The Speed of Thinking

With in the framework of the laws of physics as we understand them today, we can say only that the universe came into existence when it already had an age of 10-43 seconds.

I am trying very hard to understand how the entire universe had an age (no matter how small) before it was created. Is this the speed of thought of the creator? Because we are speaking of creation, the exact moment of existence. The universe had an age before it existed because the creator had to think it into existence.

Nothing can be faster than the speed of light. Oh, wait, I stand corrected. Nothing is faster than the speed of light. At the moment of creation nothing, the vast void, had to expand in order for light to progress. I like it when the answer is so clearly stated.

Apparently there are three other three other things that are faster than the speed of light, but I have enough to think about fr the moment.

God’s thinking speed, and anything faster than light. Well, okay, I am thinking a little bit about Neg. matter, and it’s existence, or not.

4 Things That Currently Break the Speed of Light Barrier | Big Think

Posted in Commentary | Leave a comment

7 Things That Must Not Be Thought

I’ve been told that to write better, you must write more. Well, at first blush that would make sense, after all, practice makes perfect. Who said that?

There is the possibility that you can have thirty years experience, or you can have one year of experience, repeated thirty times.

To write better I should write more. Repeating the same mistakes until they are embedded as an edifice, fossilized in my core? I write more to be a better writer to write more… there is a cyclical nature to this. Riding a horse on a carousel doesn’t get you very far. Break the cyclical, create the spiral!

The endless spiral of a Mandelbrot fractal. I like the thought. A cosmic zoom of the spiral line that is actually infinite numbers of fractal spirals. The infinite measure of the coastline of any island. How is that possible when some islands are obviously larger than others?

The answer is that some infinities are larger (or smaller) than others. I find cold comfort in this statement.

I don’t know if that was seven things or not. It was a silly Buzzfeed title.

Posted in Commentary | 2 Comments

Another’s Shoes

It’s the Christmas season. It’s also the Christmas shopping season. Wow, I went to Target this afternoon. Not the most pleasant experience- I survived mostly by shopping in the food section. Not a whole lot of gift shopping in the frozen meatless patty aisle. Much less competition. Everything goes well, except I forgot a couple of items. No problem, I’ll stop at CVS on the way home.

Okay, so maybe I had some stale coffee this morning. Maybe it was the mid morning two hour teeth scraping, (I have two teeth that need to be watched. I’m not watching, but somebody is!) In any case, it is possible that my morning had set my teeth on edge. Ha!

I only had to purchase two items at CVS, NyQuil and chewing gum (is there gum that isn’t chewed?). Three items may require a list, four items definitely require a list. I was good with two items.

I like purchasing items that do not require further choices. I like to order Rubens for lunch. True, I like the tasty sandwich, but I like the lack of further choices. It’s rye bread, corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and thousand island. If the restaurant starts to ask questions like sourdough?, mayo?, ketchup?, Velvetta? and bison burger?… well, just run away. This is all to say that NyQuil is no longer safe. There appeared to be five choices of NyQuil and none of them said ‘original’. I did the best I could.

The chewing gum was right at the counter, easy in, easy out. I stepped up to grab four packs and then placed them on the counter. Immediately I felt a tap on the shoulder, “Excuse me, there is a line!”. “Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know!”,so I stepped to the next counter where the customer was having items packed up.

Then I looked around, realizing that there was no line. Perhaps the woman had created one, but there was no one behind her. At least I hadn’t been a complete idiot. If I saw her, I probably thought she was looking at some of the “point of purchase” displays. No big deal, she was getting her stuff checked, and I was in the next line, waiting for the bagging to finish.

That’s when I looked up and caught the eyes of the young man who was checking out the woman. He was looking at me with apologetic eyes. I’m not sure what that is, but when you see it, you know what it is. So then I focused on what the women was saying. I probably could hear the first part, but I wasn’t paying attention. Now that the clerk and I had a silent connection, I could hear the rest of the woman’s comment. She was talking about me, and how I had the gall to cut in front of her.

I was dumbfounded. I suppose I thought the apology was sufficient. Apparently not so, I was still a topic that she had to work through. So what was it? Male dominance? White privilege? Thuggish? Just plain crude Christmas shopping behavior? After all I had just been to Target. Too many categories that overlapped.

