Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Royal Wedding or Holy Matrimony?

Google Doodle for The Royal Wedding
Yesterday the long awaited wedding of Prince William and commoner Kate took place.  My wife recorded the wedding and we watched the proceedings last night up to the return to Buckingham Palace.  We will catch the much talked about kiss some time today.  Yes I am a man and I watched the wedding!  Amazing!  Are my testosterone levels falling?  Has Alzheimer's claimed an early stake on my mind?  Well we can discuss my hormonal and mental state later, this post is devoted to the sermon at the wedding service.  I was quite touched by it.  I managed to find the text at Cathleen Falsani's blog The Dude Abides, which I must admit I need to check out:

The Dude Abides, The Royal Wedding Homily by Dr. Richard Chartres, Anglican Bishop of London

Here is the text of the homily.  Note the bold emphasis is mine.

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.
Many are full of fear for the future of the prospects of our world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day! It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.
In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.
William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that he gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
And in the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each another.  A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.
It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. And people can dream of doing such a thing but the hope should be fulfilled it is necessary a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.
You have both made your decision today – “I will” – and by making this new relationship, you have aligned yourselves with what we believe is the way in which life is spiritually evolving, and which will lead to a creative future for the human race.
We stand looking forward to a century which is full of promise and full of peril. Human beings are confronting the question of how to use wisely a power that has been given to us through the discoveries of the last century. We shall not be converted to the promise of the future by more knowledge, but rather by an increase of loving wisdom and reverence, for life, for the earth and for one another.
Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform as long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom. Chaucer, the London poet, sums it up in a pithy phrase:
“Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon,
Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon.”
As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive.
As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can practise and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.
I pray that all of us present and the many millions watching this ceremony and sharing in your joy today, will do everything in our power to support and uphold you in your new life. And I pray that God will bless you in the way of life that you have chosen, that way which is expressed in the prayer that you have composed together in preparation for this day:
God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.
In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.
Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Quite actually I could have bolded the entire text. One of the things that impressed me about this ceremony was that this was the marriage of a man and woman,  the same substance as you and I.  It was not the marriage of a future king and queen.  It was not Prince William and Duchess (to be) Catherine, it was simply William and Catherine.  This is extremely important to me for I don't believe that God recognizes royal blood or common is all Sacred to God.  William and Catherine are made of the same stuff as you and I.

I like St Catherine's quote, "Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire."  The fact that the world is not on fire would seem to indicate that all of us are failing at this mission.  Yet I would submit that this royal wedding was an example of Being who God meant us to be.  What is so terribly interesting about this wedding that one third of humanity chose to endure it?  William and Kate lived together!  What the hell is the big deal?  Yes, most of the interest can attributed to the celebrity and the pageantry of the event,  but by becoming wed in the sight of God, are not William and Catherine becoming more of who God meant them to be?  I don't believe in my heart that God particularly gives a shit about marriage licenses, but I do believe that God very much cares about our love for each other.

"Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves."  In a previous post, I spoke of marriages occurring in bed not a church.  I very much believe that,  William and Catherine were already married in the sight of God, this was just a public recognition of the fact.  William and Catherine were drawn together by that desire for union that we all possess to counter the very profound loneliness of human existence.  Indeed, we have a physical mandate driven by our genes and instincts to reproduce, yet that could be done without the marriage, the union of woman and man.  It is our deep need for a rock of stability to cling to during the storms of life that we marry.  Those words we utter during our marriage vowels are not just corny aphorisms, they mean something, and in my heart of hearts I believe that we most fulfill what God meant us to be by joining together in a state of Holy Matrimony...regardless of whether a marriage licenses and the church are involved or not.  The ceremonies that occur in the church are not the true wedding.

In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.   A royal wedding?  Who cares!  The royals are no better than you and I, but indeed, every wedding should be a Holy wedding!  And this is something, that no matter what our station in life, we can do.  We can be royally and Divinely wed regardless of whether or not we choose to create life.  In my mind the marriage, the couplehood, the Union of Souls, is prime and children are a secondary blessing of the union.  Yet what a magnificent statement...'the king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future."  My feelings about children are complicated.  I am not a big children person yet I love this notion of life flowing through us.  We are a medium of flow...what a beautiful concept.  Of course much of the world will be coaxing William and Catherine for an "heir and a spare"...even cranky old me, but I hope they are girls, and I hope that William and Catherine will recognize that their daughters are as much as an heir and a spare as boys are and stop at two.  There are quite enough children in the world...both royal and commoner.

"...married in the sight of a generous God"   Curious wording, a generous God.  Almost sounds as though there are numerous gods and this one is generous.   I think generosity understates God.  Grace is a far better concept. 

And in the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each another.  A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.   There is a lot to chew here.  First I would have to state "And in the Spirit of the Grace of God, wife and husband are to give themselves to each other."  Husband and wife is patrician and trite, let's mix it up a bit.  Again generosity understates God's love for me it is the Grace of God.  "Love finds it centre beyond ourselves".  I believe in the Divinity of the Soul, yet I agree that the centre of love is beyond ourselves...that thinking conscious ego that appears to be in control.  That centre that is beyond ourselves is actually deeply within ourselves...residing in our Souls. 

"Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul"  Amen!  Capitalize the word Soul and switch the order of a few words, and I would have been proud to be the author of this statement.  I would change that to "the richer our Souls become."  I don't believe we can become richer in soul, because our Souls are Divine, they are already Infinite but I do believe that lying in close proximity our Souls can become richer.  Faithful and committed (with or without a marriage license) to me, the unapologetic monogamist, are absolute requirements.  We can bullshit the world but we can't bullshit God or ourselves, a marriage must be faithful and committed.  If it is not then you simply are not married regardless of the stack of legal documents that we and our lawyers wave around.    

In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.  Delete "are seeking to".  Be there no doubt, marriage, true marriage--not just a piece of paper, brings us into fuller life.

Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art.  I have found this to be true in my marriage.  My wife has civilized me into a decent human being and in that fashion I am her work of art.  I am not sure that my brush has touched her life,  certainly not to the degree that her's has affected mine.  Any credit that can be given to me as a decent and responsible human being can be directly given to my wife.  I would hate to think what I would be without her.

