Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fact Is As Strange As Fiction



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It seems that more and more fiction authors are preferring to write and publish (mostly in online publications) extremely short factual articles called flash facts. For example, a brief article displaying several true facts about dinosaurs written in an interesting and easily understandable way, will usually find a home in a scientific journal or general interest online publication. Or maybe even in some of the well-known print-style magazines.

Such as:

"The Stegosaurus dinosaur was about 30 feet long and weighed four thousand pounds. But its brain was only about the size of a golf ball."

A few more added facts and illustrations will constitute a flash-fact article.

Like this:


Undoubtedly the most famous of all dinosaurs TYRANNOSAURUS was one of the largest predators that ever walked the earth. This immense carnosaur had a mouth full of sharp teeth, serrated on one edge like a saw blade. Its huge jaws could rend flesh and crush bones to satisfy a hunger needed to support its large size. Its forelimbs were small in comparison to the proportions of its body, about the size of a man's arms. At the end were two fingered hands bearing sharp claws. The function of these arms is unclear, but larger limbs seem to have been unnecessary, as evidenced by this creature's success. Tyrannosaurus evolved at the end of the age of dinosaurs, finally meeting oblivion in the last great mass extinction that claimed all of the dinosaurs.

That was from DINOSAURS for instance.
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Of course, full length articles are also still in demand. Like the following:

Excerpt from Star Power in the Atlantic Monday, January 30, 2012.

Scientists are confident that the sun is in its "main sequence": it has burned at about the same heat for perhaps a billion years, and it's likely to stay at about the same rheostat setting for another billion years or so. The numbers involved are staggering. The sun consumes about 600 million tons of hydrogen per second. At that rate, the mass of the Earth would be gone in 70,000 years. Yet Sol so far has exhausted only a small percentage of its energy potential. Though 93 million miles away, the sun shines so fiercely that it dazzles the eyes and makes the skin sting in summertime. And that's after almost all of its output simply radiates off into the void: for every one unit of solar energy that impacts the Earth, 1.6 billion units do not. Life on Earth depends on the sun's table scraps.

Photo Of The Sun


My Goodness. The more I read and learn, the
more conscious I become of how little I know

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I learned something new today, published as a flash-fact: The trickiest tongue twister in the English language is apparently "Sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick". Try saying it fast, aloud, and see for yourself.
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Where to Publish Flash Nonfiction & Micro-Essays by Erika Dreifus provides a helpful list of publishers for non-fiction writers (has a few flash-fiction publishers too) for those who prefer to write short-short, factual pieces and to submit them for publication.

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A phrase frequently found in technical writings:
"Correct within order of magnitude . . ."
is defined as:
Wrong.

From RULES FOR WRITING AN ARTICLE

Monday, January 30, 2012

Politics And We The People



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Although I continue to comment from time to time regarding presidential candidates, I hereby admit that I know little about politics and about government machinations. When writing about politicians I am usually expressing either the opinions I agree with that I have read about or overheard from others, or else I am clumsily trying to put my crude gut-feelings into words.

And let's not get into the high-level top-secret stuff the public doesn't know about, and never will know about.

I am saying that civics is a mystery to me and one I have no real interest in learning about. In fact, I think the country would be better off if I (and all who are as politically ignorant as am I) would simply abstain from voting in national elections.

To Vote Or Not To Vote

Two Potential Republican Candidates



To Vote Or Not To Vote

The Democratic Candidate

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There is a seemingly small item from history that is threatening to burst forth into the news again. It is the objection to and a re-examination of the following:

The words, under God were added to the Pledge of Allegiance by Act of Congress and signed by President Eisenhower, on Flag Day, June 14, 1954.

President Dwight David Eisenhower
Added "Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance


On that date I had just turned 15 a month before, and when we went back to school in the fall, I remember how hard it was for the teacher to get all of us in the Freshman class to voice the under God phrase. If I recall correctly, I never did say those two words aloud while reciting in a school group, all of us mush-brains standing there at attention every morning facing the flag with our grubby little hands over our grubby little hearts.

American education?

American indoctrination.

Ah yes, those were the days.

__________

A fool and his money are soon elected.
--Will Rogers

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Saturday Morning Missionaries



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Yesterday morning (Saturday) there came a knock on my front door. I opened it and was greeted by a man, his wife, and their daughter. The man (who said his name was Nick) began a seemingly quite innocuous discussion, to which I listened ever so politely. But when I asked what organization they represented, Nick admitted that they were Jehovah's Witnesses. And that made a world (a universe) of difference in my attitude toward these well-dressed intruders.

My immediate announcement that I'd had considerable experience with members of that particular cult and did not believe in the personal God they served, nor in the existence of a god-man named Jesus, nor in the bible as being anything more than an elaboration of myths, proverbs, and morality tales told to children of ancient nomads wandering in the desert, tall tales of rewards and punishments intended to make their hordes of wild little kids toe the line.

