Sunday, January 31, 2016

Philosophy 002 - the epistemology/metaphysics bowl of oatmeal

A couple of months ago I started this revolutionary series of posts on philosophy. By revolutionary, I mean that they it will likely cause Socrates to spin in his grave. In the first post, I discussed my reading in philosophy and set down my thoughts on epistemology, particularly how little we know, what that realization should mean to us and how to tell the difference between different levels of doubt. My approach sounds a little like Abbott & Costello’s Who’s on first? routine – with the concepts of I don’t know, I don’t care and enough being my predominant principles. If you have any more interest in it or don’t have a job and nothing to do, you can read it (11/10/15).

Towards the end, I wrote: “Just to make sure we are on the same page, when I ask the question of when we can say we have knowledge, I do not also mean to ask by it - when can we know something is real or true. Our knowledge is based on what we think is true or real and we may be completely wrong. If we learn we were wrong about a belief or fact, it merely means that we now have increased our level of doubt, or do not have enough certainty to believe we have knowledge.”

I want to tackle that question of whether we can know “reality,” that is, the essence of things. Epistemology and metaphysics are considered two separate philosophical categories, but, in truth, it is impossible to separate them as one always bleeds into the other – that is, where what we can know bleeds into what there is and vise versa. Not only is it not possible to draw a line, but probably, we are always discussing both at the same time, because we are stuck in ourselves and all attempts to escape that, even with technology, must fail.

Don’t expect a handy formula from me or that I am going to try to settle any issues. Absolute truth is, of course, unknowable – except perhaps we can know that we can know something (right or wrong) and that we are limited in what we know. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least discuss both reality and our knowledge of it. And maybe that means mostly discussing what are sometimes given as an answer, but aren’t.

The first thing that pops into my mind in thinking about how we can know what is real, is that the answer is not faith. For many people, faith allows them to believe they know the truth, but I reject it as just a matter of opinion, convenience and comfort. I’ve discussed this in previous posts on occasion, mostly concerning (Atheism on 4/28/13 and I promise not to eat your children on 5/30/10). I don’t want to repeat everything I wrote there, so it will be much shorter. Faith is merely a form of belief that something is true based on something other than evidence. Probably faith is most often discussed concerning the existence or not of God. Although people may share a religious faith in general, often that means that they say that they belong to the same religion (whether or not they know anything about it) or perhaps have memorized similar or rituals, icons, prayers, etc. Even if someone is deeply knowledgeable about their religion's dogma, it doesn’t upgrade their faith to more than a belief and I find that even people professing the same faith find, if they can speak openly, that they differ on precisely what it means. Hence, there were and still are many divisions of religions, claims to be the “true” religion and the concept of heresy. One man’s true religion is another man’s cult and arguably, for every religious person, there is a unique religion. 

Science, which is essentially a disciplined approach to reason made to come closer to the "truth" does get us a little closer. By that I mean that I accept to some degree the philosophies of Charles Peirce and Karl Popper to the extent that we cannot know the truth, but through rigorous procedures, scientists or we ourselves can learn what is not the truth, and thereby by subtraction add to our empirical knowledge brick by brick, unpeeling layers and chipping away by experiment and moving forward haphazardly by educated guesses – hypotheses – and sometimes dumb luck (some would argue, mostly dumb luck).

But, Popper would tell you that at the bottom of science or any rational thought is some type of faith. First, all knowledge just leads to other questions, and eventually you get to those axioms or premises that can’t be proven or disproved, and you believe them because they seem necessarily true. One is the belief that reason can lead us to the truth or experience tells you that you can rely on it (like the sun coming up tomorrow or the earth not disintegrating beneath you). How do you prove that? You can’t. Still, every philosopher and scientist inherently accepts it, at least implicitly if they don’t think about it.

But is the “faith” that lets us accept basic premises of logic or reason the same type of “faith” that there is a God or that a religion is true? I don’t think so though we use the same word for it. The first is something that without which we could not use logic or reason or function and everything that we believe is real would no longer be a belief. The second is the acceptance of a much more complicated analysis without reason (which is essentially what faith means). As even believers know, it is quite possible to believe in or use reason without the basis of believing in God or religion. Though some philosophers/theologists argue that reason begins with the concept of a deity or God, I consider them so divorced from any reason or logic that can be cogently stated, that I can’t take it seriously. Even among philosophers who beat these issues to death in page after page, sometimes that is what the argument comes down to – we just know it isn’t so. Others can differ, of course.

Another category, perception, without reason or faith, is meaningless as far as knowledge is concerned, but I will add that it is undeniable that what we perceive has to pass through the filters of our senses, and that we can only approach existence or reality through them. We can know about things we can't perceive - for example, we can't perceive x-rays, but we can know they exist by perceiving their affect on other things, like marks on special film, or we can reason that things exist, which probably do, such as a black hole, but again we only get there by perceiving other things which we reason about.

But, whether we are applying faith or science or other processes like intuition, nothing can ever let us know what is true or real absolutely and reason, including science, and experience can only tell us what we are pretty sure isn’t true in particular times and places - and it is very uncertain knowledge. Descartes would argue that perhaps it is a dream or perhaps a demon has caused some belief, but I don’t think we have to go that far. Both reason and experience can tell us as much.

All this presupposes that there is a “truth” to be known, something we can call “reality,” at the bottom of what we experience, even if we can never really approach it closely or know it fully. We can start, again like Descartes, and say, “I think, therefore I am.” It makes immediate and intuitive sense. Even if everything thought is wrong or what we think is doing the thinking ain’t – there has to be something. And maybe that is the one thing we can be surest of – there is something, not nothing, because we wouldn’t be having this discussion if there wasn’t.

In the beginning of the 20th century though, the idea that there is some reality, something certain at the bottom of everything we think we see, hear, feel, etc., was thrown into question. It wasn’t the first time that the idea that we are not experiencing reality directly had been considered – Plato, Mahayana Buddhists, Bishop Berkeley and many others all discussed these issues. But with all of them, though they differ in some aspects, there was an underlying if unknowable reality. Even a minimal understanding of perception tells us that what we perceive is not identical with what exists, although once we state that, it becomes much harder to understand what exactly is there that we can’t comprehend. This is the juncture of metaphysics – which concerns that underlying reality - with epistemology. They are not the same though, even if the line is gray. If epistemology is a bottomless well, metaphysics is a bottomless well that we can’t even find. Said another way, we can always discuss what we know. It is not even clear if a statement about metaphysics even has any real meaning.

But as soon as I write this, I remember the little Kant that I possess. Usually, I shy from Kant because he is hard. But there are times I see a glimpse of something that I suspect may be beyond Spinoza and onto something – if only there was only an easier way to think about it. There no doubt is truth in his concept of “things as they are” - as opposed to “things as we perceive them"; that part is easy. But then you start thinking about his concept of the noumena, which I think, in one sense is like Plato’s forms (a ridiculous philosophical idea, but possibly the first fully developed philosophical idea in the West – something more than an aphorism or formula - that has perhaps framed a central discussion forever). And then when I start trying to understand positive as opposed to negative noumena, I google away from it very quickly. I’m working myself up to it, but like everything in philosophy, it is interpreted many different ways and Kant wasn’t all that clear – if he really understood his own concepts himself. Some day, maybe, I'll get to it.

Plato and Kant and all of that thought, sometimes hopelessly sharp and gloppy at the same time, but always untestable, at first glance seems to have lost a great deal of importance in the advent of quantum theory, which has been experimentally shown to have remarkable staying power. Even with all its paradoxes and mind-boggling concepts, most physicists believe it is the correct interpretation of nature. No, I don’t intend to work my way through that here either in any great detail, as I can’t satisfactorily summarize it in a few paragraphs. But it is not without its paradoxes too and that is where I want to focus. 

Standing on Max Planck’s shoulders (and Planck was the initiator of the concept of quanta) Einstein’s work on the quanta of light in the same “miracle year” in which he formulated special relativity and two other revolutionary theories was a primary generator for later quantum theory by Bohr, Born, Heisenberg, Dirac, Schrodinger and others. But he himself was also quantum theory’s greatest critic. For quantum theory, as most widely interpreted (usually called the Copenhagen interpretation) has a view of reality that does not seem very real at all. It posits that underlying the material world we know are not just particles and waves, but probabilities about them.

If that sounds confusing, or just ridiculous, you are on the right track. The great physicist Richard Feynman famously said (at least everyone is sure it was him, though it isn't clear when and where) that if you think you understand quantum physics, then you don’t understand quantum physics. If that is true, then we are right back to the type of zen-like concepts that brings Plato, Berkeley, Kant and so on roaring back.  And that would be fine with most physicists. Because, first, most don’t seem to care if their theory is complete, because it is testable and therefore, in at least one sense of the word, provable. And, second, most if not all of the great physics theorists, if you scratch the surface, are philosophers at heart, and often wrote quite a bit about it.

Wasn’t I talking about Einstein? It's so easy to get lost in this stuff that I can’t blame any of the philosophers for the muddle. It’s like Bilbo Baggins told his nephew, Frodo –It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Dammit, I did it again. Anyway, Einstein would have these intense informal debates with Niels Bohr, who was perhaps as great a theorist, that were sometimes the real show at physics conventions. Bohr would hold strongly that there was essentially nothing underlying reality but probabilities which would “collapse” upon being observed into what we think is reality. Einstein claimed that “God does not play dice with the universe,” to which Bohr replied “Einstein, stop telling God what to do.” It was a lot more specific than that, but those are pithy summaries. They’d go back and forth but Bohr seemed to always come out on top, at least in the mind of most quantum theorists. 

Einstein, with two colleagues, Podolsky and Rosen, formulated a thought experiment which, if correct, meant at least that quantum theory was incomplete. In my own admittedly sketchy understanding, it goes like this: Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle holds that you cannot measure both the position and momentum of a particle at the same time, because the measurement of one itself affects measuring the second. You can conceive of a thought experiment though which would enable a particle to know of the spin of another particle at a distance – even an unimaginable distance like a different galaxy.

And this “spooky action at a distance” (Einstein’s phrase) concept, now usually called entanglement, would require that the information travel faster than light, which relativity says is impossible. All that probably sounds rather murky. Except, entanglement has been tested experimentally over and over again in every conceivable way, including with the most modern instrumentation. And the particles seem to know instantaneously what a paired particle is doing.

To be clear as possible in this miasma, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox did not mean quantum theory was wrong at all – some aspects of it have been declared to be the most experimentally proven concept of all time – but the interpretation of the results. And there are other interpretations of it that I’m not going into here. Einstein simply offered that the theory was not complete and Heisenberg’s principle, which seemed unassailable, was therefore not necessarily true. But no matter what he threw out there, Bohr always seemed able to convincingly bat it down.

Except . . .  only recently, a group of scientists (Aephraim Steinberg and friends at the U. of Toronto) have claimed that their experiments have shown that Heisenberg’s principle does not always hold so tight (relax, not even going there), which, would mean, if they are correct, that now it appears that maybe Einstein was right after all, although it is too late to tease Bohr about it. All of this is the subject of those who are looking, as did Einstein, for a theory of everything or a quantum-relativity theory. Maybe it’s possible. Maybe it’s just not understood at all yet. But, if it is possible to solve this paradox, the technological revolution it would engender would probably make the computer revolution look like tinker toys in comparison.

So, of course, I went through all of that stuff in as light and fluffy a way as I could to tell you what I think. Even with the most accurate of scientific apparatus, the answer to the question of is there an underlying reality, is there something more than potential or probabilities until something is observed, are there things as they are, and so on, continues to elude us. I'm not at all convinced by the Copenhagen interpretation. Plato’s answer that ideal forms exist is not more unsatisfying than the idea that probability is all there is until there is a collapse of waves into reality, at least metaphorically. Some may know the story recorded by Boswell that when he and Dr. Johnson came out of church and he said to Johnson that despite the unsatisfactory nature of Bishop Berkeley’s argument that matter did not exist, they could not refute it. Johnson simply stated, “I refute it thus,” and kicked a big rock. It seems though that Bohr and Heisenberg and others have determined that Johnson refuted nothing in terms of what existed before Johnson observed the rock and the wave pattern collapsed into its form. They hold it did not exist, and they and their successors can wave oodles of experimental results which say they have the better of the argument.

A well-known thought experiments popularly called Schrodinger’s Cat, was conceived by Erwin Schrodinger, one of the most brilliant of quantum theorists, who helped provide a mathematical basis for the science. Stated succinctly, if you have a cat in a locked box and dropped poison in the box, there is a 50% chance that the cat is alive or dead before you open the box, because that is when the probability waves collapse into reality - you just can't know when that is. You are probably thinking, I don’t care what anyone says, that cat is either dead or alive. And I agree. The truth is, as often as you read about Schrodinger’s cat, remember in your head that the experiment was made not to prove the Copenhagen interpretation, and that he himself rejected that interpretation. I admit to some confusion as to whether this is originally so or that he changed his mind, as I've read both, and to be honest, there is only so much rereading or research I can do on a topic if I ever want to post. I know as much as I do about him because I’ve read him directly in a little read essay. But I believe that Schrodinger's original or latter interpretation is rarely stated accurately or fully in any popular retelling and perhaps even in physics’ books. Schrodinger, like many great physicists, was quite taken with philosophy, particularly ancient Greek philosophy (both he and Heisenberg wrote on the topic). His own views in the end are possibly even weirder than quantum theory, in short, that all existence is one great mind. But, this is not my conclusion either and I really don’t think even the most brilliant physicists have the advantage over us in thinking about it.

I doubt you disagree with Einstein and Schrodinger (and much less importantly, me). Something happens in that box. We don't know what it is, but it happened at a certain time that can be fixed, if we only knew how, and it isn't going to change upon our observation of it. There was a time, probably like many young people and some fictional authors, when I wondered if after I left a room, it blinked out of existence. This solipsism (all that exists is our own mind) or ego-centrism that the universe exists just for us, or whatever you want to call it, is passed by rapidly by most people as they age.

So, yada, yada, yada, let me sum up even shorter what I take from all of the above, in which I’ve as pithily as possible condensed my decades of reading philosophy, without all that many references to any particular philosopher or scientist from whom I may have glommed this or that idea:

There is a something which we can say is real. Upon saying that I am suddenly reminded of Thomas Carlyle’s response upon hearing that American transcendentalist Margaret Fuller remarked that “I accept the universe.” He said, “Gad, she’d better.” And so better we all. In fact, if you don’t read philosophy or about quantum science where the idea is batted about that maybe there is nothing, of course you accept the universe and never think about it. And even if you adopt a Bishop Berkeley approach or the Copenhagen interpretation, you’d better have something to eat and watch out for traffic or everyone else will get a chance to debate it except you. Whatever all this is - of course it is something. What it is, we will probably never know for sure and that is simply because we are limited in what we can perceive and understand. I’ve always been attracted to mysticism (but not rituals) for some reason, but, I don’t believe in it. We can’t expand our minds by yoga or LSD or any other manner other than study – and in that we are very limited – such that we can comprehend the universe sufficiently to approach its core unity or complexity and to get by in life. Some would say this core unity is God, and I don’t believe that (I’ve always believed “God” used in that manner is synonymous with the words “I don’t know.”)

But, whatever reality is, I believe it is beyond us.  We’ve been conditioned by the processes of evolution for millions of years to survive on this planet in certain situations. That does not include a brain that can comprehend the cosmos from every perspective. Nor do I believe we can create machines that extend our abilities, like telescopes or computers, because in the end, they are limited by our ability to design and comprehend them. Is it conceivable that there is the possibility of intelligent life that is so vastly beyond us such that it might understand it all? I guess anything is possible, but I doubt that exists either, on this planet or another. I take another philosopher’s observation as a starting point. “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.” So too, I would add, does every organism take the limits of its species' perceptual abilities, even extended by mechanical means, for the limits of existence. I qualify most everything with “I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.”

We are, at least so far, helplessly trapped in our minds. Not to worry. They are big places and even a John von Neumann, who seemed so smart to other smart people as to be almost like another species, so vast was his comprehensive ability, could not comprehend but a tiny fraction of what is probably possible, just like if you trap an amoeba in a small pond, it will not have an opportunity to explore it all.

I also stand with Einstein, rather than Bohr. Just as a younger Einstein was able to show how to unwind the paradox between the then law of relativity with the propagation of light (for that is what his theory of special relativity sought to do), just as his predecessor and benefactor, the undersung Max Planck, was able to unravel a paradox of heat radiation by the realization that energy may travel in discrete amounts (quanta), eventually science and/or philosophy cuts through it or expands our horizons and we suddenly understand better. Or at least some of us Homo sapiens do and the rest of us hang on for dear life until technology makes it so that if we can’t understand how something works, we don’t care, because we can push a button.

I am not suggesting at all that we are not, as a species, going to continue to do and learn amazing things. I am, to the contrary, convinced that we cannot even see where we are likely going 30 years from now, never mind a century or two. But there are limits, and if Schrodinger and Spinoza or the Buddhists or mystics and others are right, and it is all just one big bowl of oatmeal or as they would otherwise describe it, we cannot get there and remain human, for it would require a nirvana like experience in which we would be something much more and less at the same time. That's for mystics and frankly, they are deluded.

So, yes, Einstein, there is something behind all of this scenery, and we can learn more about what it is. But, just as I believe he was right that quantum theory was incomplete, so I believe that all theory is by necessity incomplete and always will be. As long as I can watch football on Sundays five or so months a year, it doesn’t bother me at all. But, I do enjoy thinking about it.

You know, and I promise this is my last thought on it. Maybe my blend of metaphysics and epistemology is really the same as my epistemology. Because the last few paragraphs started to sound a lot like I don’t know, I don’t care and – mercifully, enough.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

La Vie en Rose and other things that make me cry

Somehow this morning a song got stuck in my head. I don’t know why, because I haven’t heard it in a long time. It’s La Vie en Rose, a standard, originally written (of course, it’s controversial) and performed by Edith Piaf in French, and then covered by a lot of other people, including Louis Armstrong and Jo Stafford - one of my favorite singers from the standards era. The song I was hearing in my head, though, was by no one near as famous, but a young actress named Cristin Milioti. She was the “mother” on How I Met Your Mother, which has been for the past few years one of my favorite shows. 

Maybe it was the last episode of the second to last season when she actually first appeared on the show and sang La Vie en Rose on the balcony of her room at the hotel at which she was supposed to perform at a wedding. Soon afterwards she meets Ted, sort of the show’s focus and her future hubby. Little did she know that he was pouting on the next balcony just on the other side of the wall while she sang, as the woman he loved was the bride at whose reception she would be performing (and the camera cuts to all the gang, each in their own doldrums). In narration later in the future, he tells their kids that though he has heard their mother sing that song over a million times, that was his favorite. If you want to listen to her sing this slow and haunting melody, accompanied by her ukulele, here it is. It’s less than 2 minutes, so don’t panic.


Anyway, while I was thinking about the song, particularly her version, I got a little misty. I realized that this is not the first time that has happened. I teared up when I first heard it, when I saw the episode re-run and whenever (rarely) I hear it. Now I was brimming when I wasn’t even hearing it - just thinking about it. Why? It’s a great song, but it’s not my favorite, nor even my favorite Louis Armstrong song, though it makes my top ten for him. Nor is it sad. It’s kind of a sweet and hopeful love song.  Whatever the reason, it chokes me up a bit. Maybe it was the connection to the story line and the slow, longing way she performed it, but nothing on that show ever made me feel like that before. It’s a very silly comedy, with only an occasional poignant moment.

So, I youtube’d it, and listened again, and sure enough, got all verklempt. I then listened to a few other versions I hadn’t heard before. I even discovered an artist I had never heard of, who is one of those newfangled youtube stars with millions of listeners, but I’m not sure has actually released an album yet. Her name is Daniela Andrade, a young Canadian, who I think only records acoustical guitar covers of famous songs in her bedroom(?) and sometimes next to her dog. Try her La Vie en Rose (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ba_WoSZXvw), which is probably more technically perfect than Milioti’s, or her Christmas Time is Here (Cutest Dog in the Galaxy)(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ba_WoSZXvw). However, I noticed, as beautiful as her version is, she doesn’t make me cry. I guess it was the How I Met Your Mother context.

So, I started thinking, what other songs make me tear up? What movies?

The first one that comes to mind is Into the West, which is the song that ends the last of the three Lord of the Rings movies, and they play during the credits. It’s sung by Annie Lennox, who had a string of hits in the 80s with The Eurythmics, the only two of which I remember being Here Comes the Rain Again and Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). I think she’s really huge in Britain though.
Perhaps it is the quality of hauntedness, which I doubt is a word, that makes me wimpy because Into the West certainly has a haunting sound. It’s about loss and the passage of time and people and longing for what once was and other such melancholy things, which pretty much sums up a major theme in The Lord of the Rings too. Lennox wrote it with the movie's co-producer, Fran Walsh (aka, Peter Jackson’s wife) and the composer Howard Shore, who wrote most of the music for the trilogy.

I don’t think I can listen to it without being overcome and I’ve listened dozens of times. It probably has a more powerful effect on me than Milioti’s La Vie en Rose.

And, of course, because I’m human, Danny Boy. I mean, is it possible someone relatively normal could listen to it and not drop a tear?  In my humble opinion, Kate Smith’s is by far the best version (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQD7XToP2Ag), but I’m sure many people have other favorites. Danny Boy seems like it must be a centuries old song, but it's not. The melody is older, but the lyrics were written only about 100 ago (my grandparents were already alive) by an Englishman named Frederic Weatherly, a name I looked up and have already forgotten at the end of this sentence. It was based on an Irish tune, Londonderry Airs, the origins of the melody being unknown. It is also unknown exactly who is singing about whom in Danny Boy. I don’t know if no one bothered to ask whatshisname or nobody thought of it until he died. But, it’s a tearjerker all right, because somebody got up and left Ireland, probably during the famine, and didn’t come back until someone who loved him died. In my mind it’s a young man who came home to find his betrothed in her grave. When it gets to the part when she hears his footsteps above him. . . oh, boy, I just hope I’m alone (or at least my evalovin’ gf isn’t around – because she’ll just mock me).

Many movies make me weepy at the end, even comedies, if there is some poignant moment. There are three that stand out in my mind. The first is probably no longer in my top ten movies, except for the ending scenes. The movie is Angels with Dirty Faces, a 1938 drama with an unbelievable all-star cast – Jimmy Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Ann Sheridan, Pat O’Brien, George Bancroft and the ‘Dead End’ kids aka the Bowery Boys, including Leo Gorcey.
Here’s the set up. Cagney is a gangster, Rocky Sullivan. Pat O’Brien, is a childhood friend, became a priest – Father Jerry. Cagney kills Bogey and gets a death sentence. When he’s about to go, Father Jerry visits him. He’s concerned about the young boys who idolize Rocky and wants to do something about it. That leads to this dialogue, which makes me weepy just to read it online:

Father Jerry: We haven't got a lot of time. And I want to ask you one last favor.
Rocky Sullivan: There's not a lot left that I can do, kid.
Father Jerry: Yes, there is, Rocky. Perhaps more than you could do under any other circumstances. If you have the courage for it, and I know you have.
Rocky Sullivan: You mean, walking in there? That's not gonna take much.
Father Jerry: I know that, Rocky.
Rocky Sullivan: It's like a barber chair. And when they ask me "you got anything to say?". I'll say, "sure, give me a haircut, a shave, and a massage, with one of those nice new electric massages".
Father Jerry: Are you afraid?
Rocky Sullivan: You know Jerry, I think in order to be afraid, you've got to have a heart. I don't think I got one. I got it cut out of me a long time ago.
Father Jerry: Suppose I asked you to have the heart, huh? To be scared.
Rocky Sullivan: What do you mean?
Father Jerry: Suppose the guards dragged you out of here screaming for mercy. Suppose you went to the chair yellow.
Rocky Sullivan: Yellow? Say, what's the matter with you Jerry?
Father Jerry: This is a different kind of courage, Rocky. The kind that's well, that's born in heaven. Well, not the courage of heroics or bravado. The kind that you and I and God know about.
Rocky Sullivan: I don't know what you mean.
Father Jerry: Look, Rocky, just before I came up here, the boys saw me off on the train. Soapy and several of the others. You can well imagine what they told me. "Father, tell Rocky to show the world what he's made of. Tell him not to be afraid and to go out laughing."
Rocky Sullivan: Well, what do you want? I'm not gonna let them down.
Father Jerry: I want you to let them down. You see, you've been a hero to these kids, and hundreds of others, all through your life - and now you're gonna be a glorified hero in death, and I want to prevent that, Rocky. They've got to despise your memory. They've got to be ashamed of you.
Rocky Sullivan: You asking me to pull an act, turn yellow, so those kids will think I'm no good. You're asking me to throw away the only thing I got left that they can't take away. To give those newspapers a chance to say, "Another rat turned yellow."
Father Jerry: You and I will know you're not.
Rocky Sullivan: You ask a nice little favor, Jerry. Asking me to crawl on my belly the last thing I do.
Father Jerry: I know what I'm asking. The reason I'm asking is because being kids together gave me the idea that you might like to join hands with me and save some of those other boys from ending up here.
Rocky Sullivan: You're asking too much. You wanna help those kids, figure out some other way.
Father Jerry: It's impossible to do it without your help. I can't reach all of those boys. Thousands of hero-worshiping kids all over the country.
Rocky Sullivan: Don't give me that humanity stuff again. I had enough in the courtroom. Told everything. Named names. Told the whole mess. What more do you want?
Father Jerry: What I've always wanted, Rocky. Straighten yourself out with God. Outside of that, I can't ask for anything else.

