Wednesday, December 15, 2010

FRACK YOU Isn't just for science fiction anymore.

FRACKING: A NEW "F" WORDS ENTERS THE LANGUAGE (OED are you listening?)

I didn't write this one, it's by Chris Bolgiano; (I did add and few parenthetical observations). This version includes the last sentence that was cut from the column as published by Bay Journal News Service http://bayjournalnewsservice.com/ to avoid offending too many newspaper editors.

A new “f” word has entered our language that has nothing to do with sex but everything to do with exploitation. From New York to Tennessee, above the gassy geological formation called Marcellus shale, people are debating the practice of fracking.

Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from shale. It involves drilling a hole a mile down, then thousands of feet horizontally, and pumping down millions of gallons of water laced with sand, salt and chemicals to crack the shale. Gas is forced up, along with roughly 25 percent of the contaminated wastewater, often hot with radioactivity.

Shale gas fields are called ‘plays’ but developing them is serious business. Since 2005, when Congress approved the so-called Halliburton Loophole to exempt fracking from federal standards for clean water, companies from Oklahoma to Japan have spent millions of dollars to frack rural communities innocent of any knowledge about the practice.

By some estimates, fracking Marcellus and other shales across North America could satisfy our desire for gas for the next 45 years

Fracking is ongoing in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. Now Texas-based Carrizo Company wants to frack Bergton, Va., long famous as one of the most idyllic pastoral communities in the Shenandoah Valley, where I live.

At first the attraction between gas companies and communities is mutual: landowners, often poor, gain income from leases, stores gain business, counties gain tax base. The industry courts communities with assurances that the chemicals used compose only one part per hundred of the fracking fluid, are environmentally friendly, and will be treated at the local sewage plant. (One part per hundred is 10,000 parts per million, the standard used by EPA and the FDA when measuring toxic chemicals).

For global warming worriers, the sexiest aspect is the reduction in greenhouse gases emitted by burning natural gas compared to oil; for others, it’s the fact that gas is domestic, reducing our bondage to hostile foreign countries.

For many, the romance quickly pales. Fracking chemicals include formaldehyde, benzene, and others known to be carcinogenic at [proprietary and unknown levels]. Municipal plants can’t handle fracking wastewater, and it’s stored in open pits until trucked elsewhere. If enough fresh water can’t be sucked from streams on site, trucks haul it in.

Eighteen-wheelers rolling 24/7 pulverize country roads and cause accidents, like the one that spilled 8,000 gallons of toxic materials into a Pennsylvania creek last year. And they emit enough carbon to seriously shrink the greenhouse gas advantage of fracked gas.

Explosions are occurring from causes similar to BP’s Gulf debacle. In early June, a blowout at one of the thousand-plus fracking wells in Pennsylvania spewed flammable gas and polluted water 75-feet high for sixteen hours. One of our most recent local headlines reads, “W.Va. Gas Well Blast Injures 7; Flames Now 40 Feet.”

Fracking’s impact on surface and groundwater outlasts any explosion. People from New York to Texas complain that their wells deteriorated after fracking started nearby. Pennsylvania officials ordered Cabot Gas Corporation to pay fines, plug wells, and install treatment systems in 14 houses where methane contaminated drinking water. [The companies all imply that they're working "way down there" thousands of feet below your wells and springs - no problem! The BP well was MILES down there and all that fluid wants to come up here due to billions of pounds of rock sitting on it.]

New York state officials see fracking as so risky that they imposed far stricter environmental regulations within watersheds that supply ten million people with drinking water. They feared an outright ban would provoke lawsuits from landowners eager to sign leases.

Landowner rights are sacred in Appalachia, but the recent request by a company that transports gas in Pennsylvania to be declared a “utility,” which would give it the power to condemn property for pipelines, puts a new twist on the issue. And what about my right to continue drinking clean water from my well on my property?

The likelihood of leaks of toxic materials into waters is enhanced when drilling occurs in the 100- year flood plain, as is proposed in Bergton. In 40 years here I’ve seen many disastrous floods, and the mountainous Bergton area is always among the hardest hit. A flood would sweep a well pad with containers of chemicals, fuels, and open wastewater pits into the headwaters of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, and ultimately into the Potomac and the Chesapeake Bay.

Given the risks, fracking seems to me merely to prolong our addiction to fossil fuel, when renewable energy is within reach: solar panel costs have fallen by half (cheap enough even for me), and offshore wind turbines offer huge energy efficiencies.

But history insists on repeating itself. For centuries, Appalachia has been raped by outside interests wresting iron, timber, and coal from these mountains. Once again, people from elsewhere are taking huge profits and leaving a pittance and a lot of ugly pits behind, while politicians stall efforts to repair the regulatory loophole. They are risking through accident or carelessness the poisoning of water for millions of people, generations into the future. I SAY FRACK'EM.

Chris Bolgiano is the author or editor of five books. This commentary is distributed by Bay Journal News Service

Chris Bolgiano, Mildly Amusing Nature Writer: www.chrisbolgiano.com

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Are you wishing for a level playing field?

Many folks have decried the fact that our Senators and Congressmen (people) have a gold plated health care package that they don't pay for as they consistently vote against the most minimal coverage for the rest of us. It's SO unfair that the playing field isn't level; it's hypocrisy.

It's so unfair! Senators and Congressmen (people) covered by the Congressional health care plan voting against health care plans and now vowing to repeal Obama Care too. It's so hypocritical.

But one brave man is all about removing that hypocrisy. He's Senator Dick Durbin and he's proposing that the Senators and congressmen (and women) give up their packages. Isn't that GREAT?

But these people are millionaires for whom insurance premiums are mere chump change. So now, they can vote away health care for the masses with a clear conscience; it makes no difference to their bottom line (except for the fact that they get "campaign" contribution$ by the millions from the Insurance "Industry" $87 million last year alone).

There's an old black humor sight gag: A boy with one good hand and one crippled hand wishes that both his hands were the same. His wish is granted and he watches in horror as his good hand withers into a twisted stump.

Be careful of what you wish for.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Is one in five too many? Or just right?

I have heard that one in five people are illiterate. I have heard that one in five people believe that the world is flat. I have heard that one in five people believe that the United States faked the 1969 moon landing. I have heard that one in five people believe that the universe was created on October 23, 4004 BC. OOOOKKKKAY.

Now I read in the Daily News Record*, that one in five people believe that President Obama is a Muslim (please! not that I care, but...).

Are these the same people? If so, I hope that they don't vote. If they do, democracy is doomed.

Thomas Jefferson noted that an informed public is requisite for good government. That's why he defended news papers even while he was being attacked in them. Our news papers (and all news media) apparently aren't doing enough to dispel the misinformation flooding our consciousness.

If you can write anything you want on the Internet and then get all your information there, shouldn't you consider the source? If someone [read fOX nEWS] makes money in direct proportion to how outrageous their words are, then their business model will be: "Say anything; call yourself 'NEWS'".

* I always say Daily News Wrecker - but in their defense; they printed this pretty much unchanged [In Virginia, all you have to do is quote Thomas Jefferson and you'll get printed. Plus it never hurts to praise the First Amendment when writing to a news paper....] I guess that I'm a whore too {not that I have anything against prostitutes...}.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Original Stupidity"; can we improve on it?

Just in case you thought that I was done, the following is the logical afterthoughts on my musings on “Original Stupidity”: the concept that all those people, way back then, were stupid because they didn’t have flush toilets. If interested, see the part of my Quotations concerning Giordono Bruno... Or maybe it was Robert Graves... Both, probably.

Along with the belief in Original Stupidity, there is an antithetical, almost universal and erroneous belief in: "Things have pretty much always been the way they are now". "Things" being the weather and trees and soil and rivers and estuaries, you know, the planet. If your world "historical" perspective only goes back a few thousand years, why would you think otherwise? (Although, cramming all those dinosaurs, trilobites, and saber-toothed tigers into a few thousand years might, if you had an analytical bent, suggest that change is a rapid rule, rather than the exception. But then again, if you believe that the universe turns 6014 years old this October 23rd, just how analytical are you?) Anyway, the weather (and those other things) has undoubtedly changed rather rapidly on quite a few occasions (maybe not rapidly enough to explain the dinosaurs on a Biblical scale) and that has led to some very hard times in Europe and ultimately in the USA, that were made just a little harder by the Catholic Church. Why even say "Catholic" Church? It was the only one around in those early second millenuim days, they, the cHURCH, having murdered pretty much any and all people of other faiths. I say Catholic because just saying "the church" implies that the THOUSANDS of offshoot sects that have followed since Martin Luther haven't unlearned anything about rampant arrogant Authoritarianism in the last few hundred years. That's not so. A few have. Actually, some have embraced a bit of the humility that the scriptures are always talking about (and the Church with the capital "C" has never honestly acknowledged). The pOPE is all humble right up to the point when he tells you that YOU'RE going to Hell, and he's the only guy who knows for sure. Now before you begin to think that I'm liberal about some Christian religions; just remember that I am certain that anyone who has the temerity to proselytize for THEIR faith is a hypocrite. Where's the humility in that? There are 7 billion of us, not one having ever demonstrably seen gOD. So; "I'm right, you're wrong; and I'm going to save you by flipping you." is humble? I think that the only more egregious hypocrisy is the one inherent in the Bible (the book written by desert sun crazed goat herders far more ignorant than any person you ever met in your life) in The Book of Revelations: It says that there are only a specific number of souls who will ascend to Heaven; 144,000. So If YOU can be very, very good, you can bump someone like Mother Theresa clean off the list! Now that's something to shoot for! Competition makes everything better, all of the time. That's why Capitalism and Christianity are so compatible! I think... So back to the weather.

