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Time is Hungry

January 26, 2012 3 comments

Dave the WriterIt ate the Etruscans and then, eventually, those upstart Neo-Etruscans, the Romans. Time is funny that way.

One day some years ago, it had also eaten most of an Italian hill town named Civita di Bagnoregio, east of picturesque Lake Bolsena and south of the much more famous hill town of Orvieto in Italy.

My bride and I had walked across the long, narrow bridge to the Civita one cool morning, pursuing our duties as Card-Carrying Etruscophiles. As you may know, the Etruscans thrived in what is now eT(r)uscany from about 800 BC. They also launched a lot of what we think of as Ancient Roman culture.

Around 2,500 years ago, when the Etruscan rapper, Big ‘E’, and his crew founded the Civita, it was much larger, though still a very defensible place high above the two surrounding stream valleys. One of the plusses for them then was the soft tufa rock. It erodes fast and offered a steep approach to deter Bad Guys. It could also be easily shaped into walls, structures and stone-cut storage rooms inside the hill.

One of the minuses today is that more than two-thirds of the ancient town has fallen away, a loss hastened by the big quake of 1695 AD. Long ago, the two valleys were filled with gently-sloping, fertile fields. Now, they’re a relatively barren landscape of what the locals call calanchi (gullies, ditches and small ravines). That’s what happens in a few thousand years wherever tufa overlays sand, as it does in this countryside. But, intense Medieval agriculture surely hurried the process. The medievals weren’t as into maintenance as the ancients.

The fertile terrain of ancient times was likely quite well-preserved until the Fall of Rome in the West, when irrigation and terracing systems were no longer maintained. Those pesky barbarians just thought that plundering wealth would produce the same quality of life as civilization. kind of like today’s Occupy movement. Even so, though we don’t see now the landscape that the ancients saw, it is a lovely and fascinating view.

Normal Italians live back along the ridge line in the rest of Bagnoregio (literally ‘The King’s Bath’, a name given the place by Medieval Lombard invaders). Only about thirty people still live in the small Civita area, mostly Brits and Americans, for uniquely Brit and American reasons. There’s a simple church, though, so at least one Italian priest probably lives there as well.

The evening of our visit day, over another in a long series of relaxing Italian dinners, we were moved by what we’d seen to wax philosophical about Time’s perspective on human history. Incidentally, we measure human history as starting when dogs finally domesticated us, about 15,000 years ago.

No Sequoia or Gingko tree alive today was alive then. Yet, 15 millennia is far less than an eye blink in the time of life on Earth. And, science has only been around since, say, Galileo, maybe 400 years. That’s long enough to be perverted and corrupted by power-hungry politicians (a redundant phrase, I know), but  it’s s not nearly enough time for many of us to give up the Old Ways.

A sizable percentage of us still freak out over an extra-snowy winter or a few extra-dry summers. Just a century or so ago in similar circumstances, many people wondered why God was punishing them and offered sacrifices to appease His wrath—human sacrifice in the more barbaric cultures.

Today, the High Priests of Climo-hoaxuality tell us that we have sinned against The Earth and The Mother of All Dooms rushes down upon us for our transgressions. So, we must sacrifice our evil and unjust Prosperity on their sacred Altar of Perpetual Tax. Our prosperity, not theirs. And, many Believers rush to do so.

Surely a deep, fundamental aspect of human nature is in there somewhere when so many people worship this foolishness. Theirs’ is not a set of feelings subject to the mind. But, it must have had some survival value for small groups of hunters and gatherers chasing primeval food or we wouldn’t still be so easily duped by Preachers of Wrathful Cataclysm.

Thankfully, for people with time to relax, sip Chianti and reflect on a day with the Etruscans, Galileo’s new-fangled notion of reason does a good job putting things in perspective.

I highly recommend it.

Rocks and Shoals

January 4, 2012 Leave a comment

Dave the WriterMost ships and crews lost at sea are in sight of land. Or, rather, where land would have been visible in good weather.

To even lubberly souls, the term ‘rocks’ is clear: something much harder than a ship that sticks out of the water or juts up enough to reach the hull. Shoals are a relatively smooth but stony sea bed just under the surface. Tides—especially Pacific tides—compound the challenge for sailors who must navigate near rocks and shoals.

For military sailors, there is also another, legal meaning of ‘rocks and shoals’. And, to some who are excessively rowdy ashore, that definition can be almost as distressing as the physical one. Rocks and Shoals is Navy shorthand for the seventy Articles for the Government of the United States Navy that were published in 1930. They cover everything from personal appearance to cursing to mutiny.

Of course, these rules have since been revised and wildly expanded so as not to make the civilian morons in Washington feel as bad as they should about their own work. But, I find it refreshing now and then to reread some of that straightforward 1930s wording.

Take Article 1 for example. In part, it says,

commanders … are required to show in themselves a good example of virtue, honor, patriotism, and subordination; to be vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons who are placed under their command; to guard against and suppress all dissolute and immoral practices; and to correct, according to the laws and regulations of the Navy, all persons who are guilty of them ….”  

Talk about the word-by-word polar opposite of today’s rules for politicians and their slithery henchpeople. Here’s hoping that 2012 brings them all they secretly wish for us. Twice, actually.

The Sunshine Trick

January 1, 2012 Leave a comment

Dave the Writeror, ‘Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff’.

I love the sun—in moderation. That’s why I live in the High Desert, where it shines three days out of four but is seldom too hot. I also love winter, so I don’t mind the couple feet of dry snow on the roof in February either, so long as the sun is out most days.

Some folks fear the sun. They listen to the professional Chicken Little’s on the 24/7 News Spews and hide indoors or put on ghastly, wide-brimmed hats and slather on chemical sun-block body armor to venture out under the dreadful, deadly rays.

I always find it amusing when those same people drone on in the evenings about ‘natural’ this and ‘organic’ that. I wait for them to take a breath, then chime in cheerfully about the two delightful hours I spent swimming, reading and relaxing in the sun that day. I do it just to watch them recoil in horror at my self-destructive ignorance of things like gravity and Current Media Truth. Simple pleasures.

Another small pleasure is that they’ve gone stone silent on human-caused Global Warming and even on its pathetic rebranding as Climate Change. Now, they actually talk about weather instead! The hoax is so obvious to so many that all save slavering ideologues hold their silence. And that focused silence says so much. Empty graveyards get more words of casual conversation since the fraud’s collapse into a rancid, smoldering heap over the past couple years.

Recently, I took this photo out on the coast. For some reason, that evening, a desire to know more about the sun’s energy output popped into my engineer’s brain. I also wondered what the energy use of all humanity was. And, finally, I wondered how they compared.

After ten minutes on the ‘net, I had all the numbers I needed for a rough calculation. It turns out that at the surface of the earth, the sun delivers an average of at least 25 watts each day for every square foot. And there are lots of square feet.

It also turns out that humans use a bunch of energy, around 15 terrajoules every year. That sure sounds like a Really Big Number, since the ‘terra’ part means 13 zeros after the ‘15’. But, when you compare it on a square foot basis, the fraction of human versus solar energy surprised me.

Did you know that all human endeavors, everywhere on the planet, by more than six billion people use only 1 three-millionth of what the sun delivers? ‘Lost in the noise’ would be a humongous overstatement of the comparison between miniscule Humanity and gargantuan Sol.

I’d never worked out the number before. But, now that I have, it’s not surprising that the climo-hoaxuals never mentioned it. Just like they never mention that Carbon Dioxide is only three one-hundredths of one percent of the atmosphere, while water vapor—by far a stronger greenhouse gas—is at least a hundred times more prevalent (by the way, humans and animals are around 90% water). That kind of deception is a con man’s trick as old as God’s Dog, like palming the pea in a shell game.

So, I ask myself, do I know of any other things that worry me in any way while being such a tiny part of the whole? No.

