Tuesday, January 23, 2018

"In the Inbox"

"In the Inbox"

"From Coordinator of Volunteer Services: We have a young man, thirty-six, on hospice who has a very young child. They want someone to help him do a life review and perhaps put some pictures together for he and his wife so the child will know him. Call me if you are willing to do this."

"The next time, friend, your life seems too hard, check your Inbox."
- Jose Orez

Musical Interlude: Ludovico Einaudi, "Divenire", Live At Royal Albert Hall, London

Ludovico Einaudi, "Divenire", Live At Royal Albert Hall, London

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Why do some spiral galaxies have a ring around the center? Spiral galaxy NGC 1398 not only has a ring of pearly stars, gas and dust around its center, but a bar of stars and gas across its center, and spiral arms that appear like ribbons farther out. The featured image was taken with ESO's Very Large Telescope at the Paranal Observatory in Chile and resolves this grand spiral in impressive detail. 
Click image for larger size.
NGC 1398 lies about 65 million light years distant, meaning the light we see today left this galaxy when dinosaurs were disappearing from the Earth. The photogenic galaxy is visible with a small telescope toward the constellation of the Furnace (Fornax). The ring near the center is likely an expanding density wave of star formation, caused either by a gravitational encounter with another galaxy, or by the galaxy's own gravitational asymmetries."

Chet Raymo, "Like Rubies Ringed With Gold"

"Like Rubies Ringed With Gold"
by Chet Raymo

"Here's a Hubble Space Telescope composite photograph of two colliding galaxies in the constellation Corvus. Click to enlarge or look for large image on the link.


Each of the three books of Dante's "Divine Comedy" ends with the same words: "the stars." The Inferno concludes with distant stars glimpsed through the narrow exit of hell. "We emerged," says the poet, "and saw the stars." The poet's journey through Purgatory ends on Earth's highest mountain, with the heavens seemingly not so far away. He is "ready to ascend to the stars." Finally, Dante looks down upon the stars from above, from the luminous realm of Paradise. He has experienced "the Love that moves the sun and the other stars." The beauty of that final destination, the Empyrean Sphere that encloses the created universe in divine brilliance, taxes the poet's powers of description:

    "I saw light in the shape of a river
    Flashing golden between two banks
    Tinted in colors of marvelous spring.
    Out of the stream came living sparks
    Which settled on the flowers on every side
    Like rubies ringed with gold..."

Nothing in Dante's experience could have prepared him for the splendors of the heavens as revealed by the Hubble. The photograph of colliding galaxies in Corvus is a work of genius in the tradition of the "Divine Comedy" - imagination in service to humankind's loftiest aspirations and longings.

In Dante's time, astronomy was one of the seven liberal arts - with grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, and music - required of every student who aspired to a university degree. Of all the secular sciences, astronomy was deemed most likely to lead one to the contemplation of things divine. Yesterday's Hubble pic made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, which is about as close to the divine as I ever get. Dante's "Divine Comedy" is based on the medieval astronomical conception of the world - a system of concentric spheres centered on the Earth and bounded just up there by the Empyrean.

In the Hubble photograph of colliding galaxies we see something akin to Dante's paradisal vision, but it is not a cosmos centered on the Earth. Here are other Suns and other Earths being born, in prodigious numbers, massive stars destined to die soon as supernovas, and other less massive stars that will live long lives, perhaps evolving life or consciousness on their planets. We see in the Hubble photograph a universe of a fullness and dimension that makes Dante's human-centered cosmos of concentric spheres seem like a dust mote in an immense cathedral.

Astronomy is no longer a required course of study in our universities, and it's something of a shame. Who can look at the photograph of colliding galaxies and not be moved to rapture? An understanding of the size, age, and prodigality of the universe should be part of every liberal arts graduate's intellectual furniture."

"12 Rules for Being a Human Being"

"12 Rules for Being a Human Being"
by Marc

"Don’t try to be perfect. Just be an excellent example of being human. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Growth requires pain. Be patient and tough, someday this pain will be useful to you. Those with the strength to succeed in the long run are the ones who lay a firm foundation of growth with the bricks that life has thrown at them. So don’t be afraid to fall apart for a little while. Because when it happens, the situation will open an opportunity for you to grow and rebuild yourself into the brilliant person you are capable of being.

2. You will learn as long as you live. There is no stage of life that does not contain new lessons. As long as you live there will be something more to learn. And as long as you follow your heart and never stop learning, you’ll turn not older, but newer every day.


