I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
October 05, 2017 - 12:16 p.m.
I finally got Word working the way I like. I had it figured out once before but then then my template got corrupted, it proved less resistant to temptation then Job. Yesterday I sat down and figured it out. It's a tiny thing, I have much more pressing problems but my therapist says I should build on the small victories. I have to keep telling myself that, you are just overhearing the conversation with myself.
I went to Stop & Shop for the second day in a row. This time they had the eggs. I don't get it. Why do people buy the Eggland's Best eggs that cost almost three times as much as the store brand? I've had them both, there's no difference. The store brand free-range eggs are half the price of the Eggland's Best caged chicken eggs. Free-Range is a con, what it means is that there's an open door at the back of the cage. The chickens never use it. They want to stay where the food is. I shouldn't say that, it's teleological. What we know is that they do stay where the food is. What they want, if they are capable of wanting, are unknown and perhaps unknowable. We don't know if the chickens are clever or if we are not clever enough.
That discussion of chickens is how I want my mind to work and how it very often does work. I analyze what I know and try to distinguish it from what I think I know. I also fight my way out of the vortex that has me questioning if I know that ad infinitum. I'm out. That could have been bad.
Kip Thorne, a physicist that I've admired since college, won the Nobel Prize in physics I know him as one of the authors of the classic book on the General Theory of Relativity, "Gravitation." Nobody calls it that, it's known as Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler. Wheeler was Thorne's graduate advisor and I'm guessing senior to Misner too. They must have been billed in alphabetical order. I like that; it's egalitarian. The book was one of my prized possessions. It was big and heavy, quite appropriate. Thorne won it for his work in detecting Gravity Waves, a project her worked on for decades.
My other favorite book on General Relativity was "Gravitation and General Relativity" by Steven Weinberg. He won the Nobel Prize while I was in college for something totally unrelated, unifying the weak and electromagnetic forces. He was even more of a hero as the intro of his book gives the problem, "Is Middle Earth Flat?" I bought the book before I could begin to understand it for that. he also wrote great popular science books including The First Three Minutes about the big bang.
I didn't meet Weinberg but I had the opportunity, I saw him speak on at least four occasions. I've seen and even met quite a few Nobel Prize winners and other great scientists and mathematicians. I was a regular at the New York Academy of Sciences lectures and went to others at my schools and Rockefeller University. At the NYAS we even sat at ate rubber chicken with them. Hell, some of my own professors were pretty eminent, Edwin Moise who solved a Hilbert problem and Banesh Hoffmann who collaborated with Einstein.
None of these people were remotely the way great scientists are routinely portrayed in movies and TV. They were not hopeless when it came to social interactions. They were not cold and indifferent to people. They were not amoral and willing to take terrible risks to advance science. As what I said about Weinberg showed, they were not humorless. After his retirement Professor Moise dedicated himself to 19th Century English poetry. Could they be nerds? Of course. The Middle Earth problem is nerdy. Prof. Hoffmann was a member of the Baker Street Irregulars and published a Sherlock Holmes pastiche with a scientific slant.
They were nothing like the characters on Big Bang, even less like the scientists that Joss Whedon portrays as monsters. Both Firefly and Dollhouse had scientists destroying civilization on a world. I love Joss but hate that about him. The negative portrayals of scientists in popular culture do not make it easier for people to trust science. Scientists aren't destroying civilization but the slow-motion destruction from climate change is fueled not just by fossil fuels but by distrust.
This was not what I thought I'd rant about today but it's one of the many that I think about often.
Fight Fair and Cook with Garlic - October 10, 2017
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