As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive.  Another area where there is a lot to chew.  I have said in the past that our culture has secularized sex, and here the Bishop speaks of secularizing marriage.  I think he is absolute right.  We are lonely beings that know we will die.  If we do not recognize the Divinity within us, our Soul, and we do not believe in God, then yes, we are placing on a mere man or woman a very great burden...relieve my anxiety of death and oblivion.  A mere man or woman can not do this.  We are going to die.  If our marriage is only that of a mortal woman and a mortal man then we are in existential deep shit.  Oblivion is but an hour, a day, a year, or a few decades but it is coming as certainly as the sun will rise.  We are all death row prisoners lacking only the luxury or curse of a fixed known date.

But fall in love and you will feel the Divine.  Make love and you will experience the Divine.  Sex is only for reproduction?  Then nature sure as hell chose a curiously inefficient method for us to reproduce.  Sex is the method by which we strip away the arrogance and anxiety of our egos and  touch and experience the Soul of another being and realize there is something far more to this world than birth and death.  That feeling of Oneness with each other, the loss of identity, the rightness of the world is you and your lover experiencing the Divine intermingling of your Souls.  If you don't feel this, if it is just a piece of ass--nothing more than a hookup, if it is just something you do when drunk or high, if all you feel is the throbbing of genitals and not the blazing of your Souls, then you are not doing it right, and ultimately you will fail and the anxiety of death and oblivion remain and you will continue to seek and fail until you discover the Divinity within yourself and your partner.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light.  Perhaps stated more specifically than I like, but indeed a truth.  Although in a fashion I find following the example of Jesus Christ to be a curious example.  Jesus, the Man, remained unmarried and as far as we know (and the official orders of Christianity insist) celibate. Personally I doubt Jesus was celibate, I hope he wasn't.  I would have preferred Jesus to have been married and thus provide us an example.  I stray from my point, and that point is that I do believe that as we move towards our partner in love, God's Grace will quicken within us and will increasingly fill our lives with Light which is the recognition of both the Divinity beyond us and within us.  

In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.  This is an area within my life that I need much work.  I often lose sight of the forest for the trees, and very much can be stingy with my time, love, and energy.  It is also why I know I haven't fully embraced the faith that I would like to think  I have.  Not faith in the usual evangelistic definition of faith...that is have faith in what we (the evangelists) tell you to believe, but the faith that comes from a journey of seeking God on one's own terms.  If I fully embraced what I think I believe, I would be a far different person, knowing little fear and possessing a great calm.  No, my belief is not yet a faith, but rather a theory.  It needs proven.  When I do prove it, this life or the next, then I will possess little fear and great calm.

A bit of pageantry to inform the rest us

What right do I have to address a duchess and duke?  And yet in my Yankee arrogance I shall.  Catherine and William, I am not royalist.  Despite your lofty Earthly station, I feel no need to bow or curtsy.  You by birth are no better than I.  I do regard you as a Divine sister and brother along with the rest of humanity.  As such it is my profound hope and desire that your marriage has been and will continue to be one of Holy Matrimony.  Am I confused, a doddering old fool that can not keep my dates straight?  Well I am a doddering old fool, but I haven't confused my dates.  Catherine and William you have been married for quite some time now, only you and God know that date, yesterday was just a bit of pageantry to inform the rest us.  While perhaps I am not a royalist, I do believe that royalty has its place both in the United Kingdom and the world.  As such it is my profound hope that your Holy Matrimony will be shining example of what all of us can be...

 who God meant You and Us to be, and that We will set the world on fire!

May The Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you.
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

God Save The Queen!  Indeed! And May God Save All Of Us.

To Bishop Richard Chartres:  Bravo Sir!  Thank You.  You have given us a magnificent sermon.  May God Bless You!

Image Credit:  

William & Catherine, Reuters

Google Doodle:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Hills Are Turning Green

Some photos of the area where I grew up.  The hills are being painted green by spring.

Note! Click on photos to view full size. 

The two hills and hollow in the background are the woods that I played in while growing up.  In the foreground is the Union Railroad maintenance yard.

These photos were taken from the Sam's Club / Gabriel Bros. parking lot in Monroeville, Pennsylvania on Easter Sunday.

 The Union Railroad round house. The turntable is somewhat visible in full size, it is painted yellow at the ends.

For more information on railroad roundhouses see:

Wikipedia, Roundhouse

A zoom shot of the hillside showing the colors.  I love when the trees are like this.

The hollow between the hills.  Many adventures occurred in this hollow with my brother-in-law, the naturalist. Before he was my brother-in-law, he was my best friend. I didn't like his sister then.  She was a young snot.  Odd when I came back from the service I liked his sister better them him.  Snots grow up into beautiful women.  Anyhow, this is a lovely woods and I consider myself fortunate to have grown up here.  The vast majority of the green in this picture is sugar maple.  This hollow is magnificent in the fall.

This beautiful green mist is not leaves budding, but rather flowers.  Odd looking flowers, but they do not rely on insects to pollinate them. They use the wind.instead, hence the flowers come first so that the leaves do not inhibit pollination.  This may be the source of your spring sinus problems.

In the center of this photo on the distant hill, there is a rock outcrop. It is barely visible in full size.  It is located in one of the most inaccessible areas of our woods.  The inaccessibility and the mysterious outcrop always seemed mystical to me.  I used to go there and talk to God as a youth.  God didn't reply, but with the magical atmosphere here, I always felt that God was near.  I called this place Mount Olympus. It was a Holy place in my youth.

Here is another one of my favorite bridges.  It is the Hall Station Bridge for US 22.  Wilkins Township is on the far end, and Monroeville is on the near end.  The span is 1127 feet long and was originally built in 1942 and widened in 1957.  It is a beautiful bridge.
The creek, Thompson Run, that formed this valley is visible under the main span.  It is not a very large creek yet look at the work it has done over the centuries.

For an incredible amount of information on this bridge see:  Bridges and Tunnels of Allegheny County, Hall Station Bridge

That would be your's truly's hand in the mirror while I was taking the photo.  It was raining and I was trying to keep the lens dry.  This shot is from Home Depot's parking lot in Wilkins Township.

The Thompson Run Valley from the back of  Sears.  The creek and the Union Railroad are heading for Turtle Creek.

The Monroeville end of the bridge looking from Thompson Run Road.

Looking toward Wilkins Township from Thompson Run Road.

The uneven spacing of the main arches is due to the bridge being widened in 1957.

The above photo zoomed in.

No, you can't walk the tracks.

No lousy sign is going to stop me, I crossed the fence to get this picture.  I fully expected the railroad bulls to come along.

