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

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bizarre Holiday Travel Problem

Have you ever had problems traveling for the Thanksgiving Holiday?  Our home sits within earshot of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  Last night we heard what sounded like a snowplow running down the pike.  What the hell?  It was almost 60 degrees out and it was raining. Why is a snow plow going down the pike?

A truck carrying heated drive way sealant had a leaking valve and dumped 4000 gallons of the sealant on the east bound road surface for 40 miles on the Turnpike, from Newcastle exit to Allegheny Valley exit.   Different estimates abound, from 100 to 300 cars were stranded by tar build up on their tires. This occurred after dark and in the rain.  The motorist had no idea they were driving through liquid tar.  Most  thought they getting a flat tire and pulled over to the side of the road.  Fortunately there were no accidents or injuries.

TribLive News, Driveway sealant gums up Pennsylvania Turnpike

You can see additional photos here:  WTAE.Com, News, Slideshow

About 10 years ago my wife and I were on vacation and driving through Stevensville Maryland on US 50.  We passed a trailer truck that was spraying some substance from the side of the trailer.  Trapped in traffic the right side of our mini-van was doused with some gooey substance.  The stuff obliterated the windshield on the right side.  The wipers just smeared it around. Fortunately the left side of the windshield was clear. This was back before either of us had cell phones and we didn't get any identification on the truck.  We got back to our motel in Annapolis and the right side of our car was covered with some smelly, sticky, slippery shit that struck me as rancid chicken fat. The stuff had a foul smell that just turned our stomachs.  Thank God we had the windows closed and the air conditioner on, my wife would have been splattered with that crap.   I spent $20 in quarters at a high pressure spray car wash trying to get that shit off the car and I was pissed.  I can't imagine being hundreds of miles from home and having your car rendered inoperable by tar.  Ironically the truck that dumped the sealant last night was from Stevensville Maryland.

More holiday good cheer...with the 2 inches of rain we had,  there is a flood watch on rivers for today through Friday.  Fortunately the rain is clearing out.  Well I hope your Thanksgiving goes better than these unfortunate travelers.  

IMAGE CREDIT:  TribLive News, Driveway sealant gums up Pennsylvania Turnpike

Saturday, November 19, 2011

When am I going to grow up?

“Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.” 
― Margaret AtwoodCat's Eye
When I grow up, I want to look like him. 

I had to laugh when I ran across the above quote over at Goodreads Quote of The Day.  While there is no doubt in my mind that I am 62 years old, there often exists an underlying belief that I am not really an adult.  This belief doesn't exactly float on the surface of my consciousness, it seems to reside in a normally closed closet within my mind.  So I don't walk around with the constant idea that I am not really an adult.  For the thought to occur to me, something has to trigger the closet door to open and then the notion floods into my mind but more in the process of a day dream than a conscious thought.

A distinguished handsome woman. 
Frequently this happens at the supermarket.  I will be slobbing up and down the aisles in my sneakers, blue jeans, scruffy shirt, and a ball cap (the same style of clothes that I wore when I was in high school).  I will see a certain type of person, and CLICK, the closet door flies open and out pops a notion of admiration and perhaps envy of this person and I find myself feeling like I am  somewhat of a naive, unknowing, worthless teen.   Again this is not so much of a conscious thought, but rather more of a daydream.  Then the second thought occurs to me, gee that person is 10 to 20 years younger than me!  That is a conscious thought.

Oh I wouldn't mind looking like him either, even if he is a
metrosexual.  Do they like girls?  
So who are these people who can engender this negative fountain of youth within my mind?  They are always well dressed but of a conservative style, well groomed but again conservatively so, obviously educated and intelligent, good posture and carriage, purposeful and not in a hurry, and distinguished looking.  They can be male or female, but if it is a woman, I would tend to describe her more as handsome than beautiful.  They are generally in an age group of 40 to 60 and they often have some gray in their hair.  Usually they look neither old or youthful.  I have pulled up some examples of both genders at the upper and lower end of the age bracket.

Diane Lane looking handsome.