After an extended warm period leading up to about the year 1000, the Little Ice Age ushered in a period of 700 years or so of cooler weather with way too much rain for the primitive production of grain crops, the staple of agricultural civilization at that time. From 1371 to 1791 there were 100 famines during which many millions died. The hardships caused by spoiled grain in storage must have been exacerbated by the incidence of Ergot fungal infestation of grain produced under overly wet growing conditions. Ergot fungal disease of wheat results in LSD type compounds being produced in the grain. It's not good LSD, it's nasty combinations of similar compounds that if you eat it, not only make you hallucinate that you're dying horribly; they actually do kill you horribly during your trip. The constant starvation regime likely coincided with significant infanticide. Possibly, the stories like Hansel and Gretel and all those lovely Grimm Fairy Tales (and how could those brothers have had a better name?)…resulted in the question: “What are we to do with these starving children?”… all date from these hard times. The Bubonic Plague came along and between 1347 and 1351 some 25 millions died (actually good news for the serfs, as it made their labor something valuable enough for the landed rich to bargin for). In any case, Innocent the 8th (don’t you just love the names chosen by the pOPES?) blamed it all on witches and burned about 50,000 of them. It was a bad time to have a wart on your nose you can bet. As the climate was just starting to straighten out (as in go back to what it had been previously) the Tambora volcano in Indonesia blew so much crap into the atmosphere (some 36 cubic miles of rock dust) that most places around the world had a year with no summer. The Irish, having switched from wheat to potatoes from the Americas, were next hit by another famine; the potato blight, caused by the fungus, Phytopthora infestans. Millions more starved and about a million of the nearly starving emigrated to the U.S.A. And Oh! What a paradise it was! Sixty percent of the Irish children born in Boston during this period didn't live to see their sixth birthday. Adult Irish lived on average just six years after stepping off the boat onto American soil. The worst of the exploitation of the destitute and ignorant émigrés (God! I hate it when I have to use a French word.) was by those Irish folks who had arrived a few years prior to the big famine-caused push. Ah, human nature; you just got to love it. Faith and Begora!

Where did the weather go? Oh yes. So the arguments about Global Warming and/or Climate Change are about whether (HA! WEATHER!) it is rapid or slow, real or imaginary, natural or man caused? All of the above! What does it matter? Who cares? If it is possible to actually do something about it, shouldn't we try? Well yes, if you have children. I don't. I figure that all those folks who are so in denial that they refuse to be inconvenienced by the economic repercussions of any proposed remedial actions, and who have children, are exactly in the same position of those starving, famine-struck people of the "ancient" past. They are going to die. Of course, we're all going to die. Our children are going to die too, but in this case, maybe we'll all get to see them die. Maybe, all of us, more or less; we'll all go together. Regardless of which tenent of Stupidity you adhere to (Original or Current), the fact remains:

“IT HAS NEVER BEEN LIKE THIS BEFORE. WE ARE NOT THAT MUCH SMARTER THAN THE PEOPLE WERE IN THE OLD DAYS.

(we prove that every day that we continue to rationalize the killing of each other’s babies in the various wars that are now the continuous backdrop of scenery in so much of the world [and as if that wasn’t enough, some Presidents believe that it’s always a good idea to start a war 12,000 miles from the Homeland…]). Oh well!

IF YOU THINK THAT TECHNOLOGY WILL SAVE US, WHY DON’T YOU BELIEVE IT WHEN THE “TECHNOLOGISTS" TELL YOU THAT HUMAN CAUSED GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL?

Bad things have happened before, but this is the first time that it has all added up to this moment, right now. Get used to it.

Take a ride in your Hummer if you think it'll make you feel better. Tell your children why you believe that you don't have to care enough about the future to change your ways (maybe the children will have a better grasp of history that you do).

"The optimist believes that this is the best of all
possible worlds; the pessimist fears that this is true."

James branch Cabell. 1879 - 1958


Oh boy, I guess that I’m a hypocrite; if I were a true pessimist, I won't bother to write this stuff. What’s the point?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Digging iron joys

I'm trying to believe that I have dug my last serious hole into the so-called soil and shale of my Fulks Run, VA property. I had thought that I was done after finishing the holes for the "corral" posts around the forsythia bushes (where the brown thrashers live and the deer threaten their habitat) but then I was inspired by the bats at Alpena, West Virginia. The folks who run the place have a wonderful bat box raised high above the berm of their pond dam. Friend John, on an evening walk observed about 150 bats exiting this box. Well, I had to have one of those! So I build the box and then I had to construct the pole (I wasn't going to go out and buy stuff), so things got a little complicated. It ended up being a marvelous example of a Hoffackered thingy mortised and tennoned out of three pieces of wood (one of which was a good portion of a red cedar tree). But the good news was (and unlike the rest of the story) will stay good news; was that it had rained almost an inch and a half during the night prior to my digging my last hole.

So the good news was that the first four inches were damp. The bad news was that the moisture stopped there. The good news was that I thought that I should put that substantial 6x6 post at least 30 inches deep into the ground; the bad news was that I immediately hit hard blue shale (I had thought that I'd be digging through the "unconsolidated" material of the berm soil packed in back in 1983...). The good news was that I no longer had to go 30 inches deep; 24 would be plenty.... The bad news was that in order to chip through each one inch of hard blue shale you have to thrust down forcefully about thirty times with the digging iron (producing sparks and acrid smelling dust and smoke) - and then (depending on how deep your are) either reach down into the hole with your hand or use the post hole digger about 25 times (a tool that retrieves about 10% of whatever it may be that you're hoping to remove from the hole [especially if you're dealing with loose dirt and rocks], all in diminishing returns down to 1% when you then revert to the hand method - [if you're smart]). The good news was that the bat house pole would be really really well set. The next good news was that I pierced through that layer and hit the original slope "soil". The bad news was that this material (having been scraped down to the subsoil and repeatedly mashed by the bulldozer) was very nearly as impenetrable as the compacted "soil" and blue shale (did I mention that this material had been excavated from the stream bottom where it had been deposited by massive floods in the 1930"s?). Anyway, more bad news was that I wasn't done yet and that I had to go a little deeper in order to determine what would be the best lower layer to secure the base of the pole...

Well, the good news was that I again hit good ole hard blue shale. The bad news was that I then had to chip a square 7X7 inch hole into this layer to hold the bottom of the pole. The good news is that at 32 inches down, the "chipping" of hard blue shale into a precise pocket is a joy for the ages. Then the sun came out and I quit. I came up here and drank an ice cold beer, took a shower and wrote this piece of crap.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The last of the quotes (but the most recently quoth...)

“Credulity is man’s weakness, but the child’s strength.
Charles Lamb (Elia in the cross word puzzles) 1775 - 1834


Nothing succeeds like success.
Alexander Dumas (elder) 1802 - 1870

To give an accurate and exhaustive account of that period would need a far less brilliant pen than mine.
Max Beerbohn 1872 - 1956


The optimist declares that we live in the best of all possible worlds, and the pessimist fears that it is true.
James Branch Cabell 1879 - 1958


Oh Boy! This is one of my all time favorites. How could it be improved on? There is a certain solipsism about the “best of all possible worlds” that has been applied correctly to refute the argument that the perfection of nature proves the existence of God. But this so sweetly turns it all on it’s head, and is cynical too! Are we seeing a pattern here? They are MY favorite quotes.

I get more cynical every day, but it’s never enough.
Lilly Tomlin

Now I am the wiser; for I know that there is not any memory with less satisfaction in it than the memory of some temptation we resisted.
James Branch Cabell


If we resisted, we regret the missed opportunity, if we satisfied the temptation, we may still regret that we did. Sometimes, you just can’t win. This next Cabell quote comes from Jurgen and the scene is a gentleman fondling the sweet young flesh of his mistress:

Worm’s meat! This is the destined food, do what you will, of small white worms. This by and by will be a struggling pale corruption, like seething milk.

Why do I like this? I don’t know. It’s an interesting seduction technique, similar to “we may all be dead tomorrow, so why not?” But mostly, I like the imagery. It has truth. I believe in the adage:

Mother Nature always bats last.

I recall a rabbit that the cat released in the house only to die behind the refrigerator.... You had to be there to appreciate it. So back to biology. I wish that there was a way to put some Larsen cartoons in here; he certainly made some profound observations. We’ll be content with an Aldo Leopold:

The land is one organism. If the biota, in the course of aeons, has built something we like but do not understand, then who but a fool would discard seemingly useless parts? To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.

This is the one that set my nose to the grindstone with respect to my experience with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and our illustrious Secretary of Natural Resources, Becky Dunlop. Becky was the James Watt (we don’t need to preserve nature, Jesus is coming at the millennium) protégé that George Allen found under a rock somewhere. Becky, was put in charge of the Natural Resources of Virginia. She didn’t believe in Evolution, much less a universe older thant 6600 years (or whatever) Ah! I just found it (among other interesting things) - And I enjoyed my research into the Scopes trial while looking for it. "I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way.” - Franklin P. Adams) As calculated by some “Biblical Scholar”, the age of the Universe is calculated from October 23, 4004 BC. To her, coal was a “renewable resource” since God had “POOF” made it all on the third or fourth day or whatever. Now, I’ve got nothing against letting people believe whatever they want. But you don’t put the guy on the street shouting at God in charge of policy either. Oh, man it was hard those four years. Becky didn’t believe in acid precipitation (it interfered with God fearing Christian business people maximizing their profits, and those Capitalistic profits are as dear to the Christian heart as the Gospels... so Pat Robertson tells us). Stop me, the nightmare is over. There will always be what appear to be insurmountable obstacles and powerful forces to oppose.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.
Margaret Mead


The rest of these quotes have been selected by me without the aide of Bartlett. They’ve been gleaned mostly from my own reading and it may not be possible to reference them as easily as those that have preceeded. I also have to drop most of the birth and death dates. Most of the authors are still living as of this writing but I don’t necessarily know which ones.

