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Category Archives: Random Thoughts and Grumblings

Thoughts on the Nature of the Universe

Thoughts on the Nature of the Universe

 

     How do I make you believe? Where can I find the columns of data that warm the hearts of scientists, while retaining the turn of phrase to move the dreamers?
     You who worship at the shrine of science will reject my words because I deal in a subject relegated to the trivial—the voodoo realm of the spiritualists. You who favor spiritualists will discard my words because there is no room for karma and old souls in what I say.
     Still, I must try.
 
     I don’t believe in ghosts, or any of that class of events collectively referred to as “The Supernatural.” I don’t doubt there are strange and unexplained happenings but I cannot attribute them to the wandering spirits of the dead. Any explanation that says: “People may ‘hang around’ after death, for unexplained reasons, and for an undefined periods,” is too much to swallow.
     For example: for us to “see” a ghost they must both absorb and reflect light (we see colors because all but the color reflected is absorbed). But to absorb light there must be mass. And, if they both absorbed light and had mass they would cast a shadow. Plus, since what we call sight is a chemical process which requires a metabolism—which ghosts can’t have—they couldn’t “see.”
     Yes, I know that ghostly sight can be “explained away” by saying that ghosts must use another way of seeing that just happens to mimic life in both form and function is, well…not all that believable.
     And that’s just one of the infinite number of things stacked against ghosts.
     And then, there’s reincarnation. Lots of people love that one. And I suppose it’s comforting to believe that we go on living in some form after our current life is finished. But…think about it:
     There is this thing (call it a soul if you must), that looks out through my eyes and records everything I see and do. It contributes nothing from my “past lives” that I will be aware of,. So does it matter who I was before my “current” life? No, because I’m not like that person now, and I’m not aware of my “past lives.”
     This internal hitchhiker doesn’t even have my personality, which is the absolute core of my being. Given that, I cannot accept it as being, in some way, “me.” As far as I’m concerned, it could take a lifetime’s vacation and I’d not care. But according to those who believe, I have no choice in the matter, and there it sits, enjoying the view as I stumble through life.
     As if that isn’t enough, when I finally die, this soul thing hops from my head to the head of a newborn, accumulating knowledge for some “higher purpose.” In other words, it’s some kind of a cosmic brain-sucker—a parasite. That, I can most definitely do without. Worst of all is the claim that it gives me most of my good ideas. I have few enough of those as it is without taking all of the credit away from yours truly.
 
     Events classified as paranormal, though? That’s a different matter. Though there’s plenty of room for debate and doubt, for some, the effects are demonstrable and repeatable—something that with time and research may become the explained and commonplace. Of more importance, they don’t depend on “magic” and coincidence for their operation.
     Nearly forty years ago I took the time to satisfy myself that dowsing rods work. When the late John W. Campbell (editor of Analog magazine) was espousing their cause, I made a set for myself, and was amazed to find that they worked reliably for me. I can find water pipes, underground water, and even electrical conduits with them.
     I’ve even conducted successful experiments on the binary transmission of data via mental telepathy. (I never was able to determine whether I was a good transmitter or my wife a good receiver, as it worked only one way, and only between the two of us).
     All of the above is why I’m glad to report that I have found a reasonable cause for the belief in ghosts and reincarnation, not to mention the reasons behind the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, the missing mass in the universe, and, one of the most pressing mysteries of our time: what happens to the socks that turn up missing in the dryer?
 
     Right now I imagine you’re expecting a story, one that fits in with the claims I’ve been making. You won’t get one. This is a fact article, or at least a speculative one.
     The genesis of these words is a short story I’d been planning to write. It was to be based on something we’ve all experienced: We drop something, it hits the floor, and apparently vanishes. In spite of a careful search it can’t be found, yet is found days later, lying right were it should have been seen, immediately.
     For a good many years, I’ve been espousing what I have always called “Greenstein’s Theorem.” Simply put, it goes like this: The object cannot be found, because it’s not there. Due to reasons that are unknown at this time, when conditions are right, the object travels in time.
     It was a good basis for a story, but for one reason or another I kept putting it off, using the concept to entertain friends…until I had the functionality of the theorem proven to me, not once, but several times. I’m no longer joking.
     I know exactly what you’re thinking at this point, and I can’t blame you. Just bear with me, though, before you make any judgments.
 
     Over the next few years, I got laughs, many strange looks, and even a few believers out of the thing. I was in the funny position of almost, but not quite, believing it myself. It certainly seemed to fit the facts, but so did the greater probability that the things dropped weren’t found because they were overlooked, or had bounced into an obscure corner of the room. There were more than a few people, though, who told me stories that supported the theory. As time went by, it became harder and harder not to take it seriously, myself.
     Notably, one of the men with whom I worked, reported that after hearing of my theory, his family became convinced that he worked with a lunatic. Some weeks later, however, he took me aside to report that his Mother-in-law had dropped an antique earring on the floor of a bedroom. It was valuable so she, and the family, searched for it—in vain. They even went so far as to vacuum the floor and check the vacuum cleaner’s bag for the earring.
     As you can guess, the earring showed up the next day, in plain sight, right where it had been dropped. His family now believes.
     It went like that for a few years, until I witnessed the events recounted below.

° ° °

     Late one Saturday afternoon, the electronics lab was empty save for me, testing circuit boards that would be needed on Monday. Each unit was placed in a metal channel at the top of the test fixture, and held in place by two small screws. This time, I placed the module. Then, as I reached to secure it in place I dropped the screw. That resulted in the tiny “tink” of the screw striking the fixure, then nothing. I lifted the module, but the screw was gone. I remember mumbling, “At last, proof of Greenstein’s Theorem.”
     I laughed as I turned the fixture over and shook it, fully expecting the screw to fall onto the table. I shook it again. Nothing. The screw had apparently bounced out of the channel, on to the table, and then to the floor, where it had vanished—a tiny black screw on a black tile floor—lost among the scattering of wire clippings and debris of a busy electronics shop. I couldn’t help looking for it as I continued testing modules, though. I should have heard the second bounce of that screw, on either the floor or the tabletop.
     I didn’t replace the missing screw, though, as one was plenty for testing purposes. Mildly amused, I continued with the testing, and at five, with most of the modues finished, I went home, then returned to finish-up on Sunday.
     Once again, I was alone, as I searched for that missing screw before beginning work. I was being foolish, but still, I couldn’t help checking the fixture and the area around it. Of course, there was nothing. I even shook the fixture, inverting and tapping it on the tabletop to dislodge the screw if it was stuck inside. Again, nothing.
     But then, after testing several modules, I removed the latest one from the fixture and froze. You guessed it. That damn screw was lying in plain sight: a single black oxided 4-42, pan-headed screw.
     I was alone in the building, and that screw could not have been carried to the fixture with the module. In my right hand lay the second screw, the one that had been holding the module in place. There was no mistake. The lost screw had just reappeared.
     I must have stared at the thing for at least three minutes before I went to sit down. I had to. I was too shaky to stand.

° ° °

     That was the beginning. That event started me thinking on an interesting string of “what if’s.”

• What if time might be thought of as a loosely coiled spring, or helix, in which a coil occasionally “touches” another coil?
 
Could it be that under special conditions an object might “cross over?” As silly as it sounds, it explains why socks are lost in the dryer, only to show up later, after you’ve thrown away the survivor. A friend who uses a laundromat tells me that she occasionally finds clothing she doesn’t own, mixed in with her own laundry. But she always looks in the machines to be certain they’re empty before she uses them. And think about it: you might lose underwear or handkerchiefs too, but as they don’t come in matched pairs you probably wouldn’t notice.
 
• If the above is true, what if the same person happens to be at the crossing point in both times?
 
Is it possible that there is some leakage between the future and past mind of the person to whom this happens? This explains hunches, Deja-vu, and a lot of other things of that general class of events.
 
• If all of the above is true: Is it possible that there are people who can “receive” memories from an entirely different person, one who happens to occupy that crossing point in either the past or the future?

 
     At this point, the “what if’s” were arriving at a rate too fast to follow, but one in particular brought me to a halt: What if there were more paths than the one we follow? What if there are lots more?
     And with that thought, time stopped being a spring that’s lazily coiled on itself. Instead, it’s jammed into a box, along with an unknown volume of other springs. The really crazy part of it is that logically, it hangs together.
     Before I explain that, though, let me relate a story, told by a good and reliable friend:
     She’d returned from the hospital with a new baby a few days before. Hearing a noise from the baby’s room, she went in and was surprised to find a man standing by the crib. With a start, she recognized her father-in-law. He’d laid back the covers, and was smiling as he looked down at his new granddaughter. The only problem with that was that his being there was impossible. The man smiling at the baby was dead and buried. Yet she swears that she watched him straighten the covers then turn to her and smile. He put a finger to his lips in a shushing gesture, smiled again, and walked past her and into the hall. When she recovered her wits and followed him into the hall it was empty.
     I have another friend, one of the steadiest and most reliable men I know. He swears that he was part of a group of men who stood in a row-house in South Philadelphia, watching water gush from a plaster wall, as though from a waterfall, drop, then run across the floor and vanish into the next wall. The problem, other than the impossibility of a waterfall inside a house, was that the water, though it was real to the eye, couldn’t be felt, and the floor was dry.
 