Of course at the end, when Rocky walks into the death chamber, he doesn’t ask for a massage. He mans up and does the bravest thing I’ve ever seen in a movie, deliberately lets his reputation be destroyed for the sake of some kids who idolize him:

“No! I don't want to die! Oh, please! I don't want to die! Oh, please! Don't make me burn in hell. Oh, please let go of me! Please don't kill me! Oh, don't kill me, please!”

And the tears well up just writing about it. I haven’t seen the movie in decades and I am almost afraid to.

The next movie that makes me bawl is my favorite movie, Miracle on 34th Street. For the millionth time in this blog I say – BUT only the 1947 version!!!!! It hits me three times. First, little Natalie Woods’ character, Susan, is standing on the side of Kris Kringle’s chair at Macy’s watching him talk to the children who come up to sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. A young woman comes up with a cute little girl, her foster child. The little girl is Dutch and apparently, 
her parents were killed, I presume in the war. She doesn’t speak a word of English and her foster mom tried to explain it to her, but the little girl was sure Santa would understand her anyway. Awww. And then Kris looks down and starts speaking Dutch to the little girl. Cut to my waterworks while Susan does a double take.

The second time is a little later. Kris Kringle is undergoing a sanity hearing to determine if he needs to be committed for believing he is Santa. Susan’s mother, Doris (Maureen O’Hara) likes Kris but doesn’t believe he is Santa either (d’uh). Susan asks Doris if Kris was sad and Doris says I’m afraid he is. Susan says she will write him a letter and she does. Doris reads it and before she seals it she adds “I believe in you too.” I know. I’m such a baby, but it gets me every time.

Third time – It’s the end of the movie. Kris is a free man. On Christmas morning, Susan and Doris arrive at a party at the old folks’ home where Kris is living. Susan can’t find the house she asked Kris for under the tree (again, d’uh). Fred, Kris’s lawyer and Doris’s boyfriend, had been quarreling with her because she didn’t believe in him when he represented Kris. He offers her a ride home and Kris gives them special directions. They are driving through the suburbs of Great Neck, New York, when Susan screams “Stop Uncle Fred, stop!”  She darts out of the car and runs into a house with Doris and Fred on her heels screaming for her. Susan tells them it is the house that Kris promised her and it is up for sale. She tells Fred that her mom told her that you have to believe in people, which was what Fred was trying to get through to Doris. Now they are embracing and suddenly they stop and look into the corner where they see - Kris’s cane. Okay, that was a long description, but it’s really sweet and my eyes tear up like a grandmother’s at her grandchild’s first recital. I swear to you it is happening right now.

Last movie, Love Actually. It’s a romantic comedy, an ensemble piece, with a great soundtrack that sweeps the story along and helps hold the 9 or whatever separate stories almost seamlessly together. There are about 9 mini-climaxes to the movie and you could get a little misty at all of them. I find I’m generally more likely to get teary at a sentimental or happy moment in a movie than a sad one. But, the one that gets me in Love Actually is one of the two sad story lines. Emma Thompson (Karen) is married to Alan Rickman (a brilliant actor – the best “bad guy” in contemporary movie history) who plays the very British, but kind and kind of doofy Harry, the owner of a sizeable business. Karen is expecting a gold bracelet he bought (and she snuck a look at) for Christmas, but gets a CD instead. She realizes the bracelet was for someone else (a young woman who works for him who was slowly seducing him). She goes upstairs and has a cry but rallies herself for the kids’ pageant. After it, she is walking with Harry in the school and she lets him have it ever so subtly:

Karen: Tell me, if you were in my position, what would you do?
Harry: What position is that?
Karen: Imagine your husband bought a gold necklace, and come Christmas gave it to somebody else...
Harry: Oh, Karen...
Karen: Would you wait around to find out...
Parent: Good night!
Karen: Night, night. Happy Christmas!
[back to Harry]
Karen: Would you wait around to find out if it's just a necklace, or if it's sex and a necklace, or if, worst of all, it's a necklace and love? Would you stay, knowing life would always be a little bit worse? Or would you cut and run?
Harry: Oh, God. I am so in the wrong. The classic fool!
Karen: [voice breaking] Yes, but you've also made a fool out of me, and you've made the life I lead foolish, too!

It’s great acting by the both of them – it was the most real moment of the movie and neither raised their voice. But, when her voice broke, my wussy movie watching heart broke a little too.

Ah, well, so yes, I like to reveal my weaknesses here on my evalovin’ blog. So, I get misty at some songs and movies. Like you don’t? Well, maybe you don’t. I’m not sure I believe you. But, if it’s true, you are missing something. Those are great moments.

Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 Holiday Spectacular

I moved back to New York in July 2012. Since then, my actual work (that is, for which I occasionally get paid) has increased and my blogging has decreased. Down to once a month, sometimes less now and I’m not really happy about that. But, as the kids say, and I include 80 year old kids – whatever. I’m going to try to do better next year because my extraordinary legion of loyal readers, whatever his name is, deserve better.

But, one thing I’m not doing is foregoing my holiday spectacular, one of which I do every year. It’s New Year’s Day and I feel as if this is my last chance to say I do one every holiday season, though I guess I failed because the post will say 2016. An arbitrary, self-imposed tradition surrounds it. I can’t know what I’m writing about when I sit down to write it. Why is that important? It’s not. But, as Tevye said – It’s a tradition.

Sometimes, I’ve written about Xmas stuff. But not always. And I don’t think this year. I’m going to start with the most important stuff – 

The NFL

We started out the year with NFL further embarrassing itself by suspending Tom Brady, which was overturned when it got to court. No one who argues with yet and claims Brady “cheated” (what my evalovin’ girlfriend, who has trouble telling the difference between football and baseball says). The supposedly independent finding (it turns out written in part by the NFL) said he was “generally aware” of the deflation. No evidence was given to support that at all. The arguments I hear from friends is that he had to know. If that is the standard, good luck to all of us. But, I’ve written about this before so I will just say what I really want to say to all those who rushed to judgment or made unsubstantiated claims about Brady – Nyeh, nyeh, nyeh, nyeh, nyeh.  If that is the level of the argument you bring to the table, so be it. You aren’t going to listen to rational argument anyway. But, I always say, I don’t know if he was aware. Some former QBs say he would have known grasping a slightly underinflated ball in freezing temperatures and others that he wouldn’t. How would I know? Maybe he did know. Maybe worse. But, if there isn’t evidence, there isn’t evidence. I’m leaving this topic. Bring your arguments in comments and I will demolish them there.

