Thursday, July 31, 2008

Shine On You Crazy Carbon 2

I really like this title. ;-)

July 29 on The Colbert Report there was an interview with Eric Roston about his book "The Carbon Age: How Life's Core Element Has Become Civilization's Greatest Threat":

His statements at first are pretty sensible, but since I haven't read the book or much about it I don't know if he moves towards the silliness of the "climate crisis" and all that garbage. But the video is pretty funny.

Well, there are some passages from another book (first published 1990) that I've read while doing some of my shamanic studies. The passages are from the part of the book that examines the Earth element, also associated with the direction West (the four directions and the elements are very central to shamanic thinking). I kind of hate to copy whole, long passages, but here they are anyway, with some of my own notes inserted:

The characteristics of Elemental Earth are solidity, inertia and stability. It is motion at rest. Elemental Earth is elemental 'substance' coming into form and shape and becoming tangible and recognisible - coming 'down to earth.' Matter is that which appears to be. It is important to bear in mind that matter is an appearance, and it is this that makes Elemental Earth perhaps the least understood of the elemental substances.

Okay, maybe those statements aren't exactly scientifically sophisticated, but it seems they are basically correct. Though I'm only going on my own intuitive understanding which is probably pretty oversimplified. "Motion at rest" is a paradox, but it will be better explained in later quotations.

On a practical level, we spend much of our time being concerned with the acquisition of physical, tangible things, but at the same time we dislike the restrictions and limitations that the material puts on us. The West is the place of the material, of appearances, of the world of form, of physical manifestation and of learning to cope with it.

You cannot develop your spiritual awareness by rejecting the material or turning your back on it. The physical and material is all part of Creation, not a secretion to be got rid of in some mistaken quest for 'spirituality', not something to be flushed away as something 'not nice.' Don't allow yourself to be misled by a sense of false spirituality. You are here in the material world of form, and part of the reason for your being here is to learn how to control the material through the use of natural laws and cosmic forces and principles [emphasis mine]. Spiritual work is of little value unless it can be 'earthed.'

I think this points to the root of so many of the delusions and false religions that flourish today. On one hand, there are some who insist and require that we abandon all of our material possessions, and any desire for them, in order to feel spiritually clean. But how is rejecting that from which we are made supposed to be a good thing? I don't understand that line of thinking, and it seems to be synonymous with the vilification of carbon.

On the other hand, sure, we should have balance and not be too materialistic at the detriment of our well-being, but to say that one must 'transcend the physical' in order to become fully alive or whatever is kind of crazy. Personally, I'm not in too much of a hurry to transcend this physical existence because it's too short already. That transcendence will come when I die, and I hope that will be a very long time from now. Please, God, allow me as many carbon emissions as possible for at least 3 or 4 more decades. ;-)

And it is one of those basic laws of nature that we, as part of this world, will and should affect it, "to control the material through the use of natural laws and cosmic forces and principles." That is our very nature, and to deny it is insanity.

Do you not think that it gave pleasure to the Cosmic Intelligence to bring the physical world of form into manifestation? Go out into the countryside or into a park or woodland and look around you at the beauty of the natural Earth. Even though man has shaped most of it by farming, does it not give you a thrill of pleasure to absorb its magnificence? We are not intended to reject the material in preference for some nebulous spiritual alternative, but to appreciate the physical and at the same time to look for the reality behind it. Both in equal partnership.

Whether or not you accept the possibility of some Cosmic Intelligence, the earth truly is a wondrous, beautiful, and pleasurable thing. I know first hand that there are still very many 'pristine' places where man hasn't really altered nature so much, and yes, they are amazing. But we also should acknowledge the beauty and majesty of many of man's creations and alterations of the earth. We get the same kind of pleasure from creating and experiencing material, physical things as that other Creator does. And the results of our works are not always, or even usually, destructive as so many of the false prophets tell us today. We are all a part of this shimmering carbon-based appearance of matter, and I say 'shimmering' because it implies changing, which is absolutely natural and expected.

