Niche Gods and Gap Souls Friday, Mar 26 2010 

The Christian God has staked his claim to certain souls since the time of Abraham.  I’m no biblical scholar, but there were certain ritual some had to follow to appease the God of the Old Testament.  And this was not some sissy God, either, oh no!  He was a hellfire and damnation God!  If one of this God’s angels showed up, a city was going to burn or something equally bad for the urban landscape of the time.  After Jesus made his sacrifice, the rules changed though.  Jesus brought a different covenant to the world.  Love thy neighbor.  Do good works.  Feed the poor, heal the sick, house the homeless.  That sort of ting.  All you had to do was accept him.  The process wasn’t’ even complicated and didn’t even involve putting an offspring on an altar, hefting your knife up and flashing down to play chicken with God, or stepping into a Lion’s Den, or anything else that smacks of MTV’s Jackass show. 

So, God, either with version 1.0 or 2.0, has got a claim on a certain percentage of the souls available.  I won’t even mention the fact of the buhjillions of souls that were essentially put outside the system through poor communications, marketing, and a rather late product delivery in regards to Human history.

Then, there is Satan.  Sort of God’s subcontractor in the soul harvesting business.  He has a contract to take the bad souls that do not meet God’s criteria.  OK, not an especially nice option, but you are sort of stuck with the whole binary solution set if you totally buy into the ethos involved.

But, What struck me was this, aren’t there lots of souls out there who led good lives, but didn’t meet God’s criteria?  Either through no fault of their own, or by following a different cultural path that did not include Christianity?  OK, now I am going to make an assumption here.  These good souls are not eligible for collection by Satan due to their essential goodness.  I mean, he’s supposed to be a merciful God, right?  And if you cannot trust God to be fair, who can you trust?  It sure wouldn’t be fair for a Good soul to end up in Satan’s power  for trivial details.  I hear some of you out there saying, “well, the Devil is in the details!” and as we all know, the lawyers are all staffing Hell’s Law Offices.  But I’m willing to give God the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is not a total dick.

So, where do these “Gap Souls” go?  Are there gods that want these souls?  Gods that operate in the shadows, filling the niches left between the Big Boys in the Heavenly and Hellish markets for souls?  That is my idea.  Gods that are more flexible about thins, either Good or Evil.  Gods that are small, not up to the Big Picture things, but handling the little things and the smaller markets.

Who are these gods and what are they like?

The Laws of Power Tuesday, Mar 16 2010 

Did you ever read Niccolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince”?  Back in college or high school, maybe?  I did.  It was something that I found fascinating.  The rules that were, up until then unwritten, of a society and culture that was superficially the most civilized in the world.  Well, the Western Christian world, at least.  And in its own opinion.  But, underneath seethed the intrigues, plots, betrayals, and double-crosses, stinking of duplicity and reeking of cunning that captured my imagination.  Then came George Lucas’ Star Wars and I was introduced to the Dark Lords of the Sith.  How cool!  Most excellent black capes, lightsabers, armor, and the sort of moral code and power to force men to your will…or crush their throats with a mere thought!  Where do I sign up?

Fast forward to today and I found a book I have just started reading that encapsulates Machiavelli and his time, but modernized for the twenty-first century reader.  Joost Elffers wrote “The 48 Laws of Power” and I have only just started reading it.  But, I’m already hooked!  From the Table of Contents alone, you can see where this book could lead to the modus operandi of a Criminal Mastermind, a Sith Lord, or perhaps an Evil Genius.  Or, even worse, a politician on the state or local level.  I excluded the national level politicians because I presume that everybody else, like me, presumes that they are evil, self-centered, manipulative scumbags wholly bent on personal power and profit, which can only be sated by the sort of things usually only obtainable through a deal with Satan or by winning a national office election.  So, they already know all this stuff anyhow and it would just be a refresher for them.

Below I present, just to give you that first taste, and the first taste is always free, is the Table of Contents.  Enjoy, peruse, soak up the amorality that is Machiavelli and Joost Elffers’ version of what you need to do to succeed in today’s world.  Establish your own pair of Sith, Master and Student.  Take over a small, Central American country.  I hear the Balkans are nice this time of year.  And don’t you think that Steve Jobs needs a comeuppance?  Just be careful…that guy in the cube next to yours may be reading the same webpage!

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LAW 1

NEVER OUTSHINE THE MASTER

        Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents or you might accomplish the opposite–inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.