They seemed to be gentle folks so I reigned in my usual caustic berating of organized religion and allowed the two adults to speak freely to me of modern-day living, of the economy, of personal computers, and of other mundane conversational bits and pieces, managing to steer them away from associating each of those separate topics with the Jehovah's Witness dogma.

All in all it was a pleasant enough half-hour's diversion from the eternal toil of my creative writing tasks.

They were such nice people that I wondered how they could possibly believe in all that denominational clap-trap. But then I have trouble accepting that a person (such as Mitt Romney) is sincere in his stated belief in Mormonism. "Mormon" is most often used to refer to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Any person who actually believes that some angel named Moroni brought visions to Joseph Smith in upstate New York during the 1820s who then established the new religion is: 1. mentally unbalanced -- 2. a conniving liar -- or 3. unbelievably stupid... in my opinion.


The angel Moroni delivering to Joseph Smith the whereabouts of the buried golden plates upon which are printed the Book of Mormon.

Moroni And Joseph Smith

Upstate New York in the 1820s


I recently learned that Liberal Mormons take an interpretive approach to LDS teachings and scripture. They look to the scriptures for spiritual guidance, but do not necessarily believe the teachings to be literally or uniquely true. Perhaps Mitt Romney is a liberal Mormon. Suppose?

I've read that a practicing adult Mormon is expected to wear religious undergarments. A young woman (a former Mormon) once laughingly described them to me.

Oh well...

So it goes.

_____

Didn't I make a New Years Resolution on December 31st? To be more considerate of the beliefs of others?

Okay... I'll stop.

__________

"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"
--Douglas Adams

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why Keep A Personal Journal?



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Why would an average person, one who expects to forever remain an average person within a lifetime, wish to keep a Diary or a Personal Journal?

In a diary or journal the writer can record the many too easily forgotten individual observations and not have to face the possibility of losing them forever. Memories do fade into the mists of time. And those endangered memories become more and more important as even the youngest of us age, and you most assuredly will -- you, and you, and yes... even you.

Keeping a journal is in no way age-specific.

The older writer who has just begun to keep a journal and has managed to retain some of those memories can call to mind, relive, and perhaps come to better understand events from "the good old days." And how your actions during those earlier times may have affected you and your attitudes throughout your later life.

The younger writer might start with the topic: "Something few people realize about me is..." -- And that is an ever increasing treasure chest to dig into.

Young or old, keeping a journal can enable you to examine, analyze, and eventually help you solve difficult problems. Putting into written words the questions concerning your relationships with others, be they platonic or matters of romantic love, can bring clarification or even unexpected answers after reading and rereading and then again writing down your newly acquired perceptions concerning the matter. And you can look back at earlier aspirations and see whether you have reached those goals or not, and how those goals might have changed with the passage of time.

Those are just a few of the many advantages you will have, just by writing down whatever comes to mind as you live your unique life day by day.

Additionally, the notations, the emotions, and the photos collected year after year will someday provide your family with a much more complete picture of your life.

How great is that?

The things surrounding you which seem normal and commonplace now, might be fascinating to your grandchildren.

Again, how great is that?

Hey!

Think about this: Someday you might be asked to sell your life story to a major publisher (It COULD happen, you never can tell) and if you could then produce a multi-volume private diary or a comprehensive personal journal; how wonderful would that be?

Best of all, faithfully keeping a journal soon gets to be a habit, a most enjoyable stress-relieving habit.

A Record Of Your Life

or


A Digital Journal


_____


My journal is a continuous mirror
reflecting not a distorted image --
but a portrait of my own true self.


I wrote the above poem? at five
o'clock A.M., January 28, 2012.


__________

Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.
--St. Augustine

Friday, January 27, 2012

Loving To Read Does Not A Writer Make




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At this moment, after thinking deeply about it for quite some time, I am pretty well convinced that I should stop expecting that I will become a successful professional writer.

I'm 72 years old, fer Crimany Sakes!

This conclusion does not mean I will stop writing. It means that I should stop attempting to write creatively in the vain hope that readers might actually enjoy my (so obviously contrived) novels, my (so laboriously composed) short stories, and my (laughably amateurish) poems.

But I can still produce these off-the-cuff, admittedly pedestrian blog entries.

Why not? I take pleasure from doing so. What better goal to aim for than to create pleasure for myself? Writing in my blog without aspiring to professionalism essentially gives me the same kind of pleasure I take from reading all kinds of books, and from watching reruns of popular (low-class?) TV situation comedies.

Why not, indeed?

One can always create a journal, not only a public blog but a diary-like private journal using either a spiral notebook within which to physically print your entries, or a digital journal in which to enter private thoughts and all those bizarre (far-out?) ideas that occur to you.

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Born On This Day



January 27, 1921 - January 14, 1986


Well do I remember Donna Reed. From her memrable performance in the Christmas classic, It's a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart. From her portrayal of Lorene, the dance hall prostitute in From Here To Eternity, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. And, from, of course, The Dona Reed Show.


And Donna Reed is Lorene in this YouTube clip from the film, From Here To Eternity with Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra.

