Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Problem with the "Ban Everything!" Attitude is that It Requires Consistency

A Louisiana man said he got Walmart to bake him a cake featuring the flag of the Islamic State after the store refused to make him a cake decorated with the Confederate battle flag and the caption, “Heritage not hate.”  

Naturally, Wal-Mart is mad at the customer.

Glad I Didn't Buy that Condo in Old San Juan a Few Years Ago

It was a beauty, though, and looking out over a wonderful square.  Twelve years ago, I could have retired there on a small pension, now....

Puerto Rico’s governor, saying he needs to pull the island out of a “death spiral,” has concluded that the commonwealth cannot pay its roughly $72 billion in debts, an admission that will probably have wide-reaching financial repercussions.

The debt of the island is the equivalent of $20,000 per person.  If you think that's staggering, the current debt per person in the United States is $50,000.

With Fewer and Fewer Roman Clergy, This is Inevitable

An historic meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church is "getting closer every day," a senior Orthodox prelate said in an interview published on 28 June. The unprecedented meeting would be a significant step towards healing the 1,000-year-old rift between the Western and Eastern branches of Christianity, which split in the Great Schism of 1054.

If The Schism is "healed", Western and Eastern clergy will be interchangeable.  Since the Eastern church is not losing clergy at the same rate as is the Western, or Roman, church, this would work out well.

If anyone asks, though, I'll say I see it as a motive-free movement towards ecumenical reconciliation.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

You Gotta See the Photo

Professional surfer breaks leg in wave 'probably the biggest ever ridden in Australia'

Here's a Lede Sentence I Never Thought I'd See

Monks are suing trustees at Benedictine University in Illinois for shutting their religious order, which founded the institution 128 years ago, out of major decisions.

Well, Yeah. On Social Media, What Isn't?

The Atlantic: Were All Those Rainbow Profile Photos Another Facebook Experiment?

It was mostly a test to manipulate data out of FB users, a test in which a great many people willingly participated, oblivious to the manipulation.

For Some, This is the Real Reason they Celebrate the SCOTUS Decision

This is by the New York Times' "Beliefs" columnist, by the way.

Also, his information about clergy taxation is so wrong it's almost criminally stupid, as is his understanding of clergy income.  Heck, I net $43,200 a year, not a "six-figure salary", and pay income tax like everyone else.

Shark Bite

Doctors say victim of 6th NC shark attack in two weeks in serious condition

The drive to protect sharks has caused them to become overpopulated, leaving less for them to eat. Thus, they are adjusting by varying their diet.

This reminds me of what happens in the Berkshire and Litchfield hills when deer became overpopulated.  However, in the case of Odocoileus virginianus, they did not begin to attack humans, they enabled a growing, and increasingly carnivorous, Eastern coyote population to feed on them.  Zoologists project that coyote attacks on humans should become more likely as the coyote population increases over the next decade.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Shark Bite

47-Year-Old Man Airlifted to Hospital After North Carolina Shark Attack

Grateful Dead - Friend of the Devil (Studio Version)

Charles Curtis

Bias and prejudice are attitudes to be kept in hand, not attitudes to be avoided.

You have probably never heard of Charles Curtis.  It's okay, only a few of us have heard his story.

When I first moved to the East, and often had to answer questions during orientation meetings such as "Where are you from?" and "Where did you grow up?" and variations of such, I finally settled on simply responding, "I was raised on the frontier by Indians."  That usually ended that tedious line of conversation.

Thing is, for most of those who are Eastern-born and raised, Ohio is the frontier, especially when one considers how much of it was settled by The Connecticut Company.  As for the other portion, I was raised by Indians, with whom I fished and hunted and cut wood and shot guns and arrows and chased chickens and ran about on unfettered land filled with the bounty of harvest.  Things have certainly changed.  Because of that, I have a certain affinity for our subject.

Curtis was a slight man, born in 1860.  He was raised on the Kaw tribal reservation outside of Topeka, Kansas, and, although a half-breed, was known as "Indian Charley".  He was fluent in Kaw, French, and English.  He learned to ride a horse bareback the same year he learned to walk.  At the age of eight he and an adult member of his tribe rode to the state capital to request aid from the governor in combating the Cheyenne who were plaguing Topeka at the time.  This journey made Indian Charley's horsemanship rather well known, thus he spent much of his subsequent youth as a highly successful jockey, winning a considerable amount of money for the members of the Kansas underworld.

This, however, did not sit well with his grandmother, especially when gangsters wanted to send Charley to far-away Philadelphia to become a professional jockey.  Instead, she saw to it that he was sent not to a track but to Topeka High School.  While attending classes and living with his grandparents, in a tale numbingly familiar to students of American Indian history, his tribe's homestead in Kansas was moved by the U.S. government to Oklahoma.  Indian Charley's home was now gone, his jockeying days were over, and all that was left to him was a secondary education.  So, he could return to the tribe on the unfamiliar reservation, experience the poverty and alcoholism that goes hand-in-hand with government enabled or enforced dependence, or he could "mainstream" himself into white culture, take what role he could earn, and see to it that tribal life in the United States was somehow, if only in a small way, improved.  Fortunately, he choose the latter.

As was possible in those days, Indian Charley, now known as Charles, read for the law under the tutelage of a handful of Topeka lawyers.  He was admitted to the Kansas bar at the age of 21 and became prosecuting attorney for Shawnee County by the age of 25.  Using his finely honed ability, formed on the reservation and racetrack, to be amiable and knowledgeable about his fellow citizens, Charles Curtis won election to the House of Representatives in 1893.  He was the first American Indian [or, what people tend to call "Native American"] to serve as a congressman.  In 1907, his state selected him to fill a brief term as a replacement senator, making him the first American Indian to serve in the Senate.  Shortly, thereafter, another milestone was reached when he was elected to that position.

While serving in both houses of the Capitol, Curtis sought legislation that eased the life of his tribe and all others gathered under the umbrella of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  He sought the elimination of the reservation system, replacing it with land grants that enabled Indians to be full property owners and participatory members in society.  In a still-controversial initiative, he sought to encourage the tribal members to seek a less isolated role in society, pushing for "white" education and jobs in a manner that permitted assimilation into the greater culture.

But it was through his skills as a backroom negotiator where his true service to his nation was revealed, as Curtis could coerce and cajole with the best of them, eventually resulting in his election as Senate majority leader in 1925 and, yes, he was the first tribesman so honored.

This was why Herbert Hoover selected him as his running mate in 1928, as his vision and energy was going to be needed in the politico-economic realities of the decade.  Thus, Charles Curtis became the first, and only, American Indian to serve as Vice-President of the United States.  It was a singular honor and a major achievement for the First Nations, not to mention a great aid to the sometimes aloof Hoover.

Throughout his life, Curtis dealt with the realities of bias, however, and came to realize that they are part and parcel of the human condition.  As they cannot be removed, so they must be acknowledged and processed through education and experience.  The best, and really the only, way for that to be realized is through the integration of people, perspectives, experiences, and ideas.  Every piece of legislature introduced or sponsored by Curtis carried this theme.  This is why, in 1923, he proposed the initial version of the Equal Rights Amendment.

After elected office, Curtis remained in Washington D.C. for his final few years, succumbing to a heart attack in 1936.  He is buried in his native Kansas, not too far from where Indian Charley rode those horses, wild and free.  A museum in his honor may be found at his family's house in Topeka.

Oh, and for all of his "firsts", there was one significant "last".  Charles Curtis was the last Vice President to have...facial hair.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

There is One on my Patio as I Write This

Man Who Created The Pink Plastic Lawn Flamingo Dies

Is It Time to Play "Beat the Southerners" Again?

It's a familiar game for Easterners, almost as popular as games that stereotype and ridicule Midwesterners, Christians, and American Indians [aka "Native Americans"], but that's for another day's analysis.

So, this month's episode of moral panic is over a piece of cloth that is a symbol for some.  In other words, an inanimate object that has a variety of meaning applied to it.  Christians who do the same with symbols such as crosses, crucifixes, and icons are ridiculed for doing so by non-theists, so it surprises me that many of the same people who inform me that my faith is nothing but a collection of empty vessels with no meaning have so imbued an old flag with such power.  Not over them, of course, but over the unruly appetites of those who live in the South.

[Disclaimer: I care not at all about a flag that is culturally meaningless to me; I care about the stereotyping of any culture in historically limited terms.  Of course, my wife is from North Carolina; my best friend from Alabama. The best Marine non-coms I knew and my smartest colleagues at Princeton were all Southerners.  My view towards the South is obscured by reality, I guess.]

So, a collection of vendors, including Amazon.com, have decided that the best way to control their inferiors is to cease selling Confederate flags and related merchandise, thus ensuring that the South will be kept under the moral control of the bi-coastal elites.

While you may no longer be able to purchase the Stars and Bars on Amazon.com, look what you can buy:

A variety of merchandise sporting the Hammer and Sickle [I appreciate the Communism is chic in the East, but historians do note that it lead to the unnecessary deaths of about 94 million people.]

The Anarchist's Cookbook, where one may find directions for the building of pipe bombs, as did the two murderers at Columbine High School and the fellow who planted a bomb at the Olympics in Atlanta.

A cornucopia of Che Guevara products.  To quote from a Cuban revisionist historian:
“Practically every day, we go out to the street only to see the image of the very man who trained the secret police to murder our relatives—thousands of men, women, and boys. This man committed many of these murders with his own hands. And yet we see him celebrated everywhere as the quintessence of humanity, progress, and compassion."
And before anyone can respond with, "But, but, but...slavery!", I am reminded that the federal government recently decided to replace, on the $10 bill, a portrait of the originator of our monetary system, yet is leaving a slave-owner's likeness on the $20.

Hey, it looks like I wasn't the only one to notice:

11 Offensive Items Still Sold on Amazon and Ebay

"Swastika Video Game Controllers"?  Really?

More Reaction to the Latest Papal Bull

Not that I care, outside of pure theological curiosity.  As an Anglican/Episcopalian, I haven't cared what the Bishop of Rome has said for about 500 years.  [I look good for my age, don't I?]  But, it's always fascinating to me when a prominent church leader wades into secular political discussions.

Canada's National Post: Pope’s encyclical on climate change reads like the Unabomber Manifesto


The scientist who influenced Laudato Si, and who serves at the Vatican's science office, seems to believe in Gaia, but not in God.

[A Bull, in the Papal sense, is a type of letter or statement. It is named after the lead seal (bulla) that was appended to the end in order to authenticate it.]

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

If I Lived in a Palace Surrounded by Servants, the World Might Look This Way to Me, Too

Goodness, the bishop certainly has a lot to say these days:

Reuters: Pope says weapons manufacturers can't call themselves Christian

Just for the record, the Pope is guarded by 110 highly trained men who are armed with weapons manufactured by the Steyr, Glock, and Sig Sauer companies.  Their primary weapon is made by Germany's Heckler and Koch company.

Also, the assignment of who's Christian and who isn't is best left to the Almighty, I think.  Thank God for the Reformation.

An Interesting Observation

Time after time, we see that these killers tell us they pick soft targets. With just two exceptions, from at least 1950, all the mass public shootings have occurred in these gun-free zones. From last summer’s mass public killers in Santa Barbara and Canada, to the Aurora movie theater shooter, these killers made it abundantly clear in their diaries or on Facebook how they avoided targets where people with guns could stop them.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Growth of American Forests over the Last Twenty-Five Years

Beach Blanket Bingo

Laird Hamilton

There are strong young guys. 
But there's nothing meaner and more experienced than a fifty-year-old tough guy.

I long for the waves these days.  I often do during the long New England winters, of course, but it is especially acute in the summer when the demands of job and family keep me from the singular joy of reducing my core body temperature in the pre-dawn ocean waters to a dangerous level, getting knocked silly by a surprising strong swell [or some dim teenager's runaway surfboard], and convincing myself that if I can still balance on a working surfboard then I'm not yet elderly.

I'm often bored by people who tell me that nature is their "church".  As if it's an either/or situation, that one can either "go to church" or abide in nature.  I realize it's a mere excuse for indolence or indulgence in narcissistic activity ["On Sundays, I like to go running, golfing, gardening, etc."], but what reveals such an attitude as nonsense is that truly spiritual people have an innate understanding of how nature, worship, and community inform and reinforce one another.

Too long away from nature, or too long away from community-based, supportive worship and fellowship, and spirituality will flatten.  This is why the relationship between nature and spirituality has powered human inquiry, whether it was in the formation of the scientific method, created by thinkers from Christianity's monastic institutions, or in providing the educational system that enabled countless scientists to continue developing our understanding of the world and cosmos.

But I digress, especially since this is about surfing and not about pure science or theology.  Actually, it's about what happens when a creative mind looks at something as simple as surfing and finds new ways of experiencing that remarkable, and occasionally dangerous, communion with an expressible, spiritual sensation.

Before we continue, we have to acknowledge the distracting reality that our subject, Laird Hamilton, is a good looking guy. So good looking that he made a living as a model and occasional actor.  He was even Kevin Costner's stunt double in the movie "Waterworld".  He's married to Gabrielle Reese, a former professional beach volleyball player who is also a model.  They, and their three daughters, are an impossibly good-looking family.  The fact that his good looks enabled him to make a lush and easy living that permitted him to surf anytime and almost anyplace he wanted makes his life an enviable one for those of us in the waterman community.  If I weren't a Christian, I'd hate this guy.

Except, Hamilton is rather self-effacing and of a character that challenges convention.  Surfers are more envious of that latter quality, perhaps, as it has permitted Hamilton to alter the sport and practice of surfing in ways that brought about the great "re-awakening" of watersports.  His route to that status was not the easiest.

Born Laird Zerfas in San Francisco in 1964, his father abandoned him and his mother before Laird's first birthday, necessitating his mother's move to Hawaii [where else?] for work and permitting her son access to the waves and surf of the Sandwich Islands.  Paradise is anything but, however, for a fatherless haole among the tribal and often [I'm sorry to say] unwelcoming local population, so young Laird spent his school days developing an aggressive and physical persona that ensured that his teenage years would be described in biographies as "troubled".  This began to change as he worked with surfing legend, Bill Hamilton, then shaping surfboards on Oahu's North Shore.  The elder surfer took young Laird under his wing, taught him how to surf like a pro, how to shape surfboards and work with fiberglass, and generally behave according to the strict, if nebulous, standards of the Watermen.  Just to make his tutelage complete, Bill Hamilton married Laird's mother [their first meeting having been arranged by the young Laird] and Laird happily took the name of what Hawaiians would honor as his hanai father.

At 17, while enjoying a day's surf, Hamilton was discovered by a fashion photographer on the beach, thus beginning one of his two well-compensated careers.  At its apex, he was posing with Brook Shields and hanging out with Hollywood trash.  At the same time, and with equal aplomb, he was beginning his competitive surfing career.  Sooner or later he had to choose one over the other, and he chose surfing, although not the conventional route as, like many of us, he did not find competitive surfing compelling [so spiritual can the experience be that a surfing contest makes about as much sense as a praying contest]. Instead, he had begun to explore what would become the next stage in surfing's development and, by extension, athletic achievement.

That's when Laird Hamilton's story gets really interesting.

In the early 1990's, Hamilton and couple of his equally mind-addled friends sought to design a surfboard, and related board technique, that would allow them to ride only the very largest of waves.  At first, they experimented with strapping their feet to the boards so that the volume of water and energy would not blast them off their mounts.  Later, in order to ride the truly large waves that are nearly impossible to reach in a conventional manner, they hired inflatable boats to tow them out to where the monstrous waves would be found and, in so doing, created the sport now known as "Tow-In Surfing".  Inflatables were eventually replaced with Jet-Skis as the new sport was refined.  It isn't for the faint of heart.

While a photo can certainly give one the impression of size, to stand on a beach mere feet away from one is another matter.  It's not just its scope, but a staggering vibration of power and unbelievable amount of noise.  It is raw nature and it is breath-taking.  Now, imagine what it's like prone on a floating board at its crest, then coming to a standing position about two stories in the air and sliding down the roiling face at several miles an hour.  That's just a standard surf wave.

As Hamilton perfected big wave surfing, he sought bigger waves and greater challenges.  That was when he discovered in Tahiti the surf break that is known as Teahupo Ľo .  [I'm not sure what Teahupo Ľo means in English, but I suspect it's something like "Wall of Screaming Death".]  If a respectable wave is twenty or so feet in the air, imagine what it is to ride a wave that's 70 feet high, especially when it sucks away water from the shore in such volume that the surfer, seven stories above, can see the hard coral bottom waiting for him should he commit even the smallest of errors.

In such circumstances, and without hyperbole, to fall off of one's surfboard is to die.  These are the waves that Hamilton decided to conquer.  He made his attempt on August 17, 2000, a date which now carries historical importance among watermen.

Here's how the Dictionary of Surfing describes it:
One week prior to the opening of the 2000 Tahitian Pro, local pro Briece Taerea was caught inside by a 15-foot set wave and driven into the reef, broke his neck and back in three places, and died. Four months later Hawaiian big-wave hulk Laird Hamilton towed into a 18-foot Teahupoo wave that nearly beggared description; photographer Jack McCoy saw the 6'3", 220-pound Hamilton as "a little speck of human, charging for his life, doing what none of us ever imagined possible" as the wave poured over him "like liquid napalm." Hamilton made the wave, then sat and wept in the channel.

Hamilton now serves as an "ambassador" for surfing and related watersports.  He does not self-promote much and generally takes a quiet, supportive role in the industry.  Concerned with the oceans and the environment, he spends much of his time ensuring that there will be clean, open, wild waves for generations to come.  An excellent documentary of his big wave surfing, "Riding Giants", is available through a variety of formats, he has been interviewed and profiled on 60 Minutes and in the pages of every surf and sport magazine in publication.  He even appeared in a series of American Express commercials and published a book of aquatic philosophy.  

Last year, during the storm surge created by Hurricane Marie, at the age of 50, Hamilton decided to ride a speed wave off of Malibu.  It was just another moment of legend for him.

He often appears on FitTV to offer physical fitness tips, especially for those around their mid-century mark.  Given that big wave surfing requires a developed musculature so that one isn't crushed by the volume of water, it is prudent to maintain strength and mobility.  It's also good for those of us who just want to ride a 4 footer while watching the sun rise off the Jersey shore.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Increasingly Brutal World of Public Education

Nationally recognized teacher removed from class after allegations of misconduct

What happened?  Was it some form of dire relationship with a student or something equally unsavory?  Oh, no.  It's something far, far worse.  He read a passage from what many regard as the great classic of American literature. This captures everything that is daunting about our brave new world:
Three months later, L.A. Unified officials have not clearly outlined the allegations against the popular teacher, said his attorney Mark Geragos. But Geragos said he learned that the investigation stemmed from a complaint by another teacher after Esquith read to a class a passage from "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.
Also, he was ratted out by another teacher.  Nice collegiality, there.

There Will Be a Lot of Opinions Today

We will hear discussions of gun control, racism, and Confederate flags; political parties will seize upon it as a reason to attack one another.  The common disregard for "organized" religion will be mentioned, I'm sure.  Personally, I'd rather see an examination of the suspect's medication, as twelve out of the last thirteen spree shooters shared a common pharmaceutical profile.  But that would be part of the noise and nonsense, too, so it can wait.

For now, prayers for the members of that historic church, for the families of the deceased, and for the repose of the souls of the dead. 
Gracious God, you walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death. We pray that the suffering and terrorized be surrounded by the incarnate presence of the crucified and risen one. May every human being be reminded of the precious gift of life you entered to share with us. May our hearts be pierced with compassion for those who suffer, and for those who have inflicted this violence, for your love is the only healing balm we know. May the dead be received into your enfolding arms, and may your friends show the grieving they are not alone as they walk this vale of tears. All this we pray in the name of the one who walked the road to Calvary.
- from the Presiding Bishop's office

Stop killing the elderly with kindness

Aging is associated with reduced fitness, weaker bones, reduced insulin sensitivity, reduced muscle strength, and reduced balance. Lack of physical activity is also associated with all of those things. This isn’t a coincidence – many (probably most) of the health impacts of aging are not really due to aging at all.

What Happens in Academia Will Eventually Occur in Ecclesia, and that Concerns Us

At our last diocesan convention, a group of clergy and laity explained that the time had come for the term "Father" to cease to be used as a form of address as it was patriarchal, cisnormative, sexist, etc.  Personally, as long as it's intended to be respectful, I find the shrinking membership of the diocese perfectly able to determine their own language choices when addressing clergy.  A more troubling aspect is that this group wished to form a committee to visit parishes to ensure that they were conforming with this new world order.  Hello, Uncle Joe Stalin.

I have a horrible feeling that this is just going to get worse:
Working to correct inequities is a noble goal—which explains the appeal of the “social justice” movement to many fair-minded people. But the movement in its current form is not about that. It elevates an extreme and polarizing version of identity politics in which individuals are little more than the sum of their labels. It encourages wallowing in anger and guilt. It promotes intolerance and the politicization of everything. It must be stopped—not only for the sake of freedom, but for the sake of a kinder, fairer society.

This is Why The Coracle Doesn't Carry Comments

Yes, I know this is about a European court decision, but this matter has not yet been settled in U.S. courts.

Shock European court decision: Websites are liable for users’ comments

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Funniest 11 Seconds on YouTube

A Coddled Society is a Dead Society

One Will Never Go Broke Predicting the End of the World

FLASHBACK: ABC's ’08 Prediction: NYC Under Water from Climate Change By June 2015

It's Been Described as a "Digital Pearl Harbor"

Why The OPM Breach Is Such a Security and Privacy Debacle
At first, the government said the breach exposed the personal information of approximately four million people—information such as Social Security numbers, birthdates and addresses of current and former federal workers. Wrong.
It turns out the hackers, who are believed to be from China, also accessed so-called SF-86 forms, documents used for conducting background checks for worker security clearances. The forms can contain a wealth of sensitive data not only about workers seeking security clearance, but also about their friends, spouses and other family members. They can also include potentially sensitive information about the applicant’s interactions with foreign nationals—information that could be used against those nationals in their own country.

Today is the Anniversary of the Signing of the Magna Carta

But, to give it its full name, Magna Carta Libertatum (my italics - I don't think they had 'em back then) gets it the right way round. It was in some respects a happy accident. In 1215, a bunch of chippy barons were getting fed up with King John. In those days, in such circumstances, the malcontents would usually replace the sovereign with a pliable prince who'd be more attentive to their grievances. But, having no such prince to hand, the barons were forced to be more inventive, and so they wound up replacing the King with an idea, and the most important idea of all - that even the King is subject to the law.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Border Town - Souther Hillman Furay Band

Raymond Loewy

"Good design keeps the user happy, the manufacturer in the black and the aesthete unoffended."

Did you ever have one of those moments, perhaps while stuck at an airport, when your mind is wandering and indolent, when you look at something common, be it a bottle or a pack of cigarettes, and suddenly find yourself appreciating its design nuance?

If no, then don't tell me.

This is one of those occasions where pictures really are worth a thousand words.  To wit, I offer the following:

PRR K4 steam locomotive, circa 1930's

NYC Transit Authority R40 subway car

International Harvester Metro duty van

Lincoln Continental, 1946

Sunbeam Alpine, 1956

IH Farmall tractor

Studebaker Avanti, 1963

You know.

You know this one, too.

Greyhound Scenicruiser

USPS logo

Exxon/Mobil logo

USCG logo

Air Force One livery

What all of these colors and shapes have in common is that they, and many, many, many more, were the product of the imagination and creativity of a Frenchman whose work would span two continents, seventy years, and influence the way in which we look at the world.

Raymond Loewy was born in 1893 and, after distinguishing himself in battle in the French army duringWWI, earning a promotion to captain, and being wounded and awarded the Croix de guerre, he moved to the United States at the war's conclusion to become...a window dresser for Macy's, [also Saks, and a handful of other New York City department stores].  Not exactly what one would necessarily expect from a war hero but, then again, maybe it is, given what Loewy was able to do with that experience.

In 1929, while the world was reeling from the initial stage of the economic depression, the Gestetner company, makers of a state-of-the-art document copier, held an open contest for a new design for their premier product in order to make it appear less industrial and more, well, arty.  Loewy won the contest and, with it, the attention of the industrial design world.

I know it looks dated, but we were still using these when I was a new teacher in 1977.

For the next five years, Loewy designed household appliances for Westinghouse and Sears-Roebuck and cars for the Hupp Motor Company.  Even in mundane items, his designs brought modernism to the most common and weary of household fixtures and automobiles.

A pre-Loewy Hupmobile and...

... post-Loewy

His true breakthrough came with his long-standing relationship with the Pennsylvania Railroad, for whom he designed the shroud that streamlined their steam engine and brought panache to the interior quarters of their most popular line, the Chicago-to-New York Broadway Limited.

Eventually, Loewy was able to open design studios in both New York and London and maintain a presence in his native France.   This brought a certain European cache to his work, something that was popular in the post-WWII world, and was especially prized by the designers and engineers at the Studebaker automobile company.

While virtually unknown today except by car historians and/or gear heads, Studebaker was determined to avoid the large, heavy, and fin-decorated gaudiness of other Detroit-based cars and offer something that was different, yet accessible.  Also, trunk space was to be highlighted.  In response, Loewy and his team re-designed the Starlight and Commander models and, in the early sixties, created one of the most unique and desirable cars ever when they produced the Avanti [pictured above].

Also, no fins.

A complete list of Loewy's design accomplishments may be found online, of course, along with appreciations of his influence on our world view.  He has been remembered as "the man who designed everything" and "the man who made the 20th century".  Remarkable, isn't it, that he is not better known?

Loewy would retire at the age of 87, move to Monte Carlo, and spend the remaining six years of his life in as French a manner as possible.  A foundation that promotes industrial art annually presents an award that is considered the coup de grace in design and is named, naturally, for Loewy.

Even if not a Loewy design, a study of his work and art makes one look at common items with a much fuller appreciation, as many of our everyday items are products of a considerable amount of care and no small amount of creativity.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Without Hyperbole, This May Be the Greatest Single Intelligence Coup Ever. Ever.

Hackers stole personnel data and Social Security numbers for every federal employee, a government worker union said Thursday, saying that the cyber theft of U.S. employee information was more damaging than the Obama administration has acknowledged.

Update: Report: Hack of government employee records discovered by product demo

In other words, this was not discovered by the people who are paid millions to prevent and/or discover such things, but by some private citizen working for a private sector company just doing a day's job.

To quote from Paddy Chayefsky, "I've seen SNAFUs before, but this one has a certain splendor to it."

Ah, well.  Never mind.  Hey, did you see the cover of Vanity Fair?

Good News for Browsers

Why Indie Bookstores Are on the Rise Again

For those looking for some light summer travel in New England combined with bookstore browsing, places I can recommend are The Bookloft in Great Barrington, Mass. and Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont.  As is often the case with studied "neo-hippie" businesses in New England, they can be a little precious in their recommendations and inventory, but you can always find something interesting, they are able to answer questions about books, and they encourage "slow shopping".

A bonus with Northshire is that it's just down the street from the main Orvis store.  In fact, when I was the chaplain of a nearby school, I formed the "Rod and Book Club" so that like-minded students could accompany me for a day of fishing and book buying.

Hysterical Public Overreaction to Begin in 10...9...8....

Colonial Williamsburg to Open Public Musket Range

My scandalous reaction?  This actually sounds interesting, as the use of the musket, with its tremendous amount of smoke, slow re-loading, remarkable weight, and gross inaccuracy, explains the shape of early American martial conflict and, by extension, much of our early national history.

Feeling the weapon's carrying weight, getting lost and choked in the smoke, and seeing just how hard it is hit something with a mine-ball fired from an un-rifled barrel, would give anyone a greater sense of history than watching some anemic documentary on basic cable.

A Greater Mystery is Why I Stay Here

The Northeast state was once one of the richest places in America, and now it's losing out to the rest of America in nearly every category — jobs, population and income. A state that ranks in the bottom five in nearly every ranking of economic climate has just labored to make things even worse.

Don't be surprised if Malloy and his tax-hike cronies are knocking on taxpayers' doors in another year or two asking for more still. It's become the Hartford way. The mystery is why the voters of Connecticut keep tolerating such incompetent leadership.

Why Everything We 'Know' About Diet and Nutrition Is Wrong

Every five years, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, composed of nutrition and health experts from around the country, convenes to review the latest scientific and medical literature. From their learned dissection, they form the dietary guidelines.

But according to a new editorial published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, much of the science they review is fundamentally flawed. Unlike experiments in the hard sciences of chemistry, physics, and biology, which rely on direct observational evidence, most diet studies are based on self-reported data. Study subjects are examined for height, weight, and health, then are questioned about what they eat. Their dietary choices are subsequently linked to health outcomes -- cancer, mortality, heart disease, etc.

Ah, America

Man washing massive monster truck mistaken for plane crash

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Who - The Real Me

Grace Hopper

"Leadership is a two-way street, loyalty up and loyalty down. 
Respect for one's superiors; care for one's crew."

The U.S. Navy has a guided missile destroyer named for an admiral who never served as a line officer, never commanded a ship, and never, as far as I can find, put to sea.  She did, however, substantially transform the world in which we live.  That's why the destroyer's nickname is, like that of its namesake, "Amazing Grace".

The admiral is also responsible for the hardest foreign language I've ever known.  While it seems an archaic and virtually dead language now, and wasn't for human-to-human communication, it permitted machines to speak with us and vice versa.  It was called Fortran.  That language, and its related idiom of Cobal, was composed to operate computers and probably carries as much historical influence as English, French, and Mandarin.

One of the chief architects of those languages was Grace Hopper.  Born in New York City in 1906, Hopper showed an early interest in knowing how things work and, after dismantling a series of household mechanical clocks when she was seven, how things went back together.  Her formal education was impressive, especially as she was almost admitted to Vassar at the age of sixteen [poor Latin scores prevented her admission, but she matriculated the next year].  By 1934, Hopper was the possessor of a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Yale University and a sinecure as an associate professor at Vassar.

Then, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hopper and many other educated women sought to aid the country's war effort, so many that the Navy established an officers' training school for women at Smith College [Goodness, how things have changed.  Can we imagine such a thing today at a liberal arts college notoriously hostile towards the military?]  Hopper graduated at the top of her class and was assigned to the Navy's "Computation Project" at Harvard University to work on the famous, and remarkably advanced, Mark I computer.

Of course, it's less powerful than a modern smart phone, but in its day....

Her work on this and subsequent computer developments were such that, at war's end, she applied to remain in the Navy and continue her work.  While she was denied regular Navy service [because of the war, the fact that she was physically slight was ignored; after the war, that adjustment was no longer permitted], she remained in the Navy Reserves and continued to work as a consultant to the War [now Defense] Department.

Shortly after being turned down for regular duty, the Remington Rand [now Unisys] corporation hired Hopper to be their director of automatic programming since, with her achievements in computer languages, she had proven that computing machines could do much more than simply work out mathematical problems.  Along with a team of like-minded mathematicians and engineers, Hopper helped to develop the next radical leap forward in artificial intelligence: The UNIVAC.  The UNIVAC and its successive models would be used not only by military developers and academics, but would work out the results of the 1950 census and accurately predict the outcome of the 1952 presidential election.

Hopper and her fan club at work on a later version of the UNIVAC.  Compared to the Mark I, it's practically portable.

Hopper would also re-organize military computing by suggesting the replacement of a centralized system with a collection of smaller, distributed stations that could access a common mainframe.  Recognizing a good thing, however belatedly, the Navy realized the treasure that was Grace Hopper and kept her active during the remainder of her career.  While she was required to retire at the age of sixty, now with the rank of full commander, she was recalled to duty the next year and the next and the next, eventually retiring once again [for perhaps the fourth or fifth time] with the rank of captain.  She was finally required to absolutely, positively retire at the age of 79.  In recognition of being the fifth longest serving officer in the Navy's history, and the longest serving woman, Hopper was promoted to commodore [or one-star admiral] and, on board the USS Consitution in Boston Harbor in 1986, was awarded the highest non-combat military medal by then-President Reagan.


Oh, and just for fun, she then made an appearance on the David Letterman Show.

Hopper continued to work in the computer industry until her death at age 85 in 1992.  Of the many achievements that can be laid at her feet, perhaps the most piquant is the coining of particular term much beloved by IT specialists, computer coders, and frustrated office carrel residents.   When poking through the guts of an early computer to discover why it was acting in a non-optimal manner, a moth flew out of the works.  Once the computer was operational, Grace Hopper announced that the machine was now "de-bugged".

In these days when young women are being actively encouraged to find roles in the math and science fields, perhaps the greatest testimony to Hopper's influence may be found through a website named for her that renders information about the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.  Or, for those of a more martial nature, spend a few moments appreciating the sturdy and sophisticated computing system that allows an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer to function in a manner found daunting to our nation's enemies.

Now there's an officer who has earned a salute.  Or else.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Orange Really is the New Black


Who Can Argue with That?

Government Should Never Have Gotten Involved in Marriage in the First Place

Bill scrapping marriage licenses hits Alabama House after passing Senate

Time Magazine Asks a "Pertinent" Question

Hmmm, I don't know.  Let's ask Time magazine, shall we?

United Church of Christ and The "Big Lie"

The UCC, representing approximately 1.2 million members in 5,100 churches in the USA, is just one of the member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC), which insists on making Israel the whipping boy of a misguided "peace and justice" agenda. In June, UCC member delegates will have an opportunity to determine the direction of their denomination.

Life With FitBit

Once you realize that the gentle vibration coming from your wrist isn't a coronary event, it's a helpful exercise tool.

Then Again, If You Don't Expect Boys to Be Exactly Like Little Girls, Suddenly the Whole Diagnosis is Suspect

Study links exposure to common pesticide with ADHD in boys

Girls are seen as the paradigm of student behavior in schools; this has been true for at least a generation.  As fewer and fewer men are becoming elementary school teachers, because of the perverse and prejudicial belief that they must be pruriently interested in children, the elementary world is one of synoptic regard when it comes to gender and related behaviors.

I would often, in my years as an educational administrator, listen to women faculty complain that, if boys would only act like girls [or really like smaller versions of the women faculty], the school would be a better place.  Some drug companies, physicians, and other health care providers have used this pretzel logic to create a multi-billion dollar industry.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Gee, No Kidding. Have You Seen What Recent Spree Shooters Have in Their Systems? They Have Remarkably Similar Pharmaceutical Profiles.

Study: Painkillers, Anti-Anxiety Medications Linked To Increased Risk Of Homicide

What Real Climate Science Reveals

Well, Grandkids

11 Sounds That Your Kids Have Probably Never Heard

The True Nature of Celebrity Charities

The former president of the United States agreed to accept a lifetime achievement award at the June 2014 event after Ms. Nemcova offered a $500,000 contribution to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. The donation, made late last year after the foundation sent the charity an invoice, amounted to almost a quarter of the evening’s net proceeds — enough to build 10 preschools in Indonesia.

We Really Do Live in Interesting Times

If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.

It's Come to This

God proves his existence in Brooklyn court after Equifax threatens to deny him credit over divine name