     Those memories led to a thought: Suppose that under some special circumstances, we can see into that adjacent coil of time? That would be the most sensible explanation of ghosts I’ve heard. It means that the ghostly woman seen walking down the castle steps is a living woman walking down those castle steps at-some-other-time, or on some other path. I’ve always rejected the tortured soul explanation for ghosts as silly. Think about it. If violent death or great suffering was the cause of haunting, the ancient battlefields of our war-torn planet would be swimming with ghosts. Our oldest cities would have so many haunts they would get in the way, an expected annoyance, not a reason for fear.
     Those stories though, suggested a new possibility. Perhaps there are alternate worlds of a sort, in which there are differences from our own? This multiple branching world idea has always been a popular concept in science fiction. The cause is usually attributed to a decision that could have gone either way. I suspect, though, that the cause—if it is possible—is far more subtle than that. Decisions are made on data, even if you might think it was a flip of the coin kind of a thing. Given the same data, the same conditions, and the same person deciding, the decision will always be the same. Take a small thing though—down at the quantum level where probability is very real—a lightening-bolt that triggers a few nano-seconds late or early, for example. That may be in the range of probability. But that small delay might change the target of the bolt, and eventually have a significant effect on the world at large. A gross example might be the case of the child who wakes in fear of the storm as the bolt strikes closer to the house, due to the nano-second delay in triggering. The child is frightened, and is visited by Mom for a few seconds. But that small delay in her returning to bed results in a different sperm cell meeting with an egg that night, so a different child is conceived—a forking of time tracks to accommodate the dual event.
     The lightening delay is, as I said, a gross case, and subject to a great deal of argument as to it’s being possible. I cite it only as an example of the kind of thing that might cause a branching. I suspect that the actual causes are smaller, and may require years or even centuries until the differences manifest.
     Adding in the element of multiple time-tracks caused a lot of odd data to fit together. The thought occurs that in another time-track, my friend’s father-in-law didn’t die, and that on his track he was happily visiting his new grand-daughter that night. But because conditions were right, he was such a close fit for the situation on our world that he almost transferred into it, and thus was seen, not as a transparent ghost, but as a living breathing man.
     In our history, we record a man walking around the carriage horses and inexplicably vanishing. Perhaps in another track, he appears from nowhere. There are recorded cases of people found wandering, who speak no known language. People who, after learning the local language, cannot explain how they got to that place. Perhaps in another world, the crew of the Marie Celeste doesn’t vanish on the high seas, they move to a new plane of reality. It’s worthy of note that the most likely candidates for being seen as ghosts would be people who are removed from one branch but not another, as in the case of my friend’s father-in-law. Ghosts, then, might be the result of death by accident or murder, etc. In other words, the traditional cause of ghosts. Some time ago, I read that an aircraft carrier of the United States Navy was haunted by the ghost of an ex-seaman. The fact that the one seen as the “ghost, will eventually age and die in all branches of reality, explains why a ghost eventually stops appearing, and why our older cities aren’t teeming with them.
     As an even more interesting idea, suppose an alternate time-line formed before our species developed—or where it never developed. Visual contact between those tracks would show apparitions that look like deformed humans, or unknown creatures. Try a few simple explanations:

• Poltergeists – A partial crossover from human or other worlds.
• Ghosts – People in either our own, or other time-lines, simply going about their business. Perhaps they occasionally see us, and wonder at the strange events they view. It would explain why some ghosts ignore the people who view them, and others try to communicate.
• Spiritualists – Disregarding the legions of fakes and the self-deluded, there may be people who can more easily read, or see across the boundaries of the reality streams. It would explain how they could locate missing people. With no proof, I suspect that this condition occurs when a given person is closely paralleled in many streams.
• Monsters – The Loch Ness Monster, the Abominable Snowman, and Bigfoot may be as common as squirrels on-some-other-track. As an object seen many times, but never touched, they easily fall into the category of ghosts.
• Past life regression – The more simple explanation would be that the people in question are making contact across a track with either an actual person from our past (same track, different “coil”), or, more likely, someone from a concurrent track, though with a different history. This also explains “Out of body experiences.” Note that in many cases, although the “regressed” person is able to give detailed information on the day-to-day life in the village where they supposedly lived, and the village itself may exist, the person in question is not recorded as having lived there. This could well be because the supposed “past life” is actually a living, breathing, current resident of a version of the village, not the ghost of a past existence.
• Speaking in tongues – Simply, contact with someone whose language you don’t speak. It would also explain why the occasional rare individual suddenly understands a language they’ve never learned, or heard spoken.
• Possession – A “lock-on,” between people of two different tracks. In the event that one of the people in the “lock-on” surrendered control, the other would be able to directly converse with the people of the second track, and would report to his or her own people, on break-off of the lock, that they were transported to a strange world.

 
     There are still things that don’t fit—things like people who can bend keys, and make pots bounce around, but I think that’s because I’m missing data. So here, you’ll have to excuse me if I extrapolate a bit. Still, it hangs together nicely:
 
     If there truly are different ribbons, there’s little doubt that the atmospheric energy potentials, at least in a localized area, would be unequal. These unequal potentials could result in apparently unexplainable effects, which might explain such manifestations as poltergeists and other events. And if you’ll allow me this, several things suggest themselves:

• Assume a large electrical energy potential difference, caused by atmospheric conditions, and a person who finds himself at the same place in two or more ribbons. Should a leakage of electrical energy take place between the ribbons, there might be an inter-track lightening bolt that would result in the unexplainable, and spontaneous, combustion of anyone at the crossover point. Note that there are many, well documented cases of spontaneous human combustion. This might also be the reason for unexplained fires. A slow transfer could be one of the causes of St. Elmo’s fire, or the fabled “bolt out of the blue.”
• It may be, for physical reasons, or perhaps because a person appears on a multiplicity of closely aligned tracks, that they become a focus for the energies involved in the creation and maintenance of the tracks. These are the people to whom strange things happen. Keys bend, pots fly, and things go bump in the night when they’re around.