God, she was beautiful.
_____

Sarah Chalke


Dr. Elliot Reid on Scrubs

I have no particular reason for posting the above unrelated to reading or writing picture except that I like it... a lot. Viewing it gives me great pleasure.

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The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.
--Anais Nin

Thursday, January 26, 2012

So Much To Read, So Little Time



_____

President Obama delivered his State Of The Union address to Congress and to the citizens of The United States January 24, 2012.

I did not watch it, mainly because such exhibitions in the past have always made me almost physically ill. It is painful for me to sit through all their ridiculous ceremonies and showtime phony posturing by the participants, their families, and the privileged celebrities seated in the audience.

I did not watch the finely-rehearsed and professionally choreographed show -- but I did download an "as prepared" transcript of the speech, and I did read a small part of it. I'll probably read the rest when I get some free time.

But I have nothing to enter into my blog about it... not yet.

_____

I now have decided that a certain suspicion lurking long, but successfully suppressed: -- "I am not a writer but merely an avid reader and am only a writer-wannabe" is true.

This affirmation came about as I struggled to write (within this week) a short story solicited by my writers group. I fear I will not succeed by the deadline, which is midnight Saturday, January 28, 2012.

That's the day after tomorrow.

There will most probably not be a completed short story forthcoming.

Of course, a great many of my reasoned conclusions in the past have proven to be wrong.

So . . .

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Virginia Woolf born Adeline Virginia Stephen in London January 25,1882 is a much vaunted author of Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and A Room of One's Own (1929).

(vaunted: boasted about or praised excessively)

Virginia Woolf


Virginia Woolf is another famous author whose works I have not read. I seem to remember having read excerpts from Mrs. Dalloway but found that at that time her writing style did not appeal to me.
_____

Just for fun . . .

My Handsome Nell is perhaps the first poem written at the age of 15 by Robert Burns.

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My son stopped by last Sunday and drove me to a local Bookman's used bookstore where I used my Christmas gift-certificates ($40) to buy some of the 'books I'd been meaning to read' including Ragtime and Welcome To Hard Times, both by E.L. Doctorow, Comanche Moon and Cadillac Jack, both by Larry McMurtry, Hell and The Alleys Of Eden, both by Robert Olen Butler, and finally The Lone Ranger And Tonto Fist Fight In Heaven by Sherman Alexie.

In the vernacular, "Now I've got some serious reading to get done."

(vernacular: The language or dialect spoken by the ordinary people in a particular country or region.)

__________

"To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life."
--Somerset Maugham

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Arts And Crafts




I have some thoughts regarding last night's State Of The Union speech, but I believe that I should give myself some time to muse upon those thoughts. And the thoughts of established columnists and political writers. So, if I decide to share my opinions about the speech on the blog I will do so tomorrow.
_____

I am not a musical person. I could get along quite well without any music at all in my life. Most music, to me, is nothing more than a distraction. I am aware of music playing in the background but only because it tends to disturb the focus of my thoughts.

I think that I can recognize a well crafted piece of music whether the craftsmanship be in the choice of words selected to create the song, its instrumental accompaniment, or the depth of emotion the singer brings to the song's delivery. But I, unlike most other people, cannot detect exactly how or when a well-crafted piece of music is transformed into a Work Of Art.

But at times I find myself mysteriously moved by a particular piece of music, or by the sound of a singer's voice, and I ask myself is that then, ART?

All I can say, about music, is: "I know what I like."


Born On This Day

Etta James


born January 25, 1938
died January 20, 2012

Etta James passes away -- announcement, information, and videos, including At Last.


My non-recognition of Art and Artistry also exists within the realm of literature.


Margaret Atwood



In The Blind Assassin Margaret Atwood wrote: "The only way you can write the truth is to assume that what you set down will never be read. Not by any other person, and not even by yourself at some later date. Otherwise you begin excusing yourself. You must see the writing as emerging like a long scroll of ink from the index finger of your right hand; you must see your left hand erasing it."

Margaret Atwood is another author who has written many books that I have never got around to reading, although I have meant for a long time to read them all. And I know that I had better get to it without further delay.

As for the craftsmanship or the artistic quality of the written word...

"I know what I like."

__________

"If we were all on trial for our thoughts, we would all be hanged."
--Margaret Atwood

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

No Title Comes To Mind


_____

A lustrum is a period of five years, just as a decade is a period of ten years and a century is a period of one hundred years. So, I wonder why the word is so infrequently used, and why it has never caught on. I first heard the word used and defined to John Wayne in the movie Rooster Cogburn.

Judge Parker: "You have served this court for almost two lustrums."
Rooster Cogburn: "What's a lustrum, Judge?"
Judge Parker: "Five years. Don't interrupt me."


Rooster Cogburn



I don't remember ever hearing the word again... don't know why. Seems like a perfectly good word, to me.
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"Women and Children First!" Or At Least Children? is the title of a well written piece I read this morning at the quarkscrew website describing a recent spate of ugliness toward young women and children.

I highly recommend it.
_____

Born On This Day



Born January 24,1862
Died August 11, 1937


I have never read anything written by Edith Wharton, but I've read a lot about her and about her work. Maybe one of these days I'll get around to it.