I don’t worry about anything like that except for a few very deadly poisons and some long-lived radioactive elements. And maybe Ebola. Surely, I never worry about anything as healthy, normal and natural as humans using energy to make better lives or the gas that we exhale and plants breathe.

Go outside. Enjoy some sun. Use some energy to make your life and your family’s lives better. And, for Heaven’s sake, don’t worry about it! However, you can feel free to mock the hucksters so eager to separate you from your hard-earned cash with their tattered flim-flam about the same topics.

As Abe Lincoln wisely observed,

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”    

Pottersville and the Sugar Plum Fairies

December 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Dave the WriterChristmas done right enshrines wholesome innocence for kids.

At its heart is a new-born baby who becomes a great man and, for many, God — pretty much the moral and philosophical antithesis of Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.

Isn’t it interesting how something taken to an extreme, like Christmas music, becomes the moral opposite of itself? In my last post, I mentioned the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. This morning, I got to thinking how sadly ironic part of that film is when seen from more than 60 years on.

The hero, George Baily, personified views of the mainstream political Left back then, among them: integrity, self-sacrifice, respect for good folks and a fair shake for the hard-working ‘little guy’. Franklin Roosevelt, for example, some years before described the purpose of government aid to poor folks as “a hand up, not a hand out.” Apparently, back then, the intent of both The Lord and the government was to “help those who help themselves.” And I agree.

George Baily’s vision of Hell comes in the movie’s Pottersville scenes, when Clarence shows George how bleak and awful Bedford Falls and its people’s lives would be if he had never lived. And I agree.

So, what’s the irony? Well, take the sound values and principles of the film and move them out to today’s perverse extreme. Integrity has become a fool’s version of moral relativism, where nothing can ever be better than anything else (as long as it adheres to the current Party Line of course). Respect for good folks has become suppliance to Designated Groups who, by definition, can do no wrong, or if they do, it’s the fault of some group not approved by The Party. Self-sacrifice has become ‘you owe me, big time’. And, a fair shake for the hard-working little guy has become the cynical creation of a huge, ignorant, but politically reliable Dependency Class, most of whose members after half-a-century are unwilling or morally incapable of recognizing or using ‘a hand up’.

The irony is that the pathway to Pottersville was paved with good, ‘sugar-plum’ intentions but has been corrupted and perverted beyond recognition — like the the difference between Silent Night and the ‘Run Over’ song. These good intentions have also put Uncle Sam in drag as the Sugar Plum Fairy turned into a Cave Troll who must brings the magic of Social Justice to a now evil-and-repressive Bedford Falls.

Today, Pottersville is not George’s personal Hell but a norm for many and an ideal for others (OWS anyone?). This is as it should be of course. Those who want it to be anything else are just ‘judgmental’, ‘warmongering’ ‘haters’ or ‘raaaaacists’ or Nazis. Stone them.

Through the lens of six decades, the current state of affairs is almost darkly biblical, though the PC Police would rush to suppress that reference. As St. Bernard of Clairvaux first expressed the sugar-plum and Pottersville idea around 1150:

“L’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs”

 Hell is full of good intentions or wishes

All that said, may your own sugar plums always be real ones and all your Christmases be merrily bright.

Merry Christmas Mister Potter

December 18, 2011 1 comment

Dave the WriterA few evenings ago, my bride and I were wrapping gifts and watching It’s a Wonderful Life in one of our happy, annual Christmas traditions. Our nod to progress this time was that we viewed the colorized, Blu-ray version. It’s a perfect and amazing restoration.

The great film’s almost-memorized dialog registered on the surface of my mind as I reflected on the transmogrification of Christmas. Those filled with cultural self-contempt masquerading as inclusiveness clamor to relentlessly portray Christmas as inherently jingoistic and, apparently, offensive to all non-Christians by virtue its very existence.

This is confusing since it doesn’t correlate with broad personal experience or common sense. To me, an Old Testament-leaning agnostic, the spirit of Christmas seems so open and inclusive. And, I assert that most folks without a fanatical ideology they’re eager to inflict on the rest of us see it that way as well.

For example, in Buddhist and Shinto Japan, Christmas is the biggest family holiday. That’s not for religious reasons, but because the spirit of that day is such a good fit with positive cultural norms in that land.

In Turkey, which is 98+% Muslim, the biggest holiday is Ramazan Bayrami, the feast day after Ramadan. Many times, a cheerful, friendly Turk has wished me “Aahpee Bayrami!” and I’ve returned the greeting in the wholesome way it was meant. I’ve even had the chance to ask several of those folks what they would think if they were in America around Christmastime and I wished them ‘Merry Christmas’ in the same way. Every one said that they would think I wanted them to share the happiness and good feelings of the day.

Then, I got to thinking about ‘keeping Christmas’ in the Dickensian sense. Looking around me at the beautiful decorations that my bride so lovingly arranges out of joy in the Spirit of Christmas, I finally put into words the feeling I’ve always had about her love of this day but could never properly express. Those words are a paraphrase Dickens himself:

“It was always said of her that she knew how to keep Christmas well, if any woman alive possessed the knowledge.”

Yup. That’s her, I thought, looking over as she placed another work of her Christmas Gift Art under the tree.

Right then on the screen, a joyful Harry Baily ran through Bedford Falls ‘Merry Christmasing’ everyone and everything in sight–even the vile, thieving wretch, Mr. Potter. As I noted above, I’m more of an Old Testament guy on that stuff about your enemies, but in honor of my bride and the Christmas Spirit, I have to agree with Harry’s view and another line from Dickens:

 “May that be truly said of us, and all of us! God Bless Us, Every One!”

Two Stores

December 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I just read an interesting stat: 46% of European adults under age 35 live with their parents. And, in Italy, Mama is expected to iron their underwear. No wonder the Italian birth rate is rock bottom!

But, what the no-longer-young freeloaders don’t spend on rent, they certainly do on clothes. During a recent trip, I was a bit surprised to see the clothing shops doing so well. The Professional Beggars even had Gucci knockoff(?) stuff over by the building wall while they put on their best forlorn expression and body language to garner two-euro coins from first-time American and many-time Canadian visitors.

For me, two chains of clothing shops seem to encapsulate the male side of this factor in the European equation of interlocking unwholesome dependencies. One was in Amsterdam and one was in Regensburg, Germany.

See if you can guess which one was where.

The Goal

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Sometimes, I wonder: with all the things I’m trying to do, am I getting any closer to where I want to be?

I first heard those words in a short film, The Goal, based on a novel with the same title. It introduced a way of thinking that helped a lot in my work. But, the question was so profound, that I’ve asked it not just to myself, about myself, but also about what I see around me.

And the answers showed me once again what my Dad had tried so hard to teach his idiot son. Activity is not necessarily progress. Effort doesn’t always lead to results. If it did, a rocking chair would long ago have won the Indie 500.

Another way to ask the question could be, “Is the ‘solution’ really solving the problem?” It seems that there could be several answers other than “Yes.”

  • No, it hasn’t done anything helpful.
  • No, it not only hasn’t helped, it’s made the problem worse.
  • No, it’s made things worse, but it does solve another, unstated, problem for someone else.

A a mental game for you: think which of the answers above apply to these topics now in the news: 

  • Taxes as the ‘solution’ to out of control government spending
  • A Palestinian State as the ‘solution’ to Peace in the Middle East
  • More government employees as the ‘solution’ to general unemployment
  • Suppress access to low-cost energy as the ‘solution’ to long-term prosperity
  • Give people money as the ‘solution’ to income disparity. 

The old saying that goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime,” comes to mind. And, dignity of the human spirit seems like it should come in there somewhere if the ‘solution’ were to have achieved the stated goal after half-a-century. Maybe the real goal is unstated.

Ya think?

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