Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year 2016!

"I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright. 
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more. 
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive. 
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger. 
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting. 
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess. 
I wish enough 'Hello's' to get you through the final 'Good-bye.'"
- Bob Perks

Thank you all for stopping by!
I wish you the very best in the new year!
- CP

Musical Interlude: The Moody Blues, “Days of Future Passed," Full Album

The Moody Blues, “Days of Future Passed Full Album”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“What's the closest active galaxy to planet Earth? That would be Centaurus A, only 11 million light-years distant. Spanning over 60,000 light-years, the peculiar elliptical galaxy is also known as NGC 5128. Forged in a collision of two otherwise normal galaxies, Centaurus A's fantastic jumble of young blue star clusters, pinkish star forming regions, and imposing dark dust lanes are seen here in remarkable detail. 
Click image for larger size.
The colorful galaxy portrait is a composite of image data from space- and ground-based telescopes large and small. Near the galaxy's center, left over cosmic debris is steadily being consumed by a central black hole with a billion times the mass of the Sun. As in other active galaxies, that process generates the radio, X-ray, and gamma-ray energy radiated by Centaurus A.”

Chet Raymo, “The Scattered Leaves Of All The Universe”

“The Scattered Leaves Of All The Universe”
by Chet Raymo

“Dante Alighieri, the inestimable Florentine poet, carried in his head and gave expression in verse to pretty much the entire universe known to his 13th-century European contemporaries. From the dregs of the Earth to the highest heaven he journeyed in his imagination. His was a universe made expressly for humans, and nothing was in it that was not part of the human drama of sin and salvation. When at last he has ascended through the Great Chain of Being, he looks upon the Godhead itself.

"And within its depths, I saw ingathered,
bound by love in a single volume,
the scattered leaves of all the universe."

Dante encompassed in his poetry what his contemporary Thomas Aquinas sought to do in reasoned prose: present to human understanding all that exists. They looked upon the universe from a privileged position, as unique creatures who joined material and spiritual forms, what the poet John Donne later called "elements and an angelic sprite." How neat, how glorious!

Today we look out onto an altogether different universe, from an altogether different and more humble perspective. No human mind can possibly hold or give expression to the grandeur of the cosmos revealed, say, by the Hubble Deep Field Photograph, a cosmos of at least 100 billion galaxies. Our place within this universe seems altogether ordinary, and what exists elsewhere within those possible infinities of space and time no one can tell. And because no one can tell us with the clarity of a Dante or Aquinas just why we are special, we cling to a 13th-century worldview even as the cosmological basis of that worldview has been blasted to smithereens.

Aquinas's work has been subsumed by science. Where is the Dante of today who will connect the human drama to the new cosmos of the galaxies? Where is the poet who will help us see the universe of the galaxies in a grain of sand? The cosmos of the Divine Comedy, from the center of the planet Earth to the sphere of the fixed stars, the primum mobile, and beyond, is now- we know- itself as a grain of sand in a universe of ungraspable immensity and possibility.

But maybe Dante sensed this himself. In the final lines of the Paradiso, as he gazes into the glorious light of Infinity, he admits his inability to grasp or express what he sees. It is almost as if he were peering into the universe of the galaxies, awed, humble and silent. The Paradiso ends, like the Inferno and Purgatorio, with the word stelle;

“But at last my will and my desire-
like a wheel moving evenly- were revolving
from the love that moves the sun and all the stars.”

The Daily "Near You?"


Springfield, Ohio, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

"How To Cure A Hangover, Or Not"

"How To Cure A Hangover, Or Not"
By Colleen Graham

"Now you've done it and it's official, you have a hangover. Now what? No matter what you do sleep and water or juice should be included. There are many folk cures that are supposed to help cure a hangover. Many of them will help you cope by replenishing the vitamins and liquid you lost over night, while some like avoiding caffeine are very important to a quicker recovery. There is no one size fits all cure, find what works for you but the list below is a good place to start. There are also a few suggestions from readers who found their own way to cope.

Difficulty: Hard
Time Required: As long as it takes to feel better. 
Here's How:

• Sleep. Rest is your best friend at this point to give your body a recover. It is best to stay in bed so call in to work if you have to, tell them you have the stomach flu. You will sound so horrible on the phone they may believe you (unless they saw you at the bar, not a good idea then).
• Replenish your body with fruit juice and water.
• Avoid caffeine. A weak cup of coffee may be okay but a lot of caffeine will continue to dehydrate you, the opposite of what you want right now.
• Drink orange juice for Vitamin C.
• Drink a sports drink like Gatorade or Powerade.
• Eat mineral rich food like pickles or canned fish.
• In Poland, drinking pickle juice is a common remedy.
• Drink a Bloody Mary. While the popular phrase “hair of the dog that bit you” may sound logical with a shot of whiskey left in the bottle next to your bed, it’s only temporary. Try a Bloody Mary instead, while your blood is dealing with the new alcohol it is ignoring the old and in the mean time tomato juice and celery are full of vitamins. If you drank the last of the vodka make a Virgin Mary. Another spicy morning after drink option is Hair of the Dog, in which gin and hot sauce are sure to bite your hangover back.
• Take a shower, switching between cold and hot water.
• In Ireland it was said that the cure for a hangover is to bury the ailing person up to the neck in moist river sand.
• Try Alka Seltzer Morning Relief. One reader says that it's all that he and his wife have found that really works for them. He stumbled across this "cure" while his wife was still suffering after two days, within 15 minutes after taking the Alka Seltzer she was fine.
• Get some exercise. Another reader suggests doing some sort of physical activity. He writes, "In the rare case of having hangover I usually drink about 1-2 liters of water and go outside to do some exercise like mountain climbing, swimming, cycling or just about anything that keeps me sweating." It takes willpower to move like that when standing seems like a challenge, but it is a good theory. 
• The side effects of aspirin, Tylenol and ibuprofen can be magnified when alcohol is in your system, so it is best (even though it may be the first thing you reach for) to avoid them to kill the hangover pain. Aspirin is a blood thinner, just like alcohol, and can intensify its effects and Tylenol (or acetaminophen) can cause more damage to your liver. Ibuprofen can also cause stomach bleeding. So be cautious when going for the quick relief.
• Watch the video: "Hangover Remedies." Jonathan Stewart demonstrates how to make a blended hangover remedy. There are a more than a few ingredients so you may want to have everything organized prior to overindulging.
• As an antidote, one reader takes a little extra multi B vitamin and drinks a lot of water before going to sleep."

“How To Prevent And Cure Hangovers, According To Science”
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

"Be Careful What You Wish For"

"It hurts to find out that what you wanted 
doesn't match what you dreamed it would be." 
- Randy K. Mulholland

“Walking Through Your Fear: Emerging Courageous”

“Litany Against Fear”

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”
- Frank Herbert

“Walking Through Your Fear: Emerging Courageous”
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

“Frequently, in walking through our fear, we discover that the strength of our fright was out of sync with reality. The situations, activities, and individuals that frighten us remain static. Their relative intensity does not change. Fear, on the other hand, self-magnifies. It is when you are afraid and envisioning all that might go wrong that the energy underlying your fear grows. A tiny flicker of anxiety can easily develop into a terror that manifests itself physically and eventually paralyzes you into inaction. Though frequently, in walking through that fear, we discover that the strength of our fright was out of synch with reality. And we learn that doing what frightens us can lead to great blessings. Confronting your trepidation head-on will help you accept that few frightening scenarios will ever live up to the negative disasters that we sometimes play out in our minds.

Though fear is literally an evolutionary gift meant to sharpen your senses and energize you during times of great stress, it can nonetheless become a barrier that prevents you from fulfilling your potential by causing you to miss out on rewarding, life-changing experiences. During the period before you face your fear, you may have to deal with a barrage of negative thoughts and emotions. Walking through it, whether your fear is public speaking, taking part in an activity that makes you nervous, or asserting yourself when the odds are against you, may be equally as difficult. But once you have emerged unscathed on the other side, which you will, you will likely wonder why you assumed the worst in the first place. As you spend time worrying about what might happen, it’s good to know that your fear probably won’t happen at all. It may feel like a great weight has been lifted from your shoulders, and you will likely feel a sense of passionate pride. Walking through your fear can mean taking risks and can require both practice and patience. Since it is challenging to act when you are gripped with fear, start small.

Each step you take into fear will strengthen you and help you confront future fears with poise, courage, and confidence. You will also find that when you are willing to stare your fear in the face, the universe will always offer you some form of aid or support. When you see the heights of accomplishment and personal evolution you can attain when you walk through your fears, your faith in yourself will grow, allowing your next step to be easier.”

"How It Really Is"

The Poet: John O'Donohue, "In These Times"

"In These Times"

"In these times when anger
Is turned into anxiety,
And someone has stolen
The horizons and mountains,
Our small emperors on parade
Never expect our indifference
To disturb their nakedness.
They keep their heads down,
And their eyes gleam with reflection
From aluminum economic ground,
The media wraps everything
In a cellophane of sound,
And the ghost surface of the virtual
Overlays the breathing earth.

The industry of distraction 
Makes us forget
That we live in a universe.
We have become converts 
To the religion of stress
And its deity of progress;
That we may have courage 
To turn aside from it all
And come to kneel down before the poor,
To discover what we must do,
How to turn anxiety
Back into anger,
How to find our way home."

~ John O'Donohue,
from "To Bless the Space Between Us"

"The 12 Rules of Survival"

"The 12 Rules of Survival"
by Laurence Gonzales

"As a journalist, I've been writing about accidents for more than thirty years. In the last 15 or so years, I've concentrated on accidents in outdoor recreation, in an effort to understand who lives, who dies, and why. To my surprise, I found an eerie uniformity in the way people survive seemingly impossible circumstances. Decades and sometimes centuries apart, separated by culture, geography, race, language, and tradition, the most successful survivors–those who practice what I call “deep survival”– go through the same patterns of thought and behavior, the same transformation and spiritual discovery, in the course of keeping themselves alive. Not only that but it doesn't seem to matter whether they are surviving being lost in the wilderness or battling cancer, whether they're struggling through divorce or facing a business catastrophe– the strategies remain the same. Survival should be thought of as a journey, a vision quest of the sort that Native Americans have had as a rite of passage for thousands of years. Once you're past the precipitating event– you're cast away at sea or told you have cancer– you have been enrolled in one of the oldest schools in history. Here are a few things I've learned that can help you pass the final exam.

1. Perceive and Believe: Don't fall into the deadly trap of denial or of immobilizing fear. Admit it: You're really in trouble and you're going to have to get yourself out. Many people who in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, died simply because they told themselves that everything was going to be all right. Others panicked. Panic doesn't necessarily mean screaming and running around. Often it means simply doing nothing. Survivors don't candy-coat the truth, but they also don't give in to hopelessness in the face of it. Survivors see opportunity, even good, in their situation, however grim. After the ordeal is over, people may be surprised to hear them say it was the best thing that ever happened to them. Viktor Frankl, who spent three years in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps, describes comforting a woman who was dying. She told him, “I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard. In m former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.” The phases of the survival journey roughly parallel the five stages of death once described by Elizabeth Kubler Ross in her book "On Death and Dying": Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In dire circumstances, a survivor moves through those stages rapidly to acceptance of his situation, then resolves to do something to save himself. Survival depends on telling yourself, “Okay, I'm here. This is really happening. Now I'm going to do the next right thing to get myself out.” Whether you succeed or not ultimately becomes irrelevant. It is in acting well– even suffering well– that you give meaning to whatever life you have to live.

