Monday, May 31, 2010

Ruddy Ducks and fads.

Livingsword was discussing the Goth fashion and wondering why people choose this path. I don't exactly know, but was certainly impressed with the fashion of these rarely glimpsed Ruddy Ducks when I saw them today. They immediately went into an exalted state in my fashion ranking, but then I saw one of these beautiful ducks attacking and driving away another who happened to get too close. Temper, temper.

Us Loons are looked down on by many, but thankfully we have a much more even temper.

"Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless - not overbearing, not quick-tempered ..." - Titus 1:7
Lucretius (99BC-55) on the possibility of Resurrection.

"Since, however, even in the human body we see a determined and allotted place set aside for the growth and presence of spirit and mind, we have even stronger grounds for denying that they could survive or come to birth outside the body altogether. You must admit, therefore, that when the body has perished there is an end also of the spirit ripped too shreds throughout the body. It is surely crazy to couple a mortal object with an eternal and suppose that they can work in harmony and mutually interact. What can be imagined more incongruous, what more repugnant and discordant, than that a mortal object and one that is immortal and everlasting should unite to form a compound and jointly weather the storms that rage about them?" - On The Nature Of The Universe, Book III.804

This is one of those instances where the reading of non-Christian classical philosophy puts a context on Christianity that is significant. The Epicurean philosophy was widespread and popular, in the time just prior to the New Testament period. Perhaps the Biblical comments on the Sadducees reflect this?

"That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him (Jesus) with a question. " - Matthew 22:23.

Then there is the reaction that Paul receives in Athens:

"When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, 'We want to hear you again on this subject.'" - Acts 17:32

The overall picture I see is one where "Science" has been established and made its final decrees on the subject of resurrection, as well as the impossibility of mortality and immortality being linked. After this, Jesus comes along and publicly defies both.

Addendum: There is a note in the introduction to my version (the above linked one) which claims that Epicureanism had spread throughout Italy and attributes this to Cicero in his Tusculan Disputations. Checking out the Tusculan Disputation, it seems the reference is to the Pythagoreans, rather than the Epicureans, and refers to an earlier time.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lucretius (99BC-55): Science = Ignorance + Audacity!

"In those creatures whose passionate hearts and angry dispositions easily boil up in anger, there is a surplus of the hot element. An outstanding example is the truculent temper of lions, who often roar till they burst their chests with bellowing and cannot keep the torrents of their rage pent within their breasts. But the cold hearts of deer are of a windier blend: they are quicker to set chill breezes blowing through the flesh, provoking a shuddering movement in the limbs. Cattle, again, have in their vital composition a bigger portion of calm air. They are never too hotly fired by a touch of that smoky torch of anger which clouds the mind with its black and blinding shadow. They are never transfixed and benumbed by the icy shaft of fear. Their nature is a mean between the timidity of the deer and the lion's ferocity." - On The Nature Of The Universe, Book 3.294.

This is a continuation of the Epicurean philosophy of atoms and Lucretius is implying that the different behavior of animals is related to different compositions of atoms. It all so reminds me of the modern Theory of Evolution, for which the Epicureans are the original authors!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Global Freezing allows one more winter fling.

Never too old to learn lessons? The goal was Mt. Ralston in the Desolation Wilderness. I have done this trail before with a quick climb from 6,000' to the 9,235' summit, so figured it would be a good place to try climbing in the snow. For those who aren't familiar with what heavy snow does in a pine forest, here is the lesson: The limbs force the snow away from the tree trunk so that it falls and accumulates into donut shaped piles that ring the trees. The trail crosses these piles as it passes the trees. Initially there wasn't a problem because the piles were only about 2 or 3 feet thick, but as I got to the higher elevations I found myself coming up against one wall of snow after another that was as tall as me. Falling once and being alone, I decided the wise course of action was to give it up. Some of the other issues were the racing heart with minimal effort due to the sudden jump from sea level and my recent concentration on swimming that caused me to stop working out on steep hills. Then there was the fact that there weren't any painted markers for the trail on the trees, so I was free roaming half the time not sure where the trail was. It was a nice bit of entertainment for a Saturday morning.

Defeated ...

I will post some more when I recover.

Friday, May 28, 2010

College students flunk Empathy.

This article came to me via Dr. Jim.

Disclaimer: I too would probably flunk empathy. My instincts are towards being a loner and a hermit.

I thought the Baby Boomer generation was the Me generation. A typical example of our mindset is Self Magazine. Self Realization was our mantra, although Self Sufficiency certainly wasn't. But perhaps we still had a notion of community that we inherited from our parents? According to the article, the current generation is something different - one that doesn't even have a notion of community so that Generation X and Generation Y are giving way to Generation Me. The article tries to relate the self-centeredness to the internet and new media. We can pursue any thing that catches our interest, while relationships aren't serious.

All of this reminds me both of the comment of Polybius of the end of the first Democracy in Greece, along with a Bible passage:

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. " - 2 Timothy 3:1-5.

This does seem to relate to the last post on Friendship.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Obituaries: Someone is writing one for the Emerging Church movement.
Friendship ...

"Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself; and to Allah is the eventual coming." - Quran Surah III.28

"O you who believe! do not take for intimate friends from among others than your own people; they do not fall short of inflicting loss upon you; they love what distresses you; vehement hatred has already appeared from out of their mouths, and what their breasts conceal is greater still; indeed, We have made the communications clear to you, if you will understand." - III.118

"If good befalls you, it grieves them, and if an evil afflicts you, they rejoice at it; and it you are patient and guard yourselves, their scheme will not injure you in any way; surely Allah comprehends what they do." - III.120

"They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper." - IV.89

I am certainly not an ecumenical sort. At the same time, however, I have had close friends who weren't Christians either through work or in my youth as part of our bicycle racing group. Friends can hurt you whether they are of the same faith or not, yet I don't see how I can be a caring Christian without giving a part of my life to others who don't share my belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Squaw Valley High Camp cam ...

