Gong Xi Fa Cai / Gung Hey Fat Choy !

To celebrate the lunar new year, I made yummy meatloaf. 

Spam, ground beef, brown rice, wild rice, egg, salt, pepper, and cumin. 

What makes it lunar new year meatloaf is the shape!

I'm so hungry I could eat a horse! 


In a land where dreams come true

You might just end up spending all night at school.

I have had that dream often enough.  Wandering through corridors and sitting at the hard desk that is all painful angles.  Feeling like I am not in the right room.  Or thinking I have not done my homework.  And always, always having to go to the bathroom.  Looking for the rest room, not finding one, then finding one and it is severely out of order and/or occupied by gangs smoking pencil shavings...

Be careful about dreams.  There really are places where dreams come true! 


You gottta walk it by yourself

28 January 2014:  American folk singer Pete Seeger dead at 94.

I remember the energy of Pete Seeger in an outdoor concert on a summer afternoon in San Francisco in the 1980s. 

Some folks say that John was a Baptist
Some folks say he was a Jew
But the Holy Bible tells us
That he was a preacher too 

You got to walk that lonesome valley
You got to walk it by yourself
Nobody else can do it for you
You got to walk it by yourself

Oh I don't think those words meant what Mr. Seeger thought they meant. 

He thought it was something about putting on a kind of liberal uniform and joining a movement to stick it to The Man, man. 

When he sang, there was a life force that made thousands join in song.  When he wanted to "be a preacher too"  -- God, what a commie asshole. 

Pete Seeger.  Rest in peace.  May God have mercy on his soul. 


Glimpses on the road

There are memories that form for me a kind of mind-Tumblr. 

In dreams I may see half a second of a real place -- a place I have seen but never visited.  The memory places I am thinking of are places seen while on a family trip long ago. 

A donkey in a back lot along California Highway 99...

A pool in the Silver Fork of the American River seen from U.S. Highway 50...

A clump of blue chicory blossoms along a fence line way out Jackson Road...

A grouping of granite and pines somewhere up route 41 toward Fish Camp...

Countless mental snapshots of places we never stopped.  These can be the beginning or the end of a meandering, morphing dream terrain, or they can be background images flashing by. 

Lying on my stomach on a warm boulder watching beautiful graceful Japanese fish dancing in the clear water below... Best. Dream. Evah. 


Remember the Pueblo. And the Benghazi consulate.

On this day, 23 January, 1968, the USS Pueblo was captured by North Korea, well outside the 12 mile limit off the North Korean coast. 

Alone and overpowered, the ship was forced west.  When Pueblo stopped outside the 12 mile limit, the ship was fired upon and Navy seaman Fireman Duane Hodges was killed.  Pueblo was boarded, its crew mistreated; ship and crew were taken to Wonsan harbor. 

President Lyndon Johnson was asleep at the time.

The White House response from Johnson and his crew of smart guys was to minimize confrontation with the communists at all costs.  Negotiations at Panmunjom at last produced the release of the crew (and Hodges' remains) across the DMZ into South Korea on 23 December 1968 -- following a formal written apology by the USA to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.  Pueblo is still in North Korean possession. 

By the apology, Johnson set a precedent for bowing to foreign dictators. 

After 1968, one could see a few "Remember the Pueblo" bumper stickers.  But memories are short.  The official response had set a precedent of "what difference, at this point, does it make?"

By the way, today is exactly one year since Hillary blew off Senator Ron Johnson's question about why she lied about events leading up to the attack on our consulate in Benghazi and the murder of ambassador J. Christopher Stevens. 


I'll only be here a few minutes...

I am sure that's what Mr. Stretch-Cab Pickup-With-Trailer said to himself when he blocked -- BLOCKED! -- the municipal parking lot here in my town on Tuesday 7 January 2014. 

Hey, Jerk:  I realize the downtown area is not very friendly toward long trucks with long trailers.  But you know what?  You're just going to have to find a spot someplace, away from the metered parking spaces, and you may have to walk a few blocks.  Life is hard.  Man up. 

But no!  You decided that YOUR convenience trumped EVERYBODY else.  I'm willing to bet that is a kind of a habit with you. 

Your time is important to you.  And it's just for a few minutes.  You deserve special treatment.  You're an entrepre-freakin-neur, after all. 



What I am reading . . .

War and Peace

Because I want to.  Because I am now old enough to meet some of the characters (Pierre) with less sympathy than when I was a student. 

