Search This Blog

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Great Grandpa ap Tegfan - Old King Cole to You

Our family's 20+ greats grandmother Ystradwel Verch Gadeon was "Queen Of Britan" also called "Strada the fair" (probably by people who couldn't pronounce "Ystradwel"). Her husband was Coel Hen ap Tegfan, high king of Britain on or about 374ish AD.

Strada's great grandfather was also named King Coel and In his later years he was known as "Old King Coel" by his subjects and he was apparently a merry old soul. After a few hundred years went by, the spelling of his name was changed slightly by some wandering bards or a drunk scribe in the royal archives. 

The Bards sang songs about Old King Cole calling for his pipe, his bowl and his fiddlers three. This was, of course, prior to tobacco coming over to Britain from America, so the Old King may have been smoking something but it wasn't likely that it was Prince Albert in a can. Perhaps what he was smoking explains the "merry" part of his description. Like I may have mentioned before, we've got some strange kinfolk. 

And a long line of ancestors with substance abuse problems.

© 2017 by Tom King

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Chinese Christmas Dinner

The #1 restaurant to go to on Christmas Day is still the Chinese Restaurant. This dates back to when they were the only restaurants open on Christmas because Chinese didn't celebrate Christmas. It's since become a tradition in many families as an alternative to repeating the Thanksgiving turkey.

Chinese restaurants outnumber McDonald's restaurants in the United States. Part of the reason for this is the length of time that Chinese restaurants have been open in the United States. The first Chinese restaurant in the USA was the Canton Restaurant in San Francisco. After the transcontinental railroad was completed and mining began to play out, a law was passed prohibiting the immigration of Chinese workers. An exception to the immigration ban was for business owners. The two major businesses that Chinese immigrants showed an affinity for were laundries and restaurants. That's why so many Chinese run Chinese restaurants. It's actually a delicious artifact of a restrictive immigration law.

Another unusual thing about Chinese restaurants is the perceived affinity between Jews and Chinese food. Actually the biggest group of consumers of Chinese food is a horse race between Jews and Asians. As one character in the movie "My Favorite Year" (one of my favorite movies) remarked, "Jews know two things," he said, "Suffering and where to find great Chinese food." The reason Jewish people patronize Chinese restaurant because Chinese cuisine doesn't use dairy products. Because dairy products aren't cooked in Chinese restaurant kitchens. It is therefore closest to kosher standards which prohibit dairy and meat to be cooked in the same vessels or eaten together.

Funny how traditions get started; in this case, all because Congress thought there were too many unskilled Asian workers entering the country.
They did slow it down some, but Chinese immigrants still managed to flood the country illegally, mostly through, wait for it.......California.

© 2017 by Tom King

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Facebook - The Digital Front Porch

First picture I posted of me and Daisy
People make fun of Facebook friends who post pictures of their dinners, their dogs and cats, or the first snow falling on their patio. Yet, somehow, these are some of the most popular posts on FB. I can post a profound piece on politics or religion that I think is earth-shaking and get a couple of thumb's up. But I post a picture of Mama's mashed potatoes or the dog napping in my lap and generate dozens of likes and comments. Why are people interested in all that mundane stuff. Why do I get 95 "likes" for a picture of my wife laughing her head off while we're taking our anniversary picture.

I think it's because these posts are like an invitation by a friend to come by the house. It's an spontaneous kind of intimacy with friends and neighbors that we've somehow lost when we quit building homes with decent front porches.

Oh, I occasionally tweak a liberal friend and get into a running debate over something Trump did or some comment I made disparaging some beloved tenet of progressivism. And we've had some tub-thumper arguments, but hey. Back in the olden days, we used to do that sort of thing with a Coke in hand with friends on the porch of the local grocery and gas station with a bunch or other old geezers looking for a fight. 

Facebook has taken over the role of the old front porch. In exactly the same way that we used to talk about our cars, our grandkids, or the latest backyard project we have going, we post pictures and comments about our personal lives on Facebook so people we know and like can feel like they are keeping up with us.

I occasionally bump into an old friend or family member that I haven't seen in a while, and as we talk, I realize that we are taking up threads of conversations leftover from posts we made on Facebook or other social media. "How was that trip to Cancun?" you ask, having seen the 44 pictures she posted of the trip. "I see your granddaughter is really sprouting up."  You can say that because grandma has posted 157 pictures of the kid documenting every day of the child's life since birth. A lot of millenial precious snowflakes make fun of us older folk for posting the stuff that we do, but hey, at least we don't post hourly selfies showing who we are with at the moment, where we are standing and what we are wearing.