 
     Try it for yourself. Find some other explanation that fits the facts as well, and doesn’t resort to “faith” to explain what’s happening.
     Perhaps I’m simply fantasizing. Perhaps there are other explanations. Perhaps I’ve tried to tie together things that can’t be connected. I grant you that. Of one thing though, I am absolutely certain: that screw was not there until just before I found it.
     Truthfully, though, even after the incident with the reappearing screw, I didn’t really believe. I wanted to, but I wouldn’t, or couldn’t, let myself. And truthfully, my tongue was firmly in my cheek when I talked about the things I’ve reported here. I even wrote most of what you just read with a great deal of reservation as to my conclusions. Then, as I was editing, I had the truth of it demonstrated so clearly that I can no longer deny it:

° ° °

     I had a problem with my Suburu’s heater control cable. To repair it I had to remove the radio, the glove box, and a good deal of the dashboard. I placed them in the back seat as I worked, with the exception of the heater control knobs, which I placed in the center console’s tray.
     I used one of the knobs to test the repair, then reached out to drop it into the tray as I thought over what to do next. Unfortunately, I missed and the knob fell between the console and the passenger seat. There was an unusually loud “clink” as it landed, which seemed odd, but I left the search for later and went back to work.
     When everything had been reassembled I began my search for the knob. It wasn’t there. Eventually, both front seats, the center console, and even the parts removed for the repair were out of the car. No knob. I looked under the car and around it. No knob.
     But it had to be there. Both logic and reason insisted on that. So, I had my wife search, and did so myself, again-and-again, until there was no possible doubt. A two-inch diameter plastic knob had truly vanished. And though I would love to find some other explanation, here is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the knob is gone. I virtually disassembled the seats after removing them, and there is no place in the car that could hide that knob. Nor was the knob under or around the car. It was gone, and I have no choice but to believe. None.
     I bought a replacement knob, but each time I got into that car I had the horrible certainty that the original knob would roll out from under the seat and lay there, laughing at me. It didn’t, but it seems likely that another Jay Greenstein, on a different time-track, found it and believes the knob was dropped there in the factory.

° ° °

     I don’t believe in ghosts. I don’t believe in witches and the occult. I do, however, firmly believe that there are explainable natural forces at work, whose detection and function is, in part, masked by human fantasies and desires. Most “ghosts” are the result of human fear, fantasy, and daydreaming. There are, however, too many well-documented events and sightings to dismiss.
     Who knows, perhaps I’ve just found the true explanation for flying saucers. Perhaps they don’t come from “Out there.” Perhaps they’re “neighbors,” passing through the area on the way to visit another neighbor.
     A last thought: According to the latest theories, most of the mass in the universe seems to be missing. They’ve accounted for it by calling it “Dark matter,” and scientists are in a race to find it. If by some chance the things I’ve postulated here are true, I’ve just found that missing mass.
     You are welcome to join in on the exploration of the field. It’s brand new, and wide open. Just remember, it’s called: “Greenstein’s Theorem.”
     

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All God’s Children

All God’s Children
 
 
 
     Recently, I had a thought that may have world-shaking implications, and change the way we look at genetics, and genetic manipulation, forever.
     For no reason in particular, I began to think about Christian dogma, and the concept that God gave his only son to the world, a child conceived within a human womb, with a bit of human and some divine aspects in his DNA that would allow the child to grow up with an innate sense of right and wrong, plus abilities we would attribute only to a divine being, like being able to revive the dead, to change water to wine, and to walk on water.
     The Bible clearly identifies God as male, and says that the child was his son, not just someone he created, like Adam and Eve, so the implication is quite clear, that God, the one in who’s image mankind was created, had some pretty special DNA to contribute, even were that contribution not made in the usual way.
     Interestingly, the abilities of the human/divine hybrid didn’t manifest immediately, but required the attainment of full maturity for the more magical aspects to be observed—though from childhood he was said to be pious and admirable.
     My first thought was that God sacrificing his only child wasn’t the great thing it had been made out to be, because, after all, being God he could cause another, or a million children of equal capabilities to be born. The “only child” thing, therefore was personal choice, and obviously must serve some purpose other than sacrifice. What did hit me as unique was that it was all accomplished through genetics.
     God took one of Mary’s eggs, and either cloned it, while at the same time, changing the genetic coding so as to produce that magical child, or fertilized that egg with chromosomes of divine origin. Either way, in doing so he changed the history of the world. But of more importance: he left mankind a critical clue that is only now apparent, because now, we have not only the technology to clone, we can change DNA. And that means that with care, diligence, and research, it is entirely possible to recreate that miracle. It is within our grasp to have every single woman on the face of the planet give birth to offspring who can truly be called a child of God, and who will innately know right from wrong.
     Think about the result of that fact, alone. No more wars. No more strife. “Turn the other cheek” will be the rule, without it even having to be taught. And the ability to feed the multitude with only a bit of food will conquer hunger. And that doesn’t touch the effect of being able to raise the dead, and survive a shipwreck by simply walking to shore—or calming the storm with an act of will.
     Assuming that the mutation breeds true, the cloning and genetic manipulation will need be only a one time thing, bringing peace and plenty to the planet in one single generation.
     Any woman would be overjoyed to bear such a child. Right? And what man would not be honored to be raising God’s child?
     Once this amazing opportunity is pointed out to the faithful, I am utterly confident that Christianity, as a whole, will support the necessary research, and help usher in the era of endless perfection.
     Is that cool, or what? Though I do kind of suspect that there might be some who won’t be pleased to read this.
 
 

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Honey? You’re Snoring Again.

Honey? You’re Snoring Again.
 
 
 
 
      Tired of having your sleeping partner wake you with, “Turn over, damn-it, you’re snoring again!”? That’s especially annoying when, like me, you can’t sleep comfortably on your back or side.
     Hate waking to the sound of your partner sawing wood at high volume? Dislike waking the one you care for from comfortable sleep in order to increase your own comfort?
     There’s an easy, and close to free, solution that can provide nocturnal quiet in most cases. It’s fast, it’s painless, and, also helps prevent a double chin. Win/win.
     Try this: Open your mouth and do a false snore. If you’re like me, the loudest noise comes from the back of your mouth, at the roof, and exits through your open jaw.
     Now, try it again, but this time, as you do, close your mouth, slowly, and you’ll notice that just before your lips touch, the very nature of the sound changes, and the volume dramatically drops. You’ll probably no longer be able to make the noise from within the mouth. And that’s the magic secret. Keep your mouth shut (always good advice, I suppose) and you either won’t snore, or the volume will be cut to a fraction of what it was. Admittedly, if you already sleep with your mouth closed this won’t help, but if you don’t, this is the snoring solution. Any small noises you still make can be masked with a white noise generator that will also keep you from noticing outside noises like trucks and dogs barking. Those can be picked up at places like Walmart and Babys “R” Us for under $50 U.S.
     There are lots of easy ways of keeping your mouth closed during sleep. One woman reported that she used a sleep mask under her chin with the elastic band over the top of her head. A commercial version can be found here, but you can make one of your own in seconds.
     I first used a soft two-inch wide cloth, to which I added Velcro sealing strips I had in my possibilities box. Being lazy I stapled the strips on (staple ends out). The result is comfortable and effective, though a bit strange looking since it has a decorative motif. Pictures below if you enjoy a good laugh. The only drawback is that because the material gives only a small amount, it interferes with yawning to an extent.
     A later, and more effective version was made with a four inch wide Ace Bandage, two layers thick, folded so as to produce a two inch strip. To keep it from unfolding and separating, I placed a line of stitches across the four layers every three inches or so, since stretch will be in the other direction. You can see the stitching in the picture. To obtain the necessary length I wrapped it around my head as shown, pulling it just short of the limit of elasticity. Once I established that distance I cut the bandage three inches longer than that, then overlapped the ends by three inches and sewed it into a single loop. More complicated to explain than to do. I recommend the elastic version over the original because it’s a bit more comfortable. Modest pressure is all you need, because it’s okay to allow the lips to open a trace. It’s the position of the jaw that makes the real difference, not clamping the mouth closed.
     The solution is so simple I know many of you will be saying, “Why didn’t I think of that?” as I did. But for some reason not too many people have been motivated to search for such solutions, and few people I mention it to are aware that commercial products are available. But it can be a godsend. One woman I told about it came back to say that I had saved her marriage. I’ve never saved a marriage before (if you don’t count my own, of course)
     So, as a public service, you might share this article with others. I’d appreciate that. I make no money from this, so it’s not a sales scheme. I’m spreading the word because in the past six weeks the only time my wife woke me to complain that my snoring was keeping her awake was the night the device slipped off my head. It used to happen nightly, so we’re both sleeping better.

Photo0133The original test version. You can stop laughing now.

Photo0130This shows the placement of one of the two Velcro strips. They had a self adhesive backing, but that failed in a night or two so stitching (or staples in my case) was necessary. If you do elect to take the shortcut of staples, a suggestion or two: 1) be sure the folded legs of the staple face out, so they don’t scratch you. 2) Press those legs down so they don’t catch on the pillowcase (in which case, I suppose it doesn’t matter if they face in or out).

For what it’s worth, I tried making one out of several layers of an old Ace Bandage, and it was more comfortable to wear. On the other hand, it wasn’t nearly as effective.

