It's a cold, snowy day, which is appropriate for the birthday of Robert Service (1874). Go read "The Cremation of Sam McGee", and be warmed thereby.
(The local gorilla population reminds me that this is also the birthday of gorilla researcher Dian Fossey (1932). In the land of the Velveteen Rabbit, a platoon of disgruntled plush toys who know where you sleep is a thing to be feared.)
"Come out, little pig," said the big, bad wolf. "Come out or I will huff and puff and blow your house down."
The pig, who out-weighed the wolf by four to one and had tusks as thick as a wolf's leg, lumbered out and looked the wolf in the eye.
"This is not the way this story is supposed to go," said the wolf, and he ran away as fast as his legs could carry him.
In honor of Saint Anthony the Abbott, whose day this is, and who is, among other things, the patron of pigs.
Saw "The Post" today. GOOD movie. And of course through much of the movie, the following poem was bubbling through my head. (And I have just finally gotten around to looking up the reference to Harrild and Hoe, which are types of printing presses.)
The Press - Rudyard Kipling
The Soldier may forget his Sword,
The Sailorman the Sea,
The Mason may forget the Word
And the Priest his Litany:
The Maid may forget both jewel and gem,
And the Bride her wedding-dress--
But the Jew shall forget Jerusalem
Ere we forget the Press!
Who once hath stood through the loaded hour
Ere, roaring like the gale,
The Harrild and the Hoe devour
Their league-long paper-bale,
And has lit his pipe in the morning calm
That follows the midnight stress--
He hath sold his heart to the old Black Art
We call the daily Press.
Who once hath dealt in the widest game
That all of a man can play,
No later love, no larger fame
Will lure him long away.
As the war-horse snuffeth the battle afar,
The entered Soul, no less,
He saith: "Ha! Ha!" where the trumpets are
And the thunders of the Press!
Canst thou number the days that we fulfill,
Or the Times that we bring forth?
Canst thou send the lightnings to do thy will,
And cause them reign on earth?
Hast thou given a peacock goodly wings,
To please his foolishness?
Sit down at the heart of men and things,
Companion of the Press!
The Pope may launch his Interdict,
The Union its decree,
But the bubble is blown and the bubble is pricked
By Us and such as We.
Remember the battle and stand aside
While Thrones and Powers confess
That King over all the children of pride
Is the Press--the Press--the Press!
“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.” --A.A. Milne, who was born on this day in 1882.
So, yes, there was more to the man than Winnie the Pooh and his friends, but still...
As I have said on this day every year for the last several: Go tell a plush toy that you love it. Be sincere.
I was going to go up to the Burlington game day today, but was running significantly late. By the time I got to the crossing of W50 and the Fox River, it was 3:00 PM and my head just wasn't in it. I didn't take the turn north to Burlington at the next light and kept heading toward Lake Geneva. There were people I could see, and hadn't seen for a while, but I realized people were not what I needed. I turned left at the east edge of Lake Geneva, and drove to the Linn Pier access point.
The parking lot was nearly full; the weather was warm and the ice was thick and the ice fishers were out in force. I walked about half way across the lake before I was blocked by black ice; I didn't have the shoes for that, and didn't want to risk a fall. Then I stopped and had a short conversation with the Lady Geneva. Then I walked back to the car and went home.
One takes ones religious experiences where one finds them...
There is a direct sequence from the Netflix "Punisher" to me owning a "Memento Mori" coin, and I actually learned something new along the way...
I have invested (wasted?) a great deal of my life in role playing games, though I have spent the vast majority of that time playing WITH the games rather than actually playing them. I have recently had occasion to re-examine the old D&D concept of alignment, and have come to some conclusions that I find interesting.
First, a bit of introduction: The original 1974 release of Dungeons & Dragons included "Alignment" as a character attribute; a character could be Lawful, or Neutral, or Chaotic (categories that were drawn from the writings of Michael Moorcock). This was apparently added to the game to encourage players to think of their characters as something other just a collection of game statistics, and was at least slightly successful. A few years later, when Advanced Dungeons & Dragons came out, this idea had been expanded to a two-axis system, with Law and Chaos on one axis, and Good and Evil on the other.
The idea that has been fascinating me lately is that this system implies that the two axes are truly independent of each other, and I find myself wondering just what the concept of "Good" means if it is utterly divorced from "Law", and vice versa. It seems to me that goodness, when utterly divorced from law, becomes kindness, and that law, when utterly divorced from the concept of goodness, becomes loyalty. I am intrigued by this. It is only a small epiphany, but, like a new pair of glasses, it is a lens that lets me see things in a slightly different way than I saw them before.
If you have access to the 5th Ed. version of the D&D Monster Manual (and this is worth going out of your way to do), open it to the front credits page and read the disclaimer that is in absurdly tiny type in the lower right hand corner of the page. You will be glad you did.
I am not sufficiently responsible to do the things I should be doing, but also too responsible to do the things I WANT to do when the things I should do are undone.
I had a quaint little tutorial today on the physiology of waterboarding, courtesty of my dentist (who is a really great guy who does a good job, and who I am not going to identify for reasons that will be obvious).
I was in the chair to have two deteriorating silver amalgam fillings replaced. Local anesthetic was indicated (because, while I have a high pain tolerance and good control, if I DO flinch, people get launched across the room). Dentist was using a new, micro-injection technique that involves near zero pain (I would have been happier with a shot, as it turns out, but didn't know that up front). Except... the application is SLOW. And everything needs to be held REALLY still for the gadget to work. And my sinuses were clogged, so I couldn't breathe through my nose. Saliva runs down throat, swallow reflex revs up...
Lizard brain: Swallow or we'll drown!
Me: Shut up. No we won't. Dont swallow. Inhale.
Lizard brain: We're gonna drown!
Me: Shut up. No we won't. Dont swallow. Exhale.
Lizard brain: We're gonna drown!
Me: Shut up. No we won't. Dont swallow. Inhale.
Lizard brain: We're gonna drown!
Lather. Rise. Repeat. It was a LONG couple of minutes.
The epiphany of the day, therefore, is that this is exactly the mechanism that makes water boarding work: The lizard brain is shoved into full on panic mode, and the conscious mind CAN NOT control it. I got maybe a couple of percentage points of the experience, and am not interested in getting any better acquainted with the procedure than I already am. But it WAS educational...
Opinion question of the day: What percentage of people have convinced themselves that their lives have meaning, despite all evidence to the contrary, because it is the only way to keep themselves going?
(The responses to this were very other than what I expected, probably because I didn't ask the question nearly clearly enough.)
"The best students ARE always failing." --Robert M. Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"
And here, just for my own future reference, is a cute little calculator that maps IQ against frequency of occurrence: http://nmh.sdf.org/aboutyouriq.cgi
I may have to look this book up...
From "Sword & Laser" participant "Tassie Dave":
Finished "The Last Man" by Mary Shelley... Wow, what a depressing book. If Mary was alive today, she'd have one word to say (Re: Killing off main characters) to George R.R.Martin & Robert Kirkman: "Amateurs".
I first encountered Robert M. Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" in 1980. I devoured, loved it. I am now revisiting it for the first time since then (though it has been used as a reference repeatedly in the interim) as an audio book. It's like putting on an old overcoat; many passages come back to me verbatim. Many others don't, and are a welcome surprise. And of course the book is just full of thinky thoughts...
I just came across a passage where the narrator comes upon a print of a painting that his former self had purchased and displayed, and he comments that his friend, an art instructor, had disapproved of this because prints are ABOUT art, and not art itself. This engendered in me a dialogue about the nature of art.
The attitude of the artist in the story seems to be that ALL art is performance art, that the true art resides in the artifact. The narrator's former self was not interested in the artifact, only in the image, and its subjective value. I see both arguments, but I also realize that this is ultimately a discussion of magic. Which leads me to further realize discussion of art has three paths: discussion of craft, discussion of history, and discussion of magic.
Thaumatology is EVERYWHERE. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.
It occurs to me that we might do better in the fight for economic justice if we stopped trying to convince the cat to wear a bell, and instead concentrated on making the cat understand that fatter mice taste better.
February is going to be very, very bad this year. It's still a few days away, and the edges started to fray more than a week ago.
Still traversing "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"...
The two most significant truths I picked up in high school, and likely the two most significant truths of my entire education, both came in sophomore year. Neither of them was in the curriculum, but rather corollaries of corollaries of things that were.
The first, by way of geometry teacher Mr. Wilson (whose first name I have lost, and need to find), was that logic was not a source of truth, but rather a system for manipulating ideas, and that it needed to be seeded with arbitrary (usually consensus) ideas to function.
The second, was by way of chemistry teacher Ralph Gurnea, who convinced me that most, if not all, natural laws were really probability functions rather than absolutes.
Having mentioned those, I should also bring up the third most significant truth of my education, which came some five years later, in the very first episode of what has become known as, "The Conversation" with my friend Bob Buehler: Never, ever use the word "reality" without a qualifier (usually "empirical"), an assetion that he backed up with the simple expedient of smiling and saying, "I have seen others."
From the "Strange Currents" file:
Back in about 1980 I said something that has stayed with me. It wasn't a new idea by any means, but the phrasing (which was unique to me) struck me as rather elegant, and I remembered it, and repeated it just that way from time to time, when the conversation called for it.
That EXACT phrase now has a name, and a Wikipedia page. It's only twelve words, so it might just be parallel evolution. But since Wikipedia can't trace the exact wording back further than about 1990 (though, again, the concept goes back centuries) and has no clear source, and since my original statement predates that by about a decade...
I'd say that there is a good 50$ chance that it's mine.
Those of you who know me in the real world: Have you ever heard me say it? If so, when was the FIRST time?
The phrase, which Wikipedia refers to as "Hanlon's Razor". is this:
"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."
And that makes 100 km on the rowing machine for January, which makes three months in a row. Go, me.
And now, a word about gloves..
I decided early in my rowing career that gloves would make the experience MUCH more pleasant, and bought a cheap pair of no-name paddling gloves at the first opportunity. They lasted almost exactly 50 miles, at which point they had no palms left. I then paid more than I really wanted to for a pair of Helly Hansen paddling gloves which happened to be the only gloves on the rack that fit me perfectly.
That was in 2012. Since then, those gloves and I have logged just short of 200 water miles, and just short of 1000 km on the rowing machine, just over 200 hours of hard labor, all told. They are beginning to show a little bit of wear.
Of coure, Helly Hansen doesn't seem to make them any more...