The Rise of the Machines

“… you just can’t differentiate between a robot and the very best of humans,” said Isaac Asimov, I, Robot. Except, thank goodness, the fact that we can eat hamburgers; that alone, my friend, might be the only difference.

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The Rise of the Machines

Robots are in the workplace, we just haven’t noticed.
Ray Kroc knew this when he pitched his multi-mixer to the MacDonald’s brothers in the 1950’s. Now, one multi-tasker bot from Momentum Machines can patty, flip, and serve 400 made-to-order burgers in an hour, and could soon replace an entire McDonalds crew.

Needed restaurant “generalist” to supervise the machine. No education required.

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How many moments make a lifetime

kaz (12)

 

Let’s get mushy and say that life is not about how many breaths you take, but instead how many moments take your breath away. Okay, excuse me for a moment. Let me finish throwing up in my mouth. A sip of fresh Starbucks coffee and the bad taste is almost gone.
Most of our moments are taken up waiting for something to happen or scratching that itch while we wait. Conclusion, there are too few precious moments that matter. Really matter.

If we do the math, then there are (365.25 days/year) × (24 hours/day) × (3600 seconds/hour) = 31,557,600 seconds or moment in a year. If we assume the average lifetime is 70 years, then (70 years) x (31,557,600 seconds) = 2,209,032,000 moments in a lifetime.

Two billion, that is not such a large number. Two billion dollars would get you less than 1 percent of Apple stock. Two billion pennies is only 20 million dollars and that won’t get you on the Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans. Not even close. Two billion dollar bills stacked one on top of the other wouldn’t get us out of the stratosphere. Two billion grains of sand would make a volleyball court on Waikiki beach. Two billion seconds ago the Second World War was over and the Baby Boom generation began.
What makes for a moment that matters? Give me your thoughts while I take a moment to figure out mine.
kaz-boat-lake

Spartacus

I thought this an interesting way to create poetic images.

My poetry teacher Sam Taylor at Wichita State University suggested writing surrealistic verses in the style of Spanish poet and writer, Federico García Lorca. After all, all art is derivative. Then, we were to pick three contemporary magazines and cut lines that were appealing. Put the lines in a pile, organize them in some semblance of order, add a couple of derivative lines suggested by Lorca and voila, a poem. Or should I say, ¡Ya está! 

The words “Spartacus” and “call me” jumped out at me and I was off and running.

Here is the result:

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Spartacus, movie poster starring Kirk Douglas, director Stanley Kubrick

 

Spartacus call me, I am at home

And gods be thanked the kids are in bed

Spartacus, I am sorry for what I said, so call me

But not by videophone

In fact, it’s best to text

Let us speak in silence

I dreamed last night

The sky was cosmic black

And trailing stars in violet-blue

Below, the world was mountains, lakes, and birds

I dreamed of white egrets rising from the water

Carrying in their hungry mouths ten thousand pearls

Each pearl became a fish yearning to be free

I dreamed last night of love

But love like time cannot outlast the hourglass

And tomorrow when we wake

It’s blood and sand and sea

whooOOP

 

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nasa image

When two black holes collide in space
Will we hear sound?

Einstein said yes, and today we know he was right

What does gravity sound like after two billion years – whooOOP
What do scientists say when they discover gravitational waves – whoOOPeee

Black holes crashing together in the night sky do not happened every day. That said, in the universe there is no night, no day and no years to count the time that passes. But we now know that the sound is whooOOP, kind of like a G string followed by an A string on an electric guitar.

Go see the NPR story.

Or,
Listen to John Mayer sing Gravity.

Who in the hell are you, Jan Franz Van Husum

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Jan Franz Van Husum as I picture him

 

Genealogy and Ancestry.com being all the rage today, I got to wondering how my wife’s first known ancestor, Jan Franz Van Husum, got his name. This got me to wondering how anybody gets a name and then why names are necessary to begin with.

“Who in the hell are you?”

It is a question everyone is asked at some point in their life. Usually it arises when one person is lording it over another as in, “You need to leave this party!” or “You don’t know what the f*%$ you are talking about.” In both cases the offended party is wondering who in the hell is the person telling them off.

“Why should I listen to you?” one is thinking as if politeness doesn’t matter.

A name is nothing more than a descriptive word for an object, a convenience so we can remember who it is we are talking to which becomes especially important when we have to describe one person to another. When names don’t exist we are left with vague and inexact description we hear in every police report of an unknown subject – average height, normal complexion, brown eyes, no distinguishing features. Not exactly helpful.

Nope, it is easier to say “John, or Peter, or Paul” and better to add a last name to the first so that we don’t confuse the thousands of Johns, Peters, and Pauls. But how did John, Peter, and Paul get their names in the first place. We are all familiar with Jesus’ naming of Simon as Peter. Peter meant rock, and Jesus, by giving Simon the name “Peter” meant to symbolize that Peter was the foundation upon which Christ was going to build his church. Although in English, we have lost the understanding of the word Peter as rock, one can go to French where the name Peter is Piere, and “piere” in French is also the word for rock.

Jesus Christ, is it that simple?

And by the way, “Christ” is the Greek word for savior, so we simply have, in shorthand, Jesus, the savior mankind.

One could go through all the old names and come up with an origin. New parents love to still do this with baby names, and so, wanting to name a girl Hannah, discover that its original meaning was “she knows” or something like that.
In naming a child, the American Indian usually looked for a sign. Spotted Wolf has gathered quite a few Indian first names and if you want to give your child an Indian name you can go see their meaning at his web page.
http://www.snowwowl.com/swolfNAnamesandmeanings2.html

Louis L’amour, writer of American western fiction, tells a similar story of cowhands in the early west who often went through life without a last name and often with a nickname picked up on the trail, and so many a Slim, Kid, Doc, Lefty, and Deadeye was born.

