Tuesday’s Quotes December 12, 2017 – Radio

“If we consider what science already has enabled men to know—the immensity of space, the fantastic philosophy of the stars, the infinite smallness of the composition of atoms, the macrocosm whereby we succeed only in creating outlines and translating a measure into numbers without our minds being able to form any concrete idea of it—we remain astounded by the enormous machinery of the universe.”  — Guglielmo Marconi, 1934

On this day in 1901 Guglielmo Marconi defied the naysayers and succeeded in sending the first transatlantic radio signal from Cornwall on the west coast of England to Newfoundland on the east coast of Canada. It was only the letter “S” (…) in Morse code, but, as breakthroughs go, this one was huge. Of course, the naysayers were technically correct – the curvature of the earth would have prevented the trsansmission from succeeding, but in the course of the signal heading up into space, it hit the ionosphere and bounced back and made it to Canada. Scientific discovery and innovation are full of ‘happy accidents’ and dumb luck.  Needless to say, more work was involved before radio transmissions were controllable – and commercially vialble – and Marconi continued to work with them until his death in 1937. He and German radio researcher Ferdinand Braun were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909.

Image of Marconi courtesy of Wikipedia 


Hoping for a better week ahead…

The past couple of weeks, and this week in particular, has seen an incredible display of hypocrisy, willful ignorance, and a blatant lack of a moral compass from so many in Washington – and more alarmingly, from their supporters. From those that see any behavior acceptable as long as the one doing the misbehaving, or saying the disturbing things,  is if the same political party or religious denomination. Anything is better than ‘the other’.

Ultimately it is only by our actions, by the things we say and do,  that we demonstrate to ourselves, and others, who we really are. Find our purpose. Avoid hypocrisy.

When our values are at odds with our actions, that is when we suffer the greatest turmoil. In order to be at peace with ourselves, we have to live our values. As John Ruskin put it over 150 years ago, “What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.” True words indeed.

Hoping for a better week.

And yes, December has brought cold and snow to much of the country, including here in the Northeast – photo taken last night as the snow was winding down.

Another weekend to think….

I can’t quite recall why, but I found myself using HL Mencken’s words, “There is always an easy solution to every human problem — neat, plausible, and wrong.”, in a discussion with my husband the other day. Oddly, I don’t think it was political, but I’ve certainly found that it seems to fit much of our current climate in Washington – and the populism that led us to where we are.

Finding genuine solutions to what are, often, very real problems, takes time, energy, and inclusion – no problem can be solved, or threat eliminated, by excluding those that disagree from the discussion. Or by having a wholly unqualified outsider take them on. Yes, some views are so intractable that the chasm to common ground may seem unbridgeable, but people do open themselves up to other points of view, and possibly even to a change of opinion, when they are treated with respect, and they know that their concerns are being heard.

There is no easy answer. There is never an easy answer. But that does not mean that you have to either give up, or resort to the “easy” answers – it just means that you have to be willing to expend the energy that it takes to find something that works.
Food for thought on a potentially snowy weekend – enjoy!

Tuesday’s Quotes – December 5, 2017 – On Milton and perception

Partial repost from December 9, 2016

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n..” — John Milton, Paradise Lost

Interesting man, Milton. Best known for Paradise Lost, he had a vast body of poems, plays, political pamphlets, and he was also a historian, and, although personally religious, he favored tolerance, and was opposed to state-sanctioned religion. In fact he favored the the abolition of the Church of England. And the execution of Charles I.

I am not much of a poetry fan – and seventeenth century poetry is a bit difficult to wade through (though certainly not as difficult as, say, that fascinating fifteenth century study of human nature, The Canterbury Tales), I, like many of us have read Paradise Lost and a bit more of Milton’s works over the years. One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that much of what makes up popular modern lore about heaven, hell, angels & demons comes not from the bible, but from Milton. And not just popular lore – over the last 350 years, Paradise Lost, has become conflated with the bible in many peoples minds – I’ve heard people who really should know better quoting from Milton as if it were coming straight from the bible.

