Thursday, February 27, 2014

Messier Objects

Messier objects are a set of astronomical objects first listed by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1771. Messier was a comet hunter, and was frustrated by objects which resembled but were not comets, so he compiled a list of them, in collaboration with his assistant Pierre Méchain, to avoid wasting time on them.

A similar list had been published in 1654 by Giovanni Hodierna, but had no impact and was probably not known to Messier. Go here for a table of Messier objects.

Charles Messier
The first edition covered 45 objects numbered M1 to M45. The total list published by Messier finally contained 103 objects, but the list "got an independent life" by successive additions by other astronomers, motivating the additions by side notes in Messier’s and Mechain’s texts indicating that either of them knew of the objects. The first such addition came from Nicolas Camille Flammarion in 1921, who added Messier 104 after finding Messier’s side note in his 1781 edition exemplar of the catalogue. M105 to M107 were added by Helen Sawyer Hogg in 1947, M108 and M109 by Owen Gingerich in 1960, and M110 by Kenneth Glyn Jones in 1967. M102 was observed by Méchain, who communicated his notes to Messier. Later, it was admitted by Méchain himself that this object does not exist, and it was simply a re-observation of M101. Some sources mention the galaxy NGC 5866 as an identification for M102, but its description does not fit with Méchain's notes.

Messier's final catalogue was included in the Connaissance des Temps for 1784 (published in 1781). These objects are still known by their "Messier number" from this list.

Hôtel de Cluny
Messier lived and did his astronomical work at the Hôtel de Cluny (now the Musée national du Moyen Âge), in France. The list he compiled contains only objects found in the sky area he could observe: from the north celestial pole to a celestial latitude of about −35.7°. Objects visible only from the southern hemisphere, such as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, were not observed or listed.

The Messier catalogue comprises nearly all the most spectacular examples of the five types of deep sky object – diffuse nebulae, planetary nebulae, open clusters, globular clusters and galaxies – visible from European latitudes. Furthermore, almost all of the Messier objects are among the closest to our planet in their respective classes, which makes them heavily studied with professional class instruments that today can resolve very small and visually spectacular details in them. A summary of the astrophysics of each Messier object can be found in the Concise Catalog of Deep-sky Objects.

Messier 88
Because these objects could be observed visually with the relatively small-aperture refracting telescope (approximately 100 mm, or four inches) used by Messier to study the sky, they are among the brightest and therefore most attractive astronomical objects (popularly called "deep sky objects") observable from earth, and are a popular targets for visual study and photography available to modern amateur astronomers using larger aperture equipment. In early spring, astronomers sometimes gather for "Messier marathons", when all of the objects can be viewed over a single night.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

I Resign

I hereby officially tender my resignation as an adult. I have decided I would like to accept the responsibilities of an 8 year-old.

I want to go to McDonald's and think that it's a four star restaurant.

I want to sail sticks across a fresh mud puddle and make a sidewalk with rocks.

I want to think M&Ms are better than money because you can eat them.

I want to lie under a big oak tree and run a lemonade stand with my friends on a hot summer's day.

I want to return to a time when life was simple; When all you knew were colors, multiplication tables, and nursery rhymes, but that didn't bother you, because you didn't know what you didn't know and you didn't care.

All you knew was to be happy because you were blissfully unaware of all the things that should make you worried or upset.

I want to think the world is fair. That everyone is honest and good.

I want to believe that anything is possible. I want to be oblivious to the complexities of life and be overly excited by the little things again.

I want to live simple again. I don't want my day to consist of computer crashes, mountains of paperwork, depressing news, how to survive more days in the month than there is money in the bank, doctor bills, gossip, illness, and loss of loved ones.

I want to believe in the power of smiles, hugs, a kind word, truth, justice, peace, dreams, the imagination, mankind, and making angels in the snow.

So... here's my checkbook and my car-keys, my credit card bills and my 401K statements. I am officially resigning from adulthood.

And if you want to discuss this further, you'll have to catch me first, cause... "Tag! You're it."

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Jennings' Folly

Click to enlarge.
Jennings' Folly is the 5th book in the Harry Irons' science fiction series. It's sort of a spin-off tale about a young woman who wants to be a kitzloc hunter. What's a kitzloc, you ask? If you're a Harry Irons' fan, you already know, but suffice to say it is perhaps the most mysterious and deadly creature in the known universe

Okay, so there's more to Jennings' Folly than just hunting nasty lizards, but you'll have to download and read to find out. If you like your science fiction with a dose of adventure, then be sure to get a copy of Jennings' Folly. You won't be disappointed. Oh, and by the way, you don't have to read all the books in the Harry Irons' series to enjoy Jennings' Folly. It reads just fine as a standalone story.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Jennings' Folly at Amazon.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Wake Up

This video is going to be a little long for those of you with short attention spans. I recommend a bowl of popcorn prepared beforehand and a beverage of your preference before settling in to hear about the destruction of liberty.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Famous Last Words

"Pardonnez-moi, monsieur."
— Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, 1755-1793
(Approaching the guillotine, she stepped on her executioner's foot.)

