOUR (DINNER) PLATE?

October 24, 2012

(There’s a story behind this) –

77 degrees today in the Far North – in late October!    Too warm!   But the heat gave me an idea.    After that second unwelcomed assault by this fever,  I remembered what the American Indians used to do for fevers.   They’d get down into their kivas and build up a fire and sweat it all out.   Or at least I think I read that somewhere.   “Feed a cold, starve a fever, and find a way to sweat it out of you.”

So I had the warm air,  and I had a little task ahead of me:

I planned to rake leaves a little at a time this year so it wouldn’t all add up to one nearly impossible task.   You know, a ton here and a ton there, and then I’d never have to do fifty tons all at once.    It really wasn’t too bad.  I was a little weak,  but it was good to be outdoors, and I think the sweating felt good too.

I have a really good rake which helps make the work more efficient.  The leaves were fairly dry and easy to push around.    I began to notice how large some of the leaves were.   I have thirty years of experience with these trees,  but I’ve never seen the leaves this big before.     It went through my mind that these are as big as the proverbial “dinner plate.”

So I went inside and got a dinner plate, put it down on the ground and tried it out:

Fascinating.

A neighbor walked by just then and stopped for a moment, with his dog, both of them watching me trying out various leaves on my plate.   “Betcha wonder what I’m doing, huh?”     We had an interesting little conversation.  Another neighbor came by and actually took some of the huge leaves home.

Well, I have a good start on my lawn and my fever is nowhere in sight.

Now I’m looking for a good Roof Rake –

 

PATCHWORK EVERYTHING

October 23, 2012

I see I went down some fevered science fiction road in the last post.    I’d better follow up on that jigsaw puzzle progress and “save the world.”       After that “patchwork” sky from the last posting,  I now have only one tiny little patch left.

So there it is – right down to the very last piece.   (You want the satisfaction of seeing a jigsaw puzzle 100% done?    Do your own!    – ha ha)

It’s a nice feeling, though.    I really thought this one was “poorly cut”  and unnecessarily hard and almost impossible and not worth the time…but, oh,  the satisfaction of defeating this puzzle!

I really have no grand lesson to draw from the puzzle this time.    I just wanted to visit with you all.  After a long self-imposed quarantine because of this virus,  I’m beginning to miss being out with people.    Amazingly,  my body has managed to spike another fever,  so it might be just a few more days. . . .

Meanwhile, I was trying to think about these last few weeks, but it’s hard to string it all together.  I just have a few  patches of memory, like seeing my little world in disconnected panels of a patchwork quilt.   Here’s one –

During Fall, in the Far North,  each window of my house presents its own little panel of beauty.   This is one I kept ooh-ing and ah-ing over:

I actually moved a chair so I could read while looking out the window.  Or –  you know.  So I could look up from the book and see this.

I hope you’re finding this much joy and beauty outdoors too!

Well, that’s MY outside.   Cooper has a different one!    Cooper, living high up in the Sierra Nevadas, is receiving the first three-day snowstorm of the season.    When I spent six weeks there with him last Spring,  (see some February-March 2012 postings)  we were getting snowfall by the FEET!    It was time for me to get home, and my car was too little to get through the snow, so I waited – impatiently – for a chance  to leave.   Several times a day I remember turning to the various webcams that are set up near Cooper’s home, all along I-80.

Here’s a screen shot from tonight.     So I’ve come full circle – from last Spring to this Fall,  watching the same webcams,   this time safely at home.

Word from Cooper’s Mommy?  “He loves it!”

Word from Cooper?

Cooper and I are having a little talk, via Skype.

Oh, our picture is better than that,  but the camera and screen and lighting combination created a nice evening blue, and we were just talking at bedtime, kind of all comfy and cozy.    There is an amazing amount of things we can Skype together with.   We share books (his copy and my copy)  and we play cars and toy animals….we kiss and hug and high-five each other   (yes, you can do that too, if you have a big enough imagination!)  and most of all,  Cooper just likes to have his Grrrma watch him as he plays.    And I sure like to “be” there with him!

There have been a lot of serious things floating through my mind too, part of the disconnected patchwork of experiences I’ve been having –  but with Cooper on my mind,  somehow I don’t want to write out the words right now.

Maybe we all should Skype with the little ones of our country.   Wouldn’t that act as a big Restrainer on our adult decisions and actions and thoughts?

“Except you become as little children….”

That’s what the Master teaches.

 

 

HOLES IN THE SKY

October 21, 2012

(Title)  “The Course of Empire:  Consummation” –

I started this jigsaw puzzle a couple weeks ago.  I’m glad I did because it’s been providing a somewhat non-strenuous diversion while I’ve been sick.
Except that it’s been very frustrating!     See all those puzzle pieces lined up and sorted by shape?     They don’t fit anywhere!  Nowhere!  There’s no place for them!

I chose this particular puzzle picture because I am doing a little study on the Fall of Empires.  This picture shows the Roman Empire seemingly at its height.   Things looked pretty good, even as

1.      their economy was dying and  the populace would support only those politicians who promised to give them more things; 

2.     the borders were no longer being defended and foreigners were streaming into the Empire, who were either very needy or who were enemies;  

3.       and in general,  the Roman people had lost their sense of nobility, character, and identity  and had abandoned their classic morality which drove their senses of duty,  tempered their darker impulses, and preserved civility.

