Monday, March 2, 2015

Philosophy Class 102





Hanging on the wall at The Floridian (home of the world's best Cuban) down in Treasure Island is the sign in the above picture.  It is a funny sign, a take off on the famous "If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound"?   The former is designed to make people snicker at its cuteness.  In fact it is one of my favorites.  I love that sign.  The latter is, in fact, a serious philosophical question.  One wouldn't think so, however, would one?  

Out of all the philosophical questions or schools of thought we could have spent time on today, why did I choose this one?  Well, the above sign of course, but also to let you know that simple sounding questions sometimes have difficult answers.

My first response (and perhaps yours, too) would be to say, why yes, of course, you idiot, it's simple physics.  A tree falls, it makes a sound.  That response would be too simple.   Actually, today, we aren't going to look at the physics of it but rather the other nuances, which, in our case, means making it more complicated than it has to be, since, after all, isn't that the way of philosophy? 

So let's look at this philosophically.  I think it makes a sound because sound waves are going to emanate from the fall.  Vibrations, if you will.  However, and here is where it starts to get tricky.  I am assuming that everyone receives those vibrations in the same manner I do, which would be in the form of a crash.  However, maybe you don't receive those vibrations quite like that, maybe you hear those waves like a motorcycle being revved up.  In that case I hear a tree falling but you hear a cycle going by.  In my case if a tree falls int eh forest and I am there to hear it, it makes a noise, but you will not have the same experience as me.  Right for me, but not for you, therefore one cannot make a proclamation about the tree falling.  

There was a philosopher named Hume who was one of the dullest reads ever.  I couldn't stand him because his writing so so darn dry. And yes, there are some who write with great expression and excitement.  Hume, however, didn't.  He would say about this argument at whereas in most cases the tree makes noise whether or not we are around, we cannot always assume that, just because our experience tell us so.  An example would be, say you have bird feeder (Pat, this is for you) and every morning when you wake up there are birds out there feeding.  Every single day each day.  You will begin to think that that is the norm, but one day you come out and there are no birds.  You have established that the norm or rule is that those birds will be at your feeder.  Any number of things can happen to make it not so that one day and now you think that a rule has been broken.  There was no rule to start with.  The birds simply mad it a habit, and then one day they didn't.  There were no fast rules, but you assumed there was.  Now let's apply that logic to our falling tree.  We assume due to physics and our own logic and maybe experience, that each and every tree that falls will make a sound.  But that is our assumption, perhaps one time it won't, due to various conditions.  

So if a tree falls in the forested no one is there to hear it, we can't know for sure if it makes a sound.  Logically we say it should, but unless someone is there we can't be positive.  You assume it will, but, hey, you aren't there.  maybe this is the one time, like Pat's birds, that it doesn't.  

But wait, and this is one of the fun things about philosophy.  Many issues are like layers of an onion, just keep peeling.  Like Dr. LaMore said many times, "keep going."  There was a school of thought called Idealism.  It says that everything that exists is just our perception.  Things are just clumps (my word) of  ideas and thoughts.  God coordinates these clumps, or perceptions, so we all think alike.  God, therefore, makes us all hear falling trees in the forest, giving us the impression, if not the actual fact.  And guess what, there is another school of thought that says the tree doesn't really exist, but I'm not going into that.   Mull all that over your morning coffee and cinnamon roll.  

While I was investigating this lecture er post, I came across a bit more in my research about this dang falling tree.  Albert Einstein and Neils Bohr were both physicist and buddies and they played with this conundrum  too.  Albert asked Neils (founder of quantum physics) , if he thought the moon existed if no one was watching it.  Bohr replied that no matter how hard Einstein tried,  he wouldn't be able to prove it, thus creating a kind of unsolvable riddle.  Abbie and Nellie, a couple cards. 

The real answer, of course, is what you believe.  For me, I take it on faith that trees exist in a forest whether or not someone is there to see them.  I also believe that if a tree falls it will make noise.  I don't have to be there to see it fall or hear it crash.  I am clearly siding on my sensory perception that I have learned from walking in forests, watching TV and reading.  

For the final word, I present who I think is the greatest 20th century   philosopher,  Gary Larsen.  He wrote the Far Side comics for years and remains my favorite for laugh out-loud humor.   He weighs in on today's subject nicely.   




Monday, February 23, 2015

Week Off


ON VACATION



It's been about three months since I took a week off so I'll sign off till Monday, March 2.
{I'm about to run out of material.}
I may try to find those lovelies up in the picture and see if they will take me on as their 4th.
{Fat chance.  Having never skied in my life I doubt if I could even carry their swimsuits.}
Have a great week and if you think about it, return in March and we'll see what is happening here in BFE.
{I know this disrupts the morning routine of a couple loyal readers, and for that I am sorry.  Like you I like a routine, too, and when I don't get it, it seems to throw my universe into chaos.  Like Churchill once said, "If you are going through Hell, keep going."  I'm not equating a week without Existing In BFE to