Today is rather unusual. It is a dual holiday, at least here in Alibam. The state holiday is the birthday anniversary of Robert E. Lee; the Yankee government holiday is the birthday anniversary of Martin L. King. And somehow I find this not only not conflicting but also comforting.

I should offer at this point that this blot will not be very nice, offering, in the words of the Kingston Trio, something to offend almost everyone. So if you like to use either of the “R” words you may want to go on at this point and do something less harmful to your metabolism.

In my way of thinking, there are substantial similarities between Lee and King. Both were leaders in conflict, and the conflict was not without its righteousness. And both, so far as I can tell amidst all the serving rhetoric were men of integrity and principle. Also, both clearly were born and hence had a birthday. That latter is a poor attempt at humor.

I would also offer the opinion that both of these men aided the cause of liberty in Amerika. If anything, King was enabled by Lee, a consequence of history and the arrow of time, not any genetic superiority. Had Lee not refused Scott’s offer to command the Union armies, the war would likely not have lasted long enough for manumission to become a political necessity. Did Lee know this? Almost certainly not. But we can estimate it now.

So I shall take time today to reflect on how much both of these men contributed to the well being of Amerika.


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SCP’s Conjecture # ?

National Child’s Day?

For any society, the capacity of its members (humans) for holidays is a constant. The more holidays, the less attention paid to any one of them. Get enough of them and the result is indistinguishable from no holidays at all.

Also, why stores are going to be open on Thanksgiving.

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Foul Fuss

Back edge of week in. Not shivering. Got my morning constitutional on stationary bicycle. Coward. Craven. ORF. Didn’t really want to get up this morning except that bed and body had become inimical.

It thus seems a worthy time to take up a matter I have been contemplating for some time, this antipathy – hatred? – of breaching the walls of the holy day (????????) of Thanksgiving.[Link]

I have read that Thanksgiving is THE GREAT AMERIKAN HOLIDAY, even bigger (?) than Winter Solstice/Newtonmas/Quanza/Chanukah/Christianist Calendar Diddling. At least emotionally? Certainly not financially. The amount of money blown by the citizenry on the hothouse custom of gift giving – an inherently wasteful activity – is amazing. And nerds and geeks seem to not be immune. But this murmerage is about Thanksgiving.

This is one of those mythical things. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about the (European) settling (conquest) of Nawth Amerika, of peaceful engorgement, and maybe even giving noble savages gifts not (?) impregnated with European disease microbes that have scant immunity to. It quite ignores that the primary reason the European hippies were able to establish a foothold on the land was because of earlier European visitations that had left microbes behind. And being hippies they couldn’t even feed themselves without help from the locals. And from what I can read the feast was more about control and morale than anything else with the visiting natives providing more than they received. (But that seems inherent to gift giving?)

I have never liked Thanksgiving. What purpose does the Thankfulness serve other than assuaging guilt? Not that we Amerikans don;t have tons of guilt. It permeates out lives: how we raise our children; our marriages; and our workplaces. And I shan’t even mention government nor organized religion in any further depth. As a child Thanksgiving meant decamping to my parents’ home town with a bounty of food that suffered greatly from the transport and dealing with too many people of too little common interest and civility in a too small house. Once I got grown it meant motoring to my parents’ home and partaking of the same cooking and various digestive analgesics. And unwelcome socialization. My best thanksgivings were the ones at the Campus of the Boneyard where I didn’t have to socialize.

So why the grrr brrr about stores being open? I used to have a hard enough time finding counter-agents to Thanksgiving cooking that I had to either remember to purchase preemptively or suffer. It was even worse on the rare occasions when I was fortunate enough to be TDY on Thanksgiving and finding a food store. Not that I would necessarily want to work in those stores, which has nothing to do with the day but with the business. One of the reasons I went STEM was because I hated business. And from what I can tell, so do most of humanity.

I am told that there are families where the gathering is positive. Evidently it is a bog/extro thing. The only thing I can recall enjoying about Thanksgiving was left over turkey with Miracle Whup on sliced bread and that was a day after thing. I once I discovered turkey rolls in the grocery the whole need for the observation of the holiday went away. Sadly, the turkey roll seems to have disappeared, probably as part of a bog/extro plot?

Anyway, I will endeavor to be quiet and dutiful amidst the discomfort and social torture. But only because of being outnumbered.

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Fracture Eve

Here we are on the eve of the nastiest (?) day of the year. At least FD SCP and I were able to retire most of the family interaction yesterday and some of that stress may be grounded. Back to gym this morning and they had a fill-in staffer opening and he was ten minutes late. And I swear the fellow didn’t even care. Hopefully he can find a job that will please him more in the new year.

