Archive for November, 2015

The Winter Solstice
November 30, 2015

The winter solstice is an astrological  event visible in the Northern hemisphere in December.  It’s the shortest day of the year. It’s been noted  in the sky and celebrated by our ancestors for thousands of  years. A long long time ago the night sky was a wondrous, mysterious celestial map, studied and wondered and worried and talked about.

Today, sadly, with so many lights on earth, so many cities lit up like a jillion, multi-colored  jittery light bulbs, there are people in those cities who’ve never seen the stars. I think those ancients–certainly the great Hawaiian navigators– would think them ignorant,  I’ll bet they’d love the Observatories on Mauna Kea.  I’ll bet they’d embrace astronomy. There’s much to be learned from the past, but billions and billions more  to be learned from the present.

Remember, in the past, most men  feared  darkness–fear came  in as handy yesterday as it comes in handy today–and ancient wise men knew, because they’d measured this event for centuries, that the days would grow longer as the sun seemingly changed its direction. In three days the dark–the night sky–  would begin growing shorter.

Today we’ve advanced our scientific knowledge of what goes on–in our solar system as well as the cosmos–so vastly we make them look ignorant.  Today we are all,  potentially, brilliant human beings. A ll of us wise men capable of taking  a voyage of discovery as far back into the past and forward into the future as our curiosity sends us. Do you know,  with your fingers on the keyboard of a computer, you have more access to knowledge than Cleopatra had stored in  the Library in Alexandria?   Wowwowwow. I hope  parents and teachers share these exciting times  with the kids. Telescopes are wonderful Christmas presents.

We’re so lucky on Kauai, there are many places where the night sky is visible in all its splendor.  So take your kid to one of these places  on December  21st’ .   Step outside. For three nights  you’ll experience  the longest nights of the year. For three days, the Sun which had been traveling south, descends until it reaches a point where it stops–solstice actually mean ‘sun standing still’– and  on Kauai this event  begins on December 21st at 6:49PM.

Of course we now know the Sun doesn’t stand still.  Neither is it colder or hotter because of our distance from the sun. The tilt–and wobble– of the Earth’s axis in our hemisphere, the Northern Hemisphere, is leaning furthest away from the sun,  so the Sun is low in the sky and the rays strike the Earth at a shallow angle.  These rays are longer and therefore colder.   The entire planet has seasons because of the tilt and wobble, and we in Hawaii will begin the journey back to spring and  summer.  Spring and summer on Kauai is No Ka Oi. Sorry Maui.

Whatever you call it–Christmas, Yule, Chanukah, Saturnalia or Chaomos–enjoy.

Have a super solstice.

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LET’S TALK TURKEY
November 23, 2015

Hi, my name’s Arabella. I’m six years old and very beautiful. My two legs are long and slender, my eyes are bright, I can purr like a cat. And I have the sweetest disposition in the world.  So I’m told.

It’s easy to have a sweet disposition if you live in a loving family. Which I do. So many of us. So different. As different as the night sky from the day sky, the highest mountain from the deepest sea. We share. We care. We enjoy each other’s company. We talk a lot, each in a different way, but we’ve learned to understand each other.

Sometimes, when it’s raining, we sit hunched in a bunch and watch water–drops of water big and small, fast and slow–drip and drizzle and  fall from the sky like it was never going to end. Occasionally a flash of brilliance bursts with a startle and the sound that follows curves the air.  Overhead a cloudy wet  gray blanket smothers us tight,  and we think what it would be like if we never saw blue again. Dreary, I think, but I think most of us could adapt. We’ve been at it for a long long time. Adapting. Learning to live with the elements. Evolving from this to that. Changing.

We are the stuff stars are made of. You, too.

Eventually the sun  comes out. Warm and welcome.  Long legged trees grow longer taller. Green and gold and purple mountains in the distance  grow high before our eyes. And clouds. All that blankety blank gray stuff has morphed into delightfully soft puffy and fluffy stuff that soars and sways and wanders away. Disappears sometimes. Sky high. Free. I think it likes it up there. And the earth around us smells so fresh and clean we soak it in like the fragrance of  flowers blooming.  It’s just had a bath. It’s happy.  Birds sing and call to each other. And it never ends. Until the next rains come. Which they always do.

Just like you, me and my family love to eat. We all love cookies. Sometimes they come in a box, sometimes they emerge from an oven in a pan. Everyone’s happy when his belly is full.

The oldest member  of our family is a human. Just like you. He’s tall. Not too tall. Slender. Long legged. Beautiful, just like me. He talks to us a lot, that’s how we learn so much. We understand every word he say, sometimes we pay no heed, but he doesn’t understand us. So strange. I think he thinks we can’t think. Sad, kind’a. But I’ll bet he knows we love him. Love is beyond words.

We’ve all been around much longer than he. I’m a turkey and my roots go back 65 million years. I’m  a saurischian dinosaur, like Apatosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and Velociraptor. He’s only been around for 200,000 years. We’ve learned so much. We wish he had, too. I’ll be here next year. Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greening of Lihue
November 17, 2015

Don’t you sometimes feel sorry for politicians?

I know they’re not our favorite servants, public or otherwise. I’ve known bedmakers who would serve their office better. Certainly we all know they should have a  better grasp managing money. If we managed our budget  as they manage theirs, we’d all be broke. Sadly, many  are, but I don’t think they should blame  politicians for that. I know who–or what–they should blame but I don’t want to start a fight.

Think about this? No matter what our politicians do, seems like  half the people in the country, in the state, in the county, disapprove. Bad.  Can we assume  fifty percent  approve? Good.

We rarely hear from they who approve, but we hear a constant stream of invective from those who disapprove. Some people like bike paths. Some people don’t. Some people want super ferries. Some people don’t. Most people don’t want higher taxes but everybody wants more, better, and faster public services. Fancy new high-tech garbage trucks? Oh boy! Where to dump the stuff? Not in my backyard? That’s  a 100% downer.

Everyone complains about the roads. Repair mine. Don’t repair his. Then we complain about the inconvenience we experience when the roads are under repair. Lihue is a maze most of us rats get lost in. Noise. Detours. Traffic jam ups and, quite often, a wrong turn–arrows, flag offs–sends us skittering off a hundred and eighty degrees south of that place we wanted to reach.

A restaurant? The Mall? A public potty?  A parking spot within walking distance of it? (That’s any place less than ten steps from  the spot on which we wanted to land.)

Some  answers: bring a book. You can read it in  stopped up traffic jams. A sandwich. Munch. Munch. A bottle of water. Slurp. Slurp. A road map.  Note paper and a pen. Write a letter to TGI about stupid politicians who do  stupid things and inconvenience the hell out of us. Complain. Stomp your feet. Cross your arms. Scowl. Got cell phone? Yell at the innocent in a government office who answers the phone.

So what’s this got to do with greening?

Well, I love  the green roundabouts. I love all the greened up strips beside the road. I love to see work men planting something. Watering something. ‘Course all this green stuff costs green stuff. Some guys want to spend it. Some guys don’t.

I got a’idea. Plant citrus. Local oranges are delicious–and the scent of orange blossoms!! –everybody loves good smells. Beats carbon dioxide.   Picking them when ripe would create government jobs and income. Buy homegrown food–good food, healthy food–from government road side stands.

Maybe we could plant some long green stuff. Sugar cane. Tall grass. So gorgeous. So generously, sweetly,  cleansing the air we breath. Such a marvelous living historical reminder of the wonderful island we once were. Don’t recommend burning.  Machete it–more jobs– let it grow back all by itself.

Thank you Mayor Carvalho.

 

THE PROVINCES
November 7, 2015

I’m the lady from the provinces. In truth,  I’m  an expatriate at heart.  At 36 I’d spent as much time out of the country as I had  in the country and Kauai was about as far out as you could get without a Passport.

It was a feudal state. Sugar was King. Sugar, that historically  infamous dollar crop, held  sway.  Those glorious fields, that glorious crop, that  long green, dancing- in- the- wind grass that worked  two long years keeping our air the freshest,  the healthiest in the world. (Maybe that’s why so many of us who lived  those years ripened so well. and don’t forget it gave us sugar, molasses, and rum.) It’s beautiful yellow tasseles stopped traffic as did  their spectacular death in red/gold flames  in the quiet winds of early morning. An occasional plume of gray throat- itching smoke belched by, but we  forgave it.

There were hundreds  of miles of bridle paths,  maintained just for me and my entourage–one horse, two ponies running  free– and so many dogs I’ve lost count. We often  encountered a cane truck or a helicopter and our jaunts always crossed with  the field hands who greeted us with soft  smiles and friendly  greetings, “Good morning, Mrs. Bill Dux,” they’d call and  I’d smile  back. They were as much a part of this enchanting landscape as the cane itself. The cane mules, during planting season, brayed  love  to my  leopard–Beauregard the gaudy Appaloosa–who pranced by, head up, tail high.

Truly, I could not imagine a more delightful way to begin a day. To face the coming hours  of work and play and who- knows- what-all else lay ahead.

Just as sugar was King,  so were the managers. The department heads were lords and ladies of the manor. I was not much into the social life, women in America are much different from women who–excepting those in the military or Embassy sphere who were always the same– lived in a cosmopolitan community abroad.

On Kauai we lived on the water. Kept our beloved Warpath at anchor in front of the house, my horses in the red barn across the way. Somehow Bill and I managed to combine the horsey and  sailing set. Sailing these water–Bill and me–was too vast another world to describe briefly, but at night, beneath a sparkle strewn sky  and moon wide wonder–no phones, no worldly distractions–was an experience that kept our feet planted firmly on solid ground when they had to be. We lost Warpath during Ewa and Flash, Beau, and Billy are buried here. Bill’s ashes scattered.

Today it’s a third world. Gated  million dollar ghettos. The poor. The homeless. Cane is a  memory lost in concrete- coated  madness.  I see more cars driving to Lihue than there were on the Island 46 years ago. We’ve traffic jams–engine to BBQ hatchback– expelling so much CO2 it’s a wonder any of us survive.

Some people call this progress.

What do you call it?

 

 

RICHARD DAWKINS FOUNDATION
November 4, 2015

 

Hi ,
Young people in America are losing their religion. An encouraging new Pew research study says young adults are increasingly moving away from religiosity and belief in God. America is still a religious country, especially compared with European nations, but its youth are breaking free from their upbringing and thinking for themselves.
Republican presidential primary candidate and medical doctor Ben Carson, currently near the top of the pack in polls, has made so many jaw-dropping assertions during the campaign that it is hard to pick the most outlandish. But foundation friend Herb Silverman takes a stab at it.
After you read his piece, watch Herb talk to Richard about Richard’s latest book “Brief Candle in the Dark”.
Things are getting worse in Bangladesh, where four atheist bloggers have been killed. A publisher of one of those was hacked to death over the weekend just hours after three other outspoken secularists were attacked. A human rights researcher fears this presages further attacks: “Given the horrific pattern of violence, we have reason to believe many other lives are now at risk.”
Awards for speaking out are generally bittersweet. Bravery can come at considerable risk and great cost. That’s true of Saudi atheist blogger Raif Badawi, who was given the European Union’s top human rights prize last week. Sentenced to prison for a decade and 1,000 strokes for the crime of promoting freedom of thought, his body was devastated after receiving the first 50 strokes. Raif’s wife fears another round will kill him.

Robyn Blumner

Jailed, Whipped Saudi Atheist Given Sakharov Rights Award

An atheist blogger who was flogged and imprisoned for criticizing Islam in Saudi Arabia has been awarded the European Union’s top human rights award, the Sakharov prize for Freedom of Thought. Raif Badawi is serving a 10-year sentence and has been given 50 of a promised 1,000 lashes despite an international outcry. His wife says she fears the beatings are likely to resume soon — and could kill Raif.

Close your eyes and pick almost any position taken by GOP presidential primary candidate Ben Carson and odds are you’ll find something jaw-dropping. But he recently topped himself by asking the Secret Service for protection. Not because of the very real risks run by those seeking major office these days, but because “I challenge the secular progressive movement to the very core.”
Video of the Week: Dawkins and Silverman Discuss ‘Brief Candle’

Richard Dawkins and atheist writer and mathematician Herb Silverman discuss Richard’s second volume of memoirs, “Brief Candle in the Dark,” and their mutual admiration for Carl Sagan as a tireless promoter of the wonders of science.

Exciting news for the secular community. A new Pew research poll of 35,000 adults shows that America’s religiosity is waning, especially among young adults. According to the survey, only 27% of Millennials — people between 18 and 34 years old — say they attend religious services weekly, while 51% of people born before 1945 say they do. And only about four out of ten Millennials say they hold religion as something very important in their lives, compared with more than half of those in older generations.