3. There is a positive lesson in every life experience. Don’t forget to acknowledge the lesson, especially when things don’t go your way. If you make a mistake that sets you back a little, or a business deal or a relationship doesn’t work, it only means a new opportunity is out there waiting. And the lesson you just learned is the first step towards it.

4. True beauty lives under the skin. When you start to really know someone, most of their physical characteristics vanish in your mind. You begin to dwell in their energy, recognize their scent, and appreciate their wit. You see only the essence of the person, not the shell. That’s why you can’t fall in love with physical beauty. You can lust after it, be infatuated by it, or want to own it. You can love it with your eyes and your body for a little while, but not your heart in the long-term. And that’s why, when you really connect with a person’s inner self, most physical imperfections become irrelevant.

5. Only you know what you’re capable of. Unless someone can look into the core of your heart, and see the degree of your passion, or look into the depths of your soul and see the extent of your will, then they have no business telling you what you can or cannot achieve. Because while they may know the odds, they do not know YOU, and what you’re capable of. That’s something only you know.

6. Your love creates your happiness. The happiness you feel is in direct proportion to the love you give. When you love, you subconsciously strive to become better than you are. When you strive to become better than you are, everything around you becomes better too. During your youth, love will be your teacher; in your middle age, love will be your foundation; and in your old age, love will be your fondest memories and your greatest delight.


7. You earn respect by being respectful. Respect isn’t something you can demand or manipulate by saying what you think people want to hear. You earn respect by listening, acknowledging feelings and treating others with the same respect you hope to get in return. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.

8. Negativity poisons the soul. Don’t let needless drama and negativity stop you from being the best you can be. Avoid the drama, and focus on what truly matters. Life is insanely short and your time is precious, so don’t waste your time on trivial matters. Let go of the things that are weighing you down. As you unclutter your life, you will slowly free yourself to answer the callings of your inner spirit.

9. Your health is your life. Regardless of the size and shape of your body, it is the greatest tool you will ever own. Without it, you wouldn’t be alive. How you take care of it or fail to take care of it can make an enormous difference in the quality of your life. Exercise to be fit, not skinny. Eat to nourish your body. To truly be your best, you must give your body the fuel it needs. Toss the junk and fill your kitchen with fresh, whole foods. Run, swim, bike, walk – sweat! Good health is essential for having the energy, stamina and outlook to tackle your goals and dreams.

10. Letting go is part of moving on to something better. You will not get what you truly deserve if you’re too attached to the things you’re supposed to let go of. Sometimes you love, and you struggle, and you learn, and you move on. And that’s okay. You must be willing to let go of the life you planned for so you can enjoy the life that is waiting for you.

11. This moment is a gift. The truth is, your whole life has been leading up to this moment. Think about that for a second. Every single thing you’ve gone through in life, every high, every low, and everything in between, has led you to this moment right now. This moment is priceless, and it’s the only moment guaranteed to you. This moment is your ‘life.’ Don’t miss it.


12. Your choices design your life. You have a choice each and every single day. Choose to appreciate what you have. Choose to make time for yourself. Choose to do something that makes you smile. Choose to be excited. Choose to laugh at your own silliness. Choose to spend time with positive people. Choose to be persistent with your goals. Choose to try again and again. Within your choices lie all the tools and resources you need to design the life of your dreams, it’s just a matter of choosing wisely."

"Life Is Inconvenient..."

"One of life's best coping mechanisms is to know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire – then you’ve got a problem. Everything else is an inconvenience. Life is inconvenient. Life is lumpy. A lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat and a lump in the breast are not the same kind of lump. One needs to learn the difference."
- Robert Fulghum

The Daily "Near You?"

Eisleben, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany. Thanks for stopping by!

The Poet: William Stafford, "The Gift"

"The Gift"

"Time wants to show you a different country. It's the one
that your life conceals, the one waiting outside
when curtains are drawn, the one Grandmother hinted at
in her crochet design, the one almost found
over at the edge of the music, after the sermon.

It's the way life is, and you have it, a few years given.
You get killed now and then, violated
in various ways. (And sometimes it's turn about.)
You get tired of that. Long-suffering, you wait
and pray, and maybe good things come - maybe
the hurt slackens and you hardly feel it any more.
You have a breath without pain. It is called happiness.

It's a balance, the taking and passing along,
the composting of where you've been and how people
and weather treated you. It's a country where
you already are, bringing where you have been.
Time offers this gift in its millions of ways,
turning the world, moving the air, calling,
every morning, "Here, take it, it's yours."

- William Stafford

Musical Interlude: 2002, “An Ocean Apart”

2002, “An Ocean Apart”

"The Only Final Sin..."

 "In a closed society where everybody's guilty, the only crime is
getting caught. In a world of thieves, the only final sin is stupidity."
- Hunter S. Thompson

"How It Really Is"

“The NSA: ‘It's A Blackmail Agency’"

“The NSA: ‘It's A Blackmail Agency’"
by Paul Craig Roberts

"The main function of the National Security Administration is to collect the dirt on members of the house and senate, the staffs, principal contributors, and federal judges. The dirt is used to enforce silence about the crimes of the security agencies. The blackmail mechanism was put into gear the minute the news reported that the House Intelligence Committee had assembled proof that the FBI, DOJ, and DNC created Russiagate as a conspiracy to unseat President Trump. Members of Congress with nothing to hide demanded the evidence be released to the public.

Of course, it was to be expected that release of the facts would be denounced by Democrats, but Republicans, such as Rep. Mike Conaway (R, Texas), himself a member of the committee, joined in the effort to protect the Democrats and the corrupt FBI and DOJ from exposure. Hiding behind national security concerns, Conaway opposes revealing the classified information. “That’d be real dangerous,” he said.

As informed people know, 95% of the information that is classified is for purposes that have nothing to do with national security. The House Intelligence Committee memo has no information in it related to any security except that of Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Hillary, Obama, Mueller, Rosenstein, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, the DNC, and the presstitute media.

The logical assumption is that every member of Congress opposed to informing the American public of the Russiagate conspiracy to unseat the President of the United States is being blackmailed by the security agencies who planned, organized, and implemented the conspiracy against the President of the United States and American democracy.”
Related:
Trump Victory and FBI Brass Using Secret ‘Untraceable’ Phones to Talk About Hillary"

Not to be paranoid, but if this blog falls off the world...

"Who Profits From The Loss of Our Privacy?"; "Who Killed Michael Hastings?"

"Who Profits From The Loss of Our Privacy?"
by Eric Peters

"Who owns the data culled by your car? And - more to the point - who is profiting from it? And why aren’t they cutting us a check, at least? All new cars - and most cars built over the past decade or so – have data recorders and this data is not only stored but can be - in newer cars - transmitted back to the manufacturer (e.g., General Motors) without the knowledge of the car’s owner. That is, you.

Nominally, consent is required before the manufacturer may filch your data  - and “filch” isn’t even the right word, because what we are talking about is continuous, real-time monitoring of the vehicle’s speed, how quickly it accelerates (and decelerates), where the car is at any given time (and how long it stays there), even what the driver is listening to on the radio - keep in mind that everything in a new/late-model car is “connected” - but many people don’t realize that the “consent” form that gives access to all this data is buried in the paperwork they sign when they buy or lease the car.

Most people do not read the entirety of these document, which are written in Talmudic small-print legalese and for exactly that purpose (i.e., to glaze over the eyes of the already weary customer so that he will simply sign - anything, at this point - in order to be done with it and out of there, at last).

Having John Hancocked the paperwork, “their” car becomes a kind of four-wheeled Chatty Cathy, constantly “sharing” the data it collects. In the newest cars, this could and likely does include whatever is said in the car (there are microphones in almost all new cars, part of the hands-free cell phone/voice recognition system) as well as whatever is texted (most new cars pipe your phone’s data through the car’s system, which means the car has access to the data and thus, so does GM or Honda or whomever). Lovely, isn’t it?

So, what do they do with this data? Ask Lisa Joy Rosner. She is the chief marketing officer for a data mining company called Otonomo - which “partners” with the car manufacturers to make money off all that data, by selling it to interested parties. And who might be interested? Pretty much any company that hopes to sell you something. The data helps them construct a profile of you, determine or at least project your inclinations  - and then targets you for The Sell.

The movie, "Minority Report," gave us a preview of this promiscuous intrusiveness back in 2002. As Tom Cruise, the lead character, walks down the street, he’s accosted by targeted ads that Sell to him, specifically, based on data about him culled by The System.
This is not the future anymore. It is our present.

Lisa Joy explains: “The thing the car manufacturers realize now is that they’re not only hardware companies anymore, they’re software companies...“ What she means is that your car is like your computer - which keeps cookies of your browsing habits, which are then used to direct certain ads your way. Except it’s more than that - per the above. Your laptop/desktop does not monitor your movements or transmit the conversations you have inside your home - not yet. Your car does. Or can.