The podcast was a debate concerning whether the european union was a bust or not. The final bit seemed to sum up what one surmised from the vehement discussion, that it was a failure but would be patched a bit to degenerate more, delaying the eventual decomposition, desolation, and suffering. Somehow that seemed appropriate for the season.

The RSS accumulator was full yesterday but almost completely unengaging. As a result the tabs are less extensive than usual, which we may only hope results in greater quality.

The first article [Link] is a lovely piece entitled “There really is a war on Christmas!” It claims to be about the struggle against oppressive religionist organization here in the hinterland. There is plenty of the later here in the Old Confederacy and I see scant of the former. But article like this do inject hope into the season. And that freedom of religion may yet be realized in this country even as all of the other freedoms are being eradicated by large organizations and politicians.

The second [Link] is a rather pleasing list of factoids about christmas. The most cheering is indicative that the stealing of the solstice was effected by organization, which is evidentiary that christianity was derailed by that organization. And that real christians can get along with pagans. Another source of hope in this stress season.

Tomorrow is uncertain. Blots as I can.

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Lack of Spirit

The thought struck the other day that christmas may have played its course. Consider the following logic chop:

  • christmas has become commercialized;
  • all commercials (advertsiements) incorporate covert, sometimes overt, inaccuracies;
  • therefore, christmas is a prevarication.

This prevarication is over and above the prevarications perpetrated by the christianist organizations to co-opt solstice.

But what moves me to ask the question is observation, one of the fundamental aspects, perhaps the first, of science. What I observe is that the public expression of christmas has waned in recent years. Some of this is likely due to the economic recession caused by the politicians and bankers. It costs much money to be garishly fanatical. But the displays of the season have also waned in uneconomic modes as well. Greetings and social noises between individuals have slacked as well. Even the bell ringer from the salvation army is desultory.

So perhaps we should bury christmas like the other old, tattered, worn out holidays and move on?

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Check the Number of Gammas

OK, the holiday is past and I carefully made scant mention of either Joshua ben Joseph or Sir Isaac although given the proximity to the winter solstice, both seem appropriately connected. But the ennui of the season this year put mental dampers on the matter and so neither gets discussed. In fact the height of the season was finding a set of ‘christmas’ icons on gnome-look – which I shall now miss – and some wonderful astronomy photographs from NASA that I have been using as wallpapers.

Intriguingly, today is the ‘official’ observation of the holy day, an organizational conceit, drilling down from the highest (?) level, to extend a paid off day to the wage serfs. As a result, the not profit fanatic aspects of Greater Metropolitan Arab are absent today including both our government-by-real-estate-agents and the gym at Scant City. Since the latter collects monthly fees all that matters is that the be open one day a month in pretense of some service.

As a result I have another day of enforced inactivity since FD SCP will not, I hope and trust, be dragging me to what passes for day after [1] sales here in Greater Metropolitan Arab and throughout the Yankee republic. Given that, I have a last cartoon to share [Link]

that captures much of the feeling of the day past. It somehow seems fitting that leading up to christmas/newtonmas there were many good cartoons but on the day itself this was all that rose to surpass the gnuuuh barrier.

I find the taxonomy of presents meaningful and useful. While I enjoy a good marmalade, or jelly or jam, I am unsure of its appropriateness as a gift. Perhaps they have been watching too many television advertisements featuring young lads and a sled? Nonetheless, it does occur that presents range from good to bad, not in some good-evil sense – why is christmas rhetoric always devoid of the opponent? – but in that more personal sense of like and dislike. And there are always presents that are confusing but they usually end up being good for some strange reason, perhaps reflecting those aspects of ourselves imperceivable to ourselves but obvious to those who know us?

There is also the implication of the sag of the afternoon, that period when the excitement suddenly collapses and one is left with a seeming bitter disappointment by contrast. This is when those who read and have received good books as presents triumph over those who do and have not.

Contemplation of this brings me to that for which I am most thankful this morning. I anticipate that all of those absurd, boring, inane movies and programs that have plagued us since turkey day will now haw expired, or at least ebbed. The only entertainment deriving from these abominations was identification of their contradictions and absurdities, which was hopefully sufficient to last the duration of the program. Yesterday FD SCP was so alienated that she retreated to her study to view on-line sewing lectures and I made attempt to read some of the lesser tomes I received as presents. How, tell me, are chipmunk and Indiana Jones movies applicable to christmas/newtonmas? The correlations I perceive are as tenuous as haze in a high wind.

But enough. The day of stress and strife is endured, past, never to return and a year until renewal. And having completed, we have reason to be positive in our expectation until misfortune balances our delusions.

[1]  I also find it intriguing how that term, “day after”, has come to mean either the day after a nuclear war, or the day after christmas. The implied correlation/association is telling.

Christmas Crashed

As we get into the season it is impossible not to be inundated with advertisements, almost regardless of the media. So far the only such I have not noted advertisement on is the stool from my bowels and I have to admit to not being particularly catholic in inspecting that medium.

But in the process I had occasion to make mental comparison between now and then. With the exception of computers, and that is possibly, I have to admit that stuff today is not what is was previously.

Take personal electronics. In my opinion, personal electronics peaked in 1972 with the HP 35. Everything since has been less exhilirating. Somehow RPN was the epitome of hand held electronic enablement.

And cellular telephones. Do we really need phones that are primarily not for talking? And that the YG wants to take away from us, between NTSB and SOPA? Not that I think it will be all bad. After all, comparing the clarity of a land line, even with a dial phone, to modern cellular is like steak to stercus.

Home electronics are similar. FD SCP and I recently had to inter our old parlor television and purchase a flat screen. All of a sudden channel surfing is like developing a stutter. It shakes the mind. And there are no good TV Guides any more? The good side is that it makes for lots more reading. Nothing like making banal, sad content hard to obtain.

I could now comment on eReaders. Except I don’t have one. Because they won’t display equations and graphs adequately. So I am still stuck with heavy paper.

And beer. Why are we so afraid of energy that we have made our beer insipid?

Movies and television programming was better. Except for the christmas movies and programming. They were awful to begin with and have gotten no better. But at least we had good horrific science fiction in those days, not like the stercus we have today.

No wonder I don’t feel seasonal. The phone is gone more than it is present, the TV stutters, my joints creak, and the toys are terrible. I scan the toy catalogs – no Sears wish book alas – and think of how I can find nothing that appeals to the child in me. 

We don’t have to worry about the world ending next year. It ended some time ago.

Bah. Selah.

Homo Shoppingensis

Oh what a beautiful day! So far things have been less than positive. First, the weather beavers were over-optimistic, missing the morning low by several degF below the phase change of dihydrogen oxide. Hence I had to not only unplug the block heater – an invention that needs to be enshrined with the flush toilet and dental floss – but I had to manually scrape enough ice off to stave off the constabulary. And then I had to turn about and return to get my MP3 player. And then the podcast, an episode of the Ubuntu podcast was grits.

Speaking of which, I ran across a National Geographic article [Link] yesterday entitled “Sex With Humans Made Neanderthals Extinct?” While this is light years better than their program Redstone Hillbilly Engineers, I was a bit startled at the abruptness of the wording. Not displeased, mind you, just surprised that a magazine would be so forthcoming. Even one noted as paving the way for Playboy and Penthouse.

The article, which is rather dated as such go, is about the mapping of  Neandertal DNA and the emergent hypothesis that neandertals disappear by being merged into contemporary sapiens. Comforting, at least to the non-religionists, that the concerns about cannibalism have been replaced with the acceptability of miscegenation. For the religionists, however, it brings a new worry to the aspect of the chosen of god.

This however, is not my chief consideration this icy morning, but rather a comment made by a colleague Normal Angular Momentum about ‘going shopping with her husband being like hunting with a game warden.’  I was rather unsure of what this meant since I have been out in field with game wardens and I found their presence to be beneficial.

Based on her response, which was more about chaperones at teen parties type of situation comedy, which of course has a basis in ‘real’ life or it would not be humor, I came to the hypothesis that she and her husband were displaying human behavior.

Sapiens has been around for a fairly good period of time, the current estimate – this is science and not bishopry here – is about 200 KY. [Link] For most of that period, until the end of the last cold phase and partly into the period following, say something on order 10 KY, or 0.05 of the total, we were hunter-gatherers. As is often the case in human social organizations, function was divided along gender lines with males predominating as the hunters and females predominating as the gatherers.

The relevant behavior here, in summary, is that hunters hunt until they find the minimally acceptable game that they can kill while gatherers have to survey all of the available vegetation and select the most suitable. This behavior, which has been ingrained into humans over 0.95 of their existence, and is still with us, carries over into the shopping activity.

If a man goes out to purchase (e.g.,) a suit, he looks at and tries on suits until he finds one that is minimally acceptable to his requirements and purchases it. If a woman goes out to purchase a suit, she looks at and tries on all the suits that she can find and then selects the best one to purchase. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with either approach although both have strengths and weaknesses. The difficulty is that are different and the can cause the adherents of each approach to clash.

The best way to avoid this clash is that developed by our ancestors. Make a list of the items to be shopped for, divide the list into things that may be minimally acceptable and those that have to be optimal and separate the shopping accordingly.

That way you can prepare for Newtonmas-Solstice with a minimum of stress and conflict.