TOTD 2018-3-24: Psst, have I got a deal for you.

See, if you invest your money with me I will give you back your principle plus 50% in 6 months. I know this sounds too good to be true but I have found the secret to buying low and selling high. I just need some capital so I am giving you the chance of the century. Since we belong to the same community, church, synagogue, and oppressed minority you can trust me. I know many important people. Look at the picture. Pictures don’t lie. Rumors that I am a Nigerian prince are untrue.

Let’s face it none of you are too stupid to fall for a scam that is why I am offering you this once in a lifetime opportunity. Just to show you how honest I am. Look in this book and you won’t see 10 Cents at all. (I am hoping to make the second edition.)

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TOTD 2018-3-23: Progress?

                 Is it progress if a cannibal is using a knife and fork?

That’s a rip-snorter, isn’t it?

I found this while doing some spring cleaning among my Quotations folders. Amazing things are turning up, and the project has only advanced as far as the Is.

The aphorist is Stanisław Jerzy Lec (1909-1966.) (Lec is pronounced lets.) Apparently he was born in Lwów (Lemberg), a city then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. All through his youth and a good deal of his literary career he was enamored of Soviet society and a defender of Stalin.

During the Second World War Poles formed two different sorts of Armies of the Resistance. One, the Armia Krayowa (AK), affiliate of the Polish Government in Exile, existed to kill German soldiers, kill Russian soldiers, and re-establish the Republic. Their motto was Polska Walcząca (“Poland fights!”); their symbol  the Kotwica (“Anchor”) :

Symbol of the good guys, which do not include Lec.

The other sort were the fronts for the Red Army. They existed to kill German soldiers, either kill, capture, or suborn Polish soldiers, and ultimately establish a Soviet satellite state. Various partisan groups and multiple iterations of formal armed forces eventually became dominated by Ludowe Wojsko Polskie, which translates – you guessed it! – as “People’s Army of Poland,” hence “Polish People’s Army.”

Lec served in Ludowe Wojsko Polskie and did well. After the war the government rewarded him with a diplomatic career, and he even made it out with his family to Israel. At a time when suffering Poles were trying in vain to get out, he abandoned his family and returned to Communist Poland. That is when he began to crank out one-liners like today’s feature, and became famous for them.

That’s all I know about Lec and I certainly don’t understand it. He seems to have taken a deliberate stance, late in his literary career, of covert disillusion with Communism, covert admiration for and use of Judeo-Christian ideas, and professional projection of a sardonic persona.

Whether or not these first impressions pan out on further study, today’s zinger is unavoidably a keeper. It will replay in the old brain every time some horrible story comes up in the news or in the history books. Knives and forks are tools; the people who use them vary in their ethics.

Additionally,  Is it progress if a cannibal is using a knife and fork?  is a reminder of how easy and often people fall into the trap of totemism. Lenin rounded up his serfs and slaves and “Citizens” and had them build a big hydroelectric dam, pretty early on. (Remember the scene at the end of Doctor Zhivago with Lara trudging to work on some construction project in her coveralls and babushka?) Lenin figured that if he did that and had a big dam and power plant, then he would have a modern country.

Totemism is a sign of an idiot mind, one that reverses cause and effect.  So see, a person can be an idiot and at the same time a killer with long-term cunning.

Sorry to wreck everybody’s day! But then I find these thoughts useful as coping mechanisms; may they do so for friends as well.

 

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TOTD 2018-3-22: Quote

One of the most important leadership lessons is realizing you’re not the most important or the most intelligent person in the room at all times. — Mario Batali

I don’t know Mario Batali but his quote is good. I have seen the opposite of this thought too often,have you? Sometimes the smartest thing you can say is “I don’t know.”

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TOTD 2018-3-21: “He ought to be in jail.”

I am going to share some facts about an evil man.

First, he was sentenced to 2 years in prison for being involved in an investment scandal that was colossal. Poor people lost their savings.

Second, he charged people money just to see his work so much that he recouped more than 50% of his initial investment. People died because of his work.

Third, he made the United States seem second rate. After they were number one for 6 years.

Guess in the comments. The answer is below. Let me know if you guessed right.

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March Equinox 2018

Equinox: 2018-03-20 16:15 UTCThe March equinox occurs this year at 16:15 UTC on March 20.  This is the moment when the subsolar point crosses the equator headed north.  The line of day and night as seen on a map as above (produced by Earth and Moon Viewer using NASA imagery with snow and ice cover representative of March) is vertical, indicating that day and night are of equal duration everywhere on Earth.  The terminator (day/night line, not killer robots from the future) appears to curve near the poles because of the projection of the spherical Earth onto a flat map.  Here is a view of the Earth above the terminator at the moment of equinox.