“Who in the hell are you?” took on new meaning if you were addressing Billy the “Kid” and not just a kid named Billy.

A relatively new phenomenon is that in the American black community of naming children with a mixture of names. There is a website for that too and there one can find in the “j’s” alone, coming in at 228 to 232:

228 Jekeil
229 Jeoffrey
230 Jeremias
231 Jerquis
232 Jervonte
more names

I suppose that the naming comes from a desire to stand out from the pack, to shed oneself of the white man’s naming system and start fresh. And to this end we shed the Elmers and Oscars and Horatios, the Mabels, Hatties, and Violets and adopt new monikers.

 

There is also a desire to step up in class like the Prussians and Dutch did by adding a simple ”von” or “van” to a name. Or take Rumpelstiltskin, Aloyisious, or Rapunzel as examples of medieval Europeans wanting to sound a little more important.

 

All this name calling reminds one of the Jim Croce 1973 hit I’ve got a name, whose lyrics go, “Like the pine trees lining the winding road / I got a name, I got a name / Like the singing bird and the croaking toad / I got a name, I got a name.” And in another song Croce goes on to explain how Big Bad Leroy Brown got his name.

Strings of names matter only if one wants to sound important. Take Queen Elizabeth II, born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, or her son Charles, born Charles Philip Arthur George, and also occasionally by Mountbatten-Windsor or his title Prince of Wales. And to keep other constituents happy, he is also known in Scotland as Duke of Rothesay and in South West England as Duke of Cornwall.

Maybe to the Brits this is all clear, but to me I would wonder who I am addressing.

So, who in the hell am I? Nothing and no one special, no Billy the Kid, no Doc Holiday, not even a Madonna, or a Lady Gaga, but I got a name my father and mother gave me and I do like to be listened to now and then. All the while, I am thinking that if one speaks the truth it shouldn’t matter where the voice comes from.

But it does. And who the hell you are makes a difference as to whether you get heard. Just ask Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.

Well, this discussion has taken me far afield from my inquiry into Jan Franz Van Husum.

He was born in 1608, to parents we do not know, from a family unknown, in a country uncertain. His first name was a good Christian name that had been one of a number of names his parents could choose from. As for his last name, he had little need of one. In our daily dealings we often go without calling a friend or loved one by a last name. No need.

The need for Jan arose in 1634, when he got married and was about to board a boat for America. When asked by the register at the church what village he was from he answered from, “Husum,” and when asked his father’s name, said “Franz”.
So we have Jan Franz Van Husum. Isn’t that one hell of a name?

[Over the centuries the last name has been spelled with a few variations, Van Heusen is one of the more popular ones which is still found up in New York and in Pennsylvania. A second spelling is Van Huss, which came into being in North Carolina and spread west tow Tennessee, Texas, and Kansas. Jan and his wife Volkje settled in upstate New York. They are credited with founding the city of Albany.One thing that hasn’t changed much is the face. There is a strong family resemblance that one sees in Rembrant’s painting, The Night Watch. Look for the round face, the red and cheerful cheeks, the angular nose, and the brown hair and eyes.]

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Who in the hell are you, Jan Franz Van Husum?

Not where but how

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters in the end.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

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It is not where but how and with whom. Never why and when is now. Just know that wherever you go and with whomever you go that becomes a part of you forever.

Saint Augustine of Hippo said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” I choose to quote Augustine not only for his wisdom but for the fact that he lived in the Roman city of Hippo on the north African coastline. It is a city where my wife’s family took root briefly before the Algerian War dispossessed France of its colony. Saint Augustine is also the patron saint of brewers, proving, I guess, that it is nice to have a beer near by when reading a good book.

We are all connected somehow.

As Saint Augustine suggests, we can travel with words and books and this, gentle reader leads me to my dilemma.
There are two kinds of men in this world. Those who read books and those who read Kindle.

I am of the first sort. Having grown up with books, loving the smell of a pages like the smell of a coffee bag freshly opened, hearing the crack of the binding and the rustle of the pages, I cannot leave my old friends. Books are meant to be kept close by where needing a friendly word or two or a good story, the book can be held and the words read lovingly as in a conversation between old friends.

Old friends, here is my fear. The computer is too near at hand. And serpent that I am, I will tempt you.

Ursala K. Guin, who I quoted earlier gave an entertaining interview to the Paris Review in the Fall of 2013.  The interview by John Wray took place in Guin’s hillside house in Portland, Oregon near its famous zoo and attractive Rose Garden and with a view of Mount St. Helens in the distance. You can get there from here with the click of a key. http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6253/the-art-of-fiction-no-221-ursula-k-le-guin

As a bit of a stoic, I cannot help but amend Guin’s observation and say, “It matters to have an end to journey towards, but in the end it is the journey that matters.”

 

Paddington Station, Jan. 6, 2016

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How did it get so late so soon?

 

I ask you. Is this so far-fetched as to be implausibly incredible or dubiously doubtful?

Imagine Theodore Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, catching up to Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, at London’s Paddington Station, pulling out his pocket watch and saying to his’self:

“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

 

Out of habit, replies Carroll, “Ask the Mad Hatter and he would say to no one in particular and particularly to Alice, and not at all to the Rabbit: ‘No wonder you’re late. Why, this watch is exactly two days slow.'”

“Why then, dear sirs,” says Paddington Bear politely, “Christmas Day has come and gone, Happy New Year Day is four days old and I’ve no home to go to.”