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There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
--Edith Wharton

Monday, January 23, 2012

Another Brief Entry


_____

I found a small gift bag hanging on my doorknob this morning. In it was a notice and a t-shirt advertising Toscana Cove Apartment Homes, the complex in which I have been living for the last ten months. The notice was a reminder that my one-year lease will end March 31, 2012 and also included was the cost per month for another year if I wish to renew.

Since the monthly rent for another year is virtually identical to the rent I have been paying for the last year, I will probably sign a renewal. Unless some event or circumstance arises before signing time.

_____

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Star of Law And Oder SVU


Born January 23,1964
Daughter of actress Jayne Mansfield &
former Mister Universe Micky Hargitay

__________

A two-year-old is kind of like having a blender, but you don't have a top for it.
--Jerry Seinfeld

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Not Much Happening Around Here



_____

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Linda Blair


born January 22, 1959
(Regan, in The Exorcist)

_____

Going over to Mike's house today to help him do some work and then we'll shoot some pool. Didn't have anything important to write about anyway.

__________

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Poised Too Long On The Edge



_____

Born This Day in 1824



(January 21, 1824 – May 10, 1863)
_____

At times I stumble upon a poem that I can understand, one that (inexplicably) somehow moves me, and when I do an undeniable compulsion rises within me to share it with others -- such as the one below written by Christopher Logue:

Come to the edge.
We might fall.
Come to the edge.
It's too high!
COME TO THE EDGE!
And they came,
and he pushed,
and they flew.
--Christopher Logue

Christopher Logue

__________

"And he who is forever talking about enemies
Is himself the enemy! "
--Christopher Logue

Friday, January 20, 2012

Some Fine Filler Material



_____

Happy Birthday Bill Maher


Born January 20, 1956

_____

Since I am busily at work at this time composing a new short story, I am limiting today's entry to a copy of a poem in the public domain that was written by Edgar Allan Poe.

A Dream Within a Dream
__by Edgar Allan Poe__

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow--
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand--
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep--while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! Can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
_____

More on Edgar Alan Poe
at The Writer's Almanac

__________

"You can get older without getting wiser but you can't get wiser without getting older."
--Gene Chambers

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This And That (Again)


Born on this day in 1809



January 19, 1809 - October 7, 1849

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The Cardinal Newman Society blog has an interesting article concerning St. Joseph's College (where I was once employed) in my hometown of Rensselaer, Indiana. Its headline is:

Catholic College Honors MLK with Abortion Rights Activist and Republican Basher

Its opening paragraph is:

Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican for much of his life, at least according to the National Black Republican Association. And according to his niece Alveda King, he was pro-life.

That’s why it’s odd that Saint Joseph’s College in Indiana, founded and sponsored by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King by hosting a lecture by a former Planned Parenthood board member and outspoken abortion rights activist who has called the Republican Party racist.

Isn't that puzzling? A self-proclaimed Catholic College hosting an abortion rights activist. Not that I object to that. But it's certainly an unexpected and curious thing to contemplate.

Note:
An entry in Rensselaer Adventures was where I was first introduced to the above.

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The AWAD word for today:

Satisficing

Satisficing (a portmanteau "combining satisfy with suffice") is a decision-making strategy that attempts to meet criteria for adequacy, rather than to identify an optimal solution. That definition is from Wikipedia.

Also from AWAD, here is a little known factoid:
It took 12 years to complete, but Roget's Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases Classified and Arranged so as to Facilitate the Expression of Ideas and Assist in Literary Composition has been in print continuously since its publication in 1852.
_____

Creative Minority Report presented a piece titled:



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I have been reading about BENJAMIN FRANKLIN who was born in 1706 and died in 1790. Here is one of the things I have learned about this fascinating man:

Though he only had two years of formal schooling, he taught himself foreign languages and read books on grammar, science, and math. He was awarded honorary degrees from Harvard and Yale even though he lacked a formal education.

Wow! A self-taught intellectual. How 'bout that?

_____

Here is an announcement:

My writers group has issued a challenge -- an exercise that calls for members to write six short stories in six weeks (one story each week) and I am going to try it. So I might not be posting my usual blog entry each and every day for a while. Not sure though... time will tell.

__________

"Let's face it, writing is hell."
--William Styron


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome


Below is a letter from a parent. It is the introduction to an article I read just recently titled Brick Walls.

I am going to try and tell you what happened to us on January 10, 2012, in the conference room in the Nephrology department at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

We arrived for our regular Nephrology visit with Amelia’s doctor who has seen her for the last three years. She examines Amelia and sends us for labs. I ask about the transplant and she says we have about six months to a year until she needs one. She tells us she reserved the conference room and when we get back from labs, we can meet with the transplant team and he can tell us about the transplant process.

After the labs, Amelia falls asleep in her stroller and we are called back to a large room with a screen and about sixteen chairs. Joe and I get comfortable and leave a space between us to fit the stroller. After about five minutes, a doctor and a social worker enter the room. They sit across from us but also leave a space between the two of them.