I was so confused that I didn’t notice that she had left, and the young clerk had motioned me back to his counter. I carefully checked to see if I was cutting, but no one was there. I looked at him, and he said, “Some people have an attitude…”

Trying to find a reason that made sense, I went through some of the various possibilities. I didn’t know what it was like to be a woman, I didn’t know what it was like to be black, I didn’t know what it was like to be a single mom (if she was?)… I didn’t know anything about walking in her shoes.

But that is also the point. No one really knows another’s experience.

Ha, I’m old, confused, I have bad eyesight, and my feet hurt. My early life was filled with beatings because of how I looked, my army years were punctuated by being spit on in airports, my professional life was marked by not being qualified for the jobs that I had. But none of that is known by those standing in line at CVS. And, would it matter if it was?

My rant this afternoon is to make a choice to be kinder. We don’t know the whole story to anything, even our own lives. Forgive yourself, forgive each other. Do it for the season, learn to extend it all year.

You can wear someone else’s shoes, but it does mean they will fit, nor will they walk the same path.

Posted in Commentary | 2 Comments

Earth Abides

I had mentioned that “Earth Abides” has been one of my favorite books. When I was in high school I frequented a very small junk store that had a fairly large collection of paperback books.

Appropriately enough, it was called Lane’s Hole in the Wall. It really had an amazing assortment of, well…crap, as my father would say. Lane collected everything, and then put a price on it for his store. Classic!

At least once a week I would stop by and look through the paperbacks. This was where I found my first battered copies of Henry Miller’s work. I also found a well worn collection of Walt Whitman. The bulk of my purchases were in science fiction. I wanted everything that Robert Heinlein had every written for example.

One day, after I had found a half-dozen random books, Lane reached under the counter and brought out “Earth Abides”. He said it was pretty cool, and it was written with local neighborhoods mentioned. I had never heard of the writer, but if Lane said it was good, then I went along with the .25 price tag.

I could not put the book down. It was absolutely wonderful! Filled with great natural science, and an amazing story set in the hills of Berkeley. I could even figure out where the invented streets were. Such a good book, and it remains so.

Fast forward fifteen years.

I was about thirty years old, and I was planning to hike the California Trail from St. Louis to Sacramento. I had purchased all the topographical maps necessary, I had read many of the journals, and I was thinking about setting out that summer. I had one more thing left to research. In general, the route taken once they crossed the Sierras was not well documented, particularly after gold was discovered.

There were about five passes across the Sierra Nevada mountains that handled about 80% of all the trail traffic. Sonora Pass, Carson Pass, Ebbets Pass, Echo Lake Pass, and lastly the famous, or infamous, Donner Pass.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I should break-in my equipment and maybe even train my body for the trail. My new plan was to delay the main trail, and use the summer to hike from Sonora Pass going north to Donner Pass and maybe a little beyond. I could spend several days at each one of the passes, going down the east approach, and then crossing to descend the western slope. It was a good plan and it would help me get ready for the larger trip on the following summer.

Naturally I did as much reading as possible, before my hike. I was going to use the Pacific Crest trail to get me from pass to pass. I had to mail food and supplies to several post offices near the trail in order to be resupplied. I had a recent copy of the Pacific Crest trail book which pointed out where the trail was still not well marked. Something about ribbons in the trees. My pack was about 65 lbs with my map borders trimmed and my toothbrush shaved. I had to save ounces.

I also had read everything about Donner Pass because my plan was to use this pass as the one used on the California Trail. The Donner Pass story was widely written about, but the best research was detailed in books by a University of California professor of history at Berkeley.

I read everything that he had, but then I thought I would visit him to ask for more specific information. That’s when I found out that he had been retired for several years. But the history department secretary said that he lived in San Francisco, and that he often made time for students and researchers. She gave me his number and I called for an appointment.

I had notebooks of questions, I really wanted to know things about the land, and if the wagon guides were following hunting trails. I suppose I wanted to know stuff that he hadn’t written about. Maybe even some secret places that he knew, where I could still see some evidence of prior trail use.

I made two visits, and he was very gracious in providing everything I wanted. There was a little confusion around the first visit. Upon entering I said that wanted more information about the book that he had written. He said fine, ask away. I then mentioned my plan to investigate the passes. He looked a little perplexed and said, “That book? People don’t ask me about the Sierras anymore, I just get visitors about that other little book I wrote.” “What book was that professor?”, I asked. “Oh, um, ‘Earth Abides’, nice little fiction book I wrote in 1949”

I was speaking to Professor Stewart, but I was also speaking to George R. Stewart, the author of my favorite science fiction book. By the way, he got the title from the Bible, the first chapter of Ecclesiastes.