Maybe there is still a chance for snowshoeing this season.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lucretius (99BC-55) regarding Hell.

"You yourself, if you surrender your judgment at any time to the blood-curdling declamations of the prophets, will want to desert our ranks. Only think what phantoms they can conjure up to overturn the tenor of your life and wreck your happiness with fear. And not without cause. For, if men saw that a term was set to their troubles, they would find strength in some way to withstand the hocus-pocus and intimidations of the prophets. As it is, they have no power of resistance, because they are haunted by the fear of eternal punishment after death." - On The Nature Of The Universe, Book I.Matter and Space.

The first thing to note is that this kind of rhetoric is almost identical to much of what we hear 2,000 years later: A belief that science frees us from a belief in an afterlife, and this frees us from fear and leads to contentment. The first rebuttal is that Lucretius committed suicide when he was about 45 years old. The second rebuttal is that there are plenty of neutral studies showing that religious people are more healthy mentally such as this one.

The second notable is the boasting related to science. We received the word atom from the Democritus via the Epicureans who gave elaborate lectures on atomic theory and how this causes the universe to work. Certainly atomic theory is part of modern physics, yet other than this the vast majority of the Epicurean physics is wrong. For example, they believed that heat was a fluid that moves in the voids of a solid. Today, we understand heat conduction to be the result of crystal lattice theory in solids, and other theories for gases and liquids. Today we can boast of a vastly greater understanding, yet at the same time, there is almost nothing that can be done with that knowledge when it comes to issues of religion and morality.

The main item that caught my attention, however, was the reference to "eternal punishment", which I hadn't thought was a Greek or Roman teaching. Lucretius writes a century before the New Testament was written. So who were these prophets with their blood-curdling declamations? Another mystery ...
Born In The USA: Anchor Babies.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A crowded day at the beach ...

Perfect weather caused everyone to flock to the water. The air temperature is 66 degrees with the water probably the same or cooler. The wind was blowing fairly strong as the rains started. I am still having some motivation troubles, so was only able to do a 12X115 workout.
Global Freezing news: Sierra snow pack at 167 percent of normal with the California central valley growing season delayed ...
Who named the animals?

Like the question of why lemurs have tails, but people don't, this is one of great importance:

"Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. " - Genesis 2:19-20

The Quran has a variant account of Adam and the names:

"And He taught Adam all the names, then presented them to the angels; then He said: Tell me the names of those if you are right. ... He said: O Adam! inform the of their names." - Quran, Surah II.31-33.

This is a little different in that it sounds like God is naming the angels(?) and using Adam as an intermediary. Then there is the other naming account in the Enuma Elish:

"When on high the heaven had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
None of the gods had been brought into being,
And none bore a name, and no destinies determined--
Then it was that the gods were formed in the midst of heaven.
Lahmu and Lahamu were brought forth, by name they were called." - Enuma Elish, Tablet I

The ancient Babylonian account leaves the creation naming with the gods in a manner similar to the Quran, while the Bible emphasizes that man is the one who came up with the names. I have some instinctive feeling that if man invents the names (which indeed is what happens), then there isn't anything sacred about the name, whereas the names might have some mystical connotations if they are provided by the gods. There is one additional data point in this that I shouldn't pass over:

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. " - Genesis 20:7

Monday, May 24, 2010

Modern Prophecy.

This warning tape was put up on the path that separates the neighborhood from Lake Elizabeth, along with some No Trespassing signs. The result was that the tape was trampled under foot, ridden over by bicycles, and urinated on by dogs. Crime Scene indeed!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lucretius (99-55BC) regarding Superstition vs. Reason.

I earlier read that Julian was the inventor of the conflict between Christian Faith and Science. The Superstition vs. Reason meta-narrative is quite similar, but apparently goes all the way back to Epicurus (341-270BC). Here is something remarkable from the introduction:

"When human life lay grovelling in all men's sight, crushed to the earth under the dead weight of superstition whose grim features loured menacingly upon mortals from the four quarters of the sky, a man of Greece was first to raise mortal eyes in defiance, first to stand erect and brave the challenge. Fables of the gods did not crush him, nor the lightning flash and the growling menace of the sky. Rather, they quickened the keen courage of his heart, so that he, first of all men, longed to smash the constraining locks of nature's doors. The vital vigor of mind prevailed. He ventured far out beyond the flaming ramparts of the world and voyaged in mind throughout infinity. Returning victorious, he proclaimed to us what can be and what cannot: how the power of each thing is limited, and its boundary-stone sticks buried deep. Therefore superstition in its turn lies crushed beneath his feet, and we by his triumph are lifted level with the skies." - On The Nature Of The Universe, Book I, Matter and Space.

Needless to say, this reminds me of the attitudes and rhetoric of a large number of the residents of today's Ivory Towers. At the same time, this boasting of knowledge was done on behalf of Epicurus who lived 2,300 years ago. I have been reading from Stoic philosophy recently which was mostly an upper class indulgence and although respected and widespread, not really gaining the populist appeal. Epicurean philosophy seems to have been much more popular in the century before Jesus' birth.
Epictetus (55AD - 135) regarding Truth.

"Truth is something immortal and eternal. It bestows upon us not a beauty that time will wither, nor a freedom of speech which the sentence of a judge can take away, but rather it bestows what is just and lawful, distinguishing this from what is unjust and exposing it." - The Discourses of Epictetus, Fragments.36

In our current age, truth is believed merely to be about whether a statement is true or false. The new atheists claim that true facts + reason lead away from theism towards atheism, but this leads us into a larger scale logical dilemma: Atheist and agnostic ideology has no concept of truth. If I make a false or misleading statement, there is no consequence. It a correct statement, no benefit. A faulty argument is no different from a sound one. The atheist can protest that there is genuinely absolute truth, but the denial of a Controlling Legal Authority must always come back to haunt. It is only reason which can verify truth, yet reason itself is more often than not a tool of falsehood. A corrupt humanity simply cannot bring itself to truth.

