30 January, 2011

A.I. Atheism Incompossible

An atheist was spending a quiet day fishing when suddenly his boat was attacked by the Loch Ness monster. In one easy flip, the beast tossed him and his boat high into the air. Then it opened its mouth to swallow both.

As the man sailed head over heels, he cried out, "Oh, my God! Help me!"

At once the ferocious attack scene froze in place, and as the atheist hung in midair, a booming voice came down from the clouds, "I thought you didn't believe in Me!"

"Well, to tell you the truth," the man pleaded,
"until now, I didn't believe in the Loch Ness monster either."

25 January, 2011

The Way They Were

Tuesday With Another

Today in 1964 the Beatles had their first #1 hit in the US - I Want to Hold Your Hand. It remained #1 for seven more weeks. Fifteen days later they would appear for the first time in the US on The Ed Sullivan Show. I can recall rushing home from my Methodist Youth Fellowship meeting - not wanting to miss a moment of their performance. Five songs! Of course, with all the screaming, one could hardly hear them singing.

Oh yeah, I´ll tell you something
I think you'll understand
When I say that something
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

Oh, please, say to me
You'll let me be your man
and please, say to me
You'll let me hold your hand
Now let me hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

And when I touch you i feel happy, inside
It's such a feeling
That my love
I can't hide
I can't hide
I can't hide

Yeah you, got that something
I think you'll understand
When I say that something
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand

And when I touch you I feel happy, inside
It's such a feeling
That my love
I can't hide
I can't hide
I can't hide

Yeah you, got that something
I think you'll understand
When I say that something
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your hand
I wanna hold your ha-a-a-a-a-a-and

Their third performance on Ed Sullivan.
Wow - they look like babies.

24 January, 2011

Bake Until Dark

Last Monday I wrote about returning to an old pastime - making bread. Old for me - I began about forty years ago, and also old for our species - we began over 3000 years ago, at least if we're talking about yeasted bread. That's about the same time we invented beer. Wow! Talk about your one-two punch - bread and beer. What a great start to civilization!

It's been a busy week for me. I had given up bread-making as I lost use of my left hand and could no longer knead, but recent conversations have encouraged me to try again. The kneading did prove problematic though so I turned initially to the no kneading technique developed by Jim Lahey in New York City. I took an old recipe and modified it to work with this new (for me) process.

It worked well. That's not to say I didn't make mistakes; I did - which meant I also found ways to get better. The first variety was a Black Olive and Walnut Wheat Bread with Thyme. I tried different degrees of "chopped" and organic stone-ground versus regular bread flour. I like to think it tasted better with each of the three attempts. All I know for certain is that my colleagues liked them all.

Then I tried using just unbleached bread flour with green olives and cracked red pepper - still using the no knead system. I like it, but no one else has had a chance yet. Stay tuned.

Two days ago I used the sourdough starter begun four days earlier.
This was not a no knead recipe, but I made four loaves of Cheddar, Apple, Thyme Sourdough Bread. It tastes great, but I am frustrated that I forgot to carve the tops of the loaves before I baked them. I'm not sure I can continue with the one-handed kneading though. It wasn't easy. Maybe I need one of those fancy mixers - the ones with that corkscrew dough attachment. Nah.

Yesterday, I returned to the no knead green olive bread I mentioned previously. I had some thoughts on making it better, and we'll see if I was right.

Nine loaves. It's been a fun week, and although free time is more limited now that spring classes have begun, I hope to continue this baking effort. I know it's good for my soul. As I wrote last week, there is something very fundamental about this. The chemistry. The connection with earth and with fire. The artistry. The continuation of something almost primal. It is at once meditative and restorative. We can all use that.

It doesn't have to be bread, by the way - as symbolic as that is. Find something you once enjoyed. Make time to re-embrace it. The pleasure that will emerge will make you a happier and most likely a better person.

18 January, 2011


Tuesdays With Another


So let us begin anew--remembering on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.