LAW 2

          NEVER PUT TOO MUCH TRUST IN FRIENDS, LEARN HOW TO USE ENEMIES

         Be wary of friends–they will betray you more quickly, for they are easily aroused to envy. They also become spoiled and tyrannical. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.

LAW 3

CONCEAL YOUR INTENTIONS

Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense. Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelop them in enough smoke, and by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.

LAW 4

ALWAYS SAY LESS THAN NECESSARY

When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.

LAW 5

SO MUCH DEPENDS ON REPUTATION–GUARD IT WITH YOUR LIFE

Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win; once it slips, however, you are vulnerable, and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations. Then stand aside and let public opinion hang them.

LAW 6

COURT ATTENTION AT ALL COST

Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the

crowd, then, or buried in oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous, at all cost. Make yourself a magnet of attention

by appearing larger, more colorful, more mysterious than the bland and timid masses.

LAW 7

GET OTHERS TO DO THE WORK FOR YOU, BUT ALWAYS TAKE THE CREDIT

Use the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to further your own cause. Not only will such assistance save you valuable time and energy, it will give you a godlike aura of efficiency and speed. In the end your helpers will be forgotten and you will be remembered. Never do yourself what others can do for you.

LAW 8

MAKE OTHER PEOPLE COME TO YOU–USE BAIT IF NECESSARY

When you force the other person to act, you are the one in control. It is always better to make your opponent come to you, abandoning his own plans in the process. Lure him with fabulous gains

then attack. You hold the cards.

LAW 9

WIN THROUGH YOUR ACTIONS, NEVER THROUGH ARGUMENT

Any momentary triumph you think you have gained through argument is really a Pyrrhic victory: The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary change of opinion. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions, without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.

LAW 10

INFECTION: AVOID THE UNHAPPY AND UNLUCKY

You can die from someone else’s misery

emotional states are as infectious as diseases. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.

LAW 11

LEARN TO KEEP PEOPLE DEPENDENT ON YOU

To maintain your independence you must always be needed and wanted. The more you are relied on, the more

freedom you have. Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity and you have nothing to fear.

Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.

LAW 12

USE SELECTIVE HONESTY AND GENEROSITY TO DISARM YOUR VICTIM

One sincere and honest move will cover over dozens of dishonest ones. Open-hearted gestures of honesty and generosity bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people. Once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can deceive and manipulate them at will. A timely gift–a Trojan horse–will serve the same purpose.

LAW 13

WHEN ASKING FOR HELP, APPEAL TO PEOPLE’S SELF-INTEREST, NEVER TO THEIR MERCY OR GRATITUDE

If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother to remind him of your past assistance and good deeds. He will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance with him, that will benefit him, and emphasize it out of all proportion. He will respond enthusiastically when he sees something to be gained for himself.

LAW 14

POSE AS A FRIEND, WORK AS A SPY

Knowing about your rival is critical. Use spies to gather valuable information that will keep you a step ahead.

Better still: Play the spy yourself. In polite social encounters, learn to probe. Ask indirect questions to get people

to reveal their weaknesses and intentions. There is no occasion that is not an opportunity for artful spying.

LAW 15

CRUSH YOUR ENEMY TOTALLY

All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. (Sometimes they have learned this the hard way.) If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out. More is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation: The enemy will recover, and will seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.

LAW 16

USE ABSENCE TO INCREASE RESPECT AND HONOR

Too much circulation makes the price go down: The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you

appear. If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked

about, even more admired. You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity.

LAW 17

KEEP OTHERS IN SUSPENDED TERROR: CULTIVATE AN AIR OF UNPREDICTABILITY

Humans are creatures of habit with an insatiable need to see familiarity in other people’s actions. Your predictability gives them a sense of control. Turn the tables: Be deliberately unpredictable. Behavior that seems to have no consistency or purpose will keep them off-balance, and they will wear themselves out trying to explain your moves. Taken to an extreme, this strategy can intimidate and terrorize.

LAW 18

DO NOT BUILD FORTRESSES TO PROTECT YOURSELF–ISOLATION IS DANGEROUS

The world is dangerous and enemies are everywhere–everyone has to protect themselves. A fortress seems the safest. But isolation exposes you to more dangers than it protects you from–it cuts you off from valuable information, it makes you conspicuous and an easy target. Better to circulate among people, find allies, mingle. You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd.

LAW 19

KNOW WHO YOU’RE DEALING WITH–DO NOT OFFEND THE WRONG PERSON

There are many different kinds of people in the world, and you can never assume that everyone will react to your strategies in the same way. Deceive or outmaneuver some people and they will spend the rest of their lives seeking revenge. They are wolves in lambs ‘ clothing. Choose your victims and opponents carefully, then never offend or deceive the wrong person.

LAW 20

DO NOT COMMIT TO ANYONE

It is the fool who always rushes to take sides. Do not commit to any side or cause but yourself. By maintaining

your independence, you become the master of others–playing people against one another, making them pursue you.

LAW 21

PLAY A SUCKER TO CATCH A SUCKER–SEEM DUMBER THAN YOUR MARK

No one likes feeling stupider than the next person. The trick, then, is to make your victims feel smart–and not just smart, but smarter than you are. Once convinced of this, they will never suspect that you may have ulterior motives.

LAW 22

USE THE SURRENDER TACTIC: TRANSFORM WEAKNESS INTO POWER

When you are weaker, never fight for honor’s sake; choose surrender instead. Surrender gives you time to recover, time to torment and irritate your conqueror, time to wait for his power to wane. Do not give him the satisfaction of fighting and defeating you–surrender first. By turning the other cheek you infuriate and unsettle him. Make surrender a tool of power.

LAW 23

CONCENTRATE YOUR FORCES

Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point. You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper, than by flitting from one shallow mine to another–intensity defeats extensity every time. When looking for sources of power to elevate you, find the one key patron, the fat cow who will give you milk for a long time to come.

LAW 24

PLAY THE PERFECT COURTIER

The perfect courtier thrives in a world where everything revolves around power and political dexterity. He has mastered the art of indirection; he flatters, yields to superiors, and asserts power over others in the most oblique and graceful manner. Learn and apply the laws of courtiership and there will be no limit to how far you can rise in the court.

LAW 25

RE-CREATE YOURSELF

Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than letting others define it for you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions–your power will be enhanced and your character will seem larger than life.

LAW 26

KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN

You must seem a paragon of civility and efficiency: Your hands are never soiled by mistakes and nasty deeds. Maintain such a spotless appearance by using others as scapegoats and cat’s-paws to disguise your involvement.

LAW 27

PLAY ON PEOPLE’S NEED TO BELIEVE TO CREATE A CULTLIKE FOLLOWING

People have an overwhelming desire to believe in something. Become the focal point of such desire by offering them a cause, a new faith to follow. Keep your words vague but full of promise; emphasize enthusiasm over rationality and clear thinking. Give your new disciples rituals to perform, ask them to make sacrifices on your behalf. In the absence of organized religion and grand causes, your new belief system will bring you untold power.

LAW 28

ENTER ACTION WITH BOLDNESS

If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.

LAW 29

PLAN ALL THE WAY TO THE END

The ending is everything. Plan all the way to it, taking into account all the possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of fortune that might reverse your hard work and give the glory to others. By planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop. Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead.

LAW 30

MAKE YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS SEEM EFFORTLESS

Your actions must seem natural and executed with ease. All the toil and practice that go into them, and also all the clever tricks, must be concealed. When you act, act effortlessly, as if you could do much more. Avoid the temptation of revealing how hard you work–it only raises questions. Teach no one your tricks or they will be used against you.

LAW 31.

CONTROL THE OPTIONS: GET OTHERS TO PLAY WITH THE CARDS YOU DEAL

The best deceptions are the ones that seem to give the other person a choice: Your victims feel they are in control, but are actually your puppets. Give people options that come out in your favor whichever one they choose. Force them to make choices between the lesser of two evils, both of which serve your purpose. Put them on the horns of a dilemma: They are gored wherever they turn.

LAW 32

PLAY TO PEOPLE’S FANTASIES

The truth is often avoided because it is ugly and unpleasant. Never appeal to truth and reality unless you are prepared for the anger that comes from disenchantment. Life is so harsh and distressing that people who can manufacture romance or conjure up fantasy are like oases in the desert: Everyone flocks to them. There is great power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses.

LAW 33

DISCOVER EACH MAN’S THUMBSCREW

Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall. That weakness is usually an insecurity, an uncontrollable

emotion or need; it can also be a small secret pleasure. Either way, once found, it is a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.

LAW 34

BE ROYAL IN YOUR OWN FASHION: ACT LIKE A KING TO BE TREATED LIKE ONE

The way you carry yourself will often determine how you are treated: In the long run, appearing vulgar or common will make people disrespect you. For a king respects himself and inspires the same sentiment in others. By acting regally and confident of your powers, you make yourself seem destined to wear a crown.

LAW 35

MASTER THE ART OF TIMING

Never seem to be in a hurry–hurrying betrays a lack of control over yourself, and over time. Always seem patient, as if you know that everything will come to you eventually. Become a detective of the right moment; sniff out the spirit of the times, the trends that will carry you to power. Learn to stand back when the time is not yet ripe, and to strike fiercely when it has reached fruition.

LAW 36

DISDAIN THINGS YOU CANNOT HAVE: IGNORING THEM IS THE BEST REVENGE

By acknowledging a petty problem you give it existence and credibility. The more attention you pay an enemy, the stronger you make him; and a small mistake is often made worse and more visible when you try to fix it. It is sometimes best to leave things alone. If there is something you want but cannot have, show contempt for it. The less interest you reveal, the more superior you seem.

LAW 37

CREATE COMPELLING SPECTACLES

Striking imagery and grand symbolic gestures create the aura of power–everyone responds to them. Stage spectacles for those around you, then, full of arresting visuals and radiant symbols that heighten your presence. Dazzled by appearances, no one will notice what you are really doing.

LAW 38

THINK AS YOU LIKE BUT BEHAVE LIKE OTHERS

If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want attention and that you look down upon them. They will find a way to punish you for making them feel inferior. It is far safer to blend in and nurture the common touch. Share your originality only with tolerant friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness.

LAW 39

STIR UP WATERS TO CATCH FISH

Anger and emotion are strategically counterproductive. You must always stay calm and objective. But if you can make your enemies angry while staying calm yourself, you gain a decided advantage. Put your enemies off-balance: Find the chink in their vanity through which you can rattle them and you hold the strings.

LAW 40

DESPISE THE FREE LUNCH

What is offered for free is dangerous–it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit. It is also often wise to pay the full price–

there is no cutting corners with excellence. Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and a magnet for power.

LAW 41

AVOID STEPPING INTO A GREAT MAN’S SHOES

What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after. If you succeed a great man or have a famous parent, you will have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them. Do not get lost in their shadow, or stuck in a past not of your own making: Establish your own name and identity by changing course. Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way.

LAW 42

STRIKE THE SHEPHERD AND THE SHEEP WILL SCATTER

Trouble can often be traced to a single strong individual–the stirrer, the arrogant underling, the poisoner of goodwill. If you allow such people room to operate, others will succumb to their influence. Do not wait for the troubles they cause to multiply, do not try to negotiate with them–they are irredeemable. Neutralize their influence by isolating or banishing them. Strike at the source of the trouble and the sheep will scatter.

LAW 43

WORK ON THE HEARTS AND MINDS OF OTHERS

Coercion creates a reaction that will eventually work against you. You must seduce others into wanting to move in your direction. A person you have seduced becomes your loyal pawn. And the way to seduce others is to operate on their individual psychologies and weaknesses. Soften up the resistant by working on their emotions, playing on what they hold dear and what they fear. Ignore the hearts and minds of others and they will grow to hate you.

LAW 44

DISARM AND INFURIATE WITH THE MIRROR EFFECT

The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the perfect tool for deception: When you mirror your enemies, doing exactly as they do, they cannot figure out your strategy. The Mirror Effect mocks and humiliates them, making them overreact. By holding up a mirror to their psyches, you seduce them with the illusion that you share their values; by holding up a mirror to their actions, you teach them a lesson. Few can resist the power of the Mirror Effect.

LAW 45

PREACH THE NEED FOR CHANGE, BUT NEVER REFORM TOO MUCH AT ONCE

Everyone understands the need for change in the abstract, but on the day-to-day level people are creatures of habit. Too much innovation is traumatic, and will lead to revolt. If you are new to a position of power, or an outsider trying to build a power base, make a show of respecting the old way of doing things. If change is necessary, make it feel like a gentle improvement on the past.

LAW 46

NEVER APPEAR TOO PERFECT

Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weaknesses. Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admit to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity.