The Stoics recognized that Truth is much more than simply true vs. false, and honored it for this reason. The Christian message differs, however, in that Truth suddenly becomes a person, to the consternation of the philosophers:

"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." - John 1:14

This is a reference to Jesus being the personification of Truth. Reading this, however, I am also bothered by Christians - including myself. How often do we pass on negative information about someone or something? Did we bother to check the source of our information? Did we consider whether or not this negative information together with the positive information that is out there would paint a picture that was different? And how would we react if the same kind of thing were done to us? Yes, Jesus is truth, but I am not, unless Jesus choose to work through me.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sometimes even nature objects to political advertisements.

In this case, it was the wind.
Epictetus (55AD-135) regarding The Grateful Dead.

"When we are invited to an entertainment, we take what we find; and if any one should bid his host set fish or cakes before him, he would be thought absurd. Yet, in the world we ask the gods for what they do not give us, and still do so despite the many things which they have in fact given us." - The Discourses of Epictetus, Fragments.17

And so we see that even the non-Christian philosophers proclaim a need to be thankful and content for what providence has given us. The author, Epictetus, was a lame slave. The imagery here is one where we are spectators in a show while the communication to mankind is entirely one way - god to us. The philosophers also talk as if we are children of god, yet not in any kind of personal way. To this I will add something from the apostle Paul:

"... those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." - Romans 8:14-17

As children of God, we do get to bring our requests before Him, yet may we do it in the Spirit that makes us His children.
American Exceptionlism part 2.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." - The Declaration of Independence.

This was penned by Thomas Jefferson who was an aristocratic slave owner with a muddled notion of Christianity. At the same time, the phrase "all men are created equal" certainly resonates with our nation and others around the world, but how could a slave holder write those words?

The only answer I know of is that the notion of "all men are created equal" refers to our position before the law, with the belief that God is the true law giver and the standard for judging. This comes from several passages in the Bible, such as:

"Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness.

"Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor man in his lawsuit.

"If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.

"Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. - Exodus 23:1-6

So we are to judge the rich and poor with the same standards and use the same effort to prove guilt or innocence. We are not to engage in mob-justice, whether of the leftist or traditionalist sort. Assuming this is the source, Americans have a big problem. We (atheists included) constantly invoke "all men are created equal", but almost never in the context of the law and certainly never in terms of doing right towards our enemies. Instead, it is about race and economic class with the result that mob justice is condoned instead of God's justice and the entire concept is turned on its head. Certainly there is a point to deal with slavery and racism, but we shouldn't have jettisoned the concept of justice in order to deal with these other things.

So is American exceptional? I have a sense that the ideal we were pursuing was exceptional, even if we don't feel we achieved it. Which of us believes that a rich man can't buy a better kind of justice than a poor? Which of us thinks that a jury would be inclined to give no thought to the relative wealth of litigants? Still the idea should be taught and pursued, even if the ideal can't be achieved.

Jefferson's statement about men being created equal also declares the existence of human rights coming from God. This I have some trouble linking to the Bible, but will set this aside. What is bothersome is that it seems hardly a month goes by without atheists discovering a new right in our constitution. The less religious our nation becomes, the more often God provides us new rights! Abortion rights is a prime example. Certainly to the extent that new rights are only affirmed by intellectual elites and arbitrarily imposed on the citizenry, they represent the competing and conflicting value of Exceptionalism of the Elites. Is it a problem that American Exceptionalism is in direct conflict with Exceptionalism of the Elites?

Friday, May 21, 2010

American Exceptionalism?

The Texas Textbook wars has brought this topic out again, so I thought I would put out a few thoughts on what is a huge topic. First, however, I am interested in the notion of National Exceptionalism, which has a very long history. The oldest versions of interest are those of Athens and Sparta, which take form in the pages of Herodotus as he describes the great war to defend Freedom from the Tyranny of Xerxes and the Persians. A few centuries later we see Polybius praising the exceptional Roman Republic with its three branches of government - the monarchy, aristocracy and democratic/populist branches. Along the way, the constitution of Sparta was highlighted for praise along with the moral values of citizenship. The exceptional postal system of the Persians is something else highlighted both by Herodotus and the Bible in places like Esther 3:15.

Augustine was a good Roman citizen, but distances himself from the Roman exceptionalism narrative. He notes that for several centuries the entire Roman nation could be seen from the walls of the city. Then suddenly the nation started growing rapidly and conquering the world, but nothing had changed as far as the moral state or organization of the country was concerned. It seems that the unspoken message is that the success of the nation was due to God and not due to any inherent exceptionalism of the nation.

Zooming forward, the US was founded in a climate of interest both in the Bible and the classical world. Our Republic with three branches derives from the Romans, the constitution from the Spartans, the narrative of freedom from Athens. At the time of the American revolution, this was certainly an exceptional attitude.

Then there is the Christian component. "One nation under God" speaks loudly along with "In God We Trust". Much of western Europe had already degenerated into hollow state run religions, so it is tempting to call this exceptional. When I compare with the pagan models that America came from, however, I too see them routinely declaring that they are "under God" or "In God We Trust". In their time, however, since the gods were honored extensively during the Roman Republic, such a slogan would have made as much sense as "In Breathing We Trust". Only atheists are offended by "In God We Trust", thus, the slogan probably represents more a reaction to the rise of militant atheism in Europe and the coming assault on the US.

Here is a Bible passage related to Babylonian exceptionalism:

"All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 he said, 'Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?'

The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, 'This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.' " - Daniel 4:28-32

Having quoted Daniel, I will also note that God commanded Daniel and the other Jews to be loyal servants of the nation that they found themselves in. To be continued ...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Epictetus (55AD - 135) regarding the four elements.