Why Are We Racist?

Because we stay with our own kind for security and protection.

During the filming of Planet of the Apes in 1967, Charlton Heston noted “an instinctive segregation on the set. Not only would the apes eat together, but the chimpanzees ate with the chimpanzees, the gorillas ate with the gorillas, the orangutans ate with the orangutans, and the humans would eat off by themselves. It was quite spooky.”

James Franciscus noticed the same thing filming Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1969. “During lunch I looked up and realized, ‘My God, here is the universe,’ because at one table were all the orangutans eating, at another table were the apes, and at another table were the humans. The orangutan characters would not eat or mix with the ape characters, and the humans wouldn’t sit down and eat with any one of them.

“I remember saying, ‘Look around — do you realize what’s happening here? This is a little isolated microcosm of probably what’s bugging the whole world. Call it prejudice or whatever you want to call it. Whatever’s different is to be shunned or it’s frightening or so forth.’ Nobody was intermingling, even though they were all humans underneath the masks. The masks were enough to bring out our own little genetic natures of fear and prejudice. It was startling.”

(From Joe Russo and Larry Landsman, Planet of the Apes Revisited, 2001.)


The word "toxic" means poisonous, but it used to refer to Greek archery.

In ancient Greek, the word toxon means bow, as well as “the arrows shot from the bow”—and really just archery in general. The Greeks later added to that, creating the word toxicus, which means “poison for use on arrows.” Toxicus made its way through Latin, then French, and finally English, ending up as the word we use today, toxic. The unusual combination of poison and bows, however, started with Hercules.

In the story of Hercules, the mythical hero had to face twelve Labours, or challenges. The second challenge he faced was the Hydra—a serpent with nine heads and poisonous blood. The Hydra was seemingly invincible—chopping off one of its heads only caused it to grow two more heads in that spot. Hercules eventually defeated it by cauterizing each neck with a torch after slicing off a head. Then, after removing the Hydra’s final head, Hercules dipped his arrow tips in the blood—he “made his toxons poisonous.”

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What did Mahatma Gandhi and Genghis Khan have in common?
They both had unusual names.
And both promoted religious tolerance.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Nihilism is the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated. That's sort of the formal definition, but what it means is that there is no meaning to life. That life is pointless. Naturally, a viewpoint like this is often associated with extreme pessimism and a radical skepticism that condemns existence (life sucks, then you die).

A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy. Where there is no hope, there is no motivation. While few philosophers would claim to be nihilists, nihilism is most often associated with Friedrich Nietzsche who argued that its corrosive effects would eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history.

Nihilistic themes -– the failure of faith and religion, value destruction, and cosmic purposelessness –- have preoccupied artists, social critics, and philosophers. The existentialists helped popularize tenets of nihilism and blunted its destructive potential. By the end of the century, existential despair was formulated as a response to nihilism which gave way to an attitude of indifference, often associated with antifoundationalism.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sweetheart of the Rodeo

Sweetheart of the Rodeo, is the sixth album by American rock band The Byrds and was released on August 30, 1968 on Columbia Records (see 1968 in music). Recorded with the addition of country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons, it was influential as the first major country-rock album by an established act and represented a stylistic move away from the psychedelic rock of the band's previous LP, The Notorious Byrd Brothers. The Byrds had occasionally experimented with country music on their four previous albums, but Sweetheart of the Rodeo represented their fullest immersion into the genre thus far. The album was also responsible for bringing Gram Parsons, who had joined The Byrds prior to the recording of the album, to the attention of a mainstream rock audience for the first time. Thus, the album can be seen as an important chapter in Parsons' personal and musical crusade to make country music fashionable for a young audience.

The album was initially conceived as a musical history of 20th century American popular music, encompassing examples of country music, jazz and rhythm and blues, among other genres. However, steered by the passion of the little-known Parsons, who had only joined The Byrds in February 1968, this proposed concept was abandoned early on and the album instead became purely a country record. The recording of the album was divided between sessions in Nashville and Los Angeles, with contributions from several notable session musicians, including Lloyd Green, John Hartford, JayDee Maness and Clarence White.

Predictably, tension developed between Parsons and the rest of the band, guitarist Roger McGuinn especially, with some of Parsons' vocals being re-recorded, partly due to legal complications, and by the time the album was released in August, Parsons had left the band. The Byrds' move away from rock and pop towards country music elicited a great deal of resistance and hostility from the ultra-conservative Nashville country music establishment who viewed The Byrds as a group of long-haired hippies attempting to subvert country music.

