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Posts Tagged ‘Serendipity and Chaos’

How many times in your own life did things come about thanks to accident or circumstance?  I’ll bet happenstance played a part in how you met your partner or chose your career or live where you do or a long list of other character forming events that now make you different from anybody else.  That journey from past to present, full of unexpected encounters and events along the way, has brought you to where you are and who you are at this moment, reading these words.
  —  James Burke
From the “Forward” to his book:  “Circles
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On This Day In:
2019 Sin Less Every Day
2018 Probably Only A Little Easier
2017 Stars Above
2016 Where Do You Stand?
Health Update
2015 Leaving On A Mid-Night Train
2014 Questioned Faith
2013 At Home In Fire
2012 A Tale Of Two Books
More Meaning
2011 Back At The Millstone
To Learn, Teach

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The following is a quote which recently caught my attention and which I think (somewhat humorously) describes my blog (so I’ve added it to my “About” page):
A Miscellany is a collection without a natural ordering relation; I shall not attempt a spurious unity by imposing artificial ones. I hope that variety may compensate for this lack, except for those irreconcilable persons who demand an appearance of unity and uniform level.
  —  John Edensor Littlewood
From the introduction to his book: “A Mathematician’s Miscellany
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On This Day In:
2016 Are Your Prayers Functioning?
2015 Expressing Love
2014 Cyclical Attitudes
2013 Footprints
2012 Broken Resolutions
Bin It

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This week I was driving to work, bored with sports and political radio, I switched over to some easy listening and lo and behold heard two great songs!  One I’d heard before and the other I don’t remember hearing before.
Anyway, they were both so terrific I immediately committed to remembering their catch lines (not all that easy for someone who’s getting on in years) and wrote them down when I got to work so I could listen to them when I got home.  (We are not allowed to listen to internet music at work…)
The two songs are: “Bruises“, performed by Train (featuring Ashley Monroe) and “Should’ve Gone To Bed“, performed by Plain White T’s.  They are both easy listing cross-overs between Pop and Modern Country sounds.  Very enjoyable with ear-candy / stick in your head hooks.  Bruises is another classic song about boy and girl meeting ten years later and asking about what’s been happening.  The interesting thing is although there is an obvious “connection” happening in the song, both are “once burned, twice shy” and nothing may happen except the “promise” to keep in touch.  My favorite verse is:

These bruises
Make for better conversation
Loses the vibe that separates
It’s good to let you in again
You’re not alone and how you’ve been
Everybody loses
We all got bruises
We all got bruises

The second song (“Should’ve Gone To Bed“) is the new one for me.  On the radio, it sounds as if it’s a song about regrets and calling some number of “Ex’es” after the relationships are over.  In the “official” video, it appears to be a song about a man who’s afraid to tell his girlfriend how he feels until he’s on the verge of losing her.  …And then they make up (to presumably live happily ever after).  It surprised me to come away with the two completely different reactions to the same song depending on if you were listening to it, listening to it and following the lyrics, or watching the official video.  I guess the line which strikes me is most of us have broken up in our relationships, tried to move on and then when there’s a problem (or were just feeling lonely), we pick up the phone and call the “Ex”.  Sometimes they answer and the cycle starts again.  Sometimes they answer but the cycle doesn’t restart.  Sometimes it ends just as badly as before; and sometimes everyone is spared the drama because the other party just doesn’t answer the phone or return the call.  Being human, we assume it’s because they don’t want to talk to us anymore.
Someday the geezer’s among us will be telling the kids how (in our day) people didn’t have caller ID or voice mail or home answering machines, and sometimes relationships didn’t work out – not because one or both sides didn’t reach out to the other to make up – but simply because one party wasn’t there to answer the call.  The concept seems “funny” in this age of always-on connectivity…  Sometimes things just happen (or don’t happen) for no particular reason.
As always, check out the lyrics off of my Poems page, then go listen to the recordings – and in this instance, make sure you go find the “official” video for “Should’ve Gone To Bed“.  Let me know if you got the same reaction to the lyrics versus the song versus the video.  And remember to support the Arts in your local community.
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On This Day In:
2012 Extra Gears
2011 Say What?
2010 Hello Frogs…