Its an odd thing with search engines, I did a search for images of  distinguished men.  About 1/4 of the photos displayed were scantily clad women.  Most of the men displayed were not very distinguished looking, and most of the photos were of poor quality.  When I searched for distinguished women, half of them were nude, and while you could say many positive things about them usually involving beauty, handsome and distinguished just did not seem to fit.  The ones who were clothed, again, were not all that terribly distinguished or it was a lousy photo.  So out of frustration and a desire not to publish some private citizen's image, I devolved to Hollywood.  There is nothing wrong with being a performing artist, but I wanted to avoid the triteness of celebrity that the image may possess, the built in recognition, and preconceived attitudes that a reader may hold for the person.   So when you look at the photos try to look at them in a generic sense rather than "Oh it's Helen Mirren" and see her in your mind's eye at the Academy Awards.   

It is an odd feeling this being old and immature at the same time.  So what is it about these people that engenders this feeling of a lack a maturity?   I certainly don't feel young.  But this is not a question of young or old.  It is the question of recognizing oneself as an adult.  It is a question of growing intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually through learning and life experience, not simply accruing birthdays.   So what is it about these people?  I for the most part do not envy looks or fine clothes and fashions.  There is a great comfort in being ugly and a slob, it keeps one isolated  from temptation.   So what is it about these people?  

They are capable.  I envy their ability.  What they have in reality doesn't matter, we are not pulling out last year's 1040, or comparing CVs and resumes.  I am only seeing an image that they present to the world, and it is an entirely different image than what I present.  These people exude an atmosphere of capability by presenting themselves as neat, tidy, well dressed and emotionally and intellectually well grounded.  I look like some slob that retired out of a factory...oh yeah, that is exactly what I am.  So other than knowing how to do some factory things, I am principally in the same boat that I was the day I graduated from high school.  Well not really but it seems that way. 


I don't envy the wealthy their wealth.  Certainly I wouldn't mind having say double my income, but I sure as hell don't need 10  or 100 times my income.  I find the trappings of the wealthy often vulgar and usually rather amusing.  The trappings of the extravagantly wealthy are down right bizarre.  I thought a $300,000 Bentley over the top.  How about a $423,000 watch?  No, I do not envy wealth and possessions.  But I do envy ability.  I have such dearth there of!  I excel at nothing, in fact, I really can't think of anything that I am even good at...mediocre to lousy in all fields of endeavor.  

In as much as I believe in reincarnation, (I don't actually believe it, I fear it--I want to be done with this shit...not keep coming back and back), I believe that I may be paying back some well deserved Karma in this life.  Nothing seems to work for me as well as it does for other people.  Other people seem to manage their time, their resources, their wealth, and their abilities much better than I do.  I seem incapable in comparison, something like a kid in high school.

On the other hand, in some of the blogs I follow, I read of bad marriages, horrifically abused childhoods, drug and alcohol abuse, lost jobs, foreclosed mortgages, illness, deaths of spouses or children, abusive marriages, endless spectrum of despair.  Yeah,  I am not too experienced in any of that stuff either--just a child really.   I have lived a sheltered life with a very good woman who has made a respectable human being out of me.  I had a not bad job that paid the bills, kept a shabby roof over our heads, put my son through college, and is now providing a livable pension.  Mediocre, yeah, but respectable so what the hell am I bitching about?

EDIT 3-22-12:  Another guy I would like to look like, and yes I wish she was my daughter.

Anthony Hopkins and Claire Forlani in Meet Joe Black


Image Credits

Michael Caine:

George Clooney:

Diane Lane:,_Diane/gallery/SGG-057709/

Hellen Mirren:


Anthony Hopkins & Claire Folani:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review, Making Love, By Richard Rhodes

Making Love: An Erotic OdysseyMaking Love: An Erotic Odyssey by Richard Rhodes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In Letters to My Son: A Father's Wisdom on Manhood, Life, and Love, Kent Nerburn speaks of the old adage, “we humans are destined to live with our feet on the earth and our heads in the heavens, and we can never be at peace because we are pulled both ways”  (page 146).

Then in a beautiful and poignant passage, Nerburn explains to his son how our sexuality must be both of the earth and of the heavens.

