Thursday, July 2, 2015

Musical Interlude: Mythos, “Solstice”

Mythos, “Solstice”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“It's the dim star, not the bright one, near the center of NGC 3132 that created this odd but beautiful planetary nebula. Nicknamed the Eight-Burst Nebula and the Southern Ring Nebula, the glowing gas originated in the outer layers of a star like our Sun.
 Click image for larger size.
In this representative color picture, the hot blue pool of light seen surrounding this binary system is energized by the hot surface of the faint star. Although photographed to explore unusual symmetries, it's the asymmetries that help make this planetary nebula so intriguing. Neither the unusual shape of the surrounding cooler shell nor the structure and placements of the cool filamentary dust lanes running across NGC 3132 are well understood.”


“All human eyes have longing in them.”
- Ernesto Cardenal

"Eight Ways to Spot Emotional Manipulation"

  "Eight Ways to Spot Emotional Manipulation"
by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

"1. There is no use in trying to be honest with an emotional manipulator. You make a statement and it will be turned around. Example: I am really angry that you forgot my birthday. Response – “It makes me feel sad that you would think I would forget your birthday, I should have told you of the great personal stress I am facing at the moment – but you see I didn’t want to trouble you. You are right I should have put all this pain (don’t be surprised to see real tears at this point) aside and focused on your birthday. Sorry.” Even as you are hearing the words you get the creeped out sensation that they really do NOT mean they are sorry at all – but since they’ve said the words you’re pretty much left with nothing more to say. Either that or you suddenly find yourself babysitting their angst!! Under all circumstances if you feel this angle is being played – don’t capitulate! Do not care take – do not accept an apology that feels like bullshit. If it feels like bullshit – it probably is. Rule number one – if dealing with an emotional blackmailer TRUST your gut. TRUST your senses. Once an emotional manipulator finds a successful maneuver – it’s added to their hit list and you’ll be fed a steady diet of this shit.

2. An emotional manipulator is the picture of a willing helper. If you ask them to do something they will almost always agree – that is IF they didn’t volunteer to do it first. Then when you say, “ok thanks” – they make a bunch of heavy sighs, or other non verbal signs that let you know they don’t really want to do whatever said thing happens to be. When you tell them it doesn’t seem like they want to do whatever – they will turn it around and try to make it seem like OF COURSE they wanted to and how unreasonable you are. This is a form of crazy making – which is something emotional manipulators are very good at. Rule number two – If an emotional manipulator said YES – make them accountable for it. Do NOT buy into the sighs and subtleties – if they don’t want to do it – make them tell you it up front – or just put on the walk-man headphones and run a bath and leave them to their theater.

3. Crazy making – saying one thing and later assuring you they did not say it. If you find yourself in a relationship where you figure you should start keeping a log of what’s been said because you are beginning to question your own sanity –You are experiencing emotional manipulation. An emotional manipulator is an expert in turning things around, rationalizing, justifying and explaining things away. They can lie so smoothly that you can sit looking at black and they’ll call it white – and argue so persuasively that you begin to doubt your very senses. Over a period of time this is so insidious and eroding it can literally alter your sense of reality. WARNING: emotional manipulation is VERY dangerous! It is very disconcerting for an emotional manipulator if you begin carrying a pad of paper and a pen and making notations during conversations. Feel free to let them know you just are feeling so “forgetful” these days that you want to record their words for posterity’s sake. The damndest thing about this is that having to do such a thing is a clear example for why you should be seriously thinking about removing yourself from range in the first place. If you’re toting a notebook to safeguard yourself – that ol’ bullshit meter should be flashing steady by now!

4. Guilt. Emotional manipulators are excellent guilt mongers. They can make you feel guilty for speaking up or not speaking up, for being emotional or not being emotional enough, for giving and caring, or for not giving and caring enough. Any thing is fair game and open to guilt with an emotional manipulator. Emotional manipulators seldom express their needs or desires openly – they get what they want through emotional manipulation. Guilt is not the only form of this but it is a potent one. Most of us are pretty conditioned to do whatever is necessary to reduce our feelings of guilt. Another powerful emotion that is used is sympathy. An emotional manipulator is a great victim. They inspire a profound sense of needing to support, care for and nurture. Emotional Manipulators seldom fight their own fights or do their own dirty work. The crazy thing is that when you do it for them (which they will never ask directly for), they may just turn around and say they certainly didn’t want or expect you to do anything! Try to make a point of not fighting other people’s battles, or doing their dirty work for them. A great line is “I have every confidence in your ability to work this out on your own” – check out the response and note the bullshit meter once again.

5. Emotional manipulators fight dirty. They don’t deal with things directly. They will talk around behind your back and eventually put others in the position of telling you what they would not say themselves. They are passive aggressive, meaning they find subtle ways of letting you know they are not happy little campers. They’ll tell you what they think you want to hear and then do a bunch of jerk off shit to undermine it. Example: “Of course I want you to go back to school honey and you know I’ll support you.” Then exam night you are sitting at the table and poker buddies show up, the kids are crying the t.v. blasting and the dog needs walking – all the while “Sweetie” is sitting on their ass looking at you blankly. Dare you call them on such behavior you are likely to hear, “well you can’t expect life to just stop because you have an exam can you honey?” Cry, scream or choke ‘em – only the last will have any long-term benefits and it’ll probably wind your butt in jail.

6. If you have a headache an emotional manipulator will have a brain tumor! No matter what your situation is the emotional manipulator has probably been there or is there now – but only ten times worse. It’s hard after a period of time to feel emotionally connected to an emotional manipulator because they have a way of de-railing conversations and putting the spotlight back on themselves. If you call them on this behavior they will likely become deeply wounded or very petulant and call you selfish – or claim that it is you who are always in the spotlight. The thing is that even tho you know this is not the case you are left with the impossible task of proving it. Don’t bother – TRUST your gut and walk away!

7. Emotional manipulators somehow have the ability to impact the emotional climate of those around them. When an emotional manipulator is sad or angry the very room thrums with it – it brings a deep instinctual response to find someway to equalize the emotional climate and the quickest route is by making the emotional manipulator feel better – fixing whatever is broken for them. Stick with this type of loser for too long and you will be so enmeshed and co-dependent you will forget you even have needs – let alone that you have just as much right to have your needs met.

8. Emotional manipulators have no sense of accountability. They take no responsibility for themselves or their behavior – it is always about what everyone else has “done to them”. One of the easiest ways to spot an emotional manipulator is that they often attempt to establish intimacy through the early sharing of deeply personal information that is generally of the “hook-you-in-and-make-you-sorry-for-me” variety. Initially you may perceive this type of person as very sensitive, emotionally open and maybe a little vulnerable. Believe me when I say that an emotional manipulator is about as vulnerable as a rabid pit bull, and there will always be a problem or a crisis to overcome.”

Chet Raymo, “Seeing”

by Chet Raymo

"There was a moment yesterday evening when the elements conspired to evoke these few lines, spoken by Macbeth:

            "Light thickens,
    And the crow makes wing to the rooky woods,
    Good things of day begin to droop and drowse."

The fading light. The crows gliding down the fields to the trees in Ballybeg:

            "Light thickens,
    And the crow makes wing to the rooky woods,
    Good things of day begin to droop and drowse."

It's all there, in those few lines- the mysterious power of poetry to infuse the world with meaning, to anoint the world with a transforming grace. One could spend an hour picking those lines apart, syntax and sound, sense and alliteration. The t's of light thickening, tongue against the teeth. The alar w's making wing. The owl eyes of the double o's. The d's nodding into slumber - day, droop, drowse.

The poet Howard Nemerov says of poetry that it "works on the very surface of the eye, that thin, unyielding wall of liquid between mind and world, where somehow, mysteriously, the patterns formed by electrical storms assaulting the retina become things and the thought of things and the names of things and the relations supposed between thing." It works too in the mouth, in the physical act of speech - tongue, teeth, those d's gliding deeper into the darkness of the throat.

I stand in the gloaming garden and the black birds glide, down, down to Ballybeg, and I marvel that with so few syllables Shakespeare can- across the centuries- teach me how to see.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Dundee, Dundee City, United Kingdom. Thanks for stopping by.

"Be Who You Are..."

"Be who you are and say what you feel, 
because those who mind don't matter
and those who matter don't mind."
~ Dr. Seuss

"The Grass Is Greenest..."

"The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. 
Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. 
When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be."
- Robert Fulghum

"Words You Hate To Hear"

"Words You Hate To Hear"
by Stanley Fish

"There is a class of utterances that, when encountered, produces irritation, distress and, in some cases, the desire to kill. You hear or read one of these and your heart sinks. Everyone will have his or her (non)favorites. Mine is a three-word announcement on the TV screen, “To Be Continued,” which says, “I know that you have become invested in this story and are eager to find out how it ends, but you’re going to have to wait for a few days or a week or a month or forever.” In the great order of things, it is only a minor inconvenience, but it is experienced as a deprivation; you were banking on something and now it has been taken away.

In the same category are “Sold Out,” when you’ve been been waiting in line at a movie theater for 30 minutes (I know you can get tickets online, but sometimes you’ve decided to go out on the spur of the moment); “Closed for Private Party,” when you’ve been looking forward to a meal at your favorite restaurant all day; “Back in an Hour,” when you’ve come crosstown to buy something you need to have immediately; “Not in Service,” when you’ve been counting on using an A.T.M. or getting a Coke; “Use Other Door,” when you’ve gone around a long block to get to what you thought was the main entrance; “Register Closed,” when you’ve been waiting not-so-patiently behind a fellow customer with 25 items; and “The role of Violetta will be sung by the understudy,” when you’ve spent hundreds of dollars to see Renée Fleming.

All of these messages involve something you are bent on doing or have almost done or think you have done, and then, at the threshold of success and gratification, you are stopped in your tracks. Most annoying.

Even more annoying are the messages that are instances of formal and programmatic lying. When the dentist says to you, “This may hurt a little” or “This may sting a little,” you know that pain and discomfort on a massive scale are just around the corner. It would have been better had he or she said nothing. When the mechanical voice that interrupts the bad music that has been serenading you as you wait for a live person says, “Your call is important to us,” everything you’ve already endured and anticipate enduring for many minutes more tells you that nothing could be further from the truth. When the another mechanical voice says, “I’m sorry, but I don’t recognize your response,” you know that she’s not sorry.

And when the tech specialist who has been unable to help you and seems now to be blaming you for his inability asks, ever so politely, “May I put you on hold for a minute?” you know (a) that you have no choice (b) that one minute will become five and then 10 (c) that you are likely to be cut off and put in the position of starting all over again and (d) that in the event he does in fact return, you will be asked to execute still more procedures that will leave you exactly where you were when you were so foolish as to make the call in the first place.

And then there are the messages suggesting that you are either an idiot or a bad person. When you are told by a salesperson or a machine, “Your card has been denied,” you feel that the bank, the merchant and the world have made a judgment on you: deadbeat, spendthrift, bad credit risk. (This would be the case even if you had a million dollars in the requisite account.) When the prompt system intones, “If you want to make a call,” you want to scream, “What do you think I’ve been trying to do?” When the same system says, “To return to the menu,” you are being rebuked for not having a concern of the kind its universe acknowledges.

When you are admonished, “Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed,” the implications are that you don’t listen carefully, and that the options being offered are sufficient to your needs, and if they aren’t, so much the worse for you. When your computer tells you, “This page cannot be displayed,” it is as if it were saying, “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you even master the elementary task of getting on line? Perhaps you have a five-year-old daughter who can instruct you?” And when the same computer says sternly, “Invalid user name,” you wonder if you have been the victim of identity theft or are experiencing the onset of early Alzheimer’s.