So, I was thinking this week – yes,  fevered, virus-driven thinking:   See the holes in the sky?    I can’t fill them.

Sometimes I think a mistake was made and the wrong pieces got into my box so maybe the holes aren’t going to get filled.

“Holes in the Sky.”

I think there could be a great sci-fi novel here:     A wormhole.    A port hole.   A place where incomprehensible, evil, alien influences drop down into Rome and attack the common sense of the citizens!!   They become unable to fix their own problems, and then they’re unwilling to even see the cause of their problems!

Their civilization comes to an end – and chaos reigns in the Western world for hundreds of years.   And the “evil alien agenda”  has won!

A metaphor, you know.

I’d better get busy finishing this puzzle.

DOWN FOR THE COUNT

October 19, 2012

I’ve missed being in The Spruce Tunnel…

…Sorry to be absent so long.  My body has been “collecting” every virus known to man, I think.  Ribs hurt from coughing.  But so does everything else.

Funny thing happens to Time when you’re sick.   Whenever I wake up, I can’t tell if I’ve slept for two hours or fourteen hours.   It hasn’t much mattered this week.

Thank God for giving us self-repairing bodies – generally speaking.

Just a few more days.  Deo gratias.

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS RANT

October 8, 2012

There are only a few people who have seen my rants:  Hubbie, who usually walked away open-mouthed and stiff-legged, wondering “what the heck just happened” and “I don’t think I can fix this.”   And then there’s my one friend who is actually ADD-squared, and is therefore probably the only one who can follow my torrent of thoughts.

So I won’t really have a good rant here.   I can’t type that fast anyway.

But it is COLUMBUS DAY  —  I think.    The calendar says it’s a holiday.    Some official things were closed, but most everything was not.   I don’t know if the television said anything, but the radio didn’t say much.  Did the Italian clubs around the country have their big parties and parades?    Did the children in schools make silhouettes of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria?

Or is this another of our heroes that have been lied about and stolen from us?

So . . . .  that’s the end of my very, very subdued rant.     A poor one indeed.                       

Now, as adults we know that there were many waves of explorers who came to this continent.  We know that the copper mines of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan were operated thousands of years ago and probably gave rise to the Bronze Age.    We know that Chinese were here thousands of years ago.   There is evidence in the form of artifacts that the Africans were here, the Egyptians, probably, and the Mauritanians.     We know the Vikings were here,   leaving evidence all the way to the Mississippi River.

But for our particular time in history,  we honor Columbus as the man whose explorations led to further explorations and then settlements here, allowing European culture to expand in various forms on these two Western continents.

But, then, what did Columbus and the other modern-day explorers find?      Tropical islands in the “Caribbean” Sea and they also found the Caribs themselves – those sad and primitive tribes whose own violent and immoral practices were decimating their own population with murder, wars, slavery, and disease, including a virulent, non-European form of syphilis.

You may read some of the scholarly historical journals and some of the science journals,  and  they all present the same story:  the population of the “Indians”  in this region of the world was in a steep decline — before Christopher Columbus got here.

The above 17th century engraving was made from sketches and eyewitness reports from the previous century.   It’s a picture of some Carib Indians, sitting around their campfires – eating their evening meal, which just happens to be people from their enemy tribes.    The Caribs were cannibals.

I don’t want to repeat the stories you know so well about Columbus’s “discoveries” which were the slave lodges holding pre-pubescent girls for….whatever purposes.   The killings, the torturing,  the slavery,  the cannibalism, the fearful superstitions,  the constant warfare — all this scandalized the Europeans.

And the sailors that worked on the ships that Columbus took to America were from the dregs of society.    They were scarcely civilized themselves, and Columbus had to be constantly vigilant against them.  They signed on, willingly or unwillingly, and expected only one reward:  money.    The possibility of receiving wages and booty was  just about the only thing that could be used to control them.

They came on shore at the various islands and sometimes obeyed, sometimes disobeyed their commander.   They were killed, they caught diseases, some were executed (under Christian European law)  for gross acts of violence against the natives, and some came back to their homeland, alive.   Mostly, they praised Columbus.

What we know of Christopher Columbus we know from his own writings,  his own log book of his several trips to the Americas, and we know by his actions.    Sticking to this evidence alone,  he was a pious man, devout, loyal to the king and queen who underwrote his explorations, a firm and fair leader of his ships’ crews,  he was self-sacrificing, courageous, honest, and thoroughly in tune with the highest goals of the Europe of the 15th century.

I’ve read his logbook,  but strangely, every time I order a copy from Amazon,  it becomes “not available.”  My state library has stopped loaning out books, and I can’t find the logbook on their shelves anymore anyway.   I’ll keep searching.

This was a good and honest man.    He really did help to open up this continent by his heroic achievements.    He deserves our honor, and our children deserve a hero like this.

(No, he wasn’t an evil conquistador.  He wasn’t a murderer.  He wasn’t the “secret son of a pope.”   He wasn’t an occultist.   )

And one more thing:    There isn’t too much cannibalism going on in this hemisphere anymore.     For the time being.

 

LETTER TO SELF

October 7, 2012

I woke up to this a morning or two ago:

I’m usually not so awake that early  in the morning to notice what’s outside my window let alone go find the camera.     The colors didn’t come out too well,  but the leaves on the trees are just beginning to change and the morning sun drew my attention to these very early first Fall colors.

Early Fall.   Early Autumn.   My birthday.

And I think I’m in the Early Autumn of my life.  It’s a good time in a person’s lifespan, if you make it that far.    The time-consuming puzzlements of family and career and personal choices have pretty much resolved themselves, and there is a nice sense of acceptance and even understanding of just what was and is important – and what is not.

I came through some pretty bad times, and I look back on my younger self with sadness and kindness.    I made it through all right;   happiness is possible.       I also look back and see that I didn’t use all the hours and minutes I could have for doing the things that I must and for learning and for enjoying the life around me.    It’s okay, though.   That’s common, I suppose.

It would have been interesting, when I was younger,  to have  read a letter from my older self.    And because I know now what I would have written in such a letter,  I sometimes imagine what my old-older self would write to me now.

It wouldn’t be like the Bucket List that is much talked about.    That’s fun.   That’s merely a fun To-Do list.   Quite trivial, when you think about it.    And in the context of today’s growing economic woes and approaching wars and totalitarian responses of the governing powers,  a Bucket List is becoming increasingly unrealistic.

If I could write to my now-self some day in the future, just before I lie down on my last bed, I know I would encourage myself to hold on to the knowledge of the temporary nature of life in this world;  to firmly keep before me that this life is more than merely a “test,”  it is a training ground for my eternal existence.       I prove now to my Creator who I am  (who I think I am)  and in what relationship I want to be with Him forever in Eternity.

Surprisingly,  paradoxically,  that is a project that gives great peace and joy in this life.   Whatever happens in the world,  whatever happens to me,  all my activities will matter very much in the end.

Dear Young Me,    The best is yet to come!

CURT KOBAIN AND DEBATING THE DEBATE

October 4, 2012

My classes are going to be asking me what I thought about the Debate.   They shouldn’t.  Rather, they should remember “that man’s”  voice is not allowed in my house.    So, of course, I didn’t watch – or listen – to the Debate.

But I listened once in a while to the debate about the televised Debate.    Nothing new or unexpected there.

It’s our duty to cast our vote in our elections, our solemn duty as American citizens.   We all know that.

But then the direction of our vote shouldn’t be based upon the most articulate man.    It shouldn’t be based upon who looked the most “presidential” or the most “at ease”  or the most “commanding”     Our vote shouldn’t be based upon who bedazzles us with the most pleasing image of the future.

If so,    our choices are just based upon hopeful “pie in the sky.”

Our vote should be based upon principles;   principles understood by the exercise of our reason, logic, common sense, brought to bear on facts and probablities,  matching what we know of life in general and of our own history and of real possibilities.

Then we’d have a different “pi” in the sky:

Character matters, that’s why the debates may be useful to help us assess their characters.    Character matters, not personality or celebrity factors, when it comes to navigating our nation through dangerous waters.    Since the Revolution seems to have won in the Twentieth Century, the world has become a mess, and the remaining vestiges of civilization is in a precarious position.   As a historian (amateur though it may be) I don’t know how long it will take to rebuild a civilized culture that works well for all the people.      Generations?   Centuries?

We are frogs in a boiling pot.    The boiling water is killing us, but we don’t jump out because we got here gradually and we’re familiar with the issues.  That’s how Curt Kobain fits in.

That’s a photo from one of his concerts, and that’s his drummer in front of the red background.    The sounds were large discordant wails of tortured electric guitar strings, overstrained amplifiers, and ragged banging drums.     They were truly sounds from Hell.   The musicians contorted themselves, beat their instruments, tangled and kicked at the cords on the floor, groaned, screamed. . . .

And the words they sang were truthful and accurate.   The sounds of mankind caught in a whirlpool, sucked down into a Hell of our own making, raging with hatred and despair:  “You did this to us!”     “We did this to ourselves.”    “There is no way out.”

“Truthful and accurate”  from one point of view.

Is there another – valid – point of view?    Is it possible to locate where it was that we went off the rails?   Can we analyze our problems, apart from promises from political personalities?    Did the Debate show us which of these candidates has the experience and principled character to make the hard decisions that must be made to recover what we have lost?

Or do we just slide, screaming and raging, down the whirlpool?

The picture above really was a photo of the Nirvana concert, Seattle, 1991.    That’s Curt Kobain on the far left.     He slid down his portion of the whirlpool.

Those of you who know me know that I don’t enjoy “modern” music,  anything past, say, 1820.     But I  liked Nirvana – not because I thought it was music in the classical sense,  but because I thought their comment on modern life was accurate.   If only their fans had analyzed their message rather than followed after their personalities.     I wish we all had listened to these young men.