Richard Rhodes is one of my favorite authors. At the time Making Love was published I was attempting to write a book somewhat inspired by John Jerome's Stone Work: Reflections on Serious Play and Other Aspects of Country Life.  I had wanted to capture on the written page some of the beauty and wonder of my musings during my exercise walks in the woods, they seemed to me to be ramblings of great profound philosophical truths. Ha! In one chapter, I felt a deep need to share with the world the beauty of the intimate encounters with my wife, which then and still now are to me sacraments of Divine love.  Vast and complete failure! My chapter came off like some third rate erotic novel written by a kid in junior high school.  The rest of the book was just as sorry and I wisely never attempted to publish it. I believe the book was vain attempt to capture my life as it slipped away like fine sand through my fingers, inspired no doubt by mid life crisis and the initial cold breeze of the recognition of my own mortality.  Anyhow, I lived these wonderful and loving experiences with my wife and failed miserably trying to capture them in writing.

So here I was, some guy that worked in a factory, trying to depart a sense of beauty and mystery of love between a woman and man and getting lost in a tawdry mess of vague descriptions of methods to connect plumbing. So when I saw Richard Rhodes' Making Love I thought, "hallelujah, I will learn from a master" (not realizing yet what a turd the rest of my book was as well).  Well Rhodes wrote in exacting X-rated detail the precise methods of connecting the plumbing.

The man can write no doubt, he is one of my favorite authors, and he left nothing to the imagination in Making Love. I am no prude or  stranger to sexually explicit writing, and yet I was not only disappointed with this book, I was devastated by it.  While Rhodes more than adequately described the "feet on the earth" aspect of sexuality in sweaty detail, he seemed to miss altogether the "heads in heavens" aspect. He left nothing to the imagination except perhaps any sense of higher purpose or spirituality, which seemed to be completely absent from his experience.  I felt like a voyeur reading it.  I remember of setting the book down and thinking this book was not about making love, it was about f***ing.  Not only was I dismayed by his description, it seemed to cheapen and defile mine.  If making love is this tawdry experience for the great Richard Rhodes, how can my experience be anything more than the musings of a romantic fool looking at a base and ignoble act of biological necessity through rose colored glasses?  So instead of getting a hint or hopefully a lesson on how to write about sexuality to capture both its earthiness and its Holiness, I was led to believe that not only are such writings impossible but that I should regard the experience itself with some suspicion.

Fortunately, this suspicion was not allowed to fester into a full drawn conclusion.  I discussed the book with my wife and told her that I found myself questioning the validity of our own experience, which of course was silly...but we are talking Richard Rhodes here.   Rather than using words to fight words, my wife used the ancient wisdom of women to more than adequately demonstrate that, yes, making love is indeed of the earth, but it is also heaven on earth, that neither I or Richard Rhodes could capture with mere words.

 I am no longer in mid life crisis, but on the threshold of old age. Making love with my wife has become a bit more physically challenging with bad backs and arthritic hips and knees and yet it has become a far richer and deeply rewarding experience than what we had in our 20s or even our 40s.  There is no longer this terrifying requirement that every thing must go off with the precision of a NASA launch as in our 20s. Performance anxieties are a young people's sport.  We now have time and freedom, unlike our 40s, to pursue an entire afternoon in bed lying in a relaxed sweet embrace drifting off for a nap only to wake up for round two.

It occurs to me now that the phrase making love has two components...the earthly action in the word "making", and the heavenly spiritual state found in the word "love".  In my 20s the "making" was more important than the "love". In my 40s the "making" and the "love" were perhaps an equality, but now in my 60s the "love" is far more important than the "making". Oh everything follows the same basic script, but the action is far from pile driving and the embrace is far more loving.  

Perhaps, I should give Making Love another reading. Perhaps I would see something in it now that I missed earlier.  I am sure that I would no longer get a sense of tawdry ribaldry from it.  Sex has moved out of the arena of the filth for me.  It can beautiful, or it can be mundane, or it can be ugly.  It is humanity's search to find the Divine through the body.  If it is anything less than sublime, it is not the sex that is at fault, sex is after all only sex. It is the profane gods that we pursue that have failed us.  I think to re-read Making Love, now would no longer engender a sense of voyeurism, but rather a deep feeling of pity for the lost Divine.          

