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In my childhood I studied Latin for six years. Toward the end, I was able to read and enjoy Latin poetry. I was particularly entranced by its rhythm and beat. That skill has faded. I know some words, but I could no longer translate a single sentence.

To this day, however, I have friends how are deeply involved with Latin. One of my best friends (PG) is a professor of Latin and French in Germany. When we get together, we don’t spend time with Latin or French, but we do compare our paintings.

I have recently picked up a stimulating correspondence with my first Latin professor in school, who taught me the first few years of fundamentals (WI). Today we communicate about literature. This is a man who recently worked through reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace – in Russian! That’s what happens when you dedicate your life to language, linguistics and literature.

And finally, there is a friend of an entirely different background (JCV), who was, 40 years ago in college, for a semester, my professor of Introduction to Philosophy, who now, apparently, translates Latin poetry to English to pass the time. Here is a poem he send me this morning.

To the few readers of mine that like the classics – and the study of Latin – enjoy!

 

Exegi monumentum aere perennius
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non aquilo impotens
possit diruere, aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.
non omnis moriar, multaque pars mei
vitabit Libitinam, usque ego postera
crescam laude recens, dum Capitolium
scandet cum tacita virgine pontifex.
dicar, qua violens obstrepit Aufidus
et qua pauper aquae Daunus agrestium
regnavit populorum, ex humili potens,
princeps Aeolium carmen ad Italos
deduxisse modos. sume superbiam
quaesitam meritis et mihi Delphica
lauro cinge volens, Melpomene, comam.

Horace: Odes, Book III, XXX (c. 23 BC)

*****

I have erected a monument more lasting than bronze,
loftier than the royal landmark of the pyramids,
which neither ravenous Rain, nor wild Wind can destroy;
nor the endless passage of years, nor the flight of time.
I shall not perish entirely: a large part of me will evade Death,
as long as I thrive refreshed from ensuing praise,
while the High Priest climbs the Capitoline with a silent vestal.
It will be said of me that where the raging Aufidus roars,
where Daunus ruled over his rustic people in an arid land,
I, from humble roots empowered,
first committed Aeolian song to Italian verse.
Accept the proud achievement of those who merit praise,
Melpomene, and with the Delphic laurel freely grace my hair.

Translation by Jean-Claude Volgo

If you think science and education are expensive, try ignorance.

Just glance at this chart and you can see several phenomena:

  1. The graph is fairly linear, with a slight incline during the past two decades.
  2. At an increase of about 2-3 PPM per year, project out what it’ll be in 2100. Our grandchildren will not be happy.

 

Source: Cosmic Quote #80

Tonight, flipping through the movies on Apple, and not finding anything good, we decided to watch Prometheus. It got a 72% on the tomatometer, so I thought it would not be too bad. Very quickly I found myself bored with the inane dialog, senseless plot and cardboard characters. I also recognized some scenes, so I thought I must have seen some of them flipping through channels in the past. However, true to my commitment to myself about reviewing every movie I watch, I persisted all the way through.

Then I came to my computer, chose the half-star icon below and went to find a good picture to use for the review, when I noticed that there was already one titled Prometheus in my directory. Hmmm.

Five seconds and a quick search later revealed that I had watched and reviewed this movie on June 4, 2014. Here is the result, one star that time.

This movie is so bad that I had completely forgotten that I had watched it before, all the way through, and then wrote a full review about it.

Or is it my memory that’s going.

Either way – bad.

Tweeting this does two bad things to sabotage himself:

  1. He is defensive and complains about stuff in the past, regardless whether those events are factual, related and comparative. Makes him look weak and whining: “Look, those other guys did it too!”
  2. He implies that he committed illegal acts, since those other people also committed illegal acts, his words.

Sorry, boss, but this is not about them. This is about Trump. It’s Trump’s turn now. This is his administration. Not Nixon’s. Not Clinton’s. Not Obama’s. It’s Trump’s. If he wants to investigate Clinton and Obama, he should go ahead and make that happen. If he has a case, it should be easy to do that. It does not change there is an investigation into acts he committed that might have been illegal.

Now, at least, we will all find out. If it’s all made up, he’s good to go. If it’s not, he’s going to need to take responsibility for it. Obama didn’t do this to him.

He did it to himself.

I am actually looking forward to this: Trump is scheduled to give a speech about Islam in Saudi Arabia. Trump, who can’t give a speech worth listening to if his life depended on it! What could possibly go wrong?

