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Archive for March, 2012

Continuing my posts around the theme of the seven deadly sins that started with my previous post on anger, the next item on the list alphabetically is envy.

Shakespeare, in his play Othello, has his character of Iago describe jealousy, the close kissing-cousin of envy, as the “green-ey’d monster”.

I rummaged around the attic and basement of my emotions and feelings in preparation for this post, but I had a tough time uncovering anything or anyone that I was truly envious of. I have everything that I ever dreamed of when I was little. I still have my parents who love me. I have a wonderful wife, three fantastic kids, and (until the move to the Continent) a satisfying career in the fabulous world of software testing. We make enough money so that we do not want for anything.

I am not envious of those who are more famous than I am.

I am not envious of those who are more successful than I am.

I am not envious of those who are more wealthy than I am.

I am sans envy because I believe in the quote by Malcolm X, “Any time you see someone more successful than you are, they are doing something you aren’t.”

People who are more famous, successful, and wealthy than I am have (for the most part) worked harder than I have and are doing something(s) that I’m not. There it is and so be it.

However, tucked away in the closet of my brain (behind the vacuum cleaner) was a dust bunny of envy that I will now share.

I now fully grasp the fact that I am insanely jealous of my children. I am pig-biting jealous of the fact that my children have entertainment and gaming opportunities that went beyond my imagination.

I can still vividly recall being a nine-year-old tyke and drooling over the Sears catalog. I would spend hours just staring at the pages of Toys section because there was one and only one toy I wanted for Hannukah that year.

I would have gladly forgone my presents for the other seven days of the holiday if my parents would have bought me Mattell Electronics Football. Solely consisting of six buttons and a “screen” that displayed red LED light, this hand-held game looked to my mind as if it would keep me entertained for hours.

My joy was boundless on a December night in 1977 when the game was indeed in my hands. Sure enough, the game did provide for hours and days and weeks of entertainment. This game started my love affair with Mattel Electronics as I went on to own (courtesy of my parental units) Mattel Electronics Baseball, Mattel Electronics Basketball, and culminating with Mattel Electronics Intellivision.

If you click on the links above and see the games that kept me occupied, they are laughable by today’s standards in terms of graphics and playability.

Today, my two sons have the iPod Touch. This device from Apple is not a one-trick pony like the handheld devices from Mattel Electronics as their device can play a mind-blowing variety of games. My kids just browse the iTunes Store and grab what they want. The graphics are stunning, rich, and realistic as they far surpass the red LEDs and 8-bit blobs I played with as a youth.

I stare at this sleek device from Apple, this portal to a world of entertainment that would have stopped the heart, spleen, liver, and various other organs of that nine-year-old boy clutching the Sears catalog and feel the tentacles of envy envelop me.

The worst part of this envy is that it can never be quenched. No matter how hard I work, no matter how much I sweat, no matter how creative I become, that 1977 version of little Nolan will never know what it is like to launch a red bird into the pig, to cut the rope, or to be the last Battle Bear standing.

The green-eyed monster chuckles and laughs at the long-ago Nolan that lives in my memory.

I so wish I had all that cool stuff back then.

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Wanted to try something new and see if I could kick off a series of posts all around the seven deadly sins.

Starting off alphabetically, our list begins with anger.

Given that I do not live in the United States anymore, I receive news about my former country of residence courtesy of the Internet. Mostly I look at the articles from international sources such as Reuters, BBC News, and CNN International. If I knew more French, I would try Le Monde, but I don’t so I can’t.

I believe that my distance from the United States and the fact that my sole source of information comes from cyberspace skews the news that I am receiving about where I used to live. With that in mind, I have been reading a pair of stories and the amount of umbrage that it has spawned seems to be equal.

So my follow-up question is this…

Which is group is angrier?

a) Protestors angry over the killing of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin.

b) People who bought “Angry Birds in Space” and then took to cyberspace to express their anger over the delay in the launch, the fact that the game doesn’t work on older iPhones, is not available for the Kindle Fire, or that the game is rife with in-app purchases (for those complaints, you’ll have to head on over to the iTunes Store).

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Ceditra: Old Plot Lines

One joy of wandering around the blog-o-sphere is the fact that some of my favorite creators are on-line and pontificating daily, weekly, or monthly. One of my daily stops through cyberspace is Gurney Journey, the website of James Gurney, the artist best known for his series of Dinotopia books and his illustrations in National Geographic.

On Thursday, March 22, Gurney had an entry that linked to the blog site FILM CRIT HULK. This posting from the presumably green-skinned cinematic critic is a critique of the Hero’s Journey as used in film.

The Hulk’s posting is long, but well worth a read.

His ramblings reminded me of a ceditra entry that I wrote in July of last year. While it doesn’t necessarily deal with the Hero’s Journey, it does talk about recycled plot lines, a subject I’ve posted about before (such as here and here).

