Ross Barlow

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  1. Brant and Bill, Thanks for thinking of me in my corner of the world. Yes, we are okay here on the northern rim of greater Bangkok, peaceful but staying at home over the Songkran traditional Thai New Year holiday. It’s just politics as usual. We have had some electrical outages (in the hottest and most humid time of year), internet crashes and Asian-brand computer viruses, but otherwise it is normal in our neighborhood. I will reply in more detail under another thread, perhaps in the News forum here at OL. -Ross Barlow.
  2. Well, I’ll be goddamned. It seems that the spirit of liberty is still alive and kicking in the good old USA. Good news to hear. I give homage to all of you who attended your local events. Let us hope that it becomes a regular event. It is one wholesome all-American message. I now live in Thailand – where we’ve been having our own exciting demonstrations (more on that later on another thread) – so I am 9,000 miles from my old American hometown and not able to attend. I was there in spirit. But I did access my old hick home-county’s online newspaper, and it covered the events there. Apparently my old hometown of Sugar Grove, Warren County, PA (pop, c. 650) had a Tax Day Tea Party in the town park, and it was organized by a 15-year-old girl from my old high school. You gotta love the radicalism of youth. I’m not sure how many attended, but it made the local news. My old county’s county seat of Warren (pop, c. 1,100) had a similar event that drew over a hundred people at the county courthouse. This is gun-owner country, populated by people who just want to be left alone. I can see them attending every year from now on. All of this reminds me of a song: “1040 Blues” by Robert Cray Band, off his album “Shame + a Sin.” (Lyrics below.) To add extra significance to this song and its performance, Robert Cray is an Afro-American, an actually living black Blues singer and a master of Blues guitar. (Our resident Blues guru, Robert Campbell, may want to chime in here.) My theory on why Cray does not slavishly follow American left-liberal ideology on taxes is that he probably has had economic success through his very fine Blues recordings and performances, and he probably got ambushed by the taxmen. He sings with feeling, "I hate taxes." "1040 Blues" by Robert Cray Band. “Worried, you betcha ya' Discouraged I don't know. Every time I see a 1040, Out of my pocket it goes. “Ow! I hate taxes. “I work hard for my money. Every April you take it all away. Don't you know I work hard for my money every day, people. You take it all away from me. “Ow! Owwww! I hate taxes. Taxes gonna break my back I swear. Don't you know I pay a lot more than my share?. I hate taxes. Taxes gonna break my back I swear. “Can't have any fun anymore. Gotta make plans for everything now. Gotta plan for every thing I do, people. Can't go out and have a real good time. Now I've gotta worry about everything That my little money can buy. “Ohhhh! OWWWWW! I hate taxes. Taxes gonna break my back I swear. Don't you know I paid a lot more than my share “You know I've thinkin' about movin' somewhere else, But I can't because I love America too much, Especially California. Yeah I guess I'm gonna have to pay these taxes If I'm gonna live here. Ohhh!” [from the album “Shame and a Sin,” Robert Cray Band] -Ross Barlow.
  3. Bob, Thanks for posting this. My own (very amateur) science background is in geology, paleontology and related evolutionary theory. This article looks quite sound by my experiences and researches. When one looks at global temperature variations in terms of the *long view* -- of thousands of years, hundreds of thousands, millions, and hundreds of millions of years – then one sees the complex story of radical climate changes that have occurred without human causes. We, humanity, are but a drop in the bucket in terms of global timescales, and climates have bounced all over the place before we even kindled our first fires. -Ross Barlow.
  4. Brant, I am sorry to have missed your rant, as I am sure I would have enjoyed it. I have also had the frustration of losing unfinished posts, not ever here on OL but many times elsewhere in my own internet experiences in the far past. I now try to avoid losing a long laboriously written post by writing it, not on any web-board message box directly, but on a word-processing program (e.g., Word Perfect or MS Word, etc.) and saving it as either a temporary draft or as a permanent document as I go along. Of course, when I’m finished I must Select, Copy, and then Paste it into the web-board’s or the email program’s message box, but that’s only 3 keyboard moves plus a mouse move or two. Some people would call this process a pain in the ass, but it the only way for me, and it is now quick and natural. I have just lost too many writings to glitches in the past. When my computer is first turned on, I open my word-processing program first and then my internet connections and browser. Often I will save and label an entire document on my hard drive because maybe I have put in a lot of historical research or a lot of extra time, thought and work, and I may want to recycle paragraphs later on other fora or to family and friends elsewhere. I also have a MS Word document that I use just for writing drafts and saving temporarily written posts such as this one. When I successfully get it written and posted, then I delete the text on this dedicated document. I am a very, very slow writer as well as a slow and (sometimes!) deliberate thinker who – if I am wise – tries to sleep on a post or message before posting it, working on the earlier draft the next day. But sometimes I do fire from the hip, and at those times I have often been more emotional than rational, and I often regret it. As a very slow thinker, I write many drafts that are never shared. In 3rd grade I was one of the best spellers in my class, but age has really dulled my skills here and I need a spell-checker often. But for me the greatest benefit of using a word-processing program is the Thesaurus function. I would not be without one, because I still feel that I am learning the English language (the only one I read or speak). We both know that Roland Pericles would deride me for depending on a spell-checker, but I have to use it. -Ross Barlow.