The Union Railroad and I have a long history of antagonizing each other.  As a child I used to pick wild strawberries near the tracks.  The bulls would chase us off.  One time someone shot the place up with a pellet gun.  I was under suspicion.  I swear I had nothing to do with that incident.  While the URR has maintained a dislike for me, I have always loved it--despite the bulls.  I still love to hear the throbbing diesels, often 5 of them linked together, open full throttle and barely moving the train at 10 mph.  Ore and slag are heavy. 

The Hall Station Bridge from my illegal highly trespassed vantage point near the URR locomotive shop. 

The Hall Station Bridge from the s-bend on Thompson Run Road.

Indeed the bulls still patrol, but they have got fancy.  They used to have plain brown sedans. They are probably looking for me.  Right across the tracks from his location is where the strawberries grew.  Ah the joy of running away from the bulls while trying not to dump your strawberries.  Those wild strawberries were only the size of the tip of your little finger, but one had more flavor than an entire package of those inbred tasteless monstrosities that they sell in the grocery stores.  Note to strawberry geneticists: with your current methods, your goal to provide a strawberry the size of a melon will still have only one strawberry's worth of flavor distributed among 5 pounds of tasteless pulp.

For more information on the Union Railroad see:

Union Railroad Company, History

Wikipedia, Union Railroad 

Carsten Lundsten. Union Railroad

Logo Image Credit, Wikipedia above. 


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Signs of Spring

Carpenter House
First Violet This Spring
Photos of some sure signs of spring taken near the Carpenter House in Boyce Park near Monroeville, Pennsylvania on the Saturday before Easter Sunday.

Note! Click on the photo to see full size.

Skunk Cabbage

The Skunk Cabbage Patch

Unexpected  Mushrooms
New May Apples, Note Large Flower Bud

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Late Easter

Along with my lamentations about a late spring, I could have complained about a late Easter as well.  Easter sort of floats around the calendar, rather than having a fixed date like Christmas.  Why is that?  The date for Easter follows the date for the Jewish festival of  Passover, which is based on the first full moon after the vernal equinox.  Apparently, there can be some complications in the Hebrew calender determining just when the 15th day of Nisan occurs, and there were controversies in the early church.
First Council of Nicaea

So the First Council of Nicaea declared that Easter would be the first Sunday following the first full moon, known as the Paschal full moon, following the vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere.  The Council also showed little patience for the fact that the vernal equinox is a moving target, it can occur on either March 20th or March 21st.  God has no time for celestial mechanics and as such they declared March 21st to be the Ecclesiastical equinox.  So Easter can fall anywhere on or between the dates of March 22nd to April 25th by the Gregorian calendar for the Western Church.  The Eastern Church uses the Julian calendar which means Easter falls on or between April 4th to May 8th (Gregorian dates).  So the long and short of all this is, yes, Easter is late this year, technically it can only be one day later than this year.  This is the condensed version see Wikipedia, Easter for the full version..  An interesting aside to this, a very long time ago, I read about a pair of autistic identical twins who could calculate in their heads the date that Easter would fall on for any given year (for thousands of years) within seconds, yet they had no concept of 2 + 3.  These girls were not limited to Easter, they were phase of the moon experts before they were 10 years old.  

Even though Easter is late, it is never too late to learn something new.  Yesterday, my wife was preparing an Easter basket for my 28 year old son.  I made some snide comment about don't you think he is a little old for and Easter basket, and I got the look.  You know the look that states silently "hey poop head, mind your own business".  She then stated, "you know I wouldn't mind getting an Easter basket."  Oh oh!  Apparently pulling a white chocolate rabbit out of a shopping bag on Easter morning is not a sufficient gesture.  Hmmmm!  So yesterday while my wife was at the beauty parlor, I went out and bought an Easter basket, the grass, the pink cellophane, and the appropriate white chocolate (regular chocolate gives her a migrane) goodies.  It reminds me of an episode of  a TV sit com on years ago called Coach.  The Coach, Craig Nelson, was insensitive to his girl friend, Shelly Fabares.  To ask for her forgiveness, he gave her a large bouquet of flowers.  He told her that he called FTD and needed the "I have been a horses ass bouquet."  Well, that's me, while my wife goes to church this morning, I will prepare the "I have been a horses ass, Easter basket" and have it waiting for her when she gets back.  Of course if I truly was not a horses ass, I would go to church with her.  Well, let's not push things here.  I am good for Christmas Eve, but Easter?   Again remember, I never claim to be a poster boy for a good Christian.  Let us hope that my theory that hell does not exist is true, well I am not too worried about that one.  Have a happy late Easter.

Image Credit:

Wikipedia, First Council of Nicaea  

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Note! Click on photos to view full size. 

 Bessemer & Lake Erie Tracks, Harmer Twp. PA

Shadbush!  It is is blooming! Spring is officially here and the shad must be running!  I am not familiar with shad, the fish, for which the tree is named for, but supposedly, when the shadbush blooms, the shad are running.  I can quit my lamentations on a late spring and enjoy what is left of April, although yesterday was quite cool with a high in the mid 40's and lots of rain.

The shadbush is a shrub or small understory tree that is usually one of the first native trees to bloom in the spring in western Pennsylvania.  This year, perhaps because of a late spring, the blooms are unusually heavy giving it a bigger presence in the woods than usual.  It often has a delicate almost diaphanous appearance and has been likened to snow or mist and is easy to miss.
 Note Typical Delicate Appearance In The Distant Tree
Part of the reason for the delicacy of the blooms is the structure of the petals.  Shadbush is a member of the rose family so like apple, cherry, peach, plum, raspberry, and strawberry it has a 5 petaled bloom.  But on most species of the rose family the petals are big and round.  The petals of the shadbush are long and thin resulting in a delicate spray of white verses the heavily loaded blooming of most of the tree species of the rose family.

Typical Rose Family Bloom, Note Round Petals
The shadbush genus is Amelanchier and it has a variety of different names, serviceberry, juneberry, Sasskatoon (which engendered the name of the city in Saskatchewan, Canada).   It is also somewhat of a confusing genus to attempt to identify.  Experts differ on how many actual species exist and the tree readily hybridizes thus adding to the confusion. Being a member of the rose family it has an edible fruit that is similar to a blueberry in size and taste.  The trees that grow around here have a distinctive muscular looking trunk and branches with a smooth gray bark with vertical striations.  You can read more about the shadbush here:

Shadbush Bloom, Note 5 Thin Petals

The photos I have included were taken from a overpass on the Bessemer & Lake Erie tracks in Harmar Township. The reason the photos are skewed from the tracks is that the overpass has a fine mesh fence and I could only find a couple of places to fit the lens between the bottom of the fence and the bridge side barrier.  The songs of the spring peepers in the drainage ditches were deafening. 

Another first sign of spring is coltsfoot.  Having blooms that resemble dandelions but smaller, coltsfoot is generally the first plant to bloom in our area. It can usually be found on road sides.  This year I only spotted it once and it was very late.  The picture I included here was from our Geocaching days back in 2005.

For all my complaining two weeks ago about the loss of spring, nature has hurried to catch up.  Many of the trees have exploded from the buds and the hill sides, while not spray painted green just yet, have the appearance of being randomly painted with dabs of a giant sponge.  Truly my favorite time of year. 

B&LE Crossing The Allegheny River, Harmar PA
EDIT Sunday 4-24-11:  This is actually a reply to VW Busman's comment below, but I can't post photos in a comment.

Carsten S. Lundsten's Photo of The B&LE Bridge
About a mile and half south of where I took the above photos, the B&LE crosses the Allegheny River parallel with the Pennsylvania Turnpike on a beautiful high level bridge.  Back before 9-11-2001, I went out on this bridge and went mid stream on the southern end (right in the middle of the span in the upper photo to the right).  This was also before I owned a digital camera.  What a magnificent sight.  Looking east I looked down on Lock & Dam 3 of the Allegheny River.  Looking west I looked down on the Turnpike bridge.  The bridge itself while extremely well built for trains had some nasty rotted spots on the wooden catwalk.  I would not recommend this as a casual walk, there were places where I hung on for dear life. 

What a phenomenal sight.   I didn't walk all the way across, because there were no trespassing signs all around.  If I got booted off the bridge on the north side by the railroad bulls I would have about a 6 mile walk to get back to my car.  So if I got booted I wanted to be booted on the southern side.  Well that was before 9-11.  Today I would be afraid that a helicopter and a swat team would be called in on me and I would end up in some Federal prison for terrorist activities on a public transportation facility.  BTW, the B&LE used to be owned by United States Steel Corporation, but is now owned by the Canadian National maybe I'll end up in a Canadian prison. 

Edit 4-25-11:  I remembered I have a really cool photo of the B&LE bridge that I downloaded several years ago. I can't find it any longer on the web, so I don't who to give credit to for this photo, but it is a jewel!   Click on it for full size. 

Image Credits & More Info:  

For more information on the bridge and the B&LE see the following links:

Photo with Turnpike: Carsten S. Lundsten, Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad    This is a phenomenal site describing the railroad and a lot of wonderful photos., Bessemer & Lake Erie Bridge, Allegheny River   A great site describing this bridge and the many others in Allegheny County.  With three rivers and many creek ravines, we have a lot of bridges in Allegheny County.


Bridge photo, Wikipedia, Bessemer & Lake Erie Railroad Bridge  and also see 

Logo Image,  Wikipedia, Bessemer and Lake Erie Railroad

Friday, April 22, 2011

Earth Day Google Doodle and Good Friday

Note, click on images to see full size.

Today is both Earth Day and Good Friday.  I am not sure that they have ever fell on the same day and I doubt that there is any more significance to the fact than the lunar eclipse occurring on the winter solstice as it did last December.  Today is also my last paid holiday.  My last day of employment is next Friday then I drift off into retired bliss.  So for me all sorts of coincidences are taking place today and spring finally got here. 

The Google Doodle first.  It is an animation.  Moving your mouse over separate areas of the Doodle causes different actions (not the one shown here but at Google).  While it is still on Google, for extra credit see if you can find all the actions.  I listed the ones I found at the end of this post.

Oh no!  The Earth has fallen apart.  I don’t know what happened here, but reloading the window fixed it.

And as if to prove one of my tired observations in a previous post we have the symbolic “I ♥ Earth” in Google images.  The sentiment behind Earth Day of course is good.  We should have an awareness of the Earth and how our actions impact it.

Here is what pops in my mind for the typical American Earth Day celebration.  Mr. and Mrs. Jones and their 4 children all put  on I ♥ Earth tee shirts, exit their 3000 square foot home through the 3 car garage, pile into their 403 horse power Escalade SUV and drive off to the Earth Day Jamboree on the other side of town.  Caught in a traffic snarl, they miss the Earth Day Spectacular, but make it time to see the mimes do a rendition of “Be Aware of the Earth’s Pain”.  They walk past the boring sustainable energy sources lecture.  They each get a tree seedling, have hamburgers and tacos at the concession stand, listen to the blue grass band play, “Luv the Earth and It Will Luv You” and return home through another traffic jam. 

Upon returning home Mrs. Jones finds the house to be a bit uncomfortably warm so she turns on the whole house air, not wanting to get the spring pollen in the house from open windows.  The family, still donning their tee-shirts, go out in the backyard and plant the seedlings.  That evening Mrs. Jones, knowing that none of the family will wear the funky Earth day tees again, collects them from the hamper and throws them out.  The following July after returning from a 3 week vacation touring the US in the Escalade, Mr Jones forgets about the seedlings in the high grass and mows them down with his prized 26 horsepower John Deere riding lawn mower.

Yes I am a cranky old bastard, and most of Earth Day festivities strikes me like Vito Corleone dutifully going to mass on Sunday.  Put on tee shirt, watch some mimes, plant a tree, and by God you are a friend of the Earth.  Well awareness is a good thing! 

Good Friday.  As we all know, I am not the poster boy for a good Christian, yet to me Good Friday is the most important holiday in Christianity.  Well we all know that Easter is supposed to be the most important, (even though our favorite is Christmas) but I have never liked Easter.  Yes, I am an Easter Scrooge, as well as an Earth Day Scrooge and a New Years Day Scrooge.  On the physical side of things, I despise Easter eggs, pastel colors, Sunday bonnets, Easter finery, Easter Bunnies, and Easter Baskets.  OK I do like candy and jelly beans but eating a chocolate cross is a poor excuse for a claim to being a Christian.  On the spiritual plane, I have a lot of problems with the bodily resurrection of Christ.  Ergo, not too terribly long ago, my beliefs would have got me burnt at the stake.  Although I assure you, my beliefs are plastic enough to avoid such unpleasantries.  I have never felt inclined to martyrdom.

Good Friday appeals to the darker elements that lurk in my Soul.  I don’t have any problems believing that Jesus’s suffered terribly at Gethsemane and Golgotha.  That is real.  That is something that He could have easily walked away from yet did not.  There is a Divine contradiction in the suffering of Jesus.  God becomes Man and dies for our sins.  The Man must know doubt and abandonment and the terrible suffering of crucifixion. In order to truly suffer, He must come to doubt His own Divinity.   That appeals to me.  God loves us so much that He is willing to sacrifice and abandon His Son for us.  What I am not willing to accept is that any of this is God’s requirement.  I will accept that it was mankind's requirement and God gladly fulfilled it.  For while I have a lot of troubles with Christianity, its exclusive clauses, its claims of hell and damnation, its insistence on believe this way or burn for eternity, I do believe that God loves us enough to genuinely experience the passion of Gethsemane and Golgotha for us.

Earth Day Google Doodle Animations

From left to right:   1. Pandas under G laughs or something.   2. Bird flies out of the tree to the left of the sun O.   3. The napping lion under the sun O yawns or roars    4. Penguin dives off the top of snow O.  5. Goldfish takes a swim from the tail of the stream second G, arduously climbs the waterfall only to get eaten at the top by a dark brown blob, perhaps a bear.   6. What appears to be a pair of mating hawks descend from the tree above the stream and fly over to the water fall to get a drink.   7. Black bird or butterfly flies out of the center of the tree canopy that make up the L.   8. A frog jumps from the mound of grass below the final (and to me invisible E) to the stream bank, goose him with the mouse again and he jumps in the stream.

My wife, who has far better visual discernment than I, states that the blob is a bear, the mating hawks is actually a koala, and the black bird is a butterfly.      

Earth Day Quote

 "Subversive elements plan to make American children live in an environment that is good for them."  a Daughters of the American Revolution member lamented to Time magazine, shortly after the first Earth Day in 1970.  From:  National Geographic, Earth Day: Conservationist or Communist? Behind Google's Doodle

The above National Geographic article indicates that perhaps Earth Day is more successful at creating awareness and environmental action than my gloomy thoughts would indicate.  The link to the Time article goes back to the original Earth Day in 1970.  

Image Credits:

Google Doodle:   Google (only on 4-22-11) 

I ♥ Earth:  ZME SCIENCE, Earth Day 2009 – don’t let it be just another day!

From Modest To McMansion:  NPR, Behind the Ever-Expanding American Dream House

Crucifixion:  Wikipedia, Cristo de San Plácido, by Diego Velázquez


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Google Doodle, 50th Anniversary of The First Human Space Flight

The Google Doodle Masthead today (ooopppps, yesterday, little late in posting this) is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Yuri’ Gagarin’s historic flight into space and orbit around the Earth on April 12, 1961.  It was another shock to many Americans, first Sputnik, and now Yuri Gagarin.  Not only did the Soviet Union beat us in putting a man into space, but they had him orbit the Earth.  Alan Shepard’s flight a month later was suborbital arc.  He merely dipped his toes into the edge of space for several minutes during his 15 minute flight.  Yuri Gagarin was in space for 1 hour and forty eight minutes.  Gagarin’s flight was grand technical achievement by comparison and it rankled many Americans at the time—including some of us in kid world. 

I was 12 at the time, and sure, I was pissed that the Soviet Union beat us into space, but still, it was pretty cool to think that mankind had left the planet and circled it once.  Well, some of the alpha male older kids in the neighborhood decided that this was not a cool thing.  They became something of junior ministers of propaganda.  First, the Soviets lied about the whole thing and there was no flight.  Yuri was no hero, they forced him in the craft at gunpoint and hand cuffed him to the seat.  Well wait, I thought that the flight was a lie and didn’t happen, if so, why would Gagarin be forced into the space capsule at gunpoint.  It is dangerous to point out errors in logic to bullies.  They like to talk not think.  While they can’t control what you think, they can still beat the hell out of you and control what you say.  After being shoved around a few times and screamed at, that Gagarin wasn’t a hero, he was a red commie, a stooge of his communist masters, I quickly realized the error in my logic and agreed that the flight didn’t happen. 

Well the rest of the world regarded Gagarin as a hero, and he played the part magnificently.  It was hard to dislike him even if he was a commie.  He had a winning smile. He didn’t wear ill fitting suits, and didn’t bang his shoe on the UN podium.  He was one the few things out of the Soviet Union that did not seem threatening.  Hating Yuri, would be like hating Bill Mazeroski, and let’s face it, Yuri had just did the coolest thing since The Maz won us the World Series in the bottom of the ninth the previous fall.  I don’t give a damn where you call home, orbiting the Earth in 1961 was really cool.  Maybe even cooler than beating the Yankees, but I kept those thoughts to myself.

The cool thing about Google Doodles is that you learn something, but sometimes what you learn may be sad.  So it is for Yuri Gagarin, he died in a routine training flight in a Mig 15 in 1968.  I didn’t know that.  What was ironic about his death, was that the Soviets, not wanting to lose their smiling hero to an accident, never let Gagarin fly another space mission.   

You can read about Yuri Gagarin in Wikipedia:

Wikipedia, Yuri Gagarin 

Google's Doodle had a minor bit of animation. When you placed the cursor anywhere on the Doodle, the rocket would blast off.  I captured it with a series of screen prints. 

There is a world wide celebration of the first manned flight called Yuri's Night. You can read about it in Wikipedia.

Wikipedia, Yuri's Night

Here is a cool video of the members of Expedition 27 on the International Space Station celebrating Yuri's night.  Check out the effects of zero gravity on Cady Coleman's hair, and how the three men in the back depart at the end of the video.

YouTube, Yuri's Night 2011 International Space Station Crew: 50th Anniversary of Human Spaceflight

After his flight Yuri made this observation,

"Circling the Earth in my orbital spaceship I marveled at the beauty of our planet. People of the world, let us safeguard and enhance this beauty - not destroy it!"

Eighteen months after Yuri Gagarin's historic flight, the world endured the Cuban Missile Crisis.  We almost blew it, and it makes Yuri's words very poingnant.  The space programs of the 60's were often criticized as nothing but macho competitions wasting the national treasure for the sake of propaganda. Perhaps, but in light of the horrific danger in which the world was poised, I think Yuri Garagin's smile was a gift from God.  It signaled to those of us who chose to notice that they were not simply commies and reds, they are human beings--just like us.  And if you could tune down the xenophobia, you had to admit, back in 1961, it was a pretty cool thing having a human being orbit the planet.

EDIT 4-13-11:  I didn't notice yesterday, but the choice of colors of the Earth, second O in Google, would have caused a stir back in 1961.  A "red state" in 1961 was an entirely different concept that a red state today.    

Image Credits:

Google Doodle:

Yuri in space suit:

Smiling Yuri:  Wikipedia, Yuri Gagarin

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Some Mindless Ranting About a Reluctant Spring & Staring Into Oblivion

This year we seem to be having a reluctant spring.  April has become my favorite month in adulthood.  As a child, it was June because of the obvious parole for the summer from the jail of education.  I hated school.  September was my least favorite month—the resumption of my sentence of 12 years of primary and secondary education.  I remember looking at golden rod with extreme hatred.  Not only did it bloom during worst month of the year, it appeared on the cover of the damned yellow ruled tablets that my mother bought for me to do my home work.  Oh the hours that seemed to be devoted to working in a golden rod tablet.  


356 + 247 =  603  (22 seconds)  

9162 – 4739 = 4423 (19 seconds)    

5193 / 17 = 305 with a remainder of 8  (78 seconds)

537 X  692 = 371604 (78 seconds)

I timed myself doing the above problems by hand…something I haven’t attempted since 1975, the first year I owned a calculator.  I was quite proud of the fact that I remembered how to do long division, who cares that it took 1 minute and 18 seconds? 


North America
South America

The term Eurasia didn’t exist back then. 
Sentence diagramming:  Oh forget that!  I would have to consult a book.  Then in the later years  Spanish  Que hora es?  Mis zapatos son de color marrón.  And algebra,  do the odd problems 1 through 153.   

Problem 1    a + a =

Problem  3    2a + 7a =

Problem 5   4x + 3x + 17x =…..

Problem 13    sin (x) (3a +5b)z+ Σ0N (log(atan(θ)) / (bN +dN) N-1 =

Problems 1 through 5, I could understand.  Then I would get lost somewhere between 7 through 11.  Beyond problem 11 the mathematics looked like problems from a parallel albeit extremely advanced universe. 

So yes as a child, June was my favorite month.  But then I became an adult (well I got big anyhow) and left the jail of education for the long sentence of prison of an occupation.  There were no longer paroles every summer.  June lost its glitter.  My favorite month moved to May for a while in my younger adulthood before I had MS.  With the onslaught of MS came an intolerance for heat.  Hot days make me feel like I have a hangover.  So my favorite month moved to April.  The temperatures are more moderate, there is a lot of rain which I love, and the leaves start to bud and break out.  I love when the trees look like they have been spray painted with a pastel green.  So April is now my favorite month. 

They say that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.  Well this year March came in like a lion and went out like an angry lion.  While I was down Georgia, south western Pennsylvania had a tornado and tennis ball sized hail on March 23.  Ever since, it seems that we have not had a spring but rather a clash of winter and summer.  Too cold one day…then too hot…then a nasty storm and too cold again.  It has been in the mid 60s when I left for work and snowing when I come home.  Back and forth, Old Man Winter and Hot Ass Summer duking it out while spring lies bleeding on the side of the ring--a casualty of the conflict.

So April, my favorite month seems to be slipping through my fingers and so far I have seen little sign of spring.  This April also marks the end of my occupational prison term.  I am going to be released April 29th  and what is left of my working life is hemorrhaging away, and to be honest, it is frightening.  I have never been one to dream about retirement and all the wonderful things I can do.  Retirement was always something that I brushed off.  I will look at it in a couple of years.  And a couple of years always kept rolling on ahead for another couple of years and I just put it off as an unpleasantry (Did I just invent that word? It has a red squiggly underline.) to be faced at some indeterminate fuzzy date off into the foggy beyond.  Let’s not trouble ourselves with that now.  Then six months ago I got pissed off with work and decided it was time to go.  This is not the way to do retirement planning! 

I still want to leave work, I am tired of their bullshit, a crisis every moment of the day.  But on the other hand, I don’t think that I want to be retired either.  Good God, where did all the time go?  Well there is the crux of the situation, it is not retirement I fear…it is old age. 

I have never been one to keep a neat cubical, but I would on occasion “rid up” as we say in Pittsburgh.  About 10 years ago the company started some horseshit program called 5 S which is adapted from Japanese manufacturing techniques.  The company hired consultants and went to great lengths to explain each one of the damned S’s to us and how this was going to make our lives so much better.  I made it a point to not know what the frigging S’s meant.  I don’t give a shit how well it works in Japan, we don’t make Civics or Camrys.  We make a lot of onesie and twosie very large specialized contraptions that require a lot of tooling.  So yeah, you got a lot of expensive tooling laying about that you may not need for 2 or 3 years.  It looks messy.  It is not an assembly line operation.  Oh we have to 5 S (it has become a verb) our facilities and areas.  Things that you will need next year get thrown out with a religious fervor by wild eyed 5 S apparatchiks.  "If you would only take ownership of the process, you would quickly realize the improvement in efficiency."  Unlimited profits will be ours if only we get this place 5 S'ed.  

Well about 5 years ago, my boss got a new boss who stated that not only was 5 S a good thing for the factory floor, it was how he expected to see an engineer’s cubical.  Neatness is efficiency.  Well that was it, I never cleaned my cube after that.  The paper piled up and up to where it got to be something of a joke.  To tell you the truth, even I found it a bit taxing.  Alas, nobody ever reprimanded me for it.  Shit! 

Well, I feel a moral obligation to clean out my cube before I leave.  So I am working my way down through the alluvial layers of paper work as though it were a strip mine.  Some of it causes me to grit my teeth, but then I’ll run into the drawings and design work for some neat project and it then tugs at my heart.  I am going to miss some of this.  I start to question, am I really ready to hang it all up?  Well wouldn’t it be nice if we could pick and choose what we want to do?  Most of what I do is dreary, and as I get older I find it more difficult to embrace the sense of urgency under which the company feels that it must operate.  My guess is that the sun will still rise tomorrow morning whether I get this particular crisis of the moment solved or not.  So yeah, it is time to go, but it is not without some heartache that I am leaving. 

I feel like I am standing on precipice desperately looking though an April that refuses to come and yet is flying by, staring into oblivion.  Retirement?  The price of gasoline has gone up what, almost a dollar a gallon, since I made the decision to retire.  What I see coming is ever increasing costs and physical decline on a fixed income that will result in an ever increasing sense of poverty while my wife and I race our finances to the grave.  Yet I read VW Busman telling us of cheerfully pulling on his waders to go water his plants in his flooded greenhouse, giving thanks for waking up in the morning, drinking a glass of good homemade wine, and laughing at his predicament.  I think to myself, Sextant you old bastard, it is time to grow up.

You can read all of my retirement related posts at:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Persistence Of A Word & A Google Doodle

EDIT 2-26-13:  OK, I am curious!  About 6 weeks ago this post received a lot of hits from towns around Vancouver BC:  Surrey,  Burnaby, Richmond, and Coquitlam.   Then the hits dropped off.  Now they just started again to the tune about 10 to 15 a day.  Normally this post gets hit about twice a week.  The search query is usually "summary, persistence of a word, James Gleick".  My guess is that a college course is studying Gleick's work and there is an assignment regarding the persistence of a word.  Please leave a comment if you have any idea why this post is become popular every 6 weeks in Vancouver.  If my guess is correct, I hope the post is useful.  I am not exactly a professor!  I fear that it may be regarded as a public service among the students if I would delete this post so that you are not wasting time on my blather. 

UPDATE 2,  2-26-13:  Let me take a wild guess.  The people who are hitting this post are taking Cmns 110, (Communication 110) at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC and have the previous edition of the text that is missing the article on Gleick's persistence of the word.  I would further guess that mid-terms are upon us.  Should I expect another flurry of hits during finals?  

I have gone back to reading James Gleick’s excellent book The Information, a History, a Theory, a Flood.  So far it has proven to be one of those books that one must stop every so often and look at a stated idea with care.  Not always because the idea is hard to understand, but rather for some of the ideas, they are so obvious, yet so little thought about, that like a punch to one's solar plexus, the notion takes one’s breath away.  In my imagination I think of grasping the idea in my hand and slowly rotating it like a solid body with an extremely complex shape, analyzing every nook and cranny to glean the deepest possible meaning.  A friend of mine from work states it best, he savors the idea.  Think about that for a moment.  What happens when you savor something?  Many people experience savoring a particular food.  Think of your favorite dish prepared to perfection.  You may employ every one of your senses to enjoy it including your hearing if it sizzles on the plate or has a distinctive sound as you chew it.  (Imagine eating a fresh apple with the consistency of pudding—it wouldn’t sound right)  When you savor something, you enjoy it supremely.  It is easy to understand with food which appeals to our physical senses and fulfills the very basic need of nutrition, but what is savoring an idea? 

The second chapter of The Information is titled "The Persistence of The Word".  I had not got very far into this chapter when I was floored with an idea.  Glieck starts of the chapter with some thoughts from Walter Ong:

Wikipedia, Walter J. Ong

a guy of whom I am ashamed to admit that I have never heard.  Ong asks us to “try to imagine a culture where no one has ever ‘looked up’ anything.”  He then asks us to imagine describing a horse to a culture that has only known automobiles forever.  In this argument, Ong limits his notion of a horse as being an alternate source of traction verses an animal.  Ong’s point to all this is that the written word is so ubiquitous to our culture, to not only our understanding of our world but to the method that we understand the world that we cannot really conceive what it would be like to not have written words.  When considering language we are “automobilized”—the written word is so internalized, that we cannot effectively understand a world without writing any more than the “automobiled” culture could understand a horse having never seen one.  Try to imagine not having writing!  Yes, you can imagine this on a cursory, nod your head sort of way, but can you truly experience it?  This strikes me on the same order (but of a lesser magnitude) of a task I asked of you in a previous post, imagine what it is like to not exist (going out like a candle flame at death).  Yes, you can imagine it, but what you imagine is a vastly richer experience than truly not existing.  

After allowing us to chew on Ong’s thoughts for moment Gleick give us a statistic:  the vocabulary of a typical oral culture is several thousand words, the number of words in English exceeds 1 million and it increases by several thousand every year.  The chapter goes on with an the concept of how the written word becomes a method of projecting ones thoughts into the future and at a distance.  I have read only about 10 percent of the chapter and I am enthralled.


”I ♥ New York
Last night I had to stop reading because my mind just raced ahead of my reading.  Suddenly I began thinking all sort of thoughts about the written word, how it affects us, how we use it and the differences that would be in our world without it.  A thought experiment jumped into my mind.  Think of any common noun.  A bird, grass, or an Oldsmobile…but think of your own noun not one that I just wrote.  What is the first thing that jumps into your mind?  It could very well be a visual image of the noun that you thinking.  You may see a robin or cardinal for the term bird.  Now think of common verbs such as fight, wash, or eat.  The first thing that jumps in your mind may be a single visual image or a short visual video of the action.  Love?  First thing that jumped in your mind?  Depending on your proclivities it may be an image of a couple kissing, an image of a baby, puppy, or kitten, or a very detailed mental porn flick.  But I would bet for most people what they saw was a red heart—yes like on the playing card.  Why?  Well because we have been conditioned by advertising and God knows how many bumper stickers…”I ♥ New York.”…“I ♥ my shih tzu”…”Honda = ♥”.

Now let’s try some numbers.  Three.  First thing that pops into to mind.  Well three is numerically a simple concept, so you might actually see three objects, perhaps a triangle,  Again depending on your proclivities, you may see God in the Trinity, or you may see the word three, or the numeral 3.

Thirteen?  No doubt you will see something involving bad luck or a black cat, or perhaps 13 stars in a circle or 13 stripes (if you are an American).   But if you are completely non-superstitious and not from America, you may simply see the numeral 13 or the word thirteen.  You will most undoubted not see a group of 13 objects,  even the stars and stripes that the patriot in you may see will not actually be 13 of them but just a generalized image of a circle of stars or red and white stripes.  Why?  Thirteen is too many objects for most people to visualize without applying a lot of effort and even then you would probably break it up into a groups of 10 and 3 or 6 and 7.

Now think of nine hundred eighteen.  What do you see?  I can almost guarantee that you saw the numerals 918.
Nine Hundred Eighteen

Not a collection of objects, not words, but the numerals, unless nine hundred and eighteen means something to you, perhaps your tax refund, or the number of pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

Ok, one thousand.  What is the first thing that pops into your mind?  Some of you will see a stack of money.  Some may see $1000.  Here again it is conditioning.  A thousand dollars is a common unit of valuation.  A car costs 25 thousand, a house costs 119 thousand.  One more. One thousand nine hundred and eighteen, one thousand more than our nine hundred eighteen above.  What pops into your mind?  The numerals 1918, but then curiously (if you are either old or a historian) flu and World War 1.  What jumps in my mind is the image of a doughboy and one of those weird looking WW 1 tanks that does not have a turret on the top, gas masks, and barbed wire.

Now let’s consider several more words.  Arbitrary.  What jumps into your mind?  Magnitude.  I bet you saw the written word.  These are not easily recognizable things or actions.  They are qualities, mental conceptions and unless they have a specific meaning to something specialized in your life, they will probably not have instant mental images associated with them.   

Then I got to thinking about this concept of “looking up” things and how the written word allows that.  We have dictionaries which define words.  Generally one uses a dictionary to find out what a word means or how to spell or pronounce it.  But what happens when you want a somewhat better word, either one more suited to the idea that you are trying to convey or simply more fancy to dazzle or baffle your audience.  Then use a Thesaurus.  We have encyclopedias to record generalized knowledge and books to record specific knowledge.

So look at what we can do just by having writing beyond the spoken word.  Although to be very effective, it is not simply writing.  Mass reproduction of the written word had to happen as well, so the printing press is a huge leap forward over simple writing.  The common man can afford a book.  But a really cool thing with writing occurred when man learned to harness electricity…then learned about vacuum tubes…then figured out the transistor…the printed circuit board…and the micro chip.  Voilà, computers and voilà again...the Internet.

A week or so before I left for Georgia, I saw a rather clever bumper sticker.  It was simply two words and I meant to write it down when I got home.  I forgot it.  Completely.  It has been plaguing me off and on.  What the hell was that bumper sticker?  This morning I remembered it had the word obfuscation in it.  I Googled “bumper sticker, obfuscation”.  Bingo, first hit:  “Eschew Obfuscation”.  I didn’t even need to open the site, although I am glad I did because I was then treated to:

“Caution!  I may not brake for Schrodinger’s cat.” 

Which then reminded me of a tee shirt I once saw:  

“Wanted dead or alive, Schrodinger’s cat.” 

Which even getting further a field…which what the hell if you can’t go off subject in your own damned blog, then to hell with it…reminds me of a minor event.  My wife and I took one of our cats to the vet.  There was a single car in the parking lot with its headlights on.  It had a bumper sticker “F--- nice people” except the u c k were not dashes.  We went into the waiting room and there was a rather attractive, well dressed, young woman sitting with no animal.  I said to her “At the risk of being seemingly nice, I believe you left your headlights on.”  She politely thanked me and went out and turned off her lights.   Beats the hell out of me. 

Getting back on track, a dozen sentences ago I stated:  “I Googled “bumper sticker, obfuscation.”  Is there anything weird about that?  Suppose the year was 1995 and I wrote that sentence, would you know what I meant?  I may have Yahoooed it back then but I would not have Googled it, and yet you probably thought nothing of the sentence when you read it. 

So now not only can we look up things, but we can do it with an efficiency and speed that would be inconceivable 30 years ago.  And we can do it in our living rooms.  We don’t have to go to a library or hire a researcher.  Just own a computer and subscribe to an Internet service.  Holy schmolie guacamole!  What wonderful lives we lead!

Let us consider one more aspect of the writing and the Internet, opportunity.  Back in the early 90’s I tried to write a book, it was going to be called “Ramblings On The Road” or “Ramblings On The Walk” or "Ramblings In the Woods” or “Ramblings on the bla, bla, bla, bla".  It was going to be “Ramblings something”, because it was a collection of thoughts that I had while exercise walking in the woods.  Probably due to a mild form of runner’s high, I thought I had these profound albeit jumbled thoughts while walking.  Hence the “Ramblings”.  (Fear not, VW Busman, I don’t have a copyright to the word Ramblings—but I will offer it up as another one of those weird synchronicities between you and I, that is about 20 years asynchronous—nothing says the synchronicities have to be simultaneous).  I was very much influenced by John Jerome’s Stonework, and William Heat Least Moon’s Blue Highways and PrairyErth. The big difference of course is that Jerome and Least Heat Moon are real writers, and I am a guy that works in a factory.  Anyhow Ramblings Something never got really named because I never finished it, because I figured that it would have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting published.  The fact that I passed it on to a recently published local author who returned it to me saying in a very polite sort of way that it was pure unadulterated shit probably influenced my decision as well. 

Just because somebody sucks at something doesn’t necessarily diminish their desire to do it.  So the chances of my book ever being published were next to none.  But lo and behold Blogger!  And it is free!.  So now I can write to my heart’s content and hope that somebody reads it.  Probably no one will, so what you do is put a lot of interesting images in your blog and hope that one of the 20 to 50 people who visit your blog daily searching for images may stop to read something.  It happens about once a week.  Not a huge audience, but still better than my non-published book.  So the Internet not only allows you to search with ungodly efficiency, it allows you to voice your thoughts in a semi-permanent written form, no matter how crappy they are. 

So what is my hope by writing a blog?  VWBussman hopes to help people see and enjoy the simple pleasures in life, a goal that I share as well but probably not with the efficiency and earnestness that VWBussman has.  Old Baguette wants to entertain us with the quirks of her extensive family and reform Catholicism.  So what is my hope?  I hope that once in a very blue moon, that someone somewhere in the world (and I do have a very world wide audience of image seekers) will stop for a moment while searching for their image and read something I wrote and savor it.  Entertain and edify, just once in a very blue moon.  I just want you to think “Wow, what a cool thought…too bad it is bullshit!”

We have a Google Doodle today.  The 119th anniversary of the ice cream Sundae if you live in New York.  If you are from Wisconsin, you may have an entirely different perspective.  Google has doodled in favor of New York, can Wisconsin prove otherwise? 

PC Magazine, Google Doodle

If you have savored nothing else from this post today, go out and savor a sundae on this day,  its 119th anniversary.

EDIT 4-6-11:  I have found the perfect bumper sticker (well actually a tee-shirt) for myself, but I am going to get it in the coffee mug version and keep it next to my computer.  "ESCHEW PROLIXITY" .

EDIT 7-25-2011  There is a very good Radiolab episode that considers how words affect our thinking.

Radiolab, August 09, 2009, Words

Image Credit:

EDIT 5-30-2013  Here is an interesting article on what Google Images "sees" when an ABC word from a children's ABC book is searched.  I tried "apple."  Of the first 20 images displayed 10 were logos for Apple computer.

The, Tech, 5-30-13, The Google ABC Book, Alexis C. Madrigal

Image Credits:

Trillium and 918: Yours Truly

Google Doodle:  Google 

The Information, Book Cover,  Random House

I ♥ NY, Thirteen Stars, WW1 Tank, Wikipedia