My random method (rated G for all audiences) for finding source material to write my ceditra entries on landed me on the Bible where I started with this quote…

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“Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee” -Matthew 4:12

This part of the first Gospel happens after Jesus is tempted in the desert by Satan, but before Jesus finds his first disciple. We’re early in the story of Jesus’s development and his narrative takes a necessary turn for his evolution from a hapless carpenter to a fisher of men: he needs to get out of Dodge. In addition, he needs to lose his mentor. Every “Great One” has a teacher who finds the untrained pupil and educates him (seems to always be a “him”, eh?) in the ways of whatever it is he needs to be schooled in.

Then, once the lessons are over, the pupil has to leave. Usually, and often for dramatic effect, this departure takes place due to some act of violence done against the teacher. This causes the pupil to strike out on his own and find his destiny armed with his newly gained knowledge.

In this case, our hero’s mentor, John the Baptist, is jailed (and later beheaded) and Jesus decided that his best course of action is to hit the road.

Being away from it all and being on one’s own is a classic plot line in literature, but it seems to run strong in religion. Moses hightailed it out of Egypt (okay, technically he was exiled, but the point remains valid) and Mohammed retreated to a cave to meditate before hitting his stride as the final Prophet. Buddha took time off from his rich and comfortable life (heck, he actually left it all behind) and I’m sure if I looked hard enough, I could find a similar motif in Hinduism.

Why is that?

Why is it so important for the hero to go away before coming back?

Can you do a story without this journey?
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Since I have read The Hulk’s piece, I can also add the following question to my list of queries that ended my ceditra entry.

Can you do a hero’s story without the hero’s journey malarkey?

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Through was the theme for the Weekly Photo Challenge.

Had a tough time with this one, but I did find a picture from our visit last year to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center located in Virginia Beach. This is our middle child, Jared, and a fish (species unknown to my untrained non-ichthyologist eyes) peering at each other through the looking glass.

Son and fish at Virginia Aquarium

Picture taken during my Blue Period

Here’s hoping next week’s theme is a bit more up my alley.

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Here’s The Thing.

No, that’s my new introduction, it’s the name of a podcast I discovered that is hosted by the actor Alec Baldwin.

It really is a wonderful find as Mr. Baldwin interviews fascinating personalities. I have listened to his podcasts with Chris Rock, Kathleen Turner, Michael Douglas, and Lorne Micheals and have been amazed at the ease with which Mr. Baldwin speaks with his guests and they open up to him. I really do feel like I’m eavesdropping on a private conversation.

While it would be easy to say that this level of friendliness is due to the fact that all the people mentioned above are in the show-biz game, Mr. Baldwin has interviewed non-entertainment types and the level of comfortableness seems to be the same.

Case in point was the November 7, 2011, podcast with political consultant and advisor Ed Rollins. Despite being on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum, host and guest were extremely amiable and I was even able to learn something new about the political process.

However, since this post is categorized under “Veridiction” and even has that word (my name for the practice of verifying predictions) in this post’s title, that can only mean that Mr. Rollins made a prediction back in November (or even earlier depending on how soon or late Mr. Baldwin releases his podcasts).

The following exchange happens during the interview when talking about the Republican primaries:
Baldwin: Who will win South Carolina?
Rollins: Whoever wins Iowa.

A straightforward prediction so let’s see what happened.

The GOP primary in South Carolina was won by former Speaker of the House of Representative Newt Gingrich.

The winner of the Republican caucus in Iowa two weeks earlier was nearly a tie between former Senator Rick Santorum and former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney.

Mr. Rollins prediction counts as a fail, and an odd fail at that. This was a rare primary cycle where a pair of candidates “won” the Iowa caucus and even with that, Mr. Rollins erred in his prediction as to the winner of the South Carolina contest.

No doubt about it. Even for the experts, this prediction game is hard stuff.

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Contrast Update

A week and a half ago, I participated in the Weekly Photo Challenge sponsored by WordPress. The theme of that particular challenge was “contrast” and I offered up a photo of two roses that were in our home’s garden. One was clearly in its wilting phase and the other was just about to bud

For no particular reason, here is my update of that picture ten days later.

Flowers

The one in the foreground, like Francisco Franco, is still dead.

Looking forward to this Friday’s theme.

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I’m back again with my second offering for the Weekly Photo Challenge with its theme of unusual.

My wife has an unusual sense of humor.

A few years ago, she took a nasty tumble down a flight of stairs and tore a gash in her leg near her knee that required multiple stitches.

Never one to pass up an opportunity to make light of a situation, she grabbed a marker and took this photo…

Picture of stitches and fake eyes

Happy Scar

The picture is not that unusual. The person holding the camera defintely is.

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Yes, I am stretching to bring these two disparate news items together, but it is the connection between them that links to my ceditra entry of just two days ago.

News Item One: In February, the band Pestilence announced its newest members.

News Item Two: Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum has declared that “America is suffering a pandemic of harm from pornography…”

With that out of the way, the random idea generator (which mutates as quickly as some viruses) I use to create my ceditra entries landed me on page 587 of my dictionary.

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pes – ti – len – tial adj
1. of or relating to pestilence
2. dangerous, troublesome,

It’s been quite some time in history since there has been a panic about a true honest-to-goodness plague.

The Spanish Flu of 1918 would be my candidate for the last time the globe suffered world-wide hysteria about a malady and having that hysteria justified. Having three percent of the world’s population killed by the disease (low-ball estimates of the pandemic put the death toll at 50,000,000) qualifies as letting me use the term “hysteria justified”. What added to the panic was the fact that this disease could pass from person to person with only minimal contact.

Since that time there have been other panics about a global pandemic but they have been unfounded either because the method of contamination was so specific or because the pathogen didn’t live long enough outside of the human host.

The H1N1 flu of 2009, which was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, was the most recent scare. While over eighteen thousand people were killed by the disease, the malady never came to close to Spanish Flu levels either because people were vaccinated in time before a full explosion of the disease could take hold or because the strain wasn’t that virulent in the first place.

Avian flu (H5N1) had the world in a tizzy in 1997, 2003, and 2004, but the disease did not go global as it is difficult a person to transmit H5N1 to another person.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) had folk around Asia wearing surgical masks at the start of the 21st century, but, again, it was tough for a person to pick it up from another person (I may be wrong about that last part).

Knock on wood, cross my fingers, and throw copious amount of salt over my shoulder, I hope I and my children (and their children) never see a pandemic equal to the Spanish Flu.

They (thankfully) just don’t make plagues like they used to (and there was much rejoicing!).

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If you want a fun pandemic, jump over here.

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Today, March 14, is Pi Day, because the date can be written 3/14 which is the first three digits of pi.

The mathematical constant of pi is the ratio of any circle’s circumference to its diameter.

Expressed in decimal notation, pi is 3.14159…(there’s your number for the day) and continues on forever without ending and without repeating because the ratio is an irrational number.

I understand pi, but I’ve never understood it.

With the all the symmetry that Nature and Numbers provide, I’ve never understood why a simple ratio of a circle’s diameter to its circumference should not be a simple number.

Examples of the symmetry I admire are how the Fibonacci Sequence (0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,…) can be found in flower petals and shell spirals.

I’ve also found it fascinating that for any two integers next to each other on the number line (i.e., 3 and 4, 6 and 7, 10 and 11), the sum of those two numbers is difference between their squares. For example, if you pick 2 and 3, their sum is 5 and the difference between their squares (4 and 9) is 5 also.

a + (a + 1) = (a + 1)2 – a2 is a beautiful equation.

Since there is so much symmetry in Nature and Numbers, why must a simple ratio be irrational? It would seem to make more sense that the circumference of a circle is exactly 3 times its diameter.

As I have scads of free time to ponder silly stuff like this, I have hit upon a possible answer that is sadly untestable.

Could it be that the expanding Universe is to blame for the extra .1415926535897932384626433etc that is tacked on to the ratio?

I hope I can explain this well.

Imagine the known Universe shrunk down one dimension and that everything that was, is, and will be exists on the skin of a balloon. The skin is a plane which is two-dimensional as the inhabitants can only move in the x and y directions. The balloon itself is expanding into the third dimension.

Due to this expansion, and its correlating acceleration, through this extra dimension, perhaps there is some distortion going on in the geometry of a circle. In a static Universe, perhaps the ratio of the diameter to the circumference for a circle is indeed 3. However, the expansion and movement through the third dimension causes a distortion in the time-space fabric that stretches out the circle ever so slightly that gives the ratio that extra .1415926535897andsoonandsoon.

Inhabitants of the expanding Universe see the circle as perfectly round and don’t notice the distortion because they are in the same frame of reference as the circle and so as the circle is distorted, so are the denizens of the balloon Universe.

Perhaps it is the same way with us on our three-dimension balloon moving through the extra dimension.

Like I said before, I have no way to prove this, but it’s thoughts like these that have my mind running around in circles.

Happy Pi Day!

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With what this middle child of mine does and says, I could center this blog around him.

You met Jared before in his incarnations as Roger Kint, Tony Hawk, and Cordelia.

Yesterday he donned his best cheapest three-piece suit and become an expert in the motion picture industry.

While walking around this new city we call home (An aside: Can I really call it “new” if we’ve been here over half a year?), my three children and I saw a movie poster for the soon-to-be-released three-dimensional version of James Cameron’s Titanic.

Frustration overcame me as I pondered aloud as to why there was a need to re-release this film in 3D. It’s not as if it were an action film with swords, lasers, and pointy things flying at the audience. It’s a love story on a boat that sinks.

As my tirade concluded, I ended with, “Why is this being done?”

To which, Jared, my middle child, answered with all his typical brilliant insight, “Because there was money to be made.”

He’s eleven years old, ladies and gentlemen, and he already understands show business.

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