It was the best day!

Posted in Commentary | 5 Comments

Parsing the Difference

I’ve been thinking about pain and suffering. What an introductory line!! Nothing is quite as depressing as morning thoughts of pain and suffering.

Things are not that bad. At least not yet. Yes, I do have some pain, and yes, I do have something that might fall into the category of suffering. This is not the reason for my thoughts.

It just occurred to me that the two terms are different- but people, and professions, are mixing the words as if they are interchangeable. I think they are different, and something is lost when they are used inappropriately.

I feel pain in my foot. I should take my shoes and socks off to investigate. I should remove the pebble, or dress the blister, and continue on. Pain is meant to be a signal that something is wrong.

The fastest nerve impulse travels about 250 mph. That means a burned fingertip will still have some damage before you can tell your finger to move off the hot surface. 250 mph from finger to brain, 250 mph from brain to finger to get it to move. Any sightseeing along the way will result in a bigger blister.

(As an aside, why is it that food that is too hot to hold, is apparently okay to pop in the mouth? The dampness does next to nothing in decreasing the heat. I am resolved to break the idiocy. If it is too hot to hold, drop it on the floor!)

So, pain is good! It gives us warning. One bad impact of leprosy is the lack of feeling in body tissue. Hands and feet were damaged by fire without being aware. Now that we have microwaves, we have removed one source of danger. But we could accidentally lean on hot surfaces, or not feel a bad blister on our feet.

Diabetes can also have that same effect. Nerves are damaged by high sugar, and feet and hands lose some sensation. Interestingly diabetes can also cause neuropathy which results in constant pain of pins and needles. Not a warning pain, it is a suffering.

Pain in the back might be a warning to cease activity before more damage occurs. Pain, as painful as it is, is actually a good thing, because mostly it is a short-term thing. I know that this doesn’t sound truthful. However, if you actually chart all painful responses you will find that short-term pain vastly out numbers the longer lasting variety.

Just one of the reasons that the opioid problem exists is that we are tired of pain, short or long term. Unfortunately, using opioids doesn’t just target chronic pain, we lose our warning signals, and at the same time we gain an addiction.

So where does suffering begin? Is there a benefit to suffering?

The word is loaded. When I think of suffering, I can’t help thinking about the community’s reaction. People suffer from natural disasters, people sense this and react to make it better. Groups of people suffer from disease, doctors and researchers find treatment to reduce the suffering.

Suffering is something you do while you are alive. In some cases, the pain is suffered, but the living is undiminished. I know far too many migraine sufferers that still lead productive lives. Chronic pain is not fun, and it cannot be ignored. It is just there, but people find a way to live along side of it.

Mostly, I’ve been thinking of the physical world of pain and suffering. The mental/emotional/spiritual world of pain and suffering has different rules and boundaries. Having experience with techniques in the physical world doesn’t always relate to success in other realms.

I must admit that I have yet to be challenged significantly in those areas. Although, perhaps there is a sort of “leprosy of the soul” that blocks my ability to assess mental/emotional/spiritual pain, without being a complete sociopath.

This thought process has gotten a lot darker than I intended.

All I wanted was to be clear when I was dealing with pain, and when I was living with suffering. I’m good with both.

Posted in Commentary | Leave a comment

Cosmic Rays

At some point can we just leave it alone and allow it to be a mystery? 

I’m referencing an article about the “big void” that appears to be inside the great Pyramid of Khufu. The lead headline states “Cosmic rays discovers Void”. I mean, who isn’t going to be interested? Cosmic, rays, pyramids…Voids!

The Pyramids have always been Cosmic! Hundreds, thousands, of people have spent time sitting under pyramids hoping for a symbiotic connection to Khufu. People have worn tinfoil-hats in pyramid shapes. Our currency has a pyramid topped with an eye, now that is certainly “Cosmic”.

Reading further it states that “muon” particles have been used to penetrate the stone blocks. What? Where did “muons” come from? I never read about muons. I could have used that in Scrabble. Heck, muons seem more important to me than voids in a pile of stone.

Admittedly, those stones have been mostly a mystery for about four thousand years. Now, muons are going to leave nothing unknown. It’s kind of sad really, the notion that man leaves “no stone unturned”. 