Upon its release, the album reached #77 on the Billboard Top LPs chart, but failed to reach the charts in the United Kingdom. Two attendant singles were released during 1968, "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere", which achieved modest success, and "I Am a Pilgrim", which failed to chart. The album received mostly positive reviews in the music press, but the band's shift away from psychedelic music alienated much of its pop audience. Despite being the most commercially unsuccessful Byrds' album to date upon its initial release, Sweetheart of the Rodeo is today considered to be a seminal and highly influential country-rock album.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Curiosity Tweets

The US space program Nasa's rover, Curiosity, tweets friendly updates from the surface of Mars to more than 1.5 million followers. Go here to read the tweets.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Spanked Your Monkey Today?


You've probably heard about this before and some of you may have written it off as fantasy, but if you'd like to pull your head from the sand for a moment and do a little research, you'll discover in the 1950s, the CIA launched a top-secret program called MKULTRA to look for drugs and other techniques to use in mind control. Over the next two decades, the agency used hallucinogens, sleep deprivation and electrical shock techniques in an effort to perfect brainwashing.

CIA scientists conducted more than 149 research projects as part of MKULTRA. In one, they tested the effects of LSD in social situations by slipping the drug to unwitting bar patrons in New York and San Francisco. In others, they enticed heroin addicts to take the hallucinogen by offering them heroin.

Spooked by the Watergate scandal, in 1973 CIA Director Richard Helms ordered documents related to the project destroyed. However, some documents escaped destruction, and by 1977 a Freedom of Information Act request released more than 20,000 pages on the sordid program to author John Marks.

Ya think they're still retrying to control individuals? Ever wonder if they have any success?

While the CIA was working so hard to control people's minds, it turns out it's pretty easy to get people to do what you say: All you have to do is ask like you mean it.

In 1963, social psychologist Stanley Milgram had shown that Yale University students were willing to administer a deadly shock to strangers if an authority figure requested it.

But psychiatrist Charles Hofling wanted to see how obedience influenced decisions when people didn't know they were part of an experiment. In his innocuously titled 1966 paper "An Experimental Study of Nurse-Physician Relationships," Hofling described a chilling experimental protocol: An unknown doctor called real nurses on the hospital's night shift and asked them to administer twice the maximum dose of an unapproved drug to a patient. Unknown to the nurses, the "medicine" was actually a harmless sugar pill and the doctor was a fake.

While it's frightening that the experiment was given the green light at all, it's perhaps even scarier that 21 out of 22 nurses complied. The researchers clearly labeled the drug, so nurses knew they were overdosing their patients. The nurses also violated hospital rules by taking instructions over the phone and giving an unapproved medicine. The study showed just how much the aura of authority could cloud people's ethical judgments.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Understanding Nietzsche

Friedrich Neitzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a German philosopher of the late 19th century who challenged the foundations of Christianity and traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity, power, and the realities of the world we live in, rather than those situated in a world beyond. Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation,” which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life's expansive energies, however socially prevalent those views might be. Often referred to as one of the first existentialist philosophers along with Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), Nietzsche's philosophy has inspired leading figures from all walks of cultural life, including dancers, poets, novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and social revolutionaries. He is considered a consummate and prolific philosopher, but not a typical academic. He did not write primarily for professional philosophers, and he neither aimed at nor actually produced a unified and consistent philosophical system. Like Socrates, he was not so much interested in constructing grand theories and offering final answers, as in asking new and provocative questions, questions that inevitably touched on how one should live one’s life.

Nietzsche wrote poetry as well as scholarly works. Occasionally he also composed music for the piano. His favorite form of expression were aphorisms and other short pieces of carefully crafted prose--texts in which he probed hidden assumptions of culture and thought. His critical analyses dealt with problems of Western civilization long before these problems surfaced in the discourse of the general public—which is one reason why Nietzsche was not widely known until the massive breakdown of European culture at the time of World War I. Afterwards, however, his work inspired a great number of intellectuals and artists--including some writers who misconstrued his analyses as defenses of fascist ideals. Today Nietzsche is mostly appreciated as a brilliant forerunner of such 20th century movements as Psychoanalysis and Existentialism, and as one of the most intriguing critics of the Enlightenment and the culture of reason.

A suitable way to approach Nietzsche's thinking is to ask how he defined the self. It was the predominant view in Western philosophy and religion that human beings have a twofold nature: that they are physical bodies on the one hand, and non-physical minds on the other. It is this dualistic view of human nature that Nietzsche rejects, a view that he dismisses as childish. The mature view, according to him, is to recognize that essentially mind and body are one, and that what is called the mind or the soul is but an aspect of the basically physical nature of humans. In the chapter called "On the Despisers of the Body" in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche writes :“Body am I, and soul”—thus speaks the child. …But the awakened and knowing say: body am I entirely, and nothing else; and soul is only a word for something about the body.