"... by Zeus, even the four elements, which are transformed and changed upwards and downwards, as earth becomes water, and water air, and air in turn is transformed into ether; and the same manner of transformation takes place from above in a downward direction. If a man endeavors to turn his mind towards these things, and to persuade himself to accept of his own free will what cannot be avoided, he will live a measured and harmonious life." - The Discourses of Epictetus, Fragments.8.

I have heard some pretty bad science examples used as examples to illustrate Christian principles, but have viewed the Bible as largely free of these. Some will holler about the miracles, but the whole point of a miracle is that it is an assertion that something has not conformed to the scientific expectations. Miracles are not an attempt to deny what is scientifically expected or what is a scientific principle.

One thing that has shown up many times in my readings of classical philosophy is the notion of four elements of physics. This is certainly a scientific principle that has been rendered obsolete while the conclusion isn't something I would object to. Rather than viewing the four elements as the basis for the demonstration, however, I view it as a rhetorical device - a mnemonic - to help the listener retain the lesson.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grrrrr. Potty training ...

I hate it when guys are too lazy to raise the toilet seat and leave a mess. The guy who left just before I went in was a foreigner. ***The rest of this post has been censored***

Monday, May 17, 2010


"And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." - 2 Timothy 2:2

A conversation regarding a charity/volunteer organization just wafted past my ears. The challenge was to find reliable people to continue the effort. It is easy to tweak someone's interest, and maybe get them involved for a moment, but finding someone who is reliable for the long term is a near impossibility.

Pondering this on a more general level, is the availability of reliable people in the world diminishing even as the population increases? Older people will point at the younger generation and claim that they aren't as reliable as we were. The younger will point to the older enjoying their leisure and make the same accusation. This kind of complaining has a long history going back at least to Sinbad the Sailor. Life today still seems somehow different as the number of things which can easily stimulate and distract our minds multiplies endlessly. Will reliable become obsolete?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Turf & Surf.

50 minutes @ 51.8 degrees was the Santa Cruz workout, while the air temperature was in the mid-50's. It was definitely feeling better than last week. There is a slight burning sensation on the skin after a few minutes of swimming in ice water, but it causes the feeling of cold to largely go away. Compared to last week, the swimming was much better and strokes were starting to have some force behind them, while stopping to gasp for air was less frequent. The swells and waves cause me to twist my neck further as I try to get a breath of air without getting a mouthful of salt water, so there is some neck soreness.

The main excitement was finding that there was a sea otter swimming next to me for a few minutes. He was cruising along on his back munching something that was laying on his tummy. Too bad I didn't have the snorkel cam. Other than this, there was a bit of kelp that caught on me, which is still unnerving since I have some fear of what is lurking underneath me.

With Mission Peak in the morning and Santa Cruz in the afternoon, it has been a tiring day.

Bonzai! I should have had the camera in sports action mode. I wonder what it would feel like if one of these pelican dive bombers skewered me while I was swimming. It seemed that they were diving in all around me.

Enjoying the Foggy Mountain.

Swimming has kept me off of the hills, but this morning I finally had a chance to go up and down Mission Peak. If you still can't wake up for church, maybe a bit of Foggy Mountain Breakdown will help:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Epictetus (55AD - 135) regarding the Galileans and Fear.

In the early stages of Christianity, the Stoic philosophers were observing the Christians, yet are reluctant to speak of them. This excerpt is a rare exception.

"What makes a tyrant frightening? His guards, someone says and their swords ..." - The Discourses of Epictetus, IV.7

One of the boasts of philosophy is that it can free us from fear, so that things which would disturb the minds of others do not disturb the one endowed with correct reason. But Epictetus observes that fear is something learned, while not quite following through with the line of thought:

"What is the reason, then, that if you bring a child to him when he is surrounded by his guards, it is not afraid?"

Certainly fear is not something we are born with, but is something that comes to us as we grow, learn, and experience various things. At some point conquering fear becomes a great challenge, so Epictetus considers those who have succeeded:

"Then is it possible that a person can arrive at such an attitude towards these things through madness, or, as in the case of the Galileans, through mere habit, and yet that nobody should be capable of learning, through reason and demonstration, that god has made all things in the universe, and the whole universe itself, to be free from hindrance and perfect in itself, and all its parts to serve the needs of the whole?"

Thus, we find three categories who succeed to lay aside fear and face life: Those who are insane, the Galileans (Christians) and the philosopher by exercising right reason. It would be fun to equate the insane with the philosopher or Christian, but I won't do this. Instead, simply observe that when we first learn something, we must exercise our mind as in initial stages of learning to ski. Eventually more and more things become second nature, and then "mere habit", so that the end goal of the philosopher isn't to keep on mentally exerting himself on things which he had already mastered, but rather to take the good patterns that have been learned and make them into "mere habit" so that other goals can consume his mental faculties. Per the testimony of Epictetus the Christians seemed to have succeeded in making second nature something which required a major mental effort otherwise.

As for me, things are a little more complicated. Certainly there is fear now and then regarding life, or perhaps even the leg cramp incident while swimming two days ago. I tend to view fear as an emotion given by God. Fear is something to be respected and not despised, yet something which we must control, rather than letting it control us. Then there is the confidence we have through Jesus that we can approach God on that final day.
Mentors: Epictetus, Christianity and Open Water Swimming.

I was in a group of Christians some years back and one was commenting on the need to have mentors in the church to help the young people. Being a trouble maker (always trying to be a good mentor!), I noted that in the original story, Mentor was actually the pagan goddess Athena in disguise, which turned the conversation upside down. (The traditional Christian view is that a pagan goddess is a notion brought on by evil spirits.)