Sleep well!

 
 

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The Church of the Really Nice Try

The Church of the Really Nice Try

 
 
 

THE CREED OF THE
CHURCH OF THE REALLY NICE TRY

 

     The beliefs of the Church Of The Really Nice Try are firmly based on scripture, and are ever mindful of both the staggering complexities of the act of creation, and of the limitations of the creator—as defined through the word of that creator, The Holy Bible.
     To understand the beliefs of the Triers, as those of the church prefer to be called, you must go back to the very roots of all belief, the first chapter of the bible, and you must stand in judgment as a parable is told:
     There was once a great engineer, who began a project that pleased him mightily. He desired to create a habitat for himself: a house of many rooms.
     For long, he labored, executing each detail of the plan exactly according to his will, until at last the habitat was finished. And he was pleased with the work he had done.
     But as time passed, the engineer became dissatisfied. He’d not made the habitat fully self-sustaining, and if it was to remain in the state he desired he must either maintain it himself or create a device to do the job for him.
     Being efficient, and enjoying the challenge of creating something never before seen, the engineer built a device containing self-willed intelligence, plus the ability to modify its own program, as needed. He activated the device and saw that it was exactly as he had envisioned. And he was happy.
     But the device proved not quite adequate to the task, and required excessive attention. The engineer determined that there were some tasks that his creation could’t handle by itself, and there was no way for it to perform a valid self-check on its programming modifications without the attention of its creator.
     So the engineer produced a second device, to complement the first, and to interface with it in such a way that continued production of these care-taking devices would be both automatic and self-sustaining.
     But the new device began to produce feedback of an unexpected type, and to access unauthorized data sources, until the original functionality was all but lost. The engineer was very angry, and he cast the pair of creations from his house, into an environment that would bring them constant distress, pronouncing them useless and disobedient

° ° °

     Now, as a judge of the situation described you must ask yourself: who is at fault? Was it the creator, or was it the creation? Was the engineer justified in not only discarding his creations, but forcing them into an existence that he, himself, thought brutal and harsh? Or should he have changed the programming and functionality of the device to fit it more smoothly into his plan?
     The answer is obvious, God screwed up! But that conclusion is inherent in the very statement that God created mankind in-his-own-image. Like us, he’s fallible, subject to temper tantrums, and all of the rest of the characteristics that make the human race what it is.

° ° °

     Of course you must be demanding further proof of the fallibility of the Lord. That is the human and reasonable thing to do. So, though this is a rather abbreviated version of the creed of the church, let’s explore the matter further:
     Almost immediately after the description of creation there is a short chapter detailing the liaisons of certain occupants of the lord’s heavenly domain with the women of the Earth—often against their will—liaisons which produced children as a result. This chapter clearly shows that God has difficulty controlling, and even knowing about the actions of his underlings—scarcely the actions of an omniscient and omnipotent being.
     Directly following the described difficulty with his underlings, God looks out upon a world populated with the sons and daughters of his creatures, and he sees naught but chaos and evil. He becomes justifiably angry at the depravity and licentiousness of his creations, and states that he regrets having created mankind. Obviously, the idea that he knows all that will happen is flawed. He vows to correct the situation by putting all life on Earth to death by drowning, save for a favored few. The implication is that this single family will procreate, following the flood, and fill the world with decent human beings.
     The creator then causes Noah, the chosen one, to build a vessel with which to survive the coming flood. It is vitally important to note, at this point, that God planned to change the basic nature of mankind, in one single generation, without intervention on his part other than an act of genocide, directed against the rest of the planet’s population—good and bad—which is a bit of a setback for the concept of a merciful deity. Moreover, he chose the new breeding stock, not by characteristics passed on via genetic means, but by those qualifications that are a result of social and educational background. In other words, the plan was doomed from the start. In demonstration of that, shortly after the descendants of Noah repopulate the Earth, God is forced to destroy a city for precisely the reasons he destroyed the entire population of the planet. And though you and I can see the fallacy of God’s plan, God obviously could not—leading to the primary tenet of the church:

He Did The Job Without A Formal Education

 
      But who was there available to teach him? Who was there to suggest that he make changes in the human gene structure, rather than endlessly punish them for flaws he, himself, had inadvertently included within their basic mentality. Still, given the conditions he had work under, and the staggering magnitude of the task, we derive the second tenet of our church:

It Was A Really Nice Try!

 
     A really nice try. But the job was never finished, because of the nearly infinite complexities of the task, coupled with the limitations of the creator. Look around you. Is this what God had in mind for the human race and the planet? Of course not. Over and over, in the text of the bible, he tells us what he wants, and over and over he fails to deliver the message in a form suited to move humanity toward his goal, leading to both the third and fourth tenets of the church.

He’s Not A Good Talker
He Doesn’t Really Understand Us

 
     Like any engineer, he’s far better with things than with communications and relationships. After all, who does he have to discuss the issues with in order to gain experience and skill? No one. So it falls on us, the members of his church, to continue the task of building—which leads to the fifth, and most important tenant of the church.