Instead, I’m going to rate the QBs this year, not for their all time greatness, but just for the year to date. Anything can happen in the last game, and frankly, I expect Brady will lose the slight lead he has in a number of categories. But, nevertheless. . .

1.     Tom Brady – I know I’m biased. I like Brady. Like/love – what’s the difference? It’s platonic. It doesn’t matter because at this point in season he is tops in so many categories it is hard to argue him out of the top two or three. And he did it with almost no starting receivers for much of the season, no reliable back for most of the season, once Dion Lewis got hurt (Blount was not the guy, even before he got hurt, though he was the best they had) and an all new and not so good line in front of him. In another words – the 12 or maybe 13 wins – without almost any real offensive help, Belichick and a pretty good defense. Though they had a very easy schedule, he was simply amazing. Brady might not win the TD title this year. Though in the lead, he has only Gronk as a constant threat and Bortles and Newton have been throwing them in bunches lately. But, he had only seven interceptions this year, by far the best TD/Interception ratio.

2.     Russell Wilson – Wilson, as good as he is rated, is almost always underrated. He is so slippery he is like a ghost to charging lineman. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone as nimble in the backfield – no, not Tarkington or Flutie or Young or Cunningham or Cam Newton now. Though he’s been sacked a lot this season – it’s often because he extends the play beyond what anyone else can do. But, his Danger-Russ nickname is well earned, not just because of his running ability. It’s because he is also one of the most accurate long passers in the game. It’s one of the reasons his team can score within seconds of getting the ball.

3.     Carson Palmer - Finally did what everyone thought he could do. You could make the argument he is no. 1 this year. I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t laugh at you. Nevertheless, as his coach says, the numbers don’t lie. The Cards may be for real this year and he is a big part of the reason.

4.     Ben Roesthlisberger – Every year, so long as he is healthy, he is among the elite. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the offensive talent like Brown and Bell around, among others.

5.     Cam Newton – Some put him first, of course and I realize he will probably be the MVP. The second half of season is why he is here, but also because he is a running weapon too unlike few other quarterbacks. Yes, I’ve called him my nemesis, but that’s really because I felt he was overrated and I don’t like all that showy stuff. But, I have to admit he is entertaining and has style. I can’t put him higher because the Panthers had too easy a schedule. They played almost no hard games. Even when they were playing a good team – Seattle, Houston, it was when those teams were in the doldrums. As good as he is, I would like nothing better than to see another playoff team clean their clock.

6.     Drew Brees – He’s often left out of the Brady/Manning/Rodgers conversation and probably he shouldn’t be.  It is not impossible that he has long been the best QB in football, often making a contender out of a mediocre team. I don’t think so, but I can see the argument.

7.     Phillip Rivers – Among the steady elites. So long as he is with San Diego, he will not be a household name but he’s been top ten pretty much since he came into the league.

8.     Kirk Cousins – Do you think he was named Kirk for the same reason I do? I’m not saying I’m right, just suspicious. Won the job and came into his own. How good can he be? I’m not sure, but he’s light years ahead of RGIII, who we doubt will ever play for the Redskins again. 

9.     Ryan Fitzpatrick – I always wanted to see him play for a decent team. Now he has one. He’s not a great QB. Probably too short and not as good of an arm. But he’s a very good QB given half a chance and I think a natural leader. No one doubts his toughness.

10.  Aaron Rodgers – Everyone knows that on any given day he is probably the best in the game. Lost his best weapon and the team really did not perform this year.

Runners up: Blake Bortles may be the real deal. Dalton would surely be in the top three if he didn’t miss the last few games. Tyrod Taylor is still the great unknown. Needs someone other than Watkins as a deep threat.

Three things the NFL has to fix for next year. First, obviously, obviously, what is a catch? When commentators and players agree – they don’t know, it is a problem. How many times are we going to hear – “It looks like a catch to me,” only to find it wasn’t.  Second, Goodell has left the league with a no credibility in its penalties, which seem to have no rhyme or reason other than to keep gadflies from criticizing them.  Third – I think it is also time they even it up a little more between receivers and cornerbacks. Give them another few yards to bump and make it clear that a hit on a receiving player a split second before the catch is permissible. I’d also make holding a more severe penalty. Some teams, it seems, hold every play. Maybe the answer is to increase the penalty by a yard with each call.

Politics

I wrote mostly about politics this year, so going to be brief. Trump, Trump, Trump. It’s the story. Here’s the skinny on what I have been saying. Trump is the reaction to political correctness and reverse racism. So, sure, lots of white males and sometimes conservative women are going to like him. I get it completely when it comes to people just wanting politicians to tell the truth whatever the consequences. Not that I think he does. He lies as much as the next guy, but he does tell the truth more and people find that wonderfully refreshing despite all of his faults.  I think the question is answered as to whether he can win the nomination. Maybe he won’t, but of course he can. The next question – can he win a general election. Now he will have the media pulling for Clinton, you have the historic possibility of a woman winning, which will appeal to many, and you have Trump’s unbelievably stupid statements facing real criticism – not just people who are afraid of him.

I know that people think we are going in the wrong direction in many ways. I know it seems like the world is going haywire.  A lot of that I believe is due to both the media and the fact that we lived such charmed, easy lives. ISIS is not new. There have always been countries and civilizations like that. It is the fact that the rest of us can now see it on a daily basis, that the new technology allows them to at least occasionally reach us and our humanity that makes it seem such a threat. Not that I mean we should just ignore it. I think the best thing for the world is an all out assault to destroy them regardless of the consequences afterwards. 

But, I leave that aside – I’m talking about Trump. Is he the answer to our foreign policy concerns? I sure don’t think so. He probably knows where Syria is, but I doubt he knows any of the players. I don’t want that insecure, obnoxious, egomaniac running the country. But, problem is – I don’t want Clinton either, as she has had to bathe in progressive propaganda to stay afloat. I usually say, I don’t want to vote for anyone who doesn’t understand that ISIS is not an existential threat, but what it represents and what it can become is. At the same time, I don’t want anyone who can’t say All Lives Matter, or can’t say, the number of people cops have killed who didn’t deserve it is a fraction of the number of cops who are killed each year and not every time a black person is killed by a police officer, is a federal investigation called for, or a prosecution. At the very same time, we should not need to be told we need police reform – we should always have real police reform so that they are not out there on a tight rope, but don’t feel the best way to solve a problem is to bury someone. We can do that. Frankly, policing has, like race relations, improved tremendously in my lifetime. But, there are lifetimes to go and it can never stop.

Neither the Democratic Party, the party of identity politics and unlimited spending, or the Republican Party, the party of religious supremacists and pseudo-anarchists, so rent by its own division it cannot pick a consensus candidate – are not the answer. The answer, as always, is somewhere in between. But, no, it’s still Christmas, and I will spare you another rant on moderation. But, no, it’s not Trump, the big story. And it’s not Clinton. And the Lord who rules in heaven who I don’t believe in KNOWS, it sure ain’t Bernie Sanders.

Favorite articles

I read a lot of articles and documents online. These are some of my favorites, with excerpts.
One recent one, from George Will on ludicrous things that happened in 2015: http://www.unionleader.com/George-Will-A-list-of-2015s-ludicrousness. Here’s an excerpt:
“A 9-year-old Florida fourth-grader was threatened with sexual harassment charges if he continued to write love notes telling the apple of his eye that her eyes sparkle “like diamonds.” A Texas 9-year-old was suspended for saying his magic ring could make people disappear. A young girl was sent home with a censorious note from her school because her Wonder Woman lunchbox violated the school ban on depictions of “violent characters.” An Oregon eighth-grader, whose brother served in Iraq, was suspended for wearing a T-shirt that depicted an empty pair of boots representing soldiers killed in action. The school said the shirt was “not appropriate.” A Tennessee boy was threatened with suspension from elementary school because he came to school with a military-style haircut like that of his stepbrother, a soldier. A government arbitrator prevented the firing of a New Jersey elementary school teacher who was late to school 111 times in two years.

A suburban Washington high school promoted self-esteem by naming 117 valedictorians out of a class of 457. Two Edina, Minn., elementary schools hired “recess consultants” to minimize “conflict” — children saying “Hey, you’re out!” rather than “Nice try!” The principal of a San Francisco middle school withheld the results of student elections that did not produce properly “diverse” results. When some deep thinkers in academia decided that yoga, like ethnic food, constitutes “cultural appropriation,” a clear thinker wondered whether offended cultures would send back our polio vaccines. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni reported that 48 of the top 52 liberal arts colleges and universities do not require English majors to take a Shakespeare course.”
I continue to lament that the “black community” has taken leaders such as Al Sharpton and those running Black Lives Matter as leaders rather than a host of intelligent leaders like Randall Kennedy, whose article -  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/05/my-race-problem/376849/ I wish every person, of any color, would read. Here are two excerpts, which don’t do the article justice, but I can't copy the whole thing - go read it:

I ESCHEW racial pride because of my conception of what should properly be the object of pride for an individual: something that he or she has accomplished. I can feel pride in a good deed I have done or a good effort I have made. I cannot feel pride in some state of affairs that is independent of my contribution to it. The color of my skin, the width of my nose, the texture of my hair, and the various other signs that prompt people to label me black constitute such a state of affairs. I did not achieve my racial designation. It was something I inherited -- like my nationality and socio-economic starting place and sex -- and therefore something I should not feel proud of or be credited with. In taking this position I follow Frederick Douglass, the great nineteenth-century reformer, who declared that "the only excuse for pride in individuals. . . is in the fact of their own achievements." If the sun has created curled hair and tanned skin, Douglass observed, "let the sun be proud of its achievement."

First, it is a sociological fact that blacks and whites are differently situated in the American polity. But, again, a brute fact does not dictate the proper human response to it. That is a matter of choice -- constrained, to be sure, but a choice nonetheless. In choosing how to proceed in the face of all that they encounter, blacks should insist, as did Martin Luther King Jr., that acting with moral propriety is itself a glorious goal. In seeking to attain that goal, blacks should be attuned not only to the all too human cruelties and weaknesses of others but also to the all too human cruelties and weaknesses in themselves. A good place to start is with the recognition that unless inhibited, every person and group will tend toward beliefs and practices that are self-aggrandizing. This is certainly true of those who inherit a dominant status. But it is also true of those who inherit a subordinate status. Surely one of the most striking features of human dynamics is the alacrity with which those who have been oppressed will oppress whomever they can once the opportunity presents itself. Because this is so, it is not premature to worry about the possibility that blacks or other historically subordinated groups will abuse power to the detriment of others.”

I won’t quote from John McWhorter, a linguist who also writes on racial matters, but I recommend anything he writes, on either topic. You might want to try - http://www.wsj.com/articles/what-the-world-will-speak-in-2115-1420234648 on future language, which is, of course, really more about present language. You could also try http://www.wsj.com/articles/closed-minds-on-campus-1448634626, which is obviously, about the trend on campus for students to stop learning and close their minds to all but what they already believe.

Great technological developments

There are so many developments every year it’s hard to stop once you start looking. These caught my attention lately.

In Israel the cheapest and most efficient desalination plant ever built is running. I believe the technology will be exported all over the world. It might require some Muslim nations to do business with Israel – trade can bring peace.

Pay digitally – well we can do that for a long time, but Apple has combined technologies (I don’t think invented them) and made Apple Pay. I’m mostly not an Apple guy so I don’t have one, but I understand if you can pay at a place through Apple Pay. Here’s why it is so seductive. No getting out your credit card, no pin numbers, no signature. Just wave your phone like a wand over a terminal, press your thumb to avoid identification and it is far more secure than a credit card – codes being created just for your transaction, like the one time pads spies used to use. Someday some of us will not even need to hold the phone. The chip in our head will just do all the same things. But not yet.

Those are new technologies. But there are more basic scientific discoveries which may someday result in technologies that change us either more. Iranian scientists created a biodiesel fuel that eliminates many types of pollution. Anglo-American scientists have mapped the genome of the bowhead whale and located the genes explaining why it can live – 200 years! Uh oh. British scientists also managed to create a system to change the shape of photons and change the speed of light. The Brits have also found a way to make babies from the genes of three people. Three? How long before 100?

I’ll stop there. It’s a holiday spectacular, not an encyclopedia. There are terrible things in the world, but scientific exploration may outpace them all. Let’s hope so.

Best pop song of 2015

Fight Song by Rachel Platten. You know – “This is my fight song . . .”  Last night, New Year’s Eve, I was so happy that when she came on the screen I knew she had written and sung that song. Because I never heard of any of the many other people who performed with the exception of Jimmy Buffet.
So, the fact that it is my choice for best pop song of the year may have to be qualified by the fact that it is the only one I know.  Then again, maybe it’s the only one I know because it’s the only one I like.

Best public moment of 2015

I’ve said for years that the happiest public moment, that is the happiest I’ve been at something that was made known to the public, of what I hope is the middle stage of my life, was when Pres. Obama announced the killing of bin Laden. I didn’t believe a lot of what we were told, but, I believed he was dead and that made me happy. I was alone in Va. at the moment, and I did realize I was rejoicing at someone’s death, but it is true. But, for this year, it was not something as important. It was a game, one moment, in the Super Bowl, my team ahead, but the other team in the red zone about to score – and then Sam Butler stepped in front of Russell Wilson’s pass and intercepted the ball. That was in NY with a number of other people in some friends’ basement, and there is a picture of me with my hands over my mouth – unbelieving. Great moment.

Best private moment of 2015

That’s tougher. There’s a lot of good stuff that has happened this year. I have two candidates and I don’t think I can choose between them.

The first was in March. I had had a long spell of sickness in my blood that had pretty much rendered me unable to exert myself much for lack of oxygen or suffer the consequences, which I learned when I went to the city one day for work and barely made it home. This went on for a few months until I had treatment, which lasted about a week. The treatment, chemo, wasn’t any fun, and made me sick with a fever for about a week. There was no hair loss or any of that kind of stuff and I can’t say it is the worst thing I’ve gone through, but I was physically depleted and it is the longest illness I’ve ever had.  I always felt confident I would eventually get better, but my blood wasn’t coming back very fast according to my doctor. So, after a few days she decided to give me a blood transfusion. I went to the hospital and they hooked me up. It lasted six hours, and wasn’t at all unpleasant. But, the best moment? When it was done, and I stood up, I felt my old decrepit self again. I’d say like Popeye after he eats spinach, but I was not that energetic to begin with. Still, after months, it was a wonderful feeling of vigor. Whoever gave that blood – thanks. It's good stuff.

The second is more social, one of life’s milestones. In December my daughter got engaged. She was totally surprised. I was totally surprised. And even though football was on, I managed to wrest myself from it and visit for a few hours. I’m not going to go on a bend about having kids and why it is special. It just is and if you have a kid, you understand it. If you don’t and want one you understand too. I never expected to have a kid, nor did anyone I know think I was capable of being a father. But when I learned her mother was pregnant I never doubted I would love the child, which I only learned was a girl at her birth, or that I would be perfectly capable of it. It’s tiring, but much easier than people make out for the most part.  And I’ve been a very lucky parent with almost no drama for 28 years. And I know that engagement and marriage doesn’t make a person happy unless they are generally happy, but she is. And there is something about knowing your kid is moving on in her life that is very rewarding, maybe in a social way, may be in a chemical or biological way we can’t even explain. It’s just really nice.

Best insult of 2015

I think I’ve posted here before about my online commenting. I spend much too much time reading articles and then stating my opinion in 1500 characters or less. I’m glad they limit it, because if they gave 10,000 characters, I probably would do that. In any event, many of the topics are controversial and emotional. I’m not a troll, that is, I don’t just insult people because they disagree with me. I used to write mostly on a conservative site, townhall.com, because they had the best format to allow you to argue back and forth almost in real time. And that was a rough place. I got insulted a lot, because I must not a conservative, and they could be crude and mean. I used to keep a Word file for a while of all the insults I’d received, which I took as a badge of honor. Some really crazy found a way to literally usurp other people’s screen names and started writing horrible stuff in other people’s name, and at least for a while, it destroyed the site, though I’m sure they are still there. 

But, the last few years I’ve mostly commented on the New York Times’ site. The articles and the commenters were as liberal as townhall’s were conservative. And because I’m not a liberal, I don’t get a lot of recommends (sort of as “like” is on facebook). I might get a handful, and sometimes some dozens, but some people get hundreds, usually for saying something like they hate Bush or Obama/Obamacare is great, guns suck, etc. That’s fine. As I explained to someone on townhall once who asked me why I bothered, I explained I do it because I enjoy expressing myself in writing and I like to think once in a while I can persuade someone, however rare, but a troll probably never will.
Anyway, the commenters on the Times site tend to be more educated and generally politer than they are on townhall. And you can’t go back and forth in real time, though you can reply to each other. So, I don’t get so many insults, but I do sometimes get a lot of people replying to my comment, all disparaging it. But, recently, I commented on an article on arbitration. It’s a legal topic and I’ve found reporters often understand near nothing about legal topics, which isn’t a great surprise. The article had disparaged companies for using arbitration for the nefarious purposes of getting judgments against people who couldn’t then fight them in court. It was all wrong. I explained (in under 1500 words) that if they were taken to arbitration, it was because they had agreed to it. And they had to be served just as in court and could challenge it if they weren’t. I also added something about why is it so terrible for companies to want to get judgments for money they were owed (and probably would never collect). Well, you would have thought I wrote that Obama had cooties and Bush should be our new Fuhrer. It garnered some indignant reply comments. But, my favorite was this:

You’re the type of lawyer who gives the legal profession a bad name. Like most people, I’ve had experiences with attorneys who are incompetent and unpleasant, but I also know lawyers I like and respect. I’ve only once had to deal with an attorney as slimy as you. . . From your point of view he was probably just doing his job, but that’s a very poor excuse for such unethical and egregious behavior.”

Time had elapsed to reply so I just had to suck it up. But, it made me smile. Slimy. I guess. Another person wrote that I was the kind of person who only trusted money. I did reply to him that my gf would say “I wish” when I told her what he wrote.

Speaking of word limits, I’ve pretty much come to my self-imposed limit for posts so as to not unduly punish anyone who is reading this (“Anyone there – Hello? Hello?”). Another holiday spectacular wrapped up.

I do have a New Year’s resolution to get back to blogging more often and to return to subjects other than politics, like history and science, but it is hard in an election year.

Happy holidays. Happy New Year. See you (I hope) in a week or so.




About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .