Saturday, December 20, 2014

A child.....................................................

Johnny Mathis............................Do You Hear What I Hear?

Opening paragraphs................................

      Before human accomplishment could begin, we had first of all to become human.  It took a long time.  Bipedality came first, somewhere in the vicinity of five million years ago.  After bipedality, about two and a half million years passed before the animal that walked on two legs learned to make crude tools.  The taming of fire required another one and a half million years.
      Even then, after those unimaginably long spans of time, the creature was still Homo erectus, of formidable talents compared to other animal but still not yet recognizably human.  With his beetled visage and lumbering gait, Homo erectus did lot look human.  More to the point, he did not think like a human.  Homo erectus had a cranial capacity averaging only two-thirds of ours, and his mind was inhumanly slow.
      The animal that the paleo-anthropologists call Homo sapiens and that we identify as human appeared about 200,000 years ago.  It is sometime after this point that human accomplishment begins.  But when?  Shall we mark the beginning at the moment when a human first spoke a word?  Drew an image?  Sang a song?  Choosing a precise moment is, of course, as subjective as trying to specify exactly when human being stopped being Homo erectus and started being Homo sapiens.  But if one were forced to mark the dawn of human accomplishment, the year -8000 has much to recommend it.
-Charles Murray,  Human Accomplishment:  The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Science, 800 B.C to 1950

Still more to accomplish...................................?























via

A hopeful heart....................................

      Golf isn't important, but there's value in taking unimportant things seriously and serious things lightly.  So let's not play golf in order to get better at it.  Don't make it into another striving, another activity stuffed into an already overstuffed life, something else to "work at".
     "Let's not be busy this Orkney summer," I say.
      On the gearstick her hand drops lightly on mine.

-Andrew Greig,  Preferred Lies:  A Journey to the Heart of Scottish Golf

Ta-da............................................


via

Fifty years ago....................................

Lon Chaney, Jr........................................Monster Holiday

For the want..............................................

"A great deal of talent is lost to the world for the want of a little courage. Every day sends to their graves a number of obscure men who have only remained obscure because their timidity has prevented them from making a first effort."
-Sydney Smith

Never abandon your search for truth and beauty.


More Random Thoughts from Michael Wade:

"Not a week goes by without someone declaring that an apple is an orange. Those who vow to fight to the death for a particular principle often have schedule-conflicts on the day of the battle."

Wouldn't surprise me if it was $80 by February...

"If this rate of sell-off is sustained," said trader continued wryly, "oil will be free by mid-January."
-as excerpted from this Megan McArdle post

My only problem gas prices is that when we had long car trips scheduled the price was $3.60 plus.  Now we're staying at home and its $2.20 a gallon.  I'm trying not to take it personally, but how did they know?

Time............................................


Friday, December 19, 2014

For goodness sake..................................

The Boss and his mates........Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

The Wide World of Sports...........................

.....49 "mesmerizing" photos from the sports world.  A few samples:







The Mad Farmer's Love Song................

O when the world's at peace
and every man is free
then will I go down unto my love.

O and I may go down
several times before that.

-Wendell Berry

Mindfulness................................

"The coffee is carefully made. It is sipped as the day's plans are slowly written on an index card. I pause and listen to the sounds of the heater, some distant birds, and the dog stretching in the other room. Ideas stagger in with sleep in their eyes. I'd forgotten they were invited but am glad they made it before I went out the door. 

"If I'd rushed I would have missed them."

-Warren Buffett Michael Wade

Because you always wanted to know.....



















                    The Taming of the Wild Chile

     Paleoethnobotanists, the scientists who study the plants used by ancient civilizations, have theorized that chiles were first used as "tolerated weeds."  They were not cultivated but rather collected in the wild when the fruits were ripe.  The wild forms had small, erect fruits that were deciduous, meaning that they separated easily from the calyx and fell to the ground.  During the collection process, whether consciously or unconsciously, the pre-Columbian farmers selected seeds from plants with larger, non-deciduous, and pendant fruits.  The reasons for those selection criteria are a greater yield from each plant and protection of the pods from chile-hungry birds.  The larger the pod, the greater its tendency to become pendant rather than to remain erect.  Thus the pods became hidden amid the leaves and did not protrude above them as beacons for birds.  The selection of varieties with the tendency to be non-deciduous ensured that the pods remained on the plant until fully ripe and thus were resistant to dropping off as a result of wind or physical contact.  The domesticated chiles gradualy lost their natural means of seed dispersal by birds and became dependent upon human intervention for their continued existence.
-Dave DeWitt,  Precious Cargo:  How Foods From The Americas Changed The World

Context:  In the year 595 (+/-?) a volcanic eruption in El Salvador buried a Mayan farming village under twenty feet of lava, ash, and rock.  In 1978, the site was discovered and excavation begun.  It has been a treasure trove for scientists.  "We had no idea that people in the region lived so well fourteen centuries ago."

Hmmm...................................

"Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to people."
-Sahih al-Bukhari

Fifty years ago........................................

Steve Lawrence/Eydie Gorme...............That Holiday Feeling

Learning Chinese the easy way.................

............by visiting The Borderline Sociopathic Blog for Boys.

Scottish Presbyterian Zen golf....................

     But we're here, now, which is all we'll ever be as Jenny runs her tee shot right onto the green, looks delighted then embarrassed as we congratulate her.  Mike tops his into horrible rough;  I drag mine into a greenside bunker, and we all set off in pursuit of the consequences of our actions.  Golf is a Scottish Presbyterian karma game.  You pay for what you get, and what you get is what you did.  It's also somehow finally God's Will and out of your control, so don't rail against it.
-Andrew Greig,  Preferred Lies:  A Journey to the Heart of Scottish Golf

About 50 million light years away................
















More about NGC 7331, a spiral galaxy a long, long way from home, can be found here.  Looking at the photo, the question arose:  What is at the center of our "Milky Way" galaxy?  The Oracle Google was consulted.  Not sure I understood what I was reading, but it doesn't sound friendly.

A scent............................................


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Non-traditional sounds of the season.......

August Burns Red...................We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Can I get an Amen..................................?

"I am convinced digestion is the great secret of life."
-attributed to Sydney Smith

On difficulties and opportunities.............

“A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities and an optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.” 
-Harry S. Truman

The hard part......................................

"Men have always found it easy to be governed.  What is hard is for them to govern themselves."
-Max Lerner

Seasonally adjusted.......................


















via

A pretty good to-do list....................

























thanks Todd

Fifty years ago.........................................

The Ramblers......................................................Surfin' Santa

Adaptation..........................

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change."
-Charles Darwin, as featured on this blog post 

Dear Santa.........................................












































santa image via

Probably the way it really happened.........


              My Hero

Just as the hare is zipping across the finish line,
the tortoise has stopped once again
by the roadside,
this time to stick out his neck
and nibble a bit of sweet grass,
unlike the previous time
when he was distracted
by a bee humming in the heart of a wildflower.

-Billy Collins

The Cross of Iron.............................

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
-Dwight David Eisenhower, as excerpted from this speech

Consequences....................................


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The thrill of hope....................................

Susan Boyle.........................................................O Holy Night

Opening paragraphs................................

This book is first about how people pursue happiness in their lives, and then about how government can help in that pursuit.
     It is not a topic that is easy even to name, for "happiness" is an honorable word fallen on hard times.  We have gotten used to happiness as a label for a momentary way of feeling, the state of mind that is the opposite of sad.  Happiness is the promised reward of a dozen pop-psychology books on the airport book rack.  It is a topic for bumper stickers and the comic strips - happiness is a warm puppy.  A book on public policy about "happiness"?  Surely there is a sturdier contemporary term I might use instead.  "Quality of life," perhaps:  "This book is about personal quality of life, and what government can do to improve it."  Or more respectable yet:  "This book is about noneconomic indicators of perceived personal well-being, and their relationship to alternative policy options."  But there's no getting around it.  Happiness is in fact what we will be talking about.
-Charles Murray, In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government

Important..................................

"Just as war is too important to be left to generals, so is happiness too important to be left to philosophers."
-Charles Murray

So, that's how she did it..........................

........................low-stress Christmas tree decorating - here.

I'm liking our tree this year:


Fifty years ago.........................................

Hank Thompson......I'd Like To Have An Elephant For Christmas

'Tis the season...................................























from his archives

Making a difference....................................

.....................................................one person at a time.

"Today race is industrialized — a spectator sport driven by divisional politics, entitlement, false prophets, social media and white pundits with intellectually superior opinions who rarely have had a meaningful relationship with a person outside of their white inner circle."

"These days, both blacks and whites feel abandoned by Washington. So the solution to our nation's racial discourse should be handled by us individually, one person at a time — and not by exploiting bad deeds done by both sides that only further the hatred."


Full essay here.


via

Only at the History Blog.........................

The blog post starts:

The year was 1989. Milli Vanilli had three number one singles and a metal detectorist discovered a bronze dagger blade and a few rivets on Racton Park Farm, near Westbourne, outside Chichester, West Sussex.


The bronze dagger blade is over four thousand years old.  Perhaps the writer is a Milli Vanilli fan.  Full post is here.

On hating losing but not relishing competition...

      Three brothers triangulated and defined by their approach to golf.  If David was calm and naturally talented, and Sandy the swashbuckler, I was always intense and cautious in my game.  I didn't relish competition, but hated losing.  My main aim was to avoid making mistakes:  don't miss the fairway, don't miss the green, don't three putt.
      It sounds rather negative.  The fact is that if you avoid making mistakes you will never be an outstanding golfer, but you will score well and win your share of youth tournaments.
-Andrew Greig,  Preferred Lies:  A Journey to the Heart of Scottish Golf

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

For ever and ever..............................

The Royal Choral Society........................Hallelujah Chorus



Handel's full Messiah (2:38:22) is here.

The Breakthrough 52.........................

Nicholas Bate offers this list for us to ponder and work on.  A few samples:

1.  When you help someone you don’t weaken yourself. You don’t give away your power. You become a better version of you. Try it.  

8.  When you own the consequences of your actions you are finally liberated.

13.  The brain must be exercised just like the body. And just like the body without use it deteriorates. Unlike the body it needs no sweaty gym kit. Just a couple  of good books a week could open up whole new parts of the lobe.

20.  You can do anything but you can’t do everything. Trying for the latter just causes frustration which causes a low mood which means you can’t do anything. Daft, really.

30.  This is a great time to be on this planet: there’s so much to be done. You’re needed, really needed. Are you up for the job? One Planet: To Be Saved. From Idiocy.

35.  Love has many aspects. One is encouragement. One isn’t judgement.

36.  Make everyone you meet every day feel better. Their positive return vibes will flood your body. You’ll never get a cold nor sore throat again. Ever.

49.  If something isn’t working try again and again and again. Then try something different. But the thing is to try.

51.  All superheroes have a weakness. Otherwise they would be totally dull. That’s why we all have a few. Some of us have a lot. Makes us damn interesting.

Lessons......................................

When I turned thirteen, he'd produced his .22 rifle and said, "I think you're ready to learn to use this."  His expression then had been very similar, and I still can't read it.  All I know is he believed that life had stages and they needed to be marked.
      Our infrequent moments of closeness were always enacted like this, over ways of doing.  With the rifle I had to demonstrate I had the maturity to handle what he stressed was a lethal weapon, before he ever put a bullet in the chamber.  Which meant thinking about consequences, being heedful, doing things properly.  It was that, not numerical age, which earned the right to use it.
      Golf was the same.  The teaching he gave us was about more than grip, stance, swing.  He was passing on the ethos and etiquette of the game, which expressed his own deepest values.  They were iron laws.  Never to talk or move when someone else is playing.  Attend the flag for your partners.  Don't hold people up.  Watch your partner's ball, mark where it's gone, help search for it.  Win without gloating; lose without sulking.  Don't show off - but feel inferior to no one.
      There was one lesson even more elemental that these.
      "Bobby Jones several times called penalties on himself for infringements that no one but himself had seen.  He nearly lost the US Open because of it.  And when he was congratulated for his honesty, you ken what he said?"
      My father glanced at me as we drover over the hill to St. Andrews that bright, breezy afternoon.  I think even then I was aware days like this wouldn't come that often.  I shook my head.
      "He said, 'You might as well praise a man for not robbing a bank.' "
-Andrew Greig,  Preferred Lies:  A Journey to the Heart of Scottish Golf

Ed. Note:  This is a wonderful book.  If there is a difficult-to-buy-for golfer on your Christmas list, you can earn significant style points by buying this book for them.  There is still time.

Uh-oh..............................................


Fifty years ago......................................

The Beach Boys..............................................Christmas Day

Opening paragraphs.................................

On the second floor of a characterless hotel in the British Crown Colony of Gibraltar, a lithe, agile man in his late fifties restlessly paced his bedroom.  His very British features, though pleasant and plainly honourable, indicated a choleric nature brought to the limit of its endurance.  A distraught lecturer, you might have thought, observing the bookish forward lean and loping stride and the errant forelock of salt-and-pepper hair that repeatedly had to be disciplined with jerky back-handed shoves of the bony wrist.  Certainly it would not have occurred to many people, even in their most fanciful dreams, that he was a middle-ranking British civil servant, hauled from his desk in one of the more prosaic departments of Her Majesty's Foreign and Commonwealth Office to be dispatched on a top-secret mission of acute sensitivity.
-John Le Carre,  A Delicate Truth

Still searching.....................................

"A good government implies two things;  first, fidelity to the object of government, which is the happiness of the people;  secondly, a knowledge of the means by which that object can be best attained."
-James Madison

On controlling emotions....................

“Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself.”
 -attributed to Publilius Syrus

If you would like to turn "negatives into positives" and thrive "amidst unthinkable chaos and turmoil," this Ryan Holiday post might be worth your time.

Concerning the Publilius quote:  Not sure he really said that, but his Maxim 891 reads:
"The greatest of empires, is the empire over one's self."

Close enough.

Christmas isn't for the faint of heart.............

Not sure where he finds these, but this one is pretty cold..........

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sprinkly things......................................

George Strait..................................................Christmas Cookies



The danger........................................



































via

To Hell With Commonsense................

More kicks than pence
We get from commonsense
Above its door is writ
All hope abandon. It
Is a bank will refuse a post
Dated cheque of the Holy Ghost.
Therefore I say to hell
With all reasonable
Poems in particular
We want no secular
Wisdom plodded together
By concerned fools. Gather
No moss you rolling stones
Nothing thought out atones
For no flight
In the light.
Let them wear out nerve and bone
Those who would have it that way
But in the end nothing that they
Have achieved will be in the shake up
In the final Wake Up
And I have a feeling
That through the hole in reason’s ceiling
We can fly to knowledge
Without ever going to college.


-Patrick Kavanagh

Some things never change........................

"Private Vices by the dextrous Management of a skilful Politician may be turned into Publick Benefits."
-Bernard Mandeville  (1670-1733)

Most threatened.......................................

“A free society is most threatened not by uses of government that are obviously bad, but by uses of government that seem obviously good.” 
-Charles MurrayWhat It Means to Be a Libertarian

Fifty years ago................................

Johnny Lytle Quintet...............................The Village Caller

On Economics..................................

      Economics helps you understand that money isn't the only thing that matters in life.  Economics teaches you that making a choice means giving up something.  And economics can help you appreciate complexity and how seemingly unrelated actions and people can become entangled.  These insights and others are sprinkled throughout The Theory of Moral Sentiments.  Money is nice, but knowing how to deal with it may be nicer.  A student once told me that a professor of hers said that economics is the study of how to get the most out of life.  That may strike some of you, even those who majored in economics, as an absurd claim.  But life is all about choices.  Getting the most out of life means choosing wisely and well.  And making choices - being aware of how choosing one road means not taking another, being aware of how my choices interact with the choices of others - that's the essence of economics.
-Russ Roberts,  How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life:  An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness

Some principles.........................

"How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it."
-Adam Smith,  The Theory of Moral Sentiments

Release...............................................

      So when we cry out Help, or whisper it into our chests, we enter the paradox of not going limp and not feeling so hopeless that we can barely walk, and we release ourselves from the absolute craziness of trying to be our own - or other people's - higher power.
      Help.
      We can be freed from a damaging insistence on forward thrust, from a commitment to running wildly down a convenient path that might actually be taking us deeper into the dark forest.  Praying "Help" means that we ask that Something give us the courage to stop in our tracks, right where we are, and turn our fixation away from the Gordian knot of our problems.  We stop peering and instead turn our eyes to something else:  to our feet on the sidewalk, to the middle distance, to the hills, whence our help comes - someplace else, anything else.  Maybe this is a shift of only eight degrees, but it can be a miracle.
      It may be one of those miracles where your heart sinks, because you think it means you have lost.  But in surrender you have won.  And if it were me, after a moment, I would say, Thanks.
-Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow:  The Three Essential Prayers

More than you want to know...................

........................................about Gordian knots - here or here





















image via

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Repeat the sounding joy.......................

Mannheim Steamroller..................................Joy To The World

The very meaning.................................

What are the benefits of freedom?  They are embedded in the very meaning of being human.  To be human is to be mindful:  conscious of living a life and trying to live a good one.  Freedom is the raw material for the choices that make up a life - the myriad choices that go into assembling your little platoons, exercising your realized capacities, and demarcating a place for yourself and your loved ones.  Responsibility, freedom's obverse, is the indispensable quality that allows us to carry through on our choices and take satisfaction from our accomplishments, whether they be making a living, realizing our gifts, caring for a family, or being a good neighbor.

Timing.....................................................


A worthy re-run...................................


Fifty years ago.....................................

The Beach Boys.........................................Johnny B. Goode

Cover the bases................................















via

The everyday china......................................

     But beautiful pre-assembled prayers - the the Merton, the Lord's Prayer, the Twenty-third Psalm - have saved me more times than I can remember. But they are for special occasions.  They are dressier prayers, the good china of prayers, used when I have my wits about me enough a) to remember that they exist, and b) to get into a state of trust.  This would be approximately seven percent of the time.
     Most good, honest prayers remind me that I am not in charge, that I cannot fix anything, and that I open myself to being helped by something, some force, some friends, some something.  These prayers say, "Dear Some Something.  I don't know what I'm doing.  I can't see where I'm going.  I'm getting more lost, more afraid, more clenched.  Help."
-Anne Lamott,  Help Thanks Wow:  The Three Essential Prayers

Verse.............................................

 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
3  The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
4  John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
5  And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.
6  And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;
7  And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.
8  I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
-The Holy Bible,  King James Version
Mark 1: 2-8

At Sensory Dispensary..........................

.......Warren Haynes channeling his inner Van Morrison.