Meanwhile, are you being cut in? Leaving aside the nettlesome - the disturbing - privacy issues, there is the issue of these data mining operations not paying you - the owner of the mine - a cent for the data they mine and profit from. Authors get royalties. Not much, but something. Landlords get rent. Lenders get interest. We produce and provide the data - but Otonomo, et al, get all the coin generated. Such a deal!

Otonomo “cleans up” the data ever-so-helpfully provided by their “partners” - the car companies but produced by us - and then “helps (the car companies) commercialize it,” Rosner says. “The automaker gets a revenue share on every piece of data that is consumed.” 

Yes, but what about the “consumer”? The ugly word used to describe the people being milked like factory farm dairy cows by Otonomo and similar data-mining operations. And also by the car companies, which are as complicit in this as the Catholic Church is with regard to kid-touching priests.  At least it’s possible to avoid the kid-touching priest by staying far, far away from him or those who might be like him. “Connected” cars, on the other hand, cannot be avoided except by not buying them. Which might not be a bad idea, come to think of it.”
A Comment: Stealing your personal data may be the least of your worries if you've become an irritant to the intelligence agencies and/or other entities. As you'll see, it's now easy to forcibly take control of your car, drive it remotely, accelerate it to 100 mph, then perhaps drive it into a tree or off a cliff. Terrible accident, everyone will think. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't... Decide for yourself. As for "privacy"? Surely you're not so naive as to believe that exists now, are you? You're delusional and uninformed if you do...

"Who Killed Michael Hastings?"
by Jerome R. corsi, et al

"Before his death in a fiery car crash, Michael Hastings was preparing to publish a major investigative piece tied to the undercover agent who is suspected of sanitizing President Obama’s passport records prior to the 2008 presidential election. Hastings, 33 years old at the time of his death, wrote for Gentleman’s Quarterly, Rolling Stone and Buzzfeed, reporting on national security issues. His June 2010 article in Rolling Stone featuring remarks highly critical of the Obama administration made by Gen. Stanley McChrystal - then the commander of allied forces in Afghanistan - led to President Obama relieving McChrystal of command.

Hastings died when his Mercedes, traveling at a high rate of speed, crossed into the median on a deserted Highland Avenue at 4:20 a.m. and struck a tree. The automobile burst into flames, charring Hastings’ body so badly that it took several days to make a positive identification.

Los Angeles newspapers have suggested Hastings had become obsessed with Edward Snowden’s revelations about the National Security Agency’s massive domestic surveillance capabilities and with disclosures the Department of Justice had obtained of the phone records of Associated Press reporters.

His neighbor and close friend, Jordanna Thigpen, told the LA Weekly that just before his death, Hastings’ behavior had become erratic because of his increasing concerns that helicopters commonly seen in the Hollywood Hills were spying on him and that his Mercedes had been tampered with. “He was scared, and he wanted to leave town,” Thigpen told the newspaper. She recalled that the night before his death, Hastings asked Thigpen if he could borrow her Volvo because he was afraid to drive his own car.

A security video that captured Hastings’ car crash showed a flash of light before the car hit the tree, raising suspicions Hastings’ death may have been caused by an explosion. San Diego 6 News has reported that a witness in a nearby business is claiming the explosion occurred before Hastings’ car hit the tree. An explosion before impact, which would slow down the vehicle, would explain the minimal damage observed on the palm tree. Other physical evidence at the crash site also is not consistent with a high-speed, out-of-control impact.”
"Hackers Prove Car Hacking Can Get Much Worse”
by Andy Greenberg

“At the Black Hat security conference later this week, automotive cybersecurity researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek will present a new arsenal of attacks against the same 2014 Jeep Cherokee they hacked in 2015. Last year, they remotely hacked into the car and paralyzed it on highway I-64 - while I was driving in traffic. They could even disable the car's brakes at low speeds. By sending carefully crafted messages on the vehicle's internal network known as a CAN bus, they're now able to pull off even more dangerous, unprecedented tricks like causing unintended acceleration and slamming on the car's brakes or turning the vehicle's steering wheel at any speed. "Imagine last year if instead of cutting the transmission on the highway, we'd turned the wheel 180 degrees," says Chris Valasek. I can imagine. But he spells it out anyway. "You wouldn’t be on the phone with us. You’d be dead."
"Per New York Magazine: "At 4:20 a.m. on Tuesday, June 18, Hastings’s silver Mercedes C250 coupe, speeding south on Highland Avenue, crossed Melrose, jumped the median, hit a palm tree, and exploded. The charred body of the driver was identified by the Los Angeles coroner as John Doe 117 until fingerprints confirmed that the deceased was Michael Hastings."

