July 30, 2006

"My 2 cents"

False modesty, perhaps. One of those things people say without thinking what they mean. "It's only little-ol'-me; pay no attention to what I say". Why write it, then? Why tell me it's next to worthless after I've read it? I already know that.

The theory that the expression arose because that was at one time the postage required for a letter to the editor seems to me unlikely: what possible mental process could assign a text a monetary value equal to the amount of postage required to send it by mail?

"It may not be worth much, but it's my opinion". Well, I know it's your opinion if you signed it, and why don't you let me be the judge of what it's worth to me and whether I ever want to spend any more of my valuable time reading what you write?

Are you saying I'm an idiot for spending any time reading something so cheap? I don't appreciate that. Do you think potential publishers will not show enough contempt for your writings so that you have to make a start by doing it yourself?

In my opinion it is a silly and unnecessary expression. I recommend its abolition.

April 01, 2005


Recommended reading:
The End of Reason
Organized religion elevates superstition to an entirely new level, so let's call its institutions by their proper name: superstition-based institutions.

I have had a lawyer draft what she assured me was a legally valid and binding "living will" expressing my wishes in case I should become incapacitated and unable to communicate them at any time in the context of a condition from which I’m not expected to recover, and I have duly executed (what lawyers call the act of signing; yes, I know; "signing" is a perfectly legitimate word, but why use a common word when you can substitute jargon and charge several hundred dollars for it?) such will in the presence of two witnesses, and all those signatures were duly notarized as prescribed by law.

I have also told and discussed the above mentioned directions to and with all my relatives and friends I could hold within my hearing long enough to do so, particularly my spouse, who is executrix of my will and has a full power of attorney to act in my behalf and implement my wishes. Such power of attorney comes into effect when I should be incapacitated and unable to communicate my decisions.

If and when I become unconscious and unable to communicate and if this appears to be an irreversible condition I DO NOT WANT MY BODY TO BE KEPT "ALIVE" by any extraordinary means, including but not limited to artificial respirators, feeding through tubes inserted into my stomach or any other diabolical devices I can't even imagine the medical profession may have invented to drain the finances of its victims and create an illusion that they are defeating death.

Consider the sentence above repeated three times with increasing emphasis.

If I should get into one of those delightful situations so common in medicine in which physicians are "not sure" what my chances of recovery are or whether I have ANY chance of recovery at all -- not that I am suggesting that physicians don't know everything, of course, but sometimes it seems to me, untrained layperson that I am, as if physicians don't know anything except how to charge inappropriately called "patients" more money for telling us they don't know than any other "experts" get for producing appropriate and accurate solutions, explanations and remedies for the situations they are called upon to examine -- I direct that any such "doubts" be resolved in the sense of letting my body die.

Poor Terri Schiavo (an Italian word meaning "slave" and pronounced Ski-ah-vo, NOT Sky-ay-vo, as I have heard broadcasters say it) has finally died; may she rest in peace.

I have no words to describe the revulsion I felt at the spectacle of troglodyte right-wingers invading her privacy. At the same time they have invaded the privacy of all of us who contemplate being one day in a situation similar too Ms. Schiavo towards the end of her life.

Ill-intentioned lawyers spurred by prospects of financial or political gain can question the validity even of the most iron-clad legal document, and I am horrified at the thought of my spouse having to fight the US Congress after I've become a vegetable (used in a figurative sense with all due respect to vegetables, who in fact ARE probably able to communicate, but not in ways we can -- yet -- understand) in order to implement my wishes.

One of the purposes of this blog entry is to provide further evidence of what my wishes are against potential actions to counter my wishes by followers of some superstition according to which such wishes are taboo. The followers of such superstitions are causing much grief to this country. Is there anyone who thinks that the sacred freedom to follow one's own superstitions also implies permission to try to force others to follow the tenets of such superstition?

I realize what I’m writing implies that I will be among the first to be killed when the fascists finally have their way as they did in Germany barely seventy years ago. But I don't want to live under a fascist dictatorship and I am too old and disabled to fight it.

I was born in Argentina in 1940. Physically far from Germany,, but still a fascist dictatorship (PerĂ³n was a great friend and admirer of the Nazis, and provided shelter in his country to many escaped German war criminals after the war).

The US is now, in many respects, the most advanced country in the world. So was Germany in the nineteen thirties. Some people say "it couldn't possibly happen here". So they did in Germany in the nineteen thirties. A superstitious extremist minority has grabbed power through electronic voting manipulation and the ignorance, apathy and stupidity of many voters. With the exception of the electronic voting manipulation the same thing happened in Germany in the nineteen thirties. The comparison between the two countries in terms of finances, employment and other issues I leave as exercises for the reader.

The US, with all its faults, has been a shining miracle in the history of humankind. Future historians -- if any, I’m tempted to say, but I’m sure there WILL be some somewhere in the universe -- will be astonished that it lasted as long as it did.

History also teaches that tyrannies always fall. Eventually, at least, and not without much struggle and suffering. The US saved the world from the fascists in the nineteen forties; who will save the world from the US? Stay tuned, I guess. As for myself, I've already seen plenty; now I’m increasingly wanting to go home and sleep.

September 22, 2003

Giant Arctic ice shelf breaks up

I find this* terrifying. Not surprising, though. Look at it in a map.

* That link dated 09/22/2003 is no longer available; a quotation from and some comments on it may be read in the Physics Forum [Note made 05/14/2004 at 3:34 PM CDT (GMT-5h)].

April 03, 2003

PaganSpeak topics for April 2003

PaganSpeak topics (all courtesy of Wren's Nest) for April 2003:

Topic # 1: Are we alone in the universe?

I find it astonishing beyond any possibility of belief for anyone to imagine that, in the whole universe, life occurs only in this drop of mud we inhabit. Earth is much less significant in comparison with the whole universe than a two-person hamlet in Saskatchewan in comparison with all of North America (I write this to indicate smallness, isolation, remoteness and lack of significant impact, without intending any disrespect to Saskatchewan).

Is this Earth the only planet inhabited with intelligent life?
(Yeah. I wonder about that "intelligent" part sometimes, too!)

Actually there are probably places where, unlike on Earth, intelligent life does exist. Or perhaps intelligent life does exist on Earth, but it is not human beings: it is dolphins or some other cetaceans, or perhaps something we don't know about.

Can human beings be called intelligent? Perhaps they can in the absence of knowledge of anything else. We can�t imagine anyone with a more-than-human, super-human or trans-human intelligence. I would not be surprised if some humans called such beings non-intelligent; humans have always shown a considerable inclination to hate and try to kill anyone and anything that is different. Especially if such a being is superior to humans; that is something humans can never forgive: Socrates, Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi were such: off with their heads!

Perhaps humans are too intelligent for their own good, but not intelligent enough to do themselves and their planet any good. Perhaps humans are a mentally ill species, bent on self-mutilation and ultimately self-destruction. Perhaps it is the abuse they suffer under patriarchal religions that led humans to become a mentally ill, "borderline" species.

Is life a fluke?

Only to the extent that it is a fluke that an automobile moves; perhaps it was created just to be parked somewhere.

Are we unique?

I doubt -- or perhaps it is only wishful thinking -- that there are beings anywhere that are the same as humans, but perhaps there are, Goddess help them.

If there are other life forms out there, do you think that we shall ever meet them?

I think we have since the beginning of history; every ancient scripture is full of references to them. Angels and demons in all their immense variety in all cultures, fairies, elves, devas, gods, demi-gods... My impression, which fills me with glee, is that we ain't seen nuttin' yet...

How far into the future might that happen?

See above.

Will they find us or will we find them first?

We could not find anyone even if they showed up at our door and asked to be invited to tea. Some humans would still say that they are mannequins built to resemble living entities placed on board weather balloons for "testing"...

Do you think that the discovery of inhabitants on other planets would change our world view?
How would the existence of aliens affect the religions of this world?

Some would probably claim that the aliens were just sent by the devil to test their faith in their non-existence. In fact that argument has already been used with fossils: what would you rather believe, some old bones or the holy scriptures?

Do you think such a concept as "religion" might also be found on other worlds?

Certainly, unless they were beyond it: "religion" comes from "re-ligare", to re-establish a link that was lost with the universe, the Force, the Tao or however it's called. A race of enlightened beings who had never forgotten or lost that link would not need any set of practices designed to re-establish it. Instead of "I have found it" they could say "We never lost it". They wouldn�t HAVE a religion, they would BE it. What a blessing encountering such beings might be for us; who knows, we might even learn something; now, isn�t that a concept?...

Have we already been visited by beings from other planets?

All the time; see above.

If an alien did come calling, what might you show him/her/it about life on planet Earth?

I don�t think it would do anyone any good to have a script prepared for dealing with such beings, even if one were to prepare such scripts. Though totally useless with human beings, it might not be a bad idea to insist, especially with the military, that in any encounter with such beings no one ought to shoot anything. I have no doubt that in any shooting match human beings would do rather poorly, and we might wait to try to learn something before we shoot.

Would you like to travel to another planet?

No, I don't want to travel anywhere unless with a Star-Trek-type transporter. Too much searching at airports.

Topic # 2: Are you willing to give up some civil liberties to be safe?

No. There is no such a thing as safety. I�d rather be a dead free person than a live slave. Giving up civil liberties is a slippery slope into a bottomless abyss. Don�t do it.

Increased domestic security is on everyone's minds these days and the U.S. government has already begun implementing more restrictive security screenings than most Americans can ever remember seeing before. As the news continues to report on the likelihood of more terrorist attacks including chemical and/or biological agents, how safe do YOU feel?

Not at all.

Would you be willing to undergo searches of your person and/or belongings at airports?

They already do it whenever they please at customs, etc., so what else is new?

How about personal searches at sporting events or when entering a mall?

Becoming a police state is giving victory to the terrorists.

Are you willing to allow the government to read your email, listen in on your telephone conversations, track your web surfing habits, inquire into your membership affiliations or restrict your ability to meet in groups (say at a large Pagan festival or open circle) in order to feel more safe?


Is there a point where you would draw the line at surrendering your civil rights?

The U.S. Constitution has worked better than anything else in history -- which is not saying all that much considering the atrocities that the U.S. has committed -- at least until the coup d'�tat in 2000.

(Did you notice that the media when referring to the idea usually use the word 'liberties' instead of 'rights'?)

Yes; perhaps someone thinks it sounds more palatable or less scary that way.

Are you a little more nervous about being known as a Pagan these days?

Oy vey am I nervous! As a Pagan and a Jew (by ethnicity, not by religion) I figure I�d be among the first to go. I�ve always thought that if I had been in Europe in the early forties I�d have spit in the face of the first SS officer that came handy so as to be killed and be done with it, but many more courageous people than I am did not do that, so I don�t really know how I�d react when faced with the actual situation. Besides those situations arise gradually, not suddenly. It is said -- I imagine some perverts have actually done the experiment -- that if a frog is thrown into hot water s/he will immediately jump out of it, but if s/he's in cold water that is being heated gradually s/he will never jump out and s/he'll eventually suffer a horrible death by heat.

I guess we may find out, won't we? Goddess preserve and protect us all.

Topic # 3: What are you reading?
What was the last book(s) that you read or what favorite book would you recommend to others?
When in the bookstore or library, which section do you head for first?
Do you prefer fiction or non fiction?
Do you read mostly for enjoyment/entertainment or for knowledge/information?
What media besides books do you read?
What is your literary skeleton in the bookcase (such as comics, fashion mags, tabloids, showbiz gossip, sports)?

Perhaps some other time.

January 28, 2003

Incomunicado no more

My ability to send and receive e-mail is more or less restored through my spouse�s computer. I say more or less because it is a laptop with a tiny keyboard which is very difficult to use for my large paws.

I don�t think I'll be replacing my dead computer very soon, so my computing activities will be rather diminished, but at least I'll no longer be incomunicado.

January 24, 2003


NOT, as my spell-checker keeps insisting, "incommunicado".

My computer has died, not long after the extended three year warranty I had purchased expired (�honni soit qui mal y pense�, said Edward III, but, I�m sorry, I must be �honni�, since I have the darkest misgivings about the timing). So I am incomunicado via e-mail. I am posting this through my spouse�s computer, a laptop with a tiny keyboard which is cruel and unusual punishment on my fingers.

I intend to get back on line with a new computer as soon as I can, but it may be a while.

December 26, 2002

Comments on "How to separate the wheat from the chaff"

See December 25, 2002 entry in Starz Light's blog. Starz's text is in green, mine in black.

I have just spent several hours surfing web sites full of unsettling information. I could cite site after site, but how does one determine the veracity of these sources? I am sure I wish I knew, Starz. I, too, have seen web sites full of unsettling information. I don't know whether it is true that concentration camps already built in various parts of the country are ready to accommodate the first dissenters and other "undesirables". I do wish I had the answers. When I find one of those unsettling web sites, do I ignore it as the work of kooks or do I forward it to everyone I know? When rumors about Nazi atrocities started to circulate outside Germany many people dismissed them as the products of deranged minds, because they thought it was not possible such horrible things were actually happening, it was obvious that the rumors were just gross exaggerations. The reality turned out to be worse than any rumors that had circulated. People walked into the gas chambers still not believing that what they had heard could possibly be true.

Do you feel that blogging raises the consciousness of anyone? Definitely yes: first and foremost the blogger's own, and second her/his readers, though that is out of the blogger's control. I have learned much from reading my fellow bloggers; the blogosphere is a churning cauldron of ideas; it much enhances the dialog that always goes on between writers and readers. Thanks to the net we all can be both. Of course this does make for a tremendous volume of material in which it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, the gold from the mud. But it is a matter of degree: it was already difficult when all we had was publications on paper. And as the volume of material has increased so have the means to communicate recommendations, reviews, etc.

Or are we just preaching to the choir? Or even just enjoying the sound of our voices without caring if anyone listens? Nothing wrong with enjoying the sound of one's own voice :-) but I think all bloggers care to some extent about being read - yes, even those who claim not to - otherwise why publish on the web at all? We could just write in our own journals, to be read by no one other than ourselves. And many of us do have private journals in addition to our blogs. But we also aspire to communicate and find out how others react to what we have to say, and to stimulate each other to greater insight and understanding.

It is true that perhaps the greatest things that have been written were written with quill pens on scarce and expensive parchment. Now we have computers and the web, but where is the genius to create masterpieces? Maybe masterpieces are being created among us; we just don't know about them yet.

Does the sharing of our questions, concerns, or support for the issues of the day constitute activism on any level? In my opinion yes; writing has always been an important form of activism. We speak - or write - our truths and put them out there in the universe; who or how many might read them - let alone be influenced by them - is neither our business nor anything that we can do anything about (other than honest efforts to increase "the circulation" of our blogs,
like submitting them to search engines, web rings and the like).

Do you ever follow the links down paths that show opinions in opposition to yours? Sometimes I read some educated, civilized conservatives like The Leibman Theory; but the Neanderthals - with respect for the original Neanderthals - I cannot stand.

Do you have information sources that you believe to be giving a complete and honest picture? And if so, I'd love to know what they are. I tend to trust sources on the left much more than those on the right (which I don't trust at all). Jeanne d'Arc has a list under the title "Good Guys" (right-wing publications she appropriately calls "The Opposition", and has a list of those, too), and also links to The Lefty Directory, which contains, among many other things and links to left-wing blogs, an interesting interview with Jeanne d'Arc. Liberal Oasis is another aptly-named site. There are many others. But, as you say very well, I'm sure both sides spin the stories; however, we much prefer the spin on the left.

I thought about taking this question to e-mail, but then felt it might make interesting dialog here. I'm glad you did; the wider the possibilities of dialog are set the higher the probability that someone will come up with bright ideas that might promote insight and understanding.

I never cease to be intrigued that two very intelligent, well-read, highly educated people can come to diametrically opposed positions. It seems there is no Truth (with a capital "T") Is everything relative? I believe it is very likely that "there is no Truth (with a capital 'T')", and those who believe there is - and "they" have It, of course - are horribly dangerous to the rest of us and likely to want to burn us at the stake to make us see the error of our ways and accept their One and Only Truth. In my opinion the reason "two very intelligent, well-read, highly educated people" sometimes "come to diametrically opposed positions" is that they perceive things differently, and don't give the same weights to the same components. It is known to law-enforcement personnel that two witnesses of the same event can give wildly different accounts thereof and both believe they are being absolutely truthful. The sages tell us that unless one has reached the fourth state of consciousness known as enlightenment one only perceives shadows, projections, "spectra" of "reality", and obviously shadows of one object can be different depending on the angle of illumination. We unenlightened ones don't perceive reality but a picture, a map thereof. A picture can be darker or lighter, or have various kinds of distortions. Iowa can be pink in one map and green in another; it is still the same Iowa, just different maps.

Another image I like is that reality is a mountain; we are all climbing the same mountain from different sides; the views we see are different and the degrees of difficulty of the climbing are different too, depending on whether we're climbing a steep or a gentle slope. When we reach the top we'll all be in the same place and our views will be similar - though still dependent on the direction we're looking... - but while we're climbing it doesn't make any sense to despise a fellow climber because her/his path is different from ours.