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:


(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!


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.