Read my lips: Trump’s speech about Islam will be a complete disaster.

How is this for a low bar for our illustrious leader?

We’re rapidly making America great again.

Here is an American Yazidi woman being strangle-held by an Erdogan bodyguard in D.C.

It’s not enough that we support overseas strongmen like Erdogan. We invite them into the Oval Office, and on their way there we allow their bodyguards to attack and beat up protestors. Not just did they strangle this woman, they beat up others and kicked them, repeatedly, and sometimes into their faces, while they were on the ground.

D.C. police tried to interfere.

And all this while their boss and dictator, Erdogan, was palling in the Oval Office with our President Trump.

Erdogan should not be in the White House. The White House should oppose Erdogan and his illegitimate presidency.

I, for one, do not like the looks of our new American greatness.

I am embarrassed for our country.

 

Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton never served in the military.

Each of them didn’t have any problem sending the sons or daughters of other fathers to far away lands to die. Every president, it seems, wants a good war. Trump is itching for a good war to gain relevance. This attitude of our country, this war-machine fueled economy, is what poisons the world, and – I honestly believe – is what actually causes Islamic aggression. If we left the Middle East alone, if we didn’t constantly meddle and send soldiers and drones, a new generation would grow up and go to college, put bread on their tables, and enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, in their own way.

But I digress on utopian ideas.

President Jimmy Carter has a reputation of being one of our weakest presidents. During his years, inflation was severe. Interest rates were in the high teens. I started my life in the United States during the Carter years.

President Carter is also one of the smartest presidents ever, with an estimated IQ of 153. He took graduate courses in nuclear physics and reactor technology as a Navy officer and submariner. Except for Dwight Eisenhower, no president of the 20th century spent more time in the service than Jimmy Carter. And finally, there were no wars in the Carter Administration. Eight people died in a hostage crisis, but otherwise, he is famous for having said: “We never dropped a bomb, we never fired a bullet.”

In a world where we have an entire generation that has grown up witnessing war overseas waged by the United States, a generation that doesn’t even remember Carter as anyone but a 92 year old ex-president that always seems to be working on humanitarian causes, I thought it might be a healthy reminder that there are other conduct options for our country than war.

And with that thought, let’s all go back to waking up every day seriously worried about what insane thing Trump might do today that can get millions of people killed while we’re making America great again.

A picture speaks a thousand words.

Trump said that the Trump-Russia affair is a made-up story. The White House keeps stating that there is nothing to it, that it’s a witch hunt. The Republicans in Congress are blocking the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Why?

If there really is nothing to it, if it’s all made-up, it will quickly become obvious, everyone will be vindicated and life goes on.

However, if there is wrongdoing that took place, it’s extremely serious. Trump’s presidency could be illegitimate. Felonies, even treason, could have been committed.

I do not understand why the Republicans are blocking this? Don’t they want to know the truth? Do they really think that if Trump is guilty, it won’t eventually come out? Seriously?

There are probably 1,000 investigative journalists of the caliber of Bernstein and Woodward researching this affair day and night. They will continue until they run out of material, if there is none to be found. Or until they hit the jackpot.

How can Trump supporters keep the faith in their leader in light of this? If he’s innocent, no problem. If he is guilty, don’t they want to know and have justice done?

Seriously?

One of Michelle Obama’s signature accomplishments was the institution of healthy school lunches around the country. The Trump Administration has just rolled back that initiative. Here is Michelle’s response to that.

She argues understandably that she doesn’t understand how somebody can actually say they don’t care if our children eat crap. “Who does that?” she asks.

Some of the comments under that video in YouTube are grotesque and offensive. Obviously, the cardinal rule is: Never read the comments under a political YouTube. I could not help it, here are some:

Ok, Tomahawk1775 is pointing out that the school lunches didn’t taste good. But since he can’t make a coherent argument, he tries to make his point by spouting obscenities and insulting Obama. You can say anything about Michelle Obama, but you can’t say she does not have a brain. She has a law degree from Harvard. I wonder what Tomahawk1775’s degree is?

 

Chelsea Roan resorts to a similar strategy, albeit more crass, and more offensive. No actual argument. Just crude personal attacks. But at least she uses her own name and stands behind her assault. She is not hiding behind an anonymous handle.

 

Santacruz474 just makes an observation and interpretation, which appears flawed. I don’t believe that Obama is shallow enough to be just pissed about “her program.” I truly believe Obama is concerned about the future of our country and about the nutrition of our children.