Nietzsche had been brought up within a Christian tradition according to which the body was something base, filthy, despicable, or even evil, and in many theological writings the very center of depravity and sin. And a natural extension of this contempt of the body was a widespread hostility toward nature and physical reality, a hostility that Nietzsche denounces as a “betrayal of the earth.” Throughout his adult years, Nietzsche was in revolt against traditional religious views.

To consider the body--rather than some non-physical mind--as the true self of a person is part of a change in perspective that had significant implications. One implication for Nietzsche was a deep appreciation of and respect for the non-rational faculties of human beings, faculties such as instincts, intuitions, and deep-seated drives. While most philosophers warned people of the danger of physical passions, Nietzsche recommended cultivating them as powerful assets.

Nietzsche was keenly aware of the unconscious. Spontaneous feelings and emanations from the darker regions of the soul were as important to him as the work of the intellect, and fully experiencing something like music was nothing less in his eyes than the discoveries of science or the rational mind. It was in this spirit that in his first major work, The Birth of Tragedy of 1872, Nietzsche developed a theory of art that emphasizes the importance of intoxication and dreams in the production of art, while downgrading the role of sober reason and rational calculation.

At first glance, The Birth of Tragedy is a scholarly investigation of the origin of classical Greek drama. On closer inspection, however, it becomes clear that the author aims at much more than an historical study of a particular kind of drama. What Nietzsche actually advances is a full-fledged theory of art, a theory that encompasses all types of art from all historical epochs, including modern art and the music of Richard Wagner. Nietzsche’s goal is to define what all great works of art have in common—what makes them works of art. His book thus opens with the generalizing contention: “We shall have gained much for the science of aesthetics once we perceive… that the continuous development of art is bound up with the Apollonian and Dionysian duality.”

The presence and effectiveness of "the Apollonian" and "the Dionysian," in other words, is the necessary condition for the flourishing of all art, and the grasping of these two "drives" is a precondition for understanding the nature of artistic creation. What, then, is the Apollonian and the Dionysian?

The two drives are named after the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus, the sun god and the god of wine respectively. What Nietzsche calls “the Apollonian” is the power of dreams—visionary dreams of light, beauty, and serene peace. Foremost examples of the art inspired by such dreams are the classical sculptures of Olympian gods, the harmonious statues of Zeus, Apollo, Athena, Poseidon, and so forth. Piet Mondrian’s balanced abstract compositions, however, could be described as Apollonian as well, or Sergei Prokofiev’s little “Classical Symphony.”

Dionysius -- God of Rock 'n Roll
What Nietzsche calls “the Dionysian,” is the power of intoxicated frenzy—typically encountered in ecstatic performances of music, or in wild and exuberant dancing. The jazz of Dizzy Gillespie is an example, but also Expressionism in painting, or poems by Walt Whitman and Arthur Rimbaud.

What Nietzsche maintains is that there is no significant art unless artists are inspired by Apollonian dreams or Dionysian frenzies—or both. Without experiencing the overwhelming power of these “drives” an artist will have nothing of importance to convey. By identifying dream and intoxication as the essential sources of artistic inspiration, Nietzsche rejects reason and the conscious mind as primary contributors to artistic creation. Powerful art is never the product of logical reasoning, conscious manipulation, or thought-driven endeavors. The great works of art of all cultures have always been the result of non-rational impulses and unplanned intuitions, not of reason or calculated construction. In artistic productions reason can at most play a secondary role, a role that amounts to the modification and re-arrangement of the primary and primeval material. The greater the non-rational powers of an artist—the artist’s feelings, intuition, or imagination-- the deeper and more substantial the work that results. The more an artist relies on conscious reasoning or clever calculation, the shallower the resulting art work will be.

It may be worth noting that people often characterize the Apollonian as rational or expressive of reason. That is a misunderstanding. The Apollonian as well as the Dionysian are decidedly non-rational powers; they are much older than reason. In Sections 13 and 14 of The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche argues that it was the emerging rationalism of the 5th century BC (represented foremost by the analytic reasoning of Socrates and his friends) that resulted in the decay and eventual demise of classical Greek drama. While the tragedies of earlier playwrights like Aeschylus and Sophocles were still based on the non-rational powers of intoxication and dream, Euripides, the later writer, began to rely on the clever dialectics of protagonists and antagonists who make their points like forensic debaters--by way of logical arguments. Nietzsche derides such reason-based theatre as intellectually weak and emotionally shallow. The unconscious mind, he was certain, will always yield much deeper truths than the conclusions of rational thought. Human beings, after all, do not really live in their clear-thinking heads: they dwell in the depths of their bodies and their unconscious ideas and passions. To think that human beings are rational beings is a patent illusion, according to Nietzsche.