And that of course is the interesting thing about Milton, through not just Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained – he told a story, a religious story, but one also of tyranny and war and rebellion and redemption. He told a human story, and set it in the heavens. And this is why we seem so ready to carry his version of that story forward as if it were historical fact. The human qualities. So over the centuries it has, for many people, become ‘fact’. And I find that fascinating on its own (I wonder what Chaucer would have made of it from a human perspective?). Milton will endure as a literary great – perhaps even greater, if less prolific, than Shakespeare, largely on the strength of subject matter that captured not just the imaginations of subsequent generations, but perhaps the very root of their faith.

But, as I noted earlier, Milton, although deeply religious and a great believer in the power of scripture as a guide for life, was very opposed to the stifling of dissent – even religious dissent, and wrote quite a bit against state-sanctioned religion. Since few know of Milton beyond Paradise Lost, that facet of the man has become lost to many.

And of course, the quote above is all about perception – what is is what you perceive it to be.

And, although, I could continue rambling along the path of perception, I think I won’t (now).

John Milton image borrowed from the Encyclopedia Brittanica: detail of an engraving by William Faithorne, 1670; in the National Portrait Gallery, Courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery, London


Of mice & dogs

Winter is coming, and the mice are back inside. Most years they stay out of the living spaces. Often we don’t even hear them in the attic because there are many feral, and merely stray, cats around that deal with them before they have a chance to come in. One year we took out 4 early in the season because they cannot be allowed in the living spaces. I have nothing against them staying warm (and it is close to impossible to completely seal them out & still breath inside) – but I draw the line at sharing the human living spaces. Or seeing them at all, actually. But at least one broke through this year (the traps are out waiting patiently for any others…)

The mouse was the boldest mouse I’d ever seen. I spotted him first in the upstairs hall on Wednesday afternoon, but he bolted and vanished before I could track him down. We have baseboard heat, and I’ve found that they love those little openings that the pipes come through. On Thursday morning, I saw him bolt into our bathroom while I was getting dressed. My husband caught him & lost him while trying to remove him. We put a trap in that bathroom as well. On Friday, he began taunting us. He deftly avoid the traps, and had a marked preference for high ground (up the vertical blinds we go). My husband caught him & lost him twice – once upstairs and then a bit later downstairs. In between, he kept appearing upstairs while I was working, and my aging dog – fully animated with wagging tail, twitching nose, and ears at full attention – kept trying to catch him. It was clearly the best toy the dog has had in years. And the mouse kept appearing. I think he didn’t understand the dog. Alas, moving downstairs was his undoing.

For the next couple of hours the dog waited between appearances for the next one. Not paying much attention (humans are not nearly as fond of the game as dogs, I guess), I barely registered it when I heard the dog snapping in the kitchen. Then she came back to the family room and laid down looking at the kitchen, and I assumed the mouse had disappeared again. But shortly after, my daughter got home and announced that the mouse was on the floor not moving – well trying to move – well there’s some blood – & no, not moving. So my husband collected it, tossed it into the outside garbage can, and cleaned up the floor. And the dog, already looking sad that the toy stopped playing, was clearly upset that we took the toy away. Game over.

The good news is that it’s 48 hours later, the traps are still unsprung, and I haven’t even heard the mice in the attic since (although I’m sure that’s temporary). The dog has proven that her killer instinct still works (when she’s awake, at least) – not bad for a nearly 9 year old rescued mountain cur based mutt. I apologize to anyone upset by the fate of the mouse – I’m not enthusiastic about killing things either. This was kind of a microcosm of nature playing out in my house, though. And it was fascinating. And now I know that dogs can also be as good as mousers as cats.

And on that note…

“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?’

— Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

Picture of Crystal, taken last winter by my GoPro.

The best advice…

“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves. We must purposely be kind and generous, or we miss the best part of existence.”

— Horace Mann

It seems that there is so much fear in the world today – financial, political, physical safety. That fear breeds hate. And when we hate we forget that one of the greatest gifts we have as humans is the capacity for kindness.

We must not allow ourselves to be so caught up in the media-fed frenzy of hate and fear that we draw broad strokes across entire groups – Liberals, Conservatives, Muslims, Christians, Whatever. We need to remember that the only way to bring positive change, and to break the cycle, is for each of us, individually, to treat all others, and ourselves, with respect and compassion.

The whole is only the sum of the parts.

Have a peaceful weekend.

Sunset, November 28, 2017.