Physical objects only look and feel solid because their atoms are spinning at fantastic speeds. As in a movie, people and vehicles appear to move but what we are seeing is a succession of static pictures being projected at such a speed that there appears to be movement, but the appearance is, in fact, an illusion. An atom is mostly space. If it were possible to expand a single atom to the size of a sports stadium like Wembley in West London, England, or the Giants stadium in New Jersey, USA, its centre or nucleus would be the size of a pea in a referee's whistle. If this were placed in the centre spot, the electrons would be whirling around it at the tops of the grandstands.

All matter is as roomy as the universe appears to be, and atom particles are like the stars and planets moving about in a continual pattern. If we could travel far enough away in outer space and look back at the universe it too would appear solid.

Kenneth Meadows, The Medicine Way, pages 119-120

Again, the scientific veracity of those statements might be naive and simplistic, but it seems to be close enough. And recall that these quotes are from a book first published in 1990 by a non-scientist. The paradox of "matter at rest" basically means that what we see as matter is like a snapshot of a very complex, busy scene. And using my imagination I can see that from the right perspective the universe might really look like a solid object, perhaps a black marble, or even a black hole which might appear as a solid object sometimes too.

Anyway, I appreciate the intuitive wisdom of the shamanic ideas, but it's all too common for people who try to be "spiritual" to develop a very imbalanced view of the world, themselves, and life. I wish that more people would open their eyes to the physical realities instead of taking one idea or concept and making it the paramount concern. Like the weather. The "climate crisis" is a fraud based on some guys who try to tell everyone that our very breathing is helping to "imbalance" the planet's climate. I'm not certain how this trend has evolved, but I suspect that it is some convergence of the religious ideas that humanity is "fallen" and that the Earth should be worshipped. Neither of these ideas is really valid and their offspring, the manmade "climate crisis," is retarded too.

To be sure I'm not misunderstood I want to explicitly say that I am not discounting spirituality and religion. They are important aspects of life. I am only expressing that there must be more acknowledgement and celebration of mankind's physical existence in this physical world, instead of the self-hatred and false charge that we are destroying our world. There is as much imbalance in those who refuse to acknowledge spiritual issues and concerns, but it seems that refusing to appreciate the real physical aspects of existence is even less morally justified.

Just as Meadows said above, the Earth element is the most misunderstood, and this misunderstanding is a key psycho-social reason for the rise of the anti-carbon movement. I don't know if Mr. Roston is just another acolyte trying to convince people that they are somehow responsible for every bad weather that happens, butit's obvious that too many people have it wrong and have placed man at either too high or too low a position in nature instead of placing us precisely on the earth.

And just so I can add the "sermonette" label ;-) I'll close with a scripture:

27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue* it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Genesis 1:27-31

*means the same as "learn how to control the material through the use of natural laws and cosmic forces and principles"

I'm sorry if this post is disjointed and incomplete because of the many interruptions I've had throughout writing it. Sometimes it's hard to maintain a line of thought with too many breaks. ;-)

No Sense of Humor at the IRS

Me, waiting on hold for an IRS employee on the phone:

The worst part was that the music playing was about 5 times too loud and they only had two songs, a Nutcracker thing and some other famous classical piece that I can't think of the name now because my brain has atrophied in my now bare skull. ;-)

When finally a lady spoke to me I tried my vicious momma best to be light and funny about why I was calling, but perhaps all these IRS employees have already lost their humanity and are now humorless zombies or skeletons because she was as unmoved and as lively as a rock. And on top of that she had no answer for my question. Agh!!

By the way, the reason I was calling was because I wanted to see if they had received my second quarter 941 form which is a quarterly report of the payroll taxes that we have withheld and paid to Uncle Sam. I'm about 96% sure* I already mailed it at the middle of July (it's due by the 31st) because I think I remember thinking to myself, "I'm sending this early to get it over with, but I'll probably forget that I did it early because I'm in a hurry and haven't printed out a copy for myself." (I was trying to get everything done before leaving for our vacation.) The biggest clue that I most likely did actually mail it already is that the official envelope for mailing it is gone, and I am 99.5% sure that I did not misplace it.** Anyway, the phone call was no help because she said that it takes 6 to 8 weeks to process a form. ;-) We decided that I should probably go ahead and mail another one just to be sure, but Jesus Christ, why did I have to waste my life on the phone to hear what I already knew? Our tax dollars at work!

*That's not a too bad percentage but my memory just isn't what it used to be. And sometimes that 4% uncertainty is pretty significant. ;-)

**It occurred to me that I should probably explain the difference between the 96% and the 99.5%, although really, they aren't too dependent upon each other. In case it's not clear enough, the 96% is a more overall sense and the 99.5% pertains to only the presence of the envelope and is kind of included in the "calculations" that make the 96% total. Well, it might be better to completely ignore any of my attempts with numbers because the possibility of imprecision and errors is even higher than 96%. ;-)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Thrilling Physics 2

Recently we took our summer vacation to the amusement park Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, and also some stops in Kentucky which I'll describe at the end.

This summer the children have graduated from the Thrilling Physics (1) at Dollywood of last summer. Cedar Point is known for its roller coasters (17 in all and three of the top 10 steel roller coasters in the world) and uses the motto "America's Roller Coast" since it's on the shore of Lake Erie. It was cool for the kids to see a lake that looks like an ocean because all of our local lakes are really just dammed rivers and aren't so big.

Even my seven year old rode all the ones he was tall enough to ride. And our favorite was the 310 feet high Millennium Force:

It has to be the smoothest, fastest, and most thrilling roller coaster I've ever been on, even better than Dollywood's Mystery Mine. It is really a pure ride in that it doesn't rely on any special gimmicks like standing (though that is pretty cool) or inverted track (which is actually probably my second favorite one) or lots of loops (an old coaster which I suspect was bought from Opry Land in Nashville after it closed in the mid 1990s). I think the smoothness of the ride adds a lot to the enjoyment, and I don't really like the jerky ones whether they are steel or wooden.

Speaking of wood, we did ride their huge wooden coaster, Mean Streak,

which is aptly named since it was very rough and jerky. I think we got spoiled last year by the unusual smoothness of Dollywood's Thunderhead, still my most favorite wooden coaster of all.

Cedar Point's most extreme coaster is the Top Thrill Dragster:

It is 420 feet high (I wonder why they chose 420 ;-) ) and launches riders to 120 mph in about 4 seconds. It is designed to feel a little like a drag racing car, but my only complaint is that the entire ride is only about 18 seconds long. Well, maybe that is as much as one could handle of this straight up and straight down experience, but the long 1 hour wait in line made it a kind of lopsided time investment. ;-) The Dragster might have been my favorite over the Millennium Force if it had a longer duration (or the wait had been shorter between rides). That initial launch is the only acceleration and there were signs explaining that sometimes a train might not clear the hill on the first try and would have to roll back down to be launched again. I was sort of hoping that would happen to us so that we'd get an extra long ride, but we weren't so lucky. ;-)

We also enjoyed the once record-breaking steel coaster Magnum XL-200, the special effects themed bobsled style Disaster Transport, and the other smaller wooden coasters. Maybe it was because we were there during the week instead of the weekend, but the lines for most rides were very short, except for the newest and wildest ones. The only one of the big rides we didn't try was the Wicked Twister. I might try it if we ever go back, but as I've gotten older my stomach's tolerance for all that spinning and twisting has decreased and by the time we'd been on all those other rides I was worried about getting sickly if I pushed myself too much.

Oh, and Cedar Point's newest coaster The Maverick was pretty good too.

