Thursday, June 14, 2012

End of an era, 8 1/2 years later . . .

Just came across this video. Kind of brings a tear to my eye, even though I never flew on the plane.

Were there any benefits to the Concorde aircraft? Should the planes have been grounded? What is the future of supersonic flight as a new era of energy abundance seems to be upon us?

Monday, June 11, 2012

There is much more in the world than what comes out to grab you

As I mentioned, I've begun the 100-Day Challenge. Sunday evening, Blair sent me a link to a video, Celebrate What's Right with the World.

It's a gorgeous, 22-minute-long, vision-expanding presentation by Dewitt Jones, a 20-year veteran photographer from National Geographic. Well worth your time for anyone. But if you're a photographer, I think you will particularly enjoy it. Everyone else, especially if you think, "I don't have time for this!," check out two stories in particular: the one that begins at 14:17, about Jones' experience with Marion Campbell (ends at 17:30) and the one about Henry Gray that begins at 18:30 and ends at 21:00. Very moving.

For the photographers: beginning at about 12:25--"the difference between a good frame and a great frame is measured in millimeters, not miles."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Wow! . . . Concerning Rand Paul's endorsement of Mitt Romney

Eloquent. Passionate. Thoughtful. Insightful. Historically reasoned.

Jack Hunter responds to my shock and dismay to hear Rand Paul--Ron Paul's son--endorse Mitt Romney. Hunter's response: Ron Paul is Becoming Something More Important than President.


Whoever this young guy, Jack Hunter, is, he has a big vision and pretty amazing insight. Great historical perspective as well.

So. Was it--will it be--a waste of all the effort, money and time that Paul supporters invested in "their" candidate? Not according to Hunter!

"We have elections every few years," says Hunter toward the end of his presentation. "We have very few revolutions during our lifetime."

"Ron Paul will not be president. He will instead go down in history . . . as the man who redefined what future presidents will be, what the [Republican] Party will be, what the country will be."

"It all started with Ron Paul, but it doesn't end with Ron Paul."

Here's his strategic perspective:

Here's his more direct commentary on Rand's endorsement, as well: "Why Rand was Right to Endorse Romney":

Great political wisdom. And principle. Clearly, I lack his understanding. But I'm willing to learn.

"There is no shame in compromising politically to advance principle. But we can never compromise our principles simply to advance politically."

Drive me nuts!

My Pandora station has been running a bunch of anti-Romney ads recently: "Romney Economics: It didn't work in Massachusetts, and it won't work now":
Mitt Romney ran for governor claiming his corporate experience made him uniquely qualified to grow the economy and decrease debt.

Here’s what Massachusetts got instead:
  • Long-term debt: Increased more than $2.6 billion
  • Bigger government: State spending increased more than $6 billion
  • Slower job growth: 47th out of 50 states in job creation
  • Higher taxes and fees: Increased by $750 million per year
Powerful. Hard-hitting. And there are plenty more stories and statistics where those come from, complete with references--about Romney's dismal record of increased debt as governor of Massachusetts; his dismal "reform" record; his astonishing expansion of government in Massachusetts ("six times the rate of private sector jobs"); his retrograde tax policies . . . and so on and so forth.

Oh. And I have only touched on his government record. You may not want to look at his record at Bain Capital. That appalls me as well. Truly shocking. If you think the banksters' and large corporations' rip-off of taxpayers over the last four or five years was worthy of at least a few tsk-tsks (if not some hardcore lawsuits for fraud: How dare these men who drove their companies into the ground demand government aid to keep their companies going even as they pay themselves multi-million-dollar bonuses?!?) . . . --Maybe you want to look at Romney's record at Bain as well.

Oh, yes, there are only a "few" examples of open malfeasance and absolute destruction. But read the stories. They certainly give me pause.

And the Republicans want to offer this guy as an alternative to Obama?

What is particularly galling, however, is that this entire negative ad campaign and website isn't--and never was--sponsored by a Republican opponent of Romney. It's sponsored by the Obama campaign! Indeed, the Pandora ads end with Obama approving them.

Amazing! And he offers us something better than Romney? I don't think so! Do we have to go through the next five months of electioneering?

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Seeking to improve

I signed up last night for the 100-Day Challenge with Gary Ryan Blair.

I have no question, it will be worthwhile. At the same time, Blair kind of drives me nuts with his sensei- [Japanese martial arts instructor] style aphoristic speech. Everything--or just about everything--he says comes across as some kind of pithy, final, distilled, definitive "word of wisdom." And he fills his speech with beautiful, high-sounding language: "Excellence. Dedication. Decision. Commitment. Persistence. Inspire. Promote. Celebrate. Define. Choose." Almost too dense for me to assimilate.

I can get over that stylistic problem. I "simply" have to take careful notes, or listen twice . . . or three or four times.

But what pushed me to blog here about his program was these three sentences that appear on p. 10 of the Orientation's (Day O's) MAP (Massive Action Plan) document.

Blair writes:
Our world is filled with people with every conceivable type of handicap and liability but who have gone on to build wonderful lives for themselves.

Often people around them have ascribed their good fortune to luck. But if you talk to these people and you trace their stories from where they began to where they are now, you will find that luck had nothing to do with their success, and it has nothing to do with yours.

As I wrote on his website,
I appreciate the intention to have me take responsibility for my actions, and the need to have me make a wholehearted commitment to pursue a goal. But philosophically and practically--and, let me say, religiously/theologically, not to mention historically--I am convinced that, in the end, none of us is the master of his or her own fate.
We all come up against events beyond our control--whether hurricanes or earthquakes, tsunamis or economic crises, or any of a myriad of different obstacles. OR, by contrast, sometimes God is simply extra generous to us and gives us breaks that no human being has the right to expect.

On at least one of his recordings, Gary acknowledges this. He speaks of “luck” and “Acts of God.” But yet, there is that prior statement: "luck ha[s] nothing to do with . . . success." And I say, "Not so!"

I am "lucky" I was born in the United States and not the son or daughter of an uneducated farmer in Madhya Pradesh, India. That, right there, puts me on a completely different path than the little boy who was born in Madhya Pradesh within hours of me back when I was born. . . .

So, while Gary wants me to sign some kind of (seemingly crazy) "faith" contract: "I am making a quantum leap. I know exactly where I am going. And I am open to the unexpected."

I will write a modified version of the same. Something about desiring to make a quantum leap and knowing exactly where I think or believe I want (and I believe God wants) me to go. But yet acknowledging that where I think I want to go may, somewhere in the middle of the path, turn out to be very definitely NOT where I want to go. And so, indeed, I want to be "open to the unexpected."

I don’t want to give myself a lot of wiggle room and opportunities for excuses or what we might call "justified failure." At the same time, I really do want my commitments to be solid and, if you will, sacred.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Brilliant overview: Why you vote the way you do

The Week does it again with a brilliant summary/introduction to Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind.

I'm skipping the fascinating genetic analysis. Consider only Haidt's summary of the heroic "grand narratives" liberals and conservatives have adopted to explain their views.

From the liberal/progressive side:
[T]raditional societies were unjust, repressive, and oppressive. People who valued autonomy, equality, and prosperity struggled against the forces of oppression, and established modern, liberal, democratic welfare societies. But the struggle for a good society in which individuals are equal and free to pursue their self-defined happiness is not over.

. . . Authority, hierarchy, power, and tradition are the chains that must be broken to free the "noble aspirations" of the victims.

In my research, I have sought to describe the universal psychological "foundations" of morality. My colleagues at and I have identified six in particular, six clusters of moral concerns — care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation — upon which all political cultures and movements base their moral appeals. . . .

Smith's liberal narrative derives its moral force primarily from the care/harm foundation (concern for the suffering of victims) and the liberty/oppression foundation (a celebration of liberty as freedom from oppression, as well as freedom to pursue self-defined happiness). In this narrative, fairness is political equality (which is part of opposing oppression). Authority is mentioned only as an evil, and there is no mention of loyalty or sanctity.
Now, says, Haidt, contrast that with a typical modern conservative narrative. This one, Haidt says, was extracted by Emory University clinical psychologist Drew Westen from major speeches by Ronald Reagan:
Once upon a time, America was a shining beacon. Then liberals came along and undermined America by building up the federal bureaucracy and choking off the free market. They opposed God and faith. They took money from hardworking people and gave it to welfare queens. They worried more about the rights of criminals than those of victims. They pushed the sexual revolution and weakened the family by promoting first a feminist agenda and then a gay one. They cut military spending, disrespected our soldiers, and burned the flag. Then Americans decided to take their country back from those who undermined it.
With such wildly disparate narratives, can these two groups even talk effectively one with (or to) the other?

Sorry! You'll have to read the article to find out!

Oh, how I love The Week! (By the way, the "four free issues" offer is still open. I just checked.)

Freebie: While I'm on the subject of loving The Week, let me note their weekly Contest in which they ask people to come up with answers to questions related to current news articles. Totally for fun.

For example, the next (June 8) issue of the magazine, due any day now, will contain answers to the following question: "Facebook and Twitter are so addictive because they tap into a hardwired human instinct to tell other people about ourselves, new research at Harvard has found. Please come up with the next blindingly obvious thing researchers will find out about humankind."

Last week's contest--and the two answers (of three printed in the magazine) that most tickled my funny bone:

The number of PhDs receiving food stamps and other public aid tripled to 34,000 over a recent, three-year period. We asked you to come up with the title of an arcane PhD thesis least likely to result in a job.

THE WINNER: Modern Heraldry: Deconstructing the Seemingly Apolitical Lapel Pin's Post-Modernist Semiotic Signification -- Carla Holtz, Stanardsville, VA

THIRD PLACE: Urinary Tract Infections of the Common Earthworm: Implications for Organic Farming -- Russell A. and Kathleen I. Joki, Meridian, ID