I try to post interesting things, but I'm also guilty of having posted more than my share of cute doggie pictures over the years. I still occasionally post pictures of my dog Daisy even though she's been dead a year and a half. Facebook even helps out by suggesting that I repost old pictures I posted five or six years ago. I am often surprised how many of those old pictures are of me and the dog.

You can criticize Zuckerberg all you want for his liberal bias, but the boy does understand the appeal of the digital front porch he's created. If he and his minions can just stand to not try and tell us all what we can talk about on our own porches, Facebook could last forever in some form or another - or at least till the world comes to an end (a subject about which we can also debate on the "porch" with several dozen of our closest digital buddies).

Facebook posts don't have to be profound. Social media is the digital successor of front porches, Saturday night jam sessions down at the VA, the town square, the pen pal, and the sister who calls you on the phone and talks for two hours. So I'll go on posting my dog pictures and my latest do-it-myself project photos and I'm not ashamed! If you want to look at the couch I reupholstered myself or the cigar box banjo I built or me playing with Jellybean, you're welcome. If you'd rather look at selfies of your friends, then there's a place for that too.

Tell you what; I won't make fun of your selfies if you won't make fun of my photos of homemade pizza!  Okay?

© 2017 by Tom King

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Searching for Heaven - The Enigma That is Youtube

You choose....
The YouTube phenomenon is something nobody predicted back in the 60s when I was coming of age. I read a lot of science fiction and I don't remember that anyone ever predicted that the advance of technology would create the creative explosion that it has. Everybody was actually predicting that we'd gradually all become prisoners of our TV sets and that creativity would die away from neglect.

Then came the Internet! Who would have guessed that what was essentially a military communication tool designed to survive and apocalyptic nuclear war and still function would metamorphose into a digital Wild West where anything goes and almost anything can happen. And who expected the personal computer would get smaller and smaller as it grew more and more capable of doing things. Who knew that for a few dollars one could have his own video production and sound studio in his living room and to produce CDs with professional looking labels? Who expected technology to open the gates of opportunity to creative people to disseminate their art, sell their goods and bring down the gatekeepers (record companies, broadcast companies, and shake the movie moguls down to their toes?

The explosion of beautiful things that have burst forth as the Internet opened up a world of opportunities for creative expression to choose from. People responded by producing some quite lovely things in places like YouTube. Music, films, and documentaries are everywhere. Some is ugly. Some is beautiful. I like to think that the beauty we create is just us looking for heaven and trying to create a little piece of it using that ability to create beautiful things that free will gives us.

We are observing the outworking of decentralized freedom of choice, technological capacity, and increased opportunity. It's shaken the economy to its core. The old gatekeepers are losing their power. Oddly enough, thought, at the same time the generation which has learned to navigate the wild new digital landscape so masterfully, at the same time have come to embrace a political system which promises to wreck this decentralized, wild in the streets growth of individual opportunity in favor of massive centralization of power and authority.

It has become fashionable for cynics of this generation to demand that, if there is a God he would solve all these problems by waving his hand and forcing people to be good. Yet no one really thinks much beyond some kind of magical instant problem-solution to what it would mean if God did that. It would mean the end of free will. You see free will is part of the problem. If people can choose, then taking away their ability to choose makes them not  really human anymore. We're robots if we cannot choose. If we can choose, it creates a problem. If we can choose we can choose to do bad things.

We are a self-destructive lot, we humans. We want to do what we want to do, but we don't want to deal with the consequences. Like spoiled children, we humans want to do what we want to do and then we want someone else to clean up the mess. That's more than a little unrealistic, but people do manage to cling to the delusion that somebody, somehow should come along and solve all our problems and then not make any further demands on us.

We want a Santa Claus that doesn't keep a naughty list and there ain't no sucha thang! Which brings me back to the Internet and technology. The freedom of choice that makes the Internet work so well as an incubator for individual art, music, and business, is anathema to centralized, authoritarian utopias.  You cannot have safety by selling your freedom. You cannot have freedom if someone else makes all your decisions for you.

It's scary as all git-out to navigate a world in which good and bad things can happen. So long as humans can choose, bad things can happen. The only way to solve that problem is to get rid of everyone who chooses to be bad. Socialist dictatorships try to do that, but since they can only look on the outward appearance, their judgment about who should be executed tends to be seriously flawed. Only God can separate the sheep from the goats and that's what it's going to take. The only reason He hasn't done it yet is that He's giving us time to decide whether we're going to be sheep or goats.