It reminded me a little of Dollywood's Mystery Mine but on steroids. ;-) Again, the line for this one was almost too long, but it was a great coaster with some fun surprises throughout. We only rode it once because of the long lines, but I would like to try it again someday.

I am pretty curious about the technologies used for these new super-coasters and their very fast acceleration. Even on the Millennium Force, as you are climbing that first 310 foot hill, the train actually accelerates midway up, instead of that clackety, clackety slow chain-driven climb on most coasters. I wonder how people might apply these technologies to more practical needs, especially in this time of concern with energy efficiency, etc. Well, if they could build public transportation roller coasters then I think many more people would enjoy not driving their own cars. ;-)

Okay, so maybe these amusement parks and roller coasters are kind of a redneck thing to do, and I've thought about why people enjoy them so much. It's certainly not a "natural" activity to be launched into extreme angles, twists, and descents at high speeds, but somehow it seems to serve a purpose. Or maybe I'm just an adrenaline junkie. ;-)

Aside from the thrilling physics of the rides there were other interesting things about Cedar Point. One of them was that many of their employees were students from all around the world. I saw some from Taiwan, Colombia, Turkey, Poland, Slovakia, and even China. The young guys from Poland and Slovakia were working together in a gift shop and seemed especially amused by my family's choices of souvenir trinkets. ;-)

After Cedar Point

Driving back towards Tennessee we stopped in Kettering, Ohio, where my oldest son got to skate at a famous skate park he had seen on TV.

My oldest is in the bright white t-shirt.

My youngest with a skateboarder's statue.

The way that we discovered we would be so near that park was because we drove past what we jokingly called the "giant white gorilla" that my oldest had recognized as a landmark from some skate-boarding shows. It is actually a huge Jesus statue but at first sight on the road we only saw the extended arms and thought it looked like a gorilla or something. ;-)

From now on we'll always refer to it as the Giant Jesus Gorilla, but of course we mean no offense to Jesus or gorillas. ;-) I don't really worry about God being angry with my irreverent jokes. He forgives me because I make him laugh. :-)

Then in Kentucky we stopped for a tour at Diamond Caverns. I think I could live in a cave, and I've always enjoyed touring them and learning about the geology. Maybe that's because I might be part Neanderthal. ;-)

And then we stopped at the National Corvette Museum so the kids could learn about the history of our favorite cars. Well, maybe a car museum is kind of redneck too? ;-) But really, Corvettes have been a big part of the history of American cars and culture for the last 50 years, and I think it's good for our children to appreciate those kinds of things. It must be doing pretty well because it looked like they are building a large addition to the Museum. With the fuel situation as it is, it could turn out that our sportscars will be more historical than we currently realize.

A couple more things. Another highlight of the trip for me was getting to see a couple of nuclear power plants pretty close to the roads. They are not a common sight for us, and although they might not be all that interesting to most people there is just something exciting to me about seeing them. ;-)

As we drove all through Kentucky and Ohio it was abundantly clear that the economy isn't doing so great. There were many, many large empty buildings and warehouses with signs for sale or lease, and everywhere there were so many houses for sale and/or sitting empty. It looked to me like "America For Sale". But there was also a lot of corn being grown and I wondered how much of it was actually going to food.

Well, I've rambled on too long about our big redneck family vacation. But it was very fun, and it's so important to make memories in these special ways.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wordle Fun

Saw this at Lubos Motl's and had to try it:

The first one is a general one of the blog, and the other two are more specialized. Can you guess which label I chose for the focus? ;-)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Phallic Clams

While checking my statcounter this morning I found that my Unusual Fossil post was linked in this forum. The following photos from that forum are quite impressive. I didn't know about these phallic "Geoduck" clams:

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Shine On You Crazy Carbon

"Shine On" by me, around 2005

Remember when you were young,
You shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there's a look in your eyes,
Like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire
Of childhood and stardom,
Blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!

You reached for the secret too soon,
You cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night,
And exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Well you wore out your welcome
With random precision,
Rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

Nobody knows where you are, how near or how far.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Pile on many more layers and I'll be joining you there.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
And we'll bask in the shadow of yesterday's triumph,
And sail on the steel breeze.
Come on you boy-child, you winner and loser,
Come on you miner for truth and delusion, and shine!

"Shine On You Crazy Diamond" by Pink Floyd

Cool video by someone else:

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Summertime Blues

Blah, blah, blah.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Independence Day 2008

Happy 4th of July! We are having a pool party, cookout, and fireworks. If you can get here, you're invited, as long as you can be well-behaved. ;-)

And a really cool video from the show "America's Got Talent" by two brothers who call themselves "Nuttin' But Strings":

Adaptation to Gas Prices

Some places are beginning to consider changing over to four (10 hour) work days in order to reduce their gas budgets. I've also heard of a local school system and another local government considering this change. Utah is going to the four day workweek for most government offices, except prisons, courts, and public universities. I think this is a creative adaptation to the current economic problems brought on by the insane gas prices, though it won't be without some problems and adjustments. I'll be curious to see if this 4-day week will become a permanent condition in Utah and if it will become a more common tactic across the country. Watch the video with Utah's governor:

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Favorite 1986 Video

They just don't make them like this anymore. Billy Ocean, "Loverboy"

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Lord, Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood

Baby, do you understand me now
Sometimes I feel a little mad
But don't you know that no one alive
Can always be an angel
When things go wrong I seem to be bad
But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

Baby, sometimes I'm so carefree
With a joy that's hard to hide
And sometimes it seems that all I have do is worry
Then you're bound to see my other side
But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

If I seem edgy I want you to know
That I never mean to take it out on you
Life has its problems and I get my share
And that's one thing I never meant to do
Because I love you

Oh, Oh baby don't you know I'm human
Have thoughts like any other one
Sometimes I find myself long regretting
Some foolish thing some little simple thing I've done
But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood
Yes, I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood
Yes, I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood

The Animals, "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"

One of my optimist mistakes is thinking that supposedly intelligent people will read what I write and actually understand it and not take it out of context or intention. Could be I'm not a good enough writer, but I think I tend to be pretty economical with my words so that each one is important and seems to be easily interpreted properly. Well, anyway, I'm fairly often misunderstood, but I think that the problem isn't really with me. It's with the other people who can't or won't comprehend what they read without injecting it with their own biases and prejudices and so on. Speaking of injections, it would be really cool if someone could inject me with an IQ booster just to be sure. ;-)

Sometimes we get answers but we don't know for which question. Well, that happens to those of us who tend to ask too many questions. ;-) This afternoon I was swimming with my youngest son and I noticed a cloud directly above us that appeared to spell out the word "YES". I pointed it out to him and asked him if he thought it looked like YES, and he said it did. Then I told him I should go get the camera and take a picture because no one would believe us, but I also said that it would be changed by the time I got the camera. Well, I didn't tell him, but oddly enough, to my eyes, the word "YES" transformed into "Sex." Funny how it works out that way.

My youngest is seven, almost eight. I think we have a lot in common because I find myself feeling like a spoiled rotten child sometimes. ;-) And sometimes I don't know when to stop, just like a seven year old, and just like how he continued pointing out shapes of things in the clouds for at least 30 minutes after the YES cloud.

The YES cloud reminded me of the story about how John Lennon met Yoko Ono (read the link, second paragraph, because I don't want to use up .1-.2% of my time to tell it).

It was nice that they knew and agreed upon the question to that YES. ;-)

Now I just have to figure out which question my cloud YES answered...


From all the little errors I've been making recently it's becoming more and more evident that I really do need that injection, probably more than one.

And for whatever assorted reasons my nerves have been shot for the last couple of weeks. So that's all part of it too, I guess.