Saturday, October 31, 2015

Chess Log: Several Short Games Showing The Risks Of Moving The F-Pawn Too Early

First, two very short games demonstrating that NOT capturing the Knight at e5 after 1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 f6? 3. ♘xe5! will not necessarily improve things for Black:

1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 f6 3. ♘xe5 ♗d6 4. ♕h5 ♔e7 5. ♕f7 1-0 {Black checkmated}

1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 f6 3. ♘xe5 d6 4. ♕h5 ♔e7 5. ♕f7 1-0 {Black checkmated}

Next, a game showing that Black can also benefit when White moves the f-Pawn too early -- or actually, in this case, not Castling Queenside soon enough after the standard, by-the-book 7. f4:

1. e4 c5 2. ♘f3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. ♘xd4 ♘f6 5. ♘c3 a6 6. ♗g5 e6 7. f4 ♗e7 8. ♕f3 ♘bd7 9. ♗d3 e5 10. fxe5 ♘xe5 11. ♕g3 ♘h5 12. ♗xe7 ♕xe7 13. ♕e3 ♘g4 14. ♕e2 ♕h4 15. g3 ♘xg3 16. O-O-O ♘xe2 17. ♗xe2 0-1 {White resigns}

Friday, October 30, 2015


βιβλος γενεσεως ιησου χριστου υιου δαυιδ υιου αβρααμ

Յիսուս Քրիստոսի՝ Դաւիթի որդիին, Աբրահամի որդիին ծնունդի գիրքը:

liber generationis Iesu Christi filii David filii Abraham

Geslachtsregister van Jezus Christus, de zoon van David, de zoon van Abraham.

Tabla genealógica de Jesucristo, hijo de David, hijo de Abraham:

Généalogie de Jésus-Christ, fils de David, fils d’Abraham.

The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Вот родословие Исы Масиха[a], потомка Давуда, потомка Ибрахима.

Okay, that's Matthew 1:1 in Greek, Armenian, Latin, Dutch, Spanish, French, English and Russian. I wanted to include the verse in some other languages too, some of the ones into which it was translated earliest, such as Coptic and Syriac and Ethiopic, but, because of a combination of my linguistic limitation and the issue of browsers reading fonts -- it was hard. Hard work made me quit.

The title of the post is "Matthew 1:1" in Armenian.

Why did I make this post? Because I've listened to a lot of people, some expert, most not, talking and debating and arguing and screaming at each other about the transmission of the Bible, and it occurred to me that most of the discussion had to do with the bible in its original form, and in English. And then a little bit about the Latin Vulgate, because Catholicism.

And the Bible has been translated into -- how many languages? According to Wikipedia, 539 languages for the complete bible and 1329 languages for the New Testament. Who knows how accurate or out of date those figures might be. Not me, that's who.

So anyway, there's all this screaming back and forth which I've encountered, about the problems of corruption and translation and deliberate and accidental distortion of the Bible text, back and forth, between all of these people who rarely mention any languages others than Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin and English.

So, what are the features of the Armenian, Dutch, Spanish, French and Russian translations I've given above, how many of them are the most popular and/or familiar versions in the given language, how many are the versions most highly regarded by scholars, most widely esteemed by them to be good and accurate translations of the original Greek? That's a really good question. I don't have the slightest idea. I also don't have the slightest idea what sort of discussions and debates and screaming matches are going on about the text of Bible in Armenia or Holland or Flanders or Spanish-speaking areas or France or Russia, how much those screaming matches in other languages might resemble the ones I've seen in English, how much the histories of Bible translation in each of those languages might effect those screaming matches. Absolutely no clue. It has just now only begun to occur to me to wonder about such things.

Actually, I remember now, I do have a little bit of a clue: I've seen such screaming matches in German as well as in English. Disappointingly, the German dust-ups weren't much different than the English ones. But one can always hope. The bible was first translated into Armenian long before the English or German languages even existed. Maybe that makes a difference. Is the Armenian Matthew 1:1 I copied and pasted above the same as the Matthew 1:1 in the first Armenian translation? I don't know. How many Greeks read the original Koine New Testament and/or the original Septuagint, how many read versions which are substantially different?

It may surprise you to learn that I don't know.

It's a big world. I left out Chinese and Portugese and Arabic and Japanese and Korean and Italian and Hindi versions of Matthew 1:1. Just to name a few of the biggies I left out. Biggies in terms of numbers, not necessarily in terms of interesting issues they might raise for scholars of the Bible.

What sort of issues? Yeah. Again: Excellent question.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

An Example Of Why I'm Regretting Having Joined Another Atheist FB Group

I while back I quit all of the atheists Facebook groups I was in, and for a while I didn't miss them at all. Then I started looking around again for interesting groups, and I joined one because it explicitly said in the group description that they were interested in atheists and religious believers listening to each other and giving respect and all that.

But sometimes it looks more like just another atheist group, which a few believers sprinkled into the mix for the purpose of being verbally abused.

And then there are the memes. And it appears that "meme" has accrued another definition since Richard Dawkins coined the term back in the 1970's, when he meant a characteristic or feature passed on within a group by non-genetic means, such as imitation. When I started using the word, I meant by it something close to "slogan;" ironically, I was very critical of New Atheist memes, and I didn't yet realize that not only was the term "meme" coined by The Head New Atheist Himself, but that some of the New Atheist memes which annoyed me most, such as referring to the authors of the Bible as "Bronze Age goat herders," also originated with Dawkins.

But now of course all and sundry -- or at least all and sundry in the irreputable circles in which I groove -- use the term "meme" to refer to captioned pictures used in comments, or very often in lieu of comments, in Internet discussion in places such as Facebook. For example, a meme may consist of a picture of A with a quote by A, or a caption mocking A, or a caption mocking someone else, or, for example, it may consist of a cute animal with a cute caption making it appear that the animal said that cute thing. The very popular lolcat pictures are an example of this recent definition of "memes."

So anyway, in this group which allegedly exists in order to build harmony between people who don't see eye to eye on the subject of religion there is a meme, serving as the OP of a thread, which consists of a crudely-drawn picture of the Earth and the caption:

If you were born in Israel, you’d probably be Jewish.
If you were born in Saudi Arabia, you’d probably be Muslim.
If you were born in India, you’d probably be Hindu.
But because you were born in North America, you’re Christian…

Your faith is not inspired by some divine, constant truth.
It’s simply geography.

And of course, being who I am, my first impulse was to point out that a lot of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Taoists, adherents of religions of indigenous peoples and other non-Christians were born in North America, and a lot of non-Jews in Israel, and what percentage of India is Hindu exactly? I wanted to look that up so I could contribute it to the discussion. Appears it's around 80%. Wow I thought it was much lower; I thought that between Muslims and Buddhists and Sikhs and Jains and others in India, Hindus might actually be less than 50% of the population, making the meme factually incorrect about India.

And of course the meme is factually incorrect inasmuch as it says "because you were born in North America, you’re Christian" instead of "because you were born in North America, you’re probably Christian" --

but as far as I can see, nobody in the thread wants to celebrate cultural diversity; it's just one more stupid backwoods-fundie-Christinas-vs-their-backwoods-New-Atheist-cousins Religion-is-stoopid- Is-not- Is-too Yuh-HUH Nuh-UH dealy.

I didn't notice anyone pointing out that a meme saying "because you were born in North America, you’re Christian" to all of its readers was posted on the World Wide Web, ignoring not only non-Christian Amurrkins but also all non-Amurrkins.

Or, to sum up this post in 9 words: An awful lot of New Atheists are friggin' hicks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Ran into someone saying that ethics and morality are much older than religion. I pointed out that fertility goddesses more than 30,000 years old have been found, and asked him how old he thought religion was.

Someone else in the same place said that the amount of materials up to 2000 years old in the Vatican archives are vast and that no-one is allowed to see anything in them. I asked him, if nobody's allowed to see these materials, how does he know how vast the amount of materials is? I pointed out that, although the Vatican does indeed have secret archives, the vast majority of their manuscript collection is available to scholars.

I didn't mention that some written artifacts owned by the Vatican are well over 2000 years old. I get tired sometimes. I also didn't mention that the collection of manuscripts in the Vatican library, the above-mentioned part available to scholars, is well-known, famous to scholars, even, and that the Vatican has begun putting images of those manuscripts online for one and all to see. See for yourself.

I'm not at all optimistic about getting an intelligent answer, or even a coherent answer, from either of these gentlemen. But I felt I had to do something.

Ethiopian Icons

I've just recently become aware of the whole world of Ethiopian painting. I don't really have much to say about it, because I don't really know anything about it yet except that I find it beautiful. So I'll just show you some examples of Ethiopian Christian icons.

St George slaying the dragon:

The flight to Egypt:

Another St George. Apparently George is very popular in Ethiopia:

Madonna and child. I don't know who the figures in the background are. Magi?

Chess Log: 2 More Games From My Hot Streak

As I mentioned in my previous Chess Log post, one of the delightful things about a hot streak in chess is how effortless it feels: I make strong moves and it's as if they were just handed to me, rather than my having had to work.

Note: most of the games I play are 5-0 blitz: 5 minutes allowed per side for the entire game before one forfeits on time. So there's not a lot of time during the game for strenuous mental work. And let's face it: if I spent a lot time working these things out between games, I'd be a much stronger chess player than I am.

We should also keep in mind, especially from the perspective of a weaker player against a stronger one, that it's not always clear whether the weaker player has played uncharacteristically strongly, or whether he has merely been the beneficiary of an uncharacteristic blunder by the stronger player. Which was it in this game? I played Black, White was rated more than 250 points higher than I:

1. e4 c5 2. d4 cxd4 3. ♘f3 e5 4. ♘xe5? ♕a5! 5. c3 ♕xe5 6. ♕xd4 ♕xd4 7. cxd4 ♘c6 8. d5 ♘e5 9. ♗f4 d6 10. ♘c3 ♘f6 11. ♗e2 a6 12. O-O ♗e7 13. ♘a4 ♗d7 14. ♘b6 ♖b8 15. ♖ac1 O-O 16. ♖c7 ♗d8 17. ♗xe5 ♗xc7 18. ♗xf6 ♗xb6 0-1 {White resigns}

Was 4. ♘xe5? an out-and-out blunder, or was 4. ... ♕a5! an especially strong move on my part? (Again, keeping in mind that this was a 5-0 blitz game. In a standard game, instead of 5 minutes, each side has 2 1/2 hours. Assuming an average game is 40 moves long, that's 3 3/4 minutes allotted for an average move. In a 5-0 game, 40 moves comes down to 7 1/2 seconds per move.) In any case, this put me a piece up, and apparently after the 18th move Black decided that I wasn't going to give that advantage back easily, and resigned.

In the following game my opponent and I were ranked about equally. I've played this opponent many times, and to the best of my recollection our record is pretty even. I played White:

1. e4 e5 2. ♘f3 d6 3. d4 f6 4. dxe5 dxe5 5. ♕xd8 ♔xd8 6. ♘xe5 fxe5 7. ♗g5 ♗e7 8. ♗xe7 ♘xe7 9. ♘c3 ♗d7 10. O-O-O ♘bc6 11. ♘b5 a6 12. ♘c3 ♔e8 13. ♗e2 ♖d8 14. g3 ♗e6 15. f4 ♘d4 16. ♗d3 ♘ec6 17. f5 ♗f7 18. g4 ♔d7 19. ♗f1 ♔c8 20. ♗h3 ♖he8 21. g5 h6 22. f6 ♔b8 23. fxg7 ♖g8 24. gxh6 ♗g6 25. ♘d5 ♘e2 26. ♔b1 ♘f4 27. ♘f6 ♖xd1 28. ♖xd1 ♘e7 29. ♗f1 ♖c8 30. ♗c4 ♗h7 31. ♘xh7 ♘g8 32. ♗xg8 ♖xg8 33. ♘f6 1-0 {Black resigns}

After we traded Queens on the 5th move I sacrificed a Knight with 6. ♘xe5, taking that f-Pawn out of the way, as I learned to do from Wikipedia, although usually White still has the Queen when making this sacrifice. In my opinion the key move in this win was 24. gxh6, supporting my Pawn at g7. 9 moves later black apparently thought there was no way left to stop that Pawn, and resigned.

One thing I'm wondering about is: if a player rated 200 or 300 points higher than I had taken over Black's position after my 24th move, would I still have won?

How Things Concerning Religion Change

Someone asked, "How did you become an atheist?"

I was helped along toward a rational approach to religion by various books. Especially the description of a theologian's studies early in William Gaddis' novel The Recognitions, studies which included Frazer's anthropological work -- or whatever you want to call it, some anthropologists object to it be categorized as anthropology, and I don't care how it's categorized -- The Golden Bough.

As I've written before on this blog, "I myself believe that the most interesting efforts of mankind in the arts and humanities defy categorization." Works like The Recognitions and The Golden Bough don't fit into categories, they're too good for that. They create categories into which later, lesser works fit.

Someone -- sure wish I'd written it down, I saw it once years ago and I've been searching in vain for it since -- someone said, in the 19th or early 20th century I believe, that seminaries produced more atheists than anyone else. Since then, of course, the knowledge which had been kept in the seminaries is much more widely known in the general public, and the percentage of atheists in the general public has risen, while the seminaries have become havens for hard-core hold-out believers. (And also, of course, people who prey on children and bank accounts while pretending to be hard-core believers. Yet another occasion to refer to Kurt Vonnegut's brilliant nugget: "We are what we pretend to be.")

It seems to me that there used to be, 2 or 3 centuries ago, a much higher percentage of open and unapologetic atheists in the Christian clergy than there are now. I'm judging by that remark about seminaries producing all those atheists, and also by positive remarks about Jesuits by atheists like Goethe, not to mention the number of the earliest openly-atheist 18th-century published works in modern Europe which were written by clergymen.

The Christian clergy today does not seem to be the sort of haven for open atheism which it once was.

It's interesting and ironic that The Golden Bough, which surely has helped some others besides me and that pastor in The Recognitions toward secular humanism, got perhaps its single greatest push toward fame and (at least in its 1-volume abridged form) bestsellerdom by the notoriously Christian TS Eliot. And not Christian in a cynical way and mainly by affiliation like the above-mentioned 18th century atheist clergymen, but either sincere or hiding his insincerity from me quite well so far.

I'm not going to explain TS Eliot for all of you at this point. I can't say that I've figured that one out yet.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Tudor Parfitt And The Lost Ark

I never was particularly interested in the Ark of the Covenant until a few years ago when I became aware of the work of Tudor Parfitt. Because he has investigated the Ark, Parfitt is sometimes called "the British Indiana Jones."

Indiana Jones himself did not succeed in making me interested in the Ark. Friends dragged me with them to movie theaters to see several different Indiana Jones movies, which is a bit of a coincidence, because friends are not constantly dragging me with them to see movies, and it was a different group of friends in the case of each of the movies. And I didn't like any of the Indiana Jones movies at all, except for Kate Capshaw in the second one. I'd watch Kate Capshaw in anything. Other than her, the Indiana Jones movies are a huge snore to me.

Parfitt's work interests me, but I have no idea what to make of it or of him. He's interesting. Is he a serious scholar? I really don't know. He claims that he has found the lost Ark, or rather, 1 of 2 Arks. He cites sources which say that there was 1 Ark covered in gold which was kept in the Holy of Holies. This is the Ark most of us think of, I believe. It's the one covered in gold, which was kept in the Holy of Holies. Parfitt says that there's another one, which is much more simply made, a modest wooden carving, which may have served as a drum and that this one was rescued from destruction by the Lemba tribe of Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi, as Lemba tradition states. Parfitt says that an artifact he found in storage in a warehouse in Zimbabwe is this Ark.

I have no idea what to think of this. On the one hand the story of Parfitt's alleged discovery sort of sounds like stories of discoveries of bones of Bigfoot, and of the Grail in Wisconson. On the other hand, Parfitt doesn't speak or write like a moron or a charlatan.

There's one issue I have with Parfitt's work: his reasons for rejecting the claim that the Ark is now in a chapel in the Ethiopian town of Aksum seem rather insubstantial to me. Ethiopian Christians claim in Aksum, in a sort of Holy of Holies, is the Ark of the Covenant. Whatever they are keeping in this holy place, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church allows only 1 person to see it, a monk specially chosen for the task of watching over the Ark, succeeded by another monk when he dies. No one else is alllowed to see the Ark, and the monk isn't allowed to describe it to anyone else. Rather frustrating from the point of view of archaeology, but there it is.

Parfitt rejects the Ethiopian claim because 1) the story of how the Ark came to be in that chapel goes back to the 10th century BC: a companion of Menelik, Ethiopian son of Solomon and Bathsheba, is said to have brought the Ark from Jerusalem to Ethiopia, while Parfitt sees no reason to believe that the Ark left Jerusalem before the destruction of the First Temple by Babylonian troops under Nebuchadnezzar II in the 6th century BC, and that it may have remained in Jerusalem until the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in AD 70, or longer. And 2) the earliest written record of the story of Solomon and Bathsheba and Menelik and Menelik's companion who brought the Ark to Ethiopia, dates from the 14th century AD.

I myself don't know whether to believe that any version of the Ark or Arks survives at all, nor am I the first place you should look for the best guesses as to where it (or they) might be. But to me, neither of Parfitt's objections objections suffices to make it impossible that what is hidden in that chapel in Aksum, visible only to one monk at a time, could be the Ark which resided in the Holy of Holys in the Temple in Jerusalem. I agree with Parfitt that there's no reason to believe that the Ark left Jerusalem before the Babylonian invasion. But as to 1), I fail to see how it is impossible that the legend of the Ark being brought to Ethiopia by Menelik's companion could be an embellishment of a later, true story of the Ark leaving Jerusalem, in the 6th century BC or the 1st century AD, or even later, and eventually arriving in Aksum.

As to 2), I have no difficulty in imagining how people who kept such secrecy around an object that they allow only 1 person at a time to see it, and do not allow that person to talk about the object with anyone else, might also tend to discourage written accounts of that object, so that the oldest such written account known to us might date from the 14th century -- after a long, long period of oral transmission, during which details such as the story of the Ark coming to Ethiopia in the time of Solomon and Bathsheba, might quite naturally accrue to whatever the true story might be.

I agree with Parfitt that the story of the Ark coming to Ethiopia in the 10th century BC is easily debunked. But I don't see how he has debunked the story that what is hidden in that chapel is the Ark.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Chess Log: How Did I do This?

When you're in a slump in chess it's awful, it feels as if you've never seen the game before and players you usually beat are constantly baffling you with their brilliance. Your mind feels sluggish and full of sand and debris. Absolutely awful.

When things are going well, on the other hand, wins seem to fall right into your lap. Like this one. 5-0 blitz as usual for me. I played Black:

1. c4 e5 2. d3 d5 3. cxd5 ♕xd5 4. ♘c3 ♕d8 5. g3 ♘c6 6. ♗g2 ♘f6 7. ♘f3 ♗b4 8. ♕c2 O-O 9. O-O ♖e8 10. ♗d2 ♘d4 11. ♘xd4 exd4 12. ♘d1 ♖xe2! 0-1 {White resigns}

Don't ask me how I did that. I don't know.

The Shape Of The Earth And Of New Atheism

"The world is a sphere can only be colored in so many ways."

Have you heard it colored this way? If the New Atheists were even slightly acquainted with Hebrew and Greek, they'd know that those Bible passages mentioning the shape of the Earth can be understood to refer to various shapes including spheres. In other words, although New Atheists love to insist that the authors of the Bible all believed that the Earth was flat, it's far from clear that this is the case. And that's one way -- one of many -- that we who are familiar with ancient languages and have gone round and round with Dawkins & Co on subjects like the Biblical descriptions of the Earth know that the New Atheists not only aren't familiar with ancient languages, they don't want to become familiar with them.

If they learned a little Hebrew and Greek and Latin and Coptic and Aramaic, they might learn some new things. And they definitely don't seem interested in learning new things when it comes to Judaism, Christianity and Islam and their holy books. They know everything they feel they need to know. They're set. They're done.

They're stupid.

Luke Savage knows what I'm talking about. Here are a few tidbits from his recent and delicious takedown of New Atheism's Islamophobia :

"[...]it is a crude, reductive, and highly selective critique[...]Its leading exponents wear a variety of ideological garbs, but their espoused politics range from those of right-leaning liberals to proto-fascist demagogues of the European far-right[...]The title of Hitchens’s bestselling book tells us something about the priorities and focus of the New Atheist movement ('God is Not Great' is clearly intended to be a facetious inversion of the common Arabic phrase Allahu Akbar, which translates as 'God is Great,' something which he no doubt thought was both hilarious and iconoclastic). Without exception, an overwhelming preoccupation with Islam infuses the whole discourse, even as it posits itself as a disinterested scientific critique of religion as such[...]Sam Harris’s much-discussed October appearance on 'Real Time with Bill Maher' — a crude spectacle in which he pigeonholed most Muslims as 'jihadists,' 'Islamists, or 'conservatives' — merely complements a lengthy record of Islamic demonology from him and other leading figures in the New Atheist movement[...]For the New Atheists, then, all religions are equally bad — but Islam is more equally bad[...]The excessive focus on Islam as something at once monolithic and exceptionally bad, whose backwards followers need to have their rights in democratic societies suppressed and their home countries subjected to a Western-led civilizing process, cannot be called anything other than racist[...]

I highly recommend the entire article. And I would just add that the crudity and ignorance which New Atheists apply to Islam, they apply to most of the rest of the world as well. (It's amazing to me that several of the leading New Atheists are competent or brilliant biologists -- how can they be so sensible, so informed, and so eager to learn about one scientific discipline, and about absolutely nothing else?)

I don't highly recommend this absurdly over-optimistic piece in the Spectator declaring that Richard Dawkins has lost. But if you despise the New Atheists and want to comfort yourself with a daydream that they're about to blow away like dry leaves, then by all means read it.

I, on the other hand, am cursed with an aversion to illusion. We're going to be dealing with these chumps for a while.

I also don't like that the Spectator refers to the atheists who are done with the New Atheists as New New Atheists, rather than Steven Bollinger Can Haz Nobel Atheists.

Friday, October 23, 2015

I Don't Know What Most Of The "Founding Fathers" Thought Of Religion...

And I only mention it because I highly doubt that most of the people acting as if they know, know either.

How many "Founding Fathers" were there, anyway?

And in the first place, when are we going to stop using that goddam ridiculous phrase "Founding Fathers"?!

Jefferson was a Deist who acted and spoke exactly like a Christian in public. Adams was a Christian. Franklin and Paine were atheists, and that's all I know for sure.

No, I also know that most of the people living in the original 13 States were Christians.

Okay, I'm done using the phrase with begins with 2 f's, and I'm going to say "leaders of the Revolution" instead. Are you with me? Good.

How many people are we going to count as leaders of the American Revolution? Was it exactly all of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence, and no one else? There were 56 of them -- quick, can you name them all? Let's face it, very few of you could name more than 6 or 7 without cheating with Google first. And by "you" I mean: very few of you who are going around saying: "The Founding Fathers were mostly [fill in the blank with the answer about religion you just pulled either out of your ass or out of a book or TV show or website whose conclusions you find convenient]."

But anyway, there were millions of people living in the future 13 States in 1776, 56 is a ridiculously low number of people to say were in what could be called leadership positions. The 56 signers of the Declaration were not acting entirely on their own, they answered to some other powerful colonists and had to take those other people's opinions and plans into account. 39 people signed the Constitution. Do you know what all of them believed concerning religion? No. Those 39 plus 16 others were delegates to the Constitutional Convention. According to Franklin T Lambert, of those 55, 49 were Protestant and 2 were Catholic. (I sure wish I knew what the other 4 were! Don't you?)

In other words, if most of them were theists or deists, they kept it to themselves, like Jefferson did. Maybe most of them were theists or deists. Secretly. As in: we're all just guessing about this, with the exception of a few of the Revolution's leaders like Jefferson and Adams who really opened up about religion in private letters which have survived and become public.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Tale Of 2 Manchesters And 1 Half-Crown

When I was a small boy, the Manchester Guardian sent me a half-crown, contained in a small handsome slick cardboard portfolio telling the history of the half-crown and that it was about to go out of circulation and become a collector's item.

Why did they send it to me? ("With the compliments of the Manchester Guardian Weekly," it sez on the cover of the portfolio. I still have it, the half-crown is still affixed within it.)

I don't know exactly, but I think it had something to do with the people who eventually would become my parents having attended a small college called Manchester College (it has since become Manchester University), in the small town of North Manchester, Indiana. They met as undergraduates and married at about the same time as they graduated. It was within a couple of months. Then about 4 years after that I was born, and 9 or 10 years later the half-crown mysteriously arrived.

It was more mysterious to me back then, in 1970 or '71, than it is today. Today I picture something approximately like the following, in the Guardian's circulation department: "Oy, whatcha gonna do wif that great bloody pile of half-crowns? Ya can't spend 'em much longer, Mate!" "Oy! I fought, maybe a subscription scam: vere's a small college out in the boonies somewhere in the States called Manchester College. I fought: Maybe we could mail a half-crown each to some alums, in a nice little package to look very British an all, an send a subscription form wif each one, see if anyone bites. Whatcha fink, woulddat work?" "I fink dere's one way to know for sure, Mate!" And they sent a subscription offer to my Dad and he thought I might find the coin interesting so he gave it to me.

Back then, when I was 9 or 10, it all seemed much more official and important. I was very impressed by the name of the Manchester Guardian. What were they guarding? I'm not sure whether I realized right away that the Guardian was a newspaper. I think that at first I pictured this Guardian as being some sort of secret society. As to why I'd been given the coin -- I didn't know, but I thought it best to keep it just in case in turned out to be something terribly important, like after I grew up I might take a trip to England, and someone might see that I had the coin it its shiny little portfolio, and a little gaggle of English gents in fine suits might put their heads together and murmur, and I might half-overhear phrases like "the Chosen One," and then one of the dapper gents might turn to me and say something like, "Excuse me, young Sir, this may seem a bit odd, but -- would you mind trying to pull this sword from this stone?"

Maybe it was just a subscription scam, or maybe it was slightly more than that. Perhaps there is some sort of official friendship between Manchester, England and North Manchester, Indiana and/or with Manchester University (previously Manchester College), for no real reason other than the names. I've heard of such official friendships between communities in different parts of the world, and I like them. I'm glad that such official friendships exist. More friendship in the world, I say! For whatever reason you choose!

I'm Not Planning To Watch The Steve Jobs Movie Really Soon

I won't go out of my way to avoid it. If someone wants to drag me to it I'll go willingly. I'm a big fan of Michael Fassbinder and Kate Winslet and Seth Rogan and Michael Stuhlbarg, and a small-to-medium-sized fan of Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin.

But that's not why I'm writing to you right now. I'm writing because I've seen a lot of interviews with Danny Boyle, the director of this grand epic, and Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter, and with some of the above-named cast members and so forth, and further discussions of the movie by members of the press who've gotten preview screenings, and not just the tools who work on shows like "Entertainment Tonight," but also people whom I would characterize as fairly serious journalists, like, for example, Chris Hayes and Chris Matthews, people whom I would generally trust to be sincere and forthcoming if they happened not to agree with some current bout of hero-worship, and so far I haven't noticed that either an interviewer nor an interviewee has referred to Apple products in less than ecstatic tones. Or disputed the characterization of Jobs as a genius. Or piped up to opine that his genius lay far more in marketing than in IT.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I think Apple sucks. I realize that some Apple devotees won't believe that. They will think that I'm just jealous because I can't afford all of the latest Apple stuff. And I probably wouldn't be able to convince them otherwise if I tried, which I won't. But I'm far from the only non-fan of Apple. There are so many of us that it surprises me that that I haven't heard a single person yet say, while discussing this new movie about Steve Jobs, that they don't use Apple products. Let alone: that they don't use Apple products and don't plan to and here's why. Or: that Apple products are overpriced and perform poorly and are marketed with astonishing success to rubes. Or: "No, it doesn't surprise me that the Steve Jobs portrayed in the movie has some very unpleasant sides. Not in the least."

I could probably find such a reaction to the movie if I went looking for it. Just a moment. ** googling **

No. I couldn't, not within a few minutes. Hmm.

Creepy. Reminds me of the outbreaks of vaccinate-able diseases among the children of Hollywood.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Climate Catastrophe Is No Secret, Even Though Many People Act As If They've Never Heard Of It

Most people know that global warming is already starting to kill us off, and that it's getting much worse very quickly. Even though they act as if they don't know.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, I think that the word "secrets" is overused today on TV and the Internet and in print, in shows and writings on historical topics. A show with the title "secrets of the Sphinx," for example, may possibly contain some information which was unknown to the producers before work on the episode began, but a graduate student specializing in the early history of Egypt quite likely already knew every fact contained in the show, and besides that would be able to identify every inaccuracy presented by the show as a fact. And those grad students and their colleagues and instructors aren't keeping anything secret: on the contrary, it's the job of historians to spread their historical knowledge to the utmost of their ability.

The state of the Earth's climate is no secret, although if you were to judge strictly from the way people continue to use SUV's, air conditioners, swimming pools and so forth, you might think that it was.

In the 1840's the German Historian Leopold von Ranke wrote:

"Nicht Blindheit ist es, nicht Unwissenheit, was die Menschen und Staaten verdirbt. Nicht lange bleibt ihnen verborgen, wohin die eingeschlagene Bahn sie führen wird. Aber es ist in ihnen ein Trieb, von ihrer Natur begünstigt, von der Gewohnheit verstärkt, dem sie nicht widerstehen, der sie weiter vorwärts reißt, solange sie noch einen Rest von Kraft haben. Göttliche ist der, welcher sich selbst bezwingt. Die meisten sehen ihren Ruin vor Augen, aber sie gehen hinein."

("It isn't blindness or ignorance which ruins people and states. Where the path they're on is leading doesn't remain hidden from them for long. But there is a drive within them, favored by their nature and strengthened by habit, that pulls them forward as long as there is any strength left in them. He who really controls himself is like a god among men. Most people see their ruin before their eyes, but they march right into it.")

Joachim C Fest put that quote by Ranke at the beginning of his biography of Hitler, which has sold millions of copies since its publication in 1973. It's an answer to those Germans who were adults between 1933 and 1945, when the Nazis were in power, and claimed that they didn't notice their friends and neighbors who were Jewish or Leftist or modern artists or gypsies or homosexuals or critics of the regime being attacked by storm troopers in broad daylight or arrested by the Gestapo at night, who claimed that they didn't know that the Nazi regime was headed straight toward disaster. They knew. Of course they knew.

People know that Earth's climate is in very bad shape and getting much worse very quickly, and they know that petrochemical fuels and waste of water and clear-cutting forests are making things worse. It's no secret whatsoever. The only question is how bad things will get before most people act upon what they know.

Information Is More Valuable Than Money

Someone I know just said that information is worth more than money. She got a lot of disagreement for saying so, but of course she's right. For example, the information that money is worth exactly as much as people agree it's worth, no more and no less. On the microeconomic scale, for example, persons A and B may have identical items, but A sells his to a for $75 and, on the same block, 2 houses over, B sells hers to b for $200, if that's what A and a and B and b agree upon. And such price fluctuations are hardly unusual. And information may not be the only factor in the price difference, but it could be a major one. For example, a, B and b were all in possession of the information that items similar to these are selling on eBay for $250 and more, but A didn't know, so a was able to bargain him down to $75.

For another example: b didn't know that a seller with better prices was right down the street.

For another example, all 4 of these people knew how much the item would get on eBay, but a knew that A needed cash right away and was willing to exploit A' situation.

Or, the other way around: A knew that a was in a bind financially but was too proud to take an explicit handout, so he gave a a hidden handout in the form of taking $125 off the price of the item.

But it's not just on the small scale between individuals where money is worth exactly what people agree it's worth: on the largest scale, states can declare that their currency is now worth 1% of what it was worth up until then; or they can issue a new currency and say that every new dollar or pound or peso is worth 10, or 100, or 1,000,000 of the old dollars or pounds or pesos -- they can declare whatever they want. And other states can agree or not, it's up to them. And no matter what the states decide, their individual citizens can agree or not, just as they like. They can prefer to use foreign currency, which is a way of agreeing that the domestic currency is worth less than the state says it's worth. They can start a revolution if they entirely disagree with the state's fiscal policy, and attempt to install a new regime. One state can interfere with another, whether it's meddling with the other state's currency or attempting to overthrow the other state entirely, which is usually done wholly or in large part over considerations of money.

If you know earlier than most people that state I is planning to devalue its currency, or issue new currency, or to interfere with or overthrow state II, you can use this information for your own great financial gain; or you can publicize the information to the benefit of many other people. If many people have certain information it can have a huge effect on the prices of certain commodities and certain currencies. Mis-information often has similar effects.

The examples of information affecting the values of things including money are vast in number. The primary position of information is very simple and plain to see once you grasp it. Apparently, many people don't yet grasp it.

And THAT most certainly has a crucial effect on the value of money, and on people understanding what money is for, and coming to better, more sensible and mutually-beneficial agreements.

I don't know whether this post helped anyone, or if some people already understood everything I said and others still don't understand what I said.

There's another example of information controlling financial things: if an author can quantify and demonstrate information about the effect of his or her writing -- quantities like book sales, blog pageviews, readers' comments, etc -- he or she can use that information to justify an asking price for a publisher to reprint a blog post or take over the publishing rights for a book. And just with A and a and B and b at the beginning of this post, the amount of information the author has about the publisher and vice-versa can greatly affect the amounts of money involved in their interactions.

The possible examples just go on and on. I've given you examples at the microeconimic end, with individuals bargaining over the price of a single object, and at the macroeconomic end, with the fiscal policies of states. In the middle, businessmen are thoroughly familiar with the primary importance of information -- or at least they ought to be. Say that X owns a retail electronics business, and manufacturer Y is offering a shipment of computers to X at a certain price. If X knows that a new manufacturer is about to flood the market with computers priced much lower than Y's, then he or she may be in no hurry to do business with Y. However, if X knows that the new computers are of very low quality and that many retailers are going to buy more of them than they can sell, he or she just may want to get as many of Y's computers as possible.

Of course, if Y knows that X knows all of this, then Y may decide to up the asking price, or may be less inclined to offer X a big discount for quantity.

Information is key, the examples go on and on.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Was Soll Man Noch Dazu Sagen

Die Sueddeutsche Zeiting sagt:

"Das Auto einer türkischstämmigen Familie in Perlach ist in der Nacht zum Freitag mit einem schwarzen Hakenkreuz beschmiert worden. Die Polizei ermittelt. Für einen politisch rechts motivierten Hintergrund habe man aber bislang keine Anhaltspunkte gefunden, sagte ein Sprecher des Münchner Polizeipräsidiums am Sonntag.

Später stellte die Polizei klar: Selbstverständlich seien Ermittlungen wegen einer rechtsmotivierten Tat eingeleitet worden. Der Staatsschutz ermittle."

Ein Leser sagt:

"Das ist Bayern. Was soll man noch dazu sagen."

Dass Du ein Vorurteil sofort mit einem zweiten beantwortest. Dass die bayrische SPD, Gruene und Linken (zusammen 40,3% beim letzten Landtagswahl) Deine Solidaeritaet sicherlich zu schaetzen wissen. Von ethnischen Minderheiten in Bayern zu schweigen. Von dieser einen tuerkischstaemmmigen Familie mal ganz zu schweigen. "Das ist Bayern. Die sind halt so." "Die Leute von dort, Du weisst schon, wo ich meine, die sind halt alle so."

40,3% der Bayer, vielleicht mehr als das, vielleicht mehr als 50%, wollen nicht, das Bayern so ist und so bleibt. Diese vielleicht 40% oder so, wenn sie ab und zu in die Schlagzeilen kommen wuerden -- nicht um die rechte Mehrheit zu verschweigen, gar nicht um rechtes Verbrechen oder rechte Aeusserungen einzelner Beamten auszublenden oder zu relatavieren, sondern einfach die Leute vor Ort zu zeigen, die damit nicht einverstanden sind, einfach zu zeigen, dass man nicht in Hamburg oder Berlin sein muss um nicht mit solchem einverstanden zu sein -- wenn diese vielleicht 40% von Bayern ab und zu in die Schlagzeilen kommen wuerden, wuerde das vielleicht ihnen hilfen, das zu leisten, was, angeblich, SPD und Gruene und Linke auch ausserhalb Bayerns leisten wollen. Auch wenn es vielleicht nicht mit dem Ueberlegenheitsgefuehl dieser Nicht-Rechten ausserhalb Bayerns hilfreicht sein wuerde.

Bei der letzten Wahl in Hamburg erzielten SPD, Gruene und Linke zusammen ueber 70%. Dezent waere, zumindestens dann und wann zu anerkennen, dass es leichter ist, Nicht-Rechter zu sein in einer Stadt wo 70% es sind, als in einem Land wo 40% es sind.

So sieht das mir von ausserhalb Deutschlands, mit allen Problemen des Optiks, die mit dieser Ferne ganz ohne Zweifel verbunden sind. Nicht, dass ich ausschlieslich ueber meinem Ausland, Eurer Heimat meckern: Ich habe sehr Aehnliches ueber Democrats in Texas, dem amerikanischen Bayern, geschrieben, und ueber amerikanischen Journalisten, die ab und zu schreiben als waeren 50,1% gleich 100%..

Sunday, October 18, 2015

And Now For No Reason, 6 Old Photos Of Motorcycle Road Racing

Grand Street, 1981-2004

Are there still a bazillion brilliant little journals rising and sinking in the sea of mediocrity the way there were before the Internet distracted me from them and my blog became one of a bazillion blogs, a few of them brilliant?

For a short while before I sobered up in the mid-90's my favorite bar was on Grand Street in lower Manhattan, close by the one I went to first because it was in the tourist guide. But the bar in the guide was packed with angry yuppies -- angry because the rush of business caused by the mention in the tourist guide had destroyed the qualities which had gotten it into the tourist guide? angry because it was plain to see that I didn't belong among them? angry because they were yuppies and had no souls? -- and very quickly I found the other one right next door, much less crowded, much more friendly, much more diverse in the ages and ethnicities and sartorial styles of its clientele.

I never saw the offices of the literary and visual-arts journal Grand Street while I was down there. I don't know whether Grand Street's offices were ever actually on Grand Street. And apparently there's at least one more Grand Street in NYC, in Brooklyn.

Grand Street was founded in 1981, published stuff which was usually somewhere between good and astonishingly good, and it folded in 2004. Where did it come from? Why did it go? Why it and not USA Today?

Grand Street, Vol 3, No 4, Summer 1984, before it became a visual-arts journal in addition to a literary journal. Astonishingly good: excerpts from William H Gass' monster novel-in-progress The Tunnel and Elinor Langer's soon-to-be-published biography of Josephine Herbst, American Leftist, victim of untrue denunciations by the notoriously confused-or-much-worse Katherine Ann Porter. Proof that nobody, not even Grand Street, is perfect: a corny short story by Leonard Michaels and a piece by Gary Giddins which has aged spectacularly poorly: "Young Jazz Musicians." Out of all of the people in the world who were young and jazz musicians in the summer of 1984, which 2 did Giddins single out for our special attention? Bobby McFerrin and Wynton Marsalis. Thanks a lot, Gary, not!

In the astonishingly-good Grand Street 38, 1991, all in one issue, writing by, in addition to the journal's founder Ben Sonnenberg, Julio Cortazar, Kazuo Ishiguro, Kenzaburo Oe, Andre Gorz, Richard Powers and Michael McClure and others, and original pictures by Robert Rauschenberg on the cover and some more inside, and also pictures by others.

But that's just how Grand Street was. I'm not saying 38 was the best issue of them all, I'm not saying it was in the top 10, I have no idea whether it was, the point I'm trying to make is that there was so much brilliance published by Grand Street between 1981 and 2004 that I can't begin to comprehend or assess it all. 38, great as it is, may actually be below average for all I know. Grand Street was the astonishing shiznit. For the most part. Everybody's human. So was, for example, Partisan Review, 1934-2003. So were a lot of periodicals which rose and sank in the sea of written dreck. And now we're left with Stephen King and John Grisham and USA Today.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Hey Shinola -- You Know What Watch Enthusiasts Want

Watches are going out of style, we've all got the time on our phones, so watch ownership is becoming less and less about practical things like keeping time and more and more about intangibles like things that people like, and maybe they can't explain it rationally, and maybe they don't even try. They just like X, and that's basically the whole story. People who spend more than a little on watches these days tend to like mechanical watches. (Mechanical means driven by springs rather than batteries.)

Shinola, the shoe-polish company and part of the well-known old saying, has been making what looks like a huge comeback by expanding into things like bicycles and, for example, good-looking watches. I mean those watches really look sharp.

But last I'd heard they still all ran on quartz batteries.

The other day I happened to see a brand-new Shinola store and went inside for a look. The store is on a downtown corner and outside on the corner above the door next to the sign is a sharp-looking clock, looks a lot like those watches. Inside they had various knickknacks and a coffee bar with muffins and whatnot, and lots and lots and lots of those cool-looking watches.

All running on quartz batteries. And there's nothing wrong with that, from a practical point of view. Those kinds of watches tend to keep very good time. But like I said, watch ownership is becoming less and less about clear-cut tangible practical things like that. And I know that Shinola knows that people want mechanical watches because the salesman began to answer my question about mechanical watches practically before I was done asking it: no, there were no mechanical watches yet, no, he didn't know exactly when Shinola might start offering mechanical watches for sale. Just exactly as if he heard that same question many times a day.

What more can a person say about this?

Thomas Aquinas' 5 Proofs Of God

!f I were asked for a list of the things I dislike about Christianity, the high regard many Christians have for Aquinas TO THIS DAY would be high on the list. What a Bozo! The following are Aquinas' 5 proofs of God, summarized.

l) The Proof from Motion. We observe motion all around us. Whatever is in motion now was at rest until moved by something else, and that by something else, and so on. But if there were an infinite series of movers, all waiting to be moved by something else, then actual motion could never have got started, and there would be no motion now. But there is motion now. So there must be a First Mover which is itself unmoved. This First Mover we call God.

2) The Proof from Efficient Cause. Everything in the world has its efficient cause--its maker--and that maker has its maker, and so on. The coffee table was made by the carpenter, the carpenter by his or her parents, and on and on. But if there were just an infinite series of such makers, the series could never have got started, and therefore be nothing now. But there is a maker for everything there is! So there must have been a First Maker, that was not itself made, and that First Maker we call God.

3) The Proof from Necessary vs. Possible Being. Possible, or contingent, beings are those, such as cars and trees and you and I, whose existence is not necessary. For all such beings there is a time before they come to be when they are not yet, and a time after they cease to be when they are no more. If everything were merely possible, there would have been a time, long ago, when nothing had yet come to be. Nothing comes from nothing, so in that case there would be nothing now! But there is something now-the world and everything in it-so there must be at least one necessary being. This Necessary Being we call God.

4) The Proof from Degrees of Perfection. We all evaluate things and people in terms of their being more or less perfectly true, good, noble and so on. We have certain standards of how things and people should be. But we would have no such standards unless there were some being that is perfect in every way, something that is the truest, noblest, and best. That Most Perfect Being we call God.

5) The Proof from Design. As we look at the world around us, and ourselves, we see ample evidence of design--the bird's wing, designed for the purpose of flight; the human ear, designed for the purpose of hearing; the natural environment, designed to support life; and on and on. If there is design, there must be a designer. That Designer we call God.

I've asked it before on this blog, I'll ask it again: whom was Tommaso d'Aquino (1225 – 7 March 1274) addressing with these celebrated so-called proofs? We can only infer about people's private communications from the written record which has survived, and one person can never know with certainty what any other person is thinking, except through telepathy, whose existence I regard as about as convincingly proven as God's. But to judge from the surviving written record, no one within hundreds of miles of Aquinas, during his lifetime, could express the faintest doubt about God's existence without being gruesomely tortured and burnt alive for it. Those whom Aquinas regarded as his most evil adversaries, Muslims and Jews, believed in a God with just about exactly the same attributes as those Aquinas imagined. Well, it's possible that Aquinas didn't know that, although it boggles the mind. And some scholars contemporary with Aquinas had had the temerity to write some positive things about some Muslim authors such as Averroes, occasioning one of the most angry of Aquinas' depressingly numerous books.

But no, although Aquinas flew into any number of hissies about what he saw as the errors in the descriptions of the attributes of God written by Christians and Muslims, he definitely knew that they all believed in God's existence.

Is it possible that the thing against which Aquinas was mightily struggling with such things as his 5 proofs were the faint murmurs of common sense inside his own brain (which he undoubtedly would describe as the efforts of Satan to drag his eternal soul down into Hell forever)? The thing is, I haven't yet found anything else which it possibly could be. To many Christians, Aquinas' writings represent the pinnacle of human wisdom. To me, they look like very much the opposite: an attempt to oppose clear thought at every turn with every available means, a desperate battle against the free use of yr brain.

Friday, October 16, 2015

1841. And Latin. And Photography

Photography existed in 1841 -- but how long it had existed by then, is debated. Since the 1820's, or longer. As far as the use of the Latin language by photographers in the early 19th century, one might think that the term camera, from camera obscura, Latin for dark chamber, indicates a familiarity with Latin among early photographers, but no: knowledge of the camera obscura, which is not exactly the same thing as what we call a camera, is attested as early as the 5th century BC, in the works of the Chinese philosopher Mozi. Aristotle, Euclid, Roger Bacon, Leonardo da Vinci all were familiar with the camera obscura, and Kepler gave it its Latin name. When devices for making photographs were first named cameras in the 19th century, they were merely adopting Kepler's 17th-century term. The term photography -- from Greek, not Latin -- was used by John Herschel in 1839, and possibly by others before that. It is in the nature of Western learning that those familiar with Greek tend to be very familiar with Latin, and I think we may safely assume some knowledge of Latin on the part of Herschel, who attended Eton and Cambridge and translated the Iliad into English and was a founding member of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1820. But Herschel's Classical education does not necessarily say anything about the linguistic knowledge of other early photographers.

I have not been able to find any published works in Latin by John Herschel. And that seems strange for a man of his time, education and achievements. Of course, my not finding Latin works by Herschel should not be assumed to indicate that he published no such works. Perhaps he did not, or perhaps my trouble in finding such has more to do with lack of linguistic interests of those writing about Herschel today. Much the same can be said about my finding no Latin works by the early, traditionally-educated photographers Nicéphore Niépce and François Arago. William Henry Fox Talbot, another early-19th century photographer, went to Cambridge and won a prize in Classics there for crying out loud, and still, all actual Latin works by him have been cleverly, thoroughly hidden from me.

Louis Daguerre and Thomas Wedgwood came from less upper-crusty backgrounds and more therefore have had less occasion to learn Latin, although those backgrounds certainly don't make a knowledge of Latin on their part impossible.

The earliest confirmed date of a photograph of the Khyber Pass I could find: this one from 1878.

Of the Ottoman Empire, from 1864:

Baseball, 1862:

I'm flummuxed by my inability to find Latin works by such people as Herschel, Niépce, Arago and Talbot. Is this an indication of the beginnings of that notorious split and antagonism in Western culture between science and the humanities? It was as natural as could be that Kepler both experimented with optics and wrote in Latin. There was no reason why the one would have made the other less likely. And it would have been very strange indeed for Roger Bacon, probably the leading expert of his time on the subject of optics, to compose entire works in any other language than Latin, even though he was fluent in several other languages and was a pioneer and what we would recognize today as linguistics.

It's absurd and a disaster that today, tinkering with gadgets often makes a knowledge of Latin less likely, and vice versa.

Nur ein Beispiel: VDS

An die Leute in Deutschland:

Was ist ein VDS? Ich suchte bei der deutschen Wiki, das ergab Unmengen von "Vereinen deutscher S____". Es ist ueberhaupt schwierig (fuer mich), vom Ausland her Nachrichten zur deutschen Politik zu verfolgen: "--FGR kommt noch! --JKL-Schwaetzer! --Biste wohl WTY-Mitglied und unterstuezt NBL im Auftrag des QZX! --Lieber WTY als SCB mit UIJ und CSK-6!" Usw ohne Ende. So klingt es mir. Ich weiss gar nicht wie Ihr die Akronyme alle in die Koepfe erstmal kriegt. Und erst recht nicht weiss ich wo -- wenn ueberhaupt -- man die Akryonyme erklaert bekommt, die Ihr alle irgendwie schon auswendig kennt.

"Vorratsdatenspeicherung" also! Danke, Katharina! *vorratsdatenspeicherung googeln* (Oh my, that's a lot of very long words.)

Keine Sorge, ich waehle also (was Deutschland angeht, aus Notwendigkeit) den unpolitischen-Kuenstler Modell! Meine Nerven sind zu sensibel fuer derart lange rechtswissenschaftliche Woerter. Das heisst: ich bin ein eingebildeter Einfaltspinsel. Mindestens was deutschem politischem and und rechtlichem Jargon angeht. Offenbar. Wirklich, mein armer einfaetiger Kopf schmerzt schon beim Anblick von Beschreibungen der VDS. Aber es ist wirklich nicht so, als koennte mir etwas gleichgueltig sein, wenn es Euch wichtig ist. Ich hoffe dass Ihr trotz diesen peinlichen Zwischenfalls noch wir vor emsig herumsprechen werdet, dass ich den Lit-Nobel bekommen sollte meines hervorrangenden multispraechigen Genies wegen. Ich liebe doch alle! ¡No pasarán! ¡Nosotros pasaremos! veni vidi vici. Able was I ere I was Elba, usw usf.

»Die Betrachtungen waren also eine Kampfschrift, aber doch zugleich schon ein leidenschaftliches Stück Arbeit der Selbsterforschung und der Revision meiner Grundlagen... Aber Selbsterforschung ist meist schon der erste Schritt zur Wandlung, und ich erfuhr, daß niemand ganz der bleibt, der er war, indem er sich erkennt.« -- Thomas Mann

Thursday, October 15, 2015

If You Tell Just 1 Person That I Deserve The Nobel Prize In Literature --

-- and that person tells just 1 more person, and that person tells another person, and so forth and so on: together, we can build a better world.

Here: look at this kitty:

-- you feel better already, dontcha? Yeah. Have a great day, everybody! And tommorrow -- have another one!

(PS: Of course, if you were to tell lots and lots of people instead of just one, that'd be even better. Or if you happen to have a cash surplus and you said it on a billboard or in a TV commercial. But if you only say it to 1 other person, that's great also. I mean it.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Studien Belegen: Soziologe Sind Doof

Schwarzer Kaffee, Radieschen, Gin Tonic – wer diesen Nahrungsmitteln zugetan ist, hat häufiger psychopathische und sadistische Züge, zeigt eine aktuelle österreichische Studie. Wie entsteht dieser Zusammenhang?

Schwatzen Sie unaufhoerlich Quatsch? Dann sind Sie womoeglich Soziologe, zeigen Studien, die seit mehr als einem Jahrhunderte unternommen werden.

Steven Bollinger, Author des renommierten amerikanischen Blog The Wrong Monkey, erklaert die Zusammenhaenge:

"Soziologe sind doof."

Schon als kleines Kind ist dies dem Nobelverdaechtigen Blogger aufgefallen, und dass ein grosses Teil des Popblems davon haengt, dass Soziologe schwach in Math sind und in ihren nimmerendenwolldenden Studien Dateien sammeln, welche sie nicht in der Lage sind, richtig zu interpretieren.

"Nicht, dass in allen Faellen ueberhaupt nutzbare Dateien erst mal gesammelt werden,"

fuegt Bollinger hinzu.

"Es ist zum Heulen."

Monday, October 12, 2015

"A Muslim, A Jew, A Christian, A Hindu, A Sikh And An Atheist Walk Into A Juice Bar..."

"...and they talk and laugh and become good friends. It's not a joke, it's what happens when you're not an asshole."

Thank you, Internet!


Seen on the Internet (and seen by me elsewhere before there was an Internet):

"If you can't be interesting without profanity, then let's face it: you're not that interesting."

My reaction to that is: I'm sure glad I wasn't driving a car or operating a fork lift when I heard that, because it put me straight to sleep!

Yeah, I think I can be interesting without profanity. I think so. I think I can be interesting with profanity too. Sort of the way I can cook an edible meal with or without pepper. I say "edible" instead of "good" because I'm not a sophisticated cook, and I'm sure that some things I cook which taste good to me won't taste particularly good to everyone, especially not to someone who's used to 3-Michelin-star cuisine. My point is that I can do about equally well with or without pepper, and that some people will probably prefer the dishes with pepper while other will prefer those without. But my point also was that I think that "dirty" words are about as dirty or evil as black pepper. Sure: just like pepper, they're not for everybody. Just like pepper, sometimes a little goes a long way. But please, please don't act, in my presence, as if they're the end of the world, unless you're prepared to risk my rolling my eyes and perhaps even muttering under my breath.

But my point especially was this:

If you can complain about profanity and be the slightest bit interesting while doing so, you'll be the first one. Ever. In the world. Since primates first began using words.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

1841. And Latin. And Slavery

In 1841, Britain, France, Russia, Prussia, and Austria signed a treaty agreeing to suppress slave trade. Opposition to slave trade was not always the same thing as abolishing slavery in one's own dominions: Britain, France, Prussia and Austria had already abolished slavery in their home states, although not in all of their colonies, while Russia would not free its serfs until 1861. The Ottoman Empire abolished slave trade from Africa in 1847, although it was not until 1882 that it abolished slavery throughout it territories, it having been already abolished in Egypt in 1877.

In the US South, railroad companies routinely owned slaves. Most of the Southern railways prior to the Civil War were built with slave labor. Much historical research remains to be done concerning the details of the relationship between slavery and railroads in the South.

South Carolina outlawed teaching slaves to read and write in 1740; Virginia did so in 1819. After the Civil War and emancipation, resistance to the education of blacks continued in the US and continues in some circles to this day, although today most no longer dare to express this opposition with complete frankness. If you doubt this, take a good look, in person, please, at a few inner-city public schools and public libraries in the US. While you're there, please take note of how much is being done with such appallingly meagre resources.

The earliest prominent African-American classical scholar of whom I know was William Sanders Scarborough (1852-1926), college president, author of a popular Greek grammar. Gradually, the Classics departments in the US have grown more diverse. Gradually. They cannot be said to have covered themselves with glory in this regard.

Although writing in the Latin language existed as early as the 7th century BC, the earliest writers of Latin to achieve enduring fame were Livius Andronicus (c284-c204 BC), Plautus (c251-c184), Ennius (239-169) and Terence (195-159), and both Livius Andronicus and Terence were born slaves and set free in recognition of their talents. There is some disagreement about who was the very greatest writer of Latin; some say Vergil, some say Cicero, some say Ovid, some say Sallust. Some say Horace, who like the other 4 lived and worked in the 1st century BC. Horace's father was born a slave. In ancient Rome, there most definitely were some major class barriers, and yes indeed, slavery was very widespread; but when it came to literature, the writing of slaves and former slaves and the sons of slaves was mentioned in the same breath as the writing of Emperors and Senators, and, with the exception of some Emperors known to be dangerous because of their vanity and need for flattery, was praised or criticized on its literary merit with no regard to its author's social position.

The Khyber Pass was an important part of the so-called "Silk Road," which was actually several land routes reaching from as far west as Europe to as far east as China, and the major land route between Asia and Europe for thousands of years. Columbus was looking for a passage to India -- and in 1492 until he died in 1506 he thought he had found it -- because in his time and until, well, until the rise of railroads, on long journeys sea travel was generally much quicker than land travel. Besides silk, popular items of trade on the Silk Road included gold, silver, ivory, diamonds, emeralds, rubies, jade, fur, lacquer, pomegranates, carrots, spices, porcelain, weapons, and, of course, human slaves.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Chess Log: Did I Play A Good Game?

As I have repeatedly assured the readers of this blog, really good chess players, pros, are so much better than I am that I really don't know what they're doing.

Games of the Grandmasters are freely distributed for the public to see, and I've studied some of those games. Can't say I've really understood those games. I'm constantly thinking: why that move and not this one?! And these are annotated games, with notes either by one of the participants or by some other Grandmaster, notes explaining why this move and not that, and I'm talking about being puzzled by moves which are so obvious -- TO GRANDMASTERS -- that it hasn't occurred to the one making notes that someone somewhere might not understand the rationale behind them.

There is one partial exception to this incomprehension of mine: one game which I have been studying and studying and studying, to see whether it's just a matter of time before I understand why those moves were chosen. I've spent far more time looking at this game than any other world-class game, just to see if I can understand it. I feel that I now VAGUELY understand PARTS of this one Grandmaster game. One of 110,000 or 120,000 games published and analyzed in Chess Informant since 1966.

It's game 120 in volume 20 of Chess Informant, Kovács -- Benkő, Debrecen 1975, with notes by Benkő. I chose it in part because it's one of the games in that volume which comes with a diagram, so that partway through the game I could check to make sure I'd moved the pieces correctly until then.

(Yes, "Chess Informant" sounds strange, sort of like "Chess Snitch," but that's the the way the publishers of "Šahovski Informator" in Belgrade printed the periodical's title in English on the cover when they started in the mid-60's, along with translations of the title into Russian, German, French, Spanish, Italian and Swedish, and it's still published today and it's one of the world's most highly-regarded chess publications, and its name is translated into even more languages on the cover now. It pioneered a universal, language-free system of chess notation, and everyone in the English-speaking chess world has gotten used to calling it "Chess Informant," even though "Chess Information" might've been more of a spot-on translation. Hey, their English has always been much better than my Serbo-Croatian.)

All of that by way of introduction to this game, a 5-0 blitz, which I played today, playing Black, and won, against a player rated much higher than I:

1. e4 c5 2. ♘c3 d6 3. g3 ♘c6 4. ♗g2 e5 5. d3 h6 6. f4 exf4 7. ♗xf4 ♘f6 8. ♘ge2 ♗g4 9. h3 ♗xe2 10. ♘xe2 ♕a5 11. ♘c3 ♗e7 12. O-O O-O 13. ♕d2 ♕b6 14. b3 ♘d4 15. a4 a5 16. ♗e3 ♘h7 17. ♗xd4 cxd4 18. ♘b5 ♗g5 19. ♕e2 ♗e3 20. ♔h2 ♘f6 21. ♖f5 ♖fc8 22. ♘a3 ♖c5 23. ♖f3 ♕b4 24. ♘c4 b5 25. ♘xd6 bxa4 26. ♖xa4 ♕d2 27. ♕xd2 ♗xd2 28. ♘c4 ♗c3 29. ♖f1 ♘d7 30. ♖f2 ♘e5 31. ♘b6 ♖a6 32. ♘d5 f6 33. h4 ♘g4 34. ♔g1 ♘xf2 35. ♔xf2 ♗d2 36. ♔f3 ♗e3 37. ♖a2 a4 38. ♘xe3 dxe3 39. ♔xe3 ♖e5 40. b4 g5 41. hxg5 hxg5 42. c4 ♔f8 43. d4 ♖e7 44. d5 ♔e8 45. c5 ♔d8 46. b5 ♖a5 47. ♗f1 f5 48. ♗d3 fxe4 49. ♗xe4 ♖xb5 50. ♖xa4 ♖xc5 51. ♖a8 ♖c8 52. ♖a5 ♖c4 53. d6 ♖exe4 54. ♔d3 ♖ed4 0-1 {White resigns}

The title of this blog post is not a rhetorical question. I don't know whether I played an exceptionally good game or if my opponent played far under his or her usual level, or some of both, or what. We played online. For all I know, my opponent might have been interrupted by other things while playing game or have had to deal with some other hardship. (I hope he or she wasn't driving or something like that. DON'T CHESS AND DRIVE! IT CAN WAIT!)

Somewhere, I read a comment by a Grandmaster about weak players playing "as if they were hyptnotized" when playing someone rated much higher: that is, the weak players often play even substantially worse than they usually do. I knew right away when I read that that it applied to me, and it's one of the solid pieces of advice I've tried to keep in mind: basically, advice just to keep my head, not to panic, and to play my best regardless of my opponent's rating. Used to be, I always looked at my opponent's rating before the game began. Now, sometimes I make a point of not looking at that rating until the game is well underway.

About all I can think of to say about this game, as far as blow-by-blow commentary goes, is that White's Pawn storm beginning in the early 40's intimidated me quite a bit at first, but I told myself to be calm and still play my best game. A chess game ain't over til it's over.

Maybe if I spend many hours analyzing this game I'll understand it about as well as Kovács -- Benkő, Debrecen 1975, haha.

"She Runs The Most Popular Science-Based Group On Facebook. Deal With It."

Wh-wh-why would I have trouble dealing with it?

"I'm gonna have a pastrami sandwich now -- deal with it!" Okay Boss. I suppose I'll just have to come to grips with the fact that that's what you're going to do now.

"Dennis Rodman is WELL over 6 ft tall -- deal with it!" Yikes. This destroys my entire conception of reality, but if it is the truth, then I must, indeed, deal with it. What choice have I?

This Wrist Watch Has 876 Parts And Costs $2.5 Million. Deal With It.


People Say Things Which Amaze Me And I Hurry Over Here And Blog About It

You know the drill.

In this case it was somebody who was in a strictly monogamous relationship. Very very strictly, from his point of view. He said that even flirting was unacceptable. And this wasn't a Jihadist, it was an atheist who claimed to be very liberal. Still, I sort of wish there were some way I could encourage his friend to blink twice if she's being held against her will. (Hmm. Maybe not blinking twice: who knows, he might interpret that as batting her eyelashes in a flirtatious manner, and then who knows what he might do.)

I certainly know what it is to get jealous, but I don't know if I could respect a woman who never, ever flirted. Flirting is sort of like farting: it may be offensive to a lot of people, but it's perfectly natural, and it's far from the end of the world.

There is such a wide variety of human behavior in sexuality. One of my favorite moments from "Rosanne," one of my favorite sitcoms, is when Fred and Dan are talking about their sex lives with Jackie and Roseanne, respectively, and it seems that Dan and Roseanne are much more adventurous than Fred. Actually, the problem seems to be that Jackie wants to be much more adventurous than Fred does. Jackie and Fred have had sex in the bedroom, and that's it, and Fred would like it to stay that way -- Jackie, not so much. Fred tells Dan that the subject of having sex in the car has come up. The very idea seems to appall Fred. Dan is trying to tell Fred that he needs to loosen up and be more open to some of his partner's ideas, that being more adventurous could help their relationship. And here comes my favorite moment:

"Dan, do you ever have sex with Roseanne in your car?" "Hell, Fred, I've had sex with Roseanne in YOUR car."

My point in this post is not that people should have sex in cars, or that they should avoid having sex in cars, or that it's better to be adventurous or unadventurous. My point is that people are very different in many ways. Sex is only only one of many examples. Or I should say: sex is just one category of human behavior, which offers many examples of differences from one human being to the next.

Flirting and farting: some people have said that one of the highlights of intimacy for them is when they get so close to someone that they can enjoy each other's farts. I haven't been there. It's one thing if you're asleep, people fart now and then in their sleep, they can't help it. But to me -- even if I'm in love with you -- if you're awake, and you feel a gaseous moment coming on, it would be nice, if it's convenient, if you would excuse yourself and go a certain distance away until you've got that all worked out.

So who's the freak here -- me? Am I some sort of cold, unfeeling robot, since I've never allowed myself to get that close to someone? Or are the fart-sniffing connoisseurs disgusting, dog-like animals because they sniff each other's butts? No: I'm not unfeeling and they're not disgusting. We're human. Human ideas, opinions and behavior are diverse. And there's nothing wrong with that.