  5. I am not familiar with the “Watchmen” graphic novel, but I did see the movie here in Bangkok, and I found it to be very interesting. (I think it is still playing here, and I may try to get my wife interested in seeing it since she likes action flicks and it’s an excuse for me to see it again.) I will probably get the DVD when it comes out here to examine it closer. It is a complex and intriguing story. My favorite part – although it is one among many cynical parts – was when the Comedian faces the NYC rioters with a vintage M-79 grenade launcher, the “Blooper” as we used to affectionately call it. That was my own weapon 40 years ago, and I dearly trusted it. It is an archaic but elegant piece of armament. It was unexpected nostalgia to see it in the film. The “Watchmen” is a different world. It has quite an edgy quality. -Ross Barlow.
  6. Rich, nice move. It is really inspiring. It’s not so much the particular place you move to that is so important but rather the fact that you moved and created a whole new personal pathway. It takes vision and guts. Keep hold of that vision and that excitement. Sometimes a complete break with the inertia of one’s own worn pathways is a great tonic. Cutting loose and traveling light. I share a couple of inspirational heroes with you, Rich. As an utterly broken-down vet in the 1970s, Nathaniel Branden’s books taught me how to “break free” and discover my “disowned self,” and to live a more genuine life. In the early ‘80s, reading George H. Smith’s first book on atheism got me newly curious about Objectivism again. And Barbara Branden’s great biography of Ayn Rand came out at that time and totally revitalized my life, inspiring me to accept no limitations. So I completely changed course, setting out to become a teacher. I have never regretted that radical change of schooling and profession, because it made me a richer man deep inside. A refreshing wind of change. May you flourish, Rich. Keep us posted. One last thing: remember the sunscreen. -Ross Barlow.
  7. Bob, War sucks. It is an intrinsic human trait that is evil. It damages not only innocents but it taints all participants as well as the victors. I still have horrific nightmares after 40 years. I do agree with you about the need for military might for self-defense, but this is never usually held in any kind of rational check, and it ends up being used inappropriately for political ends. And I also realize that you have specified a "just war." Martin Radwin, Thank you so much for quoting the great Marine legend, Smedley Butler from his book, *War is a Racket.* Butler was a bold man, both on and off the field of battle. Below, I hope a bit to add to his honor by telling how his own country betrayed him recently. In USMC boot camp, c. 1968, we recited, after lights-out, either “Good night Smedley Butler, wherever you are,” or “Good night…” to other Marine Corps legendary heroes such as Chesty Puller or Dan Daley. (It was part of our indoctrination.) Their bravery encouraged us and inspired us, goading us on to be harder and fiercer when we ourselves would someday face a foe on the fields of a deadly fight. Smedley Butler was always within the Big Three of Marines most honored within the Corps’ history. Therefore, the fact that he was snubbed a few years ago by the US government is telling. Sometime around 2005 or so, the US Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp issue of four great US Marines. Smedley Butler was notoriously left out of it. This is incomprehensible without factoring in political machinations. The USPS commemorative issue’s four Marines were: 1. Chesty Puller. He was an incredible warrior, and the most highly decorated Marine in history. WWII, Korea. When told that the Chinese communist forces had his unit completely surrounded at the Chosen Reservoir, he exclaimed: “Now we’ve got those sons of bitches right where we want them; we can shoot in every direction now!” He was fierce, inspiring, and he was one of the greatest heroes in the Corps. 2. Dan Daly earned two Medals of Honor, one in the Boxer Rebellion [and, yes, it is a legitimate moral question as to what in the hell were we doing in China] and one in Central America [same legitimate question as above]. In WWI France he led a charge over the top of the trench, looking back at his men and encouraging them to follow by shouting, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?” One hell of a fighting man. 3. . “Manila” John Basilone, who received a Medal of Honor in the battle of Guadalcanal. He fought with extraordinary bravery, saving his comrades and smashing the enemy, helping to put Japan in retreat. He could have gone back to the States to sell War Bonds, but he wanted to remain on the front lines with his comrades. He was later killed on the beach at Iwo Jima. 4. This choice was puzzling: Gen. John Lejeune. What the hell? Yes, he commanded large USMC forces and was a terrific administrator, but was he a top-notch Marine combat hero? It just never made sense for a commemorative stamp to place him among the top four Corps heroes. Especially in the conspicuous absence of Smedley Butler. Smedley Butler won two Medals of Honor and was an amazing example and an inspiration to us for generations. He marched his men into Veracruz, Mexico [again, why were we there?]. But because he was only newly assigned to this unit, it was a bad situation of the men not knowing their CO. Butler laid all doubts to rest in the first action. He led the head of the column as they marched in formation down Veracruz’s main street, himself only armed with pistol, sword and walking stick. Whenever a Mexican sniper took a shot – and it was always at this conspicuous officer in the front of his column – Butler would immediately point out the sniper’s loft with his walking stick, and Marines would deploy to flush them out. Another shot right at him, and Butler would point out this new position without breaking stride. Again and again. Needless to say, the men of his new unit loved him. Esprit de corps. Semper Fidelis. This was one of the top legendary heroes to the Corps. So, why snub him in this USPS stamp issue? Of course, it was because after retirement he dared to criticize the government’s military expeditionary adventures on behalf of US corporations into the poorer sections of the world. Butler complained that he had been used as “muscle” for US business interests at the expense of native peoples. He had criticized the government, and they are still angry with his memory. To leave him out of the top-four in this commemorative stamp issue was sacrilege. . -Ross Barlow.