Well, thanks to “muons” we don’t have to turn over stones to find things, making the idiom pointless. I’m struggling to keep up.

Posted in Commentary | Leave a comment


I’ve been thinking about this for months on and off. It certainly is an American idiom, but as it does describe a universally human action, it may have more descriptive words in other languages.
The Western United States has a very colorful history. Many books written about shootouts and gun battles. Usually they occur in the dusty Main Street, with one opponent at one end, and the other opponent at the other. The winner was the fastest draw. Almost like the medieval belief that the strongest was right, blessed by God.
While “Might is Right” is an interesting concept, this was not what was happening in the Old West. It was more like “Sneak was Best”. Waiting at night in the shadows, then shooting the person in the back was more common than the duel in the street. I’ve even heard that there is only one documented occurrence where “the duel” actually happened. Most of the violence was more a surprised ambush. Although in the West it was called “bushwhacking” as the assailant crouched behind a convenient bush beside the road. It didn’t even matter to jump out if you still got a good shot under cover.

The term “bushwhacker” was applied to the individual who practiced this, and it was one of the worst things you can say about a person. According to Webster’s it was first used in 1866, the same year that “bamboozled” was used. Apparently this was a particular bad year for human behavior.

Most other dictionaries have a split in the word, in 1810 it was a person that lived in the forest, whacking bushes to get around. Later, during the American Civil War it described irregular troops that fought by ambush on the Confederate side, particularly in Missouri.

There are still “bushwhackers” today, and there are more than you might think. Without thinking about it, you may have done this a few times yourself. It’s not a good thing, but it does pop up now and again. And for some people they embrace it, and polish their abilities to a fine art.

I ran into one a few months back and it shocked me to the core. I was as surprised as some traveler walking down the trail when sudden rifle fire ripped up the landscape, trying to find my flesh. This time it wasn’t bullets, it was words!

Bushwhacking in conversation can be confusing, upsetting, and unnerving. It is always a surprise because of the very nature. Having an argument is clearly a problem, but you are not surprised by the comments, you are getting dished on, and you dish back. A bushwhack in an argument is like getting a frying pan hit your head from behind. Surprise! You lose!

 My logic tells me there are at least four reasons to bushwhack.

1. You love the power of the sudden win.

2. You don’t believe a “fair fight” will go your way.

3. You aren’t sure that you will win, but you love the chaos it creates.

4. You can’t use a gun, and this is the next best thing.

But what is the expectation or the motive? In the Old West you might get the traveler’s money. But what is won in a surprise attack during a conversation? It can be a show of knowledge which directs the listeners to the bushwhacker. An effective way to gain the praise of the audience, so long as you are subtle about the bushwhacking. It is also a useful way to pivot off to a direction that is less dangerous. I suppose this might be the best use of the technique.

Again, the secret thing about bushwhacking is the surprise. It is generally the bush that you hide behind, but it can be the nature of your relationship. You meet a new person at a church function and you don’t expect a surprise attack. This was what happened to me recently.

It was someone older than me, and perhaps fearful that his communication skills had lost a step. Certainly in earlier years he was quite impressive with positions and responsibilities. But now the years had passed and he felt he needed the advantage. In a very conversational manner he invited a question. Of course he already had the answer. And his answer was powerful enough that even if you agreed with him, he had the upper hand. And if you didn’t agree with him then you were toast, and everything you said thereafter was suspect.

Wow, it sounds like politics. I suppose the most polished bushwhackers today are part-time politicians. I say this because bushwhacking takes up most of their time.

The problem for me is that the element of surprise is no longer there. I expect to be bushwhacked by politicians. I do not expect bushwhacking in Church. Although I suppose some people feel that it happens a lot. At least, in my experience it is a rare thing.

What can I offer you from this experience? Not much! I can say, do not be surprised, and be cautious! This sounds good but mostly it is bad advice. Expecting attack every moment is a sad way to live. I can say to take just a quick moment after being “bushwhacked”, to analyze the event. What is the motive? Understand the dynamics! Perhaps even be compassionate about the reasons found.

Instead of countering and drawing yourself further in the bushes, you might say, “Interesting opinion”, and leave it at that.

Most importantly, if you find that you tend to “bushwhack”, try another way. Spend more time phrasing your argument with reason and care. In other words, don’t shoot from the bush beside the road.

Posted in Commentary | 2 Comments