The doctor begins to talk and I listen intently on what he is saying. He has a Peruvian accent and is small, with brown hair, a mustache and is about sixty five years old. He gets about four sentences out ( I think it is an introduction) and places two sheets of paper on the table. I can't take my eyes off the paper. I am afraid to look over at Joe because I suddenly know where the conversation is headed. In the middle of both papers, he highlighted in pink two phrases. Paper number one has the words, "Mentally Retarded" in cotton candy pink right under Hepatitis C. Paper number two has the phrase, "Brain Damage" in the same pink right under HIV. I remind myself to focus and look back at the doctor. I am still smiling.

He says about three more sentences when something sparks in my brain. First it is hazy, foggy, like I am swimming under water. I actually shake my head a little to clear it. And then my brain focuses on what he just said.

I put my hand up. "Stop talking for a minute. Did you just say that Amelia shouldn't have the transplant done because she is mentally retarded. I am confused. Did you really just say that?"

You can read the rest here from the original source.

Note:
Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome (WHS) refers to a condition that is caused by a missing part (deletion) of the short arm of chromosome 4. This missing genetic material results in severe developmental retardation, a characteristic facial appearance, and may include a variety of other birth defects.

__________

"Everyone looks retarded once you set your mind to it."


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Religion Is Like A Penis

Born on this day, January 17, 1706

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN


1706 - 1790

_____

The Atheist Delusion is a much cussed and much discussed article in The University Times attempting to disprove the scientific tenets of Atheism. (A tenet is a principle, belief or doctrine generally held to be true.) The many comments following the article seem to indicate that its not-so-bright author failed miserably in his attempt.

One of the comments following the article caught my eye and tickled my fancy. It was:

"Religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have one and it’s fine to be proud of it, but please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around… and PLEASE don’t try to shove it down my child’s throat."

The comment was posted by 'Jim' who has a website of his own. I visited the site and found it to be quite interesting.

Here is a link to Jim's site.
_____

As I have said many times and often (too often?) posted: I am NOT an atheist. Observations throughout my lifetime (so far) lead me to believe that the various gods proposed and described by all organized religions probably do not exist. But I only 'doubt' that gods exist.. I do not know it to be a fact. I suppose you can say that I am a 'doubter' rather that a confirmed atheist.

_____

This section is not about Religion... or is it? I haven't read the entire offering from edge yet, and since it contains such a great amount of information, I probably never will... finish it, that is. But I wanted to mention it and link to it as soon as possible. The link is immediately below:

The Edge Question 2012: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DEEP, ELEGANT, OR BEAUTIFUL EXPLANATION?

Here is how The Edge Question 2012 starts:

Scientists' greatest pleasure comes from theories that derive the solution to some deep puzzle from a small set of simple principles in a surprising way. These explanations are called "beautiful" or "elegant". Historical examples are Kepler's explanation of complex planetary motions as simple ellipses, Bohr's explanation of the periodic table of the elements in terms of electron shells, and Watson and Crick's double helix. Einstein famously said that he did not need experimental confirmation of his general theory of relativity because it "was so beautiful it had to be true."

I have read only a few of the responses so far, but I am hooked on it.

__________

“Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
--Steven Weinberg

Steven Weinberg is an American theoretical physicist and Nobel laureate in Physics.


Monday, January 16, 2012

An Agglomerate Of Middling Miscellany


I strolled up to the Customer Service area at Fry's Supermarket and placed my PowerBall lottery card and my usual one-dollar bill down onto the counter before my favorite clerk (the young, pretty, well- groomed one who always smiles at me) and was horrified to hear her say, "Sorry Sweetie but a chance on the PowerBall drawing just went up to two dollars."

I know my jaw must have dropped and my eyes probably bugged out some, because she said, "do you still want one?" I told her no, that I could not afford to lose two dollars twice a week on such a long, long shot. So I just bought a ticket on the twice weekly Arizona MegaMillions drawing, which is still only one dollar, and pays out a jackpot in the multii-millions.

PowerBall can go jump in the lake.

_____

I try to catch Greta Christina's blog each time she posts a new entry. Greta is an outspoken atheist. Greta is happily and proudly a free- thinking lesbian. Greta is an intelligent, skillful, and much published writer.

In The Ten Main Reasons I Don't Believe In God from the Archives, Greta wrote: ". . . I’ll assume that the mind-bogglingly consistent pattern of natural explanations replacing supernatural ones is almost certain to continue."

Now that, I thought, is a fine example of constructing (coining?) a new word -- "mind-bogglingly" -- and is a somewhat subtle slap in the face of all those how-to-write mavens whose first commandment is that writers should avoid using adverbs.

(A maven is a trusted expert in a particular field, who seeks to pass knowledge on to others.)

_____

Sometimes I read a passage and it stays with me. Such as this one by Gustave Flaubert:

"It is a delicious thing to write, to be no longer yourself but to move in an entire universe of your own creating. Today, for instance, as man and woman, both lover and mistress, I rode in a forest on an autumn afternoon under the yellow leaves, and I was also the horses, the leaves, the wind, the words my people uttered, even the red sun that made them almost close their love-drowned eyes."