Where do we go from here? When we are young and learning, everyone has achieved things while even our peers are learning things we haven't, so we compete and strive to match their patterns. In a sense, we are finding mentors everywhere. Using an open water swimming analogy, at some point we are no longer bumping into everyone but there is a separation with some competitors ahead and some behind. We can navigate by looking at the next person ahead of us, but does he know where he is going? The other way to navigate is by looking at a fixed point on the horizon. If you know the fixed points and are trained to raise your head periodically and do a course correction, this is the most reliable way.

Epictetus comments on what happens when we fixate on those around us rather than the absolutes:

"This is a point you must attend to before all others: not to be so attached to any one of your former acquaintances or friends as to descend to the same ways as his, otherwise you will destroy yourself." - The Discourses of Epictetus, IV.2

"But my mentor has far more experience than me!" Yes, that is true, and it should be given strong consideration. At the same time, it is unlikely that the mentor is better at everything than you, and as you yourself learn the gap will close. At some point the mentor will tend more to a peer and a friend, and then this note will seem relevant:

"Choose, then, which you prefer, to be loved as you used to be by those who loved you formerly by remaining like your former self, or to be better and not meet with that same affection. ... Otherwise by facing in two ways you will incur a double penalty - you will neither make progress as you ought, nor continue to get what you used to get previously." - The Discourses of Epictetus, IV.2

Back to the swimming analogy, if I was swimming towards the next competitor and catch him, I can no longer keep swimming towards him without hurting myself. I can choose another next competitor, or look to the goal.

Christianity certainly does have a concept of the older teaching the younger, but it is based on discipleship:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit ..." - Matthew 28:19

Disciple means follower, but in this case we direct others to be followers of Jesus - the fixed point on the horizon, rather than the transient one. Thus Jesus says:

"I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you." - John 13:15

If I leave things here, however, everything gets a bit lazy. Part of the open water swimming competition is trying to catch someone ahead of you, but the other part is struggling to stay ahead of the one behind you while setting a course that can be followed. If we use the fixed point to navigate while ignoring those around us, the intensity of the race is lost. The Apostle Paul thus gives us some more commands:

"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." - 1 Corinthians 11:1

"Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you." - Philippians 3:17

"Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. " - Titus 2:6-8

So are we to be mentors? Christianity teaches something a bit like mentorship, yet I feel the Bible teaches us much more.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Epictetus (55AD - 135) regarding the ill-tempered wife.

"Mindful of this, Socrates lived in his own house, patiently bearing with an ill-tempered wife, and an unfeeling son. For what were the effects of her ill-temper? Throwing as much water as she pleased over his head, trampling his cake under her feet. And what is that to me, if I consider that these things are nothing to me?" - The Discourses of Epictetus, IV.5

It has been said that Socrates was a hero in living with his ill-tempered wife. Something tells me, however, that this might not be the true story, given that it is told by other self-promoting philosophers. What kind of woman could live with an unfeeling husband, who was completely incapable of empathizing with any emotion she had, and still retain a good temper? "This is all outside of the sphere of choice, therefore it is meaningless." Could it be that the philosopher drove the wife to ill-temper?
Epictetus (55AD - 135) on freedom vs. slavery.

First freedom:

"That man is free who lives as he wishes; who can be neither compelled, nor hindered, nor constrained; whose impulses are unimpeded, who attains his desires and does not fall into what he wants to avoid. ... Who wishes to live deceived, headstrong, unjust, dissolute, querulous, abject? - 'Nobody.' No bad man, then, lives as he like; therefore neither is he free. And who wishes to live in sorrow, fear, envy, pity; desiring and failing in his desires, seeking to avoid things and then falling into them? ... So we find none that is free." - The Discourses of Epictetus, IV.1.

He goes on to argue that everyone who does things by compulsion is a slave, while those who are rich and powerful are some of the lowest in slavery as they pander to others:

"... if you see him wailing, complaining, miserable, call him a slave in a purple-bordered robe."

In the end, Epictetus concludes that freedom is only available to philosophers who succeed in separating out the meaningless things that are outside of his control and treasures only his will and things which are within his "sphere of choice", since our will is the only thing which is absolutely within our power.

The contrasting Christian notion is best described by Paul in Romans 6:

"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." - Romans 6:15-18

Thus, the same sorts of things that represent slavery are affirmed by Stoics and Christians alike. Where things differ is that the Stoic condemns all feelings for things outside of our sphere of choice, but Paul also gives numerous quotes like this:

"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved." - Romans 10:1

The natural human feeling isn't lost in Christianity as with the Stoics, but Christians need to redirect those feelings towards what is good. As for true freedom, both Stoics and Christians consider this to be elusive. The Stoic retreats to searching for freedom within himself exclusively. The Christian finds the only true source of freedom as being outside of the universe itself - it is through God only that it can be found.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Quarry Lakes: 35X115 + leg cramp.

Yikes! The cramp forced me to stop. Stretches would help, or some kicking drills. The first 20 laps were a struggle, but things started feeling much better with the last 15.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Epictetus (55AD-135) on providence.

"What, then, shall I cease to be?
You will not be; but something else, of which the universe then has need, will be; for indeed, you come into being, not when you wished it, but when the universe had need of you. Thus a wise and good man, mindful who he is and whence he came, and by whom he was created, is attentive to this alone, namely, to how he may fill his place in a disciplined manner and in obedience to god." - The Discourses of Epictetus, III.24.94-95

Here we see a few more things both similar and different to Christianity. The Stoics believed our soul wold be absorbed into a grander things, whereas Christianity teaches the the soul is preserved, while the body is resurrected and transformed. The other is that the Stoics believed in god as being embedded in the universe, rather than distinct, outside and over the universe in Christianity.

The proposed response of Epictetus looks very much like Pascal's Wager. Certainly God's providence should lead us to a desire to do what is right and moral, along with seeking to know more about our Creator.
Enjoy the cold while you can ...

Epictetus (55AD-135) regarding god the Father.

This starts with the example of Heracles:

" ... considering that he married too when he thought fit, and sired children, and then deserted his children without lamenting and longing for them, or considering that he was leaving them to be orphans. For he knew that no human creature is an orphan, but that there is a father who constantly and continually cares for them all. For to him it was not simply hearsay that Zeus is the father of mankind, but he always through of him as his own father, and called him so, and looked to him in all the he did. And so he was able to live happily wherever he was." - The Discourses of Epictetus, III.23.14-16.

At first this looks very much like Christianity:

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'" - Romans 8:15

Now I should note that the Greek notions of Zeus as father have just been touched upon, while the Bible has a very large number of references to God as father. I can only highlight a few differences, some of which I am vague on regarding Zeus.

1) Zeus is an anthropomorphic deity, whereas the Christian God is not.
2) The Christian God is the creator of all nature.
3) Heracles became the son of Zeus through physical means, whereas Jesus is the Son of God through the act of the Holy Spirit.
4) Christianity never condones a father abandoning his family as Heracles is apparently praised.
5) As was noted in the last post on Epictetus, even God experiences pain and sorrow in Christianity, whereas this is alleged not to be the case with Zeus and Heracles.
6) The oneness of Jesus and God stands in contrast to the separation of Heracles and Zeus.

The Christian message regarding the father also gets more complex as the unbelieving Jews talk with Jesus:

"Then they asked him, 'Where is your father?' 'You do not know me or my Father,' Jesus replied. 'If you knew me, you would know my Father also.' He spoke these words while teaching in the temple area near the place where the offerings were put." - John 8:19-20

The key claim of Jesus is that it is impossible to know God the Father except through Jesus himself. A key difference between Zeus and the God of Christianity is that Zeus isn't approachable, whereas God is, but God is only approachable through the intermediary of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

"Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.'" - John 8:42-44

According to Jesus, there is another father out there, while Jesus is where people stumble and divide.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Snorkel Cam research project ...

This topic was a little bothersome at first, but probably I should give it some additional consideration: How can I pass up a photo op of a smiling Barracuda while swimming? Or an oil tanker that is about to run me down? But there are the other considerations such as how to carry the camera while swimming. Will this comply with the rules of the World Open Water Swimming Association (WOWSA)? Certainly I won't be swapping my SLR lenses while swimming. Gotta do my homework ... Anyone out there got any suggestions?

Update: My favorite camera site is Digital Photography Review. They have a waterproof camera survey here.
Quarry Lakes: 40X115.

The distance is guestimated by measuring the distance between floats and counting them off. This is consistent with the swim time, so I will stick with 115 yards per crossing until I get a more accurate measurement. 4,600 yards exceeds the Ironman swim distance but is still short of the Around The Rock's 3.25 miles.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Epictetus (55AD-135) on grief.

"I will, therefore, absolutely suppress my own grief, for that is in my power; and I will endeavour to suppress another's grief as far as I am able: but not absolutely, otherwise I shall be fighting against god, I shall be opposing Zeus, and ranging myself against him with regard to his governance of the universe." - The Dialogues of Epictetus, III.24.23-25

The Stoics viewed Zeus as being eternally happy and believed that this was the objective of their philosophy too. Suppressing grief is certainly a part of this. To justify the non-grieving, the Stoic also needed to argue that tragedies that happened to loved ones were meaningless to them, because they were outside the "sphere of choice". Things within the sphere of choice were treated differently, but this seems to be an "oh, well" attitude to the bad choices. Try to do better next time.

My comparison of Stoicism to Christianity has produced both remarkable similarities and contrasts. Grief is another of those contrasting items, but only after remarking on similarities. Most of the worldly things that Stoicism considered meaningless are also considered meaningless by Christians: wealth, honor, position, fame. At the same time, Christianity's God is quite different:

"The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain." - Genesis 6:6

This is one of the most remarkable statements. We have a God who cares about mankind's sin to the point of grieving over what we do.

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." - Ephesians 4:30

This is from the New Testament - and again we have a God who is grieved over our sin.

"Jesus wept." - John 11:35

Both Ephesians and John were written by authors quite familiar with Stoicism, but the theme of a God with feelings toward mankind is clear.

At a slightly different level, there is the command to husbands to love their wife to the point of being willing to die:

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." - Ephesians 5:25

Both Stoics and Christians honor those who follow through with their duty to the point of self-sacrifice. The Stoic, however, feels a need to suppress all emotion, while the Christian is more mixed as emotion and commitment are sometimes harnessed to the same end, while other times emotion is to be sacrificed in order that commitment may be fulfilled.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Santa Cruz Swimming: Wow!

This was a perfect day for an open water training swim. Ocean swells, wind, chop and salt water. The bonus was getting to frolic with the sea lions. The water temperature was a balmy 53.4 degrees (12.4 Celsius), which kept me from overheating. An hour workout was about right. Things started calmly in the more sheltered area next to the pier, but the wind picked up along with the waves to make things challenging.

The point of this was to find out if I could do an Alcatraz swim without a wetsuit, and that was confirmed nicely. Speed, stamina and breathing still need improvement.

Nice of the surfers to let us know what the temperature is.

Thanks Mom.

A few weeks ago I was back east enjoying being spoiled by my mother. She took me out to see Ridley Creek State Park and also pointed out some flowers in the back yard. I certainly got my love of nature from her.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Epictetus (55AD-135) regarding true Cynics.

"And even this preparation is by no means sufficient for a true Cynic: he must know that he has been sent as a messenger from Zeus to men concerning what is good and evil; to show them that they have gone astray, and are seeking the true nature of good and evil where it is not, without ever considering where it really is ..." - The Discourses of Epictetus III.22.23

How wrong I was to think of myself as a Cynic! My view of a cynic was one that viewed everything as hopeless, so we might as well keep our mouth shut. (I just defined cynic in a way that excludes me!) The true Cynic is one who deliberately searches out the moral failings of men and then stands on a pedestal and condemns them. Sounds like the caricature of a fundamentalist preacher, except that the Cynic school begins with the disciples of Socrates (469BC-399). An interesting conclusion is that hyper-judgmentalism is something that was a major feature of pagan Philosophy beginning several centuries before the Bible was written.
Hell: It doesn't have any problem that can't be solved by a balanced budget and an experienced chief executive.

That is the premise of the upcoming (June 8) California primaries. I would like to skip the vote, but there are some propositions that I want to vote against.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Quarry Lakes Swim Area - Re-roped again ...

The workout was a bit easier with 14X?. The ? probably being a little more than 100 yards, given that it took me 2 minutes to swim the length at a moderate pace.

The sign says nothing to worry about, but it sounds a lot like the beginnings of what was happening to Davy Jones' crew.

UK Elections: Hope, change, yawns.

With the UK government deficit running about 12% of GDP, you would think they would give some serious consideration to whether or not they want to become the next Greece. From what I can tell, the British electorate was given a choice between three versions of socialism, and the group that won was the socialist party that postures least towards the far left. Unfortunately, the least far left party only managed to land 36.1% of the vote. For them to govern, they will need to cut a deal with a further left group, which means they will probably continue on the road to fiscal ruin, but maybe at a slower pace.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Alcatraz is still on my brain. The first time I swam this was with the Alcatraz Sharkfest event. Back in the beginning of my blogging career, I put in some memories of my first Alcatraz swim, which are located here. A video of this event from a year I didn't swim is below, but it will give a sense of what the swimmers experience that isn't visible from the shore.

Since my early swims, the demand for these events has increased dramatically so that you must register months in advance to have a chance of being involved. Envirosports was the first group whose events I signed up for. They throw a great party and provide wonderful support. Water World Swim is who I have been following recently. They are a little more hard core and the events don't fill up so quickly. The event I want to do is more than twice the distance as the one in the video.

Sharkfest: Escape from the Rock! - Watch more Funny Videos

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Today's swim workout: 22X100 + a 4 mile run.

The swim to, around, and back from Alcatraz is now a month away. Today's 2,200 yard swim went fairly well, although a mild pain in a shoulder gave me all the incentive I needed to stop. With today's workout, the goal looks feasible, but will still be quite difficult to get to that level of swimming in a month.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Epictetus (55AD-135) regarding using steroids when preparing for the Olympics.

"In everything you undertake consider what comes first and what follows after, and only in this way proceed to the matter itself. Otherwise you will show eagerness in the beginning, but since you have not given any thought to the consequences, when some of them appear you will give up in a shameful manner. 'I wish to win at the Olympic games.' But consider what comes first and what follows, and then, if it be for your advantage, set to work." - The Discourses of Epictetus, III.15

So far so good. If you are going to do something, consider the costs, both direct and expected as well as potentially unintended consequences. Planning ahead is important, but how we deal with the unintended consequences relates greatly to character.

"You must conform to the discipline, submit to a diet, refrain from pastries; train under orders, at an appointed hour in heat or cold; you must not drink cold water, nor even wine as you like. In a word, you must give yourself up to your trainer as you would to a doctor."

You mean no donuts? But seriously! OK, it takes a lot of discipline. Wondering how much they paid their trainers ...

"Then, when it comes to the contest, you have to compete in digging, and sometimes dislocate your wrist, twist your ankle, swallow an abundance of dust, get whipped, and even after all that you are sometimes defeated. Reflect on these things, and then, if you still wish to, go on to become a competitor."

I didn't know digging was an Olympic sport. It is hard to imagine the joy of these before you have experienced them, but all this is really just working up to a moral lesson:

"Otherwise, take notice, you will be behaving like children, who sometimes play wrestlers, sometimes gladiators, sometimes blow a trumpet, and then make a drama of whatever they see and admire. Thus you too will be at one time a wrestler, at another a gladiator, now a philosopher, then an orator; but with your whole soul, nothing at all. Like an ape, you imitate whatever you see, and one thing after another is sure to please you, but no longer to please you as soon as it becomes familiar."

Ouch! (include ape sounds here) I guess that is me. I worked many kinds of jobs for a short while beginning from when I was 12 years old, and have lived and worked countless places since then. Hobbies? So many have been started and stopped that I have no way to remember. And there is my jumping around with sports which is documented on this blog. I had thought that this would give me a broad experience and wisdom in life, but Epictetus argues the opposite - it is a result of weak and unstable character.

Regarding philosophy itself, Epictetus is saying that unless you abandon all your life activities and focus exclusively on philosophy, you have no way to achieve the serenity and freedom of an undisturbed mind that only a philosopher can achieve. In practice, the philosopher must either be independently wealthy or - as the slave Epictetus - supported by someone wealthy.

Now to contrast Paul's command from the Bible:

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." - 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

Paul gives the similar instruction to Christians - that there should be a single minded dedication to the love of Christ that causes us to discipline ourselves and push to the human limits. What is different, however, is that the Christian is usually called to do this within the same social context that he was part of before becoming a Christian. The Stoic philosopher must set himself apart by occupation, clothing and appearance, whereas the Christian does not. Then there is the prize. The Christiane prize is for eternity, but the here and now offers so many disappointments. Years ago when I competed and won a prize, it was all well and good, but whatever satisfaction was gone the next day. The philosophers prize likewise is one that doesn't last more than a moment, which is why we give it so little credence today.
Thoughts on Harvard Business Review and leadership.

Many years ago I went through one of those phases where an engineer feels he needs to learn something of management. Do we go back for an MBA? I subscribed to Harvard Business Review for a while to try to gain some insight.

A key part of the magazine was the business case studies. After reading many of them, a pattern was clearly established: A business scenario would be given with limited data. Two experts would then come in to describe what a leader should do. They would both augment the scenario with a bunch of new facts. The problem was that the new facts were frequently mutually exclusive between the two experts, and the conclusions they reached would be near opposites, but the new facts would support the conclusions!

What I concluded in the end was that leadership had nothing to do with making wise choices. It was simply about choosing a direction, making up facts and scenarios to support that decision, persuading others and confidently plowing ahead while making sure everyone else is convinced that you are doing the right thing. All of this while not having a clue what you are actually doing!

Can I ever be a leader? In the end I concluded it was impossible. Partly I can't lie with a straight face, so there is no way for me to make up facts and theories to convince people to pursue something that is most likely a lost cause. The other part of leadership is being prepared to ruthlessly undermine anyone else who might be wanting to step up to leadership in a way that competes with you. This too is something against my nature.

Do any of you experienced people out there have any additional observations? Is there more to leadership than the outline above?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Hutaree to go Free ...

Background: A little more than a month ago a "Christian Militia" was arrested and charged with plotting to kill police using WMDs. Today the judge ruled that they can be released on bond. There is another note on this here.

And so a group gets in trouble for some very nasty and violent speech, but it seems there is no hard evidence that they were really planning to do something. Or at least they are being released on bond before being dragged back into court where they are unlikely to have some high-powered lawyer defending them. This does leave me wondering to what extent they have done more or less than rappers, gangs, imams and university professors regarding violent language aimed at America.

It will be better for the US if the FBI really has something substantial on this group, because this won't look good for the future as the definition of hate speech, threatening language and WMDs expands exponentially. If there isn't anything substantial, I have to wonder what it is that brought this group onto the FBI's radar. Part of me really wishes that violent talk could be suppressed, but in America's current climate of scorched earth culture warfare, this really isn't possible: As soon as we do this all the forces of evil will come down on those who would dare say something disparaging about evil, so we are stuck with this miserable situation.
Quarry Lakes Swim Area: 24x50.

The swim area was re-roped so that it is now about 50 yards long - roughly the length of an Olympic size pool. Given that there is now actually a swim area, I decided to stay within the roped area. This cuts down on the Open Water sensation, but does have additional benefits: At one end you can stand while the opposite end has one corner where standing is possible. That makes it a good place for 50 yard intervals. I always find these the best for working on speed and endurance, since swimming further causes my form to deteriorate and leaves me gasping for air. Today's workout was simply swimming 50 yards 24 times with rest in between to catch my breath, followed by a 4 mile jog around the park. The bad news is that the June 5th event requires a swimmer to comfortably be able to do 6,000 yards non-stop. The good news is that today's 1,200 yards is double what I could swim last Thursday. Santa Cruz is the area for the real open water swim practice, so maybe I will head down there for a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Saturday Marches: Hope Hospices and their Hike for Hope at Sunol Park.

Yesterday the world was marching. Greece was in an uproar over the need to work for a living. Then there were the anti-Arizona protests by American anarchists. There were also protests going around Europe as various groups shook their fists at sanity. And I was off to the Ohlone Wilderness.

But then something happened of a different nature - a march for Hope.

I must admit that my hermit instincts are set off a bit when my(!) wilderness is invaded, but my heart softened a bit seeing this group. Talking with some ladies, they told me that Hope Hospices provides counseling to families with a loved one in terminal stages of illness. There isn't much that I can think of that would be more laudable than this. Here are a few photos that I took of this event.

These three ladies I talked with a bit before we separated at the Ohlone Wilderness Trail. If anyone from this event manages to find my site, thanks for brightening my day, and may God brighten yours also.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Another Poll: How many followers should a blog have?

First a confession: Gaelika has 75 followers on her blog and Jo Lynn has 95 followers. Yes, I am jealous! With AccordingToTheBook linking to my blog, I was shocked to find someone with 413 followers. Wow!

I started out blogging primarily to organize notes regarding books/topics I had studied for Bible studies, but then thought it might be good to share them. Because I live in a gorgeous part of God's creation and am quite active, I decided to share pictures of this with others too. Then there are other random comments. Building friendships over the net has, however, been a special part too.

Bloggers form communities. I read years back that anthropologists noticed that aboriginal villages tended to a size of about 150, which was the number of people that could be "known" in any realistic sense. For a larger community, you know people in the sense that a politician does: Maybe you know a name or a face, but that is it.

If I consider my real life relationships together with blogging relationships, it would seem to me that the combined number should be limited to 150. Could you know the preferences of 150 people? Perhaps with computers we can managed our friends and enemies better.

For every blogger who links to me, there are also those that I link to. Regarding the community, I want to know about the others around me, not just babble and hope everyone reads every sentence of my pontifications. One good blogging relationship is precious, but giving serious attention to all the posts I see now is already difficult. If they double again ...

So does anyone else have an opinion on this? Is more linking better? What about quality vs. quantity?
Signs of the Times?

I am surprised to see this here in the Bay Area. The usual rule of thumb for these campaigns is that all the lightweight bums will get thrown out, so that the heavyweight bums take over.

I took this picture while driving on the freeway. Texting while driving is a crime against humanity now, but what about photography while driving?
"Pardon me, but can you tell me how to get back to the Redwoods?"

(I always stop to talk with the young ladies, even if they are Banana Slugs.)

"Sure, head back to the parking lot, follow Calaveras Road back to I-680, head south about 12 miles and take Saratoga Blvd. Then crawl about 20 miles towards Santa Cruz and you will see the sign indicating the turn-off to Big Basin Redwoods."
"Any time. Have a good day."

For those of you who don't know, Banana Slugs are common in the Redwoods, but it is a long ways from the Ohlone Wilderness to the Redwoods. She must have taken a wrong turn somewhere.