The Search for Inspiration

By: Bogon , 3:25 PM GMT on January 31, 2013

In my never-ending struggle to keep things rolling here in the Dry Slot I've found that there are two ways to proceed. One is to sit by the keyboard and think. The other is to get up and go.

By now I have accumulated experience with both approaches. The first method is harder. It might not seem so at first. All you have to do is sit there and wait for inspiration to strike. Then with the hot idea burning a hole in your head, type it up, and Bob's your uncle. Only, what if inspiration takes a holiday? That's called writer's block. It can last for days on end. It's a bit of a misnomer, actually. You can write just fine. The problem is figuring out what to write. Typing random characters won't work. It has to mean something.

Often I have better luck leaving the keyboard behind to go participate in some kind of real (as opposed to virtual) experience. That demands more physical effort and, possibly, entails greater expense, but there are compensations. It can be more fun. Sometimes it's possible to document the experience with photographs. The key difference is that interesting experiences can provide the necessary inspiration. You don't have to supply it entirely from within yourself.

Last weekend Wife and I drove thirty miles to Durham to take in a show at the Performing Arts Center (DPAC). The evening's entertainment was provided by Robin Williams and David Steinberg working as a team. Steinberg reprised his role as part-time Tonight Show host interviewing Williams. Williams was his usual raucous, irreverent, larger-than-life self, a cast of thousands in one body.

Williams stole most of the limelight, but it was Steinberg who provided the inspiration for this entry. He reminded the audience that he played a key role in the demise of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1969. Steinberg told a joke that garnered more hate mail than any performance in history. Click here to hear the story on National Public Radio.

Steinberg's tale resonated with me, because I was a fan of the Smothers Brothers show. I laughed at the joke. To me, religion is as much fair game for poking fun as any other subject. I mean, you have to have a sense of humor about religion, right? Religions claim to explain the inexplicable, know the unknowable, eff the ineffable... It's pretty hard to take that seriously, especially when they all say different things, yet they all claim to be right at the same time.

Here in America, where we have a constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech, religion is a conversation stopper. People get all bent out of shape over religion, as if someone had libeled their grandmother. Land of the free, home of the brave, self-styled greatest country in the world, yet we can't handle a religion joke.

But set aside, for the moment, what this says about the faithful in America. What does it say about religions? Do they teach intolerance? Do they annihilate people's sense of humor?

Suppose Consumer Reports rated major religions. How would yours stack up?

Islam gives us the notion of jihad, a holy war. Nope, sorry, have to rate you down for that. 'Holy' and 'war' don't belong in the same sentence together. Personally I would never give credence to any belief system that requires coercion to recruit or maintain its membership. Threats of death, torture or dismemberment constitute very effective negative advertising. It's hard to argue moral superiority with gross physical threats as your starting point.

Christianity, viewed over its long history, is not much better. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the conquest of the New World by Bible toting zealots... Christians have a lot to answer for. The old church may have benefited from the Protestant Reformation. One can point to a certain amount of consciousness-raising over the last few centuries. Heretics are no longer burned at the stake. Still, there are a few holdouts who don't appear to have spotted the trend. You have to wonder about Christians who spend most of their time thumping the Old Testament. The Old Testament is the Before picture.

Which brings us to Judaism. Oldest of all the three major Semitic faiths, Judaism keeps hanging in there. That's characteristic of religions in general, I suppose. They may evolve, but they don't go away. They ramify into a profusion of sects. How do you decide which is best? How do you even find them all? Consumer Reports could provide a valuable service here.

Ultimately religion is a personal matter. How does your religion affect you? Does it make you more civilized? Does it equip you to deal with the Isness of Being? I'm thinking that Consumer Reports would probably rate a religion more highly if it were demonstrably capable of producing a better human.

Islamic fundamentalists blow up American embassies. Christian fundamentalists blow up abortion clinics. Jewish fundamentalists blow up Palestinians. These sorts of activities do not speak well for their respective religions. Being willing to kill or die for a cause demonstrates commitment, but it is hardly a sign of morality — or even of good sense. Typically it betokens anger. One does not need religion to be angry, not even righteously angry. Nor, by the way, does one need religion to be moral. Here I am moralizing at you, and I'm doing it outside the bounds of any organized creed.

Some east Asian religions (or philosophies — one can argue definitions) seem to produce peaceable humans. It's hard to imagine a dedicated Confucian or Buddhist or Jain blowing stuff up. Rather than seeking absolutes, they seek harmony and balance. They teach reverence for life. Let's rate those up.

Sadly, most religions invite people to indulge in fanciful thinking and behavior. This leads to potentially dangerous mass delusion. We would not tolerate such irrationality in any other context. We do (usually) put up with it in the name of religious freedom. That ongoing daily toleration seems to sap our reserves of forbearance, though.

Why do religions have to be so dogmatic? Why can't they be adaptive, eclectic, heuristic? Presumably they all were at some point in time, but then they ossified. We are enjoined to defend "the faith of our fathers". Can't we invent our own? After all, we have tons more data, more science, more bitter experience measured in man-hours than our ancestors hundreds or thousands of years ago. Wouldn't it make sense to incorporate the latest findings in, say, biology, psychology and anthropology? Wouldn't it be better in the long run to work with evolution rather than against it?

Despite all their claims to knowledge, power or righteousness, none of the major religions can produce miracles on demand. The faithful rely on ordinary methods to obtain weapons and food. Their agents are, without exception, flesh and blood human beings. To the extent that religions have any redeeming social value, it is when they attempt to teach charity, morality and tolerance, to bring people closer together. What does history teach us about religion and world peace? MASSIVE FAIL.

Okay, so maybe religion is not so funny after all. I'm sorry I brought it up.