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
T. S. Eliot 1888 - 1965


The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.
Paul Valery


Trouble rather the tiger in his lair than the sage amongst his books. For to you Kingdoms and their armies are things mighty and enduring, but to him they are but toys of the moment, to be overturned by the flicking of a finger.
Gordon R. Dickson


Compared to what? From now on whenever anyone says something to me, that’s what I’m going to say. - Lucy
Charles Shultz


Let me make myself perfectly clear...
Richard Milhouse Nixon


You knew what was coming every time Dick said this. Later, at the funeral of Charles De Gaulle:

This is a great day for France!

You have to wonder how those “idiom sensitive” translators handled that. Then again, there is that “French language” thing. I used to have a copy of a letter sent to Jaques Chirac, President of France from the Prime Minister of New Zealand. It was a wonderful send up of the French neuroses about their culture and language. It was a hoot. I think I saw it in Harper's.

If Lincoln were alive today, he’d roll over in his grave.
Gerald Ford


Maybe we should not have humored them... When they asked to live on reservations. Maybe we should have said, “No come join us. Be citizens along with the rest of us."
Ronald Reagon
[speaking of Native Americans]

That one takes my breath away. Just because he had Aldzhimers, doesn’t mean he wasn’t an idiot as well. More Reagonisms:

[Malapropism repeated nine times in one speech, early in his administration]
The United States has much to offer the third world war.

This kind of weapon [thermonuclear] can’t help but have an effect on the population as a whole.


There is today in the US as much forest as there was when Washington was at Valley Forge.

When you’ve seen one redwood, you’ve seen them all.

I don’t believe a tree is a tree and if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.


Which is it Ron? Man, this can get depressing, this was the president of the United States and he’s still revered as a Great Man.! Was it I who asked if we ever remember quotes we don’t like? I didn’t think to ask why we like them. Certainly, anything that makes those you don’t respect less powerful should be remembered and quoted. You can quote me.

America’s lands may be ravaged as a result of the actions of the environmentalists.
James Watt taught Becky Dunlop the appointee of George Allen as Secretary of Natural Resources of Virginia, my former boss, everything she knows:

[exposure to dioxin] is usually not disabling, but may be fatal.
Dow Chemical Spokesperson


On a lighter note, thank God we’ve got Yogi Berra:

A nickel ain’t worth a dime any more.
It’s like deja vu all over again.
Nobody goes there anymore it’s too crowded.
You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.



The similarities between me and my father are different.
Dale Berra


That’s what you think, Dale.

I believe that we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy. But that could change.
Dan Quayle

John Stuart Mill would have noted:
Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people... it is true that most stupid people are conservative.


The two most common things in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.
Harlan Ellison

Someone once told me that if you have to swallow a toad, it’s best not to look at it too long. If you have to swallow two toads, it’s best to swallow the biggest one first. If you have to swallow more than two, you need to reevaluate what you’re doing.
Charles Hawkins


Some quotes are worth repeating.
B. Keith Fowler (commenting on these quotes I put on the bulletin board.)

When a man falls into his anecdotage, it’s a sign for him to retire.
Disraeli again


It’s time for me to retire from quoting quotes, so I’ll list some of my own adages. They’re not likely to become part of our collective consciousness or mental short cuts, but they seemed appropriate when I coined them.

Forget truth and beauty; for most people happiness is having someone else to blame.
Everything takes two hands except for those things that take three.
Bureaucracy will make liars of us all.
When you’re really, really, mad at something, you beat the piss out of it with your binoculars.
A person’s self satisfaction is proportional to his ignorance.


I’ve lived my life so far with long periods of consummate self-satisfied smugness (You’ve figured this out from this essay), but it’s been punctuated with episodes of abject humility (when reality reared its ugly head). I’ve certainly learned more from my errors than my successes. So like Socrates, I accept the fact of my ignorance; I just try to forget it now and again. So ignorance of ignorance is bliss. It sure worked for George W. Bush.

The wisdom of the wise and the experience of the ages may be preserved by quotation.
Benjamin Disraeli




Compiled by R. W. Bolgiano, December, 2000
Edited; January, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The big Fracking companies are coming.

Recent articles in the Daily News Record (I say Wrecker) about the proposed drilling and gas fracking in the Bergton, Virginia area have consistently used the term: "small" when referring to the chemicals used in the process. These amounts have been reported to be about one percent. One percent contamination is 10,000 parts per million. The taxpayers every where are presently paying their own Sewer Authorities to treat their waste down to the single digit parts per million range (a ten thousandth of a percent). Further, our own local "contaminants" are nitrates and various suspended solids, not benzene and the other hundreds of (and presumably proprietary) chemicals used in the fracking process. To call 10,000 parts per million of a carcinogenic chemical like benzene "small" is to engage in misinformation. Wouldn't it be nice if the next reference to fracking chemicals in the news would use the term "massive pollution"? Even the Fracking Company admits that something close to half of the contamination is not recovered for Treatment.

The contamination of surface and ground water by Big Fracking Gas Companies has been exempted from regulation by the EPA, the State of Virginia DEQ, and the Department Of Minerals and Mines by a Bill proposed by Dick (Haliburton) Chenney. The only entity that still has a voice in the process of permitting the drilling (the wells, NOT responsibility for the pollution and presumably redress by the citizenry) is local County Government; a group singularly unprepared to deal with the complexities of geology, waste treatment, and chemistry. The company (as is usual in a great free market) is buying up leases as fast as it can prior to local folks learning about what the leases are worth and what the problems might be (like water wells catching on fire - See the movie "Gasland" - http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-june-21-2010/josh-fox). The company (and the news paper) imply that the "bad stuff" is going to be way down there thousands of feet below your water well.

If we've learned anything from the drilling tragedy in the Gulf, it should be that fluids (gases and liquids) thousands of feet down in the earth don't really want to stay there. All that rock is heavy and it will squeeze that stuff back up here where we and our water wells live. Especially if you "frak" the rock strata. The only way to make this worse is to put the industrial waste lagoons in the flood plain. That's what they're planning to do.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The weather is better but people are still pretty dumb.

Some are weatherwise and some are otherwise.
Ben Franklin 1706 - 1790


Necessity never made a good bargain.
There never was a good war or a bad peace.

Genius is nothing but a greater aptitude for patience.
Georges Louis Leclerc De Buffon 1707 - 1788

A decent provision for the poor is the truest test of a civilization.
Samuel Johnson 1709 - 1784

Depend on it sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.


I wonder if this could be employed as a study aide some how? And last from Samuel:

I have found you an argument; I am not obliged to find you an understanding.

This world is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel.
Horace Walpole 1717 - 1797

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Edmund Burke 1729 - 1777


When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.
Thomas Paine 1743 - 1809

The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
Thomas Jefferson 1743 - 1829


Pretty good for a guy with the Sally Hemmings “problem”. I’ve said that context be damned; hypocracy is hypocracy and if you can't see it it’s probably because you’re a hypocrite.

To teach is to learn twice.
Ask the young: they know everything.
Joseph Joubert 1754 - 1824



Boy! If this little sarcasm isn’t one of the verities of life, I don’t know what is. Now, if it were only possible to realize the truth of this prior to middle age. But then of course it wouldn’t be true any more. It’s kind of like those puzzles about people on the island that always lie or always tell the truth. Reality flip flops because the a priori conditions affect the perceptions you need in order to solve the problem. A lot of time is spent trying to solve what we think is the right problem. But we often work on something only related to the problem.

RTP: Read The Problem.
Ralph Edmund Bolgiano


Good advice for me when I very impatiently jumped to all kinds of conclusions as to appropriate strategies. Hierarchical levels of organization are too much for most of us. We protest and resist the solution on one level because we like to jump a few levels and assail our debate opponent with, “Oh Yeah, but what about the price of eggs in China?” Many of the debates (arguements) I read in the news employ "Toddler Logic":

I didn't do it. It wasn't that bad. He did first.
Me

Life can be understood backward; but must be lived forwards.

Kierkegaard


The time travel paradox is an example of a “eudox”: I understand that if you could go back in time and kill yourself (or your father), you couldn’t go back into time and kill anybody. And as much as I appreciate the advantages of logical “thought experiments” as Einstein called them. I have a little trouble with a system of thought being the only thing to stop a physical action (Yeah yeah, I know the Theory of relativity holds that approaching the speed of light makes you infinitely short and infinitely massive - but it starts with the premise that you can’t exceed the speed of light so the “proofs” are tautologies). So I guess I’m not as rational as I’d like think I am. It rankles a bit to go from Einstein’s cosmos all the way back to Aristotle for the stopper. Now if logical paradox of rational word usage can keep us from physically going back into time, in mathematics, why do irrational numbers (like pi) and imaginary numbers (square roots of negatives) have any utility? And if the Big Bang happened, there was a time before time (without space there can’t be the time it takes to cross it) when there were no rules (or least, rules that have no “Logical” reason to have any connection to the rules we’re using to think about this question). What was the question? That’s the problem with the thought experiment, rigorous logic gets confusing at the point at which you interject a “wild hair/hare”, one of those “just for the sake of argument” kind of assumptions. Most of us just can’t keep our thought processes straight in this world, much less in an altered or hypothetical universe. And this is a way of seeing where it’s all going? So it slips into mysticism. If you feel it’s true but can’t prove it, it’s either religion or mysticism. To quote John Stockton during his campaign for the vice-presidency: “ What am I doing here?” Which is a larger question that it seems; and the next guy thinks he has some answers.