The Apollonian and the Dionysian do not only inspire different styles or forms of art, they also convey quite different kinds of wisdom and ways of living life. The Apollonian favors hierarchy, order, restraint, and the balance of forces. It aims at an order that keeps everything dark and disturbing at bay--or at least out of sight. It is, as mentioned, presented by the idealized world of the immortal Olympian gods--with their radiant beauty, measured proportions, graceful movements, noble restraint, and a calm that puts them far above the bodily imperfections, grinding worries, and violent entanglements of most ordinary mortals. Although the Olympian gods are by no means perfect, particularly not with respect to their morals, they embody a serenity that the Greeks before Socrates generally considered and praised as divine.

Dionysian wisdom, by contrast, acknowledges and even embraces the wild, the chaotic, and all those aspects of reality that may be unsavory, disturbing, or painful. It opposes the harmony of the Apollonian as unduly restrictive and false. According to the Dionysian world view, life is irremediably antagonistic, chaotic, dangerous, and unsparingly creative-destructive. Pain cannot be separated from pleasure, and life not from death. Existence is essentially struggle, and on balance more reflecting of agony than bliss. In spite of its life-embracing exuberance, the Dionysian view of life and the world is ultimately tragic and dark.

The ambivalence of Dionysian wisdom found expression in the bacchanals, the annual festivities in honor of the god of wine--festivals during which the devotees of the god roamed the countryside or stirred up the cities as bands of wildly drinking and dancing revelers. (The celebration of Mardi Gras is a faint memory and modern continuation of these ancient festivals.) For the duration of these bacchanals established social distinctions were ignored, conventions and customary rules of behavior suspended, and all personal restraints forgotten in an orgiastic expression of untamed desires and raw vitality. Women, ordinarily kept down by strict rules and male supervision, were allowed to take extraordinary liberties. It was, in fact, the maenads, the female devotees of Dionysus, who perpetrated the most notorious excesses that made these tumultuous festivals so noteworthy to their historians. As Nietzsche remarks:

In nearly every case these festivals centered in extravagant sexual licentiousness, whose waves overwhelmed all family life and its venerable traditions; the most savage natural instincts were unleashed, including even that horrible mixture of sensuality and cruelty which has always seemed to me to be the real “witches brew.”

Achilles vs. the Maenads
In very ancient times maenads seem to have caught fawns during their sojourns in the woods. They ripped them to pieces and devoured their raw flesh--a practice inspired by the mythical dismemberment of Dionysus by the Titans. Clearly, the intoxicated frenzy that is at the heart of the Dionysian reveals aspects of reality and the human psyche that are alien and deeply opposed to the Apollonian vision of serene Olympian gods. Nietzsche locates the dark Dionysian worldview in the folk wisdom of ancient Greece:

There is an ancient story that King Midas hunted in the forest a long time for the wise Silenus, the companion of Dionysus, without capturing him. When Silenus at last fell into his hands, the king asked what was the best and most desirable of all things for man. Fixed and immovable, the demigod said not a word, till at last, urged by the king, he gave a shrill laugh and broke out into these words: ‘Oh, wretched ephemeral race, children of chance and misery, why do you compel me to tell you what it would be most expedient for you not to hear? What is best of all is utterly beyond your reach: not to be born, not to be, to be nothing. But the second best thing for you is—to die soon.’

By drawing full attention to this dark side of Hellenic culture, Nietzsche laid the groundwork for his reinterpretation of classical Greek art. Until Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy it was customary to emphasize the bright side of classical culture. The magnificence of Greek architecture and sculpture was solely associated with harmony, serenity, and pleasing beauty. The art historian Winckelmann had set the tone for this understanding by coining the phrase of "noble simplicity and quiet grandeur" as the summarizing characterization of Greek art and life.

The provocative reinterpretation of Hellenic culture offered by Nietzsche consisted in his contention that the proverbial beauty and serenity of Greek art cannot be properly understood unless one sees it as a reaction to the profound horror of existence of which Silenus speaks, and of which most ancient Greeks seem to have been keenly aware. The serenity and beauty of the Olympian world was not the product of some sort of naïve optimism or natural cheerfulness among Greeks, but, on the contrary, the result of an insight into the irremediably dark and tragic nature of life, an insight that is reflected in all the famous horror tales that the classical tragedies of the 5th century present. Explaining the function of the bright vision of the Olympian gods, Nietzsche observes: “That he [the Greek] might endure this terror at all, he had to interpose between himself and life the radiant dream-birth of the Olympians.”

The serene world of the Olympian gods, in other words, is a sort of lie, a lie that the Greeks produced in order to be able to live. The bright Olympian world is mere appearance, a willingly accepted illusion in the form of art. Reality is an existence dominated by struggle, agony, and death. To not see this dark underside of classical Greek art is to misunderstand its beauty, is to forget why it exists. The seemingly naive serenity of the Olympian world depicted by the classical statues cannot be grasped but as a hard-won victory over an oppressively dark world. “How much must this people [the Greeks] have suffered to have created such beauty!” Nietzsche remarks.

As an awareness of the horrific and dark nature of reality is a necessary condition for the vitality of the bright Olympian vision, it is also the basis for other significant works of art. There is, indeed, no artistic creation of substance without the artist's experience of the pain and dark horror that is at the heart of life. An artist who intended to produce just "beautiful things" or edifying tales would be hopelessly shallow, and writers who try to be successful by avoiding too disquieting subjects are notoriously forgettable. A comedy like "Twelfth Night" is as good as it is because it deals with deep pain, and a seemingly plain cornfield painted by van Gogh has its haunting power because it depicts an ultimate darkness that we try to forget. An encounter with the irrational underside of existence is at the heart of any significant artistic creation--that is the point of Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy. And it is also the point that "Barton Fink" as the story of a writer's block drives home. Barton, at the beginning of the movie, is a writer who has run out of things to say; he finds himself cut off from any source of inspiration. The ensuing story tells us how he is drawn into a very dark depth, a depth that transforms him profoundly. It is this depth that in the end makes Barton an artist--the terrifying experience of Dionysus’ world.

The information is available on the web in numerous places.

Game Of Life

Finally! Clear, illustrated instructions on how to play the game of life. Go here.

And then I felt sad because I realized that once people are broken in certain ways, they can't ever be fixed, and this is something nobody ever tells you when you are young and it never fails to surprise you as you grow older as you see the people in your life break one by one. You wonder when your turn is going to be, or if it's already happened.

Douglas Coupland

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Government Workers

It's a good time for those making a living from public service. Pay is up and the legal power of our public servants just keeps on growing. Public servants have their own protective laws, you know, over and above and in addition to laws protecting ordinary citizens. So, if you step on the toes of a cop or a county commissioner or a clerk or any one of dozens of more local government roles, you can be in jeopardy of breaking additional laws just because of who they are. Is that clear?

So, public servants are not only paid well, but they are a protected class of citizenry. Not technically, you might say. However, you'd be wrong. Technically speaking, our paid public servants have become a new class of citizenry, set apart by exemption from basic laws with special protective laws drafted to avoid prosecution and to increase fines simply because of the position's status.

It's hard to get fired when you're working for the government. I'll tell you, it's a good trick if you can make a living from it and plenty do. Look around at election time in your local setting. You'll see the same old tired faces. And I am saying there is something inherently wrong with that picture.

The perqs of sitting in a comfy county or city government job for twenty years used to be pretty appealing. These days, in addition to those jobs, we've got Forest Service & Wildlife, we've got EPA, and FEMA, and DHS. We've got the County Sheriff and his department as well as the local town police and fire departments and ambulance service and just think about all the maintenance people and road crews and trucks and equipment the county keeps and maintains. That's a lot of government jobs. That's a ton of taxes. As well as a lot of personal responsibility out of someone who pursued the job in the first place in order to avoid having to go out and make work for themselves. Instead, they became part of the public debt for the majority of their lives!

And yet, we insist we give respect to the office. Because it is the office that preserves our Constitutional law, the law of the land, the basic agreement between the citizenry and the government.

To any practical observer, our leaders routinely break Constitutional law to further their goals. The US population is waking to the fact that we exist in a lawless society. If our leaders don't abide by the same law, why should anyone else? Those same public servants are arming themselves with tanks and drones and mobile command posts and God knows what else as protection from the general citizenry. Why? Wouldn't it be easier to find another job?

I guess not. Everybody wants to rule the(ir) world.

How Television Affects Brain Chemistry

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sea Orbiter

The SeaOrbiter, also known as Sea Orbiter (two words), is an ocean going research vessel. Construction is to begin in late 2013. Similar to a space ship, the SeaOrbiter is planned to allow scientists and others a residential yet mobile research station positioned under the oceans' surface. The station will have laboratories, workshops, living quarters and a pressurized deck to support divers and submarines.

SeaOrbiter is a project of the "Floating oceanographic laboratory" organisation. It is headed by French architect Jacques Rougerie, oceanographer Jacques Piccard and astronaut Jean-Loup Chretien. The cost is expected to be around $52.7 million.