  8. Here is a news item saying that 5 captured Islamic Jihadists at Gitmo are “proud” of their role in planning the 9/11 attacks. . Cheeky scoundrels. Maybe their false sense of malevolent “pride” can be modified a bit, at least in their last moments of consciousness. . And here is my advice on exactly how to deal justice to these bastards and to send an example to others. Of course, you would have to deal this justice outside of the US boundaries, because there might be objections among the faint-hearted. . First, for each terrorist, dig a 10-meter-deep grave, generously deep and wide. (Hey, people, they have confessed!) Have the open coffin obviously visible as the terrorists are each marched alone down to their individual spot. Have a large live pig prominently tethered next to the coffin. Let the villain look at it and reflect. Have 20 cement-mixing trucks ringing all around each grave, full of cement, whirling and ready to dump. Place the shackled and immobile terrorist in his coffin, face uncovered. Bring the pig up to the rim of his coffin, and gut it, allowing all the hog’s guts and organs to spill unto the face and body of the terrorist, and filling the coffin. Then throw the dying screaming pig on top of the terrorist, and close, lock and seal forever the coffin’s lid on the live terrorist and the live pig who is in its last writhing death agonies. Let the terrorist hear the cement dumping into his grave, sealing it forever, while he dies with the pig in intimate proximity. Let him know for certain in his last gasps that he will be entombed forever with a pig. Eternity. Have news cameras record the whole thing and broadcast it to the entire world. . I am sorry if I seem heartless and cruel, but these guys really piss me off. . I feel bad for the poor pig, because he never did anything to me. . -Ross Barlow.
  9. I had never before heard of Conchtia Cintron, a woman who participated in the man’s world of bull-fighting during the 1940s. She died last month at 86. Take a look at her very well-written obituary here. There is a good picture of her in her prime, one which makes her look such an unlikely presence in the ring. I think that hers is an extraordinary story. . -Ross Barlow.
  10. *Dangerous Beauty* (1998) is a movie you absolutely must see. (Alternative titles are “A Destiny of Her Own,” and “The Honest Courtesan.”) It is among my most favorite movies of all time. It was first brought to my attention by Objectivist Joshua Zader, perhaps on the original We The Living e-lists a decade ago. It is based on the true story of a heroine of the Venetian Renaissance, Veronica Franco (1546-1591), a poet and very liberated individual for that time and place. Played by Catherine McCormack (who played the wife of William Wallace in *Braveheart*), Veronica comes to life. Veronica was also a courtesan, i.e., an extremely high-class and well-educated prostitute/companion, sometimes being sought out for her intelligence, wit, conversation and learning as much as for her sexual allure. The path of courtesan was actually recommended to Veronica by her mother, of all people (played well by a sublime Jacqueline Bisset), and the reasoning was that a normal middle-to-upper-class woman in Venice could look forward only to a loveless arranged marriage and with no chances to read or learn. Veronica’s mother collected her daughter’s fees. Women were normally not allowed into the great Renaissance libraries of Venice, but a courtesan was. Also, if a woman was passionately in love with a man, she could only have him illicitly as a courtesan’s client. Veronica passionately loved books, poetry, and Marco, a man she would never be permitted to marry according to the class-structured norms of the day because his family was much richer and more powerful than hers. Marco is played by Rufus Sewell in the best role I’ve ever seen him play. There is a tension between Renaissance freedom of thought versus the clinging barbarity of Dark Age Christianity. Veronica did not have an easy life. My favorite line (paraphrased): Marco: “I stand for Venice, and for this woman.” You’ve simply got to see this moment to believe it. An extraordinarily romantic film. Highly recommended. . -Ross Barlow.
  11. Kristya, Excellent post. You are a fighter, and you have my most sincere respect for that. I am no longer a teenager, but I also first ran into Rand’s philosophy when a junior in high school. And I also ran into a wall when encountering modern academic culture both in high school and later at college. Thus, I sympathize with you very much. It is a lonely place to be in. Damnably lonely. Rand did not so intensely portray Howard Roark’s long, long struggles as a lone individualist for nothing. She experienced it herself intensely and knew that this is the path that independent thinkers must often tread. A long hard road. Want advice from an old guy? Maybe not, but here it comes anyway: Hold unto and cherish that tremendous sense of youth and idealism that you have. It is the light of the world. Keep those ever-harrying dogs of cynicism at bay as much as possible. (They tend to drag at one’s heels, don’t they?) Embrace joy in your life, search for it, imagine it, invent it, create it, nurture it, and make it a shining and integral part of who you are as a sovereign individual. Joy, happiness – eudaimonia – makes all the struggles worthwhile. I am in genuine awe at where you are standing right now, with your whole life before you. The hope of humanity is in the hands of young intellectuals like you. I salute you. . -Ross Barlow.
  12. For those of you that are fans of the print editions of *The Economist,* this article on the sales of *Atlas Shrugged* is in the recent issue for the week of February 28 to March 6, page 73. -Ross Barlow.
  13. Yup. That's done with a Barlow lens. That's right. A Barlow lens will double the magnification of the ocular/eyepiece you attach it to. Named after some Barlow in England, I think. Unfortunately, my reflector scope came with a 56x ocular and a 150x one. Doubled with the Barlow lens, this came out to the magnifications of 112x for the one and 300x for the other. But the highest useful magnification for my 60mm scope was somewhere much lower than even 150x. I am thinking that it was in the 120x range. So even using the 150x ocular by itself was useless because it lacked a sharp image and definition. 300x was like looking at an object under murky water. I found I had my best luck by first sighting in with the 56x and then attaching that to the doubling Barlow lens for 112x, making the image crisp and clear. This company had sold me, a novice, a kit with one ocular that was in practice unusable. I had not done my homework. Dragonfly, now I just remembered that you had a thread here on star gazing a long time ago. I had meant to participate, but I did not get a chance to. I may search for it later. The night sky is really great, isn't it? -Ross Barlow.