Before the accident, Hastings sent an email to his colleagues at BuzzFeed, where he was working at the time, saying government agents had been speaking to people close to him. A former counter-terrorism advisor to former President Ronald Reagan told the Huffington Post in 2013 that it was possible government forces hacked Hastings' car in order to assassinate him, but the theory met opposition. The issue largely lay dormant until WikiLeaks confirmed the CIA's capabilities.

"As of October 2014 the CIA was also looking at infecting the vehicle control systems used by modern cars and trucks," WikiLeaks said in a press release. "The purpose of such control is not specified, but it would permit the CIA to engage in nearly undetectable assassinations." While the timeline WikiLeaks suggests doesn't fit with the timing of Hastings' death, the confluence of government interest in hacking vehicles may prove that he was on to something.”
"The idea of a car being hacked into remotely and used as a murder weapon was quickly dismissed by the mainstream media as a wild conspiracy theory, though, and considered "too futuristic", even for the CIA, whom Hastings had made high-ranking enemies. The former BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone writer was said to be investigating the CIA at the time he was killed and was also threatening a devastating exposé on the Central Intelligence Agency Director John O. Brennan when he died, and even asked to borrow his neighbors car the day before he died as he feared someone was trying to tamper with his own car. WikiLeaks released the much-anticipated Vault7 leaks of classified CIA documents exposing a number of hidden operations. One of the revelations from the release was the CIA's development of technology that allowed them to hack into any modern car, truck or airplane and control it remotely with the sole intention of murdering the occupants in a way that looks like an accident..."
"How to Hack a Car: Phreaked Out"
"Here Is How Hackers Can Remotely Take Control Of Your Car"
"Hacking into your computer and phone was bad enough, but this take the fear for cyber attacks to a whole new level. Hackers can now take over your car's controls, while you are driving. Some cars use the Uconnect system, an entertainment center that is installed in a number of vehicles and connects to the internet allowing the owner to remotely turn on the engine, track the vehicle through GPS and has a few anti-theft features. This is the way in for the hackers, who are able to take over your steering wheel and breaks to remotely control your car. According to ZDNet,"as many as 471,000 vehicles in the US are said to be affected by the vulnerability."

Monday, January 22, 2018

“Ding Dong…The Witch Ain’t Dead”

“Ding Dong…The Witch Ain’t Dead”
by Bill Bonner

"Oh, Dear Reader, imagine our alarm! Feel our pain! We were like the boy who saw on the news that his school was on fire. When we left the office on Friday… the federal government was just hours from shutting down! We crossed our fingers… and dreamt of Eden.

As St. Paul might have said, from now on, even those who have wives will be as though they had none, those who have wealth will be as paupers, and those who voted Republican will be treated as Democrats…

Never-Ending Scam: On Sunday morning, we rose from our bed and looked out our window, expecting to see the smoke in the distance. But the sky was clear. The power still worked in the house. It was warm. The water worked, too. Later in the day, we went about our business as usual - we went to church and the hardware store. You can imagine our disappointment. Everything was as before. Ding dong, the witch was not dead.

Bigger, Deeper, Slimier: Almost all the coverage of President Trump’s first year in office - and the ‘shutdown’ - misses the point. The Wall Street Journal, for example, headlined its lead story on Friday with: ‘The Year That Upended Washington’.

‘The Donald’ has rustled feathers. He has said things others wanted to say, but had the good sense to keep their mouths shut. He has offended and embarrassed millions… and appalled millions more. But he has not upended much of anything. Conservatives and rabble-rousers can get an applause promising to ‘Drain the Swamp’. But who really wants to? Even the most die-hard conservatives - if there are any left - don’t want this show to end; they’ve got front-row seats!

No, Dear Reader, the government will not shut down. The Swamp is still there - bigger, deeper, and slimier than ever - and open for business. Mr. Trump’s $30 billion border wall will add a few inches of water. The $80 billion of additional military, industrial, and anti-terrorism boondoggles will raise the water level still more. And the tax bill - that should be good for almost a foot.

Taken together, they will bring the feds’ borrowing in 2019 to $1.2 trillion. That’s more than President George H.W. Bush created in his entire four-year term. And he sent troops into Kuwait… oversaw the federal bailout that ended the 1989 Savings and Loan Crisis… and presided over the 1991 recession, which ate into the government’s tax take. Imagine what will happen when trouble comes for Mr. Trump’s administration. 

New Credit Crisis: Trouble is always our focus here at the Diary… and recently, we’ve been wondering how the scam ends. Increases to federal spending, and unproductive ‘private’ spending commanded by the feds, appear to be unstoppable. In addition to spending by the military-industrial-anti-terrorism complex, there are also the transfers to the domestic health-education-welfare complex.

About 10,000 boomers retire every day. As they do, open-ended federal programs - particularly Obamacare - spend more money. Politically, these ‘entitlements’ are almost impossible to stop, since both the Deep State cronies and the lumpen zombies support them. But where is the money going to come from?

Almost unnoticed in last week’s salacious news was a little item on page B1 of the Journal: ‘Treasury Yield Hits 3-Year High.’ Coming into focus is an immovable object. After falling for 30 years, bond yields are now going back up. The yield on a 10-year Treasury note hit a 12-month low of about 2% last September. Since then, the yield is up 29%. Central banks all over the world are realizing that they need to tighten up so that they’ll have some ‘ammunition’ available when the next credit crisis hits. Interest rates are rising.

Sirens’ Call: Ours is an economy that lives on debt. If lenders were unable to extend more credit - or if interest rates were to spike up - the whole kit-and-caboodle would implode. That is what a credit crisis does. All of a sudden, the money disappears… interest rates soar… and households and corporations – whom the feds have trained to depend on cheap, plentiful credit - go broke. And then, what can the authorities do?

Let’s see… They can admit they made a horrible mistake, actually shut down parts of the government, and let the system purge out the bad debt, inflated asset prices, and excess spending. Or they can do as scoundrels always do: Lie, cheat, and steal.”

X22 Report, "The Cabal Begins Operation 'Wetwork', Time To Cover Their Tracks"

X22 Report, "The Cabal Begins Operation 'Wetwork', 
Time To Cover Their Tracks"
Related followup report:
X22 Report, “Everything Has Put Into Place To Slow 
The Collapse To Prepare For The Transition”

"When That Day Comes..."

"If you had one last breath - what would you say? If you had one hour to use your limbs before you would lose the use of them forever - would you sit there on the coach? If you knew that you wouldn't see tomorrow who would you make amends with? If you knew you had only an hour left on this earth - what would be so pressing that you just had to do it, say it, or see it? Well there is something that I can guarantee - that one day you will have one day, one hour and one breath left. Just make sure that before that day that you have said, done and experienced everything that you dream of doing now. Do it now - that is what today is for. So pick up the phone and call an old friend that you have fallen out of touch with. Get out and run a mile and use your body and sweat. Seek out someone in your life to say you're sorry to. Seek someone In your life that you need to thank. Seek someone in your life that you need to express your feelings of love to. Then when that day comes you will be ok with it all."
- John A. Passaro

Musical Interlude: Chuck Wild, Liquid Mind, “When Time Slows (Born Star)”

Chuck Wild, Liquid Mind, “When Time Slows (Born Star)”

""We Are Dead Stars"

"We Are Dead Stars:
Every Cell In Your Body Is Infused With The Collapse Of A Star“
by Cate Matthews

“Living shoulder-to-shoulder on a small blue planet zooming through an ever-expanding universe, it's easy to feel very, very small. But what we are is actually pretty incredible. "We are dead stars looking back up at the sky," Dr. Michelle Thaller, astronomer and science communicator at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, says in a recent video posted by "The Atlantic":


Every single cell in our bodies contains elements created in the burning center of a collapsing star- from the iron in our blood to every bit of calcium in our bones and keratin in our hair. That's because in the very early days of the universe that followed the Big Bang, only the simplest elements existed, like hydrogen. "The only thing in the universe that can make a bigger atom is a star," Thaller says. "The entire periodic table, every element you've ever heard of, was processed inside the body of a star. And that star then unraveled or exploded, and here we are." 

It's like what celebrated astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has said, echoing Carl Sagan: if you feel insignificant given the immensity of the cosmos, you're not looking at it in the right way. "We are not just figuratively but literally made of stardust. And that is no small thing.”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Galaxies of the NGC 7771 Group are featured in this intriguing skyscape. Some 200 million light-years distant toward the constellation Pegasus, NGC 7771 is the large, edge-on spiral near center, about 75,000 light-years across, with two smaller galaxies just below it. Large spiral NGC 7769 is seen face-on to the right. 
 Click image for larger size.
Galaxies of the NGC 7771 group are interacting, making repeated close passages that will ultimately result in galaxy-galaxy mergers on a cosmic timescale. The interactions can be traced by galaxy distortions and faint streams of stars created by gravitational tides. But a clear view of the galaxy group is difficult to come by, as the deep image also reveals extensive clouds of foreground dust sweeping across the field. The dim, dusty nebulae reflect starlight from our own Milky Way Galaxy and lie only a few hundred light-years above the galactic plane.”

Chet Raymo, "Why Not?"

"Why Not?"
by Chet Raymo

"A reader asked: "If we are all one and made out of the same material- then the things that we make are made out of the same material. But they are not animate. Why not?" At first glance, this might seem like a naive question, one that we all know the answer to. On reflection, it turns out to be terribly profound. Or should I have said, "wonderfully profound"?

Yes, everything, animate and inanimate, is made of the same stuff - the 92 naturally-occurring elements - but all of the animate things we know about are made mainly of carbon compounds - carbon in combination with with hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and a smattering of other elements- the compounds we study in organic chemistry. Carbon atoms have a knack for joining up in a rich variety of ways.

But all things made of carbon compounds are not animate. The petrochemical and pharmaceutical industries produce gobs of carbon-based products that are not alive, including paints and explosives.

Of course, some things we make are animate. Babies. Gardens. And we use animate matter to make inanimate things. Bread. Yogurt. Antibiotics. It is probably only a matter of time before researchers make animate matter from inanimate stuff- life in a test-tube (but then, since researchers were involved, you can say this is also life making life). And we have made some rather remarkable life simulations in computers. But none of this answers Liz's question.

Life makes life, that's part of its definition. But what is it? The biologist Lynn Margulis with her son Dorian Sagan tried to answer the question in their book What Is Life? They give a terrific scientific accounting of what we know, but when it comes down to answering Liz's question they are reduced to such definitions as: "a material process, sifting and surfing over matter like a strange, slow wave"; "the watery, membrane-bound encapsulation of spacetime"; "a planetary exuberance"; "existence's celebration." None of which get us any closer to the heart of the mystery.

Biologists have long ago given up the idea of a "vital spirit" or "spark of life," which really added no more to our understanding than the gushy exuberances of Margulis and Sagan. We have every reason to believe that "the spark of life" is matter and energy- in effect, a self-perpetuating, self-catalyzing chemical reaction. But we don't know how the reaction got started and why it sustains itself as it does.

This we do know: It is going on in every one of the trillions of cells of my body even as I write - each cell a ceaseless hive of activity, each cell a tiny crucible containing a smidgen of that ongoing chemical reaction that has animated the surface of the planet for four billion years, and maybe animates the universe."

The Poet: Mary Oliver, “I Worried”

“I Worried”

“I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?
Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?
Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.
Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?
Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.”

-  Mary Oliver

"Time..."

"Someone once told me that time is a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey, that reminds us to cherish every moment because they'll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we live it. After all, Number One, we're only mortal."
- "Jean-Luc Picard"

"Time is the fire in which we burn..."
- "Dr. Soren"

“Life After The Afterlife”

“Life After The Afterlife”
by The Zman

“Is it possible for humans to have a transcendent moral code if they no longer believe in an afterlife? Some Christians today argue that it is impossible to have any sort of morality without belief in Christ, but that’s largely a self-serving claim. God’s role in the affairs of man, in the Christian context, is primarily as the ruler of Heaven. Those, who live a moral life, a Christian life, will spend eternity in Heaven at the foot of Christ. The people who live wicked lives, will be condemned to an eternity out of the sight of God.

All of the world’s great religions have an afterlife. The Abrahamic faiths, of course, all share a similar conception of Heaven and Hell, with God ruling the former and Satan ruling the latter. Eastern religions have more esoteric and mystical approaches. Buddhists believe in a cycle of death and rebirth. Through eventual enlightenment, they hope to escape this and achieve Nirvana, an end to suffering. Hindus believe that through knowledge and wisdom, you can achieve a liberation of the soul in the afterlife.