 

Here, CritterOnFire (anonymous) and Amanda Gonzalez (apparent actual name) use deflection because apparently they can’t come up with a logical answer. The deflection on abortion is not only inappropriate in this context, it is illogical and it points out a common fallacy of the so-called pro-life proponents. Pro-life is defined as “opposing abortion and euthanasia.” These two people, and many others in the pro-life circles, are using false logic by labeling the opponents of pro-life, who we call pro-choice, as people who are somehow pro-death. There is, if course, a huge difference.

Then inferring that “Democrats are saying ‘abort all the kids, abortion is great'” is an insult to all Democrats. Not all Democrats are pro-choice, not all pro-choice people think abortion is great. As a matter of fact, I know some pro-choice people, of course, and I haven’t met a single one who thinks abortion is great.

 

Finally, there are tons of statements like this. That’s why we came up with the term “deplorable.” I am sorry, Pana Sonic, but your statement is deplorable.

 

So what have we learned?

  1. Never read the comments below any political YouTube.
  2. Our country is polarized and hateful. We write and comment things about each other that we’d never openly say to each other at a backyard BBQ party.
  3. Pro-choice is not pro-abortion or pro-death.
  4. School lunch programs have serious issues.

Since this is about school lunch programs, we should discuss this in more detail.

I believe that nobody in the country would argue that we want our kids to eat crap, well almost nobody. We agree with Michelle Obama on that. The problem is that it’s not the school’s job to nourish children. It’s the parents’ job. Researching for just a few minutes lays open that the school lunch programs, as implemented by Obama, were a failure. Not because the lunches were supposed to be healthy, but because the children didn’t eat them. They went into the trash. Administrators and school officials everywhere seem to agree that the trash cans were overflowing with unopened and untouched food. Not only did we waste the money spent on the food, but we ended up not feeding the children.

Parents report that they had to pack lunches, since the children complained about the food and went hungry.

Clearly, while Obama’s initiative was admirable, the way the program was implemented does not seem to have been successful.

I do not know what thought the Trump Administration put into the repeal of the program, but I am sure it wasn’t an initiative to start feeding kids “crap” again. It had something to do with the philosophy that it’s not the job of the public to nourish children. It’s the job of the parents. They wanted to stop spending money on food going into the trash.

That leaves us with the dilemma of what to do. Dictating a certain menu to schools nationwide, while it makes sense in concept, didn’t work in practice. Our children eat what they are taught is good at home. That’s what they expect in school. Government is not good at dictating what people eat. That has never worked before, and it’s not going to work in the future.

The problem, of course, is that for a significant portion of our children of poor families, the school lunch may be the only solid, sound and reliable meal they get in a day.

This, too, is not viewed as a government problem. It’s one of education and it’s one of parents acting responsibly. Unfortunately, this is now a generational problem. We have a generation of children whose parents and grandparents never learned the tenets of proper nutrition, who have been nourished by McDonald’s. How could they pass on good nutritional habits?

There is no easy answer to school lunches. Polarizing the issue with hate messages going in both direction is not solving the problem. And the children continue to eat poorly.

I know I have readers who are professional educators. I encourage their comments and insight.

 

When a nuclear submarine in the Caribbean encounters anomalies with its GPS system, John Clay, a naval investigator is called in to figure out what happened.

At the same time, Alison Shaw, a marine biologist and her small team of dedicated scientists achieve a breakthrough in their attempt to communicate with dolphins.

Eventually the U.S. Navy discovers an artifact on the bottom of the ocean that seems to destabilize the geological balance of the entire planet. That’s when the U.S. government gets involved, and things go sideways very quickly.

Breakthrough is Grumley’s debut novel and the first of a “series” of novels. It’s a science fiction techno-thriller, where the science fiction is very light and superficial, and the thriller part is pretty standard and fairly bland U.S. government intrigue stuff.

There are two areas that interested me specifically, and I want to discuss them.

Spoiler Warning: the following contains minor spoilers which will not impact your enjoyment of the novel, but it is my policy to warn about spoilers.

Dolphin Intelligence and Language

The first area has to do with dolphin intelligence and language. This subject has always been one of deep interest to me, and I have literally read dozens of books on the subject. Search for the keyword “dolphin” on this blog and find some of my thoughts on it. Also, select “cetaceans” in the Select a Category dropdown to the right, and you’ll find a lot of related posts.

