Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Speculation and Sanctification

Yesterday I bought food and books.  Expectations of volume were way off and after books there was no space in my backpack for the food (which was bought second as it was on the way home from books.)

Now they say never shop when you're hungry, but if you didn't then you'd never get new food.

The trek from food to home is 2.1 miles.  I never knew that before, but I just looked it up.

I'm going to take a random guess and say that I had hundreds of pounds of food because, honestly, that shit is heavy.

As I left the store I thought I heard thunder and soon after the rain started.

I didn't get too far before I dropped to my knees and prayed.  As I said, food is heavy and there was no space in the backpack.  My hands needed a break.

God, please give me the strength to make it through this, please don't let the books get water damaged, and please give me the patience to not go insane.
The rain turned to heavy rain.  Then downpour.  The torrential downpour.

Did I mention that I didn't have a coat?

Second prayer said while standing:
God, same stuff as before.  Also, a ride would be nice.  Amen.
Trudging on while getting soggy.  Dripping with sweat and rain.  Frequent stops needed to give my hands a break from carrying the bags.

Suddenly, a car.

Random person I don't know is offering me a ride.  (Thank you God.)  Estimate 1.6ish miles left.

The ride is quick.  The ride is dry.  She gives me napkins to dry my face.

As I get out, having been delivered home, she tells me that god loves me.  I agree.  I don't always agree, but prayer was answered.

When I thank her she tells me to thank god, for he told her to pick me up.  I don't know if this is figurative or literal.  Certainly there are people who hear voices.  On a certain level I envy the ones who hear the voice of god.

I'm well aware that that can lead to all kinds of trouble, hence the hedging of "on a certain level", and God (capitalized here because it's that particular god.) is a historically bad campaign adviser.  Also, if God tells you to invade Iraq ... go down the checklist of when it would be reasonable to invade if God hadn't said anything (note well, the checklist's answer is that it is almost NEVER a good idea to invade anywhere, but there is that "almost" usually reserved for cases of genocide) if the checklist says no, tell God that it's not a good time.

That said, I imagine that there's probably a certain sense of purpose and certainty that comes from God telling you to do something, and it seems like that might be a better feeling than being adrift.

I, myself, am unconvinced that any god chooses to speak directly to people in this day and age.  It seems to me that it would be too easily confused with a delusion.

Anyway, no idea if the woman who gave me a ride home meant that she literally heard god say, "Give that person a ride," or she meant it figuratively.  I didn't ask.

I do think that she's earned the good graces of her god either way.  While I didn't ask for specifics, based on where she's from, her accent, her race, and other such factors there's a pretty decent chance she's a Christian and was it not Jesus who said, "Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for when I, in the heavy rain, was walking a long distance with a heavy load you let me into your car and drove me to my destination"?

The details might be somewhat off, but I think he said something like that.  And the follow up is that whatever you did for the least of these, you did for him.

Now there is some confusion in this story because when I was praying to an all powerful benevolent god I was pretty sure she was female and it was a male god who told the woman to give me a ride.  Possibilities abound, of course.  Lonespark suggests that perhaps my god called in a favor with the driver's god.  Another is that god is genderfluid, which makes a certain amount of sense.  There are others too.

But all of this leaves me with a question.  How does one thank God?

I've already said, "Thank you," of course.  But it seems like there should be more to it.  I'm kind of focused on the idea of pouring a libation but the thing is, most gods like alcohol and I don't drink it and thus don't have it.

Lonespark suggests that gods tend to like the same beverages as people.

Having learned the hard way that transporting liquids will wreck your body I purchased several powders so that I might transform water into more interesting things and thus have:
  • Tang
  • Grape Kool-Aid
  • Tropical Punch Kool-Aid
  • Blue Raspberry Lemonade Kool-Aid
  • Orange Kool-Aid
  • Strawberry Kiwi Kool-Aid
Which do you think god(s), whichever god or gods was/were involved, would like?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Baldr and Hel

Loki has had various children, sometimes as a mother, sometimes as a father.  One brood in particular is important.

Odin took these children from their parents (Loki and Angrboða) and banished each to a different place in a different realm.

Fenrir, the great wolf, they raised themselves, but, fearing him, they bound him, acting as if it were a game.  Twice they did this and he escaped.  The third time they used a special magical rope, promised they would free him if he could not free himself (they lied) and this time he did not escape.  Initially on good terms with the gods of Asgard he ended up understandably pissed off.  When the world ends it is foretold that he will kill Odin.