In the same way the Internet produces beautiful music, movies and independent businesses alongside porn and hate speech, a world where humans have free will creates beauty alongside horror and misery.  It's a brave old world we live in, especially those of us who believe in doing good rather than evil. We have to have the courage to risk a world where men and women may choose. We have to believe that the risk is worth the actual worker's paradise we've been promised by a kind and loving God who chose to create children and not robots.

© 2017 by Tom King

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

World History for Dummies

A self-described "...
keen follower and an avid reader of World History" posted this claim. He said that if Columbus hadn't discovered America and the Europeans had never come there'd be no United States and therefore the following amazing things would have happened (he even includes "links" to prove his point:

We would have more of:

  1. Oil because US tops the list of Oil consumers of the world.Top Oil Consumers 
  2. More electricity because US is the 2nd largest consumer of electricity. Electricity - consumption - Country Comparison - TOP 10 
  3. Hopefully more money because FRS (that's the Federal Reserve System for you non-conspiracy theorists) wouldn't exist.
..and less of
  1. Wars .. don't ask me why. 
  2. Obesity because 32% of general american population is obese. 
  3. Weapons of mass destruction. Countries with the biggest nuclear weapon stockpiles 
  4. Oh, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have have never happened and generations of victims wouldn't have been suffering.
He's kidding right?

This simple soul (we'll call him Vishal Gorgia) pretty much figured out from his keen following of world history that history and economics is a zero sum game? If one bunch of folks have more, they must have taken it from someone else.  Let's look at his points

  1. We'd have more oil because the US wouldn’t be using it? Really? Well if you follow actual history instead of that stuff you got in Marxism 101, you'd realize that the US wouldn’t be drilling and refining oil either, so actually - less oil. It would be safely stored underground and we'd still be exploiting horses, mules and camels as beasts of burden and with the crappy transportation system, lots more people would be starving and poor.
  2. There would be more electricity for everyone? So, Vishal, without the United States, all those power plants that generate all the electricity we have today, would have what? Magically popped up out of the ground and started generating electricity. Then the magic transportation fairies would ship free buckets of electricity to the third world in their little wooden boats? 
  3. We'd have more money?  How exactly? Would the magic money fairy have kept printing it up and sending it to where exactly? I guess the magic transportation fairies could have bundled it up and shipped it along with those buckets of electricity in their little wooden boats to all the poor people of the world for free instead of hoarding it up the magical Federal Reserve caves like we do now.
So we then would, without a United States we would have less of the following:

  1. Fewer wars? Don't ask him why, Vishal says. He just knows since, as we all know, the United States starts most wars for no reason at all.  And by default the peaceful natives of the Americas (or whatever they wound up calling it), would live peaceful lives, sitting around campfires and eating Vegan burgers and smoking peace pipes full of pot. Even a cursory study of history should have given Mr. Gorgia a little actual history. The peaceful fantasy Native Americans he imagines were, in fact, professional warriors. Why else did all the men call themselves "warriors". It's not because they were community organizers. These warriors were busily murdering each in vast numbers vast numbers long before Columbus showed up. So, fewer wars? Probabaly not.
  2. No obesity? Hey, Vishal, you did finally get Michelle Obama's hobby horse into the discussion.  And you’re probably right. The native Americans would likely have been much thinner. Famine and slow starvation will do that for you and there was a lot of that in Meso-America and on the plains, mountains, and in the forests of North America.
  3. And no weapons of mass destruction? Okay, maybe there would not have been nukes (unless some arms dealer shipped them over from Nazi Germany). As to mass destruction, it's unlikely the New World would have been safe from that. They already had a good start on mass destruction techniques before Columbus got here. Next time you run down to Mexico take a look at the Aztec pyramids around Mexico City. They have channels cut in them just to carry off all the blood from their highly efficient human sacrificial system. It’s estimated that 250,000 people were sacrificed on the Aztec altars in just one year on the altars in Tenochtitlan. The Incas weren't much less bloodthirsty. They killed one in five of their children by abandoning them on cold mountainsides, tossing them into holes or burying them as sacrifices to their gods. And the Mayans, the calendar guys, made bloody human sacrifice and cannibalism into a religious art form. 
  4. And Hiroshima and Nagasaki would never have happened? Instead, invading armies would have fought long and bloody wars, destroying innocent civilians and their goods and property, raping, pillaging and committing genocide without fear since no one could put a stop to it. The world would have belonged to the thug with the most soldiers and weapons and war would have been even more hideous a thing. Actually, after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, all out war has become an unthinkable thing, leading to the most peaceful half century in human history (unless you lived in a communist country where they starved, executed, tortured and imprisoned you if you argued with the dear leaders).
Obviously, Vishal thinks the USA is the fount of all things bad in the world. I don’t know what history you are reading, but I suspect it should be relegated to the fiction section of the library. The United States is pretty much the only powerful nation in history that didn't use it's power for empire building. Instead we rescued Europe from tyrants twice. We protected South Korea from a brutal North Korean invasion. We tried to do the same in Vietnam, but the thing was run by Democrats, so that got botched. We rescued Grenada from Cuban invasion, Panama from a corrupt dictator, Kuwait from invasion by Iraq, and pretty much everybody from an insane dictator who wanted to find a way to blow Israel off the map if he could and reestablish the Babylonian empire. We also went after the people who attacked us on 9/11.

And the United States didn't build an empire though we had the power to do so. We didn't keep Kuwait after we liberated it. We didn't keep Iraq after we defeated them. We left the Koreans and even the Vietnamese with their own government. We took the Philippines from Spain and then we liberated them again from the Japanese and gave them their independence. Even when we annexed the American Southwest, we paid Mexico for the privilege. We're still paying reparations to the Native Americans in the USA. There is hardly an appropriations bill that goes out that doesn't have millions earmarked for the tribes. And some of those wars were started by Native Americans so there is blame on both sides. The territories we gained in stray wars throughout our history have all chosen to stay with us. Some we'd like to get rid of but they won't go. We could have a world empire by now and exploit the heck out of them. Instead we let them rule themselves and send them billions in aid.

We've been the most peaceful powerful nation in world history (you know Vashal, that stuff you so keenly follow). We have stopped a lot of bullies from conquering and killing their neighbors. Some of them were as evil as the Aztecs, Mayans and Incas. Had the Meso-Americans had better killing equipment, they might have done as well as the Nazis. They certainly tried.

I think Vishal needs to go back and read some more history. He should probably read something outside of the fantasy section, though.

© by Tom King

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Mothers and Daughters Forever?

My Facebook buds post stuff like this (above) all the time. And there's a kind of truth to it, but they leave out the tough bits. A daughter is always her daddy's little princess (unless he's some kind of psychopath or a complete jerk). Her relationship with her mom is always somewhat problematic. Beginning sometime around puberty, mothers and daughters find themselves at cross-purposes. It's biological. God put this "I have to get out of here" gene into all children so that a kind of madness descends in adolescence that drives them out of your house before they realize what a swell deal they've got going and wind up at 45 living in your basement and expecting you to do their laundry.

The first corrective measure God ever took with mankind was to throw them out of the Garden of Eden and to give them homework.

"Go forth, be fruitful and multiply!" God said as He gave them the bum's rush out of the Garden.
Remember too, God was unhappy with us when He said it. 

It works much like that with our own children. God wanted us to have kids so we'd understand in a very real way, what He experienced in trying to raise us to be decent, hardworking, kindly people. God wanted us to experience rebellion, ingratitude and distrust as manifest in our own offspring.

The above meme represents a condition that exists beyond a certain point in the mother/daughter relationship. It only happens after your daughter gets over being mad at her Mom for all the supposed motherly atrocities mom committed during her adolescence. Things like making them tell the parents where they are at, where they are going to be and when they are coming home. Horrors of that sort. In adolescence, the youngsters feel this terrible constriction when their parents demonstrate their love for them by demanding they not do things that are dangerous, self-destructive or generally bad for them

There is a strange transformation of the mother-daughter relationship that occurs during a daughter's twenties or thirties. It usually happens at about 2 am some morning after she's had a couple of kids of her own. The daughter-now-mother-herself is sitting up all night with one of her babies that is sick. It may happen the day she drops that first one off at school for the first time and cries about the loss of her "baby" all the way home. It can happen in Walmart when the two year old demands candy in the checkout line and when Mom says "no", the precious child screams "NO" right back in her face and the throws himself down on the floor and has a right old tantrum there in front of the cashier, the manager and 40 or 50 Walmart customers.

It is during or shortly after one of those magic moments, when the daughter is unburdening herself to her mother, that Mom magically becomes her daughter's hero. And it's usually around about this time that Mom offers to take the grandbabies off her hands so she can have  "a couple of hours to herself" and seals the deal.

God, it turns out, is a terrific educator
. We just have to get the kids to do their homework is all.