The translation I am using is Project Gutenberg EBook #2600 (posting date January 10, 2009).  The text version says the translators are Louise and Aylmer Maude.  So far it seems much easier to read than the Rosemary Edmonds translation in the Penguin Classics version I first used in college in the Great Books program back in the 1970s.  The Maude translation for the Kindle has some of the trickier French phrases asterisked and translated in a slightly different font at the end of the current paragraph, rather than having to click a footnote.  The Maudes' English seems more free of affectations of haute couture than Edmonds'.

I love my Kindle.  Kindle Keyboard 3G.  I can embiggenate the text.  The effect is much easier for my eyes to focus on.  Plus the Kindle text is black on white, not grey on beige (in 6-point Badly Kerned Olde Booksquiggle).

At well over half a million words, War and Peace is a big book.  But the title (and the content?) must be more intimidating than the size.  It's shorter than Atlas Shrugged, and there are plenty of people who are happy to buttonhole you and tell you all about Atlas Shrugged

Anyway, I'm having fun with it. 


Mormon Island Ruins under Folsom Lake (aerial video)

"Published on Nov 30, 2013 [by Jayzaerial]
This town has been under water for 50 year. It has been partially exposed only twice that I know of. first time about 1977 the second time a couple of years ago. However I didn't have a quadcopter a couple of years to film it. So now it is exposed once again and I was able to get some footage of one particular site. I think it might have been a cattle ranch or dairy farm. You can also see the old palm tree stumps planted in a row to outline some landscaping. Their used to be 2500 people, hotels and saloons but im not sure if any of these rocks are those buildings. Maybe those are still under water. The town was mostly concentrated down further were the river naturally flows. But as you can see, parts of the town stretched toward the banks. quadcopter aerial footage with gorpro 3 black @1080p 30frames. I couldn't believe how calm the lake was for this shoot. Airshotz"



"I was thinking," said Walter Mitty. "Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?" 

She looked at him. 

"I'm going to take your temperature when I get you home," she said.
From The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, by James Thurber, 1939.


Earlier sunrise

Where I live at approximately 38° North Latitude, I mark today ( 8 January ) as the genuine beginning of the short half of the year when the days are getting longer.  Yes techinically the time between sunrise and sunset has been increasing since winter solstice ( 21 December ).  But when sunrise comes a bit earlier, it feels like the days are getting longer.   

Back on 7 December we experienced the earliest sunset of this dark corner of the year.  Not until today did the time of sunrise begin to get earlier.  By only a few seconds per day at first, soon the days will be noticably longer.  That makes me happy.  Hopeful. 

The science of how this is so can be explained by the analemma.  


You mean "Biology" does not mean "The Life of Words"?

When I hear authors and intellectuals say that they cannot remember a time when they could not read, I wonder: a.) don't they carry in their hearts the beautiful memory of parents reading to them as children?; and b.) were they rebooted (dropped on their head) at some point? 

I can certainly remember not being able to read.  I cherish the memories of my mother reading picture books to me. 

My mother would read aloud any text I pointed to.  It was probably safer in 1960, especially the supermarket tabloids.  I pointed to words in cook books, magazines, newspaper headlines.  Later on she would painstakingly parse the phonics of each word; what took the most time was explaining that in English, that's just the way people say it. 

I can remember my eyes being just the height of the work surface of the sewing machine cabinet (three and a half years old? four?), and sounding out in my thoughts the word on the sewing machine: "Puh-Fuh-Aa-Fuh-Fuh?"  Over and over again, and finally saying it that way out loud.  Mom laughed.  "No, it just sounds like 'Faff' -- it's a German name."  Then the explanation that not is spelling weird and arbitrary in English, but also in other languages. 

The first week of first grade, the teacher went through the first five letters of the alphabet.  She ended with a smile and, "Does anybody have any questions?"  My little hand was the only one that went up.  "I can already read," I explained sadly, "When are we going to learn how to SPELL?!"  The teacher may have been a little shocked or disbelieving when she said, "That comes later."  But by the end of the second week I was enjoying two reading lessons a day.  First some private (get-out-of-my-hair-you-ask-too-many-questions) reading time (I got to go to the third grade classroom to borrow books).  But also reading to the other kids, and tutoring the slow ones.  In the first grade. 

At some point I was so glad to be learning to spell that I invented the game of spelling all my thoughts to myself.  And of trying to spell out to myself what the teacher was saying.  Especially good as an exercise when the speaker is particularly boring and pedantic. 