Let both sides, for the first time, formulate serious and precise proposals for the inspection and control of arms--and bring the absolute power to destroy other nations under the absolute control of all nations.

Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths and encourage the arts and commerce.

Let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah--to "undo the heavy burdens ... (and) let the oppressed go free."

And if a beach-head of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just and the weak secure and the peace preserved.

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again-not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--not as a call to battle, though embattled we are--but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"--a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.

Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility--I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

From the Inaugural Address of President John F. Kennedy.
Washington, D.C.
January 20, 1961

16 January, 2011

Suddenly, Last Winter

Two men died and went to heaven. St. Peter greeted them and said, "Your condos aren't ready yet. Until they're finished, you can return to Earth as anything you want."

"Fine," said the first man. "I've always wanted to be an eagle soaring over the Grand Canyon."

"And I'd like to go around as a real cool stud," said the second somewhat sheepishly.

Poof! Their wishes were granted.

When the condos were finished, St. Peter asked an assistant to bring back the two men. "How will I find them?" the assistant asked.

"One is soaring over the Grand Canyon," St. Peter replied. "The other is somewhere in Detroit - on a snow tire."

13 January, 2011

sanity's not included

If the truth be told, the extreme rhetoric on both sides sickens me, but this embrace of all things ballistic seems to fall more to one side than the other.

While I agree that it may be unfair to blame the actions of this lunatic shooter on the weapon- and violence-centered rhetoric of many members of the Palin-Limbaugh-Beck-Gingrich cabal that says it speaks for God and America and we may never know for sure, it has all the hallmarks of political assisination.

It's likely that this shooter was schizophrenic, and it may be that when he heard the vitriol of these nattering nabobs of nastiness on radio or television, he thought he was being given a mission, a mission from God. True, such language may have little effect on most folks, but it is heard by all - the healthy and the not so healthy. The nabobs know this. Make no mistake; they know what they are doing.

Just as offensive to me have been the knee jerk reactions of many to the wide-spread criticism. Some of what I have heard is so distasteful that I'm not going to offer examples, but in general, I'm amazed at the inability to rise to the occasion or seize the opportunity to lead us out of this lunacy.

The insistance that what one says has no effect followed by an attack on those who disagree is incredibly disingenuous. It's insanity - whichever fringe suits your politics. One fringe, however, is screaming louder right now, and it's quite clear they doth protest too much.

I have only one question for them, but let me pose it by recalling a story I heard years ago when I lived in Maine. Forgive me if using humor here seems inappropriate.

It seems a city slicker lawyer was out for a spin in rural Maine as he put his new sports car through its paces. Unfortunately, as he came around a turn, he found a cow in the middle of the road. She was crossing the road as she moved from one pasture to another. The grass is aways greener ... He slammed on his brakes and almost stopped in time - but only almost. He hit the cow and knocked her for a loop.

The farmer - having heard the squealing tires - came running. By the time the farmer got to the scene of the crime, the city slicker was out of his car, fretting over the cow, and apologizing for the accident. He offered to pay the farmer for the damages - whatever the cow might be worth. As the lawyer pled his case, the cow got up and continued her walk to the other side of the road.

Relieved, the lawyer began to argue that clearly there was no damage after all. The farmer was silent as the lawyer continued to press his case. Finally the farmer looked at the lawyer and said, "I tell you what. I don't know if she's injured or not, but if you think you did her any good, I'd be happy to pay you for it."

And that's what I think of when I hear these language of violence apologists denying their rhetoric has any negative effect and demanding proof if it be otherwise. I tell you what, nabobs. If you think you're doing anything positive for the level of discourse in this country, then I'd be happy to pay you for it.

I know my money is safe though because these hysteria mongers aren't helping our us or our country. It's not a left/right issue. It's just that my generation believed if you weren't part of the solution, you were part of the problem. Those who offer this brand of rhetoric are, in fact, part of the problem.

We simply must find a way to return civility to political discourse in this country. If not, there will be much more sorrow in our future.