Brain Cells

I’ve been thinking about brain cells. Obviously they are in the brain, so…the thing that I am, is safe behind a skull, which used to have a cushion of hair around it. Is male pattern baldness the first step to eventual oblivion? Is the brain in danger?

Then it occurred to me that a certain percentage of brain cells may have escaped and taken up residence somewhere else. We talk about “gut feeling”, is it really “gut thinking”? Or, what about the heart? Why is it that the lungs never get feeling/thinking credit? Or perhaps the tip of the little finger on the left hand? Could millions of brain cells decide to migrate to the little finger, knowing that age has exposed their native “homeland” to danger? They are “brain cells” after all, they could think of these things.

As always, Google search can offer some suggestions…

Aside from the structural tissue and blood vessels, the brain consists of two types of cells, neurons and glia cells. Neurons have this wonderful electrical ability to pass information from one cell to another. Neurons group together in nuclei, and are connected to other nuclei by tracts. Their “homeland” is the cerebral cortex. However, neurons exist throughout the body and fall into three categories: sensory, motor, or interneurons. Sensory is massive throughout the skin, and they send messages about the world back to the brain. Motor neurons are in the heart, intestinal system, diaphragm, and glands. They assist in the primary functions of those tissues.

Glia cells are the most numerous and mysterious. They assist the neurons but nobody is quite sure of everything they do. I’ll just repost this paragraph because I’m not certain how to reword it.

“Glial cells are the supporting cells of the neurons. The three types of glial cells are astrocytes, oligodendrocytes, and ependymal cells, known collectively as macroglia, and the smaller scavenger cells known as microglia. Glial stem cells are found in all parts of the adult brain. Glial cells greatly outnumber neurons and apart from their supporting role to neurons, glia – astrocytes in particular have been acknowledged as being able to communicate with neurons involving a signalling process similar to neurotransmission called gliotransmission. They cannot produce an action potential as generated by a neuron but in their large numbers they can produce chemicals expressing excitability that exert an influence on neural circuitry. The star-like shape of the astrocyte allows contact with a great many synapses.”

Very suspicious, and maybe glia does some thinking as well. I bet that if some independent minded neurons left the brain, a good many glia cells would follow and help set up camp wherever they went.

Interneurons provide the inter communication between the sensory and the motor neurons. So, knowing this… which neurons think? I’m betting that thinking and communication are linked, it makes sense that interneurons throughout the body provide some sort of “thinking”. We somehow accept a “gut feeling”, but what about the skin? If you say no, then why does your skin “crawl”?

Your lungs appear to be somewhat empty of neurons, but the diaphragm has a bunch. Ever catch your breathe? Taste, hearing, smell and sight also has tons of interneurons, but we never (or rarely) give credit for them thinking. There maybe something special about smell neurons connecting to memory storage.

The possibility of brain cells intentionally migrating to safer parts of the body is intriguing, but going to the extremities seems not logical. Stubbing your toe, or getting your hand caught in a door is proof enough that it is dangerous out there.

My bet is that the “colonists” would head for the “Vagus Nerve”. Look it up, it’s a spinal nerve, completely protected by the torso, with quick exits to all the major populations of interneuron activity. Apparently there is a major collection near the tail-bone, where it is no longer needed to wag something.

Perhaps we can “think” from our butt in future decades.

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Heroes of History

Is it fair that some of my hero’s/heroines may not be entirely historical? I have written before about my attraction to individuals who made impacts coming from an isolated existence.

Temujin is a perfect example, his tribe nearly wiped out, living alone outside of the community, with only his mother able to help him. Eventually he challenged the leader of a small clan. He won, then he used those men to challenge a larger clan, he won. This repeated over and over, like a winning streak at a roulette table, Temujin became a man of importance and the tribes renamed him Genghis Khan.

My personal favorite is Harald Hardrada. His life story sounds like an action movie. Wounded at age fifteen when there was a battle for the Norwegian crown, and the victor tried to kill all the remaining contenders. Harald escaped to Kiev, ended up in Constanople, fighting for the Emperor, grew rich. Harald then used his wealth to return to Norway to take back the crown. At the age of fifty he set his eyes on the crown of England, and died trying to take it. His defeat ended the Viking Age. He also managed to kill 2/3rds of the English army, which made it much better for William the Bastard, to become William the Conqueror at Hastings two weeks later. The world changed because of the life and death of Harald Hardrada.

There was a time that was called the Dark Ages, only because there wasn’t much written that survived, plus this was before great strides were made in all forms of human effort. A driving force at the turn of the millennia was Hildegard von Bingen, 1098-1179. Many scholars believe that her intelligence, and grasp of new possibilities far exceeded anyone on earth, even to include Einstein and Hawking. She was given to the Church at a young age, but it did not hide her talents.

She wrote music that is still played, she wrote and illustrated a botanical encyclopedia, she was a healer, an adviser to kings and emperors, she was the first woman to begin and run an abbey. She was also a pioneer in math, and was one of the first to popularize the Arabic numeral system. Imagine trying to do trigonometry with Roman numerals. The world was different because of Hildegard.

I can think of dozens of individuals that just made one difference, but we don’t know where, or what their name might have been. The first person who made fire, and was able to teach others. The first person to tie reeds together to make a craft for the water. The first person to attach a keel to their round bottomed boats, for better directional stability. The first person that harnessed the wind with woven material acting as a sail. The first person that made standardized marks that became a written language, the first person that turned a chant of grunts into music and found instruments to accompany the song.

The list of first is truly endless if you think about it. We also look to individuals that took on leadership responsibilities, to protect the people and begin to create culture and civilization. This is a hard category became with power comes so many abuses. I do have my favorites however.

I’m very fond of two Romans who had absolute power, and when they were done, they retired and went back to their farms. Cincinnatus, or Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, was a Roman statesman, 517-430 BC, who accepted the role of Dictator offered by the Senate in a time of crisis. He solved the problem, then resigned. Another problem occurred and he did the same thing, he did not profit from ultimate power.

The other Roman was Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix, or commonly known as Sulla. He was not a better person than Cincinnatus, but he was offered the Dictatorship. The difference was that he decided later to seize it on his own. It was the first time that a general used his army to seize ultimate power. He was brutal in enforcing his reforms. Yet, he fulfilled his promise and gave up power to retire to his villa. Roman historians were not kind in retelling how he spent his retirement. Later historians said that Sulla provided the model for future military takeovers.

His rival, Gnaeus Papirius Carbo, described Sulla as having the cunning of a fox and the courage of a lion – but that it was the former attribute that was by far the most dangerous. This mixture was later referred to by Machiavelli in his description of the ideal characteristics of a ruler.

He wrote his own epitaph carved on his tomb, “No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full.” This was also his personal motto, “no better friend, no worse enemy.” Maybe I like him because he might be a relative.

By far, my personal favorite king/leader is Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan Dynasty in India, 321–297 BC. Alexander the Great was taught by the philosopher Aristotle, he conquered much of the world until he invaded India. He found the Nanda Empire too strong, his men rebelled, and Alexander turned around, leaving a few satraps in charge.

Chandragupta was also trained by a philosopher named Chanakya, he conquered the Nanda Empire and beat the Macedonian Satraps that Alexander had left behind. His rule was amazing and changed the Indian sub-continent forever. He truly was in same category as Alexander, and Charlemagne, yet most people in the West barely know of him. What I find fascinating is that at the end of his reign, he gave it all up, and became a monk. He also repented of all the violence that occurred while he was building the Empire, and eventually became an ascetic, stopped eating, and died.

The man is worth studying.

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The Purpose of History, pt. 2

Yesterday I wrote that the biggest threat to history is the lack of truth. Will Durant, an eminent historian, once said that history is mostly guessing, and the rest is prejudice. This is similar to “History is written by the victors.” It may be true in some cases, but is this a general truth?

Unfortunately, it is almost completely true in the “Classic History” category, where scholars dived deep into source material. My daughter reminds me that “truth and evidence” for the professional historian is barely two hundred years old. So what drove the classic historian before that? Patronage and ego!

One of the great mysteries in history is the event that occurred in the late Bronze Age. There were hundreds of cities that had archeological evidence of being destroyed within a very short time in a broad are of the world. Cities and cultures that had been developing for a long time didn’t just slowly morph into sleepy villages. They were burnt entirely to the ground with thousands of arrowheads in the ash. There was only one superpower the survived the assault. Egypt!

Egypt had a complex writing system, and artisans trained in illustrative ability. They could have documented what had happened, and instead, a giant temple complex provides a blank slate for Pharaoh Ramesses III to record his “victory”. To his credit, he did seem to fight off the invasion, but this rest of the known world was in chaos. Egypt was highly involved in trade, there were connections made, and markets established. Egypt had no place to sell her goods, and no place to buy the goods they required. Ther may have won the battle, but it was the first stage of a long decline. If “truth and evidence” had been applied maybe the decline would have been shorter, and less steep.

So what do we know from the temple of Medinet Habu? It appears that the attackers were a confederation of different peoples. Today’s scholars simply lump them together as the “Sea Peoples”. Ramesses gives us some names, and even illustrates the differences in dress, armor, and facial characteristics. Later Pharaohs even hired some of these tribes as mercenaries. Unfortunately there was no effort to record where they came from, or what was there purpose. They were simply pirates and barbarians looking for plunder and delighting in destruction. We are not even sure that some of the tribes even existed, perhaps Ramses inflated his enemies to give himself more credit. It is no accident that the officially approved style of illustration was to represent Ramses as a giant twenty times larger than the other individuals in the battle.

I can understand this, there is no question where Ramesses stood in the thick of battle. If you look at the Bayeau Tapestry of the Battle of Hastings , it can be hard to spot William and Harold.

Some of the Sea Peoples are quite different from the Egyptians, with feathered headdresses and horned helmets. Not the great horns of the Wagnerian opera, but small goat horns, or small disks on a stem. we know them as the Peleset, Sherden, Deneen, Ekwesh, Lucca, Shekelesh, Teresh , Tjerker, and the Weshesh.

The only definitive statement was their connection to the sea. Like the Vikings centuries later, they showed up suddenly, with no warning, fought hand to hand, and with bows and arrows. The late Bronze Age had highly developed chariots powered by horses, they were destroyed by lightly armored runners with javelins.

This “propaganda” was repeated thousands of times by the victors as history was mostly about war.

The first great historian, “the father of history” was Herodotus, 484 BC. His book The Histories, a detailed record of his “inquiry” on the origins of the Greco-Persian Wars. The bulk of his writing has been verified by scholars and archeologists. Herodotus did receive some criticism by Athenians in his own time. They called him a “storyteller.” It is true that Herodotus included many fanciful tales in his book, as supplemental material. He did provide the caveat that it doesn’t mean that he believed it, he was just repeating what he had been told. At one of the Olympic Games in Athens, Herodotus read the entire Histories to the crowd, and they cheered him on with great applause.

The other great Greek historian was Thucydides, 460 BC. There is a great deal of difference between the two historians. Thucydides was much more “scientific” and did not record “facts” told by travelers in taverns. Thucydides was also a general so he had an inside perspective on warfare.

We actually only have three or four authors whose works have survived. There were many more historians that we known only by their names, not the actual books. The third Greek historian was Xenophon, my personal favorite. His book, The Anabasis, is about the ten thousand Greek mercenaries that found themselves trapped in the middle of Persia, having to fight their way back to the Black Sea and safety. Xenophon was a minor leader of the troops, but after the Persian had murdered the Greek leaders at a banquet, Xenophon was elevated to lead the remaining men back to Greece. The book was essentially about the journey and difficulties faced when behind enemy lines, but was very informative about the customs of the times. Xenophon was also great friends with Socrates.

If war and military exploits were the subjects of Greek historians, it didn’t change much with Roman authors. Livy, Strabo, Plutarch, and Tacitus stand out for me. It’s true that much of what they wrote was the military victories of Rome, but they also included snapshots of daily life. Fortunately we have quite a few lesser known author’s works.

The interesting one for me is Flavius Josephus, who wrote the Jewish War. Josephus had the unique perspective of having been a former Jewish general who had been captured, then worked with the Romans to put down the rebellion. He was rewarded by citizenship in Rome, a villa, and protection by powerful leaders. The fact that he reported on the destruction of Israel and the beginning of the Diaspora, was in his favor because his readers were Roman.