  14. Bob, Nice post. Thanks so much for stating this. I am sure that you already know the additional items I bring up below, but allow me to rhapsodize on this theme. I agree fully about what an important event it was when Galileo turned the telescope up to the skies. It was a riveting point in the human adventure. 400 years ago. Just think: this was even 100 years after Columbus. Galileo saw through his scope the mountains, valleys and craters of the Moon, and he said it looked very Earth-like, like a world of its own. He saw four of the bigger moons of Jupiter and concluded that they orbited Jupiter, another world of its own. He observed the phases of Venus for the first time, and this was an important confirmation of Copernican theory because, earlier, enemies of Copernicus had confronted him by reasoning that if his theory (i.e., heliocentrism) were true then Venus should show phases just as the Moon does; and since no one could see them before the telescope, Copernicus admitted that this was a “problem” for his theory but that he hoped that future scientific work would resolve this. (Does this not sound a lot like Darwin’s hopes/predictions about many early “problems” with his initial theories and that perhaps future scientific work would throw light on them?) I am an amateur star-gazer. Very amateur, but long dedicated. Growing up as a boy on our family farm, we were too poor to buy a tent, so I slept out under the open summer skies. I would fall asleep looking up at stars and constellations; wake up later to see a distinct “shifting” of the starry skies as the earth turned. It almost made me dizzy with the whole spinning changing spectacle of it all. In the long dark of cold crisp winter evenings, as I carried milk from barn to milk-house, I would pause to look with amazement at Orion and the bright and bold winter constellations that absolutely blazed in the sky. The Pleiades, Taurus and the bright star Sirius riding with him from east to west. I knew the seasonal skies quite well at 42* North latitude. As a 19-year-old Marine newly arrived in Vietnam (at 16* North latitude) one night, my relatively more “salty” (i.e., experienced veteran) buddy and I took our turn to sleep inside the perimeter while others kept watch on its outer rim. I looked up to see a small constellation totally unknown to me. I was disoriented and actually alarmed and almost dizzy. I pointed and asked, “What in the Hell is that?” My buddy – Floyd, a black guy (a “Brother”) from St. Louis who took me, a newly-arrived boot, under his wing and advised me and oriented me to the combat zone, a sterling character – simply said, “That is the Southern Cross.” A new world indeed. Later, back Stateside, I owned two telescopes, both kids’ instruments but good enough for me and the hard use I gave them. The first was a small refractor (which was of the type Galileo used) that had a small 60mm of objective lens, or “aperture,” out front and a highest useful magnification of somewhere around x120 power. (The advertising claimed that this reflector was a x300 power magnification scope, and, although you could indeed combine lenses to magnify up to x300, you see no sharp definition at those high powers simply because the aperture of 60mm is too small to let in enough light to focus on. Only by staying below x120 power could you really see sharp images. Beware ads; do your research; aspire to larger apertures in scopes to gather more light, and ignore ad claims about absurdly high magnifications. The bigger the aperture, the more light enters the scope and thus the more useful magnification you can wring out of the thing. In this situation, the bigger it is out in front, the better -- front telescope apertures, that is.) Because of its small aperture, but reasonably good optics, this typical 60mm child’s reflector was mostly limited to “bright” objects, i.e., close planets, the Moon, etc., that had the Sun’s light reflected back to us. After exploring its limits to my own curiosity, I held “star parties” where I would show friends the mountains and craters of the Moon, a few double-stars, the four “Galilean” moons of Jupiter plus Jupiter’s cloud bands, and the rings of Saturn. My second scope was bought right before the last appearance of Halley’s Comet in the 1980s and was a very cheap and simple Newtonian reflector with a 4-inch aperture (i.e., about 102mm of front opening to gather light) and a low magnification of only x16 power. I think this one was called the Astroscan and it was a bomb-proof child’s instrument, rugged, simple and portable. Beautiful in its simplicity. It was a “light-bucket” that collected a lot of light (102mm) for viewing dimmer objects such as comets under dark skies with no light pollution. The combination of large aperture and low magnification made it perfect for Halley’s very faint image that time around as well as for star clusters and endless dark-sky targets. For one’s first astronomy instrumentation, get a star chart (or, better yet, several of them) and go out into the nighttime shadows and learn the sky through the seasons. Moonless nights reveal more. The star chart is fundamental, because even if you buy an expensive telescope it will be useless unless you know your skies. (Use red light to preserve your night-vision, e.g., by using a red flashlight lens attachment or by taping red cellophane over your flashlight.) Keep an informal log in which you record the date and time and what you see. E.g.: in late winter Orion is in the south after dark; on spring evenings, Leo should be coming up in the east; in summer near midnight the “Summer Triangle” consisting of the three brightest stars from three separate constellations is visible overhead through the summer haze. All stars rise about 3 minutes earlier each evening as the seasons progress. Above all, identify the 12 pathway constellations of the “ecliptic,” the path where you will find the planets, the Moon and the Sun. If a “star” appears in an ecliptic constellation that is an extra one not in the charts, then it is a planet. (“Planet” is an Arab word for “wanderer,” as they move independently of the fixed stars. Can you imagine star gazing in the desert, free of humidity, haze or clouds?) Forget the old nonsense about “astrological” properties assigned to the 12 “signs” or constellations of the ecliptic, and just identify them for crucial observational purposes. For a second astronomical instrument, I recommend the humble 7x50 binocular or field glass. (It is still a standard military tool despite new-fangled night-vision instruments.) Only x7 power, but with a relatively wide aperture (50mm) for the low magnification, it is an excellent instrument for “dark sky” observing (i.e., when there are no artificial lights around polluting the view) when you can look at dim, faint objects such as comets, star clusters, nebulae, etc. It also gives you decent limited views of bright objects like the Moon, Venus (see if you can see its crescent phases that were predicted but unseen by Copernicus and first viewed by Galileo), and possibly some of Jupiter’s bigger moons. And these 7x50 field glasses are portable. For those of you who are loathsomely perverted voyeurs – and I know that this applies to some of you out there reading this -- the 7x50 field glass is your first optical tool of choice, as it is excellent in night vision viewing from the shadows. It may be old-school, but it is simple, reliable, and it is easier to carry when running from cops – or so I am told. Caveat: I am in no way responsible for illicit uses of any of my amateur astronomical advice here. Re: Tycho Brahe (1546-1601). He was the finest of the naked-eye observers, with no telescope but with very excellent self-designed observational instruments including unique astrolabes, quadrants and other devices. He doggedly observed and recorded, giving later theorists like his onetime assistant Kepler the empirical material to work with. He measured celestial movements with an exactitude far more than anyone before him. The Supernova of 1572 really had caught his attention, as it contradicted all astronomical received wisdom, therefore, he resolved to observe even more closely. Newton acknowledged “standing on the shoulders of giants,” such as Copernicus, Tycho, Kepler, Galileo, etc. Tycho himself was still a geocentrist in theory (or a “geo-heliocentrist”) believing that the Earth was the center of the universe, with all bodies ultimately orbiting around the Earth. But, in contrast to Ptolemy, his system had the Sun orbiting the Earth (with the Moon doing so as well) while the five visible planets orbited the Sun. This was different, and he justified it by his observations and measurements. He also eliminated the contrivance of crystalline spheres rotating around the Earth, which was not only a basic part of Greek/Ptolemaic theory but also one that Copernicus (1543) had still accepted. But Tycho still said that the Earth does not move, either in rotation or revolution. It was static. He thought the Earth was too weighty to move so quickly, while the Church was to maintain that saying that the Earth moved contradicted Holy Scripture. Galileo’s telescopic discovery of the phases of Venus would later give Tycho’s theories a big problem. This was after Tycho’s death, so we can only speculate about what he might have thought of the newer observations. As a man of science, he might have been rather objective about it in his own way, but we will never know. One other thing about Galileo’s first telescopic astronomical observations always makes me chuckle as an amateur star gazer myself. He looked at Jupiter for the first time and saw a few “bright stars” very close to the planet and all in the same plane with one another. Hmm, very, very interesting. What is this all about? The next night he looked again and saw that some of these “stars” closest to Jupiter had changed position. What the heck? On the third night he eagerly waited for night and the chance to look again, but the entire sky was clouded over! I know this frustration in a much lesser degree myself, when exploration is hindered. It is maddening. Of course, on another night and on subsequent nights, Galileo was to see the four bigger moons of Jupiter orbiting the planet in an orderly manner just as the Earth’s Moon orbits Earth, yet there were 4 of them moving in harmony. Jupiter was a new world entirely of its own. The acceptance and refinement of new technologies, careful empirical observation, use of all intellectual tools available (e.g., mathematics as well as prior scientific works in both theory and empirical observation), an independent and objectively oriented attitude toward one’s rational theorizing – all of this is exemplified in Galileo’s glances upward through the glass as well as what he thought about it all. The man was definitely a Giant, and he deserves our admiration, gratitude and respect. Bravo! . -Ross Barlow.
  15. It is reported that Pierre-Simon Laplace, the great French scientist, astronomer and mathematician, presented one of his great books explaining the whole of the universe to Napoleon, and Napoleon mentioned to him that he had heard that the book had no mention of God in it. Laplace replied, “I had no need of that hypothesis.” -Ross Barlow.
  16. Christopher, Nice articulation of your thoughts and emotions on this issue. I really enjoyed it. Your point on compassion for all sentient creatures is well taken here by me. I agree with you that it is a complex issue. And it has a complex history. As for this first point of yours about the value of life and compassion for all living creatures, here in Asia you would find centuries of thinkers agreeing with that perspective to one degree or another. In the most wildly far-out extreme, the few followers of Jainism -- the Jain was maybe an older contemporary of the Buddha in India, 5th cen. BCE – believe that they should walk barefoot so as not to step on creatures such as ants, they are vegetarians and they work in city trades rather than as farmers, because farmers routinely kill sentient beings while plowing, etc. The Jain ideal was to starve oneself to death rather than contribute to the killing of other animals/sentient beings. And legend tells that the great Jain himself did this. Certainly, this is too weird for most of us today, and Jainism is not a flourishing religion. Of course, agreeing with Baal on this, I ask, “Which creatures can truly be defined as ‘sentient’?” Buddhists in the most original line traced from the Buddha himself, the Theravada or “Hinayana” schools, fully accept both Buddhist monks and laypeople eating meat. The Buddha certainly ate meat through to the end of his life. The stipulation is that monks do not want you to kill an animal primarily for the monks’ meal, but if you kill or cook an animal for you and your family, a monk can accept leftovers of meat and eat them. But I am not sure how Theravadin monks here in Thailand deal with mosquitoes. There are other later schools of Buddhism, such as the Mahayana and Vajrayana which are more popular in East Asia and Tibet, that emphasis “compassion” more than what they scoff at as the “selfish” Theravadin schools that only strive for individual efforts toward an independent salvation/awakening. As an example of this, there is the residual traditional ideas of karma and rebirth from ancient India. In these later Buddhist schools that I mention, the ideal of the Bodhisattva is emphasized. He/she is one who has strived over countless rebirths and has earned the chance to enter the great final bliss of Nirvana/awakening, where all troubles are over and no more rebirths into a suffering world are to be. But on the brink of entering Nirvana, the Bodhisattva decides, “No, I will not free myself from this continual round of hellish suffering until I have gone back to help ALL sentient beings to achieve the pathway of true Buddhahood, Nirvana, Awakening, end-of-suffering. I will not pause until every living sentient being is on the human level of awakening.” As an interesting aside, in the adapted ancient Indian Brahmanistic scheme of 33 or so planes of existence into which one can be reborn – which I seriously doubt that the Buddha actually believed in and that I think he may have used as mere metaphor – there are 3 realms below the human level (hell realm, hungry ghost realm, and animals) and the rest are “above” the human level. Above the human realm would be various types of diva and gods who enjoy eons of bliss of various sorts. Yet – and this is my point – one must be a human in order to understand true knowledge and virtue and to achieve the highest of all achievements, awakening/enlightenment. Even the gods must learn from humans, and much of early Buddhist literature portrays the gods as clownish ignoramuses who strive to learn at the Buddha’s feet. Considering that the traditional Indian idea of continual rebirths over and over, throughout the long eons of time, into this suffering world, this “vale of tears,” is considered to be the worst of hells, this mythic compassionate vow of the Bodhisattva to postpone salvation until he/she has made sure that all creatures are prepared to come with him/her into Nirvana is the height of true compassion. It makes Jesus Christ’s crucifixion plus one day and two nights of death in a tomb look pathetic by comparison to such vastly huge time spans of misery. In comparative religious history, Christianity’s ideal of compassion is weak. The later Buddhist schools of the Mahayana and Vajrayana also emphasize the bodhisattva character Avalokitesvara, “the one who listens from above and hears the cries of all suffering creatures below.” In East Asia this bodhisattva has often taken on the role of a female bodhisattva and is venerated in various more recent ways. Again, Christ falls short in comparison. On the other hand, Christopher, your thoughts about the damage a mosquito can do to you are valid. A biting mosquito can not only cause pain to your consciousness, it can pass on diseases such as malaria in many parts of the world, dengue fever here in Thailand and in other hot climates, West Nile virus in the USA and other places. These parasitic bloodsuckers are dangerous predators. “Kill ‘em all, I say!” Here, all year, we burn repellent coils by our doors at dusk and dawn, and we liberally use DEET, which I put on my ankles where the bloodsuckers love to bite me. I think that by killing and protecting yourself from that bloodsucker you served the higher and more "universal" kind of consciousness. Even my devout and enormously compassionate Theravadin Buddhist wife can be heard smacking a mosquito to its death during the night. This living earth is a wild place. . -Ross Barlow.
  17. Rich, Thanks for posting this. Your post was well felt, well thought and well written. I found it very moving. You have truly honored one of those most sacred of beings: an individual human who forges his own destiny. -Ross Barlow.
  18. This movie has been out for a while here in Thailand, is still playing and may also be in general release in the States. I highly recommend this movie. Based on a true story and on the book by Nechama Tec, *Defiance: the Bielski Partisans,* the movie tells of the Bielski brothers in Nazi-overrun Poland (in what is now western Belarus) in early WWII who arm themselves and end up sheltering over 1,200 fellow Jewish refugees who would have otherwise been murdered by the Nazis. They lived in the forests for a few years, winters and all, evading capture and still contributing to the anti-Nazi resistance movement. It was not easy. Tuvia Bielski – played by Daniel Craig, our new 007 star -- and his brothers, Zus, Aseal and Aron, find their parents murdered by the Nazis on their family farm. The parents are murdered simply because they are Jews, as are neighboring Jews. (Nazi bastards: this angers me beyond words.) In the bigger towns, Jews are put in ghettoes and forced to wear the Star of David (and you know the fate awaiting these people). A local Polish farmer helps by giving Tuvia a revolver, although there are only four bullets to go with it. Revenge is the first motive of the brothers, but as they find more and more Jewish families needing protection they shift priorities to keeping them safe. This means fleeing to the forests. More and more refugee Jews join the Bielski camp regularly. They must move frequently as the Nazis penetrate the forests. They form a community with various craftsmen utilizing their skills, they have a hospital, school for the children, and even a system of law. This territory had been in the Soviet orbit until the Nazis attacked eastward into the USSR, so the partisan fighters who are under the authority of the Soviet Red Army are the Bielski partisans’ uneasy allies. There was some mutual cooperation but a lot of tension between parties. There were Polish officials who were Nazi-collaborators as well as Polish anti-Nazi partisan groups not aligned with the Soviets. It was a confusing variety of parties involved. Critics have faulted this movie on several counts, with many criticisms coming from Poland. There are some historical inaccuracies: especially the fact that the non-Jewish Polish resistance fighters are not given their due; also, the Bielski group may have been depicted as having more of a combat role than they actually had. Most important, some have alleged that some of the Bielski partisans were involved in the Naliboki massacre, where a town of Polish partisans was massacred by the Soviet partisans because they would not join the Soviet resistance units. It must be mentioned that the Bielski brothers themselves were never accused of being involved. Up to 130 Polish partisans in Naliboki were executed by the Soviet partisans, and the town was destroyed. Bielski family members counter that the Bielski group was not even in that area at the time of the massacre. Whatever the truth is, it is always easy to fault or trash movies for their historical inaccuracies. As a lifelong devotee of history, I completely understand this demand for historical factuality, and I always want to see historians correcting and setting the record straight. But I am also a lover of art and see that “artistic license” must be given its due if art is to enlighten, entertain and ennoble us. Aristotle regularly revered history, but according to Rand he ranked the aesthetic considerations of artistic ennoblement even higher in importance, saying that fiction shows us life “as it might be and ought to be.” Art has a value of its own, which resonates within the human soul and can promote great human aspirations. As for my own criticisms, an earnest young intellectual character in the Bielski camp made me wince when he counseled leader Tuvia Bielski about “community,” about everyone sacrificing their individual good for “the collective good.” We have heard the Collective Good pronounced as the highest good before: e.g., Rousseau, Marx, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot. Under this theory, individuals or minorities are not important and can be sacrificed at will to the “greater good” of the majority/collective. Collectivism of one stripe or another has flooded the modern world in blood. It sickens me to hear of it. And yet I must admit that, historically, many Jewish intellectuals in Eastern Europe would have been heavily into collectivism at that time – although more into the communist socialist variety than the national socialist one. Collectivism was, after all, one of the most popular intellectual ideals of that whole bloody age. Many Zionists who later settled in Israel brought socialistic ideals with them from Europe (although the kibbutz settlements were always lacking in practicality and productivity and they always had to be subsidized by the state). Also, collectivism works more successfully and humanely at the family level, whereas on a large scale it most often leads to disaster, robbery and murder. A possible exception to this size restraint is *military* collectivism within tightly-unified military units, when the extreme demands of life-or-death consequences force a unit-cohesion that is in some ways close to an extremely large family. In the military there can be an esprit-de-corps that bonds individuals together. Also, the Bielski camp was really becoming a “family” of sorts, in need of common survival and really making a pact to survive together. So I can understand and accept the portrayal of that young intellectual’s idealistic position as well as the Bielski camp’s harsh military discipline. They were desperate, and they were in their predicament together. Criticisms aside, I thought that this was a great movie, worth seeing again. I heartily recommend that you check it out. It was filmed mostly in the forests of north-central Europe, not far from where the actual events took place. Good story and good acting. . -Ross Barlow. .
  19. Damn, General, that experience is definitely a chilling one. Breaking through the ice up to your shoulders in cold water is an ultimate horror and has got to be unbelievably cold. I fell through beaver dam ice once in frigid weather while ice skating, but I only got one leg wet and that was cold enough for me. I know in an approximate way what you mean by your clothes freezing in all places except for the articulation points that were in constant movement. In the 1970s the great synthetic fabrics of today were not yet available much, so I dressed in wool from head to toe, marino wool long-johns to heavy wool outer layers, with a cotton/nylon wind layer outermost. I often iced up from frozen sweat and moisture from wallowing up through snow all day. My wool mittens (excellent Dachstein mitts from Austria) got so wet and frozen on my ice climbing trips that I had to use my other hand to break the ice build-up at my hands’ knuckle articulation points so that I could grip my ice axe, but my hands were still relatively unfrozen. I also know what you mean by drying out from the inside out. Body heat can do that. After climbing in snow and ice all day, my wool clothing would be quite wet and iced, but in the sleeping bag it would dry out by morning from my body heat. I would put my frozen wool mittens inside my shirt at my chest, and they would be dry by morning. As an aside, in 1979 all ice climbers I met had a copy of the brand new book *Climbing Ice* by Yvon Chouinard. Chouinard gave us the most excellent advice, but on one point everyone laughed at him: he said that synthetic fabrics would replace wool in the mountain sports within 10 years. Yeah, right! Well, he was right. Synthetic long underwear, fleece mid-wear and synthetic outerwear did outperform wool in all categories, and we all eventually converted to the concept. I hope everyone here is aware that “Cotton Kills,” and is totally inappropriate for cold weather clothing. Dangerous fabric. Doing a desperate lead ice climb in the mid-1990s, I was better dressed with synthetics from inside out. There was a lot of water running down over the ice. I was forced to climb a gulley with ice for purchase only for my right hand ice axe and right foot’s crampons, but for my left hand and foot there was only rock with water gushing over it. So as I reached up with my left hand to find a rock handhold, cold water flowed down my left sleeve, down the length of my left side and back and into my left boot. It was unpleasant, but the synthetics performed so much better than the wool would have. And of course the temperature was not as cold. General, I am very curious about your falling through the ice experience. What was your clothing gear made up of? -Ross Barlow.
  20. Ed, Bravo! An extraordinary essay, well-thought, well-written. -Ross Barlow.
  21. I once read this poem to a friend of mine who was blind. (He had been sighted up until his mid-teens, then he lost all sight due to diabetes complications.) I love the poem, so I read it with considerable enthusiasm. When I finished, he exclaimed, “I can see it! I can see it!” Great imagery conveyed by the written/spoken word. -Ross Barlow.
  22. The title of this thread grabbed me: “-40C = -40F.” So I just had to comment. Some of you may have read the following experience of mine before, but I think it is still good advice for anyone battling extreme cold. The 1960s and 70s were brutally cold and snowy in the Northeast of the USA. Sub-Zero nights were not unusual and -20F nights were never shocking. Below, I share a hard-won lesson about living with cold. . * . "Minus 40 Degrees" [published on my website/climbing log, linked below] . (Part 1 of a 3-part saga. Part 2: “The Coldest of Ice Climbs.” Part 3: “Chouinard’s Gully.”) . My coldest experience in the outdoors was in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York in February 1979. I (barely) endured 6 days and nights bivouacking out in temperatures that got down to Minus 40 degrees every night. (-- 40 F = -- 40 C.) . It was the week that I went there to ice climb and bivouac. I had picked the week of the Full Moon, of course, for reasons of aesthetics and zen, and also for the practical reason of being able to see my way around. . Back home on my father's farm in NW Pennsylvania, the pre-dawn temperature was --28*F every day that week. It was -30*F that week in nearby towns. That is as cold as it ever gets in that part of Pennsylvania. My father kept a weather journal from personal observations and from TV and radio news. . The coldest spot in the USA (including Alaska) for that entire week was -45*F at Old Forge, NY, in the heart of the Adirondacks. Lake Placid, NY was -35*F. I was bivouacking up in Chapel Pond Pass, sleeping on the frozen pond. I had a good thermometer, but it was too damn cold to be fiddling much with thermometers. I rounded it off to -40*F raw temperature from quick readings. There was a bitterly stiff wind on top of that raw temperature reading, but it was too cold to think about the additional wind-chill calculations. "Desperately Frigid" sums it up. . I had an excellent integrated sleeping bag system designed by the great American mountaineer Paul Petzoldt: an enormously thick Polarguard suit (parka and pants suitable for extended winter camping, with double insulated booties), and it all fit without constriction both over my wool clothes and also into a companion tailor-fitted Polarguard sleeping bag. . At supper's finish, I would put a quart of hot water into a water bottle and throw this into the sleeping bag. . Yet for the first 4 nights, I was extremely cold. I would wake up, shiver for 2 hours, then sleep for 1 hour out of exhaustion. Wake up, shiver 2 hours, sleep 1 hour, etc. On each of these mornings, the water bottle had a quarter of an inch of ice in it. I had to break the ice to drink. That bottle had been *inside* the sleeping bag all night, between my parka and the bag, and it still froze. . During these nights, as I tossed and turned, shivered and cursed, the lone round Moon ruled the sky and lit up the entire snowy world. Cold silver silence. It was beautiful and severe. No pity from the big orb. . Silence ruled, until the pond ice beneath me suddenly let up a loud echoing "Crack!!!" sound. This terrified me. I had imaginings of the ice suddenly opening up and swallowing me, trapped inside my mummy bag. But it was just the groans of the ice forming deep below me. The Moon remained silent above it all. It was spooky. . The last 2 nights were better, yet the temperature and wind-chill were the same. The only adjusted variable was my food intake during the night. During the 4th of my sleepless nights, I had remembered reading advice from the great mountaineer Paul Petzoldt about taking a bag of food into the sleeping bag with you. If you wake up cold, eat. . It worked dramatically. I would wake up chilled, and, without waiting for it to get worse, I would sit up (not even opening the mummy bag opening) and feed myself. I had chocolate, cheese, pepperoni, nuts, dried fruit, etc., though I had to chop up the frozen pepperoni and cheese into bite-size chunks with my ice axe prior to bedtime. . I would eat, but the warmth did not come until about a half hour later. Initially, I felt chilled. It took time to metabolize the food. Then, a cozy glow of warmth spread completely over me, and I fell into a delightful sleep. I would wake up 3 hours later, chilled. I would eat again, like throwing wood on a fire. Again, I experienced a half an hour of chill before the food metabolized and warmed me up. For those last two mornings, there was no ice in the water bottle. My increased body heat prevented it. . Lesson: food creates warmth. I am a slow learner, but this is one empirical lesson that is high on my certainty scale. (Having extra food in your home or car if you are stranded may save your life.) Paul Petzoldt had written this clearly in his *Wilderness Handbook,* based on his decades of experiences, but I had not taken the lesson to heart until my very bones were shaken with deep chill. . It was the coldest Moonlight I have ever experienced. The Hobo of Chapel Pond made it through, gaining some wisdom and feeling humble. . (This saga is continued in Parts 1 and 2.) [Additional cold weather advice and mistakes of mine can be found on my website under the Index category “a Climbing Log,” and the entry named “The Frostbite Trip,” where I froze my toes three years earlier. I am a slow learner but a sure one.] . -Ross Barlow. . Climbing Log, Poems, Reviews, Aesthetic Musings. (click “Index” links to navigate categories).
  23. “I am not a number -- I am a free man.” -Ross Barlow.
  24. I agree that Science Dailey is a great website. I try to visit it everyday, and I end up learning a lot of new stuff. The articles are well-written and are understandable even if you don’t have a lot of background in the various fields. They point you to more primary sources if you want to pursue a topic more. My own favorite section is the “Fossils and Ruins” one, because of my long interest in both paleontology and archaeology. -Ross Barlow.