LAW 47

DO NOT GO PAST THE MARK YOU AIMED FOR; IN VICTORY, LEARN WHEN TO STOP

The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril. In the heat of victory, arrogance and overconfidence can push you past the goal you had aimed for, and by going too far, you make more enemies than you defeat. Do not allow success to go to your head. There is no substitute for strategy and careful planning. Set a goal, and when you reach it, stop.

LAW 48

ASSUME FORMLESSNESS

By taking a shape, by having a visible plan, you open yourself to attack. Instead of taking a form for your enemy to grasp, keep yourself adaptable and on the move. Accept the fact that nothing is certain and no law is fixed. The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water; never bet on stability or lasting order. Everything changes.

Bus? We don’ need no steenkin’ bus! Saturday, Jan 23 2010 

Conway, arkansas does not have a bus.  It has three, count them, three colleges!  But no bus.  Not even paratransit.  And, even if one bothers the mayor, all you get is “we’re looking into that.”

Pshaw!

I want buses!  Preferably fusion powered hover buses, but I would settle for some other Green alternative that moves people to and fro for a marginal fare.

That’s it.  My grump for the day.  And, if you get the impression that Conway, arkansas is sort of backwards, behind the times, not friendly to pedestrians?  Well, yeah, then that’s my fault.

Is it more Nobel to pay cash or buy it on credit? Friday, Oct 9 2009 

Today I heard that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.  I had to pause for a moment, scanning my mental news logs, trying to come up with the great thing he had done to promote World Peace that earned him this coveted award.  I got zip.  Zero.  Zilch, Nada, nothing.  The Big Goose Egg.  OK, you get the point.  For the life of me, I couldn’t think what he had done and it seems a lot of others feel the same way.  Sure, the guy is charismatic as hell, and the mere fact he was given the award is a great honor, both for him and for all Americans.  

 

But, wouldn’t it have been nicer, to put it in economic terms that anyone struggling in today’s economy can recognize, to have paid cash for the Nobel instead of plunking down a credit card?  I’ve heard the Talking Heads on CNN and Fox News pontificate from both the left and right sides of their…well, mouths, let’s say.  Not the orifice I usually think they are talking out of, but we’ll be nice today.  They are saying he was given the prize on spec, on credit, for the potential that he has shown already.  Fox trots out their stale “Apology Tour” from when President Obama made his trips around the world, essentially repairing, to the best of his ability, the damage that President G. W. Bush did to America’s diplomatic reputation among our supposed allies.  I think it was something that had to be done, too.  And this is coming from someone who has no problem with a Pax Americana imposed by force.  But it’s nice to have a few friends to ooh and ah at how cool we Americans are, rather than spitting in disgust everytime our President bumbled his way through a public address.  Personally, just having a guy in the White House who didn’t use “uh” or “um”  as his most frequent words has given me  a warm and fuzzy feeling.  And no more fearfully looking at TV cameras like they were some weird magic boxes that would steal his soul.  OK, I’ll give him a pass on the feeling of being chased by the White House Press Pool was like being run down by cannibals who wanted to eat him alive.  That was just a fact.

 

But, I can’t help but coming back to one thing.   The fact that the deadline for the Nobel prizes is February 1st. That is just about two weeks after President Obama was inaugurated.  This narrow, slim, miniscule, almost nano-scale window of opportunity to have put his imprint on the world and made it a better, more peaceful place, seems to trivialize the prize even more, at least in my mind.

 

I don’t think that President Obama did the deeds necessary to earn this award.  Not yet.  I think that yes, he does indeed have the potential to earn it in the future.  Maybe even have the path mapped out to the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing the Israelis and the Palestinians together in peace, love, and harmony over a bowl of humus and espressos.  But it just seems odd to give the Nobel Peace Prize to a President who is currently prosecuting a war in Afghanistan—admittedly not of his initiation, but still, he’s fighting it.—and trying to peacefully withdraw our troops from Iraq.  The juxtaposition of events is a bit disconcerting.  Add in the credit the Nobel committee extended for deeds as yet undone, and it just makes me a bit dizzy.  

 

Oh, and NASA crashed a probe into the moon this morning!  Very cool!  And, even more extraordinary, it was intentional!  None of this confusion over meters versus feet like with that Mars probe several years ago.  But, sorry, NASA, I forgot.  We agreed that was never to be spoken of again.  These are not the craters you are looking for… waving hand in a Jedi mind control sort of way*  

Mums the word.  No more nasty cracks about cratering multi-million dollar payloads.  Unless it’s on purpose, then we do press conferences! Yay!!!

 

So, if you feel a bit of a whipsaw effect today when you watch the news, or even while reading this, welll…yeah, it’s my fault.

Progress Thursday, Oct 1 2009 

Have you ever seen one of the new hybrid cars moving down the road?  The only sound it makes is its tires on the pavement.  Or, if it is stopped at a light, it is just sitting there with no engine noise at all.  It’s this aspect that has the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) upset.  Most sighted people would wonder why this is such a big deal to the NFB.  Isn’t a quieter car more beneficial, lowering the noise pollution in our crowded, urban environments?  That is certainly true, plus the ginormous increase in fuel efficiency, saving the planet while at the same time saving you a few bucks.  But the problem the NFB has is that most blind folks rely on hearing a car coming to determine if it is safe to step out into the street and, usually the engine noise is what we listen for.  But these cool, new, efficient, hybrid vehicles are just TOO quiet!  The NFB postulates that pedestrian versus hybrid accidents are on the rise due to the very nature of hybrids.  Sort of the new Silent Killer of the Streets.  Personally, I would expect that the number of accidents would increase of pedestrian versus hybrid vehicles simply due to the growing number of such vehicles, but remain more or less constant as a ratio of such hybrids compared to normal vehicles.  It’s just simple math and statistics.  But the NFB thinks it is an epidemic that is going to grow with alarming speed, especially among the blind.

 

The NFB is, even now, lobbying Congress to do something about this.  As far as I have been able to determine, they want some sort of solution that maintains the status quo.  What is the status quo in this situation?  Well, vehicles that are loud enough to allow someone to determine their proximity through hearing.  It doesn’t matter whether this is through the traditional internal combustion engine powering most cars on the road today, or by some as yet undetermined device to make the vehicle audible when no engine is revving and roaring to let a blind person crossing a street know that a few tons of Detroit steel only partially under the control of some Soccer Mom is bearing down on them like Juggernaut.  Probably while texting her Church group that choir practice is indeed still on this Wednesday at 6, sipping her decaf, non-fat, mocha latte, putting in a new DVD for her spawn in the media center behind her, and sneaking a few puffs on an illicit cigarette. 

 

Frankly, I think the NFB is just flat wrong on this one.  They are trying to halt progress, drag technological advancement backwards to a time where things were less dangerous.  Or at least the dangers were known and accepted by the blind, and a greater sense of comfort existed about the abilities of a trained blind person to navigate the treacherous roads and sidewalks of America.  This was held as a solid truth, something that could be held firmly in ones hand.  These nearly-silent hybrids endanger that sense of comfort and freedom.  That hard-won confidence that only a blind person possesses who has been trained and worked to gain the mobility skills necessary to travel safely.  But, as has been proven over and over, you cannot stop progress.  The NFB cannot hold back the advancing tide and is spending political capital in a pointless battle to get Congress to act on this issue.  If the NFB could work “dagnabit”, “horseless carriages”, and pesky kids” into their demands, we’d have the perfect intersection between Mister Wilson from Dennis The Menace and the generic villain from Scooby Doo.

 

What is the most likely solution for the majority of Americans to cars that are more silent and driven by drivers who are more distracted by the increasing demands on their attention in a modern vehicle with talking GPS calling out directions, a stereo blasting Madonna’s latest, A cell phone with either a text, email, or call coming in, not to mention kids screaming in the back?  It’s really simple.  We all were actually already told this when we were young.  You probably even remember it and can hear it clearly in your mind, the sound of your Mom or Dad saying “Make sure you look both ways before crossing the street!”  That’s it.  Simple. Easy.  Doesn’t cost a penny.  Just look both ways before you step out into traffic.  OK, maybe start a campaign in the elementary schools that emphasizes this.  Send in the Traffic Police guy in a dog costume to the schools to put on a Show & Tell at an Assembly to drive the point home.  But that’s all that is needed for the vast majority of Americans.  Sighted Americans, that is.

 

The blind, of course, can’t look both ways.  They can’t listen harder for a sound that isn’t there, or drowned out in the urban noise already present.  What will they do?  I suggest that instead of turning their back on technology, the NFB should be embracing it and searching for a technological solution to detecting the approach of hybrid vehicles.  And, to be honest, if you can detect a hybrid vehicle, you can detect any vehicle.  A device that could do this should make travel and street crossing safer in general, not just where hurtling hybrids silently stalk our streets.