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“You’re not like the rest of them,” she said.
“Yes, I know,” was his reply.
“Why?” she asked.
“I don’t know.  I’m not sure.  What makes you feel I’m different?”
She paused, “You don’t act the same as the rest.”
“How don’t I?” he asked.
“You don’t hurt things on purpose, like they do,” she replied.
“Yes I do.”
“But not the same way,” she answered.
“What difference the method – the end is the same,” he stated flatly.
“But you care more.”
“About what?”
“About everything!  You smile, you see, you try to help, you care when I’m lonely or depressed.”
He smiled her, “And no one else does?”
“Not like you!” she answered.  “When you look at me, something happens.  It feels like you’re looking into me, not at me.  Do you know what I mean?”
“I’m not sure,” he answered.
“It’s your eyes,” she said, “they’re funny.”
“What do you mean they’re funny?!!”  he interjected.
“I don’t mean funny – humorous,” she said trying to soothe him, “or funny – stupid; I mean funny – weird.”
“Weird!” he replied straightening his back.
“Wait a minute will you?!” she pleaded.  “I mean unusual, not weird.”
“Okay,” he replied, calmed slightly, but still on the defensive.
“I mean when I look at you I sometimes wonder what you’re thinking about me or about whatever we’re doing – “
“So, everyone does that,” he interrupted.
“Will you keep quiet?!” she demanded.
“Okay,” he answered.
“Shhh!!  Now I forgot – oh, yeah – and then you look at me, right in the eyes, and I get this shuddering feeling – “
“Why?” he asked.
“Shhushh!!!   I’m explaining – I get this slight shuddering feeling inside ’cause I have this feeling when you look into my eyes that you can see what I’m thinking and really feeling…”
“About what?” he asked.
“About noth — whatever we’re doing.”
“Oh,” he replied.
[I think those of us who love words and ideas all harbor the secret (or not so secret) ambition to write the Great American (or whatever) Novel.  As much as I like adventure movies, the novels I’ve enjoyed have always had great conversations between people who came to feel real.  Naturally, my first (and so far only) attempt had to be a conversation (the above).  Written many years ago, “Oh,” seemed like a good place to stop.  I did – and never got back to a preface or an ending…   —  KMAB]
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A work of art (even cartoon art) is never really finished; it is abandoned.
  —  Brooke McEldowney
Pibgorn (originally in 2001, but appearing on 31 March 2005): http://www.gocomics.com/pibgorn/2005/03/31
Nature is the art of God.
  —  Durante (Dante) degli Alighieri
[“Pibgorn” is one of several cartoon / comics I follow. It’s well worth your checking out.  —  KMAB]
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Yesterday I suffered another bad bout with my kidney stones.  I took advantage of the time off to finish the book: “American Shaolin“, by Matthew Polly (2007©).  This is a story about a young man who drops out of college to travel to the middle of China to spend two years learning about Kung-Fu.  Because he has been raised as a “nerdy” romantic from the mid-west (Kansas), it’s not good enough to just study Kung-Fu in America, he has to go all the way to the Shaolin temple.
The book is more about coming of age and Chinese culture than it is about martial arts.  Kung-Fu is really just the vehicle to carry us through the author’s voyage / passage into adulthood.  The story is a very fast read even though it’s over 350 pages.  Basically, I read it in one full day and one half day.
As per usual, I came upon the motivation to read this book quite by serendipity.  I found the book at Half-Price Books for $2 a couple of months ago, so I picked it up thinking I’ll add it to my martial arts library and maybe get around to reading it eventually.   Well, it turns out one of the blogs I follow has an interview with the author discussing learning – basically, the rule of 10,000.  Since I knew I had the book on my shelf, I thought this is the universe’s way of telling me to read it.  So, “eventually” came sooner than I expected.