Jörmungandr, the great serpent, was cast into the oceans of Midgard (earth.)  He grew so large that he wrapped around the world and now grasps his own tail in his mouth.  It is said that when he lets go the world will end.  I can't find the source for the whole "When he lets go the world will end" thing, so I don't have the details, but I've always had the impression that the world has become, or has always been, unstable such that if too much time passed without Jörmungandr coiled around it, holding it together, it will simply fall apart.  Thor doesn't like Jörmungandr very much, and the two are fated to kill each other.

The third child from this brood was Hel.

She is the only daughter of Loki whose name we know.  Perhaps the only divine daughter of Loki.  Perhaps the only daughter of Loki period.

When Hel was born she already had the form of an old woman.  Odin cast her into the afterlife, but, unlike the others, he put her to work.  Hel is a ruler.  The place she rules is named after her (it is called Hel or Helheim.)  With with exceptions (looking at you Valhalla), the dead go there.  Even dead gods.  We'll get back to that.

Those that die of sickness or old age are sent there automatically.  Some of those that die in violence do as well.  That much is crystal clear.  What's cloudy bordering on opaque is exactly how the determination is made.  Obviously having your soul snatched by Odin or a Valkyrie is a get out of Hel free card, but is that the only way?  Not clear.

Baldr goes there when he dies.


Now the question of what Baldr does when he gets there is not even remotely close to being answered.  When Hel got there she set up a queendom and got the place named after her.  Of course she was under orders.  Like I said, Odin put her to work.  She was ordered by his high and mightiness to receive all that came to her and thus she had to create some kind of civilization with which to greet the dead.  (Presumably by, at least in part, organizing those dead who were there already.)

Baldr shows up and does ... what exactly?

So I was thinking about this, and talking it out with Lonespark, and it occurred to me that Baldr being in Hel's embrace for all this time might not be an accident.

Persephone and Hades eventually worked things out and Hades fucking kidnapped her.

Think about the whole story: A self fulfilling prophesy, wheels greased by Loki, sends the universe's most eligible bachelor to live with his daughter for eternity.

Does this sound like, "Fate sucks," or does it sound more like, "Dad, I've been dating someone and we really want to be together forever but the political ramifications of openly marrying could shake Yggdrasill to its foundations.  Plus, it's kind of hard for him to keep sneaking here unnoticed, it would be better if we could find some kind of reason for him to relocate here without letting people know why.  Can you help?" as said by Hel to Loki?

Doesn't the second one make more sense.  You can see how it goes from there.  Loki says he'll think about it then tells Baldr to start complaining about nightmares of dying.

One mistletoe spear later and Hel and Baldr are living happily together.  Sure, it'll bring about the end of the universe as we know it, but everything's gotta end sooner or later, right?


Since Lonespark and I talked about it she's pointed various things (including, most recently, a poem) my way by people who came to similar conclusions.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Odin and LBJ

So, I was walking home one day and thinking about stuff.  It tends to happen when the walk is two hours and you don't have anything much to do.  I should probably get one of those walkity-man thingies so I could listen to music.  Of course then I'd need to have music.

So much work.  Ugh.

Anyway.  Walking.  Thinking.

In a conversation that happened before this point Lonespark and I had spoken about Marvel-Odin.  Lonespark is a Norse Pagan and so depictions of Odin matter to her in much the same way depictions of Jesus Christ Vampire Slayer matter to Christians.

I reached the conclusion that the problem was that Marvel-Odin is an asshole, where Mythological Odin is an asshole who makes up for it by being awesome.

He's probably not someone you want to have around for personal contact, but you totally want him on your side in general.  You can even admire him, provided it's done from a safe distance.  Think (Marvel Cinematic) Tony Stark, or Nick Fury before he thought evil incarnate was a good idea so long as Hydra didn't have their finger on the trigger.

Tony Stark is a good example of an asshole who scores points for awesome.  Nick Fury in The Avengers practically is Mythological-Odin incarnate.  Seriously, if it turns out that his helicarrier is the son of his blood-brother who comes from the land of our oft-times enemies then I think we can mark Avengers-Fury as totally Odin.  Because it seems like that's all he's missing.  (Well... rainbow bridge, golden apples, details.)

And this thinking led to the question of what are some non-fictional semi-contemporary, possibly American, analogues for Odin?

Now I don't really know that much about ass kicking male American warriors who occasionally take a few years off to be wandering female seers, so my attention turned to administrators.  Odin is a king, after all.

And thus... LBJ.

By all accounts Lyndon Baines Johnson was a complete and utter asshole in almost every possible respect.  And that "almost" is just me hedging.

The reason he took the job as Vice President in the first place was that he was playing the odds and noting that the number of vice presidents who didn't have to be elected was pretty high given the number of vice presidents there had been in total.  It wasn't a majority, by any means.  It was a little less than 20%.

He took the job of Vice President because he saw a 20% chance that JFK would be killed or otherwise die in office.  It happened.  He became President.

That is not a nice person.

After the assassination he made Bobby Kennedy, the dead President's brother, talk him through the procedure for taking over the country even though:
a) He already knew it
b) There was no fucking reason to ask Kennedy because literally anyone in that department could have done the job.
He was just rubbing salt in the wound.  And, again, the wound was that Kennedy's brother had just died.

This guy was a grade A, first class asshole.

He was also instrumental in getting civil rights legislation passed.

Which is to say, this asshole worked for good.

His feud with the Kennedys was personal and mutual, but his asshole powers could be used for more professional things and it was, in part, through the use of his massive unmitigated asshole powers that the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Which is sort of the best example I can think of of a case where someone is an asshole, but makes up for it by being awesome.

Civil Rights legislation wasn't going to pass.  The votes weren't there.  The support wasn't there.  Enter LBJ, asshole extraordinaire.  Everyone told him not to even try.  He'd lose.  It couldn't be done.  There was no point in trying something that was doomed to failure.  He did it anyway.

I cannot imagine an American without LBJ.  I've tried.  It just doesn't compute.

The Civil Rights movement was a combination of the powerless demanding they be treated better than shit and a specific subset of the powerful pushing the same onto a racist country that, by and large, didn't want to better itself.

Neither of those groups could have prevailed without the other.  Even with all of his asshole powers, arm twisting, and understanding of the legislative process there is no way in fucking Hell that he could have gotten Civil Rights legislation passed if not for the movement.

But at the same time, the movement wouldn't have gotten legislation if not for LBJ.  What would have happened then?  Richard "Southern Strategy" Nixon wouldn't have done it.  Ford?  Carter?  Certainly not Reagan.  Clinton?  The opposition shut down the government multiple times while he was in office.

Look at the Civil Rights movement and imagine if all of that effort, if all of that passion, had come to nothing.  What the fuck happens then?  How long can you keep a nonviolent movement going if nonviolence never yields results?

Would it have turned violent?  Would people have maintained their principles but had their hope crushed?  Would we still be fighting the fights of the sixties today with no discernible legislative progress?

I seriously have no clue where America would be today.  As I said, I can't imagine it.

Even beyond the civil rights the Civil Rights movement was concerned with, if all of that very visible work on the part of the people yielded no fruit, would we even still believe in the democratic process itself?

I was born 21 years after the Civil Rights Act passed.  An America without it defies my ability to imagine.  Not only do I have no idea who we would be, I have no idea who I would be.

And so the point comes to this:

LBJ = Raging Asshole + Incredibly important person who did immeasurable good for my country.

And that's sort of like Odin.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Monthly Donation Reminder

This is your regular reminder that I do, in fact, have a donate button on the blog (top right corner.)

Posts like this go some distance as to explaining why.

And now, about October.

First off, not Octember.  That's a Dr. Seuss book.

Second, as one of the number months (Octo = 8) it's kind of boring.

This is the ides of October.  October has been 31 days for as long as there has been an October.  As with all number months it was knocked 2 our of order when January and February were added to the start of the year (which is why the month with eight in the name comes tenth.)

That's about it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

T-Shirt Tuesday: For Fred Clark

Fred Clark of Slacktivist once commented that he would like a T-shirt with, "Then I shall be a wicked Child, and the great God will be very angry with me," from Isaac Watts’ First Catechism (1730).

The exact quote is:
I absolutely want that answer on a T-shirt. 
Also business cards but I can't much help with those since they tend to be personalized.

The reason is that, while not intended to be such, it's very much like what Fred Clark considers to be "the greatest scene of salvation and redemption in literature":
All right, then, I'll go to Hell!
 Now it wasn't spesified how this statement was wanted on a T-shirt.  For whatever reason I prefer shorter lines that allow for bigger writing, so I'd break it up into four lines: "Then I shall be / a wicked Child, / and the great God will / be very angry with me." but that plays havoc with the integrity of the clauses.

Anyway, if you want the four line version, dark writing on light shirts is here, and light writing on dark shirts is here.

A more reasonable approach is to put it in two lines.  One would like to separate the two lines at the comma, but the size of the clauses makes it better to break after the "and"



You can see how reducing the number of lines makes the writing small and such.

The reason that those sections say "Latin Alphabet" is that I wanted to do it in Sherman's Gallifreyan as well, but it looks like I'm going to have to go through a process were I convince the people at Cafe Press that, seeing as how it belongs to Sherman, and Sherman has given people to use it as they see fit, the BBC will not in fact sue them if they let me make T-shirts with Sherman's Gallifreyan on them.  Maybe if I drop the word "Gallifreyan" and point out that it was originally developed as a way to write English that was not linked to any intellectual property...

Anyway, T-shirts.  T-shirts that it is likely no one will buy.

Monday, October 13, 2014

(Image Post) Mass and moment be released

It happened on Monday the fifth of October.

I don't know what it was.

I just know that when I walked in in the morning everything was normal, and when I walked home in the afternoon something had happened.

I didn't have my camera.  The next day I also forgot my camera.  Wednesday it rained.

You don't get a really good idea of the path here, but you sort of see it:

And if you want to see the path from the origin to the fence, I give you a reverse shot:

Or two:

The next day was dry.

It's more clear where the path ends on the lower road when the displaced dirt isn't wet, see:

This bar was never supposed to bend:

And if it looks like there's a sharp change in direction toward the far end of the bent portion,
your eyes are good:

And that's all for the moment.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Sermonizing (Image Post)

That's me with the green notebook
All attempts to recover the audio recording I made of my speech have failed, that might be a good thing as it wasn't prepared.  I tried to prepare it but, as I told the people there, I ended up with maybe 16 beginnings, some number of middles, and no ending.

Thus what follows is not a transcript.  It's not even really an attempt to recreate the speech, it's more a shot at recapturing the impression.


We've been here before.  A new administration attempts to dazzle us with math that doesn't add up, economic models that don't model economics, and claims that aren't factual.  Then they tell us they have no choice but to cut, and their supposedly money saving cuts are to profitable programs.

All that's really different this time is the scale.  Fifty faculty being fired--you should know that when they claim that retirements would offset these firing they're lying.  If you want proof look at Jeannine Diddle Uzzi.  Peter Aicher is retiring and by this administration's own rules that means Jeannine doesn't get fired.  She's getting fired.

Why the lie?  An argument could be made that they're hoping to get rid of more people by convincing some to retire and then saying, "Too bad, we're firing the fifty anyway."  I don't think that's it.  I think it's something simpler.

By making the question, "Which fifty faculty have to go?" instead of, "Do fifty faculty have to go?" they can turn us against each other by default.  Because if we accept that framing then when I say, "Jeannine should keep her job," which is true, it becomes twisted to mean, "Some other teacher should be fired in her place."  We can't accept that framing.  We can't let it mean that.

We have to understand a truth as profound as it is simple: "We're all in this together," isn't a meaningless platitude, it's a universal and incontrovertible truth.  I was here, in a classics class, when I first read Martin Luther King Jr's words on the subject.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
When a physics teacher is cut it affects me, even though I've never taken a physics class here.  When they eliminate the language programs it effects you, even if you'd never have taken a language class anyway.

We all know this.  We're a university.  We aren't just caught in the network of mutuality, we embrace it.  We don't have a French University and a Physics University.  We don't have a Philosophy University and a Political Science University.  We don't have a Music University and a Math University.  We have the University of Southern Maine.

All of us under one roof, often in the same classroom.  One class I take is classics, art, and women and gender studies.  By having all three groups in the same class we all benefit because we're all looking at the same thing but we each see it from our own perspectives.

When we hear the others insights and their questions we grow because they see things we would never see and they ask things we would never think to ask.  The diversity of the university benefits us all and when it is lessened we're all diminished.

The idea that we're all responsible for each other, echoes through history.  This example is kind of heavy handed, but Genesis isn't known for subtlety.

When Cain asks, "Am I my brother's keeper?" he does it as the first murderer.  It's an example of how not to be.  Because we aren't supposed to need to ask.  We're supposed to know.  I am my sibling's keeper.  I am my classmate's keeper.  I am my colleague's keeper.  I am my student's keeper.  I am my teacher's keeper.  I am my program's keeper.  I am my university's keeper.

I was here last time even though no one I knew was being targeted then.  I was here because when they're unjustly firing people it matters to me even when I don't know them.  It affects me, even if only indirectly.

Last time this was tried we stopped it, and we can stop it again if we remember that my problems are your problems and your problems are my problems.  That everyone matters to each of us.

One last thing is that the very idea of a public university is based on a concept that the current administration doesn't seem to understand.  The idea is that the least of these should be entitled to as good an education as anyone else and not need to be rich and be shipped off to Boston.


Or something like that.  With the recording useless that's all from memory and without a prepared statement it was pretty scattered as it was being delivered.  I give you additional pictures, these ones taken by me:

Hooking up the microphone never worked so we started off with a megaphone.

Of course if you need to hands to handle your statement that can lead to awkwardness:

Then the megaphone died.

This might be when I spoke,

At events such as these you always need at least one economist,
because events such as these are caused by people doing bad things
and making false claims about economics to justify them.
Thus, economics person: