Thursday, March 30, 2017

"There is no adventure I would trade them for"

I read this today:

The juxtaposition of...(her subject)...sounds remote and a little absurd as she reflects on how her dying son pushed himself out of her body like an "unholy storm," moving his tiny arms and legs, alive, and as "pretty as a seashell." She shared only his brief whispers of a life, but "there is no adventure I would trade them for."

I never got to see my third child "push himself out" late in his term. By the time I got home, his "brief whispers of life" were over. But I do know that "neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" and that I don't need to trade anything for my child's life because He already did. And I know His promise extends to my whole family, even little Will.

That doesn't mean I don't feel his loss or remember that dark afternoon with sorrow. It just means that the loss and sorrow have been redeemed and that one day my memories of his passing will be shorn of their horror and misery.

I miss him.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Look and See

After church yesterday I positioned myself near the exit as I often do.  People I know will come up and we'll talk for a few minutes. It's a great way to see people that I normally don't run into.  Only yesterday no one came up and talked to me. Not one. Oh a few people gave me an absent minded wave or 'hiya' but no one stopped.

I was about to take it personally when I saw other people that I'd never seen before, some talking, some alone, some smiling, some pensive. There were a few harried parents trying to herd their kids to the door. I saw all kinds of people from many places in this world, all heading out to their own, personal Sunday afternoons.

Then my eyes landed on a young woman walking in the distance. She was doing some cleanup chore for the church while avoiding everyone's gaze. I remembered seeing her earlier when I was walking outside and noticed that as she walked past us going the other way she moved closer to the wall, farther away from us. And I don't know why. But I want to. So I made a mental note to introduce myself the next time I saw her. I want to know her story - if she'll share it with me.

And I think I get what God was doing by rushing everyone by me: Yesterday I wasn't supposed to schmooze with the people I like and who like me because when I'm busy talking I don't notice anyone or anything else. I think God wants me to be quiet and pay more attention the way that He pays attention: to everyone regardless of how interesting I find them to be. Indeed I think he wants us pay attention to the people who don't get noticed.

Try it sometime. Just stand and watch all of the people around you. All of the beautiful souls on their journeys to eternity. See their expressions, how they walk, how they use their eyes. Imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes, living their dreams, carrying their burdens. And recognize them for the God breathed miracles that they are.

They're all around us, miracles every one.  It's the greatest show in the Universe and all we have to do to take it in is just be quiet and look and see.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I Believe

I believe in truth and love.
I believe in God above.
I believe we were made for this.
And I believe in you.

Got here by the crooked path.
So many stripes on my back.
But God's given me some things to do.
And one of them is loving you.

I don't get what you see in me.
You're so much better free.
But you ignore me when I say go.
I guess there's something we both know.

So I'll love you with heart and soul.
Love you till I'm grey and old.
Then I'll cross over when I'm done.
And wait there until you come.

I believe in truth and love.
I believe in God above.
I believe we were made for this.
And I believe in you.
Yes, I believe in you.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An email to a friend

I have a friend that's far to the left of me politically. We got to talking about gay rights, 'homophobia' and other such controversial topics. He finally asked me just what I believed (not theologically, but in terms of social interactions). I'm saving it here so the next time I get flack for being a "homophobe" or some other kind of "phobe" I won't have to redo it.  Sorry about the typos. I'm a lazy writer.

Hey no fair responding to emails from last October. That's BT (before Trump).
A coupl​e of contextual data points on me and mine:
When I was a teen my family had a live in houseboy
​ named Endang​
. He also 
​moonlighted as ​
a Banci - a gay transvestite prostitute. We'd see him in his heels and mini skirt at
​ the​
 Blok P  
e market about 
​a kilometer away
. We used to wrestle for fun. And yes we knew. My right wing
​, then Southern Baptist ​
parents said live and let live
​ for three years​
. Until he began stealing and wearing mom's lingerie. Then he was toast.

​My sophomore year ​
​lived in a Dorm "Pod" of six men, four of whom were gay in the stereotyped style. Including my roommate
​I got some
 collateral flack
​ but it motivated me to date girls​
 after the trannie hooker
 a mild mannered 
​moderate Republican ​
queer from Lawton seemed tame. He never wanted to wrestle.
​ One of them was Arturo Herrera - he's now a rather successful artist who has had solo exhibits at the Whitney among others.​ There's a PBS vignette about him at the link. He used to be much more flamboyant. I bought several of his pieces when he needed money. Somehow they got lost in the fog of divorce and collapse. Damn, damn, damn.

Yet today I'm a "homophobe".
My ideology and religious commitments back then were more conservative than they are today - I was in the  Baptist Youth Groups both in HS and this period in College for Crissakes (really, I did it for His sake).​ I am called a homophobe by people that when I knew them would never have done something like befriend or live with a 'homo'. They are conformists, doing only what they think the people around them will approve of. But that's a common refrain of my life.

I have always been prepared to take people as I find them. What I am not prepared to do is to let people define what is 'right', what is 'moral', whether they are 'victims' or choose who the victimizers are based some arbitrary definition of their 'identity'.  There are now 50 Facebook identity options each presumably with it's own list of microagressions and political manifestos. I reject the notion that simply by clicking a different FB box you are allowed to define whether my behavior is 'acceptable' or what you get to do to me.

As I said: I take people as I find them. I expect people to take me as I am found. I expect to find conflicts with people that I meet. Conflicts of values, beliefs, politics, the definition of life, the universe and everything. Whether they're Muslim Trannie Whores or Venezuelan Artists. I expect them to respect my views and values even when they conflict with theirs. I expect them to respect my speech rights and not call me names just because I disagree with them because I have shown through my life that I will respect theirs.

It used to be called the "Liberal" position. But I don't they exist anymore, do you?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Whoah! Settle down little scientists! A tale of Ptolemaic, Copernican, Newtonian and Einsteinian Denialism

Wrote this in my snow cave phase.

There has been a lot of loose talk thrown around about people being 'deniers' of this or that - but principally of the theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming.  Whatever your view on that subject it seems to me we should have some humility about what we think we know given how often and far our understanding of reality changes not to mention all those who have been persecuted for holding the 'wrong' views. This tongue in cheek review of celestial mechanics and physics hopefully helps remind how temporary and contingent certainty and settle science really are.  Or at least makes some of you smile.

Bow wow Ow!
Before Ptolemy came along with his really stupid name, the dominant theory of celestial mechanics was that stars were God's 'daisy chain' and every time an Angel shed a wee tear, another one was 'born'. Indeed the science had been 'settled' on this "Wodehousian construct" for millennia. But Ptolemy disagreed and for his insolence was branded a Daisy Chain 'denier' by the leading scientific bodies of ancient Egypt - dogs. Or technically Mann-Dogs. Usually in such a 'progressive' age the denier of scientific orthodoxy would have disappeared from the debate without a trace, presumably into some Pharoah's tomb despite the fact that unlike the Pharoah in question the denier was not technically 'dead'. But Ptolemy was fortunate to be born in Greek Alexandria when the Romans ran the show and the Romans, not being particularly fond of traditional Egyptian religion, sent some of their legionnaires wielding rolled up Sunday Papyri to persuade the pooch priests of their error thereby establishing new 'settled' science.

This science stayed nice and settled for a long time with only the occasional Ancient Academy of Sorcerers and Scientists beheading or crucifixion to see off the odd denier. The theory even survived the rise and fall of the bacchanalian 'party hearty' theories of the Romans when so many established truths became a bit fuzzy and unstable, particularly in the morning. Even the Huns bought the Ptolemaic line although they couldn't pronounce, much less spell it, however, as was typical, the Ostragoths were ostracized

Oh poop!  I'm Passe.
And then a nearsighted priest named Copernicus, a Pole who was so blind that he spent all his time looking through spyglasses up at the sky rather than where the heck he was going - comes up with this crazy idea that 'Earth you know, is just this planet' upon which the scientific, priestly establishment blew hot steaming chunks of anathema. Because the 'wee' earth theory was clearly even crazier the old 'wee' angel tear model of the universe. The Ptolemaic establishment was able to see off such ridiculous denialism with only the occasional singed denier so long as the theory was presented in Polish or in Copernicus' execrable and oh so declasse Polack-Latin. But once the Italians - who believe it or not were the 'go-to' hepcats of high tech back then - could decipher for the Pope the Pole's priestly patter Ptolemy's period of planetery preeminnce was...passe.

Tetherballs.  It's all tetherballs these days.
A chappie named Galileo Galilei was instrumental in unsettling the Ptolemaic consensus. It seems at that time a lot of your hipper, more dialed in priests and laymen in Italy surreptitiously bought Copernicus' theory. Particularly after Galileo illustrated the theory in tetherball terms to a Curia that was mad for the sport. But the times being what they were and Polacks being, you know, Polish they were reluctant to risk their 'street cred' and A list status just because someone from Cracow was right about reality. They needed a sign from above that the Copernican construct was 'cool'. Particularly from the Pope who for various obscure reasons like having signing authority for all of God's money for the entire Earth was important to the very hip. But the Pope being very Right Wing (after all, he works for God) was reluctant to accept the new idea and risk his awesome Pope-gig. So Galileo 'took the fall' for ‘team tetherball’ so to speak, getting brought up on charges of Ptolemaic denialism and a prejudicial preference for polish pronunciation and for his effrontery was exiled to Siena. Siena. The second city of Tuscany. The same Tuscany where the Tuscan state fair was held every year and instead of Hog Husbandry the Future Farmers of Tuscany held competitions in vintage wine and cheese making. Awesome wine and cheese that goes great with a mushroom risotto. Apparently exiling Galileo to Tuscany was like sentencing him to six months hard leisure at the Santa Barbara Biltmore Spa and Resort. In effect the Pope was saying - without saying so out loud - 'two thumbs up, way up'.

Oh Gally!
So Copernicus' new theory won. But all of the credit and resulting equity upside was captured by his Italian VC the heretofore obscure firm of Galileo, Borgia & Pope. So Galileo had it made: the top new scientific theory in the world, Papal sponsorship for his fund and its rather 'sharp' dealing, the Borgia's on your side which made mealtime so much less fraught and all the time in the world to work on, I mean paint this hot, I mean intriguing new subject nicknamed “Mona” Lisa and boy was Galileo going to try. And all because he knew his tetherball.

And then the protestants blew it all to hell.

I don't care a fig about Newton or his stupid theory
Specifically one protestant: Isaac Newton was an Englishman who taught Lord knows what (honest! - he taught theology) at Cambridge while he was rethinking the foundations of the universe, inventing his own new branch of mathematics and dodging falling apples. The Cambridge establishment didn't really know what to make of this fruit fleeing wunderkund who supposedly discovered that 'apples fall from trees' which any bloody fool could have figured out with out calling it a sodding "Principia".  But an English win is an English win no matter how obscure the sport so "jolly good shows" all around!

Watch out! Apples!
But imagine the reaction of GB&P (GG having died while - reportedly - trying to help Lisa live up to her nickname) when they got the news that Newton had discovered the secret to celestial mechanics and in doing so had just happened to invent both classical physics and the calculus thereby wrecking their CoperniCo copyrights. I imagine that they had the same reaction that college freshmen do when they come face to face with The Calculus for the first time: "What the fuck? I mean what the fucking fuck?” Which is of course the classic Anglo Saxon reaction to being asked to undertake any intellectual exercise: beery prose filled to brim with all the nuance and subtlety of an English Football hooligan.

But GB&P being more Romano-Parmesan than Anglo-Saxon responded with a more nuanced, Machiavellian manner:  Che cazzo? Voglio dire che il cazzo cazzo?  (Everything sounds sexier in Italian).  After the Romano-Parmesanisms were done they began working the 'effing protestant' angle.  Which was the novel theory that protestants weren't just hell bent sinners but in fact hell bent thinkers and they pointed to the calculus with all of its inexplicable sigmas and functions and integrals and differentials as just the sort of incomprehensible gobbledygook that Satan would produce if he wanted to confuse the faithful.  After all, counting on those Anglican bastards to pass you in calculus could lead to a serious priest shortage.

So they worked the ad-anglican angle hard while feverishly casting about for their own Newtonian or more accurately, Salamandraeian champion - someone "of the faith" who could do the voodoo that only Newton could doodoo so well.  And try as they might they kept coming up snake eyes - for a while they thought that Tycho Brahe - the noseless Nostradamus of the north and his loopy Tychonic system (honest, it was based on geometric loops) was going to save them but in the end they had to admit that all of the cazzo calculus crap made perfect celestial predictions and that the ingelese interloper had it right.  What really threw them was that Leibnitz - another protestant had also invented the calculus at the same time and all of a sudden it seemed like protestant inventors of new branches of mathematics and physics were becoming as common as fleas on a Pope and they needed to change the subject pronto.  So they relaunched that perennial favorite the Inquisition and a good time was had by all.

Nobody expects a relaunch of the
So anyway, Isaac Newton became Sir Isaac Newton and went on to make exciting discoveries in optics and fig filled biscuits and died a happy Cambridge Don as opposed to a Cambridge Ike as one would have reasonably expected. And Cambridge really dug their Distinguished Don and lorded him over Oxford who at the time was trying to present Tycho Brahe's fake nose as a major biomedical innovation and not having much luck. And so things went on like this for a couple centuries - Cambridge on top, then Oxford, and so on and so forth until the Swiss Patent Service inexplicably butted into a game heretofore reserved for tweedy chaps with tenure at snotty English universities.  

But Albert Einstein was a clerk of a different...patent classification, I guess.  Einstein had the odd bit of trouble differentiating the German umlaut from the English colon which made him a lousy patent clerk - second class.  But that patent weakness happened to be the very same psycho-spacio inversion that allowed him to visualize the space-time continuum.  And as a result of his disability he came up with a couple theories that to be frank, were seriously bent.  For example according to Einstein when you are standing still and I pop you one right in the kisser your kisser is moving relative to my hand even as I am moving my hand to hit your kisser which is ridiculous since you're the one who falls like a sack of potatoes, not me.  Or the idea that the faster I run, the heavier I get - I mean you could go into any Bernese bar and grill and see guys sitting on their ass getting more massive by the minute.  And then there are all these examples with sliced bread in them, what in the hell does sliced bread have to do with the space time continuum?  Yet the calculus and all of these physics Poindexters say that I shouldn't trust my lyin' eyes and if I do then I've become the science denier.

Ja, I'm bent!
Well in their defense Einstein made some very specific predictions about what would happen to sunlight when it whipped around the moon during an eclipse - and the Cambridge Dons (presumably named after the renamed Newton) verified that yes, the Jew postman is right while still cutting him socially and excluding him from their clubs and daughters.  Even Oxford didn't want him so he had to go to Berlin to get a real college job and there were Nazis there and everyone knows that Nazis were serious Jew deniers.

You meant the only way I can
win this war is to use Jew Science?
  Well then I just won't win it.
So there.
You didn't have to be an Einstein to figure out that doing the Jew Genius gig in downtown Hitlerville was not going to work out so he sent away for a job to this little Correspondence College that did a lot of IQ testing of high school students in Princeton, New Jersey.  Now Princeton, being out of the mainstream of, well, practically everything had a hard time fitting Einstein into their evaluation framework which principally relied on two aptitude tests that they had developed:  the DIG (Dad is graduate) and DIM (Dad is millionaire) tests.  However they were trying increase their reputation with crazy intellectuals and there was absolutely no one who said 'crazy intellectual' louder when you looked at him than Einstein so they bunged him into a building with all the other big name has beens.

I say 'has been' because almost as soon as Einstein got settled, Nils Bohr began to bore right into the old boy with his Quantum reality routine which was packing them in throughout non-Nazi Europe.  Typically he'd wait until his laureateness had just woken up from a nap and would run in and show him the little 'quanta circus' in his hand - it was like a flea circus only much smaller.  So he'd stand there claiming that there were at least 50,000 quantum lions standing on photons in his hand and didn't herr Doktor see them?  Right there.  "I  understand that as you get older you can't visualize new concepts or see Quantum circuses anymore but look - did you see that!  That photon went through both the north and south entrance gates at the same time.  Isn't that incredible!!!"

And what was Einstein going to say?  That the greatest physicist of all time didn't 'get' quantum mechanics?  "Vell, ja......I.....guess"  So Einstein, swallowed Bohr's boring line of quantum hooey and set out to come up with a universal theory of everything.  Which was a mistake.  As Timothy Leary showed much later at Harvard a universal theory of everything is only achievable through the use of very powerful illegal drugs and only lasts for a few minutes until the nice men in the white suits come to take you to the place that will make all of those nasty spiders go away.

I guess it was just as well that Einstein didn't go the Timothy Leary route because what with Hitler cutting up in Europe and the Japanese becoming loud deniers of western civilization much less science, it was more important for him to persuade the Americans to figure out how to build this nuclear bomb thingy before Hitler got one.  Or as Einstein would say:  "Ve must build ze big Boom!"  Only Einstein kind of slow rolled the whole program for a while because he realized that if the Americans got the 'boom' they'd just drop it on Berlin and Einstein and the missus still had a great little cottage in Wannasee that was actually on a lake rather than a see and they didn't want it incinerated.  As it turned out the Nazi's collapsed on their own accord so the cottage didn't need to be nuked after all but after the Cossacks who billeted there got through with it it might as well have been.

Ze big boom! 
But that just meant that the western civilization and science denying Japanese were going to get nuked.  Which taught them a thing or two.  Nagasaki on that, you bloody deniers.

OK, I'll admit that last sentence is in rather bad taste, I don't think that people should die simply because they disagree with my choices or that I should gloat at their discomfort (well, death really).  But given the rhetoric being bandied about today one could infer that the advocates of the catastrophic AGW line are a lot closer to 'nuke-em and gloat' territory than we'd like to believe.  They seem to be straying to a 'utilitarian' 'logic', which argues that 'deniers' are destroying the world and must be shut up - for the greater 'good' you see.  Aside from that ridiculous totally unsupported assertion of "fact", the willingness of the Enviro left to dehumanize those that disagree with them is frightening.  They're trying to turn us into Mann-Dogs.

I guess so that they can thwack us with their rolled up but oh so recycled Sunday papyri. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

The "Optimal Prank Nexus"

News reports say that West Virginia U has become so vexed with couch burning incidents that it has banned outdoor sofaing altogether.

So why didn't we think of this? The burning, not the ban. I mean we had lots of cheap couches and most of them did need to be burned for aesthetic if not sanitary reasons. Yet we never put "a want and a need into the deed" so to speak. I suppose it was a failure to achieve the critical "Optimal Prank Nexus". The OPN was a theory of fraternal living that I developed to explain why a group of relatively intelligent young men/older boys would some times come up with absolutely brilliant forms of mischief (such as creating a giant water balloon slingshot out of a soccer goal the better to shell sorority sisters sunbathing behind their privacy fences) while at other times we - I mean they - did the most dumbass things.

Your common variety collegiate prank is trivially easy to produce. All you need to do is throw a few kegs and some high decibel Weezer in the midst of a bunch of college kids. Within minutes the combination will begin emitting a "Seemed Like A Good Idea" field from which all prank mayhem originates.

But the optimal prank only emerges from the fog of a common SLAGI field if several conditions occur at exactly the same time. For example, to come up with the brilliant, high concept prank of couch burning one must have a certain level of excitement underway - say a party or sports victory or even an abortive narcotics sweep by the local gendarmes. Then you need someone with a weak moral sense but a strong eye for fun to be sober enough to generate "the idea". Thirdly, everyone else needs to be sufficiently inebriated so that something like "hey let's burn the furniture!" seems like a swell idea rather than arson but not so pickled that they keep trying to get the couch out the door sideways and failing that decide to "light her where she lies" in the hall.