© 2017 by Tom King

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Broken Record....

Shoes left behind at Auschwitz.
Humans want so badly to believe that we are basically good and perfectible if we just have the right laws, the right leaders and the right government. The fallacy of this was clearly demonstrated in the Old Testament. God meant it as a history lesson. The Children of Israel were given a promised land flowing with milk and honey, located right on all the best trade routes to insure prosperity. They were given perfect laws to govern their behavior. Had everyone obeyed those laws Israel would have been as close to Utopia as could be had. They asked God for stronger and stronger, more perfect leaders and a stronger centralized government like their neighbors had. God finally relented and gave them what they asked for. And the people waited for their nation to become strong and peaceful and perfect as it surely must under such a perfect system.

But God had warned them about kings and governments. He warned them that the king would take their sons for soldiers, their daughters for his wives and their earnings for his great palaces and his wars. Eventually, the Children of Israel sank so low that they killed the very Son of God.

But we want so badly to seize the power for ourselves as Satan promised Eve when he told her she would be like a god. So we ignore any evidence that we aren't going to be able to do the same thing we've tried over and over through thousands of years of human history. We avert our eyes from injustice or blame it on someone else. We forget the lessons of Auschwitz, the Soviet Gulags, the Killing Fields of Cambodia, the millions of peasants starved to death in the Ukraine and China, the slaughter in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Chad, the Sudan, Somalia, Cuba and the Japanese Army's Unit 731. We keep repeating to ourselves, "We can be like gods." and we keep becoming devils instead. Instead of leading us to a Paradise on Earth, those who promise us human perfection through law, government and dear leaders keep giving us gulags, death camps and wholesale slaughter.

More horrors are coming again. I can smell the copper scent of blood as black-masked thugs beat up people to silence their opinions and to prevent them from hearing other voices than their own. I can hear it echoing through riot-torn streets. I can taste the bitter gun smoke in the aftermath of another mass shooting. Fresh horrors are coming but I am not afraid, for even if the liars and the thugs and the great men (ah, but I repeat myself); if the premiers, potentates and dear leaders do score a victory, it will be a hollow one, for they will soon receive oblivion as their reward. The Children of the Living God cannot lose no matter what the outcome of the war might be. That makes us mighty.

This makes it possible for me to smile, even as the clouds roll over our heads and the lightning barks its angry warning.

© 2017 by Tom King


Thursday, September 07, 2017

I Hate Digital Tyranny


So apparently Youtube has joined forces with Google and Microsoft in a plot to make videos unwatchable from my beloved Firefox Browser. In the past week, Youtube went from requiring extra clicks to watch its videos to simply refusing to play videos at all unless I switched to Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge. This does not make me love either Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge and it carves one more negative notch on my list o' gripes I have with Windows 10. I don't like either Chrome or Edge's interface - especially Chrome. Apparently the uber-geek coders at Microsoft and Google believe that we all want to learn a new browser interface every year or so, just because we are bored and have nothing else to do. At this point they totally ignore the druthers of anyone over 55 years of age.

While Windows 10 has some nice features, they also like to confuse you by hiding things you need in new less obvious places. And now a whole bunch of my tried and true software doesn't work anymore and they want me to buy or rent new software with money they want and which I do not have lying around to donate to Mr. Gates or the antifa thugs at Google. This is why Apple, despite being a socialist dictatorship of a computer system, keeps drawing adherents. People buy Apple stuff in the faint hope that they won't have to learn a new interface every year. There is a kind of pathetic hope that Apple will at least be consistent.

Don't bet on it people. Geeks is geeks and they have no clue how normal people work. Check out Scott Adams' Dilbert comic strip for a peek inside the disordered brains of software designers. It's all true. I'm just surprised Google hasn't developed an app that drinks your coffee for you.

It's not Artificial Intelligence that's going to kill us all. It's Artificial Ignorance that'll do it. One day someone's going to find some deeply buried Easter Egg in some updated version of Microsoft Office 22, and quite by accident, when the robot voice asks, "Do you want to play global thermonuclear war?" the dimbulb who found this "special" feature of Office 22 (and who never saw the movie War Games) will say, "Yes."

Of course, by then, all he'll have to do is nod his head and the software will pick it up on his webcam, send nuclear launch codes to Cheyenne Mountain, and launch an all out attack on someplace like Terlingua cause the programmer hates chili or on Salt Lake City because he was once frightened by a Mormon missionary.

Our lives hang by such a thin thread.

© by Tom King