The laboratory is semi-submersible ocean going craft and weighs 1000 tons. It has a total height of 51 meters with 31 meters below sea level.

Click to enlarge.
It is designed to float vertically and drift with the ocean currents but has two small propellers allowing it to modify its trajectory and maneuver in confined waters. Underwater robots can be sent from the laboratory to explore the seabed. The hull is made of an alloy of aluminum and magnesium, and is five times thicker than that of a conventional vessel.

Its vertical alignment in the sea will leave a small part visible above the surface with much larger accommodation and laboratories below the sea's surface. Some levels will have a cabin pressure equal to the external water pressure allowing divers to live for extended periods at depth and make frequent excursions.

SeaOrbiter's web site.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The happiness of your life
depends upon the quality of your thoughts.

Honey and Cinnamon

Well, now they're saying that Honey and Cinnamon cures most of the world's diseases. A number of primitive cultures have long said the same thing. Plus, even though honey is sweet, if taken in the right dosage, it does not harm diabetic patients.

For HEART DISEASES, make a paste of honey and cinnamon powder, smear it on bread or chappati, instead of jelly and jam and eat it regularly for breakfast. It reduces cholesterol in the arteries thereby reducing risk of heart attack. For those who already had an attack, if they do this process daily, they are preventing another attack.

Regular use relieves loss of breath and strengthens the heartbeat. In America and Canada, various nursing homes have found that honey and cinnamon revitalizes the arteries and veins.

INSECT BITES: Take one part honey to two parts of lukewarm water and add a small teaspoon of cinnamon powder, make a paste and massage it on the itching part of the body. The pain recedes within a minute or two.

ARTHRITIS: Arthritis patients may one cup of hot water with two spoons of honey and one small teaspoon of cinnamon powder daily, morning and night. They say, if taken regularly, even chronic arthritis can be cured.

In a recent research conducted at Copenhagen University, it was found that when doctors treated their patients with a mixture of one tablespoon Honey and a half teaspoon Cinnamon powder before breakfast, they found that within a week out of the 200 people so treated practically 73 patients were totally relieved of pain and within a month, most all the patients who could not walk or move around because of arthritis started walking without pain.

HAIR LOSS: Those suffering from hair loss or baldness, may apply a paste of hot olive oil, one tablespoon of honey, one teaspoon of cinnamon powder before bathing and keep it on for approx. 15 minutes. Afterwards, wash it out. It's supposed to be effective even if kept on for just 5 minutes.

BLADDER INFECTIONS: Take two tablespoons of cinnamon powder and one teaspoon of honey in a glass of lukewarm water and drink it. It destroys the germs in the bladder.

TOOTHACHE: Make a paste of one teaspoon of cinnamon powder and five teaspoons of honey and apply on the aching tooth. This may be applied 3 times a day till the tooth stops aching.

CHOLESTEROL: Two tablespoons of honey and three teaspoons of Cinnamon Powder mixed in 16 ounces of tea water, given to a cholesterol patient, was found to reduce the level of cholesterol in the blood by 10% within 2 hours. As mentioned for arthritic patients, if taken 3 times a day, any Chronic cholesterol is cured.

COLDS: Those suffering from common or severe colds should take one tablespoon lukewarm honey with 1/4 spoon cinnamon powder daily for 3 days. It's supposed to cure most chronic cough, cold and clear the sinuses.

INFERTILITY: Yunani and Ayurvedic Medicine have been using honey for thousands of years to strengthen the semen of men. If impotent men regularly take two tablespoon of honey before going to sleep, their problem will be solved.

In China, Japan and Far-East countries, women who do not conceive and need to strengthen the uterus, have been taking cinnamon powder for centuries. Women who cannot conceive may take a pinch of cinnamon powder in half teaspoon of honey and apply it on the gums frequently throughout the day, so that it slowly mixes with the saliva and enters the body.

UPSET STOMACH: Honey taken with cinnamon powder cures stomachache and also clears stomach ulcers from the root.

GAS: According to the studies done in India & Japan, if honey is taken with cinnamon powder the stomach is relieved of gas.

IMMUNE SYSTEM: Daily use of honey and cinnamon powder strengthens the immune system and protects the body from bacteria and viral attacks. Scientists have found that honey has various vitamins and iron in large amounts. Constant use of honey strengthens the white blood corpuscles to fight bacteria and viral diseases.

INDIGESTION: Cinnamon powder sprinkled on two tablespoons of honey taken before food, relieves acidity and digests the heaviest of meals.

INFLUENZA: A scientist in Spain says that honey contains a natural ingredient, which kills the influenza germs and saves the patient from flu.

