Friday, December 25, 2015

The Innkeeper’s Dilemma

Who should be evicted to provide a room for the lady expecting a baby? And what if someone needier came along? Ultimately, would Mary have given up the stable? The story of the Manger is presented without discussion. When need is the standard of judgment, the problems are not easily resolved. 

Apparently, the innkeeper gave them the use of the stable, free of charge. Logically followed from that premise, the innkeeper would become a charity, himself begging for money to supply others with room and board from the goodness of his heart, and that of the donors. In the Literal Word, the Holy Family was just passing through. After the visit from the shepherds, a few days later, the Wise Men found Mary in a house. Eventually, everyone fled Herod's soldiers. But the next needy person might not be a traveler. Then, the innkeeper could have a permanent guest. In the final analysis, his inn would be filled, not with the families of itinerate carpenters, but with clans of the unemployable.

On the other hand, our commercial culture rests on several thousand years of norms, folkways, and customs that prevent and remediate such conflicts. The power of the purse and the sanctity of contract could have informed a better solution. 
From The Daily Kos 22 Dec 2015
Joseph and Mary approached the inn. Joseph knocked. The innkeeper answered. “We need a room for the night.” 
“We are full,” the innkeeper said.
“But my wife is having a baby. We need a place.”
The innkeeper was sympathetic, but unmoved. “All I have is the stable. It will have to do.”
Having a better grasp of the problem, Mary spoke up. “Why not remove someone who is not in need and give us their room? Let them sleep in the stable?”
“Well, first of all, I do not want a woman in labor in the middle of the inn. It will disturb everyone.”
Mary countered, “It is going to be a miracle birth: no muss, no fuss; easy-peasy.”
“What?”
“It begins with the fact that I am a virgin, in fact, the Virgin.”
“All right, look,” said the weary innkeeper whose livelihood depended on making everyone (else) happy.  “Whatever you say… I am not going to stand here and argue. Let me make some arrangements. And speaking of arrangements, what did you bring for money? The stable you can have for eight prutot, as two mites make half a farthing. For a room, I need something close to the temple tax, a denarius, a drachmon, half a shekel.”
Mary whispered sweetly into Joseph’s ear, “I told you to call ahead and make reservations.”
Joseph said, “The drachmon, denarius, and half shekel are not exactly equal.” 
“I am not a money changer,” sighed the innkeeper. “Find them in the temple. Everything spends in this town, especially at tax season.”
And so it was done – with some difficulty…

The innkeeper knocked and entered, waking the rug merchant. “I am sorry,” he said, “but I am giving your room to a woman having a baby.”
“Where am I going to sleep?”
“The stable is available.”
“But I paid for a room.”
“I will refund half of your money. After all, you have been here half a day.”
“Oh, no,” said the rug merchant. “The stable is a downgrade. What have you got worth 24 Roman sestertii?  You know, if I took this to the judges, you might catch a break: those old Solomons love a challenge. But if I complain to the Roman curator, you might find yourself in an uncomfortable outcome. Plus, where am I to store my rugs? They will not be improved by the stable.”
Not seeing sleep in his future, the innkeeper put the rugs in his own room – at no charge and no discount, even up.
 
From The Daily Kos 22 Dec 2015
The Three Wise Men followed the star. They found the inn.  The inn was crowded. 
“Whoa! Where are you guys going?”
“We are seeking the King of the Jews for we have seen His star in the east.”
“Of course you did…” replied the weary innkeeper. “And that could not possibly have been Herod, the actual king in Jerusalem?”
“The star is over your place,” said Melchior.
“Well, I assure you, we have no kings here. Have a table. I will bring a nice brisket, some bread, olive oil, wine. What did you bring for money? Nulla mensa sine impensa.”
Caspar opened his purse and took out a large silver coin. The innkeeper inspected it. “You Parthians! The image of Mithradates is not popular with the Romans. I don’t want any trouble. Got anything else?”
Balthazar shook out a handful of civic bronzes from Antioch. The wise men enjoyed their brisket. The innkeeper racked his brain for a guest likely to be a king in disguise.

A knock at the door. The innkeeper opened up. There stood an old couple, bent and gray. The woman leaned heavily on the man’s arm. 

ALSO ON NECESSARY FACTS

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Corporations and Capitalism

Many libertarians are opposed to corporations, calling them creations of the state.  They certainly are creations of law. Corporations are an improvement over traditional modes such as Shariah law; and they have ancient roots of their own in Roman law. 

Before corporations as we understand them today were invented, unrelated people could only come together for business as partnerships. By law, if one partner died, the partnership was dissolved. No one can speak for a dead person. Limiting businesses to partnerships would make modern enterprise impossible. 

The family business is a different matter. Under traditional law, left over from agrarian times, the family business is a kind of farm, owned by the pater familias, and ownership passed by inheritance. In order to avoid the limitations of partnership, every co-owner would have to be adopted into the family. In that case, the head of the family decides your shares and your profits. That is what privilege is, literally, private law. The pater familias can do whatever on the farm. In Roman times, he could sell family members into slavery.

However, Roman law also recognized the collective entity: the herd. The herd exists independent of any one animal. If you buy or sell the herd, some die and others are born along the way. It is the same herd. Roman emperors granted charters to groups of individuals: burial societies and fire fighters were among the first. Some people claim that the Benedictine Order, chartered in 579, is the oldest continuing corporation. Wikipedia has other ideas here.  But note that many of those are family businesses. 



The modern corporation was the steam engine of commerce. It allowed the creation and management of capital on the scale demanded by the industrial revolution, and wholly beyond the needs of simpler, land-based societies. Shariah Law recognizes partnerships, not corporations. Also, it forbids the payment of interest. Anyone who lends money becomes a partner and shares in the profits. It worked well enough for simpler times and places. However, even Shariah recognizes something called a waqf. A waqf is like a foundation. It was created first over wells: everyone needs it; no one can own it; it must be managed for the common good. Sometime later - I know only about Cairo 1600 - the waqf was used to create family
Trustees of Dartmouth College
v. Woodward,
17 U.S. 518 (1819) was
the landmark case
in U.S. law for
corporations.
foundations that let merchants aggregate their wealth without it being redivided by inheritances. 

In the West, universities were chartered as corporations to allow them to survive their founders. They also could make their own laws for their own communities: Bologna, Oxford, Cambridge, Padua, Heidelberg, ... When Cambridge discovered its original charter to be unhelpful, they went to Parliament for one -- and got a seat in Parliament as a result. Even Sir Isaac Newton served a term.

As for the modern corporation, you could not own most of your comforts without them. To condemn the entirety because of the actions of a few individuals is collectivism.

In the future, the corporation may be the legal structure by which a software earns its legal rights. We already have electronic filing. There is no way to know who the original actor is. She might be a program.


ALSO ON NECESSARY FACTS
Capitalist Culture
Venture Capital
Money as Press and Speech
Numismatics: The Standard of Proof in Economics

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The First Newtonmas

We commonly call the Nativity scene “the first Christmas” though it was not. The first Christ Mass could not have been celebrated before the Church existed. So, too, did the first Newtonmas not come until 248 years after his birth.

It seems that three students at Tokyo University started Newtonmas in their dormitory sometime before 1890.  As the undergraduates developed into graduates and assistants, their professors were drawn into the celebration, and a more suitable assembly hall was found in the University Observatory.  By 1890, they called themselves the Newtonkai  (Newton Association;  = kai = “all”) and moved to the Physical Laboratory. There, they played games symbolic of great mathematicians, physicists, and astronomers: Newton’s apple, Franklin’s kite, a naked doll for Archimedes … 

That story comes from “A New Sect of Hero-Worshippers” published in  Nature, Vol. 46, No. 1193, p. 459, 8 September 1892. It available from the publisher for $18 if you are not a member, or it can be found online at Google Books.


"Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night;
God said, 'Let Newton be' and all was light."
Alexander Pope

Newton's own copy of the the first edition of his Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) with corrections in his own hand for the second edition, has been digitised and can be found following the link below. This is one of the first of the Wren's treasures which will be made available digitally over the next few months.  

"Here is buried Isaac Newton, Knight, who by a strength of mind almost divine, and mathematical principles peculiarly his own, explored the course and figures of the planets, the paths of comets, the tides of the sea, the dissimilarities in rays of light, and, what no other scholar has previously imagined, the properties of the colours thus produced. Diligent, sagacious and faithful, in his expositions of nature, antiquity and the holy Scriptures, he vindicated by his philosophy the majesty of God mighty and good, and expressed the simplicity of the Gospel in his manners. Mortals rejoice that there has existed such and so great an ornament of the human race! He was born on 25th December 1642, and died on 20th March 1726".  -- http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history/people/sir-isaac-newton
  • "Cambridge University Library holds the largest and most important collection of the scientific works of Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Newton was closely associated with Cambridge. He came to the University as a student in 1661, graduating in 1665, and from 1669 to 1701 he held the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics. Under the regulations for this Chair, Newton was required to deposit copies of his lectures in the University Library. These, and some correspondence relating to the University, were assigned the classmarks Dd.4.18, Dd.9.46, Dd.9.67, Dd.9.68, and Mm.6.50.  […]
  • A number of videos explaining aspects of Newton's work and manuscripts are available from the NewtonProject's YouTube site, a selection of which are presented alongside our manuscripts."  -- http://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/collections/newton 


"The Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences is an international research institute running a series of visitor programmes across the spectrum of the mathematical sciences. Established in 1992, the 350th anniversary of Newton's birth, INI has no direct historical links with Newton, but was named after him because of his great achievements in the fields of mathematics, optics, physics and astronomy. INI continues in this tradition of crossing the boundaries between scientific disciplines" -- http://www.newton.ac.uk/

The Isaac Newton Trust was established in 1988 by Trinity College. The objects of the Trust are to promote learning, research and education in the University of Cambridge. The Trust makes grants for research purposes within Cambridge University, it founded and contributes financially to the undergraduate Bursary Scheme, and it offers a number of other funding opportunities for the University and its constituent Colleges.” 

A Bibliography of Sources

Berlinski, David. Newton's Gift: How Sir Isaac Newton Unlocked the System of the World. New York: Free Press, Simon and Schuster, 2000.
Craig, Sir John. Newton at the Mint. Cambridge: University Press, 1946.
Craig, Sir John. "Isaac Newton and the Counterfeiters."  Notes and Records of the Royal Society (18), London: 1963. 
Craig, Sir John. “Isaac Newton - Crime Investigator,” Nature 182, (19 July 1958), pages 149-152.
Keynes, Milo. “The Personality of Isaac Newton,” Notes and Records of the Royal Society (49), London: The Royal Society, 1995.
Levenson, Thomas. Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist (Boston;New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. 336 pp. $25
Marotta, Michael. “Merry Newtonmas,” Newsgroups: rec.collecting.coins, Date: Mon, 25 Dec 2000 11:49:41 GMT
Marotta, Michael. “Sir Isaac Newton: Warden and Master of the Mint,” The Numismatist, Vol. 114, no. 11 (November 2001), p. 1302-1308, 1363 : ill., port.
Newman, E. G. V. "The Gold Metallurgy of Isaac Newton." The Gold Bulletin, Vol 8. No. 3, London: The World Gold Council, 1975.
Westfall, Richard S. Never at Rest: a Biography of Isaac Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980.
White, Michael. Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer. Reading, Mass.: Helix Books, Perseus Books, 1997.
www.experiencefestival.com/newtonmas
www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk/, The Newton Project, Professor Rob Iliffe Director, University of Sussex, East Sussex - BN1 9SH
www.royalmint.com/museum/newton Web site pages of the British Royal Mint.

ALSO ON NECESSARY FACTS

Monday, December 14, 2015

Saving the World Through Beer

Save the World Brewing Co. of Marble Falls, Texas, is “America’s first 100% philanthropic production craft brewery.”  They just extended their service to humanity from their tap room to the bottled retail markets.  They create about a dozen different brews. I tasted three at my neighborhood Whole Foods and bought a six pack.

Save the World Brewing Company is the mission of former physicians Quynh and Dave Rathkamp. Their volunteer work overseas distanced them from “the first world problems” of most of the people they saw in their pediatric practices. They found themselves called by God to follow a different path.  (Full story here.)

Their sales representative, Cory, was at Whole Foods. I recommended that he visit the Wheatsville Co-op; and he told me that he had just come from there, and they now have it on the shelf. 

Cory brought Agnes Dei, Lux Mundi, and Humilus Filus.  I purchased the third.  It was a hard choice because all of them were superb. I have never thought much of Texas beers.  (See here and here. ) These were heavenly. They are full-flavored with overtones. The Lux Mundi was light, of course, yet tasteful and pleasing. I chose the warm and toasty Humilus Filius, both for culinary and philosophical reasons. My previous favorite had been Arrogant Bastard, but now I am converted. 

(I wrote this last night. I went to post it this morning, and, of course, it was labeled "Draft.")

ALSO ON NECESSARY FACTS
(These are some of the two dozen articles about locally produced retail foods.)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Star of Wonder: Arguments over the Christmas Star

In science, a good problem takes us far beyond the results of a single observation. The Christmas Star has been debated on many levels. The International Planetarium Society website (ww.ips-planetarium.org) lists over 100 citations to the Star of Bethlehem. Some of those articles and letters were part of a multifaceted decades-long argument among at least five astronomers and one editor. Writing in Archaeology Vol. 51, No. 6 (Nov/Dec 1998), Anthony F. Aveni cited 250 “major scholarly articles” about the Star of Bethlehem.

A Wondrous Problem

Timing any proposed astronomical event is the first challenge. The book of Matthew records the birth Jesus as having been during the reign of Herod. The book of Luke says that the birth of Jesus happened when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Biblical accounts have to be reconciled with secular histories by the Romans Lucius Cassius Dio and Josephus Flavius. Those histories record the reign and death of Herod the Great, king of Judea, and a client of Rome, who lived from 74 or 73 BCE to 4 BCE. Josephus also tells of the appointment of Publius Sulpicius Quirinius as legate in Syria, to which Judea was annexed for taxation. That is accepted as 6 CE. Any candidate must fall within those dates.

Moreover, the evidence must belong to a class that is supposedly interesting to astrologers. After all, the Magi traveled to Bethlehem seeking the King of the Jews, “for we have seen His star in the East.” Something is always happening in the sky, but what is significant—and why?

Conjunction Junction

For about 1500 years, the story of the Star of Bethlehem was accepted as historically accurate because it was divine truth. Miracles were not questioned. (The Church did investigate such claims, and even appointed a Devil’s Advocate to argue against them, but the outcome was seldom in question.) With the Renaissance, a new way of looking at the world evolved.

About 50 AD coin of Antioch in Syria shows
Jupiter to west of Aries.
(
EPI KOUDRATROU = “of Quadratus"
the name of the Roman legate).
Year is Rho Delta = 104 of Roman rule.
Author’s collection.
The scholarly tradition of explaining the Star of Bethlehem with scientific evidence apparently began with Johannes Kepler. Over the centuries, the Christmas Star has been explained as a comet, a meteor or meteor shower, but the conjunction theory has been the most popular.  The triple conjunction identified by Kepler is not alone.

In 1604, he published The New Star in the Foot of the Serpent (De stella nova in pede serpentarii: et qui sub ejus exortum de novo iniit, trigono igneo…). In that tract, he examined a triple conjunction, as well as a nova, which he identified as the cause of the conjunction. He was not alone in that kind of a belief. Others expected the conjunction to cause a comet. Reviewing the facts in 1614, Kepler said that the Star of Bethlehem was a nova in 4 BCE caused by a triple conjunction in 7 BCE. (See “Common Errors in ‘Star of Bethlehem’ Planetarium Shows,” by John Mosley, The Planetarian, Third Quarter 1981.)

The triple conjunction of 7 BCE occurred in Pisces. Some astrological lore identified that constellation with Judaea. Other traditions give Pisces to the Libyans, among others. However, back in the 1960s, at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, planetarium director Dan Snow, told us of the Pisces connection. So, for me, the Wise Men traveled to Judaea because of a rare conjunction in Pisces.  

“… the Star was Jupiter or a series of conjunctions between Jupiter, Venus, and Regulus in 3 and 2 B.C.    On August 1, 3 B.C., Jupiter became visible above the predawn eastern horizon as the ‘morning star.’ Twelve days later, at about 4:00 a.m., a very close conjunction occurred between Jupiter and Venus, the space between them narrowing to only 0.23 degrees. Five days later Mercury emerged from the glare of the sun and came into conjunction with Venus on the morning of September 1, their minimum separation being only 0.36 degrees.

“The fact that Jupiter became stationary among the stars on December 25 (and, by the way, directly midbodied to Virgo the Virgin) may well explain what Matthew meant in his Gospel when he said that the star came to a halt over the village Bethlehem…” (“The Star of Bethlehem Reconsidered: An Historical Approach,” John Mosley, IPS Planetarian Vol. 9 No. 2, Summer, 1980.)
 
About 51 AD coin of Antioch ad Orontem
(eastern side of the metropolis).
Year is Rho Epsilon or 105 of Roman rule.
(“et” is the abbreviation for “etios” = “year”)
Crescent Moon and Jupiter
to the West of Aries.
Author’s collection.
Money Talks

In 1999, Rutgers Press published The Star of Bethlehem: the Legacy of the Magi by Dr. Michael R. Molnar. In addition to his achievements as an astronomer, Molnar is a numismatist. He was attracted to a series of coins from Antioch in the first century of the present era. They show a star, a crescent moon, and a Ram, among other symbols and legends.

Jupiter underwent two occultations (“eclipses”) by the Moon in Aries in 6 BC. Jupiter was the regal “star” that conferred kingships a power that was amplified when Jupiter was in close conjunctions with the Moon. The second occultation on April 17 coincided precisely when Jupiter was “in the east,” a condition mentioned twice in the biblical account about the Star of Bethlehem. In August of that year Jupiter became stationary and then "went before" through Aries where it became stationary again on December 19, 6 BC. This is when the regal planet “stood over.” A secondary royal portent also described in the Bible. In particular, there is confirmation from a Roman astrologer that the conditions of April 17, 6 BC were believed to herald the birth of a divine, immortal, and omnipotent person born under the sign of the Jews, which we now know was Aries the Ram. Furthermore, the coins of Antioch and ancient astrological documents show that there was indeed a Star of Bethlehem as reported in the biblical account of Matthew.”
http://rutgerspress.rutgers.edu/product/Star-of-Bethlehem,1998.aspx and http://www.eclipse.net/~molnar/

It is important to note that Jesus was not the only king, and his reign was not the only new age. Julius Caesar was assassinated March 15, 44 BCE. In May through July, a comet appeared, a singular event, not Halley’s or any other recurring comet. The people of Rome accepted it as obvious fact that the soul of Julius Caesar had ascended to the heavens. Julius Caesar was the first historical Roman deified by the Senate. His adopted heir, Gaius Octavius, became at once Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, and also Divi Filius.

Moreover, although he was born 23 September and therefore a Libra, Octavian Augustus took Capricorn as his personal symbol. Capricorn is the zodiacal sign of the winter solstice, of course, and therefore the symbol of the new year – ultimately, a new age.

Molnar’s book offers images of the Caesar Comet coin and Augustus’s Capricorn on a coin. The centerpieces, however, are the coins of Antioch (the Roman mint closest to Judaea) and the astronomical interpretation of them. It is important to understand that while some were struck during the accepted lifetime of Jesus, the series is broader than that. What was meant at the detail level to the people of the time must remain at least somewhat conjectural.

Is There a Wise Man in the Planetarium Tonight?

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard several cases involving so-called “creation science.” Those rulings defined the limits of what is permissible for public funds and religion.  In 1971, the Supreme Court created “The Lemon Test” named for the plaintiff in Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602 (1971).  Writing for the Court’s unanimous (8 to 0) opinion, Justice William J. Brennan established a three-pronged test to determine whether or not government action in religious matters was allowable.
  1. There must be no “excessive government entanglement” with religious affairs.
  2. No law or action can either advance or inhibit religious practice.
  3. Any government action must have a secular legislative purpose.
The Supreme Court and lower appellate courts heard many such cases over the past 35 years. The Lemon Test stands the test of time.  If your planetarium is publicly funded, then the “Star of Christmas” cannot be a December holiday show. But what if your star theater receives no tax dollars? It may nonetheless be problematic.

Agreed, it brings in viewers. Allow me to suggest that Colorado is among several states that have liberalized laws regarding marijuana. How would you react to a Colorado planetarium that handed out marijuana cigarettes? It would surely bring in the crowds. They definitely would enjoy the show. But would that be advancing science?

(A longer version appeared in the December 2015 issue of Sidereal Times of the Austin Astronomical Society.)

ALSO ON NECESSARY FACTS

Saturday, December 12, 2015

One Light Second

What can you do in a light second? Our 2005 Honda Civic turned 186,282 miles today. (I did not get the moment for a snapshot: I was on the freeway.)  Since 2005, we closed out Laurel's parents' estate, moved to Ann Arbor, completed our degrees, and moved to Austin. 



For seven years (2004-2010), I wrote the "Internet Connections" column of the ANA Numismatist magazine. ANA President William Horton presented me with a special Presidential Award for my work in the hobby.  I also served until 2011 as the webmaster of the Michigan State Numismatic Society. For a few years (2004-2007), I was the magazine editor, also. I was appointed to the Board once and elected to the Board once.

My associate's and bachelor's degrees are in criminology because when work as a technical writer got hard to find, I picked up a job as a security guard in 2002. When we moved to Ann Arbor, I was hired by campus safety at Washtenaw Community College and served there for a year (August 2005 - September 2006). I then worked for Securitas (2006-2007) and Allied Barton (2007-2008). That was actually the same job: when the client changed contractors, we just changed uniforms.

The Washtenaw County Commission appointed me to the city-county community corrections advisory board, 2005-2008. I joined Infragard and ASIS: the American Society for Industrial Security.  Not finding work as a security supervisor, I returned to graduate school and earned a master's in social science. I chose that for the opportunity to plan my electives. I concentrated on transnational white collar crime.

Moving to Austin in 2011, I was hired by Securitas. I worked several of the downtown high rises.  I like being a business serving businesses.

I also found work as a technical writer. Project clients have included Dell, the Texas Department of Information Resources, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Military Department, and the Texas Education Agency. I am currently with Prologic Technology Systems, whose TEAMS software serves independent school districts and charter schools.

In November 2014, I joined the Texas State Guard. As a petty officer third class in the maritime regiment, I work in Future Operations as a trainer and technical writer for WebEOC, the virtual emergency operations center. I also completed a certification with CERT, the city's Community Emergency Response Team.

Also in November 2014, my wife and daughter bought me a telescope. I joined the Austin Astronomical Society and earned a certificate in telescope operations for their Eagle Eye Observatory outside of Austin.

On the downside, since 2005, we lost four cats. BA ("Badass Little Cat") was struck by a car in Kingsley, Michigan. Madonna died of old age in Ann Arbor while we were out of town. The pet sitter claimed not to have seen her, but the evidence at the scene was clear: she died in my office.  Isis had been my brother's cat. We had her only for a couple of years.  She died here of natural causes at about ten. Losing Goofy was the hardest. He had been with us the longest, 19 years.

I started this blog on January 2, 2011. Over 136,000 visitors have read the 391 posts. The most popular article (1957 views) has been "What (if Anything) Did Dorothy Learn?" You never know what other people will find interesting.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Only a Cat

Goofy was the last cat to live with us. When Laurel rescued him from the wheelwell inside a truck hood, he might have been a month to six weeks old. When he died 20 November 2015, he was 19.  He had stopped eating four days before. He had been losing weight, down to 9 at the end, from almost 20. He had a lot of muscle.

He dodged at least nine bullets. The first was shortly after my wife and daughter brought him home. The vent cover was off in my daughter’s room, and Goof jumped in. They were panicked and called a furnace guy immediately. Apparently, it is a known problem, because he told them that cats seldom make it all the way to the furnace, and they should check the ducts all the way down. They did.  


A dozen years later, he and I were sitting on the back porch in another house. I saw a motion. A skunk. Goofy’s hairs went out and his back went up. I said, “Goof, you don’t want to do that.” But he did. He was sorry. We washed him off with hydrogen peroxide, but he still smelled for a few days.

Goof always walked kind of pigeon-toed. Laurel thought that he would have made a good "Waiting" icon for Windows 95, like the the Dinosaur.

Goofy always had a furrowed brow; and he seldom purred: he was a cat of constant sorrow.  He was great for head butts and liked having his chin rubbed.  He was an avid reader.

About 2006 or so, a vet told us that Goofy had cancer on his spine. The expensive surgery was the only way to save his life. We did not have that kind of money, and, as it turned out, whatever was on his back was not malignant.

About the time that he met the skunk, he tore several of his back toes. They always were extended and never retracted. We think that he climbed a tree or fence to get away from something, but we were not involved in whatever that was, and could only guess.

"The Game of Rat and Dragon" by Cordwainer Smith


"You pinlighters! You and your damn cats!"
He was a Ph.D. professor of Asiatic studies at John Hopkins University. Like all myth, his science fiction stories are universal, but the special flavor of the alien is attributed to his interest in Chinese literature. He served as an intelligence officer in World War II with the rank of major.  About Paul Linebarger (Cordwainer Smith) here: http://cordwainer-smith.com/

Friday, November 20, 2015

Syriaphobia: the latest fad in collectivism

It has been claimed that at least one of the terrorists of Paris November 13 hid among Syrian refugees to gain entrance into Europe. On the basis of that, some (Republican) governors of American states have declared that they will not accept Syrian refugees sent to them by the federal government. But immigrants to America have been associated with crimes since 1492. Immigrants also bring enterprise, initiative, invention, and, most of all, descendants.
 
Michael Ansara,
perhaps best known for his role 

as Cochise in Broken Arrow, 
was also Star Trek's Kang, 
above as "Soldier" 
from The Outer Limits.
In the wake of the French Revolution, Federalists and Republicans both supported and opposed the immigration of French refugees, depending on who was referring to whom.  To the Federalists, the French Revolution was the expression of everything evil in democracy.  However, many of the refugees were aristocrats, fleeing the Terror.

(And that is another point for another essay: Terrorism, as we understand it today, was invented by a native government. The Reign of Terror was not imported from Arabia.) 

Those aristocrats were worrisome for the Republicans whose sympathies were with the Revolutionaries. However, the Revolutionary government of France sent spies. Its envoys interfered in American politics,  attempting to influence our foreign policy. For all of that, and more, see the website of the Office of the Historian of the U.S. Department of State here
 
Anousha Ansari, entrepreneur,
ISS astronaut
and co-founder of the
Ansari X-Prize.
Long established as proper Bostonians, the English in America were appalled by the Irish immigrants of 1848. They lived like animals, bred like animals -- and bred crime. Or so the English of Boston claimed. Among the consequences of Irish in America was the cliché of the Irish cop, established following the War Between the States, and enduring even today. Another cliché was the Irish army sergeant. 

Many had enlisted in the North and South in order to obtain military experience that they could take home to fight Great Britain. Many more stayed here. And their descendants supported terrorism for over 150 years. With the founding of Sinn Fein in 1905, evermore American money flowed into the conflict. 

We worry today about Arab Americans and Islamic Americans supporting terrorism now, but no one was concerned when “professional Irish” in America paid for revolution in Ireland and terrorism in the United Kingdom. 
Like Boston and New York,
Cleveland was a center of Finnianism.
They were not alone. In the 1930s and 1940s, both Nazi Germany and Communist Russia maintained huge networks of supporters. It is also quite likely that the USSR insinuated its agents into the stream of European refugees from World War II. Similarly, communist agents probably were among the Vietnamese. We know that China sends its operatives in as students. Disturbing as that is to consider, actual harm is harder to prove.

Homegrown socialists, whether Fascist, Bolshevik, or others were common enough. Our coinage of the era should appear shocking to any thinking person today. It was not an accident: many progressives and intellectuals of the late 19th through mid-20th centuries were collectivists. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the clones were named after great collectivists of the times, Polly Trotsky, Lenina Crowne, and Benito Hoover, and others. In our time, the political leaders charged with defeating ISIL actually share many of its philosophical foundations: mysticism, revelation, altruism and collectivism, and ascetisim.
Fasces on American dime 1917-1945. German half mark and US quarter dollar.
Among the spies for the USSR was Samuel Dickstein, a US Congressman and New York Supreme Court justice. Meanwhile Prescott Bush, scion to the presidents of our time was able to get out of being implicated in a Wall Street Coup against President Roosevelt.  The German-American Bund pushed the Nazi Party line here at home. It only resulted in more anti-German sentiment.  Unlike the Japanese, the Germans were not put in concentrations camps - it was a possibility. In the movie Wings, about World War I, when the comic German, Arnold Schwimpf enlists with his buddies, the recruiting sergeant (an Irishman) says, "If you ask me, all you Dutchmen ought to be locked up until this thing is over." Those were heady times.  And America survived.

Civilization will survive ISIL.

Ayn Rand used the term “muscle mystic” (likely invented by Nathaniel Branden) to explain people who worship brute force. They thought that seizing factories would make them productive. They saw goosestepping rows and columns followed by arrays of tanks and mobile artillery, and accepted that whoever brandished them must be strong. In fact, reality and reason required that the Nazis and Communists would fail. So, too, is ISIL's program ultimately unworkable.

According to the news reports now about the Paris bombings, this murder of 180 people was carefully planned and executed over months.  Over 700 million people live in Europe, about 68 million of them in France. A million years will not be enough time for the terrorists to kill everyone they dislike.

Meanwhile, immigrants to Europe and the USA and everywhere else bring valuable human capital away from ISIL.

Yes, some may be criminals, as were the boys at Five Points, the Purple Gang, and the Mafia. It is a fact of human population distribution, however, that there must be at least as many Kennedys, Reagans, Einsteins, Fermis, Scalias, and Ayn Rands. And the creative work of good people outlast the destruction of evil people. 

It is an axiom of criminology that "crime knows no neighborhood." In other words, no place, no population is especially criminogenic. Crimes are committed by individuals who make bad choices. That is why Dr. Martin Luther King's dream was a world where a person is judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. The basic error, the fundamental fallacy, is considering masses of people as collectives. Including or excluding groups, tribes, ethnicities, etc., is the wrong way to consider the question. In point of fact, US immigration policy requires each legal immigrant to prove their case on their own merits. That is appropriate. 

ALSO ON NECESSARY FACTS

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Texans Serving Texans

Lyrics (Rev 3.3) by PO3 Michael Marotta and PO3 Buckwalter
November 15, 2015 19:22 hrs
Music by PO3 Rodney Buckwalter



We are Texans serving Texans.
We are volunteers for you.
We are the Texas State Guard.
We’re the red, white and blue.
The Lone Star shines within us.
We’re always more than equal to the task.
Your community is in our care.
To republic and union we are true.


We are Texans serving Texans.
We are volunteers for you:
Medical Rangers and Maritime, 
Army and Air Components, too.
Faithful and constant in hardship,
First responders, we are stronger than steel.
Your community is in our care.
To republic and union we are true.



PREVIOUSLY ON NECESSARY FACTS

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Asterisms

An asterism is a recognizable group of stars that is not accepted as a constellation by the International Astronomical Union. The Big Dipper is the perfect example: it is part of Ursa Major. The Dipper, the Wagon, or the Plough was recognized as a distinct image by various peoples in what is today “Great Britain.” To ancient people in modern Finland, it was a net. To some native Americans (Ojibiway or “Chippewa”) the bowl of the Dipper was a Bear, and the three (or four) stars of the Handle were cubs trailing, or else hunters in pursuit. Mizar was supposed to be one of the hunters, and Alcor was the pot in which the Bear was to be cooked, something of a challenge to be sure - hunters are optimists.

The Pleiades.
Australian Astronomical Observatory
.
Essay by Pleiade Architects of Bristol UK.
The Belt of Orion, the Sword of Orion, the Spout of the Tea Kettle, the Pleiades the Northern Cross, … we find them useful.  

In that utility, asterisms remain important to the societal institution that we call astronomy. Certainly, the physics of astronomy also must remain important. We are not merely gaping open-mouthed at the splendor of the night skies like slack-jawed anthropoids. However, the sociology of the science of astronomy is a different pursuit entirely. Papers published in peer-reviewed academic journals may or may not illuminate the thrills and wonders of the night sky. The distinction between an asterism and a constellation must remain a modern nicety. After all, nothing about these is actually written in the stars. We decide what images to see when we connect the dots.

It is true that some of them do look similar to things we know. The first three recorded constellations were the Bull, the Lion, and the Scorpion. They marked the year in old Sumeria. But the head of the Lion is also the Sickle... and the poor Scorpion lost his powerful claws when the Romans invented the constellation of Libra: 12 constellations, for 12 months, for 12 gods, 12 ounces to the pound, and a dozen more that made them feel that the universe is an orderly place. And, indeed, it is. Just look at the night sky.

"Frosty November is often called the month of the Pleiades, because it’s when this star cluster – sometimes called the Seven Sisters – shines from dusk until dawn." -- here from Earthsky.org


List of asterisms from Farmers' Almanac.
List of 88 official constellations from The International Astronomical Union.

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Bloodless Corpse

I knew that he was dead, tucked into a fetal position, stuffed under the instructor’s station at the front of room LAS 327.  I saw the tiny gray holes.  My spine chilled.  I left the room to call dispatch.  Later, the other patrollers in Safety thought I got out of the room because of the body, but it wasn’t that.  I knew that there was a vampire on campus. 

The medical examiner did not report the wounds – most likely for the same reason I did not mention them in my incident report.  The cause of death remained open. 

The school turned edgy, even in the daytime.  At night, people hurried to their cars in groups.

The sheriff lent us two deputies “to re-establish a sense of safety.”  Each walked halls during the day, and cruised the parking lots from 5:00 PM until 10:30 PM.  Our own patrols changed to a buddy system – at least in theory.  Typically, we hit the doors, split up, made our checklists, and met on the way out.  Some of the patrollers did not like it.  Long used to being on their own, they would take off and meet up a couple of buildings later.  It was all right with me.  I take a lot in stride at my age.  Campus safety patrol was the second job in the fourth career in 35 years.  The student’s death was hard– he looked like a nice kid – but I was not shocked.

What kept me awake was the vampire.  A man who does not believe in God cannot believe in the Devil.  I argued with myself, but no sophistry could contradict the observation.  That immutable empirical fact demanded its own logic.

After two weeks, campus life settled into a surreal imitation of itself.  Until someone was arrested and charged, we all waited for the next one.

When I saw her on the east third floor of the life sciences building, everything about her said “victim” – shoulders slightly dropped and pulled in, head down watching her shoes, backpack too heavy with books.  And she was being followed by Death.  The smell was not the pain of fetal pigs and dissected rats from the biology labs, or even cadavers from the biology core.  But it was.  It was in the air.  “Miss!” I called. “Miss!”  When she turned around, I knew that Death was inside her.  Her reptile stare lacked even the pleasure of a meal.  I wanted to be hers.  She was twenty feet away when I whispered, “Take me.” 

She flew to me in a stride, gripped me to her, her talons in my back, her hand grabbing my hair, pulling my head to bare my neck.  My hand leapt to my shirt pocket, yanked out the pencil and stabbed it into her heart, pressing the shaft home, my hand flat against her cold breast. 

Her eyes lit up with shock, then horror, … disbelief … hatred – and then release.  She died in my arms.  There was no blood.

First posted here October 29, 2012. Written for and rejected by Blood Orange literary magazine, Washtenaw Community College, 2007.

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