This present moment...

" ... Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes you can open!  ..."

Today.  Today is a good day to remember what this little video presents to us. 


Unexpected Feast

Many years ago I took Oldest Son fishing from an ocean pier. 

It was a long drive to get there, but on previous trips there had always been fish.  Lots of hauling up small but edible seafood. 

But this one time, no fish. 

The bait (chicken liver!) kept being stolen by octopuses. 

An little old Italian-looking man watched us throwing the little octopuses back into the water.  "Those are good eating, you know.  'Ink sacks' we used to call them.  My mother would cook them up different ways and sometimes make a gravy out of the ink."

Anyway, he convinced us to take some home. 

Best. Chowder. Ever. 

Which just shows to go ya, as they say. 

Life doesn't always serve up what you think you want. 

Sometimes what you get turns out better.


A little sunshine

My escape from my place of employment was only fifteen minutes (that's like leaving early!) later than my "scheduled" departure time (nine and a half hours after my must-be-there-in-the-morning time) today.  Arriving at home, I did not dawdle in my preparation to dress and head out for a run.  So there was not only sunshine on my skin and a strong shadow to share my footsteps for much of the route, there was also a spot in a lingering ray between the hills in which to relax after the workout. 

Sitting in the sun on a low retaining wall, listening to the sound of birds all around, I noticed a fat alligator lizard doing push ups in the sun on the same retaining wall.

Being near a critter who is unconcerned about my presence makes me happy.  So often my view of critters -- birds, deer, lizards, or whatever -- is just butts.  Running away.  It's nice to simply be a creature sharing space in the sun with another creature sometimes. 



Waves of grass

Across the street from where I work is agricultural land.

Last year it was planted in safflower.  Before that cattle sometimes grazed there. 

This year it is coming up grass.  I can't tell yet whether it was actually planted in wheat or barley.  It has been a mild, slow spring, and the grass is now at the 12 to 18 inch length where it bends gracefully in the wind. 

The underside of a blade of grass is less green, more silver than the top.  As the wind moves across the hillside across the street, delicate curving waves of dark and light march slowly along.  Ever changing.  I could watch for hours. 


Earth Hour Music!

In my mind Dancing in the Dark will always be associated with the immortal Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon

Here's something to brighten up you day and night!

Dancing in the Dark by Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra on Grooveshark



Speaking of Earth Hour, one of the proponents' consciousness-raising issues is deforestation. 

The claim is that about 29 square miles of forest are lost in South America each year, but it sounds a lot bigger if you say it in hectares. 

No comparison on the environmentalists' sites about the relative benefits at the local level, of forest land versus farm land.  But then, farm land might produce food, and food might be for people, and people = not nice.  If you're an environmentalist joiner. 

Also no comparison given between "deforestation" and, oh, let's say wildfires.  An average wildfire season in the United States alone consumes over 300 times more forest than the annual deforestation claim made by the World Wildlife Wrestling Federation or whatever they are.  Just sayin'. 


Saturday 23 March 2013 is "Earth Hour"

Environmentalists will be humming John Lennon's "Imagine" in the dark this Saturday 23 March 2013, in the joiner ritual started in 2007 by the World Wildlife Wrestling Federation or something. 

Starting at 8:30 PM wherever you happen to be, joiners are advised to turn off all their electric lights and appliances for one hour. 

"Awareness" is the goal, apparently. 

I really must remember to turn on all the lights and blare the stereo while running a chainsaw.  Or maybe just watch a video.  How about "Army of Darkness"?


People who know nothing about statistics can also lie

Newtown school shooter Adam Lanza played video games.  (Well doesn't everybody?)

But now it's a big deal.  Conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt on 19 March 2013 maintained at length that it is now known that "violent video games" produce violent school shooters, and that in fact the makers of the video games could / should be sued for damages by survivors of Sandy Hook Elementary victims -- because a reasonable person would conclude that playing a game leads to sociopathic behavior and homicide. 