Terminator at equinox: 2018-03-20 16:15 UTC

Astronomers reckon sidereal time (time measured by the positions of the fixed stars as opposed to the Sun) as starting at the March equinox.  Due to precession, the date of the equinox, measured in absolute terms by Julian date, changes slowly over time, completing one full revolution every 26,000 years.  The date and time of the equinox measured by civil calendars varies from year to year and can occur on March 19, 20, or 21.  This is due to slippage caused by leap year adjustment in the Gregorian calendar.

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TOTD 2018-3-20: Rules to Live By

I am about to start on Jordan Peterson’s new book, “12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos”. Has anyone read it yet?
On the general topic where do you get your rules for life? What are the important rules you follow? What rule do you hate being broken?

I hate to see people being eviscerated without a chance to respond. I don’t like the “dog pile” either. It is easy to “win” when the person is not in the room or ganged up on.

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Ratburger: The Next Hundred

One of the principles of Ratburger.org since its inception is Radical Transparency—everything about the site, from its source code, updates, and access statistics—shall be accessible to anybody who is interested.  There are a few statistics which, due to the design of WordPress, are not generally accessible, which may be of interest.  Excluding administrators and accounts they use for testing various features on the site, we now have 77 members, the vast majority of whom are active and regularly visit the site, comment, and post.  Since the site went live (in stealth mode) on 2017-12-10, there have been 506 posts and 5,589 comments on them.  The software that runs the site, publicly disclosed on GitHub for anybody interested in setting  up a competing site, or one appealing to a different audience, has had 86 publicly-posted builds since Git management began on 2017-12-18.

With today’s release of browser-pull dynamic updates of notifications, I consider the site “feature complete” as I envisioned it at the launch last December.  With all of the local modifications, as documented in the Updates Group (available for anybody to read), it provides a discussion forum, interest groups, podcasts (we don’t produce them, but provide links to those to which our members regularly listen), private messages, a weekly free conference call, and on-line chat.  And all of this is completely free and devoid of advertisements and other intrusive distractions.

Did I mention that it’s free and there are no ads?

Now is the time to take longer strides.  I believe it is possible, before May 10th, 2018, six months after the launch of Ratburger.org, to expand our user community from its present 77 members to at least 200.  The software and hosting infrastructure can easily accommodate this, and such growth will not burden the site’s administrators if the new members are as responsible and interesting as our present audience.  And this will be not just a milestone, but a phase transition.  Legacy sites like to cite their number of members, but the most superficial investigation will reveal that those numbers include members with long-expired subscriptions, those totally inactive, and some banned for deplorable thought-crimes.  When you actually look at those who actively post and comment on such sites, you come up with an actively-participating audience of between 200 and 250 people.  So if we can get to 200, and most of them are as active on the site as our current membership, we’ll have a fulgurant conversation where people keep coming back every few minutes to see what’s happened since their last comment or like.

So how do we get to there from here?  It couldn’t be simpler.  I’ll bet that everybody on this site knows two or three people who are as engaged in the contemporary discussion as they, and would be intrigued by a place where they can discuss whatever they find compelling with a worldwide audience.  Tell your friends and, for that matter, your well-intentioned adversaries, to check out the site and, if they want to join in, to join.

Did I mention that it’s free and that there are no ads?

Now, unlike legacy sites, I’m not making this pitch to cover the bills.  The business model of this site is simple: you use it, and I pay for it.  The more you use, the more I pay.  So why am I promoting it and encouraging people to join?  I participated in the creation of this site because I believed there was a need for a place for civil, rational conversation on the Web without the filters, cant, and banning so many have encountered elsewhere.  In the 1990s, I imagined such a site which I called “The faculty club” (this was before the emergence of the toxic slaver monoculture in acdemia).  I’m willing to pay for that; the cost is modest compared to what I pay to host my main site, which is entirely my own work and admits no user interaction.  We can easily double or triple the traffic at this site without increasing my hosting bill, so I’m fine with doing that.

So, talk to your friends and associates, encourage them to visit the site and, if they like what they see, join and contribute.  Our sign-up procedure, necessary to protect against the constant assault of spammers, may be frustrating for users on legacy E-mail services, but if they have trouble, an E-mail to admin@ratburger.org will remedy that.