It’s Time To Take Over The Job

 
     It’s time for you and I to realize that the task is incomplete, and that it’s been left to us to finish the work. Creation is over. The tasks that only a divine being could manage have been finished. Now the human part of the job must begin. Perhaps the task is too small in detail for his abilities, perhaps he’s simply given up. Whatever the reason, God cannot tell us how to live together, so it falls on us to solve that problem. We must manage the resources of a world, and must find ways of living together without constant warfare. We must make him proud of his creations, and justify his creation of the universe. This then, is the ongoing task of the Church Of The Really Nice Try.
     There are those who claim a direct contact with the lord, and a channeling of his power. But good people die while bad ones are miraculously healed, and the Lord allows millions to be murdered in the name of an ideology. More telling than that, he allows millions to die, sacrificed to his name. Which leads to the sixth, and final, major tenet of our church

Don’t Expect Miracles

 
     Certainly, one should hope for divine help, and certainly one should praise the Lord for having created the magnificence of the universe, but The Church Of The Really Nice Try is for work, not worship. It is for thinking, not blindly following, and it is for the greatest work a human being can do: The work of God.
     Visit your neighborhood Temple Of Brotherhood In The Faith Of The Really Nice Try. Or visit our webpage at:

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Author’s note:
 
     I began this in the spirit of fun, highlighting some of the inconsistencies of the Bible. My goal was to infuriate those people who have word “holy” appear on their forehead, while their reasoning powers diminish to zero, when religion is mentioned.
     But as I wrote this, a strange thing began to happen: I began to wish there were such a church, one focused on finding ways to get along, rather than punishing all who disagree with whatever ideology the group embraces.
     And that’s how I became founder, patriarch, and bake sale chairman of The Church of the Really Nice Try.
     At the moment I’m also the only member, true, but I get to wear some really cool purple robes and carry a staff. I get some funny looks, of course, but women really go for a man in purple robes.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
     I hope you enjoyed my little fantasy. If you did, and got here from Facebook, pressing the “Share” button at the page bottom will let others know the piece is here, and give them the chance to read it, as well. And if you hate me for writing it, push share, so more and more people can hate me as you do. Win/win ;–)
And if, perchance, my efforts pleased you, I’m glad. There are other stories posted, as well. You and others like you are the reason I write. And if it did bring a moment of reading pleasure, take a moment to rate it. Feedback matters to me.
     If you’re in the mood for something a bit longer, make a stop to look at my novels, and read the excerpts to see if they please, as well.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Random Thoughts and Grumblings

 

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A VTech Christmas Present Warning

A VTech Christmas Present Warning

 
 
 
     VTech, the toy company, has a perfectly delightful little toy called the Alphabet Activity Cube. One of its many features is that the child can choose and insert one of the supplied blocks into a well on the toy’s front, and be entertained with, “Good…you found a G,” or a song featuring that letter. Unfortunately, more then ten percent of the time the letter inserted isn’t the one the toy announces. Usually, it will be one higher or lower in the alphabet, but at times it’s way off and seems a random choice.
Producing a toy that is supposed to teach our children their letters, but which provides the wrong letter, is unconscionable.
     I called VTech’s support line, and though the toy has been on the market for some time, the representative claimed that no one had reported the problem before. He suggested that it was a malfunction of that particular unit, not the product, and that I should exchange it for another of the same model. Yet, when I checked the local store, every one of that toy on the store’s shelf demonstrated the identical inability to recognize their letter blocks.
     For forty years, computer and computer system design was my profession. On hearing the toy misread for the first time, my reaction was that there was a programming problem, probably improper initialization of a register, or poor handling of an interrupt. But whatever the cause, it was a design error, not a defective part in that unit. And that’s been demonstrated as true by its reproducibility in every toy tried. It gives me no pleasure to be right, in this case, because the little girl loves the toy.
     Perhaps most people wouldn’t notice it, or put it down to mishearing the announcement, since the toy’s sound quality isn’t that high and a second insertion of the block usually brings the correct response. But VTech should have easily found the problem during normal acceptance testing, so it appears that their quality assurance department needs to be better educated on testing methods—and the need to test for long enough, and hard enough to actually find the bugs.
     I have to add that I’m not at all impressed with the company, in general. I discovered the problem on the weekend. Since their phone hours are active only during Monday through Friday business hours, I elected to use the email address supplied on their documentation. It didn’t work. I next tried the hyperlink they provide on their website. But that only demonstrated that, yes, the mail address isn’t active. Another thing they weren’t aware of, according to the phone rep.
Not exactly what you would expect from a reliable company. But further checking showed that VTech is just another Chinese company pushing crap out the door, working or not working, for a buck. It didn’t come as a surprise.
     So the bottom line? Avoid this toy. And if you’re a parent expecting gifts from friends and relatives for your little one, make sure they know. Our kids are far too precious to let someone take advantage of them this way.