"He didn’t snap that day, he wasn’t one of those guys who was mad as hell and wasn’t going to take it anymore,” the man said. “He had been planning this thing forever. In the end, it was just a perfect storm: These guns, one of them an AR-15, in the hands of a violent, insane gamer. It was like porn to a rapist. They feed on it until they go out and say, enough of the video screen. Now I’m actually going to be a hunter."  The person who said this is identified as "[t]he man to whom I spoke, a tough career cop who did not wish to see his name in the newspaper" by writer Mike Lupica in the New York Daily News.

Well there you go.  

See, reporters and anonymous cops know how the mind works. Little boys who stare at curvy pictures become rapists; players of video games become mass murderers.  Except they don't.  What's the p-value on that "porn to rapist" factotum?  Probably nearly null.  But I bet it's greater than the p-value for gamer to murderer. 

The idea that artists -- authors (even blog authors), movie makers, and video game producers included -- are to be held liable for the insane acts of art consumers, is itself insane.  When legislators or regulators get an idea like that, it is dangerously insane.  Think of the chilling of creative activity.  Think of the Taliban-style enforcement. Thought Police.  They know better.  Like that anonymous cop quoted in the New York Daily News.  He knows better, just ask him. 

I don't for a moment believe the gamer-to-murderer hypothesis.  I'll tell you one thing I do believe.  History.  There is  a strong p-value for the transformation of Big Government to Genocidal Regime.  


Three And Ones

Sometimes I mix some walking into my run.  There is benefit to spending a certain amount of time on the legs, or covering a certain amount of distance, regardless of the effort level or aerobic zone in which it occurs.  Bones,  tendons, ligaments, muscles -- all strengthen in response to the stress of being used.

Yet at my age ( cough - mid-50s - cough ) I am extremely wary lest injury cause a setback.  The idea of doing like Prefontaine and going all out all the time is a recipe for injury.

So yesterday, for example, I did my 5 mile Sunday "long run" by setting the interval timer on my watch to repeat and alternate between a three minute interval and a one minute interval.  Run three, walk one.  That worked for where I happened to be condition-wise that day.  My overall time ended up being  right where the McMillan Running training pace thing advised me to be.

Another successful training week!

Plus, I get out and see the pretty poppies!


Steadying myself

When my children were babies, the crib was in our room for our convenience.  When I got up dark and early in the morning, trying to be quiet lest I wake Mom and Baby, I would often reach out a hand to the corner of the crib to steady myself and locate myself in the dark room before heading toward the door. 

My youngest is 17 years old.  The crib days were a long time ago. 

All this week, as I rise for work dark and early in the morning, I find my hand reaching out for the crib that is not there, to steady myself on something that turns out to be only in my memories. 


Wednesday's Run

I have a plan.  A running plan.  An actual written schedule for my training runs.

I'm running four times a week:  Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday.  Sunday is "long run" day, Tuesday and Friday are basically Time On Legs.  And starting this week, Wednesday is "Speed Training" day. 

I hesitate to use the word speed  in relation to bipedal locomotion done by me

The nice people at McMillan Running have a training pace calculator.  They are nice people because while they want to sell training advice to "serious" runners, they don't mind giving some free stuff away to those who are strictly dabblers like myself.  You put in a recent race time, an actual time over distance you've done at your current level of fitness.  Then you put in a goal time.  What comes out as a result is a table of paces for various types of training runs.

I find the McMillan paces useful for two reasons.  It can help keep me from doing my Sunday long run too fast -- and that can keep me from getting injured.  And it can also give me a mental boot in the butt to do my Wednesday run faster than I think I can. 

Wednesday was scheduled as a 30 minute Tempo run.  My "good" recent 5K time was 29:51, and my goal time for now is 28:30.  (I'm old and slow, get over it.)  So the Tempo pace range was 9:46 - 10:04 per mile.  That is quite a bit faster than my Time On Legs runs.  Nevertheless.  I had to do it.  Cry in the dojo, laugh on the battlefield, and all that.  You know.  If wishes were horses then beggars would ride -- well if wishes were training runs then couch potatoes would be improving their 5K times. 

You plan the run, then you run the plan.

I did it.  And met the pace goal.  And had to fight my stupid brain which kept telling me I was gonna die, DIE!  Take that, stupid brain! 

Next Wednesday I only  have to do 5 X 400M in something like 2:14 each.  Only. 

Progressing toward a post-surgery 5K PR at end of April. 


Something or Other

Where can I let my mind wander if not here?

My freshman year in high school -- 1971 -- I had to take a Speech class.  One of our assignments was a four minute expository talk on any subject.  We had to explain something.  I can't remember what I talked about in my speech.  One of my classmates, however, gave a little talk about how he was the only thing in the universe, and everything "else" was his own subjective "reality" projected from his private consciousness.  Solipsism (sah'-lip-sizm).  Self alone.

At the end of his talk, as he walked smugly back to his desk, I kicked him in the shin.  "Hey! Whadja do that  for?!,"  he turned angrily.

"It wasn't me.  The desk kicked you.  I saw it." In today's school environment I probably would have been suspended for bullying.  What followed at that time was a lively class discussion about the nature of nature, the reality of reality, and the being of being. Not to mention the otherness of the other.

Members of the ruling class may tend to be malignant narcissists.  But even they give a grudging acknowledgment to the otherness of others.  They lecture, they talk down.  They use phrases like "some folks" -- meaning "those a--holes" or "you peons."   Somehow, they have  the intuition that Others are the cause of the applause they love so much. But deep down they don't like us.  We get in the way of their ability to act like it really is all about them, to act like it's no big thing to take a twenty car motorcade to go out to dinner. 

Talk about belief, and you are talking about religion.  Religion.  What an arbitrarily applied word.  With the conclave in the Roman Catholic Church this week and the election of Pope Francis, I have bumped into a lot of solipsistic and narcissistic news blather.  Now the mark of a good skeptic is the ability to know and question his own assumptions.  I rather enjoy a good skeptic.  I aspire to true skepticism myself (and find no conflict with aspiring to sanctity).  The talking heads would like to think  they are skeptics.  They are more like cynics.  They don't know what they are for, but they like to think they know what they are against.  They are dogs barking because other dogs are barking. 

I admit to having religion and skepticism.  Not incompatible.  I'm thinking of the late Stanley Jaki; he is one of many.  So why would any skeptic worth his salt carry the untested assumption that religion is inimical to science, that the quest for holiness is canceled by the quest for truth? 

A habit of selective questioning, plus a variable and selectively applied standard for scrutiny.  Maybe if you breathe the cloudy air of Washington D.C., or South Bend Indiana, or Chicago Illinois, you just hang with so many people who think a certain way that you forget to notice the assumptions, and eventually you forget to think.   

Something about proof.  Where's the proof?  And what kind of proof?  Or is there only one kind of proof?  Is there only one kind of truth?  Only one kind of question? 

What if not all the questions are what and how?  What if a scientist finds out that no science probes the ineffable and inexhaustible Who  question?  "Who am I?" is emblematic, but I don't think I have ever found the context in which to make it a real question.  Much more fascinating and worthy of lifelong pursuit is this:  "Who are you my beauty, my dear, my only one?"  Ah, there's a noble science.  If it is a science.  Maybe it's a belief.  Maybe love is a religion.  In that case those locked solely in self-love will never meet the question of the face-to-face, "Who are you ?" 

Don't expect mathematical predictability in every subject.  Don't demand dead-nuts torqued-down verifiable certainty in every inquiry.  Don't demand a boolean answer to an illogical question.  There are things that cannot be reduced to a Türing engine function.  Nature is not linear, and life is not binary.  Don't think nothing can be known just because not everything fits into a truth table.  The real, the true (and the good, the beautiful... ) fills the universe regardless of its possible incommensurability with human sense and reason.  The openings in your puny human body may not let in the kind of data required for now-and-forever-beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt CERTAINTY.

"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love -- true love -- never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn't matter if it's true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in."         -- Uncle Hub, in Secondhand Lions 


Tiny Violets

Violets in the garden, with oxalis shamrocks

Volunteer Violets in the lawn

Little purple surprises are springing up around the Crowndot abode.  ^_^


Dark and early...

Up at the usual time, it was of course an hour darker due to Daylight Savings Time.  There was a little sliver of nearly-new moon up just before dawn.  As I began my run, several deer unconcernedly walked up the hill to go to bed -- night shift / morning shift. 

Just to make life more complicated, the parks department has closed my favorite stretch of trail due to landslides.  That shortens my possibilities for hill runs in that direction. 

This morning I went up to the road closure, and did a double loop on another hill to make a total of 4.3 miles with 1700 ft. of climb.  Wheee! 

This makes two weeks (training weeks -- I'm back to thinking of my life as my run schedule from Monday through Sunday) of running four times a week: run Tuesday, Wednesday; weights on Thursday (half an hour of arm and shoulder work with light dumbbells); run Friday and Sunday.  I break it up like this:  short (junk miles / mental health run) on Tuesday, Tempo or Intervals on Wednesday, Moderate time-on-legs run on Friday, and Long Run on Sunday. 

Right now "long" isn't very long.  But progress is progress, and sticking to it is sticking to it. 


Fixing the clocks

First let's talk solar astronomy. 

At the equinoxes in the spring (20 March 2013 at 4:02AM Pacific Daylight Time) and fall (22 September 2013 at 1:44PM Pacific Daylight Time) the length of day is approximately equal to the length of night.  That is where the name "equinox" comes from.  The time of equinoxes has been observed, marked, and predicted since ancient times.  The day of the month on which equinoxes fall in March or September can vary slightly, mostly because of because of leap years.

So.  Let's talk about public policy.  Suppose somebody decided it would be best for all within the polity to behave as though noon did not occur at noon.  Suppose they decided that clock noon would need to occur an hour before solar noon.  A law would decree that the clocks be adjusted an hour ahead.  That way at clock noon the sun would still be in the morning half of the sky, but humans are remarkably flexible and life goes on. 

And so it is. 

Leaving aside the asininity of the policy itself, it can be done.  It is not even as invasive and disruptive as many other things the ruling class decree. 

Here's my question.  It is a question of logical (or illogical) internal consistency. 

If the clocks are moved forward for Daylight Savings Time less than two weeks before the vernal equinox, why (O!  Dear God of the heavenly lights! Why?!) do they decree that we not move the clocks back for Standard Time, moving clock noon back to something more like solar noon, until SIX WEEKS AFTER THE AUTUMNAL EQUINOX???!!! 

I'm sorry.  Did I raise my voice? 

Quite apart from the bad policy of Daylight Savings Time, what really grates my brain, what really distracts me, what really brings me almost to think that our ruling class have neither logic nor benefit in mind, is the inconsistency of the thing.  At least  the change should be made approximately "n" weeks before the vernal equinox and equally "n" weeks after the autumnal equinox. 

Clearly that is too much to ask of our ruling class.  The vast apparatus of their power is directed elsewhere.  They are busy fixing men's souls.  Fixing the clocks will have to wait. 


Commodore Perry Opens Japan to the World

That's Commodore Perry, in the center

On this day in 1854, Commodore (later Rear Admiral) Matthew Calbraith Perry sailed back to Yokohama to receive the reply to his earlier missive, which reply led in a few weeks to the signing of the Convention of Kanagawa, opening the archipelago to general trade with the rest of the world.

The agreement was the culmination of decades of effort.  In fact, "opening of trade" is a bit of a misnomer because ships under the Dutch flag had been accepted at Nagasaki since 1797.

However, Perry realized through a long Navy career that it pays to toot your own horn.  History is written by the victors, they say.  In this case, the victor is also defined by the history, in the form of Perry's book.  It's available at archive.com.  Volume 1 is 584 pages.  Not a lot of laughs, I bet.

Here is part of a random page from Volume One