View all my reviews

EDIT 7/24/13:  For a far better and more intelligent review that better reflects my feelings about this book, read this excellent review at Goodreads:

Books At Amazon:, Making Love, Richard Rhodes, Letters To My Son, Kent Nerburn, Stone Work, John Jerome

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Tragedy of Joe Paterno

A stellar career of a man that I maintained a deep respect for has crashed and burned due to a lapse of moral judgement.  As Heartsinsanfrancisco said in her excellent post at her blog,  "This story has epic qualities like a Greek tragedy or an Arthur Miller play, but everyone's life is epic, whether played out on a ball field in front of millions, or lived quietly away from the spotlight."  and she is right.  

Part of me feels very bad for Joe Paterno...but on the scale of theatrical tragedy there is no measurement for the rape of children seven to twelve years old by a trusted adult male.

Have we lost our minds?
Then we have the students protesting over Paterno's firing.  It reminds me of that old Beach Boy's Song "Be True To Your School".  I guess they have not yet taken any courses that teach critical thinking.  To me it appears that the students are saying that Penn State Football is more important than preventing the continual rape of children.  

I would like to post a thoughtful and well balanced commentary on this entire situation but I am not sure I am capable of it.  My mind seems to be flooded with thoughts of butcher knives and well hung horny inmates extracting a little frontier justice from Mr. Sandusky.  All I will do is descend into a babbling fury well peppered with obscenity and imagined nonsense of well deserved cruel and unusual punishments.  Heartsinsanfrancisco provided an excellent post that states everything that I would say if I was more intelligent, capable of controlling my anger, and a better writer.  Please read her post and the attached commentary at:

Guilty With An Explanation, November 10, 2011, Morality Play

Here is a timeline of events:

Huffingtonpost, 2011/11/09/, Penn State Scandal Timeline: Key Dates In The Jerry Sandusky Sex Abuse Case

No, not all of us. 

I have read that Sandusky was one of the best defensive coordinators in the history of college football, indeed one of the Illuminati of the sport.  When you look at the time line in the link above, one thing should stand out, there were many opportunities to stop Jerry Sandusky's rampage of rape.  But typically, just like the students at Penn State, the people involved allowed the reverence of a sport figure to cloud their judgement.  Sports in America has a very nasty underbelly.  In the popular imagination, the players and coaches exceed mere celebrity, they become demigods...above ethics, above the law, above morality, above any shard of human decency.  There is a much larger tragedy to this sad story than the tarnish on Joe Paterno's is, as the protesting students have more than adequately demonstrated, that many Americans are more than willing to overlook any crime, no matter how heinous, as long as you can deliver us that win.  There is something rotting in our Souls.

Image Credits: 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Google Doodle, Marie Curie's 144th Birthday

Marie Curie's 144th Birthday

I promised myself that I would get out of the business of blogging about Google Doodles.  I did one last summer that involved downloading 15 different Doodles for a British children's author that I never heard of and I have no idea who he is now.  That killed me for the Doodles, but today's Doodle is devoted to Marie Curie who holds a special place in the pantheon of people that I intend to have a beer with in the sinners quarter of heaven.  So what is so special about Marie Curie?  Well she was a damn good scientist and among other things she discovered two elements.

Marie Curie in the world of men (seated second from right).
The first Solvay Conferencein 1911.
Yes, that's big Al Einstein  (standing second from the right).   
That fact gets her into the pantheon, but what makes her special is that she is a woman...a woman who entered a man's world, won a man's most prestigious prize, not once but twice, and she is the first of two to have won multiple Nobels in different fields, and the only person in the world who has won Nobels in two different sciences.  Oh well, you know women have come a long way with feminism.  What's the big deal?  The big deal is that she didn't do this in the enlightened 1990s or 2000s.  She won her first Nobel in 1903 and the second in 1911.  American women did not have the right to vote until 1920.  Nor could they vote in Curie's adopted country of France until 1944. Marie Curie provides for me a cautionary tale for all of mankind but especially men.  We ignore the extraordinary gifts of women at a vast cost and perhaps peril to humanity.

