Saturday, May 6, 2017
The vibrating clamor from the four great piston engines set teeth on edge and made and intolerable assault on cringing eardrums. The decibel-level, Smith calculated, must have been about that found in a boiler factory, and one, moreover, that was working on overtime rates, while the shaking cold in that cramped, instrument-crowded flight deck was positively Siberian. On balance, he reflected, he would have gone for the Siberian boiler factory any time because, whatever its drawbacks, it wasn't liable to fall out of the sky or crash into a mountainside which, in his present circumstances, seemed a likely enough, if not imminent, contingency for all that the pilot of their Lancaster bomber appeared to care to the contrary. Smith looked away from the darkly opaque world beyond the windscreens where the wipers fought a useless battle with the driving snow and looked again at the man in the left-hand captain's seat.
-Alistair MacLean, Where Eagles Dare
Friday, May 5, 2017
I awoke with foreboding. My hand closed in a reflex on the Luger under the pillow. I listened, acutely attentive. No sound. No quick surreptitious slither, no rub of cloth on cloth, no half-controlled pulse-driven breath. No enemy hovering. Slowly, relaxing, I turned half over and squinted at the room. A quiet, empty, ugly room. On third of what for want of a less cozy word, I called home.
-Dick Francis, Blood Sport
Besides insecurity, the Famine imbued those who fled it to come to America with a bone-deep distrust of the free-market economy and its justifying doctrine. Ireland's British rulers had not caused the Famine, but, as a consequence of their laissez-faire ideology, they did little to relieve the distress it brought, fearing that the moral fiber of the eight million starving Irish would be destroyed if Her Majesty's government bestirred itself to feed them. The idea was to let them die morally intact, so to speak.
-Jack Beatty, The Rascal King: The Life And Times Of James Michael Curley
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Every Chautauqua should have a list somewhere of valuable things to remember that can be kept in some safe space for times of future need and inspiration. ...
Books. I don't know of any other cyclist who takes books with him. They take a lot of space, but I have three of them here anyway, with some loose sheets of paper in them for writing. These are: ...
3. A copy of Thoreau's Walden ... which Chris has never heard and which can be read a hundred times without exhaustion, I try always to pick a book far over his head and read it as a basis for questions and answers, rather than without interruption. I read a sentence or two, wait for him to come up with his usual barrage of questions, answer them, then read another sentence or two. Classics read well this way. They must be written this way. Sometimes we have spent a whole evening reading and talking and discovered we have only covered two or three pages. It's a form of reading done a century ago ... when Chautauquas were popular. Unless you've tried it you can't imagine how pleasant it is to do it this way.
-Robert M. Pirsig, from Chapter 4, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
There are one hundred and ninety-three living species of monkeys and apes. One hundred ninety-two of them are covered with hair. The exception is a naked ape self-named Homo Sapiens. This unusual and highly successful species spends a great deal of time examining his higher motives and an equal amount of time studiously ignoring his fundamental ones. He is proud that he has the biggest brain of all the primates, but also attempts to conceal the fact that he also has the biggest penis, preferring to accord this honor falsely to the mighty gorilla. He is an intensely vocal, acutely exploratory, over-crowded ape, and it is high time we examined his basic behavior.
-Desmond Morris, from the Introduction to The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal
It was the biggest wake the old city had ever seen: one hundred thousand mourners filed past the catafalque in the Hall of Flags in the State House. They came all through the day and into the night, and the tide of them lapped over to the next day. The biggest wake was followed by the biggest funeral, A crowd of one million, in the impeachable estimates of the police, lined the sidewalks to watch the hearse of James Michael Curley pass through the streets of the city he had led and to which he had given life and laughter, sorrow and scandal, for over fifty years. He had been their mayor four times, but he was more than that to them, more than the sum of his other offices, whether alderman or congressman or governor. For the Irish Americans among them, especially. he was a political and cultural hero, an axial figure in their annals. He had lived for them ("His triumph was their triumph," the Boston Herald noted in its obituary); he had been a cynosure of their hopes and fears, and now in a sense, he had died for them, freeing them for a new era, with new horizons and new heroes.
-Jack Beatty, from the Prologue to The Rascal King: The Life And Times Of James Michael Curley (1874-1958): An Epic Of Urban Politics And Irish America
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
.........................................on bricks and mortar retail quite yet. Balanced story here. Excerpt here:
"A report by retailer researcher bazaarvoice found that shoppers who interact with a retailer via multiple channels, such as through a mobile device and by visiting an actual store, spent 18-36% more than those who dealt with just one channel, no matter what that was—leading us to believe there is a place for both. And, judging by the coffee situation and other trends we are seeing in the marketplace, experience is becoming a more important part of the shopping situation."
...........................................Scott Adams (did you know he is also a cartoonist?) is at it again:
"A year ago, President Trump’s critics were calling him a “con man.” But they never said he was bad at it."
Tuesday, May 2, 2017
..............Hmmm. Now there is an idea. Trying to remember a recent example of same. Best I can do is the coalition that George H. W. Bush patiently put together to remove Saddam's forces from Kuwait. Any other ideas?
“There are always waves on the water. Sometimes they are big, sometimes they are small, and sometimes they are almost imperceptible. The water’s waves are churned up by the winds, which come and go and vary in direction and intensity, just as do the winds of stress and change in our lives, which stir up the waves in our minds.”
“Once you realize that the road is the goal and that you are always on the road, not to reach a goal, but to enjoy its beauty and its wisdom, life ceases to be a task and becomes natural and simple, in itself an ecstasy.”
“In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.”
-Robert M. Pirsig,
Monday, May 1, 2017
The whiskey, the fatigue and the wind in the trees started mixing in my mind. "Of course," I add, "the laws of science contain no matter and have no energy either and therefore do not exist except in people's minds. It's best to be completely scientific about the whole thing and refuse to believe in either ghosts or the laws of science. That way you're safe. That doesn't leave you very much to believe in, but that's scientific too."
-Robert M. Pirsig, from Chapter 3 in Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
The third voyage in Gulliver - to Laputa, the Floating Island - deserves special attention for its early depiction of SCIENTISM, the attempt to use scientific method in domains where it does not belong, The Laputans have an Academy where "projectors," stuck on one idea, work for years in vain. They toil to extract sunbeams from cucumbers and seal them in bottles; they want to replace silkworms with spiders and endeavor to make clothes by trigonometry. That Swift was no enemy of progress, science, or invention is shown by his famous maxim that the greatest benefactor of mankind is he who can make two blades of grass grow where one grew before. But make-believe never escaped his lash.
-Jacques Barzun, taken from From Dawn To Decadence: 1500 To The Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life
Science is a process. It's not pretending it has the right answer, it merely has the best process to get closer to that right answer. Science is an ongoing argument, one where you show your work and make a prediction about what's going to happen next.
-Seth Godin, as excerpted from here
Sunday, April 30, 2017
I found the cause of the seizures a few weeks later, waiting to happen again. It was a little twenty-five-cent pin in the internal oil-delivery system that had been sheared and was preventing oil from reaching the head at high speeds.
The question why comes back again and again and has become a major reason for wanting to deliver this Chautauqua. Why did they butcher it so? These were not people running away from technology, like John and Sylvia. These were technologists themselves. They sat down to do a job and they performed it like chimpanzees. Nothing personal in it. There was not obvious reason for it. And I tried to think back into that shop, that nightmare place, to try to remember anything that could have been the cause.
The radio was a clue. You can't really think hard about what you're doing and listen to the radio at the same time. Maybe they didn't see their job as having anything to do with hard thought, just wrench twiddling. ...
Their speed was another clue. They were really slopping things around in a hurry and not looking where they slopped them. ...
But the biggest clue seemed to be their expressions. They were hard to explain. Good-natured, friendly, easygoing - and uninvolved. They were like spectators. You had the feeling they had just wandered in there and somebody had handed them a wrench, There was no identification with the job. No saying, "I'm a mechanic." ... And it occurred to me there is no manual that deals with the real business of motorcycle maintenance, the most important aspect of all. Caring about what you are doing is considered either unimportant or taken for granted.
On this trip I think we should notice it, explore it a little, to see if in that strange separation of what man is from what man does we may have some clues as to what the hell has gone wrong in this twentieth century. I don't want to hurry it. That itself is a poisonous twentieth-century attitude. When you want to hurry something, that means you no longer care about it and want to get on to other things.
-Robert M. Pirsig, as copied from Chapter 2 of Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
"To be a lover of humanity en masse requires a sedentary life at a great distance and an exclusive devotion to abstract ideas."
-Jacques Barzun, culled from From Dawn To Decadence: 1500 To The Present: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life
In response to the Bizarro.com bagpipe/accordion cartoon (found about eight posts down), the Not-So-Simple Village Undertaker commented, "That would be an interesting instrument. I would compose a duet for it and the banjo." Oh, the humanity.
I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning. The wind, even at sixty miles an hour, is warm and humid. When it's this hot and muggy at eight-thirty, I'm wondering what it's going to be like in the afternoon.
In the wind are pungent odors from the marshes by the road. We are in an area of the Central Plains filled with thousands of duck hunting sloughs, heading northwest from Minneapolis towards the Dakotas. This highway is an old concrete two-laner that hasn't had much traffic since a four-laner went in parallel to it several years ago. When we pass a marsh the air suddenly becomes cooler. Then, when we are past, it suddenly warms again.
I'm happy to be riding back into this country. It is a kind of nowhere, famous for nothing at all and has an appeal because of just that. Tensions disappear along old roads like this. We bump along the beat-up concrete between the cattails and stretches of meadow and then more cattails and marsh grass. Here and there is a stretch of open water and if you look closely you can see wild ducks at the edge of the cattails. And turtles. ... There's a red-winged blackbird.
I whack Chris's knee and point to it.
-Robert M Pirsig, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
Pirsig died last week. I have owned my copy of this book since 1975. Not sure that I ever completely read the whole book. The attempt to correct that error in judgment is underway.
Chris and I are traveling to Montana with some friends, riding up ahead, and maybe farther than that. Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than arrive anywhere. We are just vacationing. Secondary roads are preferred. ...
I've wondered why it took us so long to catch on. We saw it and yet we didn't see it. Or rather we were trained not to see it. Conned, perhaps, into thinking that the real action was metropolitan and all this was just boring hinterland. It was a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. ...
In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply did deeper into old ones that have become stilted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale and platitudes too often repeated. "What's new?" is an interesting and broadening eternal question, but one which, if pursued exclusively, results only in an endless parade of trivia and fashion, the silt of tomorrow. I would like, instead, to be concerned with the question "What is best?," a question which cuts deeply rather than broadly, a question whose answers tend to move the silt downstream. ...
But there are human forces stronger than logic. ...
I disagree with them about cycle maintenance, but not because I am out of sympathy with their feelings about technology. I just think their flight from and hatred of technology is self-defeating. The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of a mountain or in the petals of a flower. To think otherwise is to demean the Buddha - which is to demean oneself.
-Robert Pirsig, Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
.......................I never would have thought to ask:
Reading medieval literature, it’s hard not to be impressed with how much the characters get done—as when we read about King Harold doing battle in one of the Sagas of the Icelanders, written in about 1230. The first sentence bristles with purposeful action: “King Harold proclaimed a general levy, and gathered a fleet, summoning his forces far and wide through the land.” By the end of the third paragraph, the king has launched his fleet against a rebel army, fought numerous battles involving “much slaughter in either host,” bound up the wounds of his men, dispensed rewards to the loyal, and “was supreme over all Norway.” What the saga doesn’t tell us is how Harold felt about any of this, whether his drive to conquer was fueled by a tyrannical father’s barely concealed contempt, or whether his legacy ultimately surpassed or fell short of his deepest hopes. ... I’d often wondered, when reading older texts: Weren’t people back then in what characters thought and felt?
If such questions interest you, you may want to read this essay from Julie Sedivy
via Arts & Letters Daily