 

That’s just my opinion, and I already know some people think I’m wrong.  But I don’t think so.  Don’t fear the future, embrace it and all of its wonders!  Yes, and even its dangers, because they represent opportunities to conquer those obstacles and expand our horizons, just as they always have in the past.

 

If I made you think about something in a different way, well, yeah, it’s my fault.

The Power of Words Friday, Sep 25 2009 

 I love words!  I mean, if you want to be a writer, you’ve got to love words, right?  Without them, you’d not be reading this!  But, even more than just the sheer breadth of words that one can use when writing or speaking to describe the infinite shades of meaning and nuance one wishes to impart, there are the roots of the words themselves.  This is where my love of history and languages come into play.

 

Most people realize that English isn’t something that just sprang magically into being, fully formed and ready to go, like Athena springing from Zeus’ head.  Well, I sure hope they do, but I’ve met some people that cause me to doubt this statement.  Sidetrack, avoided! Continuing…

Words we use every day have their roots in Latin, Greek, Old French, Old German, and any number of older languages.  Oh, and we Americans steal words like a fat kid steals candy.  Cognates, I believe they are called.  Anyhow, I just love how bits of ancient words come together to form a new word we use now.  To this end, I get a Word of the Day from

http://www.dictionary.com

I highly recommend this to everyone!  It’s free, it builds your vocabulary, and you never again have to say “What does that mean? When standing around a bunch of over-educated

Ph. D.-packing cognoscente.  

 

“What does that last word mean?” you might ask?!? Well, I’m glad you asked, as cognoscente was a recent Word of the Day! *GRIN*

 

cognoscente \kon-yuh-SHEN-tee; kog-nuh-; -SEN-\, noun:

A person with special knowledge of a subject; a connoisseur.

Cognoscente derives from the Obsolete Italian, from Latin cognoscens, cognoscent-, present participle of cognoscere, “to know.”

 

If this little bit of my mental weirdness posted on the Web has got you thinking about words and where they came from, well, then yeah, it’s my fault.

Funny Never; Funny Once; Funny Always. Thursday, Sep 24 2009 

These are the classifications of humor that Manny, a computer repair tech on Luna, gave to Mycroft, the self-aware super computer in Robert Heinlein’s classic “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress”.  What is it that makes something funny?  And, in Heinleinian terms, is it funny just the one time, or is it always funny?  Or just not funny at all?  

 

Personally, and that is where I think humor resides, it is something individual and experiential.  Something is going to be funny to a person in unique ways.  It’s just like I’ve tried to explain to my family for years about my own humor.  If *I* think it’s funny, then it *IS* funny!  There is no need for external validation.  You know, like whether they laugh at my joke or comment, think it’s funny, a horrible pun, etc.  I can’t count the times I’ve heard them tell me “That’s not funny!” only to be drowned out by my own hilarious laughter. *GRIN*

 

So, what do y’all think?  Is humor unique to the individual?  Are there Universal funny things?  Are there some jokes that are just never funny?  Just a little something to ponder.  And, if you waste your time thinking about this…yeah, it’s my fault.

Have You Ever Gotten A Song Stuck In Your Head? Wednesday, Sep 9 2009 

Have you ever gotten a song stuck in your head?

TV commercials are the worst for doing that to me. I wake up in the morning and there is a song playing in my head and I think to myself, “Now how did *THAT* get in here?!?” Usually, it was just some snippet of song on a commercial, maybe even not the exact song, but one close enough to trigger some sort of neurological cascade of misfiring neurons in my admittedly odd brain. And, voila! Morning head music!

I spend far too much time pondering the question of where something like that came from. Thank you, Google and the Internet! And, again, usually I can pin it down. And commercials today are playing so much music with which I am familiar, I think the problem is actually getting worse! I think this may be a comment on my age. My theory is this: Once you and your music get to be a certain age, it becomes fodder for TV commercials. I think it is a very sad milestone in the aging process, too. Probably not as bad as when Muzak remakes your favorite song into some mutant, bastardized, but still sadly recognizable version of its former self. But it’s bad…definitely bad.

The latest culprit is Toyota and their Third Generation Prius. Here is a link to the commercial if you haven’t seen it:

http://www.toyota.com/prius-hybrid/commercial.html

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with a hybrid car, mind you! No, not at all. Nothing except the smugness factor of the driver, of course! And the fact that it is a silent, environmentally friendly ton of smug-driven death hurtling down on unaware pedestrians… It’s the song they use…”Let Your love Shine”. It’s not the original song, though. It’s a new one, sung á capella by Petra haden. You can find her official website at:

http://petrahadenmusic.com/sounds.html

Anyhow, it’s a wonderful song where Petra sings every bit herself, including the instrumental portions! It reminded me of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” in that regard. I finally had to track down the song, and thank you to Toyota for making it available for a free download! I was then able to listen several times to the full version until my mental fixation dwindled to a manageable level. Of course, if I was totally over it, I’d not be writing about it, right?

So, now that I’ve got that off my chest, maybe you’ve got the song stuck in your head? Well, if you did, then…yeah, it’s my fault.

Happy Labor Day! Monday, Sep 7 2009 

It’s Labor Day here in the U.S. and, of course, I am not laboring.  OK, that is a goal I strive for every day of the year, but especially on Labor Day, when we are supposed to laze about and honor those who labor.  And how best to honor them than by sleeping in, having a few mugs o’ fine coffee, followed by a wonderful breakfast of French Toast, sausage and bacon?  Then, top that off with some more lazing about.  It’s all about honoring those who labor with the appropriate level of non-labor you see.  

 

Sure, you can overdo the celebration of Labor Day and it’s really everywhere.  People are outside, mowing lawns, getting ready for big outdoor parties, slaving away over hot grills.  Ah, the fools!  Forgive them, Laborers, for they know not what they do!

 

I shall continue to do my best, to do my duty, and do as little as possible today.  If nothing gets done around here today, then yeah, it’s my fault. ;)

And so it begins… Friday, Sep 4 2009 

I’m a guy, mid forties, just graduated with a Masters in History  from the University of Central arkansas, and, yeah, it’s my fault. 

 

I want to be a writer, and not just any writer!  I want to be a sci-fi/fantasy writer!  This, by default, makes me odd, strange, weird…but in a good way, I think.  At least I hope so.  Of course, I want to be disgustingly successful, too.  Like King, revered by masses of cheering fans, like Tolkien, but I pretty much have given up on being a rock star.  I guess I can settle for the first two.

 

I also want to be a lecturer at the college level somewhere.  You know, the guy (or gal! I am a reluctantly admitted feminist due to a Gender History class I took…damn you, Wendy Castro and your sweet, sweet reason!!!)

standing up front with that cool, $20 wooden pedestal thingy, torturing the best and brightest of our children…at least the ones willing to fork over the dough and sign up for my History course. 

 

I also got my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems in 1999 from Arkansas Tech University.  This makes me a Geek, I guess.  I know that I am prone to random bouts of what I call TechnoLust.  That is when I see some new bit of technological voodoo that just came out, or, even worse,  somebody else has in their sweaty hands and I don’t!  I want it.  No, not want…need it! And, the sooner the better!  because if I don’t get it, I’ll just DIE!!!  Luckily, my bank is aware of this disease I have and regularly rejects all my drool-sodden checks written to technology pushers like Best Buy or Egghead.  This  gives me a chance to shake off the fever and chills of the TechnoLust, then rip them up before I infect anyone else.

 

What sort of History am I interested in?  Most of it, actually.  But especially the military aspects, the cool stuff, with swords, shields, people sweating, bleeding, and dying for their cause/religion/nation/city/state!  From the Greek Hoplite to the Roman Centurion, Byzantine Catafract horsemen and Welsh Longbowmen.  Billy the Bastard, who invaded England in 1066 whenn he had a perfectly good Duchy in Normandy already.  Napoleon and Wellington and those beautiful bastards they commanded.  All the way up through the World wars and the Cold War and to our latest escapades about this blue marble we call Terra! 
I’m Also fascinated by the technology and engineering feats accomplished along the way.  Roman aquaducts, water wheels, mills, bridges, fortifications, ships, all that cool stuff, too.  because a war is no fun if you don’t have toys!  I come by this obsession/interest honestly, though.  I was a soldier for 4 years and change back in the 80’s for Uncle Sam, but I got better…  I still speak Russian though.  Sort of.

 

Oh, and I read a lot.  Several books a week, usually.  Grad school makes you read fast, but I loved it and it never was an issue for me.  So, I’ll post on what books I’ve read lately.  And things that  annoy me or spark my interest.  OR I think are cool.  I am eclectic, so you never really know what you will find me yammering about in this magical place called syberspace!

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