The Curies working in their laboratory. 
Ironically Curie's scientific career and achievements were steered by three factors, relative poverty, lack of opportunity for women, and love.  She agreed to work and help pay for her sister's education at Sorbonne at Paris.  She took the position of a governess for various families, one being a distant relative of her father's.  She fell in love one of the elder sons of this family but they rejected her as a suitable wife for their son.  This led her to Paris where she lived  with her sister and obtained degrees in both physics and mathematics at the Sorbonne, tutoring in the evenings to pay for her tuition.

After she graduated she began researching the magnetic properties of steel.  She met Pierre Curie and their working relationship blossomed into a romance.  However she returned to her native Poland where she sought a position at the University of Krakow.  It was denied due to her gender.  She returned to Paris and married Curie.  Together they worked with Henry Becquerel on various studies into radioactivity and radioactive elements.  The Curies discovered the elements polonium and radium.

Curie in 1911
In 1903 Marie & Pierre Curie and Becquerel were awarded the Nobel prize for their work in radioactivity.  The Sorbonne offer Pierre Curie a professorship and a laboratory and Marie became the director of research.   Tragically Pierre was killed by a horse drawn cart in 1906.  Although Marie was crushed with grief with the loss of her beloved husband the Sorbonne turned Pierre's position and laboratory over to Marie.  She became the first woman professor at the Sorbonne.  Despite her fame, her obvious scientific abilities, and having won two Nobels she was denied entry into the French Academy of Sciences,  again due to her gender.  Her daughter, also a Nobel prize winner would be denied membership as well in the future.

Love strikes again, but this time in a more sordid fashion.  Curie had an affair with Paul Langevin,  a fellow physicist who was estranged but not divorced from his wife.  Langevin's wife notified the press of the affair immediately after the announcement of Curie's second Nobel.  The press went berserk with the story.  Curie was labeled a home wrecker, a suspicious foreigner, and falsely a Jew.  Some members of the Nobel committee pleaded with Curie to not accept the prize in Sweden.  The notions of the King dining with and accused adulteress was scandalous.  Well none other than big Al Einstein, who was indeed Jewish, told Curie to go claim her prize:
"I am convinced that you [should] continue to hold this riffraff in contempt...if the rabble continues to be occupied with you, simply stop reading that drivel. Leave it to the vipers it was fabricated for." 
Marie herself stated:
"The prize has been awarded for the discovery of radium and polonium. I believe that there is no connection between my scientific work and the facts of private life. I cannot accept ... that the appreciation of the value of scientific work should be influenced by libel and slander concerning private life."
Marie Curie, 1920

She went to Sweden had dinner with the King and brought home the prize.  The King survived the ordeal to later have his own affair with a married man brought to light.  Ahhhhh, a strange world we live in.

Marie Curie worked until the end of her life with radiation and radium and she ended up giving her life to her work. Unknown at the time, continuous exposure to moderate amounts of ionizing radiation can seriously degrade one's health.  Marie Curie died in 1934 of aplastic anemia due to the radiation's effect on her bone marrow.

I would like to consider for a moment some of the influences on Curie's life and career.  Her family had lost property holdings in Poland's various uprisings.  As such she grew up in relative poverty.  She could not simply afford to obtain an advanced education.  What if she had given up?  What if she did not have the curiosity and drive to pursue her education under the hardship of her studies during the day and tutoring at night to pay for her tuition?  What if she had married her first love, the distant relative to her father?  Would have he had the insight to know what a special woman Marie was?  Would he have allowed her to get an education, and work in a man's world?  So in the long run was it a good or bad thing that his family rejected Marie?

Solvay Conference 1927. Marie Curie (seated 3rd from the left)
is still alone in a man's world.  Wow! No girls except Marie,
but what a collection of intellectual horsepower!  To the left of
Marie, Max Planck.  One seat to the right is Big Al.  Middle
row, to the left of Big Al is Paul Dirac.  On the far right of the
second row, Niels Bohr and Max Born. Top row directly above
Big Al is Erwin Schrodinger of the cat fame.  One guy over
to the right is Wolfgang Pauli and Werner Heisenberg who
is uncertain about all this. What a beer blast I could have
with this crowd.  BTW Richard Feynman, who would be 9 at
the time, was not invited.  The neutron was not invited either, it
was just a theory bouncing around in some of those heads.  

Marie's education and work in Paris leading to her marriage to Pierre Curie was indeed fortuitous.  Pierre, obviously loved his wife as a woman yet also admired and respected her as a scientist. What a stroke of luck that Pierre recognized her place was in the laboratory.  Imagine for a moment, what would have happened to Marie if she had been accepted at the University of Krakow.  Would she have been a very good physics professor that lived a quiet life of obscurity?  Little did she realize that the University probably did her and the world a favor.  Upon her return to Paris she blossomed into a first rate scientist.

Another ironic occurrence was Pierre's untimely and tragic death.  She lost her husband and yet again blossomed with his professorship and laboratory.  She persevered and created a first rate research center that engendered four more Nobel prizes under her direction. Marie proved herself to be the equal and beyond of her peers.

Let's consider this business with the affair.  The French press vilified her.  She was accused of being a tramp, a dangerous foreigner, and shamefully called a Jew which was false as she was a lapsed Catholic.  The shame in the Jew accusation was two fold.  She was accused of being something she was not, and to me a much larger shame was on French society, indeed most if not all of Western society, that being called a Jew would actually mean something derogatory.  The French press knew exactly what it was doing with the Jew accusation.  It was inflaming the existing antisemitism of Europe and France to build further animosity against her.  Yes Curie was an adulteress, but not only was she an adulteress, she was a foreign tramp and a Jew!  This lie had three victims. 1) Curie was not a Jew, and the label was being used to denigrate her.  2) People of the Jewish faith and ethnicity certainly had enough of their own problems with the press in Europe.  They didn't need false accusations of a lapsed Catholic adulteress thrown in their face.  They were completely innocent of anything to do with this affair, yet "Curie is an foreign tramp, a home wrecker and a Jew!"  3) The French citizenry was being lied to by the press and being manipulated to further encourage antisemitism in French society.

So what do we have here?  A foreign woman gets a bit big for her skirts, she wins not only one Nobel but two.  She has been given her late husband's professorship and laboratory and is running it successfully.  She needs knocked down a peg or two.  If she had been a man, would there have been any production made about this affair?  Would the Nobel committee ask her not to come to Sweden?  Would she have been called a Jew?  Would Albert Einstein have been called a Jew?  Is it so inhuman for a woman who has tragically lost the love of her life to find a romantic interest in another man.  He was estranged from his wife but yes the marriage had not been dissolved, and yes that is adultery, and yes it is wrong.  But how wrong?  Is it really any of our business?  Although Langevin divorced his wife, the romance did not survive the intense press coverage and the ugly accusations of French society.  Again irony, Curie's fame crushed her happiness.

The irony in Curie's story is heartbreaking.  She is steered into great success due to a lack of opportunity for women in her home country.  She loses a husband she loves and who loves and respects her and it brings her further success.  She is vilified in the French press and used to disparage the innocent people of the Jewish faith. And ultimately her life's work kills her.  Quite a story.

The lesson here is obviously Curie is proof that women have the capacity to do great things if given the opportunity.  One has to question, how many Marie Curies did the world lose because of misogyny and lack of opportunity for women?  How many Albert Einsteins, Richard Feynmans and Lise Meitners has the world lost to antisemitism that ran a course from Jewish quotas at universities to the Holocaust?  How many George Washington Carvers, Colin Powells, or Condoleezza Rices have we lost to racism?  Is the world so well off that we can afford to lose the talents, abilities, and intelligence of these people just because they are women, or a different race, or ethnic group, or religion?  How different would the world have been if women and minorities had been embraced?  What have we lost?  How different would it be if the brave few who have persevered gave up?

I have read in some of my shall we say dabblings into New Age thought and Gnosticism that there is a notion the men are to learn from women.  One of the ways they learn from women is to respect them and treat them as equals.  Another way men learn from women is to love them. How simple!  Respect and love a woman and she will show you God.  What a shame that Judo-Christianity chose to quash that notion.

Links And Credits

Wikipedia, Marie Curie

The Independent, The Secret Sex Life of Marie Curie           

NPR Blogs, Krulwich Wonders, Don't Come to Stockholm! Madame Curie's Nobel Scandal

American Institute of Physics, Marie Curie and The Science of Radioactivty

Image Credits:

Google Doodle: Google

All Other Images:  Wikipedia, Marie Curie