Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Hourglass Nebula

Click to enlarge.
The Engraved Hourglass Nebula, or Etched Hourglass Nebula (also known as MyCn 18) is a young planetary nebula situated in the southern constellation Musca about 8,000 light-years away from Earth. It was discovered by Annie Jump Cannon and Margaret W. Mayall during their work on an extended Henry Draper Catalogue (the catalogue was built between 1918 and 1924). At the time, it was designated simply as a small faint planetary nebula. Much improved telescopes and imaging techniques allowed the hourglass shape of the nebula to be discovered by Raghvendra Sahai and John Trauger of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on January 18, 1996. It is conjectured that MyCn 18's hourglass shape is produced by the expansion of a fast stellar wind within a slowly expanding cloud which is denser near its equator than its poles. The formation of the shape of the inner "eye" is not yet fully understood.

The Hourglass Nebula was photographed by the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 of the Hubble Space Telescope.

A less-famous "Hourglass Nebula" is located inside the Lagoon Nebula.

The Real You

Monday, September 29, 2014


Michelangelo Buonarroti (Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni) was born on March 6, 1475, in Caprese, Italy. His father worked for the Florentine government, and shortly after his birth his family returned to Florence, the city Michelangelo would always consider his true home.

Michelangelo received the commission to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling as a consolation prize of sorts when Pope Julius II temporarily scaled back plans for a massive sculpted memorial to himself that Michelangelo was to complete.

Florence during the Renaissance period was a vibrant arts center, an opportune locale for Michelangelo’s innate talents to develop and flourish. His mother died when he was 6, and his father did not approve of his son’s interest in art as a career. At 13, Michelangelo was apprenticed to painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, particularly known for his murals. A year later, his talent drew the attention of Florence’s leading citizen and art patron, Lorenzo de’ Medici, who enjoyed the intellectual stimulation of being surrounded by the city’s most literate, poetic and talented men. He extended an invitation to Michelangelo to reside in a room of his palatial home.

Michelangelo learned from and was inspired by the scholars and writers in Lorenzo’s intellectual circle, and his later work would forever be informed by what he learned about philosophy and politics in those years. While staying in the Medici home, he also refined his technique under the tutelage of Bertoldo di Giovanni, keeper of Lorenzo’s collection of ancient Roman sculptures and a noted sculptor himself. Although Michelangelo expressed his genius in many media, he would always consider himself a sculptor first.

Michelangelo was working in Rome by 1498, when he received a career-making commission from the visiting French cardinal Jean Bilhères de Lagraulas, envoy of King Charles VIII to the pope. The cardinal wanted to create a substantial statue depicting a draped Virgin Mary with her dead son resting in her arms—a Pietà—to grace his own future tomb. Michelangelo’s delicate 69-inch-tall masterpiece featuring two intricate figures carved from one block of marble continues to draw legions of visitors to St. Peter’s Basilica more than 500 years after its completion.

Michelangelo returned to Florence and in 1501 was contracted to create, again from marble, a huge male figure to enhance the city’s famous Duomo, officially the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. He chose to depict the young David from the Old Testament, heroic, energetic, powerful and spiritual, and literally larger than life at 17 feet tall. The sculpture, considered by scholars to be nearly technically perfect, remains in Florence at the Galleria dell’Accademia, where it is a world-renowned symbol of the city and its artistic heritage.

Click to enlarge.
In 1505, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to sculpt him a grand tomb with 40 life-size statues, and the artist began work. But the pope’s priorities shifted away from the project as he became embroiled in military disputes and his funds became scarce, and a displeased Michelangelo left Rome (although he continued to work on the tomb, off and on, for decades).

However, in 1508, Julius called Michelangelo back to Rome for a less expensive, but still ambitious painting project: to depict the 12 apostles on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, a most sacred part of the Vatican where new popes are elected and inaugurated.

Instead, over the course of the four-year project, Michelangelo painted 12 figures—seven prophets and five sibyls (female prophets of myth)—around the border of the ceiling, and filled the central space with scenes from Genesis. Critics suggest that the way Michelangelo depicts the prophet Ezekiel—as strong yet stressed, determined yet unsure—is symbolic of Michelangelo’s sensitivity to the intrinsic complexity of the human condition. The most famous Sistine Chapel ceiling painting is the emotion-infused The Creation of Adam, in which God and Adam outstretch their hands to one another.

Michelangelo continued to sculpt and paint until his death, although he increasingly worked on architectural projects as he aged: His work from 1520 to 1527 on the interior of the Medici Chapel in Florence included wall designs, windows and cornices that were unusual in their design as well as proportions and introduced startling variations on classical forms. Michelangelo also designed the iconic dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (although its completion came after his death). Among his other masterpieces are Moses (sculpture, completed 1515); The Last Judgment (painting, completed 1534); and Day, Night, Dawn and Dusk (sculptures, all completed by 1533).

From the 1530s on, Michelangelo wrote poems; about 300 survive. Many incorporate the philosophy of Neo-Platonism–that a human soul, powered by love and ecstasy, can reunite with an almighty God — ideas that had been the subject of intense discussion while he was an adolescent living in Lorenzo de’ Medici’s household.

Michelangelo died after a short illness in 1564 at 88, surviving far past the usual life expectancy of the era. A pietà he had begun sculpting in the late 1540s, intended for his own tomb, remained unfinished but is on display at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, in Florence—not very far from where Michelangelo is buried, at the Basilica di Santa Croce.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

“The individual is handicapped, by coming face-to-face, with a conspiracy so monstrous, he cannot believe it exists. The American mind, simply has not come to a realization of the evil, which has been introduced into our midst . . . It rejects even the assumption that human creatures could espouse a philosophy, which must ultimately destroy all that is good and decent.” -- FBI Director talking about Communism in 1956.

Don't Be A Bully: Get Help

There is no age limit on bullying. I recently witnessed a sixty-six year old man (I use the term loosely) bullying his younger sister.

Studies have shown that envy and resentment are the primary motives for bullying. While some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic, they also use bullying as a tool to conceal shame or anxiety or to boost self-esteem. By demeaning others, the abuser feels empowered. For adult bullies, it becomes a tactic to get what they want. Bullies may also bully out of jealousy or because they themselves are bullied.

Risk factors include depression and personality disorders, as well as quickness to anger, use of force, addiction to aggressive behaviors, mistaking others' actions as hostile, concern with preserving self image, and engaging in obsessive or rigid actions. Do you know anybody like that? In one study of youthful bullies, a combination of antisocial traits and depression was found to be the best predictor of youth violence, whereas video game violence and television violence exposure were not predictive of these behaviors.

A typical bully has trouble resolving problems with others and also has trouble academically. He (or she -- oh yes, there are plenty of female bullies too.) usually has negative attitudes and beliefs about others, feels negatively toward himself/herself, comes from a family environment characterized by conflict and poor parenting, perceives school as negative and is negatively influenced by peers.

Sometimes it appears that some bullies are "psychologically strongest" and have "high social standing" among their social group, while their targets are "emotionally distressed" and "socially marginalized". A minority of bullies, those who are not in turn bullied, "enjoy going to school, and are least likely to take days off sick".

Adults who bully have authoritarian personalities combined with a strong need to control or dominate. It has also been suggested that a prejudicial view of subordinates can be a particularly strong risk factor. It is said that the main risk factors for children and adolescents being bullied, and also for becoming bullies, are the lack of social problem-solving skills.

Bullying is an abusive interaction between peers or relatives which can include aggression, harassment, and violence. Bullying is typically repetitive and enacted by those who are in a position of power over the victim. A growing body of research illustrates a significant relationship between bullying and emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence (EI) is a set of abilities related to the understanding, use and management of emotion as it relates to one's self and others.

Lower emotional intelligence appears to be related to involvement in bullying, as the bully and/or the victim of bullying. EI seems to play an important role in both bullying behavior and victimization. Given that EI is illustrated to be malleable, EI education could greatly improve bullying prevention and intervention initiatives.

Whether you're a kid or an adult, don't allow yourself to be bullied! Unless, of course, you like it. If that's the case, you've got other problems.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Population Conundrum

Where's Waldo?
According to the latest United Nations predictions, the world's population will expand through the end of the 21st century mainly due to sub-Saharan Africa's higher-than-expected birth rates.

Furthermore, there is an 80 percent likelihood that the number of people on the planet, currently 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by 2100. That's along with an 80 percent probability that Africa's population will rise to between 3.5 billion and 5.1 billion by 2100 from about 1 billion today.

The same predictions include a 30 percent chance that the earth's population will stop rising this century.

Previous forecasts predicted a leveling off of the world population around 2050, but the new projections includes data that clearly establishes that birth rates in sub-Saharan Africa have not been decreasing as quickly as some experts had expected.

Sub-Saharan Africa countries already with big populations and high fertility levels are expected to drive population growth, including Nigeria, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Mozambique and Mali.

The world's population reached 1 billion in the early 19th century, doubled to 2 billion in the 1920s and doubled again to 6 billion in the 1990s. It hit 7 billion in 2011.

Of course, the findings underscore worries about our planet growing more crowded and humankind exhausting natural resources while struggling to produce enough food and cope with poverty and infectious diseases.

Predictably, the UN studies said African nations could benefit by intensifying policies to lower fertility rates, with studies showing that greater access to contraceptives and more education for girls and women can be effective.

Asia's population, now at 4.4 billion, is forecast to peak at around 5 billion people in 2050, then begin to decline. The populations of North America, Europe and Latin America will stay below 1 billion each by 2100.

Because the studies were sponsored by a United Nations controlled by politics and representatives bent toward global governance and socialism, all the findings are questionable. They do indeed smack of the same paranoia that is derived from the phony global climate change arguments. Among the experts who had predicted the global population rise would peter out was a 2010 report by Austrian demographer Wolfgang Lutz. He forecast it likely would reach 8 billion to 10 billion by 2050 but "population stabilization and the onset of a decline are likely" in the second half of the century.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

How Much Do You Pay For Gas?

Find prices for gas anywhere in the USA. Go here. "The fuel prices listed on GasBuddy.com are intended to be based on the price of Regular Unleaded Gasoline and Number 2 diesel fuel. The data base is designed to remove prices from display 72 hours after the time that they were entered which helps to keep the price data as current as possible. The GasBuddy system is designed to access the GasBuddy.com database from a remote location and displays the current local low and high fuel prices."

Average Cost Of New Home
1930 $3,845.00
1940 $3,920.00
1950 $8,450.00
1960 $12,700.00 ,
1970 $23,450.00
1980 $68,700.00
1990 $123,000.00
2008 $238,880
2013 $289,500 

Average Wages
1930 $1,970.00
1940 $1,725.00
1950 $3,210.00
1960 $5,315.00
1970 $9,400.00
1980 $19,500.00
1990 $28,960.00
2008 $40,523
2012 $44,321 

Average Cost of New Car
1930 $600.00
1940 $850.00
1950 $1,510.00
1960 $2,600.00 ,
1970 $3,450.00
1980 $7,200.00
1990 $16,950.00
2008 $27,958
2013 $31,352 

Average Cost Gallon Of Gas
1930 10 cents
1940 11 cents
1950 18 cents
1960 25 cents
1970 36 cents
1980 $1.19
1990 $1.34
2009 $2.051
2013 $3.80 

Average Cost Loaf of Bread 
1930 9 cents
1940 10 cents
1950 12 cents
1960 22 cents ,
1970 25 cents
1980 50 cents
1990 70 cents
2008 $2.79
2013 $1.98 

Average Cost 1lb Hamburger Meat
1930 12 cents
1940 20 cents
1950 30 cents
1960 45 cents ,
1970 70 cents
1980 99 cents
1990 89 cents
2009 $3.99
2013 $4.68

Some of the above can be explained due to the inflation over 70 years , but there are also many other reasons why some prices increased dramatically ( Housing Bubbles. Middle East Wars, Weather problems causing food price inflation, Population explosion, ) it also can work the other way due to improvements in technology offering much cheaper goods for example TV's, Calculators, Computers ETC.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

As A Man Thinketh...

Resistance is Futile: The Violent Cost of Challenging the American Police State

The new “thin blue line”

by John W. Whitehead

“Police are specialists in violence. They are armed, trained, and authorized to use force. With varying degrees of subtlety, this colors their every action. Like the possibility of arrest, the threat of violence is implicit in every police encounter. Violence, as well as the law, is what they represent.” — Kristian Williams, activist and author

If you don’t want to get probed, poked, pinched, tasered, tackled, searched, seized, stripped, manhandled, arrested, shot, or killed, don’t say, do or even suggest anything that even hints of noncompliance. This is the new “thin blue line” over which you must not cross in interactions with police if you want to walk away with your life and freedoms intact.

The following incidents and many more like them serve as chilling reminders that in the American police state, “we the people” are at the mercy of law enforcement officers who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.”

For example, police arrested Chaumtoli Huq because she failed to promptly comply when ordered to “move along” while waiting outside a Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant for her children, who were inside with their father, using the bathroom. NYPD officers grabbed Huq, a lawyer with the New York City Public Advocate’s office, flipped her around, pressed her against a wall, handcuffed her, searched her purse, arrested her, and told her to “shut up” when she cried out for help, before detaining her for nine hours. Huq was charged with obstructing governmental administration, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.

Oregon resident Fred Marlow was jailed and charged with interfering and resisting arrest after he filmed a SWAT team raid that took place across the street from his apartment and uploaded the footage to the internet. The footage shows police officers threatening Marlow, who was awoken by the sounds of “multiple bombs blasting and glass breaking” and ran outside to investigate only to be threatened with arrest if he didn’t follow orders and return inside.

Eric Garner, 43 years old, asthmatic and unarmed, died after being put in a choke-hold by NYPD police, allegedly for resisting arrest over his selling untaxed, loose cigarettes, although video footage of the incident shows little resistance on Garner’s part. Indeed, the man was screaming, begging and insisting he couldn’t breathe. And what was New York Mayor Bill De Blasio’s advice to citizens in order to avoid a similar fate? Don’t resist arrest. (Mind you, the NYPD arrests more than 13,000 people every year on charges of resisting arrest, although only a small fraction of those charged ever get prosecuted.)

Then there was Marine Brandon Raub, who was questioned at his home by a swarm of DHS, FBI, Secret Service agents and local police, tackled to the ground, handcuffed, and forcibly transported to a police station. Raub was then detained against his will in a psychiatric ward, without being provided any explanation, having any charges levied against him or being read his rights—all allegedly because of controversial song lyrics and political views posted on his Facebook page.

Incredibly, police insisted that Raub was not in fact under arrest. Of course, Raub was under arrest. When your hands are handcuffed behind you, when armed policemen are tackling you to the ground and transporting you across town in the back of a police car, and then forcibly detaining you against your will, you’re not free to walk away.

If you do attempt to walk away, be warned that the consequences will likely be even worse, as Tremaine McMillian learned the hard way. Miami-Dade police slammed the 14-year-old boy to the ground, putting him in a chokehold and handcuffing him after he allegedly gave them “dehumanizing stares” and walked away from them, which the officers found unacceptable. According to Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta, “His body language was that he was stiffening up and pulling away… When you have somebody resistant to them and pulling away and somebody clenching their fists and flailing their arms, that’s a threat. Of course we have to neutralize the threat.”

As I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, this mindset that any challenge to police authority is a threat that needs to be “neutralized” is a dangerous one that is part of a greater nationwide trend that sets the police beyond the reach of the Fourth Amendment. Moreover, when police officers are allowed to operate under the assumption that their word is law and that there is no room for any form of disagreement or even question, that serves to chill the First Amendment’s assurances of free speech, free assembly and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a casual “show your ID” request on a boardwalk, a stop-and-frisk search on a city street, or a traffic stop for speeding or just to check your insurance: if you feel like you can’t walk away from a police encounter of your own volition—and more often than not you can’t, especially when you’re being confronted by someone armed to the hilt with all manner of militarized weaponry and gear—then for all intents and purposes, you’re under arrest from the moment a cop stops you.

That raises the question, what exactly constitutes resisting an arrest? What about those other trumped up “contempt of cop” charges such as interference, disorderly conduct, obstruction, and failure to obey a police order that get trotted out anytime a citizen engages in behavior the police perceive as disrespectful or “insufficiently deferential to their authority”? Do Americans really have any recourse at all when it comes to obeying an order from a police officer, even if it’s just to ask a question or assert one’s rights, or should we just “surrender quietly”?

The short answer is that anything short of compliance will get you arrested and jailed. The long answer is a little more complicated, convoluted and full of legal jargon and dissonance among the courts, but the conclusion is still the same: anything short of compliance is being perceived as “threatening” behavior or resistance to be met by police with extreme force resulting in injury, arrest or death for the resistor.

The key word, of course, is comply meaning to obey, submit or conform. This is what author Kristian Williams describes as the dual myths of heroism and danger: “The overblown image of police heroism, and the ‘obsession’ with officer safety, do not only serve to justify police violence after the fact; by providing such justification, they legitimize violence, and thus make it more likely.”

How else can we explain why police shot a schizophrenic 30-year-old man holding a pellet gun over 80 times before his corpse was handcuffed? Mind you, witnesses reportedly informed the police that it was not a real gun, but the officers nonetheless opened fire about five minutes after arriving on the scene.

John Crawford was shot by police in an Ohio Wal-Mart for holding an air rifle sold in the store that he may have intended to buy. Oscar Grant, age 23, unarmed and lying face-down on the ground, was shot in the back by a transit officer in Oakland, Calif., who mistakenly used a gun instead of a taser to further restrain him. Ordered to show his hands after “anti-crime” police officers noticed him adjusting “his waistband in a manner the officers deemed suspicious,” 16-year old Kimani Grey was fired at 11 times, and shot seven times, including three times in the back. Reportedly, the teenager was unarmed and unthreatening.

Even dogs aren’t spared if they are perceived as “threatening.” Family dogs are routinely shot and killed during SWAT team raids, even if the SWAT team is at the wrong address or the dog is in the next yard over. One six-year-old girl witnessed her dog Apollo shot dead by an Illinois police officer.

Clearly, when police officers cease to look and act like civil servants or peace officers but instead look and act like soldiers occupying a hostile territory, it alters their perception of “we the people.” Those who founded this country believed that we were the masters and that those whose salaries we pay with our hard-earned tax dollars are our servants.

If daring to question, challenge or even hesitate when a cop issues an order can get you charged with resisting arrest or disorderly conduct, you’re not the master in a master-servant relationship. In fact, you’re not even the servant—you’re the slave.

This is not freedom. This is not even a life.

This is a battlefield, a war zone—if you will—governed by martial law and disguised as a democracy. No matter how many ways you fancy it up with shopping malls, populist elections, and Monday night football, the fact remains that “we the people” are little more than prisoners in the American police state, and the police are our jailers and wardens.

An enraged police officer in Illinois was caught on camera during an exchange Friday with a driver who attempted to exercise his Constitutional rights at a random police checkpoint – making for compelling yet disturbing viewing.

Ryan Scott set a camera in his car to record as he was ushered into the checkpoint, believing that his rights were about to be trampled upon. The resulting footage shows what happened when Scott asked police whether he was being detained or not.

Scott writes “I was just stopped at an unconstitutional CHECKPOINT in DeKalb, Illinois. This was Illinois State Police conducting the unconstitutional searches. You won’t believe how this just went down!” The action begins at 3.30 mins.

When he explained to the first officer that he was not obligated to provide his driver’s license if he is not being detained or suspected of committing a crime, the second officer ripped open the car door and yelled “YOU KNOW WHAT, YOU ARE OBLIGATED, GET OUT NOW!”

Under the Fourth Amendment, police are not allowed to search vehicles without probable cause or consent from the driver.

“DRIVING IS A PRIVILEGE NOT A RIGHT.” the cop nevertheless continued to yell at Scott.

“He was not aware that he was being recorded when he ripped my door open. Unbelievable!” Scott writes.

“This kind of misconduct and behavior is not acceptable. This is what happens when you exercise your Constitutional Rights as a law abiding American citizen.” he adds.

Clearly there came a point during the exchange when the officer opted to use fierce intimidation. Scott, fearing he would be physically assaulted, complied with the officer, rather than pursue the verbal exchange.

Scott further explains that he “completely forgot to ask for name and badge number because this guy scared the shit out of me.”

Ironically, the video was uploaded a day after the incident on ‘Thank a Police Officer Day’.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Sir William Wallace (Medieval Gaelic: Uilliam Uallas; modern Scottish Gaelic: Uilleam Uallas; Norman French: William le Waleys; died 23 August 1305) was a Scottish landowner who became one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence.

Along with Andrew Moray, Wallace defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, and was Guardian of Scotland, serving until his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk in July 1298. In 1305, Wallace was captured in Robroyston near Glasgow and handed over to King Edward I of England, who had him summarily hanged, drawn, and quartered for high treason and crimes against English civilians.

Since his death, Wallace has obtained an iconic status far beyond his homeland. He is the protagonist of the 15th-century epic poem The Acts and Deeds of Sir William Wallace, Noble of Elderslie, by Blind Harry. Wallace is also the subject of literary works by Sir Walter Scott and Jane Porter and of the 1995 Academy Award-winning epic film Braveheart.

William Wallace was a member of the nobility but little is known of his family history. Records show early members of the family as holding estates at Riccarton, Tarbolton, and Auchincruive in Kyle, and Stenton in Haddingtonshire. The recent discovery of the Wallace's seals in Glasgow's Mitchell Library provides further evidence that he was, indeed, from Ellerslie in Ayrshire, not the similarly named Elderslie in Renfrewshire. They were vassals of James Stewart, 5th High Steward of Scotland as their lands fell within his territory. Some sources give the name of William Wallace's father as Malcolm Wallace, however the seal attached to a letter sent to the Hanse city of Lübeck in 1297 appears to give his father's name as Alan. His brothers Malcolm and John are known from other sources. An Alan Wallace appears in the Ragman Rolls as a crown tenant in Ayrshire, but there is no additional confirmation. The traditional view regards William's birthplace as Elderslie in Renfrewshire, and this is still the view of most historians, but there have been recent claims that he came from Ellerslie in Ayrshire. There is no contemporary evidence linking him with either location, although both areas had connections with the wider Wallace family.

Some historians such as Andrew Fisher believe Wallace must have had some earlier military experience. Campaigns like Edward I of England's wars in Wales provided a good opportunity for a younger son of a landholder with no prospects in life other than becoming a monk or priest to become a mercenary soldier.

This theory suggests that it would have taken military knowledge to defeat the English at Stirling Bridge. Wallace's personal seal attached to a letter sent to the Hanse city of Lübeck in 1297 may not only reveal the name of his father but also bears the archers' insignia. If Wallace was indeed an archer he must have been a professional, worth paying a reasonable sum of money for military services. The first class long bow (as probably used by Wallace) had a draw weight of up to 170 lbs.

This is in accordance with Bower who states that Wallace was "a tall man with the body of a giant ...with lengthy flanks ...broad in the hips, with strong arms and legs ...with all his limbs very strong and firm". Blind Harry's Wallace stood seven feet.

The first act definitely known to have been carried out by Wallace was his assassination of William de Heselrig, the English High Sheriff of Lanark, in May 1297. He then joined with William the Hardy, Lord of Douglas, and they carried out the raid of Scone. This was one of several rebellions taking place across Scotland, including those of several Scottish nobles and Andrew Moray in the north.

The uprising suffered a blow when the nobles submitted to the English at Irvine in July. Wallace and Moray were not involved, and continued their rebellions. Wallace used the Ettrick Forest as a base for raiding, and attacked Wishart's palace at Ancrum. Wallace and Moray met and joined their forces, possibly at the siege of Dundee in early September.

Stirling Bridge
On 11 September 1297, an army jointly led by Wallace and Andrew Moray won the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Although vastly outnumbered, the Scottish army routed the English army. John de Warenne, 6th Earl of Surrey's professional army of 3,000 cavalry and 8,000 to 10,000 infantry met disaster as they crossed over to the north side of the river. The narrowness of the bridge prevented many soldiers from crossing together (possibly as few as three men abreast), so while the English soldiers crossed, the Scots held back until half of them had passed and then killed the English as quickly as they could cross. The infantry were sent on first, followed by heavy cavalry. But the Scots' schiltron formations forced the infantry back into the advancing cavalry. A pivotal charge, led by one of Wallace's captains, caused some of the English soldiers to retreat as others pushed forward, and under the overwhelming weight, the bridge collapsed and many English soldiers drowned. Thus the Scots won a significant victory which boosted the confidence of their army. Hugh Cressingham, Edward's treasurer in Scotland, died in the fighting and it is reputed that his body was subsequently flayed and the skin cut into small pieces as tokens of the victory. The Lanercost Chronicle records that Wallace had "a broad strip [of Cressingham’s skin] ... taken from the head to the heel, to make therewith a baldrick for his sword".

The type of engagement conducted by Wallace was characterized by opportunistic tactics and the strategic use of terrain. This was in stark contrast to the contemporary views on chivalric warfare which were characterized by strength of arms and knightly combat. The battle therefore embittered relations between the two antagonistic nations, whilst also perhaps providing a new departure in the type of warfare which England had hitherto employed. The numerical and material inferiority of the Scottish forces would be mirrored by that of the English in the Hundred Years' War, who, in turn, abandoned chivalric warfare to achieve decisive victory in similar engagements such as Crécy and Poitiers.

Wallace evaded capture by the English until 5 August 1305 when John de Menteith, a Scottish knight loyal to Edward, turned Wallace over to English soldiers at Robroyston near Glasgow. Letters of safe conduct from Haakon V of Norway, Philip IV of France, and John Balliol, along with other documents, were found on Wallace and delivered to Edward by John de Segrave.

Wallace was transported to London, lodged in the house of William de Leyrer, then taken to Westminster Hall, where he was tried for treason and for atrocities against civilians in war, "sparing neither age nor sex, monk nor nun." He was crowned with a garland of oak to suggest he was the king of outlaws. He responded to the treason charge, "I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject." With this, Wallace asserted that the absent John Balliol was officially his king.

Following the trial, on 23 August 1305, Wallace was taken from the hall to the Tower of London, then stripped naked and dragged through the city at the heels of a horse to the Elms at Smithfield. He was hanged, drawn and quartered — strangled by hanging but released while he was still alive, emasculated, eviscerated and his bowels burnt before him, beheaded, then cut into four parts. His preserved head (dipped in tar) was placed on a pike atop London Bridge. It was later joined by the heads of the brothers, John and Simon Fraser. His limbs were displayed, separately, in Newcastle upon Tyne, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Stirling, and Perth. A plaque stands in a wall of St. Bartholomew's Hospital near the site of Wallace's execution at Smithfield.

In 1869 the Wallace Monument was erected, very close to the site of his victory at Stirling Bridge. The Wallace Sword, which supposedly belonged to Wallace, although some parts were made at least 160 years later, was held for many years in Dumbarton Castle and is now in the Wallace Monument.

Banned/Censored Books

A variety of books are banned in schools and libraries across the US for being too political, too racially-charged, having too much sex or being irreligious, and/or socially offensive. Many of the books are literary classics. That is, legitimate works of art. Somewhere along the line, someone found the content offensive and managed to have the books removed from the shelves.

Among those deemed too political (or racial):

Uncle Tom’s Cabin -- ironically, an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe, published in 1852 now considered to be too deprecating in its portrayal of blacks.
All Quiet on the Western Front -- a war novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I. The book describes the German soldiers' extreme physical and mental stress during the war, and the detachment from civilian life felt by many of these soldiers upon returning home from the front.
A Farewell to Arms -- a novel written by Ernest Hemingway about a love affair between the expatriate American Henry and Catherine Barkley against the backdrop of the First World War, cynical soldiers, fighting and the displacement of populations.
For Whom the Bell Tolls -- Another Hemingway novel about the Spanish Civil war.
Animal Farm -- George Orwell's barnyard social commentary.
1984 -- Another Orwell book describing a tyrannical, hive mentality future.
Doctor Zhivago -- Boris Pasternak's tragic tale of love amidst the chaos of the Russian Revolution.
Slaughterhouse-Five -- yet another war tale by Kurt Vonnegut about a man who survived being an American POW in Germany.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse -- a book by Peter Matthiessen which chronicles "The story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI's war on the American Indian Movement".

And don't forget The Adventures of Huck Finn -- still considered to be too deprecating to blacks in some places.

The following books have been banned for having too much sex, or overt sex, or any at all:

Madame Bovary -- Gustave Flaubert's classic (1856) debut novel. The story focuses on a doctor's wife, Emma Bovary, who has adulterous affairs and lives beyond her means in order to escape the emptiness of provincial life.
Tess of the d’Urbervilles -- An English classic by Thomas Hardy published in 1891. Tess attempts to use a family connection to royalty to improve her station in life. Hardy is a master of the sublime and the tragic.
Ulysses, by James Joyce. Considered to be one of the most important works of Modernist literature, the story follows Leopold Bloom through Dublin during an ordinary day, 16 June 1904. Ulysses' stream-of-consciousness technique, careful structuring, and experimental prose—full of puns, parodies, and allusions, as well as its rich characterizations and broad humor, made the book a highly regarded novel in the Modernist pantheon.
The Sun Also Rises, by Hemingway already mentioned above. A two-category winner.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover -- a novel by D. H. Lawrence, first published in 1928. The first edition was printed privately in Florence, Italy, with assistance from Pino Orioli; an unexpurgated edition could not be published openly in the United Kingdom until 1960. (A private edition was issued by Inky Stephensen's Mandrake Press in 1929.) The book soon became notorious for its story of the physical (and emotional) relationship between a working-class man and an upper-class woman, its explicit descriptions of sex, and its use of then-unprintable words.

By the way, the phrase four-letter word refers to a set of English-language words written with four letters which are considered profane, including common popular or slang terms for sexual activity and genitalia, and (depending on the listener/reader) sometimes also certain terms relating to Hell and/or damnation when used outside their original religious context(s), and/or slurs. The "four-letter" claim refers to the fact that a large number of English "swear words" are incidentally four-character monosyllables. This description came into use during the first half of the twentieth century.

Continuing with the titillating books, we have:

Tropic of Cancer -- a novel by Henry Miller that has been described as "notorious for its candid sexuality" and as responsible for the "free speech that we now take for granted in literature".
Lolita -- a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, written in English and published in 1955 in Paris and 1958 in New York. It was later translated by its Russian-native author into Russian. The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, a 37-38 year old literature professor Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with the 12-year-old Dolores Haze, with whom he becomes sexually involved after he becomes her stepfather. "Lolita" is his private nickname for Dolores. Both the name and the nickname are in Spanish.
Peyton Place -- a 1956 novel by Grace Metalious. It sold 60,000 copies within the first ten days of its release and remained on the New York Times best seller list for 59 weeks. It was adapted as both a 1957 film and a 1964–69 television series. The main plot follows the lives of three women—lonely and repressed Constance MacKenzie; her illegitimate daughter Allison; and her employee Selena Cross, a girl from across the tracks, or "from the shacks." The novel describes how they come to terms with their identity as women and sexual beings in a small New England town. Hypocrisy, social inequities and class privilege are recurring themes in a tale that includes incest, abortion, adultery, lust and murder. The term "Peyton Place" became a generic label for any community whose inhabitants have sordid secrets.

And more too sexy books:

Rabbit, Run, John Updike. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou. Jaws, Peter Benchley. Forever, Judy Blume. The Prince of Tides, Pat Conroy. Beloved, Toni Morrison. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, Julia Alvarez.

The following are deemed irreligious:

On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. A scientific treatise offering the theory of evolution to its readers. The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkein's tale of magic and power among middle-earth characters. The Last Temptation of Christ, Nikos Kazantzakis. Bless Me, Ultima, Rudolfo Anaya. Harry Potter Series, J. K. Rowling.

The following are termed as just being generally socially offensive:

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin.
The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain. As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell. Of Mice and Men, John Steinbeck. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. James and the Giant Peach, Roald Dahl. Catch-22, Joseph Heller. A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey. In Cold Blood, Truman Capote. Cujo, Stephen King. The Color Purple, Alice Walker. Ordinary People, Judith Guest. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley.

In most cases, it is truly hard to understand how people in positions of leadership in our communities can be so short-sighted as to try to prevent the circulation of ideas in a free society. But, it happens, and sadly, more often than you would think.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What you say is what you are. Words are powerful. They bring the unseen world into the seen world. We program ourselves by what we say. It is one thing to think a thought but quite another to voice that same thought. On yet another level altogether, talk is cheap and actions speak even louder. -- Harry Irons

What Happened?

What happened? I'll tell you what happened: the war on drugs (especially marijuana) and the ever-growing tyranny of government (state, local, and federal). The war on drugs is a miserable failure and has done more harm than good.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Questions For The Millenium

This little piece could also be entitled, Pondering the Imponderable; questions to ask yourself while waiting for an appointment.

-- The photon (i.e. light), a particle that has no mass, is the medium that allows us (objects with mass) to perceive other objects with mass that populate this universe. What kind of medium could help us perceive other universes based on different physical laws? Something that obeys no physical law?

-- If I build an exact copy of your body, molecule by molecule, atom by atom, is it "you"? Are there two "you"`s at this point? If yes, what happens when I kill the original? Are "you" still alive? If yes, why does it have to be an exact copy? Your body changes more than 90% of its cells every year and, in particular, millions of neurons and billions of neural connections. How close does the copy need to be in order to still be "you"?

-- Life is a search for happiness. We strive to find a way to feel good. Some do so with family and children, some find it in work, some find it in study, some volunteer to help others. Increasingly, we also depend on artificial pleasure: entertainment and drugs. Entertainment now accounts for 5% of GDP in both the USA and Japan. Opiate use worldwide from 1998-2008 increased 35%, cocaine 27%, cannabis 8.5%. More and more people need to get high more and more often. Would it be ok to just plug you into a device and inject substances into your body that make you feel good all the time without any need to actually live your life and with the guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong? You will never experience sorrow nor pain.

-- For millennia, human cultures have diverged and diversified. Languages, customs, musical styles, arts and all sorts of behaviors have multiplied all over the planet. Recently, the globalization process has dramatically reversed that process. In just two decades, the process of increasing cultural diversity has been turned into a process of increasing cultural uniformity. Cultural differences from the Western standard are increasingly viewed as unwelcome (primitive, anachronistic, savage, detrimental to the individual and to society as a whole). Hence the trend is likely to continue and accelerate, eventually yielding just one pervasive uniform culture. Will this make the only surviving global culture very strong or very weak?

-- Odin sacrificed an eye to acquire wisdom. What are 21st century people willing to sacrifice in order to acquire wisdom?

-- We have three dimensions of space, but only one of time. Is that the way it is, or just the way we made it to be? Could humans perceive two or three dimensions of time if we changed the way time is used? Our current concept of time comes from the medieval era when clocks became the rulers of human life. This created a gap between the time measured by the clocks and the time measured by our body and mind. Our body is a collection of dozens of highly imperfect clocks whose oscillations vary with health, age and even the weather. "The" clock (as experienced by our watches and phones and cars) that runs our life is universal (the same for everybody) and constant (absolutely the same every minute of every day of every year). There is a fundamental difference in the way we measure space and time. To measure the distance between two points we simply use an object of a standard length and count how many times it fits in the distance. To measure the distance between two instants we use the synchronized repetition of some mechanism or material and count how many times its cycle repeats between those two instants. Any object is good for measuring a distance. Only regular (very regular) oscillators are good for measuring a duration. Would it be better to use non-regular oscillators in the age of multi-tasking?

-- We view space but we are in space. We view time but we are in time. The subject and the object of the "I" cannot be separated. However, we now entered a new universe, the dataverse, that we can view without being in it. We are in it most of the time but we can also decide not to be in it (although it is getting more and more difficult to do so). Can our senses perceive a universe without the interference of us being in it? There is no way to prove that the past really happened. When we look at a photograph, watch a video or read an entry in our diary, all we are seeing is the present. These are objects that exist here and now. There are people who can corroborate those stories, but their brains too exist in the present: here and now. It could well be that the photograph was created by a chemical accident, and the video was assembled by the secret services for obscure purposes, and our diary was written in a delirious moment, and every brain including ours was altered by a cosmic radiation; and by accident all of these events hinted at a consistent story of what happened in the past, when in fact nothing of that sort happened. What we do know is that our memory, and everybody else's memory, is sometimes (often?) wrong and even forgets. Is there any way to prove that the past really existed other than trusting today's objects and an unreliable brain?

-- If free will exists, does a newborn already have it or does it develop later in life? If so, are you sure that you already have it?

-- We assume that each body has a different person inside. However, it is possible that we are all the same person, that all those bodies contain the same conscious being: you. Imagine that there has always been only one person: you. They are all you. We are different because our lives are different. We speak different languages. We remember different episodes. We are surrounded by different people. Therefore our memories and our attitudes are different. But "we" are just one person. The question "how does it feel to be me?" has a simple answer: it feels exactly like being you. You are the only person who ever existed. You have been born and died millions of times. You are being born and dying every day thousands of times. Is it possible that inside each and every body there is the same "I" and that "I" is you? that the only person who ever existed and who will ever exist is you, for the simple reason that no other person could possibly exist, for the simple reason that there is only one possible consciousness?


If we played all the laws of physics in all possible combinations for an infinite time, what state would never be produced?

If I replace all the neurons in your brain with electronic chips that perform the exact same function, are you still you? (This is coming)

If we ever create a machine that is a fully-functioning brain totally equivalent to a human brain, will it be ethical to experiment on it? Will it be ethical to program it?

Is the product of evolution always good? Are Hitler and malaria good? (If Hitler had won and if everybody had malaria and lived well with it, we would say yes)

Using the vast amount of information left by people on social media, will we be able to resurrect the dead as digital zombies?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Gone With The Wind

Gone with the Wind is a novel written by Margaret Mitchell, first published in 1936. It is often placed in the literary sub-genre of the historical romance novel. However, it has been argued the novel does not contain all of the elements of the romance genre making it simply a historical novel.

The story is set in Clayton County, Georgia, and Atlanta during the American Civil War and Reconstruction. It depicts the experiences of Scarlett O'Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to come out of the poverty she finds herself in after Sherman's "March to the Sea".

Margaret Mitchell began writing Gone with the Wind in 1926 to pass the time while recovering from an auto-crash injury that refused to heal. In April 1935, Harold Latham of Macmillan, an editor who was looking for new fiction, read what she had written and saw that it could be a best-seller. After Latham agreed to publish the book, Mitchell worked for another six months checking the historical references, and rewrote the opening chapter several times. Mitchell and her husband John Marsh, a copy editor by trade, edited the final version of the novel. Mitchell wrote the book's final moments first, and then wrote the events that led up to it.

As to what became of her lovers, Rhett and Scarlett, after the novel ended, Mitchell did not know, and said, "For all I know, Rhett may have found someone else who was less difficult."

Mitchell received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the book in 1937. The book was adapted into a 1939 American film. Gone with the Wind is the only novel by Mitchell published during her lifetime.

Margaret Mitchell arranged Gone with the Wind chronologically, basing it on the life and experiences of the main character, Scarlett O'Hara, as she grew from adolescence into adulthood. (During the time span of the novel, from 1861 to 1873, Scarlett ages from sixteen to twenty-eight years.) The literary technique applied in telling the story is Bildungsroman, which is a type of novel concerned with the moral and psychological growth of the protagonist. The growth and education of Scarlett O'Hara is influenced by the events of her time. Mitchell used a smooth linear narrative structure. The novel is known for its "readability". The plot is rich with vivid characters.

The southern belle is an archetype for a young woman of the American old South upper class. The southern belle's attractiveness is not physical beauty, but rather lies in her charm. She is subject to the correct code of female behavior. The novel's heroine, Scarlett O'Hara, charming though not beautiful, is a southern belle.

For young Scarlett, the ideal southern belle is represented by her mother, Ellen O'Hara. In "A Study in Scarlett", published in The New Yorker, Claudia Roth Pierpont wrote:

"The Southern belle was bred to conform to a subspecies of the nineteenth-century "lady"... For Scarlett, the ideal is embodied in her adored mother, the saintly Ellen, whose back is never seen to rest against the back of any chair on which she sits, whose broken spirit everywhere is mistaken for righteous calm..."

However, Scarlett is not always willing to conform. Kathryn Lee Seidel, in her book, The Southern Belle in the American Novel, wrote:

"...part of her does try to rebel against the restraints of a code of behavior that relentlessly attempts to mold her into a form to which she is not naturally suited."

Scarlett, the figure of a pampered southern belle, lives through an extreme reversal of fortune and wealth, and survives to rebuild Tara and her self-esteem. Scarlett's bad belle traits, her deceitfulness, shrewdness, manipulativeness, and superficiality, in contrast to Melanie's good belle traits, trust, self-sacrifice, and loyalty, enable Scarlett to survive in the post-war South, and pursue her main interest, making money.

Marriage was the goal of all southern belles, and all social and educational pursuits were directed towards it. Regardless of war and the loss of eligible men, young ladies were still subjected to the pressure to marry. By law and Southern social convention, household heads were adult, white propertied males, and all white women and all African Americans were thought to require protection and guidance because they lacked the capacity for reason and self-control.

During the Civil War, Southern women played a major role as volunteer nurses working in makeshift hospitals. Many were middle- and upper class women who had never worked for wages or seen the inside of a hospital. One such nurse was Ada W. Bacot, a young widow who had lost two children. Bacot came from a wealthy South Carolina plantation family that owned 87 slaves.

In the fall of 1862, Confederate laws were changed to permit the employment of women in hospitals as members of the Confederate Medical Department. Twenty-seven year-old nurse Kate Cumming from Mobile, Alabama, described the primitive hospital conditions in her journal:

"They are in the hall, on the gallery, and crowded into very small rooms. The foul air from this mass of human beings at first made me giddy and sick, but I soon got over it. We have to walk, and when we give the men any thing kneel, in blood and water; but we think nothing of it at all."

The word scallawag is defined as a loafer, a vagabond, or a rogue. Scallawag had a special meaning after the Civil War as an epithet for a white Southerner who willingly accepted the reforms by the Republicans. Mitchell defines scallawags as "Southerners who had turned Republican very profitably." Rhett Butler is accused of being a "damned Scallawag." In addition to scallawags, there are also other types of scoundrels in the novel: Yankees, carpetbaggers, Republicans, prostitutes and overseers. In the early years of the Civil War, Rhett is called a "scoundrel" for his "selfish gains" profiteering as a blockade-runner.

As a Scallawag, Rhett is despised. He is the "dark, mysterious, and slightly malevolent hero loose in the world". Literary scholars have identified characteristics of Margaret Mitchell's first husband, Berrien "Red" Upshaw, in the character of Rhett. Another sees the image of Italian actor Rudolph Valentino, whom Margaret Mitchell interviewed as a young reporter for The Altanta Journal. Fictional hero Rhett Butler has a "swarthy face, flashing teeth and dark alert eyes". He is a "scamp, blackguard, without scruple or honor."

One criticism leveled at Gone with the Wind is for its portrayal of African Americans in the 19th century South. For example, former field hands (during the early days of Reconstruction) are described behaving "as creatures of small intelligence might naturally be expected to do. Like monkeys or small children turned loose among treasured objects whose value is beyond their comprehension, they ran wild—either from perverse pleasure in destruction or simply because of their ignorance."

It has also been argued that Mitchell downplayed the violent role of the Ku Klux Klan. Bestselling author Pat Conroy, in his preface to a later edition of the novel, describes Mitchell's portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan as having "the same romanticized role it had in The Birth of a Nation and appears to be a benign combination of the Elks Club and a men's equestrian society."

Yet there are complexities in the way that Mitchell dealt with racial issues. For example, Scarlett was asked by a Yankee woman for advice on who to appoint as a nurse for her children; Scarlett suggested a "darky", much to the disgust of the Yankee woman who was seeking an Irish girl, a "Bridget". African Americans and Irish Americans are treated "in precisely the same way in Gone with the Wind".

The novel is the basis of the Academy Award–winning 1939 film starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh.

One enduring legacy of Gone with the Wind is that people worldwide think it was the "true story" of the Old South and how it was changed by the American Civil War and Reconstruction. The film adaptation of the novel "amplified this effect." The plantation legend was "burned" into the mind of the public through Mitchell's vivid prose.

The Library of Congress began a multiyear "Celebration of the Book" in July 2012 with an exhibition on "Books That Shaped America", and an initial list of 88 books by American authors that have influenced American lives. Gone with the Wind was included in the Library's list. Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington said:

"This list is a starting point. It is not a register of the 'best' American books – although many of them fit that description. Rather, the list is intended to spark a national conversation on books written by Americans that have influenced our lives, whether they appear on this initial list or not."

Among books on the list considered to be the Great American Novel were Moby Dick, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, The Catcher in the Rye, Invisible Man and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Throughout the world, the novel is received for its cross-cultural, universal themes: war, love, death, racial conflict, class, gender and generation, which speak especially to women. In the police state of North Korea, readers relate to the novel's theme of survival, finding it to be "the most compelling message of the novel".

More than 24 editions of Gone with the Wind have been issued in China in the past few years. Lost in translation, a Taiwanese newspaper claimed that Mitchell's first choice of a title for the book was "Tote Your Heavy Bag".

Although Mitchell refused to write a sequel to Gone with the Wind, Mitchell's estate authorized Alexandra Ripley to write a sequel, which was titled Scarlett. The book was subsequently adapted into a television mini-series in 1994. A second sequel was authorized by Mitchell's estate titled Rhett Butler's People, by Donald McCaig. The novel parallels Gone With the Wind from Rhett Butler's perspective.

The copyright holders of Gone with the Wind attempted to suppress publication of The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall, which retold the story from the perspective of the slaves. A federal appeals court denied the plaintiffs an injunction (Suntrust v. Houghton Mifflin) against publication on the basis that the book was parody and therefore protected by the First Amendment. The parties subsequently settled out of court and the book went on to become a New York Times Best Seller.

A book sequel unauthorized by the copyright holders, The Winds of Tara by Katherine Pinotti, was blocked from publication in the United States. The novel was republished in Australia, avoiding U.S. copyright restrictions.

Numerous unauthorized sequels to Gone with the Wind have been published in Russia, mostly under the pseudonym Yuliya Hilpatrik, a cover for a consortium of writers. The New York Times states that most of these have a "Slavic" flavor.

Several sequels were written in Hungarian under the pseudonym Audrey D. Milland or Audrey Dee Milland, by at least four different authors (who are named in the colophon as translators to make the book seem a translation from the English original, a procedure common in the 1990s but prohibited by law since then). The first one picks up where Ripley's Scarlett ended, the next one is about Scarlett's daughter Cat. Other books include a prequel trilogy about Scarlett's grandmother Solange and a three-part miniseries of a supposed illegitimate daughter of Carreen.