Saturday, October 21, 2006

"Gnomics of Fairy Tales With Wilbrod"

WILBROD the gnome sits crosslegged on a floating carpet, behind a heavy oak table in news-announcer fashion, backed by a wall showing a large talking MIRROR, various paintings of the Big Bad Wolf, The Wicked Queen, and Tom Thumb. On the table are various wands, crystal balls, garish jewelry, and seven-league boots.
The MIRROR forms the words "Gnomics of Fairy Tales" out of smoke and then goes blank.

"Once upon a time there was a story called Silverhair, about a nasty, withered old crone that broke into a bears' home, vandalized it, stealing food and making herself at home. The story ends with the bears eating her up in revenge. Over time, the story changed. Silver turned into gold, age into youth, malice into charm, and the villainess into a heroine. The story is now called Goldilocks, and Goldilocks, unlike Silverhair, triumphs.

Such a transmutation has always been a mystery to the gnomic reader. This week, a forensic fable team has been dispatched to the scene to puzzle the true story out. Cindy, our ace reporter and seamstress, is there right now.

(The magic MIRROR expands and doubles as a large TV screen as zoom-in music plays. Dissolve to Cindy standing in front of the bears' cottage).

The forensic team is busy at work now that the bears have been tranked and taken to a local zoo. As you can see, this cottage is not a house where bears share freely. Look at those gouges tracing out the personal spaces on the floor around the table, on the table itself, and the paths to each bear's own doorway. You can see this three-bedroom cottage was a thoroughly divided house.

The bears were brusque but never savage until they saw their home invaded, not by WOMEN of any age, but a FOX, a skulking mass murderer of chickens who had put their clean cottage into chaos with porridge all over the house. The bears united to attack the fox.

The poulets down the road are even now petitioning the courts for their neighbors' release out of gratitude for their slaying the vulpine victimizer. Here comes the head of the fairy tale forensic and salvage team."

(Large, disembodied HEAD floats up)

"We completed the porridge analysis. It appears the fox had gorged on three different porridges flavored by three different sedatives never meant to be mixed together. We are satisfied by the bears' vet that there was no foul play concerning the porridges, and that in fact, they routinely cooked and ate their porridge separately to prevent drug interactions. As a result, the fox staggered and fell asleep in the baby bear's bed, never to wake up again, even when attacked by the bears."

"Is there any speculation as to the allegory behind this tale as of yet?"

'We have not yet identified all the allegories. "Don't cross a bear" as well as "A house divided against itself will unify against others", are two possibles.
We DO know now this story should be called The Fox and the Three Bears instead of Silverhair or Goldilocks, and that "Taste not what is not yours" is a always a good moral to remember."

"That is a lot of allegories to track down! What about the goat incidents at the Trolls' bridge? Will that be also investigated for further meaning?"

FORENSIC HEAD (groaning):
"I don't do goats, too gruff."

(Fade back to WILBROD)

"Before we say good night, stop and think before you relate the tale of Goldilocks. Why is Goldilocks spun as a hero and allowed to escape punishment? We will discuss spin doctors and the moral erosion of storytelling next week on the newest Gnomics of Fairy Tales. Thank you for watching."

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Taoist look at Nonviolence

I was just reading an article on nonviolence. Dr. Jane Hurst made me dig out my old Gandhi reading and think a bit more about this subject and the principle of nonviolent resistance in general, and from a Taoist perspective.

Jewish martyrs were recorded in 1 Maccabees. Jews died rather than worship pagan gods as required by Roman law, but not always peacefully. They rebelled quite often and it was an armed revolt against the Romans after Jesus' death, that finally led to the Jewish Diaspora from Israel and the renaming as Palestine. 
I once studied the history of Sikhism.
Who could not like a monotheistic religion that says that "Women are the conscience of men?"

Guru Nanak, who started Sikhism, was able to sing of the wonders of God and love while living under the brutal rule of Moghul emperors in the 1400's, a grossly unequal world with routine brutality. Human life was valueless. People died young in war or childbirth. Rich people bought whatever or whomever they wanted. And here Guru Nanak was talking about equality. It made me understand the world of Jesus better.
Large picture of white lilies with pink centers, the symbol of peace
Taoism holds that an excess of one thing always leads to an excess of its opposite. As Shakespeare wrote in King Henry the Fourth, Part I; "Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety." You can as easily change the words for "violence" and "love" and describe the teachings of Guru Nanak and Jesus.
Jesus preached peace, turning the other cheek and seeking out the kingdom of heaven, when Jews wanted badly to overthrow Roman rule. Yet, Christianity became the national religion of the Roman Empire in 313 AD!

Historians would call this irony. Taoists would call it the Way. Take the story of Gandhi and the Indians struggling against their British overlords.This is how the British came to rule India in the first place.
Indian society itself had many problems-- feudalism, casteism, poverty. Mohandas Gandhi came to India, was hailed as the leader of the independence movement, and he said no, I need to learn Indian problems first. He worked on those, and preached nonviolent disobedience called satyagraha (truth power), urging people to ignore certain laws and die for it if need be. Satyagraha could not be undertaken with doubts. He led by persuasion and many chose to follow his example. Not all.
The infamous Salt March was the incident that shook the British Empire. Many civil rights battles since have followed this example of targeting a specific unjust law designed to oppress: Rosa Parks refusing to give up seats at buses, de-segregating lunch counters.
Violence continued. Indians rioted after massacres, and tens of thousands of Indians died in the struggles which took over 20 years. Gandhi himself halted his campaign of civil disobedience at least twice.
By WWII, Gandhi had started his final disobedience campaign-- "Quit India."

This time, Gandhi said, individual acts of violence would not stop the civil disobedience movement. Hmm. He also said himself that if there was a choice between violence and cowardice, he might recommend violence. India became independent after WWII, without any organized battle, unlike the American War of Independence, which had 6 years and caused less than 8,000 deaths in battle and perhaps 20,000-25,000 deaths overall.
Yet by the time the British ceded, there were over 100,000 political prisoners to be freed, and ten of thousands dead. Nearly 1 million would die during the partition of India and Pakistian.

Nothing is as simple as it looks on the surface. Extremes will chaotically oscillate to various extremes until a new balance is found. I end with a quote from the Tao Te Chung:


"The cup is easier to hold
when not filled to overflowing.

The blade is more effective
if not tempered beyond its mettle. Picture of a chaotic equation as two interlinked golden filigreed figures on red, purple and blue background.

Gold and jade are easier to protect
if possessed in moderation.
He who seeks titles,
invites his own downfall.

The sage works quietly,
seeking neither praise nor fame;
completing what he does with natural ease,
and then retiring.
This is the way and nature of Tao."

-- Wilbrod, in the lotus position ;).

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Gibbon Island, no Gibbons

Gibbon island at the zoo--a large tower made of stone, with a waterfall, surrounded by green trees beginning to change into fall colors at the edges.
Gibbon island-- for some reason I don't see any gibbons here, but I sure do see a pretty waterfall. For those not in the know, this is at the National Zoo. Their Asia Trail offically opened yesterday, but it was raining all day and, I didn't really want to slog out and take pictures in sog and slush.

Picture of large asphalt walkway showing a vast space, with large scarlet maple turning into fiery red orange colors, surrounded by green trees. Two women can be seen walking down, and a jogger in a white shirt exits the picture on right Thankfully today was a beautiful day, with clear, nearly cloudless blue skies by late afternoon. As you can see, some trees are starting to turn mostly fall colors by now, like this red torch of a maple near Gibbon Island. We covered gobs of zoo today. As for Wilbrodog, he got spooked by a gorilla thumping her chest and banging the glass to get him away from the glass. He decided to bluster a bit-- a woof and a growl, and I took him right out to cool his jets and tell him it is NOT his house and to be quiet and stay away.

I was a bit disappointed that the clouded leopard was difficult to photograph with the netted enclosure. I also realized most of the birds in the birdhouse were difficult to photograph with the striped glass, as well.

I'm going to refer you to Wilbrodog's blog for the low-down. I just know he's not going to mention the gorillas today, though.

Clouded leopard sits with his back to the cage, looking over his shoulder. The spots on the leopard are actually large black-ringed blotches. The head looks rather like a large housecat rather than a lion A toucan extends his beak out from the body so the bird is nearly horizontal in its cradling branch. The beak is tipped with red, streaking back to orange, with blue on the lower bill, and green on the top bill. The feathered head and belly is yellow, with black crest and mantle. The underside of the black tail looks to be red

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Stellar Birthdays and Supernovae

Today is a birthday that I didn't mail certain stuff in time for, so here is a blog devoted to October 17 instead.

In the history of American Independence October 17 was particulary important, and many other things of importance to human civilization occured, but I'm most interested in a certain year, 1604, when Johannes Kepler, trying to figure out the music of celestial spheres saw a sudden star in a constellation named Ophiuchus, the Serpent Holder, unknown to most people. Ophiuchus could be either of two guys who crossed Ceres and got divine and serpentine retribution in exchange. Or Hercules, who whacked snakes from infancy onwards. Another theory is it's Aeskulapius (Aesculapius) healing Glaucus, son of Minos after a snake bite. This confusion over the symbolism may be why this constellation is the "thirteenth" and forgotten astrological sign.
Kepler's drawing of the constellation Ophiucus shows a bearded greek man looking up to the right at an arm with a sword hacking behind his back at the serpent entwined around his torso. The man has his hands down at his sides, gripping at the serpent. His left foot seems to be stepping on a rather large bug which represents another constellation-- maybe Scorpio? His right ankle, to the picture's left, has a N on it which represents Kepler's supernova

This is Kepler's original drawing, with N at the ankle indicating the location of the supernova. Its remmant, thanks to the artistry of NASA combining photographs from 3 different telescopes, remains quite a firework spectacle.

Six part picture showing different telesocope images. the top 3 pictures show the full images, the botton 3 show blow-up portions of the same images.  Captions are X ray, Chandra X ray observatory for the lefthand images, which are in blue and whitish grey.  The center images are captioned as visible images from the Hubble Telescope, much less visible and mostly reddish.  The righthand images are infrared images from the Spitzer Space telescope, colored in red-orange with brilliant blue-white spots

The resulting image (Note the tongue action):

The combined image of Kepler's supernova is mostly blue-green with a red-purple glow on the upper and side edges, with a large protusion of red with green and yellow splotches. This looks rather like a large green-blue ball sticking its tongue out at us

Speak of a stellar illustration for The Hitchhiker's guide to the Galaxy.

We should also all already know that we are stardust. Many of the heavier elements are only made in supernovas.

The physics of supernova collapse is still being studied.

Kepler's supernova remmant will continue accelerating for millenia, expanding to a radius of dozens or hundred light-years wide, and helping to seed the neighborhood with heavy elements. Our earth would not exist if it was not for a similar supernova, and in fact the Stardust mission hoped to find atoms older than our sun, from bygone supernovae.

When you consider the universe is roughly 13.7 billion years old, years, let alone birthdays, are more evanescent than the blink of an eye. Yes, I know I'm still in trouble for forgetting to send a birthday card on time.


Monday, October 16, 2006

The heavier you get, the longer you may live-- if you're a superheavy element, that is.

Good ol' number 118 was synthesized and scientists hope they're close to getting a superheavy element that won't instantly fall apart into radioactive decay. The reasons for manufacturing and studying Number 118 are obscure and difficult to explain.

Fortunately, I have undertaken the herculean task of boiling down the complexities of scientific thought and motive into a single technical drawing. Please contact me if you have any questions after this, or your brain has simply fried from the information overload.

Wilbrod's drawing of element 118 as a large, green Incredible hulk, asking how long he must stay the Incredible Hulk. The scientists ringing him in the background say Until we get a full look! Yes, science requires careful study! Another face says Holey Moley! Some of the faces seem to be drooling. A dog wags its tail at a cat across the table Element 118 is standing on. The table is cracking badly under the weight of Element 118

Number 118, as it's code-named in the international world of chemical intrigue, is profiled to be a noble gas, being able to remain aloof from other atoms.
However, like a juggler with too many balls, heavier noble gases such as radon tend to drop a few scruples along with their electrons. In fact, you don't even want to know the names that radon gets called by the other elements. Houseowners who find radon in their house come close in general timbre, though.

So, Number 118, if it remains stable, may well find itself in compromising bonds with other elements, and thus get information extracted before he decays again. 007, we may have a job for you.

In other chemical news, soon periodic table-turners will be busy discussing the differences between bohrium and barium.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Sleep deprivation & ADHD

The Gallaudet saga has put me in mind of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which I must re-read. Meanwhile, beating the pavement once again tomorrow.

Everybody knows certain people with ADHD and more energy than should be allowed by law without a nuclear facility license and government regulation. If you've ever felt the urge to strap them to something, you might be on the right track.

Apparently, deep pressure, popularized for use in autistic therapy by Temple Grandin who found it helped soothe herself, does have its benefits for some kids with ADHD.

And of course, if you want to save money, kill two birds with a stone, and set up a treadmill connected to a generator for them so they can exercise fully and also help power the electricity in your house. Give them a video game to play while they run, and they'll burn off a few hours without noticing.

That said, if you want them to pay attention a bit more the next day, ensuring a good night's sleep without snoring may be the key.

Cute picture of large teddy bear being hugged by a male sleeper. The teddy bear is framed by a pillow with a floral pattern on white, and tucked into a jade-colored comforter

One way to resolve this could be to play didgeridoo. The question of course, is WHAT is didgeridoo?

Ah. Instead of getting your kids hooked on phonics, get them hooked on saxophones. Or tubas. Tubas are good. Just buy earplugs for the whole neighborhood.

And speaking of the blindlingly obvious-- people who can't keep their legs still are more likely to have ADHD. The origin of restless legs is unknown, but in many cases, iron supplemention helps.

Although I doubt that kids have those following adult risk factors for restless legs syndrome other than unemployment, one hopes. Please keep your kid thin, non-smoking and unexposed to second-hand smoke, at least.

Well, tubaplaying to prevent ADHD? Hey, you only have your hearing to lose.

Next: Why the old man played knick-knack on his thumb...

Tim Rarus, dressed in jeans and a suede jacket stands, listening, in Gallaudet University's College Hall
I talked to some of the people involved in the Gallaudet University protest yesterday while Wilbrodog enjoyed the campus visit. They seem well-organized, ready to brainstorm new ideas and stay in it for the long haul if need be. Apparently most of them got out of Sing Sing rather quickly. Here's a picture of Tim Rarus after the arrest.

If you scroll down and read the letter by the Clerc center staff, you have a rather good idea of why many people literally believe that to let Fernandes lead Gallaudet would be to destroy it. Meanwhile, Joel Achenbach has a nice rough draft on strong women.