The conception of an afterlife as a reward and an escape from human suffering is relatively new to humanity. The Greeks did not have an afterlife. A Greek lived his life so he would be remembered. Maybe his shade would end up in Hades, but that was not much of a reward. The morality of the Greeks assumed that punishment for angering the gods happened in this life. Sacrifices to the gods were all about getting good fortune now, not after death. The gods played an active role in the affairs of man, only while he lived.

The Egyptians had an afterlife, but it was only for the elite. Given their habit of burying servants with the dead, the afterlife could also include the attendants. Like the great man’s other possessions buried with him, it was assumed he would need some slaves and servants once he entered the afterlife. It does not appear that this conception of an afterlife spawned a corresponding moral code. It was not a reward for a life lived well, but a reward for having been born to the right parents and the right station in life.

It is largely believed that the people who gave mankind the concept of an afterlife, one open to everyone who lived righteously, were the Zoroastrians. They believed those who lived on the side of good spent the after life in the House of Song, which they also called the Abode of Light. The Zoroastrians taught that everyone, who followed a proper code, could live forever and that the soul mattered. Those who sided with evil in this life would be condemned to an eternity of darkness and torment.

The Zoroastrians also gave us the duality of God on one side and Satan on the other. They used different terms. Ahura Mazda is the creator of the world and father of the two spirits, Spenta Mainyu and Angra Mainyu. The former is the “good” spirit, the latter, is the destructive  and evil one. This conflict between good and evil is central to Zoroastrianism and provided the foundation of their moral philosophy. It is also the first known example of a religion basing a moral code on something beyond the here and now.

The Jews picked this up from their time in captivity. The Pentateuch has no reference to Satan, but the Book of Job, written much later, has the familiar Satan figure. In Daniel, Heaven and Hell appear for the first time. Given the history of the Jewish people at this time, it is most likely that they borrowed these concepts from the Zoroastrians. The Satan that Jesus describes is pretty much the Zoroastrian Angra Mainyu. Christian morality is entirely built on the concept of the afterlife and the battle between good and evil.

This is why Nietzsche blamed the Zoroastrians for morality. He and most Europeans scholars of the age were familiar with Zoroastrianism and understood its influence on the Abrahamic religions. Thus Spake Zarathustra is his effort to turn Zoroastrian moral philosophy on its head. Rather than an eternity of good versus evil, he has an re-imagined Zarathustra discover his error and correct the mistake of morality. Nietzsche is a tough read, but the implication is there can be no morality without the supernatural.

The question for our age is can we maintain a moral code when no one believes in God or an afterlife? This is clearly something our betters struggle with, even though they don’t think of it in these terms. The New Religion that Progressives are trying to impose upon us has no explicit god or eternal reward for the faithful. Instead, they are forced to conjure mystical stand-ins like the “tides of history” or appeals to nature. Even their appeals to science are really just appeals to an unnamed and mystical deity.

Progressives suffer from the same dilemma. It’s not an accident that you never hear conservative pundits make explicit appeals to Christian morals or even Jewish morality. Instead, they argue that Donald Trump is immoral because he vexes the shade of Ronald Reagan or Bill Buckley. They may not come out and call these guys deities, but they certainly treat them as prophets. Put another way, lacking any moral authority they have turned Reagan and Buckley into apostles of a messiah that is never mentioned.

This is, of course, the root of our current cultural troubles. For example, on whose authority was racism made a mortal sin? If it is, what happens when you commit this crime? From whom do you ask forgiveness? If the racist and the anti-racist molder in the same ground together after death, what’s the point of being a devout anti-racist? Perhaps that’s the real reason Progs are digging up Confederate soldiers. They lack an afterlife beyond the graveyard, so that will be their heaven and only the righteous will be buried.

Now, it does not follow that we are condemned to an age of might makes right. The Greeks got along fine without worrying about the afterlife. They did have a set of gods, who had to be mollified. Otherwise, bad things would happen to man in this life. Given the shape of our nature cults and the fanaticism of our secular elites, it is clear that we have not evolved past the point of needing a transcendent morality. That suggests some new deity will replace the Christian god and we get a new conception of the afterlife.

Alternatively, the recent efforts to fashion a civic religion will founder as it lacks the necessary moral authority to induce voluntary compliance. The Christianity that flowered in the middle ages may be on the ropes, but something new will surely spring from its ruins. Perhaps the flood of Islam into the West is part of that process. That’s not to say that the West will embrace Islam, but that the soul abhors a vacuum. Maybe we are on the edge of a great religious experiment, like that which birthed Zoroastrianism.”