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105. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
2:28 PM GMT on March 06, 2013
Bogon has created a new entry.
104. Bogon
10:35 PM GMT on March 04, 2013
With its limited capacity Cameron Indoor Stadium won't even hold the entire Duke student body, let alone all the rabid fans and alumni. That's why there is a Krzyzewskiville.

One would think that Duke could afford to replace the old (1940) basketball arena. On the other hand, why mess with success? The Blue Devils are 799-153 when playing at Cameron. Under Coach K they're even better, winning 88.4% of their home games.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
103. Ylee
8:07 PM GMT on March 04, 2013
After I read your post, I read up on the history of the ACC, and I was surprised to learn that Cameron Indoor Stadium only has a capacity of about 10,000, which is about the same as the Ford Center in Evansville, In.. You'd think the powers that be at Duke could build a stadium that holds twice as much, and it could easily be filled, but I guess with the Deandome up the road, it's usefullness for anything more than basketball would be limited.
Member Since: February 3, 2011 Posts: 127 Comments: 22724
102. Bogon
6:12 AM GMT on March 04, 2013
Hi, Ylee! Yep, it's coming down to the wire for regular season hoops action. Soon it will be tournament time.

As things stand now in the ACC, half a dozen teams have twenty or more victories and winning records overall. Two teams, Duke and Miami, rank in the top five based on RPI.

Louisville also makes that list. Perennial powerhouse Kansas comes in at number four. The big surprise for me is New Mexico. We don't ordinarily get much news from out that way.

As for the pending expansion of the conference, I have my doubts. I certainly don't want to suggest that the proposed new members won't live up to ACC standards. They are all excellent schools with great athletic traditions. I worry about diluting the brand. How big can a conference get? The ACC has already divided into two sub-conferences, because not all the teams can schedule each other home and away during a brief NCAA sports season. Eventually that partial rotation threatens to impact long-lived rivalries such as Duke/Carolina. Notre Dame will not bring its fabled football program into the ACC, so the conference will be one team short in the fall.

There is also the matter of geographic proximity. Until now the Atlantic Coast Conference has been aptly named. All the members are located in states up and down the Atlantic seaboard. Pittsburg and Syracuse arguably fit that profile. Notre Dame and Louisville do not. So, what's in a name? Does it matter? On one side of the scales one can stack money, prestige, and bragging rights. On the other we may lump such intangibles as sportsmanship, identity, tradition, cohesiveness and esprit de corp.

Of course, college athletic conferences are hardly cast in concrete. They regularly morph, divide and conjoin. Individual members jockey and vie for greener pastures across the pale. Will fans always tag along for the ride? That remains to be seen. The University of Maryland, a charter member of the ACC, has announced that it wants out.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
101. Ylee
9:56 PM GMT on March 03, 2013
It's March in North Carolina, and the minds of many a young (and older!) man turn to basketball, and Tournaments!

Not so much this year in the Bluegrass, I'm afraid, except for Louisville fans!

Any thoghts of the Cardinals joining the ACC next year?(Although I would think educated men could tell the difference between the Ohio River, and the Atlantic Ocean, lol!)
Member Since: February 3, 2011 Posts: 127 Comments: 22724
100. Bogon
4:53 PM GMT on March 02, 2013
Ah, it turns out that I have a copy of Cities in Flight around here somewhere. James Blish, if I recall correctly.

Nope, I wouldn't count on timely rescue from mother Earth even if my colony was right here in the Solar System. Better load everything you think you're going to need on the Conestoga before you set out. The difference between this scenario and pioneer America is that it won't do much good to carry a Winchester. There'll be nothing to hunt.

Probably no Indians to massacre, either. Hmmm, might want to toss in a ray gun or two. Just in case.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
99. ycd0108
4:11 PM GMT on March 02, 2013
"There are Five Ways to Kill a Man" Edwin Brock.
There was no Ecology on Earth either till we became aware of it and named it.
I used to dream of, read stories and watch movies depicting futures with starships on "Milk Runs" from one habitable planet to another or galaxy wide battles.
These notions no longer make any sense to me.
We may or may not survive on Earth. I would not expect a "Resupply" mission to reach me if I left on a long interplanetary flight let alone a destination outside of Sol's neighborhood.
Mind you if someone perfects the "Warp Drive" or the "Spindizzy" I might be available.
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
98. Bogon
3:36 PM GMT on March 02, 2013
That's a rather wistful video you found there, ycd. It appears to have been inspired by a Neil Young tune. If Mother Nature was on the run in the 1970's, we may conjecture what distress she's in now.

Another reason to get off this rock. If we set up shop on some airless moon, we can do as we please. There'll be no ecology to destroy.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
97. ycd0108
5:16 AM GMT on March 02, 2013
Ok Bogon:
I read the article:

Dunno which video I linked
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
96. Bogon
4:52 AM GMT on March 02, 2013
Hey, ycd, I followed Skye's link, too, though by the time I got there the Dragon had already achieved orbit. There were problems with thrusters and solar panels. Those issues are resolved now, and the mission should be on track for rendezvous with ISS Sunday.

Here's a nice article I found while I was surfing over at The Register. The piece first appeared two weeks ago, but it's on topic.

Weather in the Dry Slot keeps improving. Earlier this week the weekend forecast called for snow. A couple of days ago that prediction melted into rain. Now we're looking at partly cloudy, 45°. I love it when a plan comes together.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
95. ycd0108
4:18 PM GMT on March 01, 2013
I watched Skypony's link to the SpaceX launch this morning: Amazing!
A friend was gearing up for his Flight Instructor and asked me to ride along so he could go through the pre flight checks and whatnot to practice for the real thing. Not that I know how to fly - he just wanted a body there to talk to. Everything went fine till he handed me the controls: The Cessna simply carried on in stable level flight as he explained about "Trim" and to demonstrate he stomped the rudder peddles port and starboard. I simply froze and the plane yawed about and returned to straight and level.
He did qualify as an instructor and I went to his "Ground School" course but I have yet to take Flight on my own. Partly because I would need a medical clearance - I don't hate Doctors - I just want to delay the next professional visit till I'm dead.
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
94. Bogon
3:45 PM GMT on March 01, 2013
Thanks for the greeting, Sandi. Looks like Easter comes early this year.

Thanks to February's laudable brevity, we have a new month! This morning the rising sun went shining through the front door straight up the foyer of our house and out the back window. Sort of like Stonehenge or Abu Simbel, except that the orientation of our house is probably more or less random. I mean it surely has more to do with the location of the street than the azimuth of any seasonal astronomical phenomenon.

The cat is lying in the morning sun now. He's a heat seeker.

He had better enjoy the warmth while he can. Today's pattern of sunshine and shadow is an omen. Soon the sun will move farther north, where it will rise behind the garage wall, and the front door will be left in shadow until [some time next fall, date to be determined]. There is another more positive side effect of the sun's annual motion. At times near the winter solstice the sun rises so far south that it shines through a window into my Man Cave, where I sit typing these words. It makes me squint through glare on the monitor. I'm glad that doesn't last long.

Don't know much about flying, ycd. One fellow I met in the Air Force fancied himself a pilot. He took lessons and bought a plane. I went flying with him once, when he was still logging double-digit flying time. In hindsight I might have exercised questionable judgement, but we were both young and foolish etc.

At some point in our journey, when we were several thousand feet in the air, and there was nothing nearby to run into, my friend let me take the yoke. I thought flying a plane would be like driving a boat, just set the throttle and let 'er run. To my consternation I found that the craft (a venerable rehabilitated Cessna) was quite responsive, and that additional degrees of freedom make all the difference. That and the fact that you're going, like, a hundred miles an hour...

Anyway, it gave me new respect for the pilot's skill. And it explained why my friend had been willing to invest so much time and money to take lessons.

As for that quote, I don't think it's about the numbers so much as it is about maintaining some minimal standard of quality. "What goes up must come down." Gravity takes care of the numbers.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
93. sandiquiz
11:37 AM GMT on March 01, 2013
Almost weather related....

White rabbits and a happy month to you :)

Member Since: October 29, 2005 Posts: 345 Comments: 31468
92. ycd0108
12:07 AM GMT on February 27, 2013
DamnifIknow whether I could fly an RV helicopter but the thought /image of a bunch of us wandering about in heavy equipment and iffy weather is not what I imagined when I was about 12 years old and first noticed the future.(Popular Mechanics or Saturday Evening Post image?)
Somewhere I saw a quote from a pilot: " Try to keep the total of your take offs and landings the same."
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
91. Bogon
11:20 PM GMT on February 26, 2013
ycd, if you had a flying RV, you wouldn't have to take the ferry.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
90. ycd0108
8:16 PM GMT on February 26, 2013
Oh yeah:
The one about the helicopter. copters/
Imagine a bunch of folks flying their parents RV without skills nor experience.
T'anks God for road markings, GPS and four wheels eh.
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
89. ycd0108
8:09 PM GMT on February 26, 2013
Checked a couple of the links in your last post and now I can't remember what the scintillating comment that was brewing and will never be seen was.
Oh well. I'll have to go back and re read but let me assure you it was a good one.
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
88. Bogon
2:29 PM GMT on February 26, 2013
Tonight I want to start out by raising a toast and spreading a little rainy day jam.

Ahh, that's better. Now let's see if we can get this contraption off the ground.

When I was a kid we all thought we would be driving a flying car when we grew up. I'm not sure where that idea came from. I'm still waiting. Will this be the one?

For a number of years I was in the habit of paying regular visits to Jay Carter's site to check on his progress. It's fun to watch innovation in aviation on a small scale. No Boeing or Lockheed here. This is how the Wright brothers did it. Carter's principal asset is a vision.

Shall we set our sights a bit higher? Burt Rutan also started out designing planes, but he followed up by winning the X-Prize. Now he's headed for outer space.

He'll have company. Elon Musk, a prime mover at PayPal, SolarCity and Tesla Motors, founded SpaceX, which has successfully launched a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

NASA's space program may have been pushed to the back burner, but there are still plenty of people with their eyes on the stars.

Getting off the ground is the hard part. Once you're in space, the rules change. You can go a whole lot farther with a lot less effort.

Just in case you run out of music before you're done browsing all those links, here's an emergency reserve stash.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
87. Bogon
7:33 PM GMT on February 24, 2013
I've heard several people extol Netflix. We're not currently wired for that, but it's on our TODO list.

You know, it wouldn't hurt to check out broadcast availability. I think I may still have a bow tie UHF antenna around here somewhere. Wife and I switched service providers last year, and the new television hookup only lists the main PBS affiliate. The previous cable outfit carried a few of those lower definition subchannels. Those could be useful alternatives during the next month or so, while UNC-TV devotes its primary channel to fundraising.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
86. Ylee
8:26 PM GMT on February 23, 2013
We have no cable or satelite, only a TV antenna, and Netflix, the latter streaming content via WiFI thru our Wii. Broadcast digital(when the wind's not blowing hard, as the signal's not reliable as analog) actually gives more channels, as they are able to layer up to four channels into one(I haven't looked up how they do this) Our state-run public broadcasting service, KET, has four separate channels(In our case, channels 31.1, 31.2, 31.3, and 31.4) showing everything that PBS has to offer, to state-oriented content and history shows. Best of all it's pretty much free, if you count the small taxes and contributor donations used in its operation.
Member Since: February 3, 2011 Posts: 127 Comments: 22724
85. Bogon
3:20 AM GMT on February 23, 2013
Good evening, sp. Thanks for taking time to contribute, even if it's only two cents.

It's getting late in the day on the East Coast, and I'm somewhat the worse for wear this cold rainy Friday night. I would probably do well to confine my conversation to beer and leave the philosophy alone.

It's true that science is not usually sold as an 'ism'. I've thought about it, though, and I believe there are tacit assumptions behind the "method of inquiry". If you believe that at any moment the heavens may open up and a host of angels descend, there's not much point in doing science. Various scientific theories effectively preclude that scenario. At some point one is obliged to choose between theories and angels. As I said earlier, the scientist assumes that nature will behave in a regular way. Science doesn't work if observable phenomena appear at the whim of, for example, a demon. That's magic, not science. If you believe in demons, science is not worth your trouble. The flip side of that is, if you're doing experimental science, you are obliged to hope that the incidence of demons in your vicinity is very low. Otherwise you're wasting your time. You won't be able to make reproducible measurements. The whole notion of 'reality' will be vitiated. People doing science believe that there is an objective reality that they can observe and theorize about. They believe that their efforts will be worthwhile. They follow a method, but they also believe.

With regard to "weasel words", it's not only that a theory may be wrong or incomplete or subject to revision whenever an unexplained blip shows up on the scope. If you're talking about a realm that lies far outside human experience, such as black holes or subatomic particles, a lot of what you say is necessarily metaphor or analogy. Physicists commonly talk about electrons as if they are real. After all, it's possible to detect electrons, measure electrons, build whole industries around electrons. But the electron known to science is a counter in the game of quantum electrodynamics. We don't know — heck, we can't know — whether the underlying phenomenon has properties identical to those assigned by the theory. The theory is a mathematical equation. The universe is much more.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
84. sp34n119w
8:21 PM GMT on February 22, 2013
Really glad the beer expert was a hit. And that it wasn't just me who noticed how passionate the guy is – he was a joy to listen to. Perhaps like ycd, I was prompted to go get a beer (which is rather unusual, for me).
Yes, Bogon, the host wasn't particularly skeptical about beer, lol. I've been listening to that show for a couple of months and it is often more of “Hey, check out this cool science stuff!” sort of thing. I really like it. The regular host has a love of disaster scenarios, particularly those involving things like 'superbugs', and those episodes are lots of nightmare-inducing fun.

Must put in my two cents on the notion that science is a belief system ...
I think Naturalism and Materialism are belief systems. I do not think science is a belief system. Science is method of finding things out and the body of knowledge determined through that method. The methods used and knowledge acquired through science are then used to make predictions. So long as those predictions work, the methods and knowledge are provisionally accepted as “true”. The minute a prediction fails, the science is in question, and must be reexamined. So, even a strict Materialist does not simply believe what science has to say without question. It is always in question.

Folks who write about science in the popular press don't always have room to make this clear and, anyway, their goal is to sell something or, in some cases, to push an ideology that they feel is either threatened or supported by science. However, if one listens to scientists, one will hear what would be called “weasel words” in another context (like politics or marketing) but are necessities for science (such words and phrases as: “maybe”, “so far as we know”, “as it stands now”, “preliminarily”, etc.). If scientists neglect to use those sorts of words, they will be lambasted by colleagues and knowledgeable critics. This, in fact, is a major “tell” when reading anything about a scientific finding or hypothesis, or science in general - if the “weasel words” are not there, then it's not science, and should be taken with a grain of salt. Sometimes it's just laziness, or space constraints but, sometimes, it is intentional.

Most humans prefer absolutes. Writers, and anyone else with something to sell, know this. Scientists try very hard to overcome this human tendency and they police each other to root out any such thing. It does happen, but, most often when a scientist speaks in absolute terms, they are speaking outside their own area of expertise. Maybe I miss it, somehow, but I just don't see actual scientists “claiming to know the Truth” and they get pretty ticked off if someone else makes such a claim, at least in their own area.

Well, more like two bits than two cents, I guess. Oops.
Member Since: January 27, 2007 Posts: 85 Comments: 4482
83. Bogon
8:21 PM GMT on February 22, 2013
I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.

'Nuff said.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
82. ycd0108
4:34 PM GMT on February 22, 2013

I have spent considerable time in "failed communist / emerging democracies" countries and somewhat less time south of the border. Canada and USA are so similar that a trip on the North American continent is too familiar.
I'm working on overcoming that feeling, though. We enjoyed the time in Los Vegas and surrounds and most of our encounters with locals everywhere have been pleasant - some of them memorable.
Your take on Science and Religion needs nothing from me except that I second it.
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
81. Bogon
5:59 AM GMT on February 22, 2013
Howdy, folks. Wife and I just got back from Lucky 32 in Greensboro, where the chef combined five courses of lamb from Border Springs Farm (plus dessert) with beer from Mother Earth Brewing. A good time was had by all.

ycd - Sometimes I think that those eastern European states, where democracy was in short supply a generation ago, may have a better idea how to do democracy today than the corporatist states of America. To the latest members of NATO it's all new and strange and wonderful. Here we seem to be losing our way, victimized by people who have learned to game the system.

I disagree with Dr. Sheldrake on one point. Science is a belief system. It is also a method of inquiry, but one needs to believe in it in order to understand it and use it correctly. One needs faith that the universe behaves in some rational and consistent way that is subject to investigation and interpretation by humans.

Science is much easier for me to believe than religion. Science does not demand worship. Science rewards thinking more than obedience. The most persuasive thing, to me, is that science yields results.

If there is one area in which scientists commonly err, it is in claiming to know the Truth. Scientists deal in theories. Theories are like the models meteorologists here at WU use to develop their forecasts. The universe is infinitely larger than the models. The models are a kind of shorthand that make the universe more comprehensible. Sometimes the forecasts are wrong. Sometimes the models are proven wrong and have to be rebuilt. But the models, however faulty they may be, still give us better direction than previous methods, such as praying, watching for omens etc.

Along with the materialists I agree that life lacks intrinsic purpose. One endows life with purpose by living it purposefully — sort of a do-it-yourself project. Alas, I can't guarantee that your biographer will get it right.

shoreacres - Last year I accompanied my cousin to a hamfest near Charlotte. One of the exhibitors was hawking large deluxe PVC potato guns designed to hurl (not potatoes, but) a weighted line over a tree limb. This pilot line could then be used to raise an antenna wire. I don't recall exact specifications, but I daresay the device is capable of reaching virtually any limb on any tree east of Sequoia National Park.

Actually it would likely work for potatoes, too, if one were so inclined. Once your antenna is suitably situated, of course.

For anyone who missed the Shoebill Saga, here's a quick reminder.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
80. shoreacres
1:53 AM GMT on February 22, 2013
Evening, Bogon ~ I've been so discombobulated with this and that I dumped an old blog entry without acknowledging or thanking you for that great zoo-tune you brought by. Did you see the shoebill in that thing? It was just wonderful!

That's a hilarious story about your dad trucking around with the antennae. It reminds me of a few experiences trying to string a ham antennae. I think I remember the sequence properly: monkey fist, tennis shoe, bow and arrow. The goal was to get the wire up and over the highest big limb of the tree in the front yard, since the neighborhood organization frowned on towers. We did get it to work somehow, because we stayed in touch with friends cruising in the Caribbean with the thing - one of the Marine Nets. What memories.

We're playing summertime here - it got flat hot and humid this afternoon. I'd be willing to take that 46 you have right now, especially if the humidity is down!
Member Since: October 4, 2004 Posts: 205 Comments: 15290
79. ycd0108
1:01 AM GMT on February 22, 2013
Afternoon Bogon:
Guess I can remove the TV antenna and plug the hole. The RV is 8 years old so I suppose back then there were still stations transmitting. Everyone I know uses cable.
One guy I worked for in the "Boonies" had Satellite downlink and cell phone uplink for the internet. Grand daughter told me just to go to MacDonalds or Starbucks.
Funny thing is: we got the first iPod after travel in Bulgaria. Most internet cafes were come and gone and people there were using pods, pads, lap tops or smart phones. Most towns had good WiFi available. Here that access is pretty limited.
Good story about your Dad finding the best signal for the TV. Seems to me I spent some time on that hill (or roof) shouting.
You got me thinking about "Information Theory" so I Googled Rupert Sheldrake and this seems apropos: / ml
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78. Bogon
11:25 AM GMT on February 20, 2013
sp - Yes, I did enjoy learning about the science of beer. Some of it I already knew, but it is always fun to hear a man warm to his topic as did Charlie Bamforth. I think I may wait a suitable interval, then listen again for anything I missed the first time.

B is for the brewmaster who brought me this beautiful beverage.
E is for the euphonius sound of gurgling foam, and for the eye with which I behold the limpid vessel.
E is for the other eye, and for the expectation of my first taste.
R is for a rapid refill!

Add: this morning, soberly drinking only coffee, I audited Skeptically Speaking a second time. Was it my imagination, or did the narrator adroitly curb her skepticism on this topic?

ycd - Back in the days of analog television I fancied I knew something about how it all worked: channel allocations, the way the signal was coded, etc. Now that we've gone digital all that knowledge is obsolete. I spent an hour at Wikipedia trying to sort out how HDTV transmission works. Shoot, mostly what I learned is that I'm really glad I don't have to know.

Wikipedia says that digital television is broadcast mainly on the UHF band. The old VHF channels are, I assume, vacant or reallocated. Being the geeky introverted sort of guy I am, I don't know many people, but I don't know anyone who receives television by broadcast any more. Everyone has cable or a satellite dish. I think my HDTV set has an antenna connection, but I have never tried it. I have no idea how many local channels are available over the air. That's funny now that I think of it. When I was younger I would have been curious about stuff like that.

Apparently the ATSC standard (US version) makes provision for two-way communication. The uplink would be via internet. Applications (from the network's point of view) would be interactive programming, targeted advertising or video on demand. It would be possible to provide interactive services for community activities such as democratic polling, but these don't seem to be happening, since there's no guarantee that they'll generate revenue for the broadcaster or cable system. Not to mention that it could put bureaucrats and politicians out of business.

Many years ago my dad went climbing up the mountain with a television antenna on a pole, unreeling 300 ohm twin lead behind him. He would find a likely spot, point the antenna, then yell down to the house, "How does it look now?" We would holler back, "It's worse!" or "That's a little better." I remember once we screamed, "Hold it right there! That's great!" Dad sorrowfully called back to explain that he had set the antenna down to take a break.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
77. ycd0108
9:41 PM GMT on February 19, 2013
Hey Bogon:
Yeah that little problem reared it's head as I typed the notion. However I'm running an RV with a fairly sophisticated TV antenna on the roof which I have yet to use. I'm not in the habit of watching TV. The RV could have a built in transmitter and a router.
Like the celluloid film projector Television is a bit "passe".
So I would need a transmitter and the TV broadcaster would need a receiver - we are just short of Half way home.
I read something about an experimental project to give interactive communication through the television many years ago - before WiFi was developed. A couple of cities were targeted for this. I always wondered how the experiment panned out.
I listened to most of the podcast (I had to go get a beer at some point but paused so I guess I heard all off it) That guy knows BEER!
I made "HomeBrew" Beer from the time I could see and reach over the kitchen table to help Mom with the process. Lately I've gotten lazy and bought most alcohol. I had good brews and bad. The worst was made in an Hi-Rise in Vancouver - no alcohol and sort of slimey so I guess the yeast made algae or something.
I think that was the only batch I ever poured out and it filled the bathtub with foam. I think that Hi-Rise was a "sick building".
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
76. sp34n119w
6:57 PM GMT on February 19, 2013
Mmmmmm... beer. Coincidentally, I recently listened to a podcast all about beer from a scientific and historical perspective. Y'all might like it.
Member Since: January 27, 2007 Posts: 85 Comments: 4482
75. Bogon
6:37 PM GMT on February 19, 2013
Ylee - Whew! You're right. That's a load off my mind. But what happens when DVDs are replaced by the Next Big Data Format? I figure that's due to happen... any minute now.

As long as there is enough demand, our corporate system will likely provide a supply. That's a rather hit-or-miss approach, though. Public perceptions of value and popularity are fickle at best. This is where we depend on museums and libraries. Organizations like The Long Now Foundation can help, too.

ycd - Yep, wifi could be defined as a high powered system. The main reason it isn't is that it needs to be two-way. You don't want to carry around a hundred kilowatt transmitter in your laptop, do you?
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
74. ycd0108
4:44 PM GMT on February 19, 2013
While thinking about your comment re: digitizing I wondered:
Can a television transmitter/receiver substitute for WiFi?
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
73. Ylee
11:52 AM GMT on February 19, 2013
I'm sure the process of digitizing, well, almost all forms of media(TV, radio, ect.) is well underway. Have a favorite old movie? Chances are Amazon will have it on DVD, ready to ship it to you with but a click!
Member Since: February 3, 2011 Posts: 127 Comments: 22724
72. Bogon
10:06 AM GMT on February 19, 2013
A sign of the times - a local second-run movie theater has announced that it will be raising ticket prices from $3 to $4. A lot of you may be wondering, what's the problem? You may be inured to forking over ten bucks or more to ogle a flick.

It turns out that the movie business is going digital. Soon new movies will no longer be distributed in time-honored 35 millimeter format. That's why Graham Cinema needs a new projector.

Spiffy digital technology guarantees good sound and good picture. It comes with better features, such as a timer to start the show when it's showtime. New digital projection equipment runs right around sixty thousand smackeroos. Hence the price hike for Saturday matinees.

It occurs to me that a lot of our cultural heritage was documented on 35mm film. What happens to John Wayne and Bette Davis? W. C. Fields and Mae West? King Kong and Godzilla? Is there a plan to convert everything to digital format? Or are we all supposed to blithely switch to a brave new world of digital cinema, while the Marx Brothers, Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin et al. slowly subside into the dustbin?

Digital technology is certainly bad news if you're working as a projectionist. The new machines run unattended.

The local newspaper, where I found the information I'm presenting here, says that similar old theaters in neighboring towns may not survive the transition. They can't afford the price of admission.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
71. Bogon
6:08 PM GMT on February 18, 2013
That's right, ycd. Thinking about Spring is more fun.

The religion rant has about run its course anyhow. I've started thinking about what to post next.

Though I reckon one can get a numinous feeling contemplating the annual miracle of rebirth. Those flowers are pretty amazing, eh?

Hi, Mass. This is one of the lesser holidays celebrated by bankers and postmen, while for the majority it's business as usual. That means I appreciate your greeting all the more. Nobody else bothered! By the same token the first harbingers of spring appear more wondrous by virtue of their hardiness and rarity.

We're fortunate to have a large number of recordings of the falling meteor over Russia. I wonder whether it would be possible to do an analysis of the sound tracks to recreate the passage of the meteor through the atmosphere? Sort of a computerized audible tomography of hypersonic booms. Of course, the researcher would have to filter out a lot of background noise: radios, conversations, random crashing, screams, cussing and car alarms.

Had to laugh — I heard the same curt Russian expletive on half a dozen different videos. I reckon I'll have to learn that word if I ever visit Russia. XD
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
70. masshysteria
5:50 PM GMT on February 18, 2013
Good Afternoon, Bogon!

Those lovely pics of springtime's "bloomage" are certainly helping us get in the mood for those much warmer days to permanently return! Seems like almost everyone has been effected by this current big chill, i.e., as far south as Florida to way up North in the Canadian provinces. OUCH! I keep telling myself this can't last forever. LOL!

Anyhoo, thanks for posting the appropriate corrections, the other day, to the meteorite story. I was relying on then current misinformation being issued by the mass media and lack of time here to make corrections. It seems that it'll take some time and money to fix all the structural and other damages caused by the resulting astronomical sonic boom (33,000 mph velocity). YIKES! Glad that the injuries sustained by broken glass were more minor to the nearly 1,000 citizens of Chelyabinsk and that a majority of the meterorite broke up while racing across the earth's atmosphere or sky. It could've been a whole lot worse had it managed to hit the ground intact!

Hope you're able to relax and enjoy the remainder of this Presidents Holiday! Your photographs are all excellent and quite enjoyable! Keep 'em coming!

Member Since: June 21, 2006 Posts: 88 Comments: 9543
69. ycd0108
5:14 PM GMT on February 18, 2013
Good morning Bogon:
Thought I had posted yesterday with appreciation for the frosty photos. They are pretty.
This is so much easier than thinking about religion.
Last night some docu was on CBC - "Fifth Estate" or something. Mainly concerned with child abuse in the Catholic Church.
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
68. Bogon
5:03 PM GMT on February 18, 2013
Fifteen degrees (Fahrenheit, about ten below Celsius) this morning. I finally got around to taking a picture of the pink trees I mentioned three days ago in comment 60.

There you have it, incontrovertible evidence that spring has not forgotten us. These trees are growing along a sluggish little stream, which might moderate their local environment enough to explain why they're so venturesome.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
67. Bogon
3:58 PM GMT on February 17, 2013
Interesting weather situation here yesterday. A cold front brought snow, then it stalled while a low spun up offshore. The result was an all-day flurry with virtually no accumulation. By the time seriously cold air moved in, the moisture was moving out.

I decided to take a couple of snow pictures just for the heck of it. The quality could be better. I didn't realize I had the camera set to record photos at VGA size, 640×480. Most of you will be seeing these at full resolution (for a change, and for what it's worth).

Today dawned cold and sunny. The thin layer of white stuff should be mostly gone by day's end. To me the real news is that we have bloomage. I could document that, but I've been shooting daffodil pictures for years. I have enough. Here's one recycled from last year.

Maybe one of these days I'll take a formal course in photography. Then perhaps I could begin to mix knowledge and skill with luck when I turn on the camera. Ah, but then I would have to redo all those old photos. Yet more daffodils.

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
 — William Wordsworth

Shucks, I thought it was Walt Whitman. Looks like Whitman was more into lilacs and morning glories.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
66. Bogon
6:53 PM GMT on February 16, 2013
Comic Bill Maher has a message for Catholics.

“Hey, Catholics, if it's okay for the pope to quit, it's okay for you to quit, too.”

You can watch a video clip from Maher's show here.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
65. ycd0108
5:53 PM GMT on February 16, 2013
Story goes that I liked the taste of beer from a very young age:
Dad was visiting with what we called our "Drunken Uncle" so my mother left to do some shopping and assumed these two "adults" could look after a toddler. I have no memory of this but the story became part of our family lore.
Apparently the two older fellows allowed me to drain the beer bottles after they had poured a glass. Mom came home to find me passed out in her bed. I think she made up her own version of the "Riot Act".
Needless to say my tolerance for alcohol has improved over the years.
I took a number of tours in UK breweries. One common thread was the notion that beer should only travel the time it took a horse draw cart to deliver 20 miles away.
The worst beer:
Robby Burns was supposed to favor a pub in Dumfries: So I had to try the "Real Ale" there.
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
64. Bogon
5:19 PM GMT on February 16, 2013
Beer was an acquired taste for me. When I was a kid I didn't like it at all.

Since I reached adulthood and struck out on my own, I never met a beer I didn't like. There was one small batch prepared by a former roommate that could have stood improvement, but that didn't last long.

Your friend Sam has an outstanding philosophy. Very solidly grounded in the here and now. Here's to another round now!

Brakspear Triple sounds like a traditional British ale. Malty, bittersweet and strong. It got pretty good reviews here, where everybody drank from an imported bottle. I imagine it would taste better fresh from the keg.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
63. Bogon
4:50 PM GMT on February 16, 2013
Mornin', ycd. Maybe the faithful figure their faith isn't worth defending? More likely they can sit secure in their congregations of billions and turn a deaf ear, assuming that they needn't bother to defend their beliefs from the likes of me.

It's not me they need to worry about. They should worry about the cumulative effects of their hallucinations.

   *    *    *

There are white flakes flying in the air outside my window today. The local forecast says we can look forward to flaky weather throughout the day. There's no accumulation so far.

Yesterday I saw my first daffodils of the 2013 season. So flurry on, snow. Your days are numbered.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
62. ycd0108
4:40 PM GMT on February 16, 2013
I had a look and a drool at the Beer site. One fellow, Salish Sea Sam, sent me an email with this quote:
"Everyone has to believe in something.
I believe I'll have another beer!"
Spent a wonderful couple of hours with the young Brewmaster in the Tasting Room here: e
It must have been a strong beer because I drove away on the wrong side of the road.

Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
61. ycd0108
4:11 PM GMT on February 16, 2013
" If somebody somewhere gets angry when they read what I have written, so be it. Maybe that will prompt them to sound off. Then true dialog becomes a possibility."
In fact I'm surprised that no one has come on here to defend their faith. I can't help there because I'm still questioning what mine might be.

Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
60. Bogon
3:47 PM GMT on February 15, 2013
Good morning, campers. Skies are clear over the Dry Slot this morning. At sunrise the temperature outside my window hovers just below the freezing mark, -2°C.

Despite the chill in the air, there are signs of spring impending. Daylight arrives a bit earlier in the morning and lingers later ere nightfall. Yesterday, as I foraged for beer, bagels and birdseed (the three Bs), I saw a tree bearing pink blooms in somebody's front yard. Here and there I've spotted green shoots of bulbs erupting in my own yard. Little weedy things are beginning to stir as well. I fear it won't be long until I must fetch forth the mower and the string trimmer. Forsooth, I have enjoyed a winterly hiatus from such chores. I'm not ready for spring. Need to clean out last year's detritus, prune and mulch first. With Valentine's Day already passing into history it's time to get my butt in gear.

Not to worry just yet. Winter won't depart without a fight. The dreaded 's' word suddenly appeared in our weekend forecast. What's that about? A meander in the polar jet fanned a wave of gelid air from the frozen tundra of the North. That wave will slosh across the Appalachians tonight. Meanwhile there's trouble brewing offshore under the auspices of the subtropical jet. Sort of a double whammy: they get you coming and going.

   *    *    *

Howdy, BriarCraft. Thanks for the Valentine benediction. I didn't actually read it until late last night. I was busy spending quality time with Wife. The operation was successful, for I (unknowingly) implemented your suggestions. :o)

As for your advice regarding customer service, the blog medium is less conducive to dialog than the telephone. It's a tough balancing act. I have to combat my natural tendency to degenerate into intemperate rant. At the same time, I don't want to pull my punches. People tend to pussyfoot around this topic. I want to lay it on the line, to call 'em as I sees 'em. If somebody somewhere gets angry when they read what I have written, so be it. Maybe that will prompt them to sound off. Then true dialog becomes a possibility.

Howdy, ycd. McLuhan said, "The medium is the message". What does one communicate via hiccups? Perhaps Wife and I had one too many beers last night? I found a nice writeup for my choice of poison. And speaking of customer service, I do consider myself a satisfied customer. :o]

Prideful Christians erect crenelated battlements around their beliefs. They want their faith to be unassailable. The trouble with this plan is that, as long as their faith remains unchanged and unchallenged, no improvement is possible. Consider traditional trouble spots like Ireland and the Middle East. These lands have been divided along religious lines for generations. People — leaders, diplomats, inhabitants of the war zone — continue to tiptoe around the issue. One cannot have both peace and religion in these places. Something has to give. Historically it has been the peace.

What if it were the religion? Ponder a world in which such a thing were possible. Traditional religion is static, dead, fossilized, cast in stone. What if it were a living, mutable thing? What if it could grow, adapt, accommodate? Then perhaps religions could learn to coexist, to build complex communities like organisms in a flourishing ecosystem. To me that seems more the sort of process that might bring us all closer to God. The business of building isolated castles clearly takes us in the wrong direction. We've tried that for centuries. It doesn't help. It doesn't work.

The law of unintended consequences requires me to issue a caveat at this point. The problem with a living religion is that it can mutate, turn cancerous. That's where the idea of community comes in. The organisms in a community must live in balance. If one organism goes rogue, it upsets the whole community. In a successful ecosystem members of the community cooperate to maintain a dynamic equilibrium.
Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
59. ycd0108
9:59 PM GMT on February 14, 2013
I read somewhere:
"A Won't is a Will."
There are many topics to choose from but I generally stick to things I'm currently involved with like the weather or old memories.
Sometimes I get the urge to write what is actually on my mind but I re-read and delete quite often. Sometimes I just hit the "Post Comment" button and cringe when I come back later hoping no one has noticed what I said.
We are like children learning a language and manners here. I'm only 5 years old in WU time.
I do admire your courage and clarity on this particular topic and it certainly can use some courage and clarity after all these generations but there were bound to be hiccups eh?
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
58. BriarCraft
8:42 PM GMT on February 14, 2013
Politics, religion, or any other topic that is based on belief rather than provable fact, always invokes stubbornness on the part of the believer. Argue, push, debate, cajole. What's that get you but the believer pushing back? Or worse, two people yelling at each other simultaneously, hearing nothing, feeling only anger.

One of the first lessons I learned when giving customer service, I "believe" applies to the subject at hand, as well. That lesson was to empathize first before offering any possible solution. Second, was to ask questions to confirm/clarify my understanding. Only then could the customer really listen to a solution or an alternate approach because I made them feel that they mattered and/or were being heard.

Or put more simply, the carrot vs. stick approach, or honey vs. vinegar. Or another way, the best way to be heard is to listen first, really listen. Works in partnerships and marriages, too.

Speaking of which....

Happy Valentine's Day
Give your wife a hug, listen to what she has to say, and she'll know she's really loved. And that's sure to make it a good day for you.
Member Since: June 21, 2004 Posts: 94 Comments: 4712
57. Bogon
5:11 PM GMT on February 13, 2013
Thanks for bearing with me through this one, ycd.

That last line was an attempt at rueful humor. It also signals my mixed feelings about broaching this subject at all. On the positive side,

  • There is much to be gained. Billions of people around the world spend their time, money and creativity on religion. It bothers me that much of that effort is, from my point of view, misdirected. I would rather see people working together on real, immediate problems of this world, such as overpopulation and global warming. If I can change a few people's minds about what is important, maybe I can improve our chances as a species.

  • It would help even if all I accomplish is to get people to lighten up on the subject of religion. If you take a look at the global landscape of religions, then think about how seriously people take that stuff, you have to laugh. It's hilarious.

On the negative side,

  • If you take a look at the global landscape of religions, then think about how seriously people take that stuff, it makes you want to cry. It's tragic. All the wars. All the lost opportunities.

  • Experience teaches me that nobody changes their mind about religion on account of arguments like these. 'Faith' implies belief in the face of adversity. Dogged, determined belief: it doesn't have to make sense. "Stick by your guns," the saying goes. We admire that. We know what that feels like. There's a certain satisfaction to it.

  • Arguing religion is a good way to alienate people. Shoreacres (#5) arrived in a good mood, took a look around, and left in a huff. That is not the effect I'm striving to produce. Gotta chalk that one up in the Loss column. Hopefully Shore will be back, when I put up a blog that addresses some safer topic.

Member Since: June 26, 2008 Posts: 88 Comments: 4937
56. ycd0108
3:10 AM GMT on February 13, 2013
For cryin' out loud Bogon:
Somebody had to bring this topic up here:
"Okay, so maybe religion is not so funny after all. I'm sorry I brought it up."
Probably has influence on the AGW issue, I ain't goin' thar tonight
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935
55. ycd0108
7:00 PM GMT on February 12, 2013
Figured you would find something I had not. Maybe I'll put some black sticky vinyl around the skylights but it should all be protected from the sun by the metal and for the last few weeks there is constant moisture on the roof - not much rain but condensation I guess.
Zappa is always on topic.
Found the solution: ng-a-roof-cricket.html
Member Since: January 1, 2008 Posts: 222 Comments: 5935

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Retired software engineer. "What is that?", you may ask. It's someone who has time to blog about the weather...

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