Because I’ve introduced Rome, I have to mention the historian that organized the best concise history of the fall of Rome, Edward Gibbon. His book, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, is a Western classic. What most people do not know is that Gibbon is not a modern writer, he was born in England in 1737, and published his book in 1780. He a perfect example of the Enlightenment of the times, but later critics question the central reason that he presented for the cause of Rome’s fall. Gibbon believes that Christianity was the reason of the collapse. He specifically states that the wealth of the Church siphon off money that could have been used the beef up the military to stave off the barbarians. Remember, he was an Englishman in the late 1780s, and no friend to the Catholic Church.

Recent historians have traced the negative stories of the Crusaders to Gibbon. In his view the Crusaders were pawns of the Popes, and the Crusades were entirely caused by the Church. From that premise, the Crusaders were pirates, interested only in greed, power, and regions bigotry. There is no doubt that some of that is true. Modern scholars now believe that the Crusaders were also motivated by a number of issues, including a desire to protect pilgrims. Muslim invaders had invaded Spain and created independent states, the Crusaders also invaded to create the Latin States. It was the way of the world.

I jumped right through the medieval period, bypassing many historians that I have enjoyed. My favorites are:

Gregory of Tours (538–594), A History of the Franks

Bede (c. 672–735), Anglo-Saxon England

Adam of Bremen (later 11th century), historian of Scandinavia, Gesta

Anna Komnene (1083–1148), Byzantine princess and historian

Ambroise (fl. 1190s), writer of verse narrative of the Third Crusade

William of Tyre (c. 1128–1186)

Snorri Sturluson (c. 1178–1241), Icelandic historian

Templar of Tyre (c. 1230–1314), end of the Crusades

Of the Modern historians, I haven’t decided on my favorites. I’m fond of Carl Sandburg’s work, and Will Durant. But there are so many, and so many with specific agendas. I have trouble enough with my own agendas.

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The Name Game

In Genesis, Adam spent a great deal of his first days, naming everything that he saw. This is a good thing. Asking for the “whatcha-ma-call-it” can present some amazing results. Existence can be broken down into discrete objects. It is a tree, or a bush. It can also be a redwood, or a primrose. This does not come with genetic evolution. It is entirely conceived by humans thinking, and breaking things into manageable chunks. Fish swim, birds fly… uh oh.

Okay we do have flying fish, and penguins swim, but these are exceptions. And sometimes birds walk, and fish walk… more exceptions. Structured naming is still a difficult process. A little historical background…

In pre-history people seemed to function with one name. The name could be passed down from generation to generation. It could be an object, an animal, a characteristic, or possibly even a place name. Sometimes the culture was large enough that further naming was necessary to differentiate one individual from another. Often this was done by adding the father’s name as a second name. This became a classic standard in the Scandinavian naming pattern. My name is John, my father’s name is Edwin, so I could be known as John Edwin to be set apart from all those other Johns. Except that in the Scandinavian system the addition of “son” would be added, so I would be known as John Edwinsson, my brother would be Robert Edwinsson. My sister could be similar, or she could also be Gayle Fargo, because she was born on a farm in Fargo. Girls would generally use “datter” or “dotter”, so it would be Gayle Edwinsdatter. Then, shorter constructs were used, like “sen” or “son” for boys and “dtr” for girls.

This went on for hundreds of years until sometime in the late 1800s the patronymic style of naming in Scandinavia faded away. The “last name” became fixed. Today, only Iceland still uses the patronymic system.

The European and American naming system often uses three names, first name, middle name, and last name. The last name is the family name. The middle name could be anything, but often it is remembering a relative, or close friend. The first name could also be a family tradition. Many German families rotate two names from brother to brother, Frederick William, and then William Frederick. This doesn’t sound very organized but the source for most of the three name patterns was very organized. It was the Roman naming system.

In fact, the tri-nomen pattern was the most obvious sign of Roman citizenship. It started as a bi-nomen system with less than twenty different names used for the personal name, the praenomina. This identified each member of even large families with a personal connection. The second name was the nomen, or the family name, sometimes called the gen. This looks very similar to a standard that we have now. But even the nomen was limited.

As Rome grew, and the republic turn into the empire, Romans added a third name, the cognomen, a very complex name that served many purposes. The cognomen was at first a nickname, then it became hereditary and the aristocracy used it to further differentiate their families from others.

What is interesting is that generally, there were no more than twenty male names, and twenty feminine versions, that were used in combination for all Roman citizens. A scribe, or a clerk, knew everything about the individual by knowing the “nomens”.

Today we pride ourselves in knowing the “trinomial nomenclature.” of botany. Rome lives on!

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The Purpose of History

I love history, but I don’t often question the “why” of history. In some way, I delight in knowing something that is important, but widely ignored. Is this an ego thing or is it a process of bringing attention to something important? The most often used quote is from the writings of Winston Churchill “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But he wasn’t the first to ponder the concept.

Edmund Burke is often misquoted to say, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” What he actually wrote was, “People will not look forward to prosperity who never look backward to their ancestors.” George Santayana is credited with the aphorism, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” Burke may have started the conversation, Santayana simplified it,and a politician made it popular.

Edmund Burke is widely misquoted by the way. The other “quote” that he may never have said, is “The only thing needed for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. This might have been a mash-up of Thomas Jefferson’s, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” Scholars have not found this quote in his published books, the closest is “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice, in a contemptible struggle. “. That’s a lot of words for a declarative sentence.

A little Google search on history quotes gave me the following…

1. “History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon.”, Napoleon Bonaparte

2. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”, Desmond Tutu

3. “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”, Confucius

4. “People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”, James Baldwin

5. “History is an account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools.”, Ambrose Bierce

6. “The history of mankind is the instant between two strides taken by a traveler.”, Franz Kafka

7. “What is history? An echo of the past in the future; a reflex from the future on the past.”, Victor Hugo

8. “History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.”, Alexis de Tocqueville

9. “History is mostly guessing; the rest is prejudice.”, Will Durant

10. “History is a race between education and catastrophe.”, H.G. Wells

11. “History is a vast early warning system.”, Norman Cousins

12. “A myth is far truer than a history, for a history only gives a story of the shadows, whereas a myth gives a story of the substances that cast the shadows.”, Annie Besant

13. “Isn’t history ultimately the result of our fear of boredom?”, Emile Cioran

14. “History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.”, Lord Acton

15. “Without words, without writing and without books there would be no history, there could be no concept of humanity.”, Hermann Hesse

I think Hesse has it right. The very concept of humanity is the purpose of history. Yes, we should use it to learn our mistakes, but we may make the mistakes for a long time before learning. This is not a formula but a process.

The essential problem of history is about truth. History documents change, but the truth of change is elusive. Have we honestly looked at what we have gained, and what we have lost? After that, we need to look at the price we pay.

In many ways, history is used to punish others. This can change almost overnight, leaving people confused and disoriented. Generally, no one looks to the agenda of those who wish to punish. Is it simple revenge? Is it justice? Or is it just another tool in the quest for power?

To simplify Hesse’s statement to the most simple- “History is an attempt to discover a recipe for better tasting food.”, John Diestler

I gather my utensils, my appliances, raw materials, supplemental ingredients, and then I write down what I did. If it is good then I save it, if it is not good, I save it so that I won’t go down that road again. This is what is so often missed about the quotes of history. The mistakes are many, and yes we need to save them for reference. But the successes are what we can give to others, recipes for the future!

Phoenicians sailed nearly around the world before we even knew the extent. Scholars asked “How did they do that?” You don’t have to invent help from “ancient aliens”. You just have to invent an alphabet to write the truth! They sailed near the coast and wrote down the days, and the descriptions of the shoreline. Then they doubled checked on the way back, gave their “book” to another captain, and he went a little further and added to the book. And he checked the accuracy on his way back. Later on the Portuguese called the books of “sailing directions”- rutters. Eventually the word described the rudder that determined the direction the boat would go.

So maybe, “History is the Rutter for movement in the world.”

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Common Ratios

2/1 = .5, 3/2 = 1.5, 5/3 = 1.666, 8/5 = 1.6, 13/8 = 1.62, 21/13 = 1.615, 34/21 = 1.619, 55/34 = 1.6176, 89/55 = 1.61818, 144/89 = 1.61797

Math is an exact science, carried out to infinite sequencing, such as pi. The same is true for the Fibonacci sequence of numbers. The ratios above are expressions of lengths to widths that have eventually been called the Golden Mean, or Divine Ratio. (The curious thing is that as the ratios continue, the “Golden Mean” approaches the mathematical formula of the Fibonacci Sequence. They are related!)

Supposedly these ratios create a rectangle that is the most pleasing to the natural eye, so that compositions in art or architecture are said to have these ratios imbedded in them. To a certain extant this may be true.

Classic photography has taught the rule of thirds for decades upon decades. Then, the more advanced courses modified it to 8/5s. Basically meaning that the best division of a rectangle is to divide it into 1/8s and then draw a line at 3/8s or 5/8s and that gives the “best” dividing line. The ratio is 1.6, and the most accurate Fibonacci sequence is 1.61797. We used to that this is “Good enough for government work”.

The “Golden Mean” and the “Fibonacci Sequence” are said to be a part of a standard composition practice. It may be true in a sense. We compose things to patterns that are most familiar. Because these ratios are so similar in so many images and objects, we are certain to find them as ongoing patterns in our own work. But in general, the exact nature of the mathematical basis is rarely found in art or architecture, approximations yes, exact no.

The one area that appears to have the most accuracy is in nature. The pattern of leaves and seed pods seem to reflect the formula with the most accuracy, far more than random chance. Unfortunately, the most famous example of the appearance in nature of the Fibonacci Sequence is the Nautilus Sea Shell, and that probably is not true. It is a spiral but not as exact as other more naturally occurring Fibonacci spirals. The controlling factor appears to be rain and sunlight. The Fibonacci Sequence give the optimum distancing to give each leaf/seed the most exposure.

So why do we see this ratio in art/architecture? It most certainly has been intentionally used in some cases. Mostly, the ratio we see is the “learned patterned”. We see repeated ratios of television/monitors, magazines, architectural facades. Sometimes they are so close to 1.6 we just assume that it was intentional. In point of fact, there isn’t a “perfect rectangle”, only the most observed rectangle.

Even still, I intentionally use the 8/5s ratio in my photographs and my artwork (when I remember that I can, hehe)

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Gosh, this is not part of my usual writing or response. It’s not that social or political subjects are taboo, it’s just that in general, decisions are already made, and I don’t see myself, or this blog as a “influencer”. I mostly write for some audience in the future, and I write for myself, to help me clarify what I believe.

So, what do I believe about “impeachment”? Well, it’s a constitutional requirement for “high crimes and misdemeanors”. I’m absolutely down with “high crimes”. And in general I’m pretty okay with punishing for misdemeanors. It is a low bar, I admit. Convicting someone on a misdemeanor and bouncing him/her out of office seems harsh for something where I might only be required to pay a fine. Still, I do hold positions of leadership to higher standards, so depending on evidence, a misdemeanor might be grounds for a bounce. Execution? No, not hardly.

Unfortunately, I’m guessing that half the country has either given the past President a pass, or a “noose, based only upon their feelings. That’s actually okay by me, I just can’t use that standard myself. I haven’t had any confidence in politicians for multiple decades. I try to vote by platforms, and even that has gone wacko. I do the best I can.

So, that still leaves it up in the air about impeachment. I will try to explain my opinion by looking at it from a very practical point of view. I am a bonafide keeper and protector of the Constitution. I swore an oath, and I keep it still. I believe in “free of speech”. But I am not an idiot, there is a difference between “protected speech” and unprotected speech. Unprotected speech has aspects that are fungible. By that I mean, “depends”.

The classic example is that you can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theatre. Well, that’s silly, you certainly can say that, if you are right. True, you may be responsible for someone if they are injured in the mob trying to exit. But you are also responsible for possibly saving the lives of hundreds. It may be better to shout, “I think I smell smoke, there might be a fire!”, but that does not quite do the same thing. You are either a hero, or convicted of manslaughter.

Could I stand on a soapbox and ask the public to fight in order to save the republic? Of course, that would be protected free speech. What about a movie star, rock star, city councilman? Pretty much you would have to balance their responsibilities as a public influencer.

I’ve only had three positions in life that might have included the greater responsibility of leadership. I recognized very early that I had to be very careful of what I said, and I no longer had the freedom “to speak my mind”, just in case that my mind was off-base.

In general, higher responsibilities do not get “a pass” just because they are powerful. The President can call out the military for high alert because it is part of his job. It can be very troubling to the rest of the world, and it can be very disturbing to concerned citizens. It is not the same as local mayor in Texas, declaring war on Mexico!

Back to impeachment. Was the speech by the president “‘Protected free speech”? I believe the president thinks that it was. Unfortunately for him, that is wrong on several counts.

It comes down to his basic character. He has stubbornly been consistent to who he is at his core. That has been a quality and a curse. He was elected because he wasn’t the usual politician. He has run into trouble because he isn’t the usual politician. This is the source of the national polarization. This can still be workable, except for the tangential effects. In this case, i believe it is his ego, it is not understanding his responsibility of using words that can influence.

I genuinely believe that the president was shocked at the action in the capital, but that does not mean he isn’t responsible. There were deaths, manslaughter is on the table. Is that “high crimes” or “misdemeanors”? Probably a little of one and a lot of the other. It doesn’t matter if you love the individual, or that you hate him. Take the emotion out of the equation and act on the logic.

There is a responsibility to future leaders to carefully choose their words without being frozen into inaction. Maybe this can be a standard that will trickle down to governor’s, mayor’s and politicians that cater to the mob, on the left and the right.

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Rules for HitchHiking

Two things that are odd. 1) that there should be rules for something as iconically free spirited as hitchhiking. 2) that I haven’t thumbed a ride in nearly forty years. There is a chance I’ve forgotten a few things.

So perhaps these are not rules, but instead, strong suggestions. And that these suggestions come from five years of experience, three years that were pretty steady. In truth, it was almost entirely the summer months in the west, so we are not talking about rain and snow. Bad weather introduces an entirely new set of suggestions that I haven’t practiced very much.

1). The first rule is do not hitchhike. The salad days of freely hitching down the road are over. It was never safe, but the safety factor is easily ten times what it once was. Are there more Landsharks than then? Hmm, no, I don’t think so. We haven’t entered into an age of rampant lawlessness on our nation’s highways. I think the number of bad guys are about the same. The problem is that the number of good guys that extend the safety of their vehicle is far less. People are fearful and perhaps have good reasons for that.

In my humble opinion the ratio has gone too far in the wrong direction. There are still more good people than bad, but the odds are now skewed so that the chance of running into a landshark is much higher.

I use the phrase landshark to describe an individual that will harm you because of their nature. It is not something that you did that causes the harm, it is simply the nature of the beast. If they are hungry they will eat you, and they are not hungry they may still bite because they can.

There should be no more rules or suggestions after this cardinal rule but sometimes there are circumstances where hitching is the only solution. The following suggestions are meant to be helpful.

2. Always be the first to ask where they are going. Vague answers are a red flag. A quick response of a town further down the road has a much better chance of being truthful. The real reason to ask this is to have the time to assess the driver and the interior of the car. Much information can be gleaned from a quick inspection. Next time you see a highway patrolman you can bring up this subject and you will learn far more than I can state here. In general, the cleaner, orderly interior, will be safer. The cleaner and more orderly driver likewise. I do not fit this model in either case so I know it is not absolute, but merely playing the odds. Landsharks do not care where they are going, as long as there is food there.

3. In all cases, protect what is valuable to you. With enough temptation, a landshark will bite. Keeping this in mind the thing that is most valuable to me is the pack that I carry. Never put the pack in first. Enter the vehicle then grab the pack. I know this is awkward in many small cars. It is so natural to open the back door, or trunk, and throw the pack it, then wander over to the passenger door, hoping that it is unlocked. The advantage to traveling in pairs is obvious. One person enters, one person loads gear then is the last inside. Even if you are a single hiker, open the passenger door first, then open the rear door with the idea that you might quickly jump in if the car lurches ahead. One thing to consider, if the vehicle is actually speeding away, you might want to count your blessings that you didn’t jump in. If at all possible I had my pack on my lap, last in, first out. Landsharks take advantage.

4. Always consider that women are possibly targets. Never let women enter first, always let women exit first. Landsharks are often sexist.

5. Engage the driver in conversation, but do not dominate. It is always good to assess the character of the driver beyond a visual once over. Be careful if there are landmines in the conversation. Getting no response to questions about relationships and family can be natural and not an issue if you are at a cocktail party. A chilled no response, trapped in a moving car doing seventy, is an entirely different animal. Landsharks are touchy.

6. Never give away your right to exit at any time. It may be awkward but I quick “Could you pull over at the next safe spot?” is always correct, if you feel it necessary. Telling an untruth is also an option. “I feel sick!” Is pretty good, “Oh, my gosh, I left my ID back there!”, is another. I once jumped from the backseat (it was a two door) when the drivers were in the station office selling the almost new tires to the attendant for gas money. Selling off parts of the vehicle is a red flag. Landsharks are very inventive.

7. Never sleep while the driver drives. Catching some sleep while your partner is on watch is a better solution. Having everyone watchful and awake is the best solution. Too many things can happen if you are not watchful. Take nap before hitchhiking if necessary. Landsharks love to bite when you are not looking.

8. Never volunteer “gas money”. You are hitching because you are broke! Landsharks are greedy!

9. In conversations, ask more questions about them. If they do most of the talking they will consider the conversation positive and good things will flow. Useful for hitchhiking, useful for job interviews. Landsharks are egotistical.

10. Refrain from smoking, eating or chewing in their vehicle. There may be rules, better to assume that they are there, than to find out that you have broken them.

There are more things to consider when you are on the road, but these relate to basic safety.

Other examples:

11. Do not upstage hitchhikers already in position. Walk downstream and allow the first ride to pick them up. Go down far enough that if a ride does pass them but picks you up… well, go far enough to not hear the yelling.

12. If you make camp mid-day, be out of site, out of mind. Pick higher ground, with good visibility of anyone coming. No fires!!! If fire, no smoke, and block visibility!!!

13. Walk for miles to find a spot where you are visible for at least 500 feet, and that there is a safe turnout for them to pull over, regardless of their speed.

And finally, never break rule number one. Do not hitchhike!

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Songs of the Heart

Imogene Heap- The Moment I Said It

The moment I said it…The moment I opened my mouth…Letting your eyelids…Bulldoze the life out of me…I know what you’re thinking…But darling, you’re not thinking straight…Sadly, things just happen we can’t explain.

It’s not even light out…But you’ve somewhere to be …No hesitation…No, I’ve never seen you like this…And I don’t like it, I don’t like it…I don’t like it at all.

Just put back the car keys…Or somebody’s gonna get hurt…Who are you calling at this hour?…Sit down, come round, I need you now…We’ll work it all out together….We’re getting nowhere tonight…Now sleep, I promise it’ll all seem better, somehow…In time.

It’s not even light out…Suddenly, suddenly…Oh, you’ve somewhere to be…No hesitation…Mmm, I’ve never seen you like this…You’re scaring me, you’re scaring me…You’re scaring me to death.

Don’t! oh, (smash…) please…Don’t! oh, (And another one) please…Don’t! oh, (smash…) please-…Don’t! oh, (And another one) please

I’m losing you…Trust me on this one…I’ve got a bad feeling…Trust me on this one…You’re going to throw it all away…With no hesitation…(Smash…)

Anouk- I Don’t Want to Hurt

We’re breaking things we cant repair…None of us will take them blame…No nothing can be done this time…All the memories that we’ve made…I threw them all away…There’s no need to talk it over…Dont let me get you down…Let’s just move on…I am setting you free.

Cause I dont wanna hurt no more…I dont wanna make you go …Through one more rainy day…No I dont wanna hurt no more…Strange enough I always knew…I’m taking off today…Dont wanna hurt no more.

Darkness you left in my soul…Now do we know how much we’ve lost?…Will the moon be shining as bright as before…And as I am singing this song…The tears went up in my eyes…And I will always wonder…Why I will never have the life I wanted…Now I’m letting it go.

Cause I dont wanna hurt no more…I dont wanna make you go …Through one more rainy day…No I dont wanna hurt no more…There’s not much more to say…Cause it’s to late now…I wont hurt no more..

So I’ll wait till morning comes…You made it clear it’s been only pain loving me…Things that we dont do for love…I am setting you free

Cause I dont wanna hurt no more…I dont wanna make you go …Through one more rainy day…No I dont wanna hurt no more…Strange enough I always knew…I’m taking off today…I’m letting you go…

Beth Hart- Take it Easy On Me

God bless this,…God bless that….God I’ll miss you now.

All the people left,…when the blue sky crashed…and I can’t do this alone.

I am scared to change, …To stay the same,…When I’m calling out your name..

Take it easy on me,…Take it easy on me,…I will trust you,…I will let you hurt me carefully.

Take it easy on me,…I break easily and…this steel butterfly will learn to fly…eventually..God take it easy on me.

When I talk like that,…When I tear me apart….When I raise my voice,…I break my heart.

But if I gave it up,…let the wall come down,…Would you take my hand?…Would you show me how?

I don’t know my place,…I don’t know my own face,…Just the lines I can’t erase.

No, I was never one to lean on….Fighting this war against the wind. ….When I find ground to rest my feet on. …I will lay my weapons down..

And another one bites the dust…But why can I not conquer love?…And I might’ve got to be with one…Why not fight this war without weapons?

And I want it and I wanted it bad…But there were so many red flags…Now another one bites the dust…And let’s be clear, I trust no one

Sia- Elastic Heart

You did not break me..I’m still fighting for peace…Well I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart…But your blade it might be too sharp

I’m like a rubber band until you pull too hard…But I may snap when I move close…But you won’t see me move no more…Cause I’ve got an elastic heart

I’ve got an elastic heart…Yeah, I’ve got an elastic heart…And I will stay up through the night…Let’s be clear, I won’t close my eyes…And I know that I can survive…I walked through fire to save my life

And I want it, I want my life so bad…And I’m doing everything I can…Then another one bites the dust…It’s hard to lose a chosen one

You did not break me (You did not break me, no, no)…I’m still fighting for peace…Well I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart…But your blade it might be too sharp

I’m like a rubber band until you pull too hard…But I may snap when I move close…But you won’t see me move no more…Cause I’ve got an elastic heart…Well I’ve got thick skin and an elastic heart…But your blade it might be too sharp

Lamb- Gorecki

If I should die this very moment…I wouldn’t fear…For I’ve never known completeness…Like being here…Wrapped in the warmth of you…Loving every breath of you…Still my heart this moment…Or it might burst

Could we stay right here…Until the end of time until the earth stops turning…Wanna love you until the seas run dry…I’ve found the one I’ve waited for

All this time I’ve loved you…And never known your face…All this time I’ve missed you…And searched this human race…Here is true peace…Here my heart knows calm…Safe in your soul…Bathed in your sighs

Wanna stay right here…Until the end of time…’Til the earth stops turning…Gonna love you until the seas run dry…I’ve found the one I’ve waited for… The one I’ve waited for… All I’ve felt was leading to this

All I’ve known…All I’ve done…All I’ve felt was leading to this…All I’ve known…All I’ve done… The one I’ve waited for… The one I’ve waited for

Wanna stay right here… Til the end of time ’till the earth stops turning… I’m gonna love you till the seas run dry… I’ve found the one I’ve waited for

Wanna stay right here… Til the end of time ’till the earth stops turning… I’m gonna love you till the seas run dry… I’ve found the one I’ve waited for

The one I’ve waited for… The one I’ve waited for

Songs of failed relationships, songs of relationships completed. What a wonder… the heart drives words and rhythms.

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I was thinking about Venusians. Venus had been an early target for space probes, but we haven’t been back there in decades. Why? Perhaps because the probes sent back all the inportant information we needed. Perhaps it was because the Soviets beat us there with the first of many probes.

Perhaps because the surface is so harsh that nothing sent there lasted more than 54 minutes. Why go back?
If there were life, it would be life unlike anything known on this planet. Perhaps a little bit like the life found around the sulphur vents in the deep ocean.

Yes, the Venusians, if intelligent, would have very little in common with us.

I wonder what any other life forms would think of us? I’ve learned that we are heterotrophs. In fact, all animals and most fungi are heterotrophs.

Fancy word for life forms that live by eating other life forms. This is not an encouraging fact for creatures from another planet. Where are the boundaries?

I mean, let’s just say that Venusians are found to be intelligent, but also the best tasting, high protein, gluten free, low calorie, low fat, low sugar, non-allergic, food that provides all the essential nutrients and vitamins. Literally the perfect food!

Okay, sure, they are intelligent, but they don’t have to have a first name, (my current rule for the question, Is it edible?) And their thoughts, stories, philosophies, might have no relation to anything we can understand. But somehow we found out that Venusians make a great barbecue. And there is also a tremendous amount of Venusians, almost inexhaustible because there are no heterotrophs on Venus.

Hmm, decisions, decisions. By the way…autotrophs do exist. Most plants do not need living food, but that does not mean that they are safe. We find most autotrophs quite tasty if prepared well.

It might be said that vegetarians are kinder because the only eat plants. Kinder? Eating defenseless autotrophs, plants that can’t even run away?. Heterotrophs that eat other heterotrophs seems more fair. At least for the main entree.

Gotta stop thinking, I must be hungry.

(Reposted from 2017)

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The End of Childhood

I think Jack Nicholson copied Obert

There can be a lot of discussion about this. It happens to every person. One day, you are a child, the next day you are not. It certainly is not a calendar thing, or a particular age. It may also be different for every person. For some it might be an event, not necessarily an event that causes the change, but an event that brings the change into focus. For me, it was Halloween 1964.

It was the first Halloween that it seemed too ridiculous to dress up and go trick-or-treating. It was an end to a decade of crafting the methods to scam the neighborhood out of candy. It wasn’t just a full grocery bag, it was multiple full bags of candy. Enough candy to last through the winter and perhaps some stale candy corn into the summer.

Now, that was all in the past, and we were adrift, not old enough to drive, and too old to ride bicycles. What to do on Halloween?

It was the three of us; Jack (the athlete), Obert (the musician), and myself (undetermined). We thought it would be a good idea to walk the neighbor, and perhaps beyond. Actually, we thought it would be a good idea to walk by the house where the cutest girl in high school lived.

We certainly didn’t have eggs to throw, we weren’t planning any mischief. If we had a car, or a driver’s license, it would have been like “dragging the main”. We wanted to see, and to be seen.

Only one thing was unusual. Obert was wearing a shiny, deep blue football helmet. It may or may not have had a face guard. Later he did remove the face guard, but it might have been attached at this time. This was Halloween, but Obert was not dressing up as a player. Every time Obert left his house he had to wear a football helmet. Sometimes even in the house he had to wear a football helmet. It depended upon what he was doing.

Obert had a hole in his head. Specifically, he had a half-dollar sized hole in his skull with a thin layer of skin over his brain. When he had the helmet off, you could touch the spot with your finger to feel his brain pulsing, probably not with thought, just blood. Also the stubble of his hair was growing back.

That summer Obert had lived in Battle Mountain, Nevada. Not much to do in Battle Mountain but drive around. Obert didn’t have a driver’s license but he could be a passenger in the back seat. I can’t remember who was in the front seats but it is safe to say they weren’t careful drivers. On a long uphill incline they decided to pass a slower vehicle. They had done this several times. This time, near the crest, another vehicle was in the lane, and it was a head on crash. I don’t think anyone was killed, although everyone should have been seriously hurt. Obert was in the backseat without seatbelts. They didn’t often exist at that time. No one is quite sure exactly what happened, but Obert flew over the front seats head first, and perhaps hit one of the radio knobs, and punched a hole in his skull.

The surgeons removed the bits of broken skull and sewed over a flap of skin. The intention was to allowed the skull to grow, causing the hole to shrink and -provide a ledge to drop a steel mesh to protect the brain. In the meantime, go home and take two aspirin.

So, Obert came home and joined us on our stroll through the neighborhood. Everything had gone very well, especially considering one guy seemed to partially dressed as a nondescript football player. We did not beg for candy, nor did we trick anybody.

We were several blocks from our destination (the pretty girl’s house) when we heard a car come to a quick stop. Three or four guys jumped out and proceeded to jump on us. There was a lot of pushing and shoving. No real fists swung, but they were armed with cans of shaving cream. Jack resisted, so at least two of them were wrestling him to the ground. Obert had the attention of one guy with the shaving cream, and I was free to run up the nearest porch to bang on the door. No one answered.

Jack had broken away and ran up on the porch next door to bang and yell, “Mom, Dad! Open up!” Looking back I could see that the guys were heading back to their car, but not before they had all emptied their shaving cream cans into the holes of Obert’s helmet. Jack yelled something about Obert being hurt, but they didn’t listen. Obert lay half in the street trying to scoop out the shaving cream from behind his glasses. We both came down to help him stand up. We could see the car about halfway down the street with their brake lights lit up. I don’t know if they were intending to turn around, or just stopping for another victim.

Jack stood there with a lot of anger building up. Frustrated, he reached into his pocket and found a decent sized pocket knife. Without unfolding it, he heaved the knife down the street at the car. To me, it looked to be at least a football field away, 100 yards! It was dark so we couldn’t really see if Jack’s aim was correct, or that he could throw it that distance.

Seconds later we heard glass breaking. Apparently the pocket knife had hit the back window of the car and shattered it. For a second no one moved, then we turned and ran, zig zagging around the corner and hiding in the bushes. We believe the cat turned around the follow us, but we hid so well that they didn’t see us.

Making it back to safe territory, home turf, took a long time, especially hiding from any oncoming headlights. Then we thought that they might have been searching on foot, so we hid from anything moving. Halloween was a busy night, we hid every few minutes.

We finally made it back, we had vestiges of shaving cream, a lost pocket knife, and a right of passage from our childhood. It was a good night!

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Latest Art

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Tamara de Lempicka Inspired

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Reflections of Online Teaching


I am so completely with you on your reflections. There are issues that are limiting by their very nature. As a visual artist I have spent years teaching students to “look through their tool”, to see the work clearly, to be so comfortable with your tool that it becomes transparent, and then your image will truly be successful.

This is easier when the tool is a pencil or a brush, it gets a little harder when it’s a computer with system and application software. (Easy is a relative term, I’m good with a pencil, horrible with watercolor, great with Photoshop.)

The point is to be so comfortable with the tool that creative energy is not diverted from the true purpose… making an image!

I’m a little disappointed that when I see something I can’t just click in my head and the image is saved. No, I have to find my camera, load the film, set the dials, develop the film, and finally make the print. Oh yeah, and then there are all those decisions I have to make on lens, shutter, aperature, etc.

There is a lot of crap that suddenly comes between my vision and the final print. So, now we have digital and even more crap, the final image seems to be pushed further and further away.

This is all true. What is also true is that it is different. A digital image is immediately available for correction or editing. Digital cameras are in everyone’s hands. Images present themselves everyday, and everyone now has a camera. Running out of film is no longer an excuse (mostly). There are dozens of significant differences.

So on-line teaching may be the same thing. It doesn’t give the same face-to-face experience. We don’t see the “aha” moment that makes it all worthwhile. My (your) passion may not come through as easily, and spontaneous teachable moments harder to capitalize.

It may take a few semesters to fully understand the benefits. Access to more students? Consistent education that can be fine tuned? Flexibility for student and faculty? A longer teaching life? Better and more current resources?

Is everything new better? No, but everything new and tested should be!

I think it takes an educator to embrace the change, with the understanding of what is lost. And then assess the importance of that which is lost.

I am hopeful!

(Ha! And then be clever enough to do all this writing in Notes, because Canvas is crashing every two minutes.)

(Written in 2015)

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Testing Some Ideas

The first idea that I would like to ponder is “nature versus nuture.”. This is an idea that has gone through vast swings in popularity. Since the 1990s, with advanced studies in genetics, the importance of nature has increased. The idea of “tabla rasa”, or “blank slate” has been more the standard concept for the last 300 years. Several philosophers have suggested that humans have no instincts at all, unique among animals, and that everything we known or become, is based upon nurturing. Doctors become doctors because of training, kings become kings, and criminals become criminals, all based upon experience entirely.

The idea that there might be a genetic propensity was completely dismissed. There is a very good history of the argument of “nature vs. nuture” in Wikipedia, with decent references to current studies.

I have not partaken of any advanced studies in this area, but I have “noticed” some things in my life that have given me some questions.

I do not like swimming, hated being in the water, yet I am a natural sailor, and understand the concept without training. The training I did have only improved my natural abilities.

I’m very good at needlework, any type of sewing by hand. It just seems very natural, comfortable, and the products are strong, durable, and functionable.

Ancient weapons are more comfortable than modern, although I am an expert marksman. Edged weapons most natural, archery the next most natural. Practically there are two “sighting” systems in archery. One is based upon placing the tip of the arrow on a point of ground in front of you, then adjusting the arc of the shot until the arrows hit the target. The other in “instinctual”, where you just shoot your best shot. I can do both, but I almost entirely use the instinctual method.

I have never been comfortable with horses, and they seem to know that.

I have always been comfortable with dogs, and they seem to know that.

I’m very comfortable with “linear mechanics”, simple systems of cogs, shafts, levers. Being a watchmaker is not beyond my abilities. While I understand “programming”, it is not comfortable. I was trained in quite complex digital cryptography, but it was hard work and not natural.

I can see and think with three dimensional accuracy. I was not great in algebra or trigonometry, but a complete whiz at geometry. Even my math teachers saw this as a little odd.

While I believe humans are mostly social, I have always been comfortable by being alone, or mostly on the edge of crowds. Sailing alone around the world presented challenges, but not because of isolation. Backpacking alone was not fearful, except for accidents.

Part of my interest in genealogy was looking at the known experiences of my direct line ancestors. I don’t know enough now to draw any firm conclusions, but I always think about the possibilities.

DNA tells me that I am 64% Scandinavian. The waters are too cold to encourage swimming, but sailing and boating have long traditions. Is this too general to make a conclusion?

Vikings did ride horses on occasion, but they are not known as horse mounted warriors. Axe, sword, spear, and archery were their weapons of choice.

Nature is very dependent on survival. Organisms with natural abilities to a successful survival continue to breed more organisms that survive. Definitely training can assist with increased survival. But can training alone give the best percentage rates?

I do believe the actual process is “hand in hand”, both are important. Particularly when one experience fails slightly. To deny either is foolish, to support one concept excessively is also foolish. In today’s culture we give more credibility to training and not enough to instinct.

I would encourage people to simply look at skills that seem “natural”, and ask the question, “What was the source of this skill?”

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Strange Beginings

Much of my reading history began at “Lane’s Hole in the Wall”, a store that was a collection of used items, either found or purchased. There was an auction hall right next door, so I suspect in the beginning that many items just drifted in from about 25 feet.

You could buy or trade just about anything at Lane’s. Later, I learned that he had one of the largest collections of WWII Japanese weapons in the Western States. He walked with a limp, so he might have been a veteran, or maybe from a motorcycle accident, or maybe both.

I wanted to buy a sword, but they were always too expensive for a thirteen year old. But Lane would certainly sell sharp edged weapons to kids. To pass the time after looking at bayonets and swords, I would look at his collection of used paperbacks. They were always less than a dollar each so I could buy several.

I had no knowledge of writers, so I purchased by genre and the cover design.

This was my first introduction to science fiction. I picked Robert Heinlien. I liked him so much that I went back to get every Heinlien book that he had. I did that with at least 12 other science fiction authors. One day I found a novel by Henry Miller. The cover said it was banned in many cities. I read it, it was racy, and I bought every Henry Miller book that Lane had. They were all published by Grove Press. I found out that the only bookstore that carried Grove Press in the East Bay was Cody’s Books in Berkeley. Three blocks from the Berkeley campus on Telegraph.

Naturally that placed a thirteen year old on the streets of Berkeley during the early 1960s. Probably the most exciting environment in the whole country. I remember I was a veteran of the Telegraph community when I heard about a new neighborhood in San Francisco at the corner of Haight and Ashbury. Ha! Newbies! Anyway they didn’t have bookstores, just poster shops.

My last two authors that I obsessed with were Jack Kerouac and Alan Watts. I rotated paperbacks in my back pocket with the titles facing out so people could read, “The Way of Zen” one week then, “On the Road” the next week. Oh yes, I also read them several times.

That was probably the place of my beginning, “Lane’s Hole in the Wall”. And yes, he finally sold me a sword made in Toledo, Spain for five dollars.

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Cleaning up Language 2

‘At the end of the day”, or it’s even more inane second cousin “In this day and age” is clearly my number three and number four most irritating phrases.

Both suffer from the position that the speaker implies, namely, that the speaker has superior knowledge that trumps any refutation of their argument. I’m using the classic definition of “argument”, not that there is an actual confrontation.

It could be two friends who have a slightly different take on a subject. After a few minutes of give and take, one person makes the statement, “at the end of the day, blah, blah, blah.” End of the discussion. This is a classic denial of any arguments, or compilation of arguments, because when it is all added up it is meaningless. I win!

The only thing I can think of is to counter with an even more disrespectful response, “But in this day and age, blah, blah, blah!”

Gosh, I hope this hasn’t actually happened, because if I would have overheard this, I might have run away screaming as if my hair was on fire. maybe my beard, because I don’t have much hair left.

Both statements area last ditch efforts to “win” the argument with a wise and knowledgeable “last word.” The problem is that they are rarely coupled with actual facts that support the premise. “At the end of day…” is a compressed statement that suggests, dozens or even hundreds, of facts that have been looked at, assessed, and rejected. This vaguely works when the individual who states this has some credibility, and it is a very lazy way to sum up an argument. Make a list, provide assessments, like the old math adage, ‘show the work’.

“In this day and age…” has the same problems, it vaguely works when the speaker has great credibility, with appropriate knowledge. But it also has a back-handed quality that insults the other party. It is actually saying, “I know more than you about this, so you should stop talking.” The unfortunate thing is that the speaker may actually know more on the subject, but telling the individual to cease arguing is not the most productive way to have a discussion.

I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos of average citizens having discussions with authority figures. When the authority figure runs out of reasonable arguments, one or both of these statements are used. It is like everyone has been trained from a standard script.

To me, it’s like nails on a chalkboard.

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Cleaning Up Language

1st- “It was a miracle!”

So overused. “NES” the normal Hebrew word for miracles. The word actually means “banner” or signal. In Ancient Hebrew it is not the same word for miracles as Biblical Hebrew. Using NES is not wrong, but it isn’t direct, it references the miracle, it is mostly evidence.

In Biblical Hebrew, the word miracle is “mophyet”, from the root word of ‘bright’ or ‘wonderous’.

We need to put the word “miracle” into the spiritual context. It is not a word to describe the results of successful baking, or a successful car repair. It is a word connected to traditional issues in the world of faith.

Technically a miracle is based on eight principals

Healing disease…The deaf hear…The blind see…The mute speak…The lame walk…The lepers are clean…The demons are banished…The dead become alive

Again, all these things are only temporary. Only the miracle of salvation is permanent.

The forgiveness of sins can be said to be the greatest of miracles, the gift of everlasting life.

Basically, using the word “miracle” references the absolute impossibility of an act, without divine action. So many folks use “miracle” to describe acts that are possible, but only very remotely. It needs to be completely impossible.

(with thanks to Galen Peterson)

2nd- “It was meant to be!”

It would seem to be a very faithful response, but in a practical sense it is most often the exact opposite. A faithful response is understanding that your own reasoning is not relevant to the reality. When this statement is made, the first thing that should be considered is “according to who?”.

We are generally so self serving that it is tempting to place all statements in that context. I think that is unfortunate because it is so cynical. We are capable of higher thoughts. But it is reasonable to look through the filter of “self-serving”, particularly when we are justifying some action that could be G-D given, when it is really your own desires.

“It is meant to be” can only be true when the individual making the statement has been elevated to prophet status. This might have happened, but it is not a position that is self-defined. Being a prophet is not generally a choice. It fact, most individuals actively refused the position initially. And by the way, being a prophet does not give the individual a “golden pass” to being a good person.

There might be even more examples of individuals that were seriously flawed that performed for G-D’s will, and still had the same character as before.

There are so many ways that I find problematic in living a life of faith. The number one issue is to presume to absolutely know G-D’s will. The next is to help G-D without first asking “What can I do?”. And finally, “To give judgement,” based upon your own understanding.

Obviously they are all connected, and having a “humble nature,” is a safeguard for all things.

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Yes, this is Weird

Why does this happen late at night? Because you can’t see so well, dummy.

Well, I can hear twice as well at night to compensate.

About thirty years ago we lived in a house that had a central hallway that was a straight shot from the left outside wall, all the way to the right outside wall. It was a very wide house, from master bedroom, past a bathroom, two bedrooms, the living room, all the way to the kitchen. You could peek out the bedroom and see all the way down to the kitchen. We had a hanging basket of fruit and vegetables right there next to the door going to the garage.

Our garage was secure, no cars, just full of junk. But the yard was not secure. The side door to the side yard was the only serious issue of rot when we bought the house. We had been meaning to fix it. I was afraid it would come apart in my hands if I tried to open the door. I would be left holding a brass knob in my hand, a plank attached, and piles of door parts at my feet. It was on my list to do.

One night, quite late, I woke up. Sherry still asleep, Zach sleeping soundly for a change, but I heard something. It sounded like it was coming from the garage,this wasn’t the best of neighborhoods, the county patrolled, the backyard ended with a drop down down to railroad tracks, and the bay beyond. It was a nice view, but sometimes during dinner, the Southern Pacific dining cars would go by slow, and we could watch them eating, while they were watching us eating. Sometimes we would lift a glass.

The point being, is that anyone could drive by the front yard, and anyone could walk the tracks next to the bay, and then come up through our yard. Before I put up a fence, we had fishermen, and duck hunters with shotguns, regularly cut through our yard to get to the bay. Like I said, not secure, they would walk right by the rotten side door to the garage.

All this went through my head seconds after I heard the sound that woke me up. Now this is important, “Was the sound real, or was it in my dream?” My choice was to take a peek down the long hallway and see if I could see anything.

It was summer, it was hot, I wasn’t wearing pjs. I had seen enough TV shows to know that I should peek while I was laying on the floor, nobody is watching down that low. I looked, and just then I heard another sound, not a super loud sound, but it was coming from the kitchen or garage, I couldn’t tell. I recoiled backwards to consider my next steps.

I was young and foolish, I woke Sherry up, had her grab Zach, while I grabbed my semi-automatic that I used while going backpacking in the wilderness. I was armed. I quickly got down, spread eagled on the floor, looking down into the kitchen. It was dark, very dark, I couldn’t even tell if the door was open to the garage, but then I saw movement. Very distinct movement.

I said in a very loud and authoritative voice, “Freeze! don’t move an inch”. To my surprise, he didn’t move anymore. He was frozen, I was frozen. It was clear that we had a stand off. He was dressed like a ninja, all in black, I couldn’t see if he was armed. I was armed, and laying naked on the rug. Who was going to move first?

A few seconds passed. Maybe a few minutes. Finally, I worked to my knees, telling him again not to move or I will shoot. I moved to the next door opening to a bathroom. I could see a little better, but still not enough, so I went down to the next door opening. Now I could see the fruit basket slightly swaying. Was that the movement I saw? Did it start by brushing up against the garage door? I moved very cautiously forward.

Finally I hit the living room area where there was a light switch. I could now see him, and he could see all of me. Except there was nobody. I flipped the safety back on, and lowered my weapon. The basket was still swinging very slightly. I opened the door to the garage and turned on the lights, it was still full of junk, and the rotten garage side door still in one piece.

The only thing that came to mind is that the cat had gone berserk and jumped into the basket looking for something to eat. She had never done that, but it was possible. The second noise I heard was when she jumped out. I couldn’t see at the time, Nissai is a black ninja cat.

Okay, I do not share this often. I have friends and relatives that assume I have weapons, it is just politically not correct to suggest that there might be a time when I might use the weapon.

That was more than thirty years ago. That’s a long cycle. I’m staying up late, looking at my genealogy database in my recliner, with my back to the window with the air-conditioner. That’s important because it’s winter and I should have removed it, so that I could shut the window. There’s a draft, and I can hear outside real well. Everything is dark except the one room where I’m sitting.

We had a crew here, painting the house. This side of the house is almost three stories tall, so there are several long ladders leaning against the house, leading to the roof. During the day I could actually listen to one of the painters breathing heavily as he was stretching out with his brush, right outside the window behind my chair.

But this is not the daytime, this breathing was sometime around 1:00 am, no moon, and very dark, except the one dim reading light, and my iPad screen. Outside it was zero visibility. Then I heard the sound. It was a breathing sound but not regular like a sleeper. My dog and my cat both make breathing sounds while sleeping. The cat was in my lap, and the dog was downstairs, and besides, this was behind me, outside the window, perhaps standing on the ladder. At ONE in the morning!

Okay, that’s the first thought, you don’t get up and run like your hair is on fire. You test the hypothesis. “Is the ladder still there?” It was there at sundown. “Could he see inside?” Oh yes, most certainly. “Can you still hear the sounds?” Yes, but faintly. “If I move do the sounds stop?” No they don’t. It’s a power recliner, if I hit the switch, it will make a noise and he will see me getting ready to stand up. Their breathing was still soft, but irregular, almost as if he was busy doing something with his eyes closed. Gross!

Yep, too busy to notice that I had gotten up out of the chair. I hit the lights in the dining room, knowing it will light up the whole side area, including the ladder. Then I could race to the back doors leading to the deck, and I could go out and see him before he has even gone down the ladder. So, I did catch him in the act. He was not up the ladder, he was right below it, and that was his bad luck. He wasn’t alone.

It’s still pretty dark but I could still see the tangled up bodies right below the window, and I was right about the odd breathing patterns. Suddenly they could see my outline above them and they scattered in different directions to the street. It was darker there, so I couldn’t get a description, but I could hear their hoofs as they clattered towards the creek.

Maybe I saw just a shadow of some antlers, but this time I didn’t yell “Freeze!”

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We Make It So Easy!

There was a moment there, when I first heard it, that I felt that I had been asleep, or inattentive for some time. Like a Rip Van Winkel, deep asleep, while bowling is all around him.

But then I woke up, and this new thing was being said, and I wanted to act like I knew what was going on, as if I was on the ground floor, or in the group that originated the word. It was one of those “short cut” words, packed with meanings that everyone understands, a word that came out of nowhere, but it was meant to be a help.

Or was it? As I get older I ponder these things. How does packing a word with just the right things so that everyone will agree that it is accurate make it helpful? The word that mysteriously appeared while I was sleeping is “Karen”.

It’s not a new word, it’s a perfectly good name, held by a lot of friends of mine, now, suddenly it is a shortcut to be used to define a particularly obnoxious, probably odious, creature of the political right. Yep, basically a political label. In the same basic category as “jap” during WWII. It’s a way to describe a person without getting into the specific details. Helpful in a sad, mean spirited sort of way.

It is defended by people because initially it is funny. Long after the funny is gone it will still sting as a rebuke, like most “short cut” words. Labels are also short cuts, but it’s easier to drop them when the excuses get long and tedious.

There are still a few negative short-cut names floating around. They are no longer amusing, but they appear useful. Like my own name John. As a child I was tortured by the rhyme “Johnny Pawny”, why that was the choice I was never sure, but the police knew what a John was. He was a sad, sex starved, customer of sexual favors. The women had other labels, but the customer was a John. Somehow it also got applied to the hapless victim, the famous John Doe. Short cuts!

The playground didn’t torment me with the phrase for a toilet. At least that “short cut” I could understand. The first successful wall mounted water flushing toilet was invented by John Crapper. So naturally, when nature calls you went to the John and took a crap, or left a crap load.

I digress…

Now, how long will the Karen’s of our culture suffer with this label. I dunno. People like their “short cuts”, it doesn’t challenge their thinking, so change comes fairly slowly.

I am reminded that when a young lady was cute, it originally meant “knock-kneed”. It only took about thirty years for the use to change. There is a bit of passion with this “Karen” label, it might take longer.

Perhaps if we act as if we have been asleep, and simply asked the users of the word to explain what they mean in longhand.

It’s a thought.

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My Connection to The Stooges

Okay, so the biggest connection is that I married my wife. Her mother was born in Pittsburgh, but her grandmother Jennie, was born in Yurburg, Lithuania. A sad story, because in 1941 the Nazis, along was some local Lithuanians, murdered all of the Jews that had lived in Yurburg. Jennie, Esther, and Meyer had made it to the US. Taube did not make it and perished,but one of her six children, her daughter Esther did make it,

Jennie was my wife’s grandmother, her brother Meyer settled in Ohio. Meyer married Lillie and had three daughters, the eldest daughter was Doris. It had long been rumored that Doris was somehow connected to the Three Stooges. I could not see how.

Doris married to Norman Howard so that was the connection, except there was nothing. Then I found that Norman’s real last name was Horowitz. Ah ha! The last names of Stooges was also Horowitz!. Things began to fall into place. Norman’s father was BJ Horowitz, and he had four brothers. Three of the brothers were Moe Horwitz, Shemp Horwitz, and Curly Horwitz. Larry Fine was the third Stooge, and Shemp had replaced Curly for a time.

BJ’s father was Solomon Horwitz, and he had escaped from Lithuania as well. I saw that he was born in Kaunas, the regional town that had a prison, where the Jews that had survived the first days of the invasion had been taken.

1,000 Jewish citizens were murdered the first day of the invasion, in the woods, in the cemetery, on the streets. Another 1,000, (the rest of the families of Yurburg), were taken to Kaunas and placed in the prison. If Solomon had stayed, he would have been placed there with his other relatives. Within a few months all of the prisoners were murdered as well.

They say that comedy comes from pain. The Pazer and the Horwitz families know about great pain.

I’m glad that I am related to the Stooges, even if it is only through marriage. But my children have a direct connection, they need to celebrate.

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No, not the Hollywood version, the historical guy! Vlad the Impaler “Tepes”, “Dracula, Prince of Wallachia “. Yep, he was a relative, not a direct line grandfather, he was an 8th cousin, 18 times removed, not a close relative but still a blood relative.

Speaking of blood, he did not drink it, nor did he have hollow fangs to suck the blood out of young women’s necks. He just had lots of 12 foot poles sharpened at both ends. One end went into the ground, one end went into the person, then the whole thing was pulled upright, and the person looked like a popsicle, slowly sinking on the pole. Sometimes it took days to die of blood loss, or organ damage. The pole wasn’t so sharp that it acted like a spear. It was rounded enough to just shove organs to one side as gravity did the rest.

Impaling was made into a fine art in his kingdom. There was a time when an invading Turkish army passed by a valley where 20,000 of Vlad’s victims were impaled. The generals decided not to invade the country, saying if Vlad would do this to his own people, then what would he do to an invading army? Okay, that might not be true.

Another famous story is about a jeweled, gold cup that was available at a public well. Anyone thirsty didn’t have to drink from the bucket, or a ladle. They could freely use the cup. When a traveler asked how come the cup hasn’t been stolen, they were told that stealing was a death penalty by impaling. The cup was never stolen in Vlad’s reign.

Decades later Vlad is turned into a Count that sleeps in a coffin. It was scary when I was a kid. I would have been more scared if I had known about the historical character.

One story that appears to be true is that Vlad had a dinner party that he throwing for his royal telatives and the power elite. They gathered outside at long dinner tables, being served by the castle staff. Midway through the dinner, at least a dozen condemned criminals were led out and impaled, completely surrounding the dinner guests.

Vlad commanded that the guests stay, saying it was the price of their privilege. Quite a dinner party!

Vlad is too interesting to not write about, just because he isn’t a grandfather, sometimes cousins make the grade.

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Follow the Truth

Yes, that is a good thing. But how do we know it is the truth? So many things seem to on the basis of “a consensus of opinion”. Well, what if my opinion is different? Am I knowledgeable enough to have an opinion? Is my difference just a gut reaction to a collective mindset?

Truth can be a squirmy thing, with a mind of its own. It doesn’t take it’s existence on the basis of a group of people agreeing or disagreeing. It doesn’t care that not one single person understands. I used to think, truth is patient in a way, or perhaps I’m just putting a conduct that totally foreign to its essence, truth just “is”. Embrace it or ignore it, it doesn’t matter. It just has consequences. /

Hah! I’m reminded of a small town in New Mexico that was nothing special, they had no claim to fame, nothing particular about the town. This was also during the explosion of radio and the various offerings the networks placed on air. The nation was totally thrilled with a new game show that everyone enjoyed, it was “Truth, or Consequences”.

Yep, that’s right this small town of Hot Springs, NM changed their name to win a radio contest based upon a desire by Ralph Edwards, the host, to have a city called Truth or Consequences. In May of 1950, the town changed its name. Edwards visited the town in May, every year, for the next fifty years. It’s called Fiesta Week. Later the radio show became a television show.

The truth was discovered, but everyone was thrilled to observe the consequences.

Last week, I was faced with my own “truth or consequences”. I admit that I have a passion for genealogy. It’s mostly harmless, I’m waiting for a grandchild or great grandchild to take interest. Mostly my immediate family just smile and nod their heads politely. Hey, my Uncle Ben colleceted buttons when he was older. He just looked at your shirt, reached up and ripped one off if it was interesting. Older people need a hobby.

Anyway, I got a message on my Ancestry program about a new hint concerning my great great grandmother, she is not that far away in the timeline, yet a pivotal person that led to future connections to thousands of interesting people. People that I have written about, people who I spent some time doing additional research. So I clicked on the hint, and about 8,000 interesting people vanished from my database. Poof!

Reflecting about it, I wondered about the proof of the truth. Why should I except this “hint”? It was one silly piece of data, that had huge consequences, but was it the truth? It really was from left field, the individual was the father of the child that led to thousands. Now the thousands were only connected to the step-father. The child, and me,were on the other side of the genetic gap. This was the consequence!

The new father had no history, it was impossible to find a connection that he had ancestors. I did find several references that he was the real father of the child, so I did find the “truth”, but it left a bitter taste. Oh well.

Then I happened to look at a backup database that had more individuals, but was undeveloped. I sometimes looked at it to get additional information. I went to the break in the line, and sure enough it was there all along. The step-dad was there, the real father was there, the genetic gap was there. What was also there is that the mother of the child, the wife of both the step-father and wife of the blood father was also from the same family line. It seems that she was a cousin of the step-father.

The result, or consequence, was that the 8,000 missing individuals in the database were suddenly back! Not only that but somehow one generation closer. Initially I never traced her background, because the given hints came from the step-father.

Embrace the truth, it may lead to great consequences!

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A Wise Saying

There is an old Jewish saying, “the death of one man, is the death of a nation!”

Well, no truer statement can be made as I have learned so painfully in the last few minutes. I have been known to collect interesting stories based upon my internet research of my family tree. I’ve told many folks that the records of royalty can be much more trusted than the earlier records of commoners. Who double and triple checks farmers? Well, I do!

Yet, the danger is that one little error in the bloodline that leads to royalty can wipe out the same connection to the whole family. Poof!, they still exist, but they are no longer connected. I have been very careful to only research grandparents, not uncles or cousins. I wanted a solid paternal/maternal connection. It’s difficult when so many people have multiple wives or husbands, you can’t just assume that the one you pick is the right one. I’ve done pretty good, and I have lost several generations of people when I discovered that I picked the wrong marriage (or consort).

But this one was bad. I got a new hint from Ancestry. A new connection was found. I looked at the data. It seemed pretty conclusive that a new birth father was found for Catherine Bergmann, an important grandmother in my line. She was important because her father, Johann Bergmann lead to the Hammersteins, which led to al the royalty that I found. Hahaha, thousands of them!

The problem is that apparently Johann Bergmann is now proven to be her step-father, no actual blood relation! Catherine’s blood father was another poor German father with no records. Hahaha, he might be connected somehow to the same bloodlines, but I’ll never know.

With one stroke of a keyboard, hundreds, thousands, of individuals disappeared from my record. Hundreds of hours of interesting research now belong to her step-fathers line, but not hers, or mine.

I’m just amazed about the ups and downs of genealogy.

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Black Friday Thoughts

I’m trying hard to wrap my mind around the day after Thanksgiving being called Black Friday. Clearly, this isn’t a thing where “Black is bad!”, but it also isn’t “Black is beautiful”. It’s just the day after a national holiday to celebrate giving thanks, but somehow, it’s gotten known as the start of shopping season. Okay, so maybe it’s a way to keep your company “in the black”. Perhaps shopping for Christmas, but maybe just shopping for shopping sake.

It’s not widely known, or even remembered, that President Franklyn Roosevelt actually changed the date of Thanksgiving. It had been on the first Thursday by one president, and the fourth Thursday by most presidents. In 1939 FDR changed it to the third Thursday for federal employees, but half the states still celebrated on the fourth Thursday. Confusion reigned for two years, but finally Congress passed a law saying that President can’t change the date, and mostly it was going to be on the last Thursday of the month, so long as it wasn’t later than the 28th of the month,

Why was it changed? The National Retailers lobby. Apparently it was thought to increase sales, perhaps by having two Black Fridays before December comes around. When you want out of a Depression you will try anything. Who knew that a war was coming?

Now that the virus is keeping people out of the stores, there is a big on-line shopping push. This has been going on a few years before the virus, I remember back in the day, before the dot.coms, that selling things online was verboten. Two big problems, no one trusted credit card numbers on the internet. It was the height of stupidity to use a credit card. They even created credit cards with limited cash, cash that you would deposit just before using the card, for only the internet purchase.

The other reason was that most of the early users of the internet wanted to keep it pure of commercial purposes. If you tried to sell something you got swamped with bogus emails, crashing your system. They finally created the domain so that the purists could have .edu, .gov, and .org to themselves. How soon we forget, or never knew!

I’m still not in the shopping mood. Isn’t isn’t until three days before Christmas that I realize that I’m missing some joy, and then, the terror hits that I do not have enough time. I never learn, it’s the same every year. Perhaps this year….

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Last Road Story


The last road story is up on In December I have two more in the pipeline, and one more story rattling around my frontal lobes.

It’s an interesting process, words… Words that want to become. To push Michelangelo’s metaphor yet again, “the figure within”, or better, “the words that need forming”.

An easy link.

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Tribute to Hodja 2

The girls were fighting, there were doors slamming. My peace was being disturbed. My wife didn’t seem to mind, she went on with her morning as if nothing was wrong. I glared at the stairs leading down to the landing. I would have to go down those stairs, then up another set of stairs to the girl’s bedrooms. It took a lot of energy to bring peace.

“Girls! Come up her right now!” It was better to have younger legs moving up and down stairs.

When they presented themselves, I asked the older one to explain the problem without being interrupted.

She described a very long and detailed issue with the shared bathroom. It was full of disappointment and extra work.

“You are right! I can see the merit in your response!”

Then the younger one responded with her long and detailed issue. It was full of disappointment and lack of respect.

“You are right! I can see the merit in your response!”

At this point my wife looked up from her work, and said…

“That isn’t fair! You can’t sit there in an attempt to resolve a conflict by agreeing with both parties!”

I looked at her in amazement..

“You are right, also! I can see the merit in your response!”

“What was that terrible noise late last night? I almost got out of bed to investigate?”, my wife asked.

“Oh, it was nothing, my jacket slipped down the stairs.”

“That can’t be! A jacket doesn’t make that much noise!”, she argued.

“It does if you’re wearing it!”

It was late one night, the wind was blowing, and lots of noise was coming from around the outside of the house. My wife was in bed, snuggled under quilts, while I was up stairs reading, and listening to the storm.

It was then that I thought I heard something on the front porch, and maybe even the front door creak open.

I went over to the landing to look down at the foyer. It was a bad feature of our house that there was no light switch upstairs to turn on the light downstairs. I looked in the very dim light and thought I saw something standing by the closet.

“Freeze!” I said, not loudly, because I dint want my wife to wake up and get in the middle of this. Apparently he had heard me, because he froze. no movement!

I pondered my next step, do I wait until he moves? Do I say freeze again? Do I walk down the stairs? Can he see that I’m only pretending to have a weapon in my hand?

I slowly reached into my pocket to get my pocket knife, and slowly pulled out the blade. The stand-off maintained, he didn’t move, and neither did I.

Minutes passed, perhaps it was hours. In my tension, I discovered my legs tightening up. I would have to move soon. Then, I thought I saw a shoulder move slightly!

In my desperation, I flung the pocket knife with all my strength, coupled with a wild yell!

My wife came out of the bedroom, and turned on the lights in the foyer. There was my jacket, hanging on the closet door, with my pocket knife sticking in the shoulder.

“Thank G-d!” I declared.

“Why are you thanking G-d?”, she asked.

“Well, just imagine what would have happened if I was wearing it?”

I’m sitting on the back deck, enjoying the afternoon sun, looking at the wonder of G-D’s creation. The giant oak tree that had split several years ago, has repaired itself, at a small shoot that had sprouted from the left stump, was now a sturdy tree several stories high. The tree seems heathy although it has been years since I’ve seen acorns falling.

I mused about G-D’s design that the mighty oak bore such small acorns, while the spindly, and lowly vine grew such great pumpkins!

The wind blew softly, and I could hear the leaves tremble. Just then, a single acorn fell and hit my head.

I looked around, amazed, and at first, confused. Then I laughed, and thanked the Lord. I was reminded that if I had designed the world, the great pumpkin would have surely smashed my head.

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Auðr the Deep-Minded

By now I’ve gotten used to finding my great grandparents with additional naming devices. Harald “Bluetooth”, Alfred “The Great”, Godefroi “The Captive”, Harald “Hard Ruler”, Charles III “The Simple”, Æthelred “the Unready”, and even Eystein “The Fart”.

But now I have Auðr “the Deep-Minded”. Wow! She must have been something in addition to being my 38th great grandmother.

What did she do to earn this sobriquet? According to Wikipedia a tremendous amount.

First she was the second daughter of a Norwegian hersir, a military leader of a hundred men. She also married well, to Olaf “The White”, son of King Ingjald, who had named himself “King of Dublin”. After Olaf was killed in battle, Aud took her son Thorstein to the Hebrides, later he became a warrior with many raids into Scotland. After Thorstein was killed in battle, Aud decided to secretly build a huge knarr longboat. Aud knew that she didn’t have UCB of a chance to hold on to any of the territories that her son had conquered.

So she loaded up the longboat with the surviving family, servants, warriors, and slaves, and secretly sailed into the North Atlantic with her at the helm. Sailing with twenty crew and a dozen prisoner/slaves, she set sail for Breiðafjörður in Iceland.

There she made free-men of the prisoners/slaves, only requiring that they accept the free land being offered. Unlike most early Icelandic settlers, Aud was a baptized Christian and is commonly credited with bringing Christianity to Iceland. Aud erected crosses where she could pray on a prominent hill within her lands, now known as Krossholar.

Clearly, my 38th grandmother earned the title of “deep-minded” as she become one of the earliest settlers of Iceland, and gave leadership and safety to her family.

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Tribute to Hodja

So I’m constantly losing the channel changer, the clicker, or the remote. My wife misplaces her hearing aide. She has a built in GPS, but it has no beep. Fine, it’s lost in the house. How does that help? At least it’s not in the parking lot at the swimming pool.

The remote/clicker/changer is obviously in the house, it has no GPS. It probably is in the canyons of the chair, or couch. It might also be with the spoons, or single socks, wherever that is. I’m hoping it’s not on a shelf, or random horizontal space that is free.

I’m on the back patio, looking at random horizontal spaces. My wife asks why am I looking there?

I reply, “There’s better light out here!”

My wife asks me if I want to walk the dog? I immediately put that through my want/don’t want filter. Apparently I hadn’t thought about it at all. Was she picking up on a signal that I actually wanted to do this? Or, was this a clever way for her to ask me to do this? I punted.

“He’s asleep under the pool table.”

Just then he barks at the back kitchen door, not once, but several times!

“He is not asleep, he’s outside on the patio!”

“Who do you believe? Your husband, or your dog?”

My wife asks me if I want to take a drive with her, to pick up some presents for the grandkids. I say sure, I’d like to spend some time with you. We get on ours coats, and head to the car.

My wife decides to drive and gets behind the wheel. I crawl up on the hood on the right side, facing her, wearing my warmest jacket.

My wife says are you mad? “Why don’t you get in the passenger seat, or at least in the back seat?”

“If I get in the backseat I will only be seeing the back of your head, coming or going. That’s not helpful in being together. If I get in the passenger seat, there will be the temptation to turn your head towards me, and that means taking your eyes off the road. That would be too dangerous for both of us. Out here on the hood we can still see each other face-to-face.”

“And I wore my warmest jacket!”

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Runic Alphabet

Feeling a little Nordic!
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Missing Teeth

(Another short story heading for Terror House Magazine)

I know this is going to sound weird. This is why I’m doing this in my journal. I do this for several reasons. I do it long hand because I don’t trust electronic snoops, I do it because I tend to aimlessly wander, if I’m trying to talk to someone, and I do it to organize my thoughts, because my brain tends to follow “bright shiny objects.”

I recently had two molars removed on the right lower jaw. This is important because two teeth in a row leaves a huge gap. Another issue is that the upper right molars have nothing to keep them in their place. Apparently over time, gravity goes into effect, and they drop down, and possibly out. I don’t like the chain reaction type of thing.

The main purpose of this journal entry is the tracking of my reaction to food!

Rip out two molars and suddenly food becomes a big deal. Right now if I’m not careful, something could slip over, and I’m compressing food between stitched up gums, and descending upper right molars. Even my food choices are changed. Soft mushy foods. Foods that do not have small seeds. Are they concerned that a blackberry bush will germinate in one or more of my tooth sockets?

So I decided to log my concerns about changes in my diet, based upon the change of my missing teeth. My dentist tells me that I could go for partial dentures. And then I’m back to normal. But how long will it take to get used to the hardware? And what if it gets loose and I choke on it?

I have too many fears. They asked me if I wanted implants, I wasn’t sure but apparently they wanted to know right away after the extraction, but later I could decide to go for the denture. Fine, I’d like the option.

I had the idea of a built in bridge, I already have one on the other side. The dentist said it wouldn’t work, there isn’t two teeth to anchor it. Can’t use an implant post, because it doesn’t move. It is drilled into the bone of the jaw. Teeth move around a bit, and if you tie it to a post it will just crack.

I feel like I’m learning too much about dentistry. I just want to eat the foods that I want.

It’s been a few weeks now, I’ve been to the dentist a couple of times, and the stitches come out in three weeks, it seems like a long time, but he says it looks fine, and try to eat the normal stuff.

I’m trying, but it’s different. Obviously I’m still reluctant to bite down hard on the right side, so I’m “chewing my cud” on the left. Food pretty much tastes the same, I guess no nerves have been damaged, but it certainly isn’t normal.

It’s been another few weeks and I have realized something. Ever define for yourself “comfort food”? Well, I have apparently lost mine. This isn’t a huge deal, I can still taste, but food that used to meet some sort of emotional need just doesn’t do it anymore. How can I go to the doctor or dentist to complain about the loss of “comfort food”? They would say it’s psychological. Maybe it is!

I have long suspected that food is somehow disconnected to the brain and logical sequencing. How many times have I gotten up, walked to the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, and then “woke up” wondering what I was looking for? Most of the it was “comfort food”. Hah! I still do it, but now I can’t find what I want.

I have recently used online shopping to try to find my missing comfort food. The old standbys are there, but I have no interest. The beef stew, the chili, the bleu cheese dressing… they all seem to have the same value. They probably taste the same. But they are not emotionally fulfilling. So maybe I need to experiment with some new food. What about jackfruit?

My online shopping cart list was getting longer, with dozens of odd choices. My personal shopper was commenting on the delivery that he never knew these things were available. I changed online grocery stores.

The new store had new, even more exotic food choices. Still the same story, it was food, but nothing was “comfort food”.

I had my last appointment for the stitches, and I thought I would just ask the dentist an innocent question about “comfort food”. His eyes widened a bit, but said nothing, except that it looked healed.

I asked why it took so long for the tissue to heal, my open heart surgery was good to go in a couple of weeks. He replied that the gums were not the issue, it was building up the bone in the jaw, for the possible implants later.

“Oh, okay. So the bone in my jaw is better?”

“Yeah, the bone dust implants seem to have done the trick.”

Wait… implants? Bone dust? I don’t remember bone dust. I was pretty loopy from the gas, but I don’t remember being cut open to scrape my bones.

“Bone dust? Hmm. Where did that come from?”

The dentist was quiet but the dental assistant seemed to take pleasure in announcing…

“Cadavers, they have a bone cadaver bank!”

Now I was quiet, very quiet. Why hadn’t I thought this through? Now I have “corpse mouth”. I can’t even undo this.

I left the dentist, and now I’m home with the internet. I have spent hours researching. Over and over the same two words seem to come up. “Cellular memory”, something that maybe even has DNA connections. Transplanted material that somehow has a subtle effect on the host body.

Great, it’s hopeless. I’ve lost my “comfort food”, and I have no chance to find the donor corpse in order to find the new “comfort food”.

I’ve hated Lima beans since I was little, maybe now I like them? Maybe I hate Fava beans. Ha! Hannibal Lecter loved Fava beans as a side dish. Wait…

Suddenly, I noticed just now, as I wrote the name Hannibal, my mouth started to salivate. Oh oh….

“Comfort food?”

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On Veterans Day

There is no point in me re-writing what has already been done so well. I give full credit to Julia Gusse and repost this excellent article.

By Julia R. Gusse

Every individual who has ever served in the U.S. military has taken an oath to support and “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic… So help me God.”

But with this oath, there was no expiration date.  And many veterans take this oath as seriously as the day they enlisted (10, 20, 40, 50 or 75 years ago).  I have met veterans throughout the country that are still committed and “serving.”

A few years ago I attended a Veterans Day event. Along with being thanked for my service, a fellow veteran handed me a little wallet-
size card with the “Veterans Creed” which reads as follows:

I am a United States military veteran.
I mastered the weapons, tools, and techniques of war and security and I make no apology for the proficiency.
I became a leader by my willingness to both serve and subordinate myself to my superiors’, the mission and the needs of my team.
Foremost among first responders, I earned the ribbons of a volunteer, endeavor, defender, warrior, rescuer, problem-solver, and model citizen.
I am the visible conscience of a nation with regard to the costs of war and freedom’s true price.
I do not fail to support another vet who crosses my path with any need, large or small; he or she may have wounds or hardships that few others would understand.
I am part of the eternal flame of memory, of my brother and sister veterans who died in service to our country.
Honor, courage, and commitment define me to this day. I maintain my readiness, health, and fitness in order to serve again, should my community or nation call.
In all of the remaining moments of my life, I will be steadfast guardian of American ideals, freedoms, and history.
I am a one-percenter of the noblest order. I am… an American veteran.

I have kept this creed as a reminder of why I and so many others, veteran and non-veterans, do what we do.  There are many veterans who have committed themselves to helping our brothers and sisters in uniform and follow the creed but you do not have to be a veteran to help a veteran.

As Americans, on Memorial Day we remember those who have died in the service of our country and during Veterans Day we are to honor those who have served.  As our living veteran population grows, please make a commitment to assist and honor our veterans not only on Nov. 11 but every day of the year.

The “one-percenters” cannot do it alone and the commitment to honor and assist our veterans should be a commitment of all Americans.

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A Study in 1992

There were 47 transplant patients in a study published in 1992. There had been many unspecific reports of a condition called “cell-memory transference”. The concept that personal memories exist in cell tissue outside the normal brain tissue where memories are thought to reside.

The good news is that a whopping 79% of the studied patients felt absolutely nothing different after the transplant. They went on with their lives with the only difference that they had healthy tissues. Now, 79% of 47 patients does not make a resounding scientific fact, and 21% that feel something is different should call for a larger study. In fact, 6% of the 47 (for you math folks that’s 2.82 people) had significant feelings of change with the new transplant.

One patient was an emergency room doctor who had contracted hepatitis through his work, and required a liver transplant. He became more emotional, loved avocados, and enjoyed barbecue. None of these things were obvious before the surgery. Later he found that he had the liver of a young women who loved BBQ and avocados, and cried at emotional movies.

Okay, this seems suspicious. Obviously there are more books and movies that have explored this concept. Transplanted hands that want to strangle victims, transplanted corneas that see “evil” in people, transplanted hearts that are still in love with the people that they knew. Clearly, we can fabricate stories to fit any scenario.

But even a small Sam-lying of 47 with 6% having a big reaction should generate more studies.

So, at a breakfast with friends, three of the four have cadaver bone dust in there jaws. One one asked where the bone came from, but later found out. One body but me is concerned. Was he, or she a vegetarian? Did they hate Lima beans? Fave beans? Or maybe they loved Fava beans and human flesh.

I am hoping that my “comfort food” remains the same.

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It’s All Over

Okay, maybe it’s not. Who knows, the devil is in the details. The interesting thing is the silence of friends and family. Some are sad, but don’t want to say anything in case I’m celebrating. Some are happy, but don’t want to seem so in case I’m in despair.