So there it is: a list of phrases that make you wince and say (if only to yourself), “Oh, no!”, because they derail expectation or because they offer condescension and prevarication in equal measure or because they accuse you of failures and weaknesses often before you’ve even had a chance to do anything.

I’m sure the list could be longer, and I invite you to add to it. I’ll get the ball rolling by adding two more: “Assembly Required,” which is at least honest in its advertisement and promise of frustration and humiliation; and, finally, a saying that is confined, in my experience, to the South: “We sure don’t,” uttered by a salesperson who is telling you not only that an item you know the store should carry is unavailable, but that she is proud and happy to be disappointing you."

"How It Really Is"

The Economy: "Recession Time Bomb Ticking Faster, Louder"

"Recession Time Bomb Ticking Faster, Louder"
by Paul B. Farrell

“Yes, the clock’s ticking louder, louder, warns the Economist, “only a matter of time before the next recession strikes.” Unfortunately, the “rich world is not ready.” America’s not prepared. You are not ready. Get it? America’s 95 million investors are at huge risk. Remember the $10 trillion losses in the crash and recession of 2007-2009? The $8 trillion lost after the dot-com technology crash and recession of 2000-2003? This is the third big recession of the century. Yes, America will lose trillions again. Especially with dead-ahead predictions like Mark Cook’s 4,000-point Dow correction. And Jeremy Grantham’s warning of a 50% crash around election time, with negative stock returns through the first term of the next president, beyond 2020. Starting soon.

Why is America so vulnerable when the next recession hits? Simple: The Fed’s cheap-money giveaway is killing America. When the downturn, correction, crash hits, it will compare to the 2008 crash. The Economist warns: “the world will be in a rotten position to do much about it. Rarely have so many large economies been so ill-equipped to manage a recession,” whatever the trigger. With today’s near-zero interest rates, our Fed and central banks worldwide have little “wiggle room” to add more monetary stimulus. And even if Congress decided to act on the much needed, highly effective “growth boosting investment in infrastructure,” today’s zero interest makes it impossible “to launch a big fiscal stimulus.”

No wonder Grantham says the “next bust will be unlike any other.” The Fed and central banks worldwide have taken on all this leverage that was out there and put it on their balance sheets,” giving trillions to the top 1%, the world’s 1,826 billionaires, accelerating the inequality gap and fueling a new people’s revolution.

Investors unprepared for 50% stock market losses dead ahead: Meanwhile, distractions are everywhere: It’s not just happy talk about a roaring bull market in tech, a modest recovery, GDP growth topping 2%. Rather it’s the relentless buzz on America’s 24/7 media choking the American mind with trivia.

One: The bizarre presidential primaries featuring the carnival barker of the Trump Casinos gambling against the Koch Bros, the owner of the Vegas Sands and 15 other contestants in their wild-card game of “Political Jeopardy” being played for control of the GOP brand (but no regard for the will of the American people).

Two: Another soap opera is the historic morality war with Pope Francis and billions of revolutionaries pitted against the 19th century Grand Climate Science Denying Fossil Fuel Conspiracy of Big Oil and the GOP. And both these soaps are almost as much fun as “Jurassic World,” Nascar racing and the network daytime soaps combined.

Then of course there’s all the Clash of the Titans between two political dynasties, the heir apparent of the Bush crown versus the Clintons for the right to take over as titular head of a tenuous global anarchy of 1,826 billionaires, 67 of whom own half the assets of the entire world, the one percent whom politicians bow to more than the other 99% of America’s citizens.

Yes, with 95 million average investors risking it all in the volatile Wall Street casino, it’s virtually impossible for any normal folks to concentrate on the ticking time bomb that’s warning of a recession dead ahead ... when the bubble pops and the bear takes over the economy ... because it really is “only a matter of time,” as the Economist keeps warning that the “rich world,” the Fed, Congress, all America really is not ready for a new recession ... and neither are you.

America is its own enemy, trapped in new irrational exuberance: What’s even more disturbing than the near certainty of Grantham, Cook and the Economist in the dark predictions is what’s driving them, America’s self-delusional narcissism, overoptimism and irrational exuberance from the happy-talking bulls, which sets us up for huge losses, as in the recessions of 2000-2003 and 2007-2009, with trillions in lost market cap.

Individually and collectively, whether Washington, Corporate America, Silicon Valley or Main Street, most Americans, secretly believe in the American Dream, at least for themselves, perpetual opportunity, perpetual growth, perpetual prosperity. When we surveyed Wall Street years ago we found a 93% bias toward positive thinking, and a tendency to ignore or substantially discount bearish signals, to “accentuate the positive, minimize the negative.”

This behavioral tendency puts individual investors, stock markets, even nations at great risk. Harvard financial historian Niall Ferguson, author of “Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire,” asked rhetorically in a Los Angeles Times column: “America, a Fragile Empire: Here today, gone tomorrow .. could the United States fall that fast?” Yes. America could fall very, very fast, triggering an economic collapse with losses in trillions, the historic game-changer demanding a political course correction, like the 1908 antitrust laws, the 1932 banking and securities laws or today’s massive takeover of American government by an anarchistic oligarchy of superrich billionaires."

Next crash, an ‘accelerating sports car ... a thief in the night!’ The point, it’s sudden, fast, and you won’t see it coming. Nor will America’s leaders. Unprepared, says the Economist, unable to act in time to avoid the recession dead ahead.

Says Ferguson, “for centuries, historians, political theorists, anthropologists and the public have tended to think about the political process in seasonal, cyclical terms ... we discern a rhythm to history. Great powers, like great men, are born, rise, reign and then gradually wane.” In that scenario, “whether civilizations decline culturally, economically or ecologically, their downfalls are protracted.” We believe “the challenges that face the United States are often represented as slow-burning threats seem very remote.”

“But what if history is not cyclical and slow-moving but arrhythmic?” What if history is “also capable of accelerating suddenly, like a sports car? What if collapse does not arrive over a number of centuries but comes suddenly, like a thief in the night?” What if the collapse of our great capitalist world is dead ahead, in the next decade? What if we’re so deep in denial, we are totally unprepared, thanks to today’s zero-interest Fed policy? Yes, you’ve been forewarned: America, and you, are in a loud, rapid countdown to another crash and recession and negative returns till 2020… tick… tick… tick…"

The Economy: “Here is How The Next Crisis Will Play Out”

“Here is How The Next Crisis Will Play Out”
by Phoenix Capital Research

"As I noted yesterday, the Fuse on the Global Debt Bomb has been lit. We are now officially in the Crisis to which the 2008 Meltdown was just the warm up. The process will take time to unfold. The Tech Bubble, arguably the single biggest stock market bubble of all time, was both obvious to investors AND isolated to a single asset class: stocks. In spite of this, it took two years for stocks to finally bottom.

In contrast, the current Crisis that we are facing involves bonds… the bedrock of the financial system. Every asset class in the world trades based on the pricing of bonds. So the fact that bonds are in a bubble (arguably the biggest bubble in financial history), means that EVERY asset class is in a bubble. And what a bubble it is. All told, globally there are $100 trillion in bonds in existence today. A little over a third of this is in the US. About half comes from developed nations outside of the US. And finally, emerging markets make up the remaining 14%. Over $100 trillion...the size of the bond bubble alone should be enough to give pause.

However, when you consider that these bonds are pledged as collateral for other securities (usually over-the-counter derivatives) the full impact of the bond bubble explodes higher to $555 TRILLION. To put this into perspective, the Credit Default Swap  (CDS) market that nearly took down the financial system in 2008 was only a tenth of this ($50-$60 trillion).

What does all of this mean? The $100 trillion bond bubble will implode. As it does, the financial system will begin to deleverage as debt is defaulted on or restructured (reducing the amount of US Dollars in the system, pushing the US Dollar higher). By the time it’s all over, I expect:

1) Numerous emerging market countries to default and most emerging market stocks to lose 50% of their value.
2) The Euro to break below parity before the Eurozone is broken up (eventually some new version of the Euro to be introduced and remain below parity with the US Dollar).
3) Japan to have defaulted and very likely enter hyperinflation.
4) US stocks to lose at least 50% of their value and possibly fall as far as 400 on the S&P 500.
5) Numerous “bail-ins” in which deposits are frozen and used to prop up insolvent banks.

This process has already begun in Europe. It will be spreading elsewhere in the months to come.”

The Economy: "The 'Beer Theory of Credit Quality'”

"The 'Beer Theory of Credit Quality'”
by Bill Bonner

"Yesterday, U.S. stocks ended in the green. Investors bent over to pick up a few pennies in the stock market. They didn’t notice the huge steamroller headed their way. The Dow rose 138 points – or about 1% – after the mainstream media reported that “macroeconomic obstacles” in the ongoing Greek drama were being removed. By that it meant that the situation was calming down… with the Greeks and the Germans agreeing to work things out in an orderly way. 

So Far So Good in Greece: Here’s a firsthand report directly from one of our dear readers: "Greetings from Greek islands. Although news seems bad from reading papers etc., life here is rolling along. I am vaca with family and pulled out 500 euro from ATM last night (Sunday, June 28) on island Hydra. Restaurant accepted Amex. So far so good." Yes, so far, so good. But the steamroller is still rolling. 

Americans aren’t really interested in what happens to the Greeks – unless they happen to be on “vaca” there. But the chief obstacle in Greece is the same one in China and in the United States: too much debt. The Germans and Greeks can blab, hondle, and bluff all they want. It won’t go away. 

According to financial services company Credit Suisse, Greece has total debt – including households, businesses, and government – equal to 353% of GDP. But U.S. debt is even higher at 370%. Germany, that supposed paragon of financial virtue, is at 302%. And China, with its state-controlled economy, is at 250%. 

All are in good shape compared to Britain. It has total debt equal to 546% of GDP. Japan is in an even worse state. Its total-debt-to-GDP is 646%. And if the Credit Suisse numbers are correct, Ireland is off the charts with total debt equal to more than 1,000 times GDP. 

But the Greeks are feeling the heat because they can’t service their public sector debt right now. They can’t pay it for the very same reason they got it in the first place – false pretenses. First, they claimed they met the guidelines for entry into the euro zone. Then they claimed they could afford to live in the style to which they became accustomed. Then they claimed they would pay back the money they borrowed to make payments on the debt they couldn’t afford. 

None of it was true. Now, with their backs to the euro wall, they can’t “print their way out” of their predicament. Their creditors expect them to pay up. The Germans, in particular, see it as a moral responsibility. “That’s the difference between beer drinkers and wine drinkers,” says a friend. “The beer drinkers pay.” 

The Beer Theory of Credit Quality: Bond investors believed the euro promised stability and security. It was backed not by the wine drinkers, but by the beer drinkers. We’re not sure how Ireland – a big beer-drinking country – fits into this story. But our friend notes that the countries of Northern Europe – where they also drink mostly beer – tend to repay their debts. Southern Europe – Spain, Italy, and Greece – are bad credit risks. On the streets of London at this time of year, people stand on the sidewalks with barrels of beer in their hands. And on the Fourth of July holiday, more Americans will raise glasses of beer than wine. 

Still, we doubt the “Beer Theory of Credit Quality” will hold up under the pressure of a generalized credit contraction. In Europe, the beer drinkers of the north sold automobiles, for example, to the wine drinkers of the south. Then, when the winos couldn’t pay, the beer swillers gave them more credit. 

Now, when the Greeks still can’t pay, the Germans are getting huffy about it. And everybody is nervous. If the Germans put the screws to the Greeks, they invite problems with the rest of the wine drinkers. What the Greeks owe is peanuts compared to what the Italians and Spanish owe. And if the credit stops, who’s going to buy the Germans’ BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes? Nobody wants the credit to stop. 

Star-Crossed Debtors: That is also true of another pair of star-crossed debtors – the Chinese and the Americans. Like the Greeks and Germans, the Chinese lent, and the Americans spent. And now, what a surprise… it’s the Chinese who seem to be in trouble. Wait, what do the Chinese drink? We don’t know. But the Shanghai index fell 17% in the last 18 days. And it dropped another 5% yesterday. (More on that below in today's Market Insight.) 

According to the McKinsey Global Institute: "China’s debt has quadrupled since 2007. Fueled by real estate and shadow banking, China’s total debt has nearly quadrupled, rising to $28 trillion by mid-2014, from $7 trillion in 2007. Three developments are potentially worrisome: half of all loans are linked, directly or indirectly, to China’s overheated real-estate market; unregulated shadow banking accounts for nearly half of new lending; and the debt of many local governments is probably unsustainable.”

McKinsey says total world debt is now more than three times global GDP. That is a “macro obstacle” about as big as they get. It is a steamroller. And it is headed for us all... no matter what we drink." 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"A Look to the Heavens"

“NGC 3314 is actually two large spiral galaxies which just happen to almost exactly line up. The foreground spiral is viewed nearly face-on, its pinwheel shape defined by young bright star clusters. But against the glow of the background galaxy, dark swirling lanes of interstellar dust appear to dominate the face-on spiral's structure. The dust lanes are surprisingly pervasive, and this remarkable pair of overlapping galaxies is one of a small number of systems in which absorption of light from beyond a galaxy's own stars can be used to directly explore its distribution of dust.
Click image for larger size.
NGC 3314 is about 140 million light-years (background galaxy) and 117 million light-years (foreground galaxy) away in the multi-headed constellation Hydra. The background galaxy would span nearly 70,000 light-years at its estimated distance. A synthetic third channel was created to construct this dramatic new composite of the overlapping galaxies from two color image data in the Hubble Legacy Archive.”

Paulo Coelho, “Searching For Meaning”

“Searching For Meaning”
by Paulo Coelho

“At such a moment it is not the physical pain which hurts the most (and this applies to adults as much as to punished children); it is the mental agony caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all.” 
- Viktor Frankl

“Terrible as it was, Viktor Frankl’s experience in Auschwitz reinforced what was already one of his key ideas. Life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning:

a] in work (doing something significant)
b] in love (caring for another person)
c] and in courage during difficult times.

Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it. At one point, Frankl writes that a person “may remain brave, dignified and unselfish, or in the bitter fight for self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal.” He concedes that only a few prisoners of the Nazis were able to do the former, “but even one such example is sufficient proof that man’s inner strength may raise him above his outward fate.”

Finally, Frankl’s most enduring insight, one that I have called on often in my own life and in countless counseling situations: Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”

Chet Raymo, "Because I Dread The Loss of Heaven And The Fires Of Hell"

"Because I Dread The Loss of Heaven And The Fires Of Hell"
by Chet Raymo

“The fun thing about the Irish Times is that opinion pieces spill over onto the letters page and sometimes the discussions go on for weeks. We are still getting reaction to the World Atheist convention that was held in Dublin shortly in June, 2011. Richard Dawkins was the most prominent participant. In an opinion piece this past week, the eminent theologian James Mackey took Dawkins, et. al. implicitly to task for proffering evolution as a basis for morality. "The favored ones propagate and survive, while the unfavored and weaker go to the wall; giving the natural rule for limitless success in life is that of survival of the fittest," says Mackey of natural selection. Of Dawkins he adds: "That is then the rule that human beings should adopt as their moral principle; with a codicil that helping the weak ones is wrong, since such senseless bonhomie serves only to dilute the fitness of the race by helping he unfit."

What a sorry old canard this is. We hear it all the time in the States from Bible Belt televangelists: There is no morality without a God who reveals instructions, with the implication that atheist evolutionists wander in a selfishly amoral wilderness. But to get it from a professor of theology at Trinity College Dublin and the University of Edinburgh is rather disappointing.

Never mind that Dawkins has on many occasions explicitly rejected natural selection as a basis for human morality. At the beginning of "The Selfish Gene" he writes: "I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave. I stress this, because I know I am in danger of being misunderstood by those people, all too numerous, who cannot distinguish a statement of belief in what is the case from an advocacy of what ought to be the case. My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the gene's law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live."

Yesterday I found a wallet fat with cash on the ground outside the village post office (true!). I also managed to find the owner so I could return it. I didn't return the wallet because a "morality-friendly divinity" (Mackey's phrase) told me to do so, or because I feared the fires of hell. I returned the wallet because I knew that if someone found my wallet I'd want him or her to do the same. It's called the Golden Rule, and it is pretty much universal amongst humans of all religions and none, so much so that I wouldn't be surprised if natural selection hasn't tipped us in that direction. I'd be just as happy for Richard Dawkins to find my wallet as for it to be picked up by Professor Mackey.

So let's lay to rest the stale notion that evolutionists offer "nature red in tooth and claw" as a basis for human relationships. I don't personally know a single evolutionist who believes any such thing, and the theists - red-neck preachers or learned dons - who keep banging that dreary old drum are just being mischievous or misinformed.”

"Willingness to Feel: Opening to Understanding"

"Willingness to Feel: Opening to Understanding"
by The DailyOM

"When we are resisting something based on a limited understanding, we must then open ourselves to willingness. There are times when we may find ourselves struggling or even fighting with our thoughts and emotions. We may feel that something must be done in a certain way or not at all, or there may be some other situation that feels absolutely black and white. But life is not this way—it’s the way we are looking at our experiences that is causing the turmoil within us. When we become aware that the struggle we are having is with ourselves, we can turn our attention to the source in order to solve the problem, but we must be being willing to look where we need to and feel emotions that may make us uncomfortable at first. Then we can choose to really open ourselves to understanding all the options we can imagine. We are likely to discover that we are resisting something based on a limited understanding, and we must then open ourselves to willingness.

When we are willing to look at all the possibilities, we also become willing to accept that there is room for more than we can imagine. We can release ourselves from the grip we had on our emotions and stop limiting ourselves. We may have been unwilling to experience feeling loss, confusion, fear, or even joy for some reason or another, but when we realize that our understanding was limited we allow space for the universe to move in our lives.

Opening ourselves to willingness may feel like we are surrendering or abandoning all that we believed. But at the same time it is an act of power and courage because it is a conscious choice we make about how to apply our personal will. Being willing is to be in a state of willing something into creation. It is at once allowing ourselves to be while also choosing to direct our energy in a focused way. It is being and doing from a place of openness, where we can work with the universe rather than resist it. It is an open hand rather than one that is clenched into a fist. When we make a step toward willingness, we open ourselves to truth, possibility, and the movement of the wise universe in and through our lives."

The Daily "Near You?"

Coppenbrügge, Niedersachsen, Germany.
Thanks for stopping by.

"A Maze Or Labyrinth..."

"The difficulty in dealing with a maze or labyrinth lies not so much in navigating the convolutions to find the exit but in not entering the damn thing in the first place. Or, at least not yet again. As a creature of free will, do not be tempted into futility."
- Vera Nazarian

The Poet: Arthur O’Shaughnessy, "Music and Moonlight"

"Music and Moonlight"

"We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone seabreakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever, it seems…
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Ninevah with our sighing,
And Babel itself in our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth."

- Arthur O’Shaughnessy, "Music and Moonlight" (1874)

"This Is Your Body on Sleep Deprivation"

"This Is Your Body on Sleep Deprivation"
by Firas Kittaneh

"We're all familiar with the foggy, groggy, irritable feeling that follows a night of poor or inadequate sleep. But the effects of too little shuteye can reach far beyond just feeling out of it or tired. More and more, research is showing that lack of sleep can wreak havoc on nearly every part of your body. And often, it doesn't take long nearly as long as you think. Here, the surprising ways how sleep deprivation affects every part of you over the course of one night- and in the long term.

Your Brain Goes Haywire: When you're tired, you feel sluggish. And even though most of us tend to think that we can push through those sloth-like feelings like they don't even exist, the fact is that too little sleep can lead to all kinds of major impairments on your cognitive function. Chief among them? Your ability to focus and learn.

When you're sleep deprived, it's harder to pay attention to the things that are going on around you. You're less likely to remember them, too, since sleep plays a crucial role in the consolidation of memories. Your ability to solve problems takes a nosedive, too, since sleep deprivation causes your brain to take longer to respond to new information. Which can be especially problematic, say, when you're on the job. Need proof? Studies show that medical residents who work 24-hour shifts make up to 300 percent more errors that result in patient death compared to residents whose shifts last only 16 hours.

Your Metabolism Slows Down: You've probably heard all about how people who skimp on sleep tend to weigh more than their well-rested counterparts. And there are a bunch of theories for why that is: Staying up late can make you prone to scarfing down more unhealthy snacks--up to 550 calories' worth, according to one recent study. Being low on sleep also makes it tougher to make smart food choices, not to mention muster up the energy to exercise. Over time, that can add up to pounds gained.

What's more, if you think this only applies to people who stay up until 2 a.m. while mindlessly eating cheese doodles, you'd be wrong. Regularly falling just 30 minutes short of the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep can increase your risk for obesity by nearly 20 percent, suggesting that even a small sleep debt could be messing with your metabolism, according to recent research presented at the annual Endocrine Society meeting.

Your Skin Gets Dull: They call it beauty rest for a reason: Sleep encourages the turnover of fresh new skin cells, which help brighten your complexion and stave off breakouts by keeping your pores unclogged. It also promotes the production of collagen, the protein that helps your skin stay smooth and supple. But when you burn the midnight oil, those processes slow down. As a result, your complexion can start to look drab and wrinkly. And with dead skin cells clogging up your pores, you're more prone to blackheads and breakouts.

But wait, it gets worse. When you don't get enough sleep, your blood vessels start to expand. That causes blood to pool under your eyes, resulting in those dreaded dark circles and puffiness. Gorgeous, right? And by the way, this isn't all in your head or something that beauty magazines make up to get you to buy more products. Research has shown that people really do think you look worse when you skimp on sleep. When subjects looked at makeup-free photos of people who had either slept for eight hours or stayed up all night, they judged the sleep-deprived folks as looking more tired, less attractive, and less healthy, found one Swedish study.

Your Blood Pressure Spikes: Keeping your blood pressure levels under control is important for reducing your heart attack and stroke risk. But when the number of hours you sleep goes down, your BP numbers can start to creep up, and fast. How fast? Try just over a week. Normally, your blood pressure drops while you're snoozing. But when Mayo Clinic researchers limited healthy subjects to just four hours of shuteye for nine nights, the subjects' blood pressure spiked around 10 points while they were sleeping. Their heart rates- another thing that usually falls while you're off in dreamland- also increased. The BP bump, experts think, could be stress-related. Getting enough sleep helps your body keep stress hormone levels in check. Consistently falling short, though, might cause stress hormones to run wild, which could cause you blood pressure to spike.

Your Sex Drive Might Plummet: When you're exhausted, it's harder to drum up the energy for sex. No big shocker there. But getting too little sleep might not just make you too tired to have sex. It could play a role in sexual dysfunction, too. In a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers found that each additional hour a woman slept increased her likelihood for having sex by 14 percent. But well-rested women weren't just found to have more sex- they may have also had better sex: The researchers also found that women who got more sleep tended to experience greater vaginal arousal compared to women who fell short.

Your Immune System Takes a Hit: Sleep prompts to release of infection-fighting antibodies as well as cytokines, a type of protein that your body needs to fight inflammation, infection, and stress. But when you skip sleep, your body's production of both tends to plummet. With that in mind, it's not a big surprise that shorting out on sleep can make you more likely to catch illness-causing viruses. In fact, people who log fewer than seven hours of sleep per night are nearly three times more likely to catch a common cold compared to those who sleep for eight hours or more, found one study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The Bottom Line? Missing out on sleep won't just leave you groggy the next day. Over time, sleep deprivation can start to mess with nearly every system in your body, which can put your health and well-being at risk. Your job, then, is pretty simple: Whether it means watching less TV, meeting your friends for drinks an hour earlier, or taking steps to make your bedroom more comfortable, do what you have to do to make getting eight to nine hours of sleep each night a priority. In a day, you'll feel well rested and energetic. Over the weeks, months, and years, you'll feel healthier overall.”

"How It Really Is"

"One Quadrillion Pennies"

"One Quadrillion Pennies"
"One quadrillion, sixty-seven billion, eighty-eight million, three hundred and eighty-four thousand pennies. One cube measuring 2,730 x 2,730 x 2,730 feet. What a stack of 1 Quadrillion (U.S.), 1,000,067,088,384,000 pennies might look like:

One quadrillion, sixty-seven billion, eighty-eight million,
three hundred and eighty-four thousand pennies.

Here we have the buildings we used for scale back at a trillion, but they're now a bit dwarfed by our new cube of pennies. This is a quadrillion, or a thousand times one trillion. This cube is roughly a half-mile wide and would weigh an astonishing three billion tons."
"There are two systems in use for naming numbers larger than a million: In the American system, the Latin prefix refers to the number of groups of three zeros, not including the last group of three, which represents a thousand. Thus in the USA, a billion is 1,000,000,000 (109) and a quadrillion is a mere 1,000,000,000,000,000, (1015).

In the British system, which is in use in the rest of the world, the Latin prefix represents the power of a million, thus British billion is 1,000,000,000,000 (1012), and a British quadrillion is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1024).”

The Economy: "The Horrific $1.5 QUADRILLION Derivatives Bubble"

"The Horrific $1.5 QUADRILLION Derivatives Bubble"
That's $1,500,000,000,000,000,000
by Michael Snyder

"Today there is a horrific derivatives bubble that threatens to destroy not only the U.S. economy but the entire world financial system as well, but unfortunately the vast majority of people do not understand it. When you say the word "derivatives" to most Americans, they have no idea what you are talking about. In fact, even most members of the U.S. Congress don't really seem to understand them. But you don't have to get into all the technicalities to understand the bigger picture.

Basically, derivatives are financial instruments whose value depends upon or is derived from the price of something else. A derivative has no underlying value of its own. It is essentially a side bet. Originally, derivatives were mostly used to hedge risk and to offset the possibility of taking losses. But today it has gone way, way beyond that. Today the world financial system has become a gigantic casino where insanely large bets are made on anything and everything that you can possibly imagine. The derivatives market is almost entirely unregulated and in recent years it has ballooned to such enormous proportions that it is almost hard to believe. Today, the worldwide derivatives market is approximately 20 times the size of the entire global economy.

Because derivatives are so unregulated, nobody knows for certain exactly what the total value of all the derivatives worldwide is, but low estimates put it around 600 trillion dollars and high estimates put it at around 1.5 quadrillion dollars.

Do you know how large one quadrillion is? 1,000,000,000,000,000. Counting at one dollar per second, it would take 32 million years to count to one quadrillion. If you want to attempt it, you might want to get started right now. To put that in perspective, the gross domestic product of the United States is only about 14 trillion dollars. In fact, the total market cap of all major global stock markets is only about 30 trillion dollars. So when you are talking about 1.5 quadrillion dollars, you are talking about an amount of money that is almost inconceivable. So what is going to happen when this insanely large derivatives bubble pops?

Well, the truth is that the danger that we face from derivatives is so great that Warren Buffet has called them "financial weapons of mass destruction". Unfortunately, he is not exaggerating. It would be hard to understate the financial devastation that we could potentially be facing. A number of years back, French President Jacques Chirac referred to derivatives as "financial AIDS". The reality is that when this bubble pops there won't be enough money in the entire world to fix it. But ignorance is bliss, and most people simply do not understand these complex financial instruments enough to be worried about them. Unfortunately, just because most of us do not understand the danger does not mean that the danger has been eliminated.

In a recent column, Dr. Jerome Corsi of WorldNetDaily noted that even many institutional investors have gotten sucked into investing in derivatives without even understanding the incredible risk they were facing... "A key problem with derivatives is that in the attempt to reduce costs or prevent losses, institutional investors typically accepted complex risks that carried little-understood liabilities widely disproportionate to any potential savings the derivatives contract may have initially obtained. The hedge-fund and derivatives markets are so highly complex and technical that even many top economists and investment-banking professionals don't fully understand them. Moreover, both the hedge-fund and the derivatives markets are almost totally unregulated, either by the U.S. government or by any other government worldwide."

Most Americans don't realize it, but derivatives played a major role in the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. Do you remember how AIG was constantly in the news for a while there? Well, they weren't in financial trouble because they had written a bunch of bad insurance policies. What had happened is that a subsidiary of AIG had lost more than $18 billion on Credit Default Swaps (derivatives) it had written, and additional losses from derivatives were on the way which could have caused the complete collapse of the insurance giant. So the U.S. government stepped in and bailed them out - all at U.S. taxpayer expense of course.

But the AIG incident was actually quite small compared to what could be coming. The derivatives market has become so monolithic that even a relatively minor imbalance in the global economy could set off a chain reaction that would have devastating consequences. In his recent article on derivatives, Webster Tarpley described the central role that derivatives now play in our financial system... "Far from being some arcane or marginal activity, financial derivatives have come to represent the principal business of the financier oligarchy in Wall Street, the City of London, Frankfurt, and other money centers. A concerted effort has been made by politicians and the news media to hide and camouflage the central role played by derivative speculation in the economic disasters of recent years. Journalists and public relations types have done everything possible to avoid even mentioning derivatives, coining phrases like “toxic assets,” “exotic instruments,” and – most notably – “troubled assets,” as in Troubled Assets Relief Program or TARP, aka the monstrous $800 billion bailout of Wall Street speculators which was enacted in October 2008 with the support of Bush, Henry Paulson, John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the Obama Democrats."

But wasn't the financial reform law that Congress just passed supposed to fix all this? Well, the truth is that you simply cannot "fix" a 1.5 quadrillion dollar problem, but yes, the financial reform law was supposed to put some new restrictions on derivatives. And initially, there were some somewhat significant reforms contained in the bill. But after the vast horde of Wall Street lobbyists in Washington got done doing their thing, the derivatives reforms were almost completely and totally neutered. So the rampant casino gambling continues and everybody on Wall Street is happy. For now.

One day some event will happen which will cause a sudden shift in world financial markets and trillions of dollars of losses in derivatives will create a tsunami that will bring the entire house of cards down. All of the money in the world will not be enough to bail out the financial system when that day arrives. The truth is that we should have never allowed world financial markets to become a giant casino. But we did. Soon enough we will all pay the price, and when that disastrous day comes, most Americans will still not understand what is happening."
Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse Blog,

The Google "Search This Blog" tool will reveal numerous other articles posted here.
There's a 3 post article about this, from September 19, 2008, posted here:

The Economy: "Forget Greece… China Is the Real Threat"

"Forget Greece… China Is the Real Threat"
by Bill Bonner

"There’s a time for calm, rational behavior… and a time to panic. Yesterday, investors in U.S. stocks decided not to panic. Monday’s sell-off halted. But it did not reverse. And it left the street with its worst half-year performance since 2010. Gain for 2015 so far? Zilch. But have we seen the top? We will have to wait to find out.

When the ATMs Went Dark…: Fox News reports that Greeks are eyeing Bitcoin to protect their savings. At midnight last night, the Greek government defaulted on a €1.5-billion loan repayment to the IMF. And it has imposed a 60-euro-a-day limit on cash withdrawals. This leaves many Greeks short and looking for alternatives. Pity those who were last in line at the ATMs before they went dark. 

Says a restaurant owner in Athens, quoted by the Associated Press: "You don't know what can happen. In my case, I have money, and I don't have money in a sense. I have it in the bank, but I can't get it in my hands. It's crazy."

As we’ve been pointing out, money in the bank is not the same as money in hand. The first is just a loan to what could be a bankrupt institution. It could be worth nothing. The second is cash – ready, handy, and extremely useful. In a financial emergency, there won’t be a liquor store in town that won’t welcome you as a customer. 

A Greek butcher… also to Associated Press: "I have no cash to pay for meat supplies for next week because of the capital controls. Sooner or later, probably in this month, I'll have to let 10 people go. The people are buying with cash, not credit cards, and the problem is the customers don't have cash."

The elderly have been especially hard hit. Often, they don’t have cash… and don’t have any way to get it. And pity the poor schleps who were last in line to sell their Greek stocks. The Athens Stock Exchange peaked in 2007. It’s down 95% since then. And the yield on 2-year Greek government debt has a rare distinction: It is racing neck and neck with Greek unemployment rates. Both are near 26%. But let us leave the land of Aristotle and Pericles… and wander to the land of Confucius. 

Huge Debt Bubbles: If we were looking for an excuse to panic, we would look to Shanghai, not to Athens. The Greek crisis is small potatoes. A Chinese stock crash, possibly followed by a depression, is the kit and caboodle of financial disaster. Shanghai stocks surged more than 5% yesterday – the biggest one-day gain since 2009. But this comes after the Shanghai Composite Index fell 20% from its June 12 peak. And it comes only after the People’s Bank of China cut interest rates and reserve requirements for banks, to boost lending. 

We urge readers to beware. We wouldn’t put it past the feds – in China or in the U.S. – to juice up the market even further when they get really desperate. But what would you expect after two powerful groups of economists connive and collude to implement their central planning fantasies? They created two huge debt bubbles. The U.S. bubble is a volatile mixture of consumer, corporate, and government debt. Companies owe about half of China’s debt. And state-owned businesses and property companies owe most of that amount. Banks lent mega amounts to overdo it on factories, offices, malls, and housing complexes. 

Now, total debt in China – including government, corporate, and household debt – is about 280% of GDP. That’s still a ways off the 331% total-debt-to-GDP in the U.S. But it’s a lot higher than other developing markets. 

Hairpin Meets Fat Derriere: What will happen next? We don’t know, but across the Sea of Japan is an instructive example. The Nikkei peaked in 1989. Twenty-six years later, it has recovered only HALF those losses! Pity the poor Japanese investor who was last in line to sell. 

But Chinese investors learned nothing. This year, they bid up Shanghai and Shenzhen stocks to levels last seen in Japan in 1989… or U.S. stocks in 1999. Attracted by the commotion, rookie investors opened brokerage accounts in record numbers. They invested their savings. Then they borrowed money so they could gamble more. In May, the hairpin found its fat derriere. First in line to sell were the insiders. Reuters reports that corporate insiders were selling at a record pace: three times as many in May as in April. One of the sellers was Li Hejun, the chairman of Hanergy Thin Film Power Group. Li shorted his own company’s shares. He did very well. Trading at nearly $1 on May 18, Hanergy shares are worth about $0.25 today." 

“They Revived The Rally Monkey”

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Near the outskirts of the Small Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy some 200 thousand light-years distant, lies 5 million year young star cluster NGC 602. Surrounded by natal gas and dust, NGC 602 is featured in this stunning Hubble image of the region. 
 Click image for larger size.
Fantastic ridges and swept back shapes strongly suggest that energetic radiation and shock waves from NGC 602's massive young stars have eroded the dusty material and triggered a progression of star formation moving away from the cluster's center. At the estimated distance of the Small Magellanic Cloud, the picture spans about 200 light-years, but a tantalizing assortment of background galaxies are also visible in the sharp Hubble view. The background galaxies are hundreds of millions of light-years or more beyond NGC 602.”