If you are at all interested in Chinese culture, you should read this book.  It is a gold mine – a treasure trove.  For example, the Chinese begin bargaining with a cigarette.  It is usually offered by the seller and depending on how quickly you take it (if at all) and how you take it (with humility) and what type you ask for (American – expensive; Chinese – cheaper), you set the tone for the entire negotiation.  This is the kind of real world experience you can only get by spending a fair amount of time living with and reflecting on a particular culture.
There is not much in the book about fighting or Kung-Fu, but that’s okay.  Many times the best books about a culture have nothing to do with the vehicle for examining the culture and everything to do with the view as you travel.  In other words, it is the Chinese people who make this a entertaining and fascinating book.  Not the martial art.  Highly recommended!!
Oh, incidentally, the “rule of 10,000” is that you must practice something 10,000 times before you can become proficient at it.  From there, you can begin to achieve mastery.
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A little while back I re-watched the original “Tron” movie (1982).  I picked it up with the latest version, “Tron: Legacy“, some time ago, but have not sat down to watch them both together.  Well, I still haven’t.  But I did watch the first to see what I remembered – not much.  Well, not much about the movie anyway.  What I took away from the re-viewing was the sense of deja vu from knowing but not remembering a movie.
The word “tron” comes from the programming contraction of “trace on”, which is a programming tool for helping to see what’s going on in a running program.  “Tron” turns the process on and “Troff” turns it off (“trace off”).  Yes, programmers are an original lot when it comes to naming things.  None of this is mentioned or explained in the movie.  That would have been TOO geeky for the average audience.
Anyway, I went to see the movie at the theater (back in ’82) because I was (am, but less so now) a computer geek.  A programmer.
Setting aside the geek factor, is Tron a good movie?  No.  Not even for its day.  Did that really matter to me?  No.  Not even to this day.
It’s a “cool” movie with reasonable special effects which incorporates a number of Sci-Fi and Computer Science related terms and I loved being on the “inside” of knowing what it (the movie) was about.
The real question is can I give the movie a “High” or “Strong” recommendation or not.  Well, if you’re of a certain age and certain background (geek), you will probably really enjoy the movie the same as I have.  If you’re not a historic geek (too young) or not a computer geek (a user not a programmer), you probably won’t get much out of the movie except as the prequel to the “Legacy” version.  So, where does that leave me…  I highly recommend this movie because it reminds me of what it was like to be geek before geek was normal.  We knew we were “cool”, before our future became everyone’s present.  (Resistance was futile…)
Somehow, looking back like this only makes me feel older…  Maybe if today had happened sooner, I’d be able to enjoy it longer (still).
Today’s second review is: “Streets of Fire“, which came out in 1984.  This is a “rock & roll fable”.  I’m not sure what that means, but that’s how it was advertised to us way back then.  It’s a simple movie: girl gets kidnapped by bad-guy, girl gets rescued by good-guy, big fight at the end.  Simple.  What’s good about the movie?  Well, aside from the stylish filming, there are a couple of well done fight scenes – a short one at the beginning to introduce the hero, and a longer one at the end – the crescendo.
There’s also a couple of pretty good songs (MTV videos in the old days) in the movie.  The best one (“I Can Dream About You“) is the main song for the lead-in group and the final song is “Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young“) is performed immediately afterwards with the lead-in group singing and dancing backup.  Because of a bizarre twist of fate, “I Can Dream About You” was showing on MTV all the time the year I met my wife, I fell in love with her, she went back home to England, and it (the song) became my theme song until she returned to me.  Twenty-eight years later and I still dream (day dream) about her…
If you’ve never seen this movie, it’s well worth the viewing.  If nothing else, you get to see a young Michael Pare (good-guy) and a young Willem Dafoe (bad-guy).
It also has Amy Madigan in a terrific supporting role as good-gal, side-kick.  She almost steals the movie.
I highly recommend this movie for anyone interested in early adaptations of MTV to movie cross-pollination’s.  If you haven’t seen either song in the movie, both are available on YouTube.  I highly recommend “I Can Dream About You“, but then I would, wouldn’t I?
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Somewhere between checked out and freaked out lies an anxiety sweet spot… in which a person is motivated to succeed yet not so anxious that performance takes a dive.  This moderate amount of anxiety keeps people on their toes, enables them to juggle multiple tasks and puts them on high alert for potential problems.
  —    re-quoted from David Kanigan’s Blog: Lead.Learn.Live
[The specific post is located at:  http://davidkanigan.com/2012/06/20/your-anxiety-should-be-somewhere-between-checked-out-and-freaked-out/
which was, in turn, from WSJ.com: Anxiety Can Bring Out the Best
Very reminiscent of the comments made in the book: Future Shock by Alvin Toffler.  Although there, the accelerating rate of change being brought about by the future (actually, increasing volume of changes in the present) was what was causing the increased anxiety.   —  KMAB]
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Here’s two more books which fall under the general category of “Serendipity and Chaos“.  They are: “What The Dog Saw” (2009©) and “Linked” (2002©).
The first, “What The Dog Saw“, was written by Malcolm Gladwell.  Gladwell is science-popularizer style writer in the vein of Isaac Asimov.  Basically, he looks for interesting areas of science and then explains them to the general public.  This is the fourth book by Gladwell which I own and have read.  The others are: “The Tipping Point“, “Outliers” and “Blink“.  Those three books are single source texts.  This book is a compilation of a number of stories from his articles previously published in The New Yorker.
The book is divided into three sections and the articles (chapters) are meant to focus around the group headings, which are:  1) Obsessives, Pioneers, and Other Varieties of Minor Genius; 2) Theories, Predictions and Diagnoses; and, 3) Personality, Character and Intelligence.  Unfortunately, the group titles do not provide adequate descriptions of the individual articles.  It is enough to say, that each chapter is a mini-book in itself and Gladwell is a very good writer (at least his writing suits MY tastes).  I won’t describe the articles individually except to say the book title comes from the story about Cesar Milan, aka “The Dog Whisperer“.  Most reviews of Milan’s techniques describe what we humans see when he is training the animals.  This article poses the questions: “What does the dog see?” and directly related: “Is that what makes the technique work?”
Bottom line: like Gladwell’s other three books, this is Highly Recommended!!
The second book is: “Linked“, and was written by Albert-László Barabási.  In this book, the author attempts to explain the current state of network theory.  The first couple of chapters cover the history of network theory and then we are quickly shifted into “current” (circa 1990-2002) theory.  The author contends there are three basic types of networks – “centralized”, “decentralized”, and “distributed”.  The author goes on to explain why he feels distributed networks are emergent and how they exist in a broad range of settings, hardware, software, social, economic and biological.  He has an additional premise they are distributed because there are inherent fail-over mechanisms in them which support the network in ways the other two networks simply can’t reproduce.  Most significantly, from my point of view, he is the first person I’ve heard explain both the “rich-get-richer” and the “winner-takes-all” results of distributed networking concepts in economics.  Finally, the author provides an explanation of the concept of “power law” and how it acts in the context of networking – and he does it with a minimum of formulae and in plain English.  All in all, I found this book a fascinating read and highly recommend it.
Gladwell’s was a $2 clearance book from Half-Price Books and Barabási’s was a discounted (used) book purchased from my $50 Amazon birthday gift card.  The book cost more to ship than to buy!  Very good values, if I do say so myself!!
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On This Day In:

 

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There is something about a web site which claims as its purpose:  “To arrive at the edge of the world’s knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves.”  To find out more and to stretch your mind, visit www.edge.org.  You’ll be glad you did…  This site may not have the breadth or humor of www.ted.com, but it will definitely make you think.
Today’s movie reviews include a repeat (“X-men: First Class“), a new viewing (“Clash Of The Titans“) and a first viewing of a remake (“The Flight Of The Phoenix“).
What is left to be re-said about this reboot of the X-men franchise.  This is probably the third time I’ve watched it and it is the best of the bunch (the X-men franchise).  I even give it an edge over “Wolverine: Origins” which was my previous favorite.  If they can keep up the story quality (and acting), this franchise can easily go another 10 years.  The evolution of Magneto into an enemy of humanity (as opposed to simply an evil person) is quite deep (and fascinating).  The performances by Michael Fassbender (as Magneto) and Kevin Bacon (as Sebastian Shaw) easily dominate the movie.  The interesting twist (level of depth) is that Magneto grows up to hate humans because he believes Shaw is evil and a human, when in fact, Shaw is a mutant who has complete disregard for humans because he is a mutant and believes himself to be superior (even to other mutants).
This is a movie I can watch over and over again and I highly recommend it.
I was sure I first saw “Clash Of The Titans” when I was a child, but I honestly didn’t remember it.  This is, quite frankly, an incredibly bad movie.  The casting is bad and the acting is worse.  The movie has two redeeming features: it does follow the Greek myths (on which it is based) more closely than the average Hollywood movie, and for its day, the stop-action special effects (by Ray Harryhausen) are quite good.  I would still rate the stop-action from “Jason And The Argonauts” better though.  Almost all of the other special effects are as bad as the acting.  I was shocked to find out the movie was released in 1981!!  Considering “Jason” was made in 1963, one would have assumed there was greater improvements in the technology in almost 20 years.  I can only attribute the poor effects to the producers having spent too much money on the big names in the cast.  Money, I add, which was wasted as I struggle to find a single decent performance (and this from a cast including Laurence Olivier).
Interestingly, even the title is incorrect.  This is not a “clash of titans” as the movie implies.  To begin with the “Kracken” is a Norse myth, not Greek, and Medusa was a human, turned into an evil creature by a jealous goddess.  Neither were Titans from Greek mythology.  And finally, the “clash” is about 10 seconds, at the end of a two hour movie.  Anyway, like I said this movie is only “based” on Greek myth – the adventures of Perseus.
The reason I bought the DVD was because there was a re-make done recently and its sequel is due out soon.  I was intending to pick up the re-make prior to going to see the sequel.  I will probably still do that, but I certainly have much lower expectations now.  Unless you are really a stop-action special effects fan, this movie is a complete waste of time.
The third movie I’m reviewing is “Flight Of The Phoenix“.  This is a 2004 remake of the 1965 movie by the same name (well, actually “The Flight Of The Phoenix“).   I now own both versions, although I haven’t watched the original in some time.  What starts out as a typical disaster movie turns out to be a better than average study in human dynamics when faced with extreme stress (yeah, I know, that’s what all “disaster movies” are supposed to be about).  This version has the addition of a female in the cast – I’m not sure why as there is no particular advantage or plot twist involving her.  This movie also does the politically correct thing of adding minorities in many of the roles.  In the original, the cast is multi-national as opposed to multi-racial.  The slight twist is the addition of “class” difference where Hugh Laurie plays a “valuable” management type as opposed to the average worker.  It’s interesting that this plays a more significant role in the movie than does the multi-gender or multi-racial aspects.
As if surviving in the desert isn’t bad enough, this re-make version adds in a final sequence attack by roaming bandits.  Setting aside the unlikeliness of bandits wandering around in the middle of the desert, the odds of them stumbling on the crashed crew is so improbable as to boggle all credulity.  But, what the heck, in a disaster/survival movie – in for a penny (desert, storms, crashes), in for a pound (roving bandits with motor cycles).  To be honest, I kept waiting for someone to say, “Oh, heck!  A brother never survives this shit in the movies…”