I learned Greek to a certain extent when I was in college.  Ever since Greek, I can't trust my alphabet.  "A-B-C-D-E-F-G-Zeta-Eta-Theta-Iota-Kappa-Lambda... Wait a minute..."  I also learned in college that writing that you care about takes a lot of work.  This year I am trying to convince myself that writing can be play.  Like my spelling-it-all-out game, but for somewhat-more-grownups.  Perhaps in the course of blogging away, I will accidentally "spell out" some thoughts in a way I (and you) can understand. 


Dolphin Hallucinations

John Cunningham Lilly was born on this day, 6 January 1915. 

He started out as a scientist.  He ended up as a brain-damaged nutcase with a legacy.

Having graduated from the California Institute of Technology in 1938, Lilly was at first a productive member of society.  Apparently during World War II he researched the physiology of high-altitude flight, and helped development of gas pressure measurement instruments. 

After the war, something must have happened.  He focused on theory of consciousness and moved from medicine to psychiatry and psychoanalysis.  Before long he was dropping acid and once the LSD made him believe he had something BIG to offer the world... Well, the rest is history, as they say.

Lilly is the guy who developed the sensory deprivation tank.

Lilly dropped acid and spent time in a water tank with dolphins.  You read that right.  He formed a strong belief that cetaceans were sentient, even hyper-intelligent.  Yes, that belief is based not on science but on the crazed hallucinations of a drug abuser. 
"In the early 1960s, Lilly was introduced to psychedelic drugs such as LSD and (later) ketamine and began a series of experiments in which he ingested a psychedelic drug either in an isolation tank or in the company of dolphins."
That is one of the weirdest sentences I have ever read in all of Wikipedia.  

The dolphin thing was the strangest of a lot of strange things this guy got mixed up with.  That's saying something -- he hung out with people like Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary. 

As a "philosopher" he promoted absolute relativism.  What's true for you is true for you. 

He was into things like the SETI project and theory of Artificial Intelligence.  And perpetual motion, for all I know. 

Anyway, Lilly left a widespread legacy of crap that gets repeated so many times people accept it as true.  So in the consciousness of the herd, if not of individual man, perhaps his relativistic philosophy is "true" in that it has become true (accepted) by the uninquisitive.  

Lilly died 30 September 2001.

[The picture above is from what appears to be either an official Lilly site or a fan site.  Information in this article is from there or from Wikipedia.  I am glad to have the writing of this article off my to-do list.  This has been one of the creepiest things I have ever read up on.  I will now go find some holy water to sprinkle on myself and my laptop.]

Epiphany 2014


The root of the word is the word for lightEpiphaino, in Greek — Make Manifest.  The same root shows up in words like photograph and phenomenon.

An epiphany is a manifestation and an illumination.

The traditional understanding of the feast of Epiphany is a triple manifestation of the person of Jesus in the gospels:  at the nativity, at the baptism in the Jordan, and at the wedding at Cana.  I tend to think of it only as Three Kings Day because it closely follows Christmas, but the Roman Catholic readings for the feast take turns going through the stories of the three manifestations through the three year cycle of readings.   At the nativity, the child Jesus is made manifest to the shepherds and the magi.  When he submits to the baptism of John, Jesus is made manifest as he starts his active teaching ministry.  At the wedding at Cana, Jesus is made manifest through the miracle of the water turned to wine — “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory.” (John 2:11, ESV)
"Three mysteries mark this holy day:  today the star leads the Magi to the infant Christ:  today water is changed into wine for the wedding feast: today Christ wills to be baptized by John in the river Jordan to bring us salvation."
(Antiphon for the Magnificat, Evening Prayer II for the feast of the Epiphany, Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours, Daughters of St. Paul, 1976)
The season of Christmas / Epiphany is great time for Births, Baptisms and Weddings!


I laughed when they called me hypergermophobic

Since September 2013, I have refused to talk on customers' cell phones.  When the guy at the parts counter waves a grime-covered rectanguloid toward me and says, "Here, the boss wants to talk to you," my response is to place one of my business cards on the counter and answer, "Then he can call this number and I will talk to him on a land line." 

I just don't talk on somebody else's phone. 

Science backs me up.  Because, SCIENCE!

From the New York Times, no less:  ' "That devices can be a source of disease transmission is not a subject of debate anymore,” said Dr. Dubert Guerrero, an infectious disease specialist at Sanford Health in Fargo, N.D., and co-author of a study about the persistence of bacteria on iPads published in November in The American Journal of Infection Control. '

Now I just have to find a way to clean off that slimy feeling from having referenced a New York Times article.  Eeew.


Through the magic of the intertubes, it is possible to fly over strange and interesting places in the documented Googlesphere.  Imagine my state of agitated astonishment when I caught a glimpse of this bit of futurist suburban planning in Denmark:

I'm sure the futurist that came up with that brilliant idea firmly believed that "by 2014, we'll all be living in communities like this!"

Okay.  My first thought was:  Fire.  Followed closely by:  Medical Emergency.  Imagine the amount of spitting and swearing and delay if you're trying to explain to the 911 operator that yes, you can hear the sirens, but no you don't see the fire truck, so that means they must be in one of the adjacent doughnuts. 

Then I tried to think about all the advantages to this kind of planning map.  Like how wonderful it must be to be able to hear like a personal megaphone exactly what time each of your neighbors goes to work each morning.  All 15 to 23 of them, as near as I can tell.  And don't think they don't keep tabs on when you leave in the morning too.  And when you get back.  Cozy like family.  Only maybe everybody rides around on a recumbent bicycle, because Denmark.

What were they thinking?!  Perhaps the plan was based on this: "We don't know what we are for, but we know what we are against.  We're against personal freedom, privacy, and the USA.  So let's make something as not those as we can!"

The whole thing is near a golf course.  Anything that has to do with golf gets infected by a kind of anti-evolutionary derpitude.  Even when the golf is only nearby. 

I must face facts.  The little Dutch prairie dog people who live in these colonies would probably say they are happy, and that they count themselves lucky that at least they don't have to live in a Minecraft-on-LSD nightmare like MVRDV's "Stackable Sky Village" in Copenhagen.  And yet...

And yet.  The Stackable Sky Village apartments are an example of extreme architecture that nevertheless tries to create a space that fits the humans.  I can't think of a context in which you could truthfully say that about the attempt to make the humans fit the spaces in Brøndby.


Crazy-ass Federalism

Michael S. Greve at LibertyLaw.com has some thoughts about how political polarization among the States within these United States of America is a good thing.  He describes the system as "competitive federalism" -- which basically boils down to "if you don't like it, you can always move to Texas" or some other "free" State:

"Competitive federalism satisfies preferences. A thoroughly blue or red United States would leave one half of the country very unhappy. That’s not true under federalism—not when preferences are heterogeneous across states and (relatively) homogeneous within states. As, increasingly, now. "

What kind of crazy-ass federalism is that?  Is that some kind of Libertarian crazy-ass federalism? 

If the government of the United States does anything, it is supposed to "secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity".  Does it do that by allowing any kind of penny-ante tyrant to control any of the individual States?  Why is there a Bill of Rights if States have rights?  Dude:  individual persons have rights.  States don't have rights.  States have power.  Because the States have power, we needed the Bill of [Individual Personal] Rights.

If I had faith the size of a mustard seed, I realize, I would be able to say to my family dwelling, "Be uprooted, and transported to Texas!"  And it would be the same thing to say it and for it to be.

Unfortunately I have neither the spiritual nor the financial power to be able to engage in Mr. Greve's version of "competition".  I doubt most people could.  Is he saying that freedom is only for the rich?  Is freedom really only for those well-to-do enough to buy that home (in many cases a second home or retirement home) in Oregon or Wyoming or Texas or some other State more free than California? 

We shouldn't be talking about the benefits of live-and-let-live among the states and if you don't like it lump it or move to Texas.  There should be real questioning about the extent to which individual states can go with their systemic tyranny before the constituted government of the United States must step in to secure the blessings of liberty.  I know that isn't going to happen under the present Congress or Supreme Court any more than liberty is spontaneously going to break out in deeply "Blue State" California. 

You can laugh at California.  Yeah, we're so screwed.  (Unless rich enough to uproot and be planted anew elsewhere.)  But Californification is creeping sleeplessly into everything.  It is already in the Federal Government.  It shows how far we are from Constitutional rule.  Friend, wherever you may move to, we're all  so screwed.

For now there may be places that are "more free" -- less infected by Left/Liberal/Progressive craziness.  But no place is immune to the infection.  And the infection only spreads. 

Does that mean there is no hope?  No.  There is hope. 

In the end we win, they lose.  (I keep telling myself that.)  But there will be a time when it will be very rough.  Everywhere.  Thanks a lot, you crazy-ass federalist Libertarian asshole that moved to Oregon or wherever.  All you did was postpone the date the infection goes critical, and help insure that the bump at the bottom of the fall will be harder.