Thank you all for being early adopters of the site, and thanks in advance for welcoming others as we make this the most interesting and free locus of discussion on the Web.

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TOTD 2018-03-18: “You Will Not Go to Space Today”

Words by Scott Manley, music and performance by Skye Manley.

You can’t do rocket science (or engineering) without acronyms and jargon, so here’s a list of those used in the video.

There’s one goof: “the day they launched the escape tower” was Mercury-Redstone 1, not Mercury-Atlas 1, which failed for other reasons.

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Felicia Update

FeliciaB, the Queen of Likes, is working on another nursing degree and super busy. Her studies are scheduled to be finished in December. She sends her regards. Hopefully Ratburger.org will get a Christmas presence from her around that time.

For those who remember her please leave a comment and I will forward them on. (She checks her e-mails about once a week.)

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Pulp Fiction

My Film Group viewed Pulp Fiction (1994) this Monday. It was written and directed by Quentin Tarantino (54). The name refers to the pulp magazines and crime fiction that was popular during the 1960-1980s, as he was growing up. These were known for their graphic violence. From his early childhood, he knew he wanted to make films, and studied the lives and work of other directors in the genre of gangster and crime films. He then went on to develop his own style, as do all great artists. He is considered one of the greatest film makers of his generation. Pulp Fiction was given seven nominations in the Oscars, including for Best Picture. In 2013, it was preserved in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Pulp Fiction is certainly violent, with John Travolta as Vinvent Vega and Samuel L. Jackson as Jules Winnfield, two of the most objective hit men you wouldn’t ever want to meet. They are magnificient as two men with a job to do, which doesn’t interupt their very serious conversation about a foot massage given to Uma Thurman as Mia, the wife of the crime boss Marcellus Wallace. Jules is fearsome as he recites Ezekiel 25:17 incorrectly before he puts a bullet in his target. But what he adds does sound biblical, and the sentiments can be found elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. The correct quotation, in case you are interested, is, as follows:
Ezekiel 25:17 And I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them.

As Jules lays the vengence of Marcellus on Brett, he certainly epitomises the most fearful image anyone could have conjured up in their worst nightmare. Then he goes outside and continues his conversation  with Vincent as if nothing has happened. It is so funny, but also so horrific, and the audience are left wondering at its own mixed reaction to it. Absolutely brilliant! This continues throughout the film, and we are left a little shaken that we have laughed our way through a film full of violence, with totally amoral characters, who have so heartily entertained us. Bruce Willis as Butch Coolidge, Ving Rhames as Marcellus Wallace, Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace, and Harvey Keitel as Winston Wolfe, were all perfect for their parts, as was everyone else in this film. I loved each one of them.

Pulp Fiction inspired a wide discussion on its meaning. It appears to deal with American nihilism, which describes the loss of value and meaning in people’s lives, with the loss of religious belief systems. The words of Nietzsche, “God is Dead”, infer that there is no inherent moral code. This film does seem to illustrate all these ideas, and show what life without meaning can look like.

Quentin Tarantino created a masterpiece with Pulp Fiction. It is brilliantly directed, and apparently the actors loved working with him. It reactivated many careers, and furthered others. When it first was screened, I avoided seeing it because of its well-advertised violence, and all the criticism it aroused. I’m very glad I’ve seen it now, and have developed my own opinion of it. I ought not to have listened to the critics. It is a multi-layered film, with lots of food for thought. The characters were so strongly drawn, they remain in my memory, and I even feel fond of them, in spite of their violent jobs.

There is so much more one could say, but primarily I am left with the feeling that Quentin Taratino is saying it with his tongue in his cheek.

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Spring Spring!

So, yeah, I am having serious trouble with Spring fever this year.  We didn’t go the the beach this week because my perfect spouse contracted the Crud.  Postponed until 4-2.

My camera activity is getting an upgrade.  I cracked the glass over the function display on my beloved Olympus E-3, so it’s retiring.  It’s only good for fair weather action now.  My new camera is an Olympus OM-D Mark 10 II:  Micro four-thirds, 15.6 Megapixel, 5-way internal stabilization, screamingly fast AF, 8.5 fps, and built-in WiFi.  Woof!  Until I get it on Monday, here’s a few iPhone shots from yesterday:

Our pink Magnolia is raring to go.

The maximally green-thumbed spouse’s late winter flower basket adorns the deck.

We begged the Camellia and it finally listened.

Water is up to 53F, so the fish are chowing down, their most potent skill.

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