 
 

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Let There Be, uhh… Light

Let There Be, uhh… Light
 
 
Stray thoughts come. And as always, are going to get me into trouble.
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So all this talk about God liking or not liking gay marriage got me thinking on a simple question: why does anyone, today, buy into religion? Understand it, yes. Enjoy it as a social thing, of course. But believe without question? I certainly can’t explain it.
 
To start out with, we’re asked to accept as literal and unassailable truth a story that not only can’t be proven; it can be refuted on virtually every page by a reasonably knowledgeable ten year old.
 
Open to the first page of the Bible and what do we find? Right after zapping the universe into existence God creates light.
 
Light? God certainly doesn’t need any. According to dogma he’s been around forever, and only created the known universe on a whim a bit less than six thousand years ago. Obviously, he doesn’t need light. And the fact that he doesn’t while we do, kind of undermines the “created in his image,” idea.
 
Strangely, when light was created there was nowhere to watch from, and nothing to see. So why bother? Why not have light appear along with the sun and stars? That is where the light comes from, after all.
 
No one ever seems to ask about this point. Though the fact that the church used to burn people at the stake for asking inconvenient questions, and still discourages that kind of thought, might explain. Still, you’d think God would want at least the basic science right, like creating the sun, then setting the planets spinning around it. I sometimes wonder what he would say if he read the things they they report him doing.
 
Still…
 
On the surface, light appearing before the sun comes into being seems a crazy idea. But only today. In past times, it not only made perfect sense, it fit the evidence, perfectly:
 
Assume for a minute that you’re someone who’s intelligent, but at the same time, ignorant of such things as diffraction, reflection, diffusion, and optics. In other words an educated and thoughtful person, living several thousand years ago. And as someone living in biblical times, you know with certainty that the Earth is flat. After all, if the world is round people would fall off. Any idiot can look at a steep hillside and see that.
 
So, our scientist storyteller is getting ready to tell his audience how the world and everything in it came to be. He’s fact-checking his story.
 
With that in mind let’s look at the evidence this early writer has, and apply both his intelligence and his knowledge to the world at large so he can write his story.
 
We know light travels in a straight line. We prove that easily enough by holding out a stick on a cloud free day. It casts a shadow exactly the size of the stick, something easily measurable. Raise the stick as high as you care to and the shadow cast by the sun remains the same size. The shadow of a building is neither narrower nor wider from bottom to top Conclusion: light travels in a straight line. And that also holds true if tested with a candle or a campfire. In fact, when tested with a candle as the only source of light, anything in the shadow of whatever is blocking the light is in pitch darkness. That’s an important point, too, because it has direct application in the next point.
 
In daylight, though, the darkness of the shadow isn’t absolute. Obviously, light is coming from all over the sky, not then just the sun. Inescapable conclusion: the sun is not the only source of daylight. And were it removed we would still have day and night.
 
Doubt that? Let’s go further and select a building with a window on the side opposite the sun. If you place an object in the light from that window the shadow, which obviously cannot be coming from the sun’s light, will narrow with distance from the object. Again, obvious to that ancient scholar: there are many sources for that light through the window, none of them sunlight. And since it’s obviously impossible to have light without a source, the fact that the light exists, in and of itself, proves that God exists and wants it to happen. We know better today, of course, we with our science and our instruments.
 
But people living in biblical times? They had a graphic demonstration of God’s amazing power every-single-day.
 
So certainly God would create that light first. In fact, by the text, he created light, then day and night, both brought into being before he made the sun.
 
So biblical storytelling makes perfect sense if you apply intelligence, coupled with a lack of any scientific knowledge, to the problem. And once it’s written, accepted, and the words are declared holy, who dares question? Only fools like me.
 
Who wrote that particular story? It can’t be God because whoever it was began to get their facts wrong at the top of the very first page. God’s version would be factual, and have the sun, not the earth, at the center of the solar system. After all, God wouldn’t lie. Would he?
 
No one ever asks who was there, taking notes on the day light was being created, either. The tale is written From the point of view of someone relating a memory—but who, in reality, is speculating based on an incomplete understanding of available data.
 
No one ever asks why, if the creation story is true, the light of stars residing millions of light years away from our little planet has already reached us, without the necessity of traveling for millions of years to get here.
 
The Bible is littered with such things. Yet strangely, millions of intelligent people, who could, and should see the obvious, read the opening of the Bible and say, “Yup. That’s exactly how it happened. It says so right there in my Bible.”
 
As you read this, science is driving a vehicle on the sands of Mars, taking pictures and firing lasers at rocks. Science has sent exploring ships to the planets, and beyond even the boundaries of our small family of planets. Science kept my wife and son alive after they contracted cancer. It makes possible such things as you reading this at the touch of a key, and the magic box in your kitchen that provides eternal winter inside its door.
 
Religion? They’re busy arguing over who can have sex with whom, and why they get to dictate.
 
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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Random Thoughts and Grumblings

 

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