Category Archives: Blogs' Archive

Churches

Last night while we were strolling through the beautiful, albeit kitschy and touristy town of Zakopane, we came to a church. Helena and Isabel went in, but it looked rather crowded as the people were streaming out and visitors had to wait to get in, in the manner of letting passengers deboard before getting on the Metro. I decided to wait outside, partly because of that, partly because if you’ve seen one church you’ve seen them all (which is even more true of mosques – Istanbul gets quite repetitive after a while), and partly because it was just a light, pleasant drizzle at that point and not the downpour that nailed us before we got home.
But, its presence loomed and dominated my thoughts, and hence this blog. Churches are, indeed, impressive buildings, with all their gold and statuary, and they can be peaceful places of contemplation, with their high ceilings and cavernous inner expanses. Much like a cavern, a church is a quiet place, isolated from the outside world, a haven.
But, they are places of religion so I feel like a hypocrite when I step inside them.
Religion is declining in our times, and I reckon it will disappear from the face of the Earth within a century or two, and here’s why: Christianity, and Islam, are only followed by billions of people today because, up until just a couple hundred years ago, you had to believe in them, or at least say you did, under penalty of death. In those circumstances, I would become a Christian, too.
Today, we’ve gotten past that, at least in the developed world, and that’s the world most people want to live in. Now that we live in a world where it’s socially acceptable to self-identify as an atheist (or agnostic, which is just the politer,less confrontational version), more and more people are doing so, and the percentage will rise with each generation.
Of course, there is still the pull of family, and tradition, and sometimes a church is the only place in town big enough for certain events, so they are popular for weddings, funerals, and political photo ops. The buildings will stand for thousands of years. They were built that way, and that is admirable.

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From Ohio 11 to the South of Poland

I was very depressed this morning to read of Nina Turner’s loss. I don’t have any evidence of fraud, but she was ahead by about 30 points just a couple of months ago, so it sure feels like rigging. It just seems like progressives can’t win. Of course, after the 2016 election, the courts ruled that the DNC could cheat if they wanted to. I’m still surprised there was not more outrage about that.
I spend a lot of time on Facebook arguing with people who are to the left of me, who say there is no hope within the democratic party, and that we should all leave and form a 3rd party, or have a revolution. I know that neither of those things are likely to happen, but on this day I have to say, I agree with them.
Then, at 7:30 a.m., we hit the road (Helena, Isabel and me – Sam thinks he is too cool for a trip with the parents so he’s going to a friend’s cottage, or so he’s told us at any rate) for a week’s vacation in Poland. I had thought that here in the South of Poland it would not be a major tourist area, so we could enjoy some lovely scenery in a laid back atmosphere without the crowds and the kitsch but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The market here in Zakopanec is about as kitschy as I have ever seen, and there were huge crowds in the center this evening, despite the rain. But, that’s all cool. It is a lovely area, much like the resort H and I went to a couple weeks ago, and the place we are staying is comfortable, and we’re having a good time.
The world is probably doomed, but things are still pretty nice in my little corner of it.

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Trumpers Fuck Up Again

This story here is both sad, scary, a horrible statement on the difficulties of having the intelligent conversation we need to have if we want to save our species from extinction, and absolutely gut busting comical, all at the same time.
It seems some of Trump’s inner circle decided to start a free speech website, a place for Trumpers to post where they wouldn’t be bothered by people saying ‘that’s not politically correct,’ ‘that is completely false,’ or ‘jeeezus, what the fuck is wrong with you people?’, or just blocked outright. So, they started a site called GETTR. Within a month, it was absolutely flooded with Islamic revolutionary propaganda. Like, the really bad stuff. Beheadings, flag burnings, death to America in every video.
It’s just like Trump vodka, Trump steaks, and the list goes on and on. Some people who didn’t know anything about websites started a website and it was a disaster, a flop of epic proportions. In this case, they were eaten by trolls. Figuratively, of course.
Sites like Facebook, and any others you might use, are only navigable because the admins are blocking the crazies right, left and center. If the internet has proven anything it is that humanity has a dark, and extremely stupid side. Of course, the censorship could probably be better managed. Algorithms make absurd mistakes, and human moderators can’t handle the volume, so everybody is walking a thin line.
Walking a thin line is not something Trump, or his people, are good at.

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Ramblings on Einstein

My Facebook feed has become a swamp of framed platitudes, cute animal photos, bad puns, and old people acting superior because they know how to tell time and write in cursive and once knew how to dial a phone. Of course I’m just being cynical and there’s some good stuff, too. In the platitudes category, I just saw a whole list of quotes from Albert Einstein, most of which we’ve all seen before, but this one struck me: “Concerning matter, we have been all wrong. What we have called matter is energy, whose vibration has been so lowered as to be perceptible to the senses. Matter is spirit reduced to point of visibility. There is no matter.”
As a physicist, he was a pretty good poet. I mean, that is one way of looking at it, and it’s a very beautiful way of looking at it, which has the advantage of being the literal truth, but to see ourselves as beings of energy, frozen light, is not exactly a practical way to view the world. I mean, if you’re riding down the road and your buddy whose driving starts saying things like “I am pure spirit, and the car is pure spirit, and we are vibrating at the frequency of the air and there is no past, present and future (that was another of the quotes) and we and that truck heading toward us are one” you’re probably going to freak out a little bit.
Even though he’s right.

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Determining L

When the Drake Equation, or ‘the Drake Checklist’ as I prefer to think of it (perhaps because there are so many variables, the numbers are literally astronomical, and I suck at math) was formulated back in 1961, no human beings had been to the moon, the Hubble telescope was decades away, we did not know if water existed outside Earth and we had not discovered a single exoplanet.
Science fiction existed, but it didn’t have as much real science to draw on as it does today.
Now we know that exoplanets, and water, are very commonplace things throughout the universe, but we’re still no closer to discovering any other technological, space faring species. Of course, we don’t have any control over the various factors in the equation. There were either going to be exoplanets or there weren’t, there was either going to be water or there wasn’t, and so on.
But L is entirely up to us. L is the average lifespan of a technological species, measured from the time somebody invents radio (I’m not sure of the start point in the official equation. Maybe they measure from the invention of the steam engine, maybe from the beginning of space travel) up to the time that civilization ends. Civilizations can and do end due to war, plague, drought and all sorts of other things, and there’s no reason to think that global situations are exempt.
But, as it stands now, all we know is that one such civilization (our own) has existed for about 100 years, maybe two or three hundred at the most liberal definition. So, it’s not out of line to say that the average such society only exists for a couple of centuries. If so, the idea of space travel is pretty much dead in the water.
But I suspect the number is actually much, much higher. I suspect that most societies which reach a point where they can stabilize their atmosphere, end wars, develop defense strategies against drought, floods, hurricanes, asteroids, etc…, will do so.
We have not done so, so far, even though we have the technology. If we did so, we would have to revise that estimate upward, maybe to 100,000, or a billion, or a trillion years if we get interstellar ships developed before our sun goes kerphlooey in the next 5 billion years or so.
We can increase the odds of other intelligent species existing by prolonging the existence of our own. Whether that is quantum physics or magical thinking, we should give it a shot.

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