As you can see it is these minor variations at the nexus of the deed that can turn the "brilliant" into the "dumbass" in the ten minutes it takes the fire trucks to arrive. Although I suppose West Virginia has a higher concentration of the essential nexus variables than most - which makes them particularly fiery prank innovators. Burn Mountaineers Burn

I still hear the tears

My friend is going to Haiti. She told me she's  going without the inoculations and prophylaxis that protect against Cholera and Malaria. I know I should mind my own business because she's a healthcare professional who's been there many times and knows what she's doing. But I can't help the remembering.

I remember my friend's servant returning after an absence asking for funeral money for a child taken by Cholera. I remember the sound of her tears. And I remember my friend's mother crying to us with red rimmed eyes "why didn't she come sooner?".

I remember walking in the kampung seeing the poor bathe their children downstream from the privies on stilts and shaking our heads. I remember the man who lost a knife fight slumped against the wall, bleeding out, everyone watching him die. And the sounds and smells of the electricity thief who touched the wrong wire....bacon. And the ragdoll acrobatics of a man struck by a speeding car, flopping broken to the ground. So much death, so random, so pointless.

So I can understand why she would ask "why should I be protected when all those around me live so exposed? Why should I be privileged?"

I don't know. I have no answers. All I can hear are a mother's tears. And it is the worst sound that I've ever heard.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Smiling Eyes

From time to time I get my breakfast at McDonalds. I am particularly partial to McGriddles - that classically American concoction with the bun filled with faux maple syrup - I mean who comes up with this stuff? Almost every time I come in a small latina serves me. Her face and arms are horribly disfigured - I have this image of her as a child pulling a large vat of boiling water on top of herself. When I first started coming Marta - for that's her name - wouldn't look me in the eye no matter what I did - she'd look anywhere but at my face.

I first experienced this reluctance to look directly at me among the lepers that hung out around the marketplace in Jakarta when I was a boy: I guess they found that 'whole' people wouldn't look them in the eye or if they did, their 'look' would be filled with shock and horror. So the disfigured go through life avoiding visual connection with other people lest it once again remind them that to the world they are "hideous". Of course to them, they're not. Just as when I look in the mirror I don't think I'm old - but the disfigured have learned that looking 'wholes' in the eye is a painful experience best to be avoided. It must be a strange, lonely world - so much of what is essential about us is communicated through our gaze. As Shakespeare wrote: "the eyes are the window to your soul"

Despite never looking directly at me, Marta came to recognize me - I suppose by my voice and my typically "just got out of bed" appearance. Early on I tried a number of different stratagems to 'trick' her into looking me in the eye, including introducing myself "hi, I'm Bill, what's your name?" "Marta" she said, never raising her eyes above my chest. After a while I gave up - Marta had spent her whole life dealing with her appearance - who was I to try to manipulate her just to see if I could catch her eye? This went on for the longest time - we'd talk and joke (for I am terribly perky in the morning, it's quite a burden for others) and do all the other things that familiar strangers do in an open culture like Texas, but no eye contact.

Until one day when I was so preoccupied with my own problems that I didn't even really notice her serving me. When she asked me if I wanted my "re-goo-lar" as she puts it, I didn't even hear her. Then snapping back to the real world I looked over and there they were: her eyes - gazing steadily into mine. Her smiling eyes. I felt like I'd been given a great gift - a view into a soul more closely guarded than a fortress. And it was beautiful. Because she is beautiful - much more beautiful than I'll ever be.

We're friends now - and I'm eating a lot more McDonalds breakfasts than I probably should but I can't resist those eyes. Marta's smiling eyes.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Walk in the rain - Lyrics

Do you want to walk in the rain?
Not everyone likes the wet.
But that's when I fell in love.
Fell in love with you.

Oh oh I I'm falling in love.
Oh oh I don't know what to do.
Do you?

Can't help how I feel about you.
It's all so very new.
I can't help that I love you
What do you want me to do?

Oh oh I I'm falling in love.
Oh oh I don't know what to do.
Do you?

Do you want to walk in the rain?
Not everyone likes the wet.
But that's when I fell in love.
Fell in love with you.