The above was copied a while back from The Writer's Almanac

See more here here about Gustave Flaubert

_____

From Harry Crews came another memorable passage:

"There is something beautiful about all scars of whatever nature. A scar means the hurt is over, the wound is closed and healed, done with."

(One might ask TV's Doctor House for his thoughts about that particular observation)

I suppose the reason I so often copy into this website quotations and short pieces written by published authors and famous poets is because throughout the years I have failed to write memorable poems and stories myself. But I have read and enjoyed so many works of others, and I get a tremendous amount of pleasure from sharing with those who may not have read them.

__________


Sunday, January 15, 2012

I Read Somewhere That . . .


_____

Martin Luther King, Jr.


January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968

_____

Recently, I read somewhere (don't remember where) the description: "Sister Lynn, who is in her thirties and has a warm, librarian-like voice..." and I thought about this, wondering what a "warm, librarian like voice" sounds like. I tried to recall the voices of the many librarians I've encountered throughout my lifetime, but could not identify a single one of them as being especially 'warm' or in any way similar to all the other librarians' voices I'd heard.

I still don't know what a warm librarian-like voice sounds like. My lack of identification with the adjectives is quite likely due to my often displayed admissions of cultural ignorance.

But, the panegyric must have some validity.

Panegyric
(noun)
A public speech or published text in praise of someone or something.


In an interview with Michael Neilsen
I read the following: "We don’t yet have a group da Vinci. We can’t take a thousand people and get something like the Mona Lisa." -- "Oh yeah," I said aloud (even though I was alone at the time) -- and I asked myself, "How can you possibly know that?"

Have a thousand people ever actually come together and conspired to create a potential work of art? If so, even if they failed have there been other attempts by other thousand-member groups to do so? How many? Were there attempts by a sufficient number of such groups to (even statistically) prove that the desired result could not be eventually obtained?

Or is this merely an example of, "Oh, everybody knows that."

And what's so special about the Mona Lisa? Because it is 'Great Art?' Because it's a 'Masterpiece?" simply because someone once declared it to be a Masterpiece of Great Art? and other people took up that opinion and finally enough people agreed with the original evaluation that it became accepted as Truth?

What's my point?

My point is that the statement, "We can't take a thousand people and get something like the Mona Lisa." is a baseless personal opinion.

That's my point.

Mona Lisa



Besides, what's so great about the Mona Lisa, anyway? I've heard and read the popular opinions that have praised, for instance, the mysterious smile of the painted lady.

To me, the praise is overblown. To me, all women at times smile in a mysterious manner. The Mona Lisa does not move me. Never has. I see in it nothing superior to any other image of a seated lady, be they paintings, drawings, or modern photographs.

Just because I have been bombarded all my life with proclamations extolling the greatness of the DaVinci painting does not mean I have to accept it as being so. The Mona Lisa, is nothing special. To me, it is just an old painting of a lady. That's all.

So that makes me an ignorant lout?

Oh yeah? So who's arguing?

__________

I just want to do God's will.
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Who Should I Vote For?


Who would believe that I, an avowed unbeliever, might stifle the nearly overwhelming urge to vomit and vote for a Mormon to be the Republican candidate for President of the United States in the Arizona primary?

Why would I do that?

Let's face it . . . I seem to have no better choice. Huntsman, Santorum, Perry? I don't think so. Ron Paul, the Libertarian? No. Newt? Hell no! I've read the literature on them all. Without intending too much disrespect, I find myself thinking: 'What a bunch of evangelical carnival-barkers.'

Again . . . why vote for Mitt Romney? Well, there are some things about him I like.

Here is one of those things:

According to Wikipedia Mitt Romney ran for governor of Massachusetts as a political outsider saying he was "not a partisan Republican" but rather a "moderate" with "progressive" views.

A moderate with progressive views. I like that.

Willard Mitt Romney


born March 12, 1947
Governor of Massachusetts
January 2, 2003 - January 4, 2007

At Wikipedia, I read some excerpts (supposedly) presenting Romney's views.

In a 1994 debate with Senator Ted Kennedy, in response to the question "If abortion is morally wrong, aren't you responsible for discouraging it?" -- Romney said:

One of the great things about our nation . . . is that we're each entitled to have strong personal beliefs, and we encourage other people to do the same. But as a nation, we recognize the right of all people to believe as they want and not to impose our beliefs on other people. I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a US Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it, and I sustain and support that law, and the right of a woman to make that choice, and my personal beliefs, like the personal beliefs of other people, should not be brought into a political campaign.

When Kennedy then accused him of being "multiple-choice," Romney replied:

I have my own beliefs, and those beliefs are very dear to me. One of them is that I do not impose my beliefs on other people. Many, many years ago, I had a dear, close family relative that was very close to me who passed away from an illegal abortion. It is since that time my mother and my family have been committed to the belief that we can believe as we want, but we will not force our beliefs on others on that matter.

Sincere?

Who knows?
__________

Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
--George Orwell

Friday, January 13, 2012

Are Scientific Proofs Really Proofs?


Neil DeGrasse Tyson hosts a website that's not to be missed if you are interested in science but, like me, you are not formally educated in scientific principles.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson


This man's TV presentations on PBS and other media are fascinating. I can't help thinking that his apparent solid understanding of science is phenomenal, and I try to never miss his latest offerings.


I subscribe to official announcements from NASA and receive via email three or four of these memos each day. The latest, RELEASE: 12-007 was titled:

HUBBLE PINPOINTS FARTHEST PROTOCLUSTER OF GALAXIES EVER SEEN

Now I have to admit that sometimes the information I receive nearly overwhelms my ability to (blindly) accept what is presented as absolute fact. Such as this excerpt from RELEASE: 12-007:

In a random sky survey made in near-infrared light, Hubble found five tiny galaxies clustered together 13.1 billion light-years away. They are among the brightest galaxies at that epoch and very young -- existing just 600 million years after the big bang. (huh? 5 tiny galaxies?)

Wow! How mind-bending is that? The light from this galaxy cluster left the cluster and traveled toward Earth at approximately 186,000 miles per second for 13,100,000,000 years -- that's a LONG distance to travel and it took a LONG time to reach the Earth. And you know what? I, as a non-scientist, find it hard to believe that such a specific measurement is even possible, no matter how sophisticated the measuring instruments.

But then, I'm just an average non-scientific guy who in his average gut suspects that the fields of mathematics, physics, and astronomy are themselves probably being misused by overly confident, overly arrogant scientists who are after all only human and therefore perpetually prone to error.


Yes, I realize that a scientist must trust his instruments, but I know from personal experience that this trust (faith?) is at times inappropriately applied.


Another NASA memo, RELEASE 12-008 contains this paragraph:

Dark matter is material that can be inferred to exist through its gravitational effects, but does not emit and absorb detectable amounts of light. Dark energy is a hypothetical form of energy that permeates all space and exerts a negative pressure that causes the universe to expand at an ever-increasing rate.

Does this mean that some scientific theories are nothing more than educated guesses?

More about Chandra X-Ray Observatory


__________

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny..."
--Isaac Asimov

Thursday, January 12, 2012

America's Fastest Growing Religious Status


"The fastest growing religious status in the United States is no religion" is a statement that is becoming more and more ubiquitous, at least in the many readings of one citizen (me) of The United States. I have read that particular statement in many blogs as well as in articles in various issues of respectable print media.

As I have stated previously on this website: "I am not an atheist." But neither am I a proponent of organized religion. If I had to classify myself regarding religion I would say that I am irreligious -- irreligion being the absence of religion.

Atheism is a lack of belief in gods, from the original Greek meaning “without gods."

But, in the majority of minds an atheist is one who thinks not only that there are no gods but that 'god' or 'gods' absolutely do not exist. This conception (or misconception) separates me from atheism; while I do not believe in the existence of a personal god who is responsible for the creation of mankind, who is concerned with the welfare and behavior of human beings, and who relegates the dispensing of divine knowledge to preachers, priests, and assorted Sikhs and seers... While I do not believe in any conventional god, I do not deny the possibility of the existence of beings or entities within the cosmos in forms (or even formlessnesses) undetectable to human senses who possess powers and abilities that would appear miraculously God-like to we biological beings.

So: an atheist, especially the new-atheist, knows there are no gods. I, on the other hand, doubt there is a god, but I do not know that there isn't.

Here's a thought. What if the vast expanse we humans perceive as the universe is, in its totality... the actual essence of God?


Am I, perhaps, a humanist?

Humanism . . . what is it?

According to Wikipedia -- Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In other words it is an outlook or system of thought attaching prime importance to human rather than divine or supernatural matters.

A simple definition I read somewhere is: "Humanism is about being a good person for the sake of being a good person."

Am I a humanist?

I don't think so. After all, I do not even know what a 'good' person is.

__________

Being a humanist means trying to behave decently without expectation of rewards or punishment after you are dead.
--Kurt Vonnegut

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Who Is Jerry Coyne?


Jerry Coyne, Ph.D.
Professor
Department of Ecology and Evolution
Biological Sciences Collegiate Division

I suppose that Jerry Coyne, author of the website Why Evolution Is True is so well-known as being an atheist that his skill as an accomplished writer often (and sadly) goes unheralded. And that's a shame.



The most effective and most convincing way I know to prove a point (that Jerry is a fine writer) is to provide an example.

Have you ever heard of a Coultergeist?
A Bleached Flamingo?



So . . . What is a Coultergeist?



Also . . . If you have an hour in which to enhance your understanding of Evolution you might visit the following link and view a YouTube video presenting Jerry Coyne's lecture explaining...


__________

"...being right about one big matter does not render us immune to error in other matters..."
--Jerry Coyne

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Am A Writer Who Reads


When I hear a person say, "I don't read..." it startles me and I wonder how, in this modern age, can that be? How can anyone make that statement? (especially the university graduate that I heard actually 'boast' about it?) So you might imagine my shock when I overheard a writer-wannabe say, "I never read... I want my writing to be fresh and original."

A writer that does not read?

That phrase is a moronic oxymoron, in my opinion.


I do read.

I've been a voracious reader since second-grade in 1946. That was when I got my first public library card and checked out my first book: Little Black Sambo.

voracious
(adj.)
1. devouring or craving food in great quantities
2. very eager or unremitting in some activity; voracious reading

I just ordered two books from Amazon.com and one of them is:

THE FOLLY OF FOOLS:
The Logic of Deceit and Self-Deception in Human Life. This is a book written by Robert Trivers. Below is the Amazon book description:

Whether it's in a cockpit at takeoff or the planning of an offensive war, a romantic relationship or a dispute at the office, there are many opportunities to lie and self-deceive--but deceit and self-deception carry the costs of being alienated from reality and can lead to disaster. So why does deception play such a prominent role in our everyday lives? In short, why do we deceive?

In his bold new work, prominent biological theorist Robert Trivers unflinchingly argues that self-deception evolved in the service of deceit--the better to fool others. We do it for biological reasons--in order to help us survive and procreate. From viruses mimicking host behavior to humans misremembering (sometimes intentionally) the details of a quarrel, science has proven that the deceptive one can always outwit the masses. But we undertake this deception at our own peril.

Trivers has written an ambitious investigation into the evolutionary logic of lying and the costs of leaving it unchecked.

The second book is:

AMERICAN SHORT STORY MASTERPIECES

The Amazon.com description:

This highly Acclaimed collection of short stories by American writers contains only the best literary art of the past four decades. With a bias toward realism editors Raymond Carver and Tom Jenks have selected fiction that "tells a story"-- and tells it with a masterful handling of language, situation, and insight.

But what is so special about this volume is that it mirrors our age, our concerns, and our lives. Whether it’s the end of a marriage, as in Bobbie Ann Manson’s "Shiloh," or the struggle with self-esteem and weight in Andre Dubus’s "The Fat Girl," the 36 works included her probe issues that give us that "shock of recognition" that is the hallmark of great art--wonderful, absorbing fiction that will be read and reread for decades to come.


Eclectic is probably not the precise word I would choose to describe my taste is reading material.

Erratic is probably better.

__________

I am the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and Fries.
--Stephen King

Monday, January 9, 2012

I Am A Writer Who Writes


Again I have been taken to task for writing of trivial things and told that I should make each blog entry a reflection of my thoughts on one single subject. That I should not flit from this item to that. And that I should edit every entry more closely and polish it until it gleams before posting it. As I (usually) do with my fiction stories.

Hogwash!

That's too much like work, and in truth, I write the blog mainly for the fun of it. I write it for me, and not for its readers or potential readers. If no one at all, or if even a few people read it, then that's all just gravy. I write it the way I do because I take pleasure in writing it the way I do, just as I repeatedly watch reruns of old TV shows... because I like doing it. Because it pleases me.

And that's all I have to say about that.
_____

Bob Denver was born on this date in 1935

Bob Denver

January 9, 1035 - September 2, 2005

_____

Black Elk Speaks is a 1932 book by John G. Neihardt, an American poet and writer, who relates the story and spirituality of Black Elk, an Oglala Sioux medicine man or shaman. It was based on conversations by Black Elk with the author and translated from Lakota into English by Black Elk's son, Ben Black Elk, who was present during the talks.

Neihardt transformed his notes to convey Black Elk's spiritual message in a powerful, lyrical English.


In case Native American lore interests you, below is a link to a free .pdf copy of the book.

http://www.humanresonance.org/black_elk.pdf

More about the subject at wikipedia

_____

Mostly just for fun.

After you have read the below pictured newspaper blurb . . .


. . . see if you can answer the following question:

What is the injury from which Baron Davis is recovering?


Do you suppose that this was a typo
and should have been 'disc' or 'disk?'

_____

Newt Gingrich (reportedly) said, “I pray before virtually every speech and virtually every major decision,”

virtually
(adv.)
Nearly; almost entirely.

Newton Leroy (McPherson) Gingrich


Gingrich was raised a Lutheran. In graduate school he was a Southern Baptist, and later he converted to Catholicism, Oh Goodness Gracious Me! Could Newt perhaps qualify as an example of a religion flip-flopper?

When I started writing the above it was because I was curious as to what Newt Gingrich meant (within his own mind) by using the word 'virtual' instead of a more 'prosaic' adverb such as 'nearly.'

prosaic
(adj.)
Matter-of-fact; straightforward; lacking in imagination and spirit; dull.

Perhaps Newt didn't want to be thought of as lacking in imagination and spirit, or of being dull. Or as being a big fat 'liar' if he had said he prays before 'every' speech and 'every' major decision.

Why in the world am I wasting time speculating about the mind of a politician?

Good question.

I'll stop.

__________

"For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk and we learned to listen."
--Stephen Hawking