I suppose it is mostly a case of “do no harm”. At least in the political sense. In some ways it is my own fault in that I have been unclear where I stand politically. I have long decided that individuals do not deserve my vote. I would love for that to happen, but heroes are hard to find. It’s much better to vote for platforms. If a platform wins then good, work with it. If a platform loses, then good, work with it. For all my thoughts of survival, I’m very optimistic.

There are basically four quadrants, 1) Good candidate personally (nobody is perfect) 2) Good platform (many promises kept) 3) Bad candidate personally (its an embarrassment) 4) Bad platform (Unworkable ideas that fail). In American politics we often get a mixture. Ideally the bad candidate and bad platform never get elected. In the best of times we get the good candidate and the good platform. Unfortunately these things are subjective, but over time, the truth is found out, and the rascals are voted out. That’s why I celebrate every election, because democracy wins.

I firmly believe we get the leadership we deserve!

And I hopefully will survive, unless someone puts me on the train.

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Brigida Haraldsdotter Gille

Riseberga Abbey, Sweden

Interesting person, my 23rd great grandmother. She was born in Hordaland, Norway. We think her mother was Tora Guttormsdatter Sudreim, but this is debated. Her father was Harald IV Magnusson Gille, king of Norway. Unfortunately she was also illegitimate as Tora was her father’s long term lover.

Her first marriage was to the Swedish earl Karl Sunesson, by which she had two boys, Algot and Knut Karlsson. Sometime after 1145 Karl was losing his influence, so she married Magnus Henriksson, who was an up and coming politician. It is thought that Magnus had arranged for King Swerker of Sweden to be assassinated. Naturally, Magnus became King Magnus II of Sweden, with Brigida as his queen. The Swerkers were still miffed with Magnus, so he only reigned for one year, and was killed in a battle for the crown. The Swerkers won.

Brigida didn’t miss a beat, and looked for a third husband. She found Earl Birger Bengtsson Brosa Skänkare of Sweden, and had seven children with him, four boys and three daughters. Unfortunately, three of her sons died in three different battles, so Brigida was in grief for a considerable time.

Brigida was a survivor, born in not the best of times, but she managed to have a family, and died somewhere between 70 and a 100 years old. She is buried at the Riseberga Abbey in Sweden. Thank you great grandmother.

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He was a Frank in service to the Emperor Gracian, also known as Flavius Richomeres, born 350, died 393. For a time he was Consul of Rome, he was also my 48th great grandfather.

How does this barbarian Frank become a Roman Consul? Well, first off, he was the son of a Frankish general named Teutomer, 310-363. Teutomer, was the Duke of Dacia Ripensis, the area in the northern Balkan peninsula, immediately south of the Middle Danube, roughly in Bulgaria. It was home to the 13th Twin Legion, also known as Legio XIII Gemina, a legion of the Imperial Roman army.

It was one of Julius Caesar‘s key units in Gaul and in the civil war, it was the legion with which he famously crossed the Rubicon on January 10, 49 BC. Emperor Julian made Teutomer the commander. Rome had felt it best to hire a barbarian to control the barbarians.

Teutomer’s son, Richomer, was trained as a Roman soldier, and eventually became head of the Imperial Bodyguards (Comes Domesticorum) of Emperor Gracien.

In 378, Emperor Gratien sends him East at the head of an army to help Co-empereur Valens fight the Goths, but the Romans are defeated at the Battle of Andrinople on 9 August 378. While Valens is killed in the battle, Richomer survived the rout and remained in the East, where he was second to Theodosius I, the new Caesar of the East. Again at the head of a Frankish and Roman army, he is ordered to march against his nephew Arbogast (possibly the son of Bauto) to quell his rebellion. Theodosius names him Master of the Militia for the East in 383, and then Consul of Rome in 384.

In 388, Theodosius sent him to the West to fight the usurper Magnus Maximus, and he defeats him at the Battle of the Save River, and forces his surrender at Aquilea, after which he executes him. After the assassination of one of the co-Emperors Valentinien II (15 May 392), Arbogast places Eugenius on the throne and Theodosius sends Richomer to fight them, but he dies shortly after his departure, leaving it to Stilichko, the Vandal general, to defeat Eugenius and Arbogast at the Battle of Frigidus on 6 September 394.

Richomer’s son was the future king of the Franks, Theodemir. He supported the usurper Emperor Jovinus (411-413) in the Roman civil war with Emporor Honorius. Jovinus was executed and his head eventually was displayed on the walls of Ravenna, and later Carthage, along with four other usurpers to the throne of Rome. In retaliation Honorius also sends a legion to capture Theodemir and his mother Ascyla, then had them executed. This pretty much guaranteed that the Franks would no longer fight for the Romans.

Theodemir’ s son Chlodégar, king of the Salian Francs at Cologne, and his brother Clovis, actively attacked the Romans, and is said to be the ancestors of the Merovingian Kings of France.

In just a few short years my 48th great grandfather, Richomer, who was a Roman Consul, produced a grandson who became King of France, my 46th great grandfather, Chlodégar.

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The Intersection

I’ve been pondering the complexities of “knowing” and “believing”. It’s oblivious to me that this is not a new concept, but sometimes it takes some research to find the shoulders of greater minds.

The closest I found was Thomas Aquinas, who spent his life studying Aristotle and blending philosophy with Christianity. He believed that faith and reason would lead to reality. Along with Albertus Magnus a rational view of the world came into view. Most people are familiar with Aristotle, even if they only know that his was employed as Alexander the Great’s tutor. Nice to know that the conqueror of the known world was led by the greatest thinker. Also, many people, particular those in religious circles, are aware of Thomas Aquinas, even though they might not be able to quote anything.

Hardly any people are aware of the importance of Albertus Magnus, apart from a few people majoring in philosophy/theology, (or attended the college in Connecticut).

Albertus Magnus, or Albert the Great, was a Dominican friar and bishop, who later became a saint. He lived 1200-1280 in and around Cologne, Germany. He was educated at the University of Padua in Italy, the second oldest college in Italy. Padua has just been founded by former students of the University at Bologna, the oldest university in Europe. Later, he was able to teach at the University of Paris, the second oldest university in Europe. It is safe to say that that Albert was very familiar with academia in the Middle Ages.

His expertise was generally Aristotle, and one of his best students was Thomas Aquinas. It is obvious that Albert had a great influence on the mind of Thomas Aquinas. Albert was the first academic to comment upon nearly all of Aristotle’s known writings. In addition, it was due to Arabic scholars that much of Aristotle was saved from destruction. Albert also wrote about the Arabic scholars Avicenna and Averroe, leading Albert to be at the center of academic debate.

According to Wikipedia, his writings included topics on logic, theology, botany, geography, astronomy, astrology, mineralogy, alchemy, zoology, physiology, phrenology, justice, law, friendship, and love. Obviously a curious and well rounded man. He outlived his famous student Thomas Aquinas.

While Albert was born very near to the death of Hildegard von Bingen, it would seem that he continued in most of the areas that Hildegard studied. He must have been aware of her work, and was obviously inspired by her depth.

Though he was a bishop and later a saint, his writing was mostly in philosophy and should be remembered as the greatest scholar of Aristotle.

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What I Know, What I believe

I know about physical mortality, I believe in spiritual immortality.

I know about free will, I believe in destiny.

I know about evil, I believe in the ultimate conquest of good.

I know about love, I believe it is attainable by everyone.

I know about science, I believe it is a gift from G-d.

I know about G-d, I believe in the existence of demons.

I know about the concept of evolving, I believe in evolution.

I know about a few concepts of time, I believe that time is truly unknowable.

I know I am sinful, I believe I am redeemed.

I know about the concept of purpose, I believe purpose is known over time.

I know about creation, I believe we can be makers.

(Starting a list of what you know, and what you believe, can be helpful.)

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I Believe

What a powerful statement! A verifying statement that determines the very existence of a thing or a thought. If you believe, it is there, if you don’t believe it isn’t there. At least that is one concept that is out there.

For example, there are two people arguing, one person makes a statement of fact, the other person hears that statement, processes the discrete pieces of information, and declares that he doesn’t believe. Now we have two people with two radically different ideas of reality. Theoretically there is only one reality, the question before us is whether realty is based upon an agreement with humans, in other words, that reality is based upon someone “believing”.

In many cases, this might be appear to be true. Humans can create potential realities that are described using language. The world is flat and the oceans fall off at the edge, descending into the Great Void. If one person hears this, and believes, then, it becomes a fact for him, and he will not sail too far lest he fall off the edge. If a person does not believe, he will sail, and no edge will appear.

Reality can appear to be created by “not believing”. Conversely, we can believe that gravity does exist by watching an apple fall from a tree. Because we believe it is real. Clearly stated this way, it is obvious that reality is independent of any humans “belief”. So where can we accurately use the word “believe”? I believe it is proper until we know! Just believing does not make it reality, but it is a preliminary stage to “knowing”.

A safe concept is to carefully observe reality, then declare that you believe that is exists. You are simply agreeing that you are observing correctly, and you can use that information in understanding more complicated realities. Knowledge is built upon correct observations. We don’t create the realities, we simply observe the facts.

Unfortunately the very word “believe” has the implication that “existence” is dependent upon a personal decision. This is the great dilemma in determining realty.

The silliest statement I can think of is “I believe in gravity” or “I believe in Light”. Yet we have an opinion whether we believe in evolution or “The Big Bang Theory”. In truth, both of these concepts are in the process of knowing. Some people are already there, they know! Some people are in the process so technically they “believe”. Some people do not believe, so they are comfortable in the denying of the existence. Reality is still reality, but are we in agreement?

The only way this is acceptable is by using the term “believe” until we know it is fact. We can’t allow a “belief” to remain as a static state. With careful observation, and repeated evidence, a belief transcends into a fact, and hopefully that expresses reality.

Does “false information” exist? Technically, if it is false, it does not exist, but only if we are correctly observing. Incorrect observation creates “false information”. And I believe (haha!) there exists a multitude of false information.

One last piece of information about “believe”, and that is being meaningful. Reality can often be perceived by humans as devoid of meaning. Believing is very often passionate, giving it great meaning. The solution to this is to be in awe of reality. Give great meaning, passionate meaning to the truth of realty. Unfortunately too many people develop so much passion in “believing” that they cannot accept the next step into “knowing” if it goes against a preconception.

We are complicated and ego-centric. Too many of us believe that we creat realities. There was only one moment of creation for everything. I know this!

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Worst Day in History

Norwegian Seed Vault

Time does exist, it may also be theoretical, but the reality of linear time is apparent to all. While “value” may be highly subjective, there has been some attempt to define the “worst day in history”. This could be seen as the birth of an evil dictator, a catastrophic meteor, the first use of atomic weapons, the election (or loss) of a presidency, or biting the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

In general, it is more than the event itself, but the linear consequences that follow the event, so pinning the “worst day” is very difficult. What part of the linear process is the crucial “point of no return?”

There are a couple of YouTube videos that suggest that 536 AD is the worst year to be alive in our history. More specifically, the early part of 536, due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland, North America, or El Salvador. We don’t know which or how many. In either case, it was the consequences that brutalized the world.

The amount of volcanic ash in the upper atmosphere created a “nuclear winter” for the summer of 536 AD around the globe. Creating famine and hardship for plants, animals and humans. Medieval scholar Michael McCormick, in 2018 nominated 536 AD as the beginning of massive changes around the world, including a mysterious “fog”.

There were Visigoths in Spain from 600-800 AD. They weren’t indigenous, they came from Romania, because they were being pressured by Huns coming from the East. The Huns left the East because of famine in the Tundra. It was a cascading effect of the volcanic “fog” that created Hungary. And yes, certainly Attila had something to do with the success of the Huns, but leaders rise due to challenges, or their people perish.

This is just one example, more and more historians are attributing the climate change starting in 536 to the end of cultures in various parts of the planet.

So today we have bunkers to survive the initial nuclear blast, but can we survive two or three years of ash in the sky, blocking out the rays of the sun? How do we regain our plant life? What happens to our seed crop? Every farmer knows to put aside seed to plant new crops. A bad harvest may require dipping into the seed crop to provide food. Two or three bad harvests will eliminate the seed crop and the “shortage” of food will become permanent.

Never fear, there is a secure bunker in Norway. In 2008, the Norwegians finished construction of the Arctic Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It has been filled with seeds of every kind of plant. It is super secret, no visitors, and it will be the place to go in order to replenish the seed crop for the worlds farmers.

I hope they have enough.

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