2. Stay Calm – Use Your Anger: In the initial crisis, survivors are not ruled by fear; instead, they make use of it. Their fear often feels like (and turns into) anger, which motivates them and makes them feel sharper. Aron Ralston, the hiker who had to cut off his hand to free himself from a stone that had trapped him in a slot canyon in Utah, initially panicked and began slamming himself over and over against the boulder that had caught his hand. But very quickly, he stopped himself, did some deep breathing, and began thinking about his options. He eventually spent five days progressing through the stages necessary to convince him of what decisive action he had to take to save his own life. That's survivor thinking. Survivors also manage pain well. As a bike racer, Armstrong had had long training in enduring pain, even learning to love it. James Stockdale, a fighter pilot who was shot down in Vietnam and spent eight years in the Hanoi Hilton, as his prison camp was known, advised those who would learn to survive: “One should include a course of familiarization with pain. You have to practice hurting. There is no question about it.”

3. Think, Analyze, and Plan: Survivors quickly organize, set up routines, and institute discipline. When Lance Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer, he organized his fight against it the way he would organize his training for a race. He read everything he could about it, put himself on a training schedule, and put together a team from among friends, family, and doctors to support his efforts. Such conscious, organized effort in the face of grave danger requires a split between reason and emotion in which reason gives direction and emotion provides the power source. Survivors often report experiencing reason as an audible “voice.” Steve Callahan, a sailor and boat designer, was rammed by a whale and sunk while on a solo voyage in 1982. Adrift in the Atlantic for 76 days in a five-and-a-half-foot raft, he experienced his survival voyage as taking place under the command of a “captain,” who gave him his orders and kept him on his water ration, even as his own mutinous (emotional) spirit complained. His captain routinely lectured “the crew.” Thus under strict control, he was able to push away thoughts that his situation was hopeless and take the necessary first steps of the survival journey: to think clearly, analyze his situation, and formulate a plan.

4. Take Correct, Decisive Action: Survivors are willing to take risks to save themselves and others. But they are simultaneously bold and cautious in what they will do. Lauren Elder was the only survivor of a light plane crash in high sierra. Stranded on a peak above 12,000 feet, one arm broken, she could see the San Joaquin Valley in California below, but a vast wilderness and sheer and icy cliffs separated her from it. Wearing a wrap-around skirt and blouse, with two-inch heeled boots and not even wearing underwear, she crawled “on all fours, doing a kind of sideways spiderwalk,” as she put it later, “balancing myself on the ice crust, punching through it with my hands and feet.” She had 36 hours of climbing ahead of her– a seemingly impossible task. But Elder allowed herself to think only as far as the next big rock. Survivors break down large jobs into small, manageable tasks. They set attainable goals and develop short-term plans to reach them. They are meticulous about doing those tasks well. Elder tested each hold before moving forward and stopped frequently to rest. They make very few mistakes. They handle what is within their power to deal with from moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day.

5. Celebrate your success: Survivors take great joy from even their smallest successes. This helps keep motivation high and prevents a lethal plunge into hopelessness. It also provides relief from the unspeakable strain of a life-threatening situation. Elder said that once she had completed her descent of the first pitch, she looked up at the impossibly steep slope and thought, “Look what you've done...Exhilarated, I gave a whoop that echoed down the silent pass.” Even with a broken arm, joy was Elder's constant companion. A good survivor always tells herself: count your blessings– you're alive. Viktor Frankl wrote of how he felt at times in Auschwitz: “How content we were; happy in spite of everything.”

6. Be a Rescuer, Not a Victim:
 Survivors are always doing what they do for someone else, even if that someone is thousands of miles away. There are numerous strategies for doing this. When Antoine Saint-Exupery was stranded in the Lybian desert after his mail plane suffered an engine failure, he thought of how his wife would suffer if he gave up and didn't return. Yossi Ghinsberg, a young Israeli hiker, was lost in the Bolivian jungle for more than two weeks after becoming separated from his friends. He hallucinated a beautiful companion with whom he slept each night as he traveled. Everything he did, he did for her. People cannot survive for themselves alone; their must be a higher motive. Viktor Frankl put it this way: “Don't aim at success– the more you aim at it and make it a target,the more you are going to miss it.” He suggests taking it as “the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself.”

7. Enjoy the Survival Journey: It may seem counterintuitive, but even in the worst circumstances, survivors find something to enjoy, some way to play and laugh. Survival can be tedious, and waiting itself is an art. Elder found herself laughing out loud when she started to worry that someone might see up her skirt as she climbed. Even as Callahan's boat was sinking, he stopped to laugh at himself as he clutched a knife in his teeth like a pirate while trying to get into his life raft. And Viktor Frankl ordered some of his companions in Auschwitz who were threatening to give up hope to force themselves to think of one funny thing each day.

Survivors also use the intellect to stimulate, calm, and entertain the mind. While moving across a near-vertical cliff face in Peru, Joe Simpson developed a rhythmic pattern of placing his ax, plunging his other arm into the snow face, and then making a frightening little hop with his good leg. “I meticulously repeated the pattern,” he wrote later. “I began to feel detached from everything around me.” Singing, playing mind games, reciting poetry, counting anything, and doing mathematical problems in your head can make waiting possible and even pleasant, even while heightening perception and quieting fear. Stockdale wrote, “The person who came into this experiment with reams of already memorized poetry was the bearer of great gifts.” When Lance Armstrong was undergoing horrible chemotherapy, his mantra became his blood count: “Those numbers became the highlight of each day; they were my motivation... I would concentrate on that number, as if I could make the counts by mentally willing it.”

Lost in the Bolivian jungle, Yossi Ghinsberg reported, “When I found myself feeling hopeless, I whispered my mantra, ‘Man of action, man of action.’ I don't know where I had gotten the phrase... I repeated it over and over: A man of action does whatever he must, isn't afraid, and doesn't worry.” Survivors engage their crisis almost as an athlete engages a sport. They cling to talismans. They discover the sense of flow of the expert performer, the “zone” in which emotion and thought balance each other in producing fluid action. A playful approach to a critical situation also leads to invention, and invention may lead to a new technique, strategy, or design that could save you.

8. See the Beauty:
 Survivors are attuned to the wonder of their world, especially in the face of mortal danger. The appreciation of beauty, the feeling of awe, opens the senses to the environment. (When you see something beautiful, your pupils actually dilate.) Debbie Kiley and four others were adrift in the Atlantic after their boat sank in a hurricane in 1982. They had no supplies, no water, and would die without rescue. Two of the crew members drank sea water and went mad. When one of them jumped overboard and was being eaten by sharks directly under their dinghy, Kiley felt as if she, too, were going mad, and told herself, “Focus on the sky, on the beauty there.” When Saint-Exupery's plane went down in the Lybian Desert, he was certain that he was doomed, but he carried on in this spirit: “Here we are, condemned to death, and still the certainty of dying cannot compare with the pleasure I am feeling. The joy I take from this half an orange which I am holding in my hand is one of the greatest joys I have ever known.” At no time did he stop to bemoan his fate, or if he did, it was only to laugh at himself.

9. Believe That You Will Succeed: 
It is at this point, following what I call “the vision,” that the survivor's will to live becomes firmly fixed. Fear of dying falls away, and a new strength fills them with the power to go on. “During the final two days of my entrapment,” Ralston recalled, “I felt an increasing reserve of energy, even though I had run out of food and water.” Elder said, “I felt rested and filled with a peculiar energy.” And: “It was as if I had been granted an unlimited supply of energy.”

10. Surrender: Yes you might die. In fact, you will die– we all do. But perhaps it doesn't have to be today. Don't let it worry you. Forget about rescue. Everything you need is inside you already. Dougal Robertson, a sailor who was cast away at sea for thirty-eight days after his boat sank, advised thinking of survival this way: “Rescue will come as a welcome interruption of... the survival voyage.” One survival psychologist calls that “resignation without giving up. It is survival by surrender.” Simpson reported, “I would probably die out there amid those boulders. The thought didn't alarm me... the horror of dying no longer affected me.” The Tao Te Ching explains how this surrender leads to survival:

"The rhinoceros has no place to jab its horn,
The tiger has no place to fasten its claws,
Weapons have no place to admit their blades.
Now,
What is the reason for this?
Because on him there are no mortal spots."

11. Do Whatever Is Necessary: Elder down-climbed vertical ice and rock faces with no experience and no equipment. In the black of night, Callahan dove into the flooded saloon of his sinking boat, at once risking and saving his life. Aron Ralston cut off his own arm to free himself. A cancer patient allows herself to be nearly killed by chemotherapy in order to live. Survivors have a reason to live and are willing to bet everything on themselves. They have what psychologists call meta-knowledge: They know their abilities and do not over–or underestimate them. They believe that anything is possible and act accordingly.

12. Never Give Up: When Apollo 13's oxygen tank exploded, apparently dooming the crew, Commander Jim Lovell chose to keep on transmitting whatever data he could back to mission control, even as they burned up on re-entry. Simpson, Elder, Callahan, Kiley, Stockdale, Ginsberg–were all equally determined and knew this final truth: If you're still alive, there is always one more thing that you can do. Survivors are not easily discouraged by setbacks. They accept that the environment is constantly changing and know that they must adapt. When they fall, they pick themselves up and start the entire process over again, breaking it down into manageable bits. Survivors always have a clear reason for going on. They keep their spirits up by developing an alternate world, created from rich memories, into which they can escape. They see opportunity in adversity. In the aftermath, survivors learn from and are grateful for the experiences that they've had. As Elder told me once, “I wouldn't trade that experience for anything. And sometimes I even miss it. I miss the clarity of knowing exactly what you have to do next.” Those who would survive the hazards of our world, whether at play or in business or at war, through illness or financial calamity, will do so through a journey of transformation. But that transcendent state doesn't miraculously appear when it is needed. It wells up from a lifetime of experiences, attitudes, and practices form one's personality, a core from which the necessary strength is drawn. A survival experience is an incomparable gift: It will tell you who you really are."
Laurence Gonzales is the author of "Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why" (W.W. Norton & Co., New York) and contributing editor for "National Geographic Adventure" magazine. The winner of numerous awards, he has written for Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, Conde Nast Traveler, Rolling Stone, among others. He has published a dozen books, including two award-winning collections of essays, three novels, and the book-length essay, "One Zero Charlie" published by Simon & Schuster. For more, go to www.deepsurvival.com.

Related:

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Musical Interlude: The Cinematic Orchestra, “Arrival of the Birds & Transformation”

The Cinematic Orchestra, “Arrival of the Birds & Transformation”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Three objects stand out in this thoughtful telescopic image, a view toward the mostly stealthy constellation Lynx. The two brightest (the spiky ones) are nearby stars. The third is the remote globular star cluster NGC 2419, at distance of nearly 300,000 light-years. NGC 2419 is sometimes called "the Intergalactic Wanderer", an appropriate title considering that the distance to the Milky Way's satellite galaxy, the Large Magellanic Cloud, is only about 160,000 light-years. 
Click image for larger size.
Roughly similar to other large globular star clusters like Omega Centauri, NGC 2419 is itself intrinsically bright, but appears faint because it is so far away. NGC 2419 may really have an extragalactic origin as, for example, the remains of a small galaxy captured and disrupted by the Milky Way. But its extreme distance makes it difficult to study and compare its properties with other globular clusters that roam the halo of our Milky Way galaxy.”

"Mu"

"Mu"

"A strange game. The only winning move is not to play." 
- Joshua, "War Games"

"There is a word, a concept, in Zen Buddhism that doesn't quite translate perfectly into the English language: Mu. Mu is the response given by a Zen monk to a question that cannot be meaningfully answered. It suggest that the question's premises are not real, that there is a state of emptiness that lies beyond yes and no, that the asker should unask the question - indeed, that anyone who would ask such a question in the first place might well to question his entire perspective on life.

Though the word was never uttered in the 1984's seminal teen-computer-hacker-political-thriller "War Games", the idea lies at the heart of the conflict that fuels the movie: a new Pentagon supercomputer that controls the nation's nuclear codes is caught up in a relentless war-game simulation trying to answer the question, "How can the United States win a nuclear war?" We all know it's a flawed question - the whole point of the Cold War arms-race theory of "mutual assured destruction" was that, in a world of opposing superpowers, the sheer volume of weaponry is meant to deter the use of any nukes at all. But back in 1984, when computer networks were new and exotic, it seemed entirely reasonable to worry that an artificial intelligence might start firing missiles based on the inhuman outcome of an algorithm. Of course, the computer finally found its Zen."

"What about you - can you tell when it's time to remove yourself from a defective board game?"

- Stephen H. Segal,
 "Geek Wisdom: The Sacred Teachings of Nerd Culture"

Chet Raymo, “The Wind In The Willows”

 “The Wind In The Willows”
by Chet Raymo

"Childhood has two seasons: the anticipation of summer and summer. Or so it seems in memory. And memory is all that matters in the long run. Stickball in the meadows. Messing about in drainage ditches. Long warm twilights on green lawns, catching fireflies in our cupped hands. Camping out in the back yard under the brilliant summer stars- Arcturus, Vega, Deneb, Altair- lulling us into sleep made fitful by the day's unfinished projects, tomorrow's beginnings. And no days of summer sweeter than the last few weeks of August, with school just around the corner. Long pants, combed hair, lunch boxes and galoshes. Staring listlessly out of classroom windows. And bells. No bells any more. Now, in retirement, I come and go as I please all year round. But these last few weeks of August retain their sweetness, anointed by memory, the rosy glow of childhood. And what do we remember? The piper. The piper at the gates of dawn.


The sun has set. Mole and Rat push off in their boat to look for Portly, the infant otter, who has gone missing from his home. They row upstream in moonlight. The night is full of animal noises- bird song, chatter and rustling. Purple loosestrife, meadowsweet and wild rose fringe the river's banks, their odors pervading the still air. Mole and Rat pass the night in dreamy searching and silent reverie. Near dawn they hear a magical piping that draws them to an island in the stream, hemmed with willow, birch and alder, cradled in a weir.

"Here, in this holy place, here if anywhere, surely we shall find Him," whispers Rat- and it is not only Portly that he means, as the capital H suggests. In a clearing on the island they find themselves in an "august Presence"- goat-hoofed, pipe-playing, great god Pan, friend and helper. And nestled between Pan's hooves is the sleeping infant otter.

As the sun's first rays shoot across the water-meadow, the Vision vanishes and the air is full of the caroling of birds that greet the dawn. With the sun comes forgetfulness. Was the Vision real? Was it a dream? They know something exciting has happened, yet nothing particular has happened. As they row home, they hear a song in the reeds bidding them to forget.

How long ago and far away those summer days and nights of childhood. What was it we found? Something was there, certainly, something exciting, a presence- call it, if you will, the pagan god Pan- that children are particularly able to perceive. The universe was at our doorstep, twinkling, shining, chattering, rustling. The minutes and the hours flowed together in a sweet, unhurried bliss.

Remember. Remember. Remember.”

"A Marvelous Victory..."

"To be hopeful in bad times is based on the fact that human history is not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand Utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory."
- Howard Zinn

The Daily "Near You?"

Pattersonville, New York, USA. Thanks for stopping by!

"A Good Question"

"The Children Are Busy..."

“Humanity is the spirit of the Supreme Being on earth, and that humanity is standing amidst ruins,
hiding its nakedness behind tattered rags, shedding tears upon hollow cheeks,and calling 
for its children with pitiful voice. But the children are busy singing their clan's anthem;
they are busy sharpening the swords and cannot hear the cry of their mothers.”
- Kahlil Gibran
Related:
Paul Craig Roberts, “Why WW III Is On The Horizon”

The Economy: "Are We Wrong About the Coming Depression?"

"Are We Wrong About the Coming Depression?"
by Bill Bonner

POITOU, France – "Yesterday, we began to examine the earth beneath our feet. How solid is it, we wondered? Specifically, and in the spirit of runaway humility, we want to look at where we might be wrong. 

It is almost surely true that debt has increased far faster than economic output over the last half-century… and that the post-1971 fiat money system has made this massive increase in credit possible. It is also surely correct that markets and economies still move in cyclical patterns – breathing in and breathing out as they always have. For all its hundreds of PhD economists, as far as we know, the Fed is still unable to defeat or fully control the business cycle. Nor can it prevent asset prices – as traded in the stock market, for example – from going up and down. 

What we also know is that stocks have been going (more or less) in an upward trajectory since 1982… and that at present they are much nearer the top of their range than the bottom. That is true for bonds, too. Interest rates and inflation (which run opposite to bond prices) have been coming down since 1983. Now, both are near all-time lows. 

Financial Forked Tongue: Since the War Between the States (also misleading known as the American Civil War), the typical period of business expansion has been 39 months. Today’s expansion has already lasted more than twice that long. So, there, too, you have to wonder if it is not approaching its end.

So far so good… we are on solid ground. By historical, traditional, and logical measures… we should expect some retrenchment. Our own proprietary indicator suggests that you should expect to lose about half your capital in the U.S. stock market over the next 10 years. (You can catch up on details of that forecast here.)

But when we turn to the Fed, its policies, and their likely effects on the markets, it’s time to put on the galoshes. The ground quickly turns mushy. There is broad disagreement about what the Fed has accomplished – good or bad – with QE and near-zero short-term interest rates. It appears to have shifted large amounts of wealth to the moneyed classes but not much more. The Fed’s balance sheet has swollen to about $4.5 trillion… which you might expect would trigger a bout of higher consumer prices. 

But for now at least, the major forces in the economy seem to be pushing in the other direction. Exports are falling. Shipping prices are hitting new lows. Manufacturing is in a slump. Bond defaults are headed up. The yellow machines aren’t selling. Japan’s economy is falling apart. Commodities have collapsed. We could go on… The weight of debt is slowing down growth and pushing down consumer prices. 

The extraordinary lightness of near-zero-cost money encourages gambling, speculation, mergers and acquisitions (at a record in 2015), and other financial legerdemain. This creates a kind of financial forked tongue. Asset prices tell us that “all is well” while the economy tells us that it is not.

Deflation and Depression: Where this leads is anyone’s guess. Our guess is that the contradiction will be resolved by a stock market sell-off, deflation, and depression. Of course, we could be wrong. It could be resolved by a big growth spurt. But that seems highly unlikely given the burden of debt, regulation, perverse incentives caused by crony-coddling policies, and misallocation of resources (mistakes) caused by zero-interest-rate credit. It could also be resolved by a long, flat spell in the markets… giving the economy an opportunity to fill the shoes Wall Street has cobbled for it. But this, too, seems unlikely. 

When markets find themselves way out in front of the economies that support them, they do not generally wait for the economies to catch up; instead, they turn around. Meanwhile, the Fed says it has begun a “tightening cycle.” This is the first real – if it is real – tightening undertaken by the Fed since just before the 2008 financial crisis, when it raised short-term rates from about 1% in 2004 to just over 5% in 2007.

Ice Cream and Moon Pies: Economist John Maynard Keynes’s formula for enlightened economic management was simple: Loosen when times are tough; tighten when they are flush. For more than 20 years, America’s central bank has loosened early and often, bringing the cost of borrowing all the way down to nearly nothing at times. But it has practically forgotten how to tighten. Like feeding a little boy nothing but ice cream and moon pies, this was bound to create an unusual young man. Now, the Fed proposes to give him some asparagus! 

Again, we don’t know where this leads… but we are pretty sure that some adjustments will be necessary. We wouldn’t be surprised if they involved some tantrums retching in parking lots. In our view, the Fed is not tightening too early, as some analysts believe. It is tightening too late. The high fructose has already done its damage. The teeth are rotten. And the economy can no longer stomach a normal diet. More to come…"
- http://www.thedailyreckoning.com 

Related:
"Financial Armageddon Approaches: 
U.S. Banks Have 247 Trillion Dollars Of Exposure To Derivatives"
http://investmentwatchblog.com/

"How It Really Is, Precious Special Snowflake Edition"

Empty, like their heads...

The Economy: “A Crisis Worse Than Islamic State? Bank ‘Bail-Ins’ Begin”

“A Crisis Worse Than Islamic State? Bank ‘Bail-Ins’ Begin”
By Ellen Brown 

“At the end of November, an Italian pensioner hanged himself after his entire €100,000 savings were confiscated in a bank “rescue” scheme. He left a suicide note blaming the bank, where he had been a customer for 50 years and had invested in bank-issued bonds. But he might better have blamed the EU and the G20’s Financial Stability Board, which have imposed an “Orderly Resolution” regime that keeps insolvent banks afloat by confiscating the savings of investors and depositors. Some 130,000 shareholders and junior bond holders suffered losses in the “rescue.”

The pensioner’s bank was one of four small regional banks that had been put under special administration over the past two years. The €3.6 billion ($3.83 billion) rescue plan launched by the Italian government uses a newly-formed National Resolution Fund, which is fed by the country’s healthy banks. But before the fund can be tapped, losses must be imposed on investors; and in January, EU rules will require that they also be imposed on depositors. According to a December 10th article on BBC.com: "The rescue was a “bail-in” – meaning bondholders suffered losses – unlike the hugely unpopular bank bailouts during the 2008 financial crisis, which cost ordinary EU taxpayers tens of billions of euros.

Correspondents say [Italian Prime Minister] Renzi acted quickly because in January, the EU is tightening the rules on bank rescues – they will force losses on depositors holding more than €100,000, as well as bank shareholders and bondholders. Letting the four banks fail under those new EU rules next year would have meant “sacrificing the money of one million savers and the jobs of nearly 6,000 people”.

That is what is predicted for 2016: massive sacrifice of savings and jobs to prop up a “systemically risky” global banking scheme.

Bail-in Under Dodd-Frank: That is all happening in the EU. Is there reason for concern in the US?According to former hedge fund manager Shah Gilani, writing for Money Morning, there is. In a November 30th article titled “Why I’m Closing My Bank Accounts While I Still Can,” he writes: "It is entirely possible in the next banking crisis that depositors in giant too-big-to-fail failing banks could have their money confiscated and turned into equity shares.If your too-big-to-fail (TBTF) bank is failing because they can’t pay off derivative bets they made, and the government refuses to bail them out, under a mandate titled “Adequacy of Loss-Absorbing Capacity of Global Systemically Important Banks in Resolution,” approved on Nov. 16, 2014, by the G20’s Financial Stability Board, they can take your deposited money and turn it into shares of equity capital to try and keep your TBTF bank from failing."

Once your money is deposited in the bank, it legally becomes the property of the bank. Gilani explains: "Your deposited cash is an unsecured debt obligation of your bank. It owes you that money back. If you bank with one of the country’s biggest banks, who collectively have trillions of dollars of derivatives they hold “off balance sheet” (meaning those debts aren’t recorded on banks’ GAAP balance sheets), those debt bets have a superior legal standing to your deposits and get paid back before you get any of your cash. Big banks got that language inserted into the 2010 Dodd-Frank law meant to rein in dangerous bank behavior."

The banks inserted the language and the legislators signed it, without necessarily understanding it or even reading it. At over 2,300 pages and still growing, the Dodd Frank Act is currently the longest and most complicated bill ever passed by the US legislature.

Propping Up the Derivatives Scheme: Dodd-Frank states in its preamble that it will “protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts.” But it does this under Title II by imposing the losses of insolvent financial companies on their common and preferred stockholders, debtholders, and other unsecured creditors. That includes depositors, the largest class of unsecured creditor of any bank.

Title II is aimed at “ensuring that payout to claimants is at least as much as the claimants would have received under bankruptcy liquidation.” But here’s the catch: under both the Dodd Frank Act and the 2005 Bankruptcy Act, derivative claims have super-priority over all other claims, secured and unsecured, insured and uninsured.

The over-the-counter (OTC) derivative market (the largest market for derivatives) is made up of banks and other highly sophisticated players such as hedge funds. OTC derivatives are the bets of these financial players against each other. Derivative claims are considered “secured” because collateral is posted by the parties.

For some inexplicable reason, the hard-earned money you deposit in the bank is not considered “security” or “collateral.” It is just a loan to the bank, and you must stand in line along with the other creditors in hopes of getting it back. State and local governments must also stand in line, although their deposits are considered “secured,” since they remain junior to the derivative claims with “super-priority.”

Turning Bankruptcy on Its Head: Under the old liquidation rules, an insolvent bank was actually “liquidated” – its assets were sold off to repay depositors and creditors. Under an “orderly resolution,” the accounts of depositors and creditors are emptied to keep the insolvent bank in business. The point of an “orderly resolution” is not to make depositors and creditors whole but to prevent another system-wide “disorderly resolution” of the sort that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. The concern is that pulling a few of the dominoes from the fragile edifice that is our derivatives-laden global banking system will collapse the entire scheme. The sufferings of depositors and investors are just the sacrifices to be borne to maintain this highly lucrative edifice.

In a May 2013 article in Forbes titled “The Cyprus Bank ‘Bail-In’ Is Another Crony Bankster Scam,” Nathan Lewis explained the scheme like this: "At first glance, the “bail-in” resembles the normal capitalist process of liabilities restructuring that should occur when a bank becomes insolvent. The difference with the “bail-in” is that the order of creditor seniority is changed. In the end, it amounts to the cronies (other banks and government) and non-cronies. The cronies get 100% or more; the non-cronies, including non-interest-bearing depositors who should be super-senior, get a kick in the guts instead. 

In principle, depositors are the most senior creditors in a bank. However, that was changed in the 2005 bankruptcy law, which made derivatives liabilities most senior. Considering the extreme levels of derivatives liabilities that many large banks have, and the opportunity to stuff any bank with derivatives liabilities in the last moment, other creditors could easily find there is nothing left for them at all."

As of September 2014, US derivatives had a notional value of nearly $280 trillion. (Some very reputable estimates claim total global derivatives notional values of $1.5 to $3.4 QUADRILLION. -CP) A study involving the cost to taxpayers of the Dodd-Frank rollback slipped by Citibank into the “cromnibus” spending bill last December found that the rule reversal allowed banks to keep $10 trillion in swaps trades on their books. This is money that taxpayers could be on the hook for in another bailout; and since Dodd-Frank replaces bailouts with bail-ins, it is money that creditors and depositors could now be on the hook for. Citibank is particularly vulnerable to swaps on the price of oil. Brent crude dropped from a high of $114 per barrel in June 2014 to a low of $36 in December 2015.

What about FDIC insurance? It covers deposits up to $250,000, but the FDIC fund had only $67.6 billion in it as of June 30, 2015, insuring about $6.35 trillion in deposits. The FDIC has a credit line with the Treasury, but even that only goes to $500 billion; and who would pay that massive loan back? The FDIC fund, too, must stand in line behind the bottomless black hole of derivatives liabilities. As Yves Smith observed in a March 2013 post: "In the US, depositors have actually been put in a worse position than Cyprus deposit-holders, at least if they are at the big banks that play in the derivatives casino. The regulators have turned a blind eye as banks use their depositors to fund derivatives exposures. The deposits are now subject to being wiped out by a major derivatives loss."

Even in the worst of the Great Depression bank bankruptcies, noted Nathan Lewis, creditors eventually recovered nearly all of their money. He concluded: "When super-senior depositors have huge losses of 50% or more, after a “bail-in” restructuring, you know that a crime was committed."

Exiting While We Can: How can you avoid this criminal theft and keep your money safe? It may be too late to pull your savings out of the bank and stuff them under a mattress, as Shah Gilani found when he tried to withdraw a few thousand dollars from his bank. Large withdrawals are now criminally suspect.

You can move your money into one of the credit unions with their own deposit insurance protection; but credit unions and their insurance plans are also under attack. So writes Frances Coppola in a December 18th article titled “Co-operative Banking Under Attack in Europe,” discussing an insolvent Spanish credit union that was the subject of a bail-in in July 2015. When the member-investors were subsequently made whole by the credit union’s private insurance group, there were complaints that the rescue “undermined the principle of creditor bail-in” – this although the insurance fund was privately financed. Critics argued that “this still looks like a circuitous way to do what was initially planned, i.e. to avoid placing losses on private creditors.” In short, the goal of the bail-in scheme is to place losses on private creditors. Alternatives that allow them to escape could soon be blocked.

We need to lean on our legislators to change the rules before it is too late. The Dodd Frank Act and the Bankruptcy Reform Act both need a radical overhaul, and the Glass-Steagall Act (which put a fire wall between risky investments and bank deposits) needs to be reinstated. Meanwhile, local legislators would do well to set up some publicly-owned banks on the model of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota – banks that do not gamble in derivatives and are safe places to store our public and private funds.”
Yes, I know, yes indeed... "Oh, that could NEVER happen here!"
"It's ok, I laugh myself sometime. Not a whole lot else you can do."
Sheriff Bell, "No Country For Old Men"

A Must Read: David Stockman, “Why There Is No Peace On Earth”

“Why There Is No Peace On Earth”
by David Stockman

"After the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989 and the death of the Soviet Union was confirmed two years later when Boris Yeltsin courageously stood down the red army tanks in front of Moscow’s White House, a dark era in human history came to an end. The world had descended into what had been a 77-year global war, incepting with the mobilization of the armies of old Europe in August 1914. If you want to count bodies, 150 million were killed by all the depredations which germinated in the Great War, its foolish aftermath at Versailles, and the march of history into the world war and cold war which followed inexorably thereupon.

To wit, upwards of 8% of the human race was wiped-out during that span. The toll encompassed the madness of trench warfare during 1914-1918; the murderous regimes of Soviet and Nazi totalitarianism that rose from the ashes of the Great War and Versailles; and then the carnage of WWII and all the lesser (unnecessary) wars and invasions of the Cold War including Korea and Vietnam.

I have elaborated more fully on this proposition in “The Epochal Consequences Of Woodrow Wilson’s War“, but the seminal point cannot be gainsaid. The end of the cold war meant world peace was finally at hand, yet 25 years later there is still no peace because Imperial Washington confounds it.

In fact, the War Party entrenched in the nation’s capital is dedicated to economic interests and ideological perversions that guarantee perpetual war; they ensure endless waste on armaments and the inestimable death and human suffering that stems from 21st century high tech warfare and the terrorist blowback it inherently generates among those upon which the War Party inflicts its violent hegemony.”

The rest of this very long (far beyond the capabilities of this blog) and factually informative article can be found at the link below. For an understanding of the historical, economic and societal forces shaping the Middle East, and indeed the whole world- from an insider's knowledgable perspective- this is an absolutely excellent source. Please do read it! - CP

The Economy: "Bill Holter: 2016 Predictions- Economic Collapse Caused by Fraud & Debt"

"2016 Predictions- Economic Collapse Caused by Fraud & Debt"
By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

"Financial writer Bill Holter says all the talk of the so-called “recovery” and reaching “escape velocity is imminent” have been total lies. Holter explains, “We have heard the word ‘recovery’ for seven years and we’ve never gotten to the expansion phase. They keep talking about ‘escape velocity,’ and we have never gotten there in seven years. Now, the Fed has raised interest rates just before Christmas. This is the first time ever the Fed has raised rates right before Christmas, and they raised rates into a weak economy where credit is already tight. The only time they have done that is 1937, and we know how that worked out.”

One of Holter’s 2016 predictions is for a market crash—a big one. “Holter contends, “I think you are going to see a closure of the system. Walmart shelves will be cleared out in a couple of days. This is like a hurricane, and it will last for a while. This is not going to be something that will last a few days and be done and gone. This is going to take a fair amount of time to clean up. If you live in the cities, well, good luck. It’s going to be complete mayhem. I can’t imagine living in a city with what’s coming. It could come for a big reason or a small reason. The background behind it is there is too much debt in a fraudulent system. It’s going to collapse.”

Holter’s business partner, renowned gold expert Jim Sinclair, has written a long article called “Be Prepared.” Long articles from Mr. Sinclair are rare. Why post this now? Holter says, “Sinclair said it was ‘necessary.’ He believes it could be any day. The unwind could be any day, and once this thing begins to unwind, it will take such a short period to unwind into closure of banks, closure of ATM’s and your credit cards, that you need to be prepared ahead of time.” (You can get the “Be Prepared” article here.)

The bond market is full of debt that will never be paid back. It’s one of the biggest frauds of all, and Holter says, “Go back to 1995 and our debt in the U.S began to move up like a hockey stick. Somewhere in the mid to late 1990’s was the point of no return. We didn’t really have any hope of paying it back. In 2008, it was ridiculous, and at this point, it is beyond ridiculous. They can’t pay back the $19 trillion much less the $200 trillion, which is what the real number is when you include Social Security, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Medicare, loan guarantees and etcetera.” In closing, Holter says, “This is going to be a complete financial collapse. You are going to see some deflation, but it’s not going to be deflation against dollars. It will be deflation against gold.” Meaning, the value of everything will devalue against gold. Holter adds, “2016 is going to be a very sad year.” (There is much more in the video interview.)

Join Greg Hunter as he goes One-on-One with gold expert Bill Holter from JSMineset.com.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"Healing with Hurt"

"Healing with Hurt"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"You can channel your pain into helping others and spreading a tide of curative energy throughout the world. Pain is a fact of being and one that permeates all of our lives to some degree. Since the hurt we feel may be a part of the experiences that have touched us most deeply, we are often loathe to let it go. It is frequently easier to keep our pain at our sides, where it acts as a shield that shelters us from others and gives us an identity—that of victim—from which we can draw bitter strength. However, pain’s universality can also empower us to use our hurt to help others heal. Since no pain is any greater or more profound than any other, what you feel can give you the ability to help bring about the recovery of individuals whose hurts are both similar to and vastly different from your own. You can channel your pain into transformative and healing love that aids you in helping individuals on a one-to-one basis and spreading a tide of curative energy throughout the world.

The capacity to heal others evolves naturally within those who are ready to disassociate themselves from their identity as victims. In fact, the simple decision to put aside the pain we have carried is what grants us the strength to redeem that pain through service. There are many ways to use the hurt you feel to help others. Your pain gives you a unique insight into the minds of people who have experienced trauma and heartache. You can draw from the wellspring of strength that allowed you to emerge on the other side of a painful experience and pass that strength to individuals still suffering from their wounds. You may be able to council individuals in need by showing them the coping methods that have helped you survive or simply by offering sympathy. A kinship can develop that allows you to relate more closely with those you are trying to aid and comfort.

Helping others can be a restorative experience that makes your own heart grow stronger. In channeling your pain into compassionate service and watching others successfully recover, you may feel a sense of euphoria that leads to increased feelings of self-worth and optimism. Your courageous decision to reach out to others can be the best way to declare to yourself and the world that your pain didn’t defeat you, and in fact it helped you heal."

Musical Interlude: Giovanni Allevi, “Back To Life”

Giovanni Allevi, “Back To Life”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“What surrounds a hotbed of star formation? In the case of the Orion Nebula- dust. The entire Orion field, located about 1600 light years away, is inundated with intricate and picturesque filaments of dust. Opaque to visible light, dust is created in the outer atmosphere of massive cool stars and expelled by a strong outer wind of particles. 
Click image for larger size.
The Trapezium and other forming star clusters are embedded in the nebula. The intricate filaments of dust surrounding M42 and M43 appear brown in the featured image, while central glowing gas is highlighted in red. Over the next few million years much of Orion's dust will be slowly destroyed by the very stars now being formed, or dispersed into the Galaxy.”