In this story, a team of researchers has used an IBM artificial intelligence engine to decode a dolphin vocabulary, and after the initial Hello, Yes and No words are discovered, it starts building very quickly. Humans type into the computer, or speak to a voice recognition system, and the system translates the word to a set of dolphin clicks and whistles. When dolphins whistle, the computer detects the words, looks them up in the vocabulary, and speaks them. Voilà, you have a conversation with a dolphin.

This concept is quite well developed in this story, except for the strange beginning, where the supposed breakthrough occurs, and I could not figure out what exactly it was. Supposedly the team had recorded dolphin sounds for years, and they were finally starting to interpret them. There was this huge press conference announcing that they were starting that. I just could not figure out what the breakthrough was, other than they had decided that they would stop collecting sounds and start interpreting them.

I was personally always interested in this field, and I have often had regrets that I didn’t start in this field of research early in my career as a computer programmer. My life might have been very different indeed. Of course, maybe not as successful, since in all those years, unlike in this book, we have NOT yet cracked the code and been successful communicating with the aliens right here on our planet, with our own DNA.

Convergent Evolution

Definition: In evolutionary biology, convergent evolution is the process whereby organisms not closely related (not monophyletic), independently evolve similar traits as a result of having to adapt to similar environments or ecological niches.

In this story – and here is the spoiler – there are aliens living on the bottom of the Caribbean Sea in air bubbles. How they got there and what they are doing there is not relevant for my point so I won’t elaborate here.

However, the aliens, although they come from another planet around another star, are human, indistinguishable from us. The author explains that convergent evolution will produce identical results even in wildly different environments, as long as the building blocks of nature are the same. We are all “stardust” and made from the same raw materials that heavy elements resulting from supernovae. So the same amino acids seeded many different worlds around many different stars, and the crowning result would be — humans.

That’s where the story lost me. No only were the aliens that evolved on another planet in a different stellar system light years away human, they spoke American English! This was just so out of the realm of feasibility, the book came apart for me at that time.

Here is a novel,  that is partly built on the concept of the challenges of decoding a language of an alien being (in this case a dolphin) and how it took decades of work to make any measurable progress, and then that same novel brings in alien humans that conveniently speak English and are undetected in our social environment.

Regardless of those flaws, I enjoyed the book, I found the concept of language translation intriguing and entertaining, and I read all the way to the end.

 

Oh, yes, let him talk and tweet. Like the old saying goes: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt. Trump is removing all doubt, every time he opens his mouth. The embarrassment-in-chief.

Ends and Beginnings

“James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” – Donald Trump tweet 5-12-17

“First obstruction of an investigation. Now witness intimidation from the Highest Office. A sad moment for even this White House. Unhinged?” – Rep. Gerry Connolly tweet 5-12-17

I started working on a post yesterday about what a Circus this White House is but then I watched the head Bozo’s interview with Lester Holt and stopped writing. Our President wanted to talk so Mr. Holt handed him a shovel and let him talk.

“First of all, when you’re under investigation you’re given all sorts of documents and everything.” – Donald Trump to Lester Holt

Yes The Donald did what he does best talk, and then start a fire, multiple fires.

“I just sent a letter to Lindsey Graham from one of the most prestigious law firms in the country that…

View original post 189 more words

Picture Credit: Russian Foreign Ministry Office – via AP

The day after Trump fires FBI Director James Comey for “doing a bad job,” he meets in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, next to Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak, right.

The American press was banned from this meeting and photo op, but obviously, the Russian press was not, and within minutes of the meeting, pictures of the Russians in the Oval Office surfaced on the Internet, this above being one of them.

Trump actually said he was “tricked” into this. Our master negotiator was “tricked” by a couple of Russians?

No shit!

Doesn’t Trump know that being seen with Russians right now might not look so good? Doesn’t Trump know that the entire country is looking into illegal or possibly treasonous activities of Trump as it relates to Russia?

But banning the American press, and thereby the American people from the Oval Office, OUR Oval Office, but letting the Russian press in, is nothing less than – shall I use the word – deplorable.

This shows that Trump simply does not give a damn what we think. He is the president, and he can do anything he wants.

Deplorable!

This is really cringeworthy. DeVos wearing a Masters gown, even though she has only a B.A. degree from Calvin College, a Christian university.

She reads her speech off a piece of paper. She is stiff and wooden, and the speech has no substance or inspiration whatsoever, not because the subject of the speech she chose, but because everyone knows she’s a phoney.

How did she even get invited? Who thought this was a good idea?

DeVos has no place giving a commencement speech, and she proved it here.

This is how we are making America great again!

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