William Blake 1757 - 1827

To see a World in a grain of Sand, and a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the Palm of you hand And Eternity in an Hour.


I fervently hope that everyone has had such a moment in their lives; more importantly, I hope that they remember it, and cherish it, and believe in it. I hope that they haven’t refused to remember the “dream truth” quality of those times that are outside of time (and therefore space), when we see things differently. Certainly sometimes they’re visions that have danger and can cause harm; I don’t engage the man talking to God in the street. But that doesn’t mean that he’s not experiencing a life far richer than those who can’t see anything but the dirt beneath their feet.

We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

Moderation in all things.
Publius Terentius Afer 190 - 159 BC


The golden mean is great, but how do you know what moderation is if you’ve never seen excess? I guess that I’m advocating:

There is moderation even in excess.
Benjamin Disraeli 1804 - 1881


“Wisdom through excess.” My friend Jimmy used to say. At least in moderation.... By that I mean we don’t have to take the elevator all the way to the top or bottom, but we shouldn’t be afraid to at least peek into the basement and the top floor at least a time or two. So here we have the LSD, mescaline, or psilocybin experience. So many people (especially those who know nothing about it have made it their business to tell us about the drug experience. The Partnership for a Drug Free American is a great example. Listen to their ads:

When she read her first book she read it to me. When talk of the birds and the bees went around she came to me for advice. So why didn’t she come to me when someone offered her a joint?

IT’S BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW SQUAT ABOUT MARIJUANA; YOU’RE IN THE RADIO ADVERTISEMENT BUSINESS FOR THE GOVERNMENT GRANT MONEY.

Another group of poor souls addicted to “drug money”. And I refuse to subscribe to the cop-out of blaming the bad parts of a drug experience on the drug. It’s all inside you already. The exalted highs and the abysmal lows. It’s just a pill! The rest is in your head from the totality of your life. The Partnership folks want to blame all our troubles on the drug. I prefer the person who takes the drug. So for those that are shocked, I have to rely on another of the thoughts of Thomas Hobbes:

The secret thoughts of man run over all things, holy, profane, clean, obscene, grave, and light, without shame or blame.

I guess my definition of “sin” (and especially those things that deserve to be illegal) doesn’t include the “victimless” crimes, or “dirty thought” for that matter. I fail to feel guilty about dreams in which I commit adultery with Lamia, or engage in ... whatever. And I reserve the right to think about these things when not in the dream state. It is so much more reasonable to contemplate having seen the underlying microstructure of a leaf in its veins or the roots of a mountain in the texture of its hollows and trees, all with a little (50 micrograms!) help from LSD. Even if the "AH HA! I SEE!" moment doesn’t last after those 1000 or so molecules have been pissed away. I know that it was all possible within the 150 pounds of molecules which are ME. Back to Blake:

A Truth that’s told with bad intent, Beats all the lies you can invent.

Prisons are built of Stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.


Not only a visionary, but a cynic (I like that in a person) with a poet’s flair. Here is Friedrick Von Schiller again:

Whatever is not forbidden is permitted.

A very important principal. And one that has been ignored by tyrants thorough out history, and recently as well. I’m reminded of the case in the 1980’s were a US citizen constructed a hydroelectric power plant on his property (refurbished an old grist mill). The issue came up as to whether he should be allowed to tie into the power grid (selling his electricity at wholesale and buying it back at retail). An electrical power company executive opined that he didn’t think that it was LEGAL for private citizens to generate electricity! Fortunately, Judge Ito wasn’t presiding, and the obvious answer came back. “What?” The judge cleared that up for the power guy. As a matter of fact Virginia has some of the better regulations (and lack thereof) concerning home power generation. . I’m selling electricity to the Shenandoah Valley Electrical Coop right this minute. But as I understand it, there is a cap on the percentage of electricity in the grid that can be produced (and therefore purchased from) private citizens… Better get your PV panels while there's still time. You might have to GIVE your excess electricity away (or purposely waste it) if you’re too late. Let’s get that regulation changed; what do you say?

Mating Call Modification

Whippoorwill (Caprimulgus vociferous) Behavior in response to a mimicking device in Rockingham County: Submission to The North American Ornithicalogicial Society.

Electronic file last modified on 25 January 1997.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN PRINT & ELECTRONIC VERSIONS ARE CONFUSING AT BEST.

‑‑The original was printed in a single column with lines of 78 characters or less, but it has been converted to lines of 75 characters or less to show better how esoteric we can be.

TITLE:

Whippoorwill (Caprimulgus vociferous) Behavior in response to a mimicking device in Rockingham County in 1997.

CITATION: REDACTED 1997. Whippoorwill Behavior in response to a mimicking device in Rockingham County in 1997. Journal of North American Ornithocalogical Society.

Ornithology 11:511‑523.


Acknowledgments‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑-‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 617
Literature Cited‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑-‑‑‑‑‑‑‑ 613
Introduction---------------------------------------------609

The purpose of this paper is to provide results of experiments into the Behavior of a Whippoorwill (Caprimulgus vociferus) during oral mating display in Rockingham County
STUDY AREA: FULKS RUN INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, ROCKINGHAM COUNTY

Approx. Center of Site: 38 37' 10" N, 78 56' 51" W
Singers Glen, Virginia USGS 7.5 minute Quadrangle:
Location: Fulks Run International Airport
Area Studied: Former domicile of the author, the site of a ratty old trailer.
Habitat(s) Studied: Graveled area (Limestone crushed rock, size #5/8) near the author's bedroom window
Elevation: 1377 ft ASL (416 m)
Minimum Distance to Ridge top (ASL approx. 2000): 1 mi (0.6 km).
LANDSCAPED FORMER TRAILER SITE

Behavior(s) Studied: Male mating enticement display station.

******************************************************************
METHODS

A landscaped area (formerly the site of a trailer, definitely NOT a mobile home) appears to represent the all time ideal site for Male whippoorwills' enticement display.
During the early summer (June 22 through June 26) of 1997, starting at 10:02 PM (a) male whippoorwill(s) perched on a bench and conducted his enticement display. The call was measured at 85 db at a distance of 30 feet (8.5 m) in a frequency range of 440 to 1360 MHz, with an average repetition cadence of 0.8 seconds, and an uninterrupted duration of 2 hours and 16 minutes. A similar performance was repeated in the AM hours of the following morning, starting at 02:37 and continuing for 2 hours and 31 minutes.

Several consecutive nights of this behavior prompted the author to seek relief from the mating call by means of whippoorwill behavior modification. The afternoon of 26 June 1997, he obtained a "mimicking device" also known as a mechanical talking "parrot". This device is a nine (9) volt DC sound activated recording and play-back mechanism embedded in an imitation "feathered" puppet designed to represent a "talking" bird. The sounds, or calls, repeated by the device are recordings of the sounds that activate the devise, they are modified in both frequency and cadence rate. Frequencies and cadence rate are elevated by a factor of 1.0627. Description of puppet: Length: 36 cm, wingspan: 32 cm, pelage: back, blue, wings green, red, and yellow, breast: white, tail feathers (3): yellow, green, and red (each one solid color). Eyes: blue, feet yellow. Legs: very short (like the whippoorwill). Bill: very large, approximately 4 inches (10 cm) bright yellow. Genus and species unknown, possibly meant to represent a toucan.

SHORTCOMINGS OF OBSERVATIONS

Unfortunately, observations were unsatisfactory because of sleep deprivation. The first several nights the author had resorted to throwing handfuls of gravel (limestone, size #5/8) at the bird. Previous experience (two years ago) had illustrated the futility of fire arms (see JOO 3:321-315), prompted the author to experiment with alternative measures. Thus, data are only estimates of reality. (See sleep deprivation studies, JOP, 1990, 4:255-259).
******************************************************************
GENERAL RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The evening of June 26, 1997, a whippoorwill arrived at the mating display location at 09:54PM. The whippoorwill began his mating call (measurements: 85 db at a distance of 30 feet (8.5 m) in a frequency range of 450 to 1360 MHz, with a repetition cadence of 1.2 seconds, nearly identical to those previously recorded on June 25, 1997. Duration however was affected by the response of the mimicking device. The whippoorwill ceased his calls for a period of 5.6 seconds (possibly the time it took for him to try and figure out what the f**k was happening). The whippoorwill resumed his mating call and the mimicking device activated and responded with the afore mentioned cadence and frequency modifications. The whippoorwill responded to the mimicking device by modifying his calls. The whipporrwill calls were measured at 92 db at a distance of 30 feet (8.5 m) in a frequency range of 472 to 1430 MHz. At no time did the whippoorwill mimic the “AUWWKKK!” that the “parrot” interjects at the beginning of each new recording. Duration of this "enhanced" mating call lasted for 1 hour and 22 minutes, when it was terminated by the experimenter's intervention (thrown gravel [again, limestone, size # 5/8] that’s all I can find at this time of night and you can hurt your arm trying to throw it violently).

The author theorizes that the stubborn insistence of the whippoorwill counteracts the “parrot’s” ability to reset and therefore rerecord the “enhanced” display characteristics. Were this not the case, both parot and whippoorwill would have likey ramped up in frequency and cadence beyond the point of human hearing. Perhaps to the point they’d both explode (one can only wish).

After removal of the mimicking device, mating displays were observed to recommence after periods of time as short as 20 seconds after gravel was thrown. Mating calls loudness, frequencies, and cadence, returned to previously recorded levels following additional gravel throwing incidents at 11:18 PM, 11:21 PM, 11:25 PM, and 11:26 PM. Presumably, duration would have also been unaffected by the experiment, had the experimenter possessed the patience to test it (have YOU ever heard a whippoorwill when you’re trying to sleep?).


Following is a representation of the above results in table form:

(Table 1); Apologies to those who do not have the requisite software)

Further study of affects on duration are needed, however, observation effort and methods were inadequate to properly document results on this occasion. Others, (Boekelheide and Ainley 1989, Boekelheide et al. 1990a) have noted the persistence of the mating display (after all, the species name IS vociferus! Scott (1973:23) noted that the rate of return to mating display calls is more than 8 times more rapid than the rate at which frogs return to normal behavior after disturbance (gravel throwing, geogenesis and size unknown). Does this mean that FROGS are smarter than whippoorwills? And will you tell me why a bird that screams “HERE I AM, HERE I AM” a thousand times an hour isn’t eaten by some self respecting owl or fox or something?
******************************************************************

TABLE

Mating call resumption intervals, whippoorwills. sub colony.
‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑

Seconds duration with
Site SC delay Date mpts Young Source
‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑‑
Parnassas A 45 8/9/1991 70+ 1.56+ ? Fawley 1973) *
Parnassas B 10 8/3/1983 19 ? 1.90 Fawley (in prep.)
Breiry Branch A 42 8/3/1983 19 0.45 ? This Paper
Briery Branch B 52 8/3/1983 16 0.31 ? This Paper
Briery Branch C 69 8/3/1983 2 0.03 ? This Paper
Rawley Sp. 84 7/17/1983 49 0.58 1.23 **

** Tesh (1973:9, 23) did not appear to make an intensive effort to measure resumption rate (due to use of shot gun). Thus, Tesh's (1973) data may underestimate the tenacity of C. vociferus.

** Graybill and Hodder (1985:206) list 84 total tests, but Hodder and Graybill (1985:538) lists 82 attempts; the mean value for duration/gravel throws in Hodder and Graybill (1985) is correct if sigma is less than 2.05.
******************************************************************
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I am grateful to Ray Tesh for the lone of the mimicking device. And I am most grateful to Eric Gadberry for the gift of the shot gun; the only strategy that appears to have any effect on Caprimulgus vociferous. However, the nearly instantaneous replacement of the “dead” whippoorwill with a replacement male bird, convinced me that even though I was willing to kill the first whippoorwill on Cross Mountain, I was not willing to kill the last whippoorwill on Cross Mountain. We live and we learn; unless we happen to be particularly stupid Texans. In which case; God help us all.

Literature Cited:
Ainley, D. G. 1990. Farallon WHIPPOORWILLS: patterns at the community level. Pp. 339‑380 in Ainley, D. G. and R. J. Boekelheide (Eds.). 1990.
Whippoorwills, stupidity, ecology, dynamics, and structure of
an upwelling system community. Stanford Univ. Press.
Boekelheide, R. J. and D. G. Ainley. 1989.
Age, resource availability, and idiotic brain-dead birds. Auk 106:389‑401.
Boekelheide, R. J., D. G. Ainley, S. H. Morrell, and T. J. Lewis. 1990a. Whippoorwills. Pp. 163‑194 in D. G. Ainley and R. J. Boekelheide (Eds.). 1990. Bird brains of the North American Continent: ecology, dynamics, and structure birds that are dumber than frogs. Stanford Univ. Press.
Tesh, R. F., Boekelheide, R. J., D. G. Ainley, H. R. Huber, and T. J. Lewis. 1990b.
Effects of #6 bird shot on stupid whippoorwills. Pp. 195‑217 in D. G. Ainley and R. J. Boekelheide (Eds.). 1990. Whippoorwills of the Farallon Islands: ecology, dynamics, and structure of an incredibly stupid bird. Stanford Univ. Press.
Graybill, M. R. and J. Hodder. 1985. Effects of the 1982‑1983 El Nino on reproduction of six species of Caprimulgidae in Virginia. Pp. 205‑210 in W. S. Wooster and D. L. Fluharty, eds. El Nino North: Nino effects in the Eastern North America. Small International Airport Grant Program, Univ. Maryland, College Park, Md..
Hodder, J. and M. R. Graybill. 1985. Reproduction and survival of birds that got "blowed-up" during the 1982‑1983 El Nino. Condor 87:535‑541.
Scott, J. M. 1973. Resource allocation in four species of Caprimulgidae. Ph.D. Thesis, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis.

JOO 5:611‑613 Contents HREF="joomenu.htm” Menu

Friday, April 2, 2010

Water Problems in the Rest of the World

A Republican Bill (Written free of charge for them by Rush Limbaugh)

Whereas, 97% of meteorological and atmospheric scientists (100% of those not in the employ of the fossil fuel industry), so called "scientific organizations" such as the Smithsonian Society, National Geographic Society, The American Meteorological Society and various Academies of Science too numerous to mention all declare that "Climate Change", AKA "Global Warming" is a reality, and whereas these organizations cite and print and post data and images of Arctic and Tibetan and other glacial areas of earth showing the reality of shrinking ice fields as obvious evidence in support of their "theories", be it resolved that;

We Republicans declare all these groups and their members to be ANTI AMERICAN, anti free market, knowing and unknowing dupes of Chinese Communists, pinkos, queers and all those bad people who have a secret agenda.  Further, we declare their information to be a hoax and any repetition of it to be fake news.

And further, be it known that anyone on Earth dependent on water coming to them via the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Salwen, Irrawaddy, Jamuna, Ganges, Indus, Orinoco, Japura, Amazon, Jura, Madeira, Mamore, Mackenzie, Yukon, Rhone, Rhine, Danube, Tigress, Euphrates, and White or Blue Nile Rivers to be non people and therefore undeserving of consideration by the God fearing good Americans who has got theirs just fine, thank you very much. And f**k you too, you Pacific Islanders, Bangladeshis, and Dutch who don’t have the good sense to live more than ten feet above the high tide mark (and probably can’t speak English like Jesus did).

The End of War

An open letter to National Public Radio:

Something was very very wrong with your program.
I was fully prepared to participate in the discussion conducted on "Talk of the Nation" on NPR this past Tuesday, March 30 concerning Drone Warfare. But I just couldn’t listen after the first fifteen minutes. It is profoundly depressing to hear so called "experts" dance all around with smoke and mirrors when asked reasonable questions. Further, many reasonable questions were never asked or the host refused to follow up the non answers with any probing. I heard "answers" that evoked apocryphal and anecdotal digressions ("Oh! my friend wasn’t killed because he got to use a robot to kill the other guy." What about the other guy that got killed? How positive was his experience?) No one addressed the concept of "Thou shalt not kill." I’m an atheist and I adhere to that concept. When asked about the "collateral fatalities" [dead innocents], the talking heads mouthed something about the answer being "Highly Classified" and Congressional Authorization; I guess that is justification for killing the "wrong" people. The Iraq War has inured us to the concept of killing "suspected enemies". Now we’re even doing it with drones. What next, autonomous robots?

Now comes the part where you get to write me off as a crackpot: Sixty years ago, Assac Azimov imagined a world where humans and manufactured human substitutes (robots or drones) were cohabitants. He understood that given human nature, (where we can’t stop killing each other in very personal ways) that in order for civilization to continue to exist; at least the robots needed to obey "Thou shalt not kill". He proposed the three laws of robotics to protect the humans from other humans using robots as weapons. He instilled the robots with better ethics than we humans can manage.

The transition from prosthesis to drone to robot is already occurring around us and there is no sign that those constructing these transitional forms nor our representatives in Government are even thinking about the consequences of their actions. The assumption seems to be that only OUR side is going to have these weapons (how has that worked out so far in the history of warfare)? I recently read an OP ED piece in the Washington Post news written by a United States Army general stating that these "super soldiers" will make war obsolete! Just like the sword, the bow and arrow and the machine gun and the atom bomb.

If NPR is one of the best forums for debate of serious issues (and I believe that it is) and it can’t do any better than the recent program; then we are all truly and surely damned.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Southern Living

We just walked the 3/8ths of a mile of our driveway to get the mail and paper (neither were there). But we did clear the snow from the CRV parked at the bottom near the county road and the sun tomorrow will take care of the rest. The inadequately plowed trench through the 30 some inches of snow had started to drift over as the 40 mph winds continued to gust across Western Virginia. Ah! Winter! Those who live in southern climes, like Virginia have forgotten what it’s like. We here have also been allowed to forget what it’s like to live in winter. The last few years I haven’t really worn a coat; if I’m working outside, I generate enough heat to the point that if I wear a hat I sweat. If I’m not working, I’m on my way to somewhere and the time not spent in a car (even one not warmed up yet) isn’t a hardship. But in this kind of weather when I go out, I have to be protected.
If I want to see, I have to wear my glasses (with strap so I don’t lose them). Then there’s a tube "scarf" open on both ends so it can be a scarf or a balaclava or baklava (one's a dessert and the other is head and face protection....) or even an almost full face mask; a very flexible item. So then there’s a hat with a brim needed to keep the hood out of my eyes. If I’m running the tractor, I need ear protection muffs and they have to be over the balaclava and hat but under the hood. Then maybe I want to take my camera so there’s a strap around my neck too. Then I can put on my gloves if I don’t have to fish around for tractor keys or tools or maybe a pocket knife. Well, That was easy! I can’t tell you the number of times that I have had to completely start the dressing process over because I’ve forgotten something, or forgotten to do something before I go out....

But then after a time out in the wind and blowing snow you come back in, your glasses fog up and with the accumulated snow starting to melt you have to get out of all this stuff. Do you remember each and every item? In the correct order? HA! You end up thrashing your way out of the clothing, maybe dropping your glasses or camera or maybe just pirouetting around in circles trying to get your camera strap out from under the hood you’re no longer wearing up over your hat. All the while leaving puddles on the floor. Ah! Winter!

In the summer you can go naked. Ah! Summer!
As a pessimist I have always said that winter is better because if you’re cold you can always put on more clothing, but in the summer if you’re too hot you can only get just so much naked.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Truth, genius, and satire

In calm weather every man’s a pilot.
If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
John Ray 1628 - 1705



Truth often suffers more by the heat of its defenders than from the argument of its foes.
William Penn 1644 - 1718

When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.
Jonathan Swift 1667 - 1745


If you haven’t read it, The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy O’Toole is just great. I appreciate humor so much but the only kind I seem to be capable of generating is very dark and cynical. Unrelated here, but I encourage everyone I meet to read the books in the “Disk World” fantasy series by Terry Pratchett. The books are indescribable (except to say that they incorporate EVERY fantasy and gothic creature you can imagine – pretty much all just trying to get along with each other. Not cynical at all; and I know that book jacket “blurbers” are known for hyperbole, but I have heard Pratchett described as the greatest satirist since Swift in more than one place.) The books are loaded with wry humor, bald humor, wisdom and insight into the human condition and some of the best little sayings that anyone has ever penned – quotable stuff. And the good news is that if you like them, there are over thirty! Jonathan Swift really had a way with words; he was the consummate master of satire, and even about satire said:

Satire is a sort of glass wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.

Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.

But Solon (638 - 559 BC) has already said; Laws are like spiders’ webs, which stand firm when any light, yielding object falls upon them, while a larger thing breaks through them and escapes.

Obviously Swift has read his Classics. We forgive him his plagiary; he certainly improved on the original. Anyway, I saw the truth of this at DEQ. We’d hound the little guys but especially during the politicized periods, (I’ll not be coy; DURING GEORGE ALLEN’S TENURE) management was instructed to let the big guys pollute to their hearts’ content. And somehow when the newly appointed CEO’s own business was found to have an illegal discharge; he was allowed to fix it without penalty (or publicity). In fact, no one outside of the Agency ever heard about it. The inspector (same one dealing with the felon mentioned under Francois La Rochoucauld) was told that if she wanted to keep her job, no one outside the Agency was going to ever hear about it. So I have kept mum; we’re both outside the Agency now. What a jerk George Allen was! The best thing that ever happened in Virginian politics (and for the USA) was that Allen lost his bid for re-election to the US Senate (and stepping stone for a run for the Presidency of the USA if you believe the so called conservative pundits). My god! Allen makes George W. Bush look smart! Back to Swift:

Every man desires to live long, but no man would be old.

So, naturalists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ‘em;
And so on ad infinitum.
Thus every poet, in his kind,
Is bit by him that comes behind.


The sight of you is good for sore eyes.

He was a bold man that first eat an oyster.

She wears her clothes, as if they were thrown on her with a pitchfork.

I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most pernicious race of little odious vermin that nature ever suffered to crawl on the surface of the earth.

To that, Shakespeare would have said; Well said, that was laid on with a trowel.

Swift could be so cruel; but you get the impression that his victims deserved it.

Truth lies within a little certain compass, but error is immense.
Henry St. John 1678 - 1751


All truth passes through three stages. First it is ridiculed. Second it is violently opposed. Third it is accepted as being self-evident.
Schopenhauer 1788 - 1860

Those not present are always wrong.
Phillipe Nericault 1680 - 1754


I take back what I said about the French. I wouldn’t want to imagine a world without Voltaire, (soon to be heard from) Balzac, Pasture, La Place, Curie, and many many others. It’s just that the French language so messes up crossword puzzles! Next we enter the period of clear speech and lucid thought setting behind the roiling and clouded horizon of grandiose and exalted oratory....

And what are these fluxions? The velocities of evanescent increments. And what are these same evanescent increments? They are neither finite quantities, nor quantities infinitely small, nor yet nothing. May we not call them ghosts of departed quantities?
George Berkeley 1685 - 1753


Some adage, huh? I wonder whether George knew what it was he was talking about. Some statements are crafted in the hope that they will be quoted and “well said” has gone through some fashion changes. We will return to this form of “clear speech” shortly. Remember that these guys are not trying to be funny. I am amazed to read some Plutarch and then pick up a Victorian novel. What were they (the Victorians) thinking of?

Blessed is he that expects nothing for he will not be disappointed.
Alexander Pope 1688 - 1744

Useless laws weaken the necessary laws.
Charles de Secondar 1689 - 1755


This one has seen application. The old Soviet Union always made sure that everybody had to break at least one law, that way the state could “legally” come after those they wanted to silence any time they wanted. Get picked up for hoarding toilet paper and never be seen again, in reality because you said something perfectly legal that somebody in power didn’t like. And we’ve got the sodomy laws in the US. Fortunately, (or unfortunately depending on your sexual persuasion) they’re only being abused against the homosexuals at present. But the good news is that they’re there waiting to be abused any time the government feels it needs them. And their use is being expanded. In a Christian Theocracy, suspicion of sodomy even between married couples may soon be a valuable law enforcement tool. After all, the most consistent element of all religions is the one that declares: “You must believe and act as I tell you to; God talks to ME.” Just recently, one of the southern states declared all “sexual toys” to be obscene and therefore, those who manufacture, sell, or own them are committing offenses against the State. Against the State? What next? Viagra? These holey that thou crackers better watch out; with the kind of profits that Pfizer Inc. is pulling down, they might just buy Alabama and dissolve the legislature. I am so sorry; I don’t have the exact quote here now but, our esteemed jurist Antonin Scalia has officially opined that whether or not YOU masturbate is a legitimate concern of the Federal Government! I’ll look this one up; it’s too precious to be left unreferenced. Antonin is a wingnut of the highest order. I also want to research a few of his more… “Creative” rulings that he has shared with planet earth since I first wrote this piece. This guy is “conservative”? What the hell is conservative about invading the bedroom? OH! I forgot. If you are right; you can’t be wrong. And I may have said it elsewhere but the genesis of “The end justifies the means.” comes from the belief in GOD. Hard as it is for me; I’ll try to be a little more positive for a while. See Horace Walpole below.

Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well.
Philip Dormer Stanhope 1694 - 1773


Surely this has been said prior to Stanhope. I think I like the modern variation;

If you don’t have time to do right the first time, when are you going have time to do it over?
Anonymous

It is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.
Voltaire 1694 - 1778


Unfortunately, no one pointed this out to the DEA, who up until a very recent Supreme Court decision, was confiscating “drug money” property prior to the convictions of the accused. Many of the “accused” were later found to be innocent, but their property had not only been confiscated, but had already been sold at auction as well. Coincidentally, the Law enforcement establishments doing this got to keep the money. Just who is addicted to drugs here? I say that the judicial system is addicted to drug money. If marijuana wasn’t illegal, it would cost about 25 cents a pound (about like tomatoes in the summer; it’s easier to grow and keeps better). You couldn’t force drug “pushers” to deal in it. No money for them; no money for the cops when they catch ‘em. So farmers or pot smokers would grow their own and wouldn’t even encounter the guys selling the heroin and the cocaine. We wouldn’t want that situation; one stop shopping is the backbone of modern commerce. And by the way, penalties for growing your own pot so that you don’t support the “pushers” are an order of magnitude greater than those imposed for buying it from Central and South American murderers. The narco thugs of the world are on their knees in gratitude to the American Government’s drug policy. And speaking of censorship, the definition of crime, and the debate about both, Voltaire also said:

I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Had he said and done nothing more that this he still would have achieved more than 99% of all the people that ever lived.

Common sense is not so common.
If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him.


And just maybe we did. Now this next guy is a true original. Search in vain, you will not find antecedent for his statements. They are original and perfect pearls for the ages.

All along the untrodden paths of the future I can see the footprints of an unseen hand.
Sir Boyle Roche ca. 1700?

Now don’t you wish you’d said that? Sir Roche has the Yogi Berra gene and he just knew that he was going to be quoted. I believe that he was speaking to parliament concerning the poor when he said:

Little children who could neither walk nor talk were running in the streets cursing their Maker.
Many thousands of them were destitute of even the goods they possessed.
I don’t see, Sir, why we should put ourselves out of the way to serve posterity. What has posterity ever done for us?


We’ll have to wait a long time, until Dan Quayle and George W. Bush, before we hear finer words of wisdom than these. But the comparison to Yogi isn’t fair. Yogi, we’ll see when we get to him, makes a sort of “meta-sense” that’s hard to define but none the less is profound in its own way. Bush and Quayle just babbled. We have to thank Bush for one great achievement; he proved that ANYONE can be president.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Knowledge itself is power.

This is where Shakespeare belongs but like the Bible, I’ve skipped over him. Between those two sources one could write a piece similar to this that would be twice as long. So I’ll content myself with a single favorite quote.

Brevity is the soul of wit.
Shakespeare 1564 - 1616


An infinite God would not have stopped at a finite universe.
Giordano Bruno D. 1600


A statement, if he actually made it, that got him burned at the stake by one of those Popes with the heavenly names. (I think it was Clement VIII, although Bruno may have been arrested by Innocent IX). Giordano is one of my heroes. I really need to do serious research into his story; I may have a significant dollop of fiction about him in my brain packets. He was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and John Crowley, the fantasy writer, writes about him about movingly. And I have a dream like connection with this as well. It goes like this: I was working on the Washington Post crossword and I came across a series of interrelated clues. “Romain de Tirtoff’s nom de peinture, which I translated as Tirtoff’s pen name, and “ [his] genre. Well I was able to work out the genre part using the verticals and it appeared to be “art deco” and the nom was apparently “Erte” which I sort of remembered, and Chris confirmed. Then the fun began. I went to the dictionary to double check and there was no entry for Art Deco, Tirtoff, Erte, deco, or anything even close. I tried two other dictionaries including the OED; nothing. I tried two encyclopedias; nothing. I tried two Art history books; nothing. Now for the strange part:

John Crowely has written several books with the premise that the world (the universe) is not fixed, but may, in an instant change. You may awaken one morning with memories of things that no longer exist, actually never existed in the accepted history of your world or conversely, awaken with “new” memories of things you somehow don’t believe that you believed them yesterday (it’s convoluted). You may have these memories as shared “hallucinations” with a few others, but there is no way to prove or disprove their existence. In Crowely’s book, when Giordano (AH HA! I SEE!) conceives the universe to be infinite; it becomes so. As I struggled with the “Erte/art deco” disappearance, I felt that a universe change had happened to me. I can of course deal more than nicely with the “disappearance” of French words in cross word puzzles; I could also deal nicely with the disappearance of French words in general, and even with the disappearance of France, it’s people, history, products (have you ever tried to clean a Cuisanart, or heard Click and Clack talk about Renault and Peugeot?), language, and culture (really, this is way too strong; but this IS a rant). But the disappearance of the words “art deco and Erte” out of all the other words that I recall bothers me.

Then I just “googled”it. There it all was, just like it had always been there. Tirtoff and Erte and art deco… So why couldn’t I find it yesterday?

If it disappears again and this essay doesn’t exist tomorrow; I'll know that Crowely’s premise is true. Or at least that I may have awakened one more time from a dream (what happens if you awaken more or fewer times than you’ve slept?). Now, if only France would fade.....

Now are the ancient times... Not those which we account ancient by computation backward from ourselves.
Cena di Cenere 1584


I like this because of the twist of perspective. Certainly the world is older now than it was long ago. So why does now seen “new”? Which way is time really “moving”? But what of the past? I recall a fiction where a time traveler went back, and of course he was struck by the ancientness of the great trees and the untrammeled wilderness, the undammed rivers and unexplored lands. They were all so much older than the works of man; they were part of the “ancient times”. Things were newer than now but seemed old.



Such truth as opposeth no man’s profit nor pleasure is to all men welcome.
Thomas Hobbs 1588 - 1679


Now this may be something new. The spirit of rebellion is nicely separated from the passion of the mob. So called revolutionaries that rabble rouse do so among their supporters; they preach to the choir. But stand up at an unsympathetic forum and state your case. That is very hard to do. I know, I’ve chickened out myself. I recall a public hearing about bear hunting regulations where one could offer written comments and/or speak. I wrote my comments for the record but the facilitator called my name for an oral presentation of what I’d written (I suspected that he’d made the “mistake” on purpose.) And I looked around for the guy that they called on just like everybody else, wondering why he didn’t get up and speak his piece. Live to fight another day, I say (“Discretion is the better part of valor.” - Shakespeare again). I’m not going to hang a “kick me” shingle out unless it counts for something. My written comments were going into the official record, regardless as to whether I spoke them out loud or not. Screw the facilitator if he wanted me to be recognized by the 90 % majority of bear hunters in the room. And even better, spoken during his trial for treason, John Brown:

Had I so interfered in behalf of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, the so-called great, or in behalf of any of their friends... every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.
John Brown 1800- 1859


Also by Hobbs (and I’d love to chat with Waterson about what Thomas Hobbs said that so inspired him to name his tiger Hobbs...):

No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worse of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Certainly short, probably somewhat solitary, if you consider any group less than a thousand to be small... But the rest? I believe that Hobbs is showing his adherence to the theory of “Original Stupidity”. I’ve read conflicting theories about our stoneage ancestors. It may be anti intuitive but Marvin Harris postulates that given low human population densities (less than one per square mile) hunter gatherer cultures have to “labor” less than two hours a day for their sustenance, every day, for their life times. It’s agriculture that increases population density and increases the work hours per day necessary for survival. And as civilization and technology increase so does the work day. Certainly, the average work week today supports the theory. All these labor saving devices and we work 45 to 50 hours a week to pay for them.

Am I working more hours today in order to pay someone else to do the things that I could do for myself, if only I didn’t have to work so much?
Me, 1985.


(Although I probably got the gist of this from The Whole Earth Catalog.

I think therefore I am.”
Renee Decartes 1596 - 1650


Now this may be meaningful in light of existential debates of reality. But it’s also something we took for granted both before and after the question of existence was raised. It’s one of those answers that isn’t necessary until the question is asked. Reminds me of the bureaucracy. There was always some dumb-dumb willing to ask for a “clarification” of some policy and it always resulted in the loss of any common sense, discriminating application of the rules. The “by the book” answer was always worse than what everyone had been applying, even the bosses. So even thSome people have missed out on the Anonymous Truisms: “Obtaining forgiveness is always easier than getting permission.” And “No good deed goes unpunished.” And where else should we put Murphy's Law (and corollaries) but right here:

What ever can go wrong, will go wrong.
Dropped bread lands butter side down.
The level of interest in a subject is proportional to it’s proximity to the corner of the map.
Weather channel talking heads can’t remember to stand in front of the Atlantic Ocean.


Old people like to give good advice as solace for no longer being able to provide bad examples.

Everyone complains of his memory, and no one complains of his judgment.

There is great skill in knowing how to conceal one’s skill.

Francois La Rochfoucauld 1613 - 1680

This is the inspiration for the “Columbo” program. And it really does work. Nothing puts a liar into a more dangerous position of hubris than to have him believe that he’s talking to an idiot. At DEQ we ran up against a politically powerful, millionaire businessman that believed that “we couldn’t find our own butts with both hands…” and that he could “squash us [our inspectors] like a bug”. When all was said and done, by allowing him to believe that he was right, resulted in the man using white out to cook his books for all the world to see. We gave him the confidence to be as much of a jerk as he wanted to be. He obliged. He may be a confident, politically powerful rich man, but he’s also a convicted felon (fraud through the US mail).
This is the inspiration for the “Columbo” program. And it really does work. Nothing puts a liar into a more dangerous position of hubris than to have him believe that he’s talking to an idiot. At DEQ we ran up against a politically powerful, millionaire businessman that believed that “we couldn’t find our own butts with both hands…” and that he could “squash us [our inspectors] like a bug”. When all was said and done, by allowing him to believe that he was right, resulted in the man using white out to cook his books for all the world to see. We gave him the confidence to be as much of a jerk as he wanted to be. He obliged. He may be a confident, politically powerful rich man, but he’s also a convicted felon (convicted of fraud through the US mail).

Knowledge, memory, dreams, and reality

Knowledge is power.
Francis Bacon 1561 - 1626
This is where Shakespeare belongs but like the Bible, I’ve skipped over him. Between those two sources one could write a piece similar to this that would be twice as long. So I’ll content myself with a single favorite quote.

Brevity is the soul of wit.
Shakespeare 1564 - 1616


An infinite God would not have stopped at a finite universe.
Giordano Bruno D. 1600

A statement, if he actually made it, that got him burned at the stake by one of those Popes with the heavenly names. (I think it was Clement VIII, although Bruno may have been arrested by Innocent IX. The "trial" took seven years [Bruno was of course in the slammer the whole time]). Giordano is one of my heroes. I really need to do serious research into his story; I may have a significant dollop of fiction about him in my brain packets. He was one of the most intelligent men who ever lived and John Crowley, the fantasy writer, has written about him movingly. And I have a dream-like connection with Crowley's books (The Aegypt Cycle) as well. It goes like this: I was working on the Washington Post crossword and I came across a series of interrelated clues. “Romain de Tirtoff’s nom de peinture, which I translated as Tirtoff’s pen name, and “ [his] genre. Well I was able to work out the genre part using the verticals and it appeared to be “art deco” and the nom was apparently “Erte” which I sort of remembered, and Chris confirmed. Then the fun began. I went to the dictionary to double check and there was no entry for Art Deco, Tirtoff, Erte, deco, or anything even close. I tried two other dictionaries including the OED; nothing. I tried two encyclopedias; nothing. I tried two Art history books; nothing. Now for the strange part:

John Crowely has written several books with the premise that the world (the universe) is not fixed, but may, in an instant change. You may awaken one morning with memories of things that no longer exist, actually never existed in the accepted history of your world or conversely, awaken with “new” memories of things you somehow don’t believe that you believed yesterday (it’s convoluted). You may have these memories as shared “hallucinations” with a few other people, but there is no way to prove or disprove their existence. In Crowely’s book, when Giordano (AH HA! I SEE!) conceives the universe to be infinite; it becomes so. As I struggled with the “Erte/art deco” disappearance, I felt that a universe change had happened to me. I can of course deal more than nicely with the “disappearance” of French words in cross word puzzles; I could also deal nicely with the disappearance of French words in general, and even with the disappearance of France, it’s people, history, products (have you ever tried to clean a Cuisanart, or heard Click and Clack talk about Renault and Peugeot?), language, and culture (really, that's way too strong; but it's MY rant). But the disappearance of the words “art deco and Erte” out of all the other words that I recall bothers me.

Then I just “googled”it. There it all was, just like it had always been there. Tirtoff and Erte and art deco… So why couldn’t I find it yesterday?

If it disappears again and this essay doesn’t exist tomorrow; I'll know that Crowely’s premise is true. Or at least that I may have awakened one more time from a dream (what happens if you awaken more or fewer times than you’ve slept?). Now, if only France would fade.....

Now are the ancient times... Not those which we account ancient by computation backward from ourselves.
Cena di Cenere 1584


I like this because of the twist of perspective. Certainly the world is older now than it was long ago. So why does now seen “new”? Which way is time really “moving”? But what of the past? I recall a fiction where a time traveler went back, and of course he was struck by the ancientness of the great trees and the untrammeled wilderness, the undammed rivers and unexplored lands. They were all so much older than the works of man; they were part of the “ancient times”. Things were newer than now but seemed old.


Such truth as opposeth no man’s profit nor pleasure is to all men welcome.
Thomas Hobbs 1588 - 1679


Now this may be something new. The spirit of rebellion is nicely separated from the passion of the mob. So called revolutionaries that rabble rouse do so among their supporters; they preach to the choir. But stand up at an unsympathetic forum and state your case. That is very hard to do. I know, I’ve chickened out myself. I recall a public hearing about bear hunting regulations where one could offer written comments and/or speak. I wrote my comments for the record but the facilitator called my name for an oral presentation of what I’d written (I suspected that he’d made the “mistake” on purpose.) And I looked around for the guy that they called on just like everybody else, wondering why he didn’t get up and speak his piece. Live to fight another day, I say (“Discretion is the better part of valor.” - Shakespeare again). I’m not going to hang a “kick me” shingle out unless it counts for something. My written comments were going into the official record, regardless as to whether I spoke them out loud or not. Screw the facilitator if he wanted me to be recognized by the 90 % majority of bear hunters in the room. Also by Hobbs (and I’d love to chat with Waterson about what Thomas Hobbs said that so inspired him to name the tiger Hobbs...):

No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worse of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

Certainly short, probably somewhat solitary, if you consider any group less than a thousand to be small... But the rest? I believe that Hobbs is showing his adherence to the theory of “Original Stupidity”. I’ve read conflicting theories about our stoneage ancestors. It may be anti intuitive but Marvin Harris postulates that given low human population densities (less than one per square mile) hunter gatherer cultures have to “labor” less than two hours a day for their sustenance, every day, for their life times. It’s agriculture that increases population density and increases the work hours per day necessary for survival. And as civilization and technology increase so does the work day. Certainly, the average work week today supports the theory. All these labor saving devices and we work 45 to 50 hours a week to pay for them.

Am I working more hours today in order to pay someone else to do the things that I could do for myself, if only I didn’t have to work so much?
Me, 1985.


(Although I probably got the gist of this from The Whole Earth Catalog). And I quit my job in 1996 and started doing everything for myself. Of all the "professionals" that I've ever hired to do work for me in my home, I have only had one of two that did as good of a job as I would have done for myself. In house building, the nastiest (but maybe the most important) job is waterproofing the basement. Most builders will hire a high school kid who doesn't give a rat's ass about what kind of job he does to do this task. So the 3 million dollar home has a leaky basement that cost tens of thousands of dollars to fix. Or maybe can't be fixed untill after damage to valuable property has been done. That's one reason we need so much insurance. If more folks were more assiduous (or just honest enough to accept responsibility for their work) we wouldn't need half the insurance or half the lawyers.

I think therefore I am.”
Renee Decartes 1596 - 1650


Now this may be meaningful in light of existential debates of reality. But it’s also something we took for granted both before and after the question of existence was raised. It’s one of those answers that isn’t necessary until the question is asked. Reminds me of the bureaucracy. There was always some dumb-dumb willing to ask for a “clarification” of some policy and it always resulted in the loss of any common sense, discriminating application of the rules. The “by the book” answer was always worse than what everyone had been applying, even the bosses. Some people have missed out on the Anonymous Truisms: “Obtaining forgiveness is always easier than getting permission.” And “No good deed goes unpunished.” And where else should we put Murphy's Law (and corollaries) but right here:

What ever can go wrong, will go wrong.
Dropped bread lands butter side down.
The level of interest in a subject is proportional to it’s proximity to the corner of the map.
Weather channel talking heads can’t remember to stand in front of the Atlantic Ocean.


Old people like to give good advice as solace for no longer being able to provide bad examples.
Francois La Rochfoucauld 1613 - 1680
Everyone complains of his memory, and no one complains of his judgment.

There is great skill in knowing how to conceal one’s skill.


This is the inspiration for the “Columbo” program. And it really does work. Nothing puts a liar into a more dangerous position of hubris than to have him believe that he’s talking to an idiot. At DEQ we ran up against a politically powerful, millionaire businessman that believed that “we couldn’t find our own butts with both hands…” and that he could “squash us [our inspectors] like a bug”. When all was said and done, by allowing him to believe that he was right, we got to catch him using white out to cook his books for all the world to see. We gave him the confidence to be as much of a jerk as he wanted to be. He obliged. He may be a confident, politically powerful rich man, but he’s also a convicted felon (fraud through the US mail). His connections with the Governor didn't help in the end.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Moving on to adages from the 16th century

You get what you pay for.
Gabriel Biel D. 1495


I guess that this is a corollary to Publius Syrus’ “Everything is worth what someone will pay for it.” (See also my blog: Pundits) But the change in perspective really does make a difference. Publius sort of justifies collectors’ mania, while Biel admonishes us to stay away from junk (that’s my take on it).

No one is so old that he may not live another year, nor so young that he cannot die today.
Fernando de Rojas 1465 - 1538


Another corollary; Publius again, “Everyday should be passed as if it were to be our last.” But again there’s a spin to it. In a way it’s a bit more hopeful and fateful at the same time. And it doesn’t tell you how to live your days, it just reminds that you’re making choices whether you know it or not. This next one’s a surprise:

He remains a fool his whole life long who loves not women, wine, and song.
Martin Luther 1483 - 1546


Again, I know there are lots more he said while confronting the hypocrisy of the Church that I should know about. I’m sure there are some real zingers in the 49 Theses, but as far as quotes go it’s a good eyebrow raiser. Besides, I’ve had my say about Religion.

Wisdom entereth not into a malicious mind, and science without conscience is but the ruin of the soul.”
Francois Rabelais 1494 - 1553

Is this a precursor to the backlash to the renaissance/scientific/industrial revolution? I wonder when Mr. Rabelais said this? I need to get out my timeline of events, especially those scientific discoveries that so shook up liberal arts and religion. Let’s see, Copernicus published on his deathbed in 1543, so that’s a possibility; Galileo did his penance in the 1600’s; Kepler published in 1609, so they’re too late. Or maybe Francois was talking about something entirely different. When we quote folks from 400 years ago, sometimes their definitions of words were so different that we don’t get it at all. What did Rabelais think “science” was? He may have meant something completely different from what I think it is. By the way, Rabelais used the ancient “Save your breath for your porridge.” From Solon (about Hesiod). Anyway, there’s less ambiguity in the other quotes I recorded in his name:

We will take the good will for the deed.
Looking like one pea does to another.
Plain as the nose on a man’s face.

And I love this one:

And thereby hangs a tale.


While across the English Channel his contemporary, John Heywood 1497 - 1580, was using these aphorisms:

Haste maketh waste.
Look ere ye leap.
While the sun shineth make hay.
The tide tarrieth for no man.
Hold their noses to a grindstone.
Two heads are better than one.
All is well that ends well.
Beggars should not be choosers.
Rob Peter to pay Paul.
[Edward the VI appropriated funds from the lands of St. Peter to pay for repairs to the cathedral of St. Paul.]
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
A hair of the dog that bit us.
There’s no fool like an old fool.

A penny for your thoughts.
Many hands make light work.
The more the merrier.
An ill wind that blows no man good.
Hit the nail on the head.


I guess these are all clichés, so they must be Internal Truisms. I suspect that Heywood was a compiler. I’ve found a few of these from earlier forms but many seem to be “new”. I believe that many are the result of the oral tradition that prevailed during all those years when literacy went into the tank. So maybe “There’s no new thing under the sun.” isn’t true after all. The 16th century was the renaissance, the end of the “Dark Ages”. Sometime during the previous 1000 years people apparently embraced some new “truisms”.

The souls of emperors and cobblers are cast in the same mold... The same reason that makes us wrangle with a neighbor causes a war betwixt princes.
Michel de Montaigne 1533 - 1592


A little folly is desirable in him that will not be guilty of stupidity.

Man is certainly mad; he cannot make a worm, and yet he will be making Gods by the dozens.

This last can be read in two lights. Humility that we can’t make a worm but God can... Or, hubris that we create the Gods. Without context I don’t know which he meant. I don’t care. I like them both.

Time out of mind.
Within a stone’s throw.
Split his sides laughing.
No limit but the sky.
All his eggs in one basket.
Too much of a good thing.
Thank you for nothing.
Fore warned; fore armed.
Honesty’s the best policy
Cervantes 1547 - 1616


These are so mater of fact, so much a part of modern speech. And there are many many more. I started Don Quixote a while back, I guess I’ll have to finish it some day. A whole bunch of people must have read it. Cervantes was an astute chronicler of the speech of his day. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I can’t find this last adage in Bartlett’s. Now that’s a surprise. Everybody’s heard it. Who said it? Or at least who wrote it down first?

Moments of wit survive the monuments of power.
Francis Bacon 1561 - 1626