LONGEVITY: Tea made with honey and cinnamon powder, when taken regularly arrests the ravages of old age. Take 4 spoons of honey, 1 spoon of cinnamon powder and 3 cups of water and boil to make like tea. Drink 1/4 cup, 3 to 4 times a day. It keeps the skin fresh and soft and arrests old age.

Life spans also increases and even a 100 year old, starts performing the chores of a 20-year-old -- at least, so they say..

PIMPLES: Three tablespoons of Honey and one teaspoon of cinnamon powder paste. Apply this paste on the pimples before sleeping and wash it next morning with warm water. If done daily for two weeks, it removes pimples.

SKIN INFECTIONS: Applying honey and cinnamon powder in equal parts on the affected parts cures eczema, ringworm and all types of skin infections.

WEIGHT LOSS: Daily in the morning 1/2 hour before breakfast on an empty stomach and at night before sleeping, drink honey and cinnamon powder boiled in one-cup water. If taken regularly it reduces the weight of even the most obese person.

Also, drinking of this mixture regularly does not allow the fat to accumulate in the body even though the person may eat a high calorie diet.

CANCER: Recent research in Japan and Australia has revealed that advanced cancer of the stomach and bones have been cured successfully. Patients suffering from these kinds of cancer should daily take one tablespoon of honey with one teaspoon of cinnamon powder for one month 3 times a day.

FATIGUE: The sugar content of honey is more helpful rather than being detrimental to the strength of the body. Senior citizens, who take honey and cinnamon power in equal parts, are more alert and flexible.

A half tablespoon honey taken in a glass of water and sprinkled with cinnamon powder, taken daily after brushing and in the afternoon at about 3.00 p.m. when the vitality of the body starts to decrease, increases the vitality of the body within a week.

BAD BREATH: People of South America, first thing in the morning gargle with one teaspoon of honey and cinnamon powder mixed in hot water. So their breath stays fresh throughout the day.

HEARING LOSS: Daily morning and night honey and cinnamon powder taken in equal parts restore hearing.

Or so they say. I like honey and cinnamon, so it's not much of a chore to try it.


95% of the time if something isn’t working, it’s not plugged in. Whether it’s your computer, the computer monitor, the fan, whatever. Always check the connections. You may not remember unplugging anything, but it can happen. It takes five seconds to check, and it will save you from looking like an idiot from having to ask someone to come fix it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Frisbee Golf

Frisbee Golf is played regular golf except that a flying disc is used in place of clubs and a ball. The point is to hit the markers in the least amount of throws. The Professional Disc Golf Association says "The object of the game is to traverse a course from beginning to end in the fewest number of throws of the disc.

The number of disc golf courses doubled in the 8 years from 2000 to 2008 and the game is played in about 40 countries around the world. You don't have to speak another language to play it.

The first known instance of anyone playing golf with a flying disc occurred in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1926. Ronald Gibson and a group of his Bladworth Elementary School buddies played a game throwing tin plates at targets. They called it Tin Lid Golf and played on a fairly regular basis on a course they laid out on their school grounds. After they grew up and went their separate ways, the game came to an end. Modern disc golf started in the early 1960s, in many places and by many people independently. Students at Rice University in Houston, Texas, held tournaments with trees as targets as early as 1963. In the early 1960s players in Pendleton King Park in Augusta, Georgia would toss Frisbees in 50-gallon barrel trash cans designated as targets.

One pioneer of the sport is Kevin Donnelly. Kevin began playing a form of Frisbee golf in 1959 called Street Frisbee Golf. In 1961, he began organizing Frisbee golf tournaments at nine of the city's playgrounds he supervised. This culminated in 1965 with a fully documented, Wham-O sponsored, city-wide Frisbee Golf tournament. This highly publicized tournament included hula hoops as holes, with published rules, hole lengths, pars, and penalties, Wham-O prizes and, an event in which Fred Morrison, the Frisbee inventor, was in attendance. In 1967, two years after conducting the first-ever organized Frisbee Golf Tournament, Kevin, then the Coordinator of the Parks and Recreation Section at Fresno State College, California, organized and then taught the first ever college level Frisbee Golf activity course, in which George Sappenfield was registered.

Two of the most famous frisbee-heads are "Steady Ed" Headrick, who came up with the first formal disc golf target using chains and a basket, and Dave Dunipace who invented the modern golf disc in 1983. In 1975, Headrick formed the first disc golf association, the PDGA, which now officiates the standard rules of play for the sport. The sport has grown at a rate of 12-15 percent annually for more than the past decade, with nearly 3000 courses in the US and more than 4000 globally. The game is now played in more than 40 countries worldwide, primarily in the United States, Canada, Central and Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia.

Go here for Fribee Golf courses in Texas. Also called Disc Golf.