The ending in the original is MUCH better than in the re-make which is entirely Hollywood “happily ever after”.  Anyway, I am a Dennis Quaid fan and I liked this version – so – recommended!!  Now I’ve got to go watch the original with Jimmy Stewart!!
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Even though I’ve hunted animals for food as my family has for generations, and have seen more of death in my life than I’d care to; I learned how to cultivate respect and nurture heartfelt compassion for all life that one afternoon so many years ago.  All life is truly precious, and so very fragile.  On the grand scale; every living organism plays a vital role in the fabric of existence, no matter how big or small it is.
Compassion for all life is the key to witnessing creation in all of its beauty.  Learn how to be a steward, not a master.
  —  From the blogsite:  KNOWTHESPHERE
Posted on March 23, 2012
in a blog titled:  “Wise Hamster
[KnowTheSphere is another of the blogs I follow (and read) regularly.  I’m new to following it and the site seems new, but it’s well worth a visit, read, and a few moments of consideration…  Like most things I stumble on to, there’s a background story.  The first book I bought and read about Aikido was titled:  ‘Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere“, and written by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook.  This blog site’s title caught my eye and the rest is history.  —  KMAB]
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Somebody said that it couldn’t be done
   But he with a chuckle replied
That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one
   Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried.
So he buckled right in with the trace of a grin
   On his face.  If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
   That couldn’t be done, and he did it!
Somebody scoffed: “Oh, you’ll never do that;
   At least no one ever has done it;”
But he took off his coat and he took off his hat
   And the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin,
   Without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing
   That couldn’t be done, and he did it.
There are thousands to tell you it cannot be done,
   There are thousands to prophesy failure,
There are thousands to point out to you one by one,
   The dangers that wait to assail you.
But just buckle in with a bit of a grin,
   Just take off your coat and go to it;
Just start in to sing as you tackle the thing
   That “cannot be done,” and you’ll do it.
  —   Written by: Edgar Albert Guest
[Sometimes I find a poem I like, but because it’s newly discovered, it doesn’t really fall under the heading of “favorites” and so doesn’t end up on my Poems page.  This is one of those.  At first it’s childish.  Read it again and you find yourself smiling.  Read it again and it seems profound.
I found this poem at one of the blogs I follow:
Lead.Learn.Live.
David Kanigan:  Inspiration, Ideas & Information
He, in turn, found it at:  www.poetryfoundation.org
Have fun looking at both!!  —  KMAB]
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The other night I was surfing the TV and stumbled upon the ending of “The Man Who Would Be King“, starring Sean Connery and Michael Caine from 1975.  I happen to own a copy of the DVD, but haven’t watched it in ages.  (I’ll have to watch the whole thing now so I can add a review…)
Anyway, there is a very stirring song at the end which sounded familiar from the distant past.  So turning to Google, I looked it up.  Like most of my searches, this ended up with serendipity.  The song they sing reminded me of the tune sung by Miles O’Brien in StarTrek: The Next Generation episode “The Wounded”.  That song was the classic Irish folk song (or at least that’s what I thought it was): “The Minstrel Boy“.   So, I added the lyrics to my Poems page.
That led me to match my lyrics to the song with Sean and Michael singing.  The same tune, but it was different words!!  Lo, and behold, the song they’re singing is actually a different song (still military) titled: “The Son Of God Goes Forth To War” – which has now also been added to my Poems page.
Now, for the real serendipity bit…  While looking up “The Minstrel Boy”, I found a web site / blog by the same name (click here).  The site is dedicated to the memory of a son lost in the fighting in Iraq.  A browse around the site led me to a terrific (but incredibly sad) speech / poem the blog author gave at a ceremony for families gathered to remember their lost family members.  I was so touched by the poem, I copied it to my poems page as well.  The poem is titled: “Remember These Our Young“.   You can find the original posting on the author’s site by clicking here.
I know it’s not Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day or any other “special” remembrance day, but take a few moments to read Brian Hart’s (the blog author) poem and then say a prayer to whatever God (or deity) you believe in for those still in harms way today and for those who’ve already sacrificed so much to keep us free…

Remembrance is only part of the obligation we owe the dead. 

In our country little sacrifice is asked of most. 

Help us to become a more giving nation. 

Let us have courage to face the killing forces of our time. 

Let us forsake fear and choose freedom.

Let us ignore words without meaning — that divide and deceive. 

Instead, let us yew from this great mountain of despair a small stone of hope. 

A hope that we will yet create a better country – yet become a better people.

Give us the courage to use freedom so dearly purchased to do what is right.”

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Title script for Stingray TV show

Title Image

Image of DVD

Image of DVD

As a Valentine’s Day treat, Hil let me buy a DVD.  I chose “Stingray“, and picked it up online for a very reasonable $8 for 24 episodes (supposedly two seasons).  Actually, the show aired its pilot in 1985, ran eight episodes in 1986 and then the last fifteen in 1987.  The pilot is a two-hour episode (run time, with commercials), so the set is advertised as 25 episodes.
The series is about a man named Ray (played by Nick Mancuso), who hires out his services to those in need, in exchange for a favor to be claimed sometime in the future.  The show is supposed to be based in Los Angeles and the first season is shot there.  It looks to me though, as if the second season is shot mostly in Canada.  The creator / producer of the show, Steven J. Cannell, created his own production company and moved it to Canada to create some separation from the major LA studio system which he felt had too much influence on his work.  Cannell is more famous for some of his other series, including “The A-Team“, “Baretta“, “21 Jump Street“, “Hunter” and “The Rockford Files“.  Cannell recently (September 2010)  passed away from cancer.  (You can find his tribute site here.)  Cannell created over 40 TV pilots which became series.
Ray (short for Raymond, not Stingray) is a Vietnam veteran, former CIA operative, martial arts expert and computer/electronics expert.  He is also supposed to be an excellent actor, or more precisely, role player – as he slips in and out of characters needed to assist whomever his current client is for the episode.  Ray finds his clients by advertising in the newspaper offering his 1965 Stingray (one of the “stars” of the show in any age) for barter only, to the right person.  The car is ultra cool.  Still.  As mentioned above, the barter is for your future favor.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the show way back when and watching the whole 24 episodes reminded me why I loved it and (ultimately) why it was cancelled.  I would say about five of the episodes are excellent TV (action and story), five are above average (action or story), five are average (but enjoyable), and the remaining nine are almost painful to watch.  Several of them seem to be actual parodies of the series or so implausible as to be parodies.  There are even instances when you can see the microphone boom dip into camera view.  That’s how bad the show got at some points.  The other thing I found interesting about the show was the credits ran with photos of out-takes.  This was unique in its day and I’m not sure I’ve seen it in many other series either.  It definitely destroys the illusion of reality created by the “hero series”.  On the other hand, it makes the show feel intimate in a way that seems to have been a forerunner of the out-takes and extra features we now expect to find on purchased DVD’s.
Although I really liked Mancuso in this role, he more or less completely fell off of my radar after this series.  The only other thing I remember him in is as the weaselly CIA guy in “Under Seige“.
Finally, the show reeks of 80’s fashion / cool – clothes, hairdos, images of the cities, etc.  It’s on a par with “Miami Vice” on that level, although Miami Vice was MUCH better at using popular music to capture the spirit of the show.  Stingray’s music are pop-rock, but created for the show and not general hits from the airways.
I don’t know if the series is run on Hulu or Netflix, but if it is, it’s definitely worth checking out.  Alternatively, for $8 (plus shipping), you’ll not go far wrong  just buying the series.  In case you’re wondering what brought the show to mind.  There’s a guy down the street who owns a mid-60’s Corvette (but his is fire-engine red).  Pure serendipity…
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There is a saying in the martial arts: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  I believe the saying has a more general application to life and to continuous education.
A little while back I was reading Wired Magazine and stumbled upon an article titled: “Trials and Errors: Why Science Is Failing Us“.   (The article was written by Jonah Lehrer and appears in the January 2012 issue.)
I found the article to be fascinating in itself, but also because it ties together with some of the other ideas I’ve been reading about in sports, science and philosophy: namely, we want to achieve intimate knowledge (“Grok”) by breaking processes down into fundamental pieces.  In science research this is known as “reductionism”.  Anyway, Lehrer’s article seems very harmonic with some of the other things I’ve been reading, so I’m offering up an (extensive) excerpt here, instead of just a couple of sentences as a quote.  I highly recommend reading the entire article for more insight…
…Because scientists understood the individual steps of the cholesterol pathway at such a precise level, they assumed they also understood how it worked as a whole.
This assumption — that understanding a system’s constituent parts means we also understand the causes within the system — is not limited to the pharmaceutical industry or even to biology.  It defines modern science. In general, we believe that the so-called problem of causation can be cured by more information, by our ceaseless accumulation of facts.  Scientists refer to this process as reductionism.  By breaking down a process, we can see how everything fits together; the complex mystery is distilled into a list of ingredients.  And so the question of cholesterol — what is its relationship to heart disease? — becomes a predictable loop of proteins tweaking proteins, acronyms altering one another.  Modern medicine is particularly reliant on this approach.  Every year, nearly $100 billion is invested in biomedical research in the US, all of it aimed at teasing apart the invisible bits of the body.  We assume that these new details will finally reveal the causes of illness, pinning our maladies on small molecules and errant snippets of DNA.  Once we find the cause, of course, we can begin working on a cure.
The problem with this assumption, however, is that causes are a strange kind of knowledge.  This was first pointed out by David Hume, the 18th-century Scottish philosopher.  Hume realized that, although people talk about causes as if they are real facts — tangible things that can be discovered — they’re actually not at all factual.  Instead, Hume said, every cause is just a slippery story, a catchy conjecture, a “lively conception produced by habit.”  When an apple falls from a tree, the cause is obvious: gravity.  Hume’s skeptical insight was that we don’t see gravity — we see only an object tugged toward the earth.  We look at X and then at Y, and invent a story about what happened in between.  We can measure facts, but a cause is not a fact — it’s a fiction that helps us make sense of facts.
The truth is, our stories about causation are shadowed by all sorts of mental shortcuts.  Most of the time, these shortcuts work well enough.  They allow us to hit fastballs, discover the law of gravity, and design wondrous technologies.  However, when it comes to reasoning about complex systems — say, the human body — these shortcuts go from being slickly efficient to outright misleading.
There’s a fundamental mismatch between how the world works and how we think about the world.
The good news is that, in the centuries since Hume, scientists have mostly managed to work around this mismatch as they’ve continued to discover new cause-and-effect relationships at a blistering pace.  This success is largely a tribute to the power of statistical correlation, which has allowed researchers to pirouette around the problem of causation.  Though scientists constantly remind themselves that mere correlation is not causation, if a correlation is clear and consistent, then they typically assume a cause has been found—that there really is some invisible association between the measurements.
Researchers have developed an impressive system for testing these correlations.  For the most part, they rely on an abstract measure known as statistical significance, invented by English mathematician Ronald Fisher in the 1920s.  This test defines a “significant” result as any data point that would be produced by chance less than 5 percent of the time.  While a significant result is no guarantee of truth, it’s widely seen as an important indicator of good data, a clue that the correlation is not a coincidence.
But here’s the bad news: The reliance on correlations has entered an age of diminishing returns.  At least two major factors contribute to this trend.  First, all of the easy causes have been found, which means that scientists are now forced to search for ever-subtler correlations, mining that mountain of facts for the tiniest of associations.  Is that a new cause?  Or just a statistical mistake?  The line is getting finer; science is getting harder.   Second — and this is the biggy — searching for correlations is a terrible way of dealing with the primary subject of much modern research: those complex networks at the center of life.  While correlations help us track the relationship between independent measurements, such as the link between smoking and cancer, they are much less effective at making sense of systems in which the variables cannot be isolated.  Such situations require that we understand every interaction before we can reliably understand any of them.  Given the byzantine nature of biology, this can often be a daunting hurdle, requiring that researchers map not only the complete cholesterol pathway but also the ways in which it is plugged into other pathways.  (The neglect of these secondary and even tertiary interactions begins to explain the failure of torcetrapib, which had unintended effects on blood pressure.  It also helps explain the success of Lipitor, which seems to have a secondary effect of reducing inflammation.)  Unfortunately, we often shrug off this dizzying intricacy, searching instead for the simplest of correlations.  It’s the cognitive equivalent of bringing a knife to a gunfight.
David Hume referred to causality as “the cement of the universe.”  He was being ironic, since he knew that this so-called cement was a hallucination, a tale we tell ourselves to make sense of events and observations.  No matter how precisely we knew a given system, Hume realized, its underlying causes would always remain mysterious, shadowed by error bars and uncertainty.  Although the scientific process tries to makes sense of problems by isolating every variable — imagining a blood vessel, say, if HDL alone were raised — reality doesn’t work like that.  Instead, we live in a world in which everything is knotted together, an impregnable tangle of causes and effects.  Even when a system is dissected into its basic parts, those parts are still influenced by a whirligig of forces we can’t understand or haven’t considered or don’t think matter.  Hamlet was right: There really are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.
This doesn’t mean that nothing can be known or that every causal story is equally problematic.  Some explanations clearly work better than others, which is why, thanks largely to improvements in public health, the average lifespan in the developed world continues to increase. (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, things like clean water and improved sanitation — and not necessarily advances in medical technology — accounted for at least 25 of the more than 30 years added to the lifespan of Americans during the 20th century.)  Although our reliance on statistical correlations has strict constraints — which limit modern research — those correlations have still managed to identify many essential risk factors, such as smoking and bad diets.
And yet, we must never forget that our causal beliefs are defined by their limitations.  For too long, we’ve pretended that the old problem of causality can be cured by our shiny new knowledge.  If only we devote more resources to research or dissect the system at a more fundamental level or search for ever more subtle correlations, we can discover how it all works.  But a cause is not a fact, and it never will be; the things we can see will always be bracketed by what we cannot.  And this is why, even when we know everything about everything, we’ll still be telling stories about why it happened.  It’s mystery all the way down.
There is a lot in there to think about – and even more in the entire article…
One final observation, while reviewing the article for this blog entry, I really noticed how much easier it is to follow Lehrer’s writing across various individual topics in Wired and in his other periodic publications.  This article was significantly longer than most of his columns in Wired.  It was really interesting to go back through the stream of his columns and recognize how much I’d enjoyed those “snipets” in a completely different context in the past without ever recognizing (consciously) they were the same author or the same theme.  In this case, with the monthly delay removed, I could recognize the spectrum of application of his own studies / observations across multiple “decision making” themes.  Now, when I get my new issues in the mail (yes, I still use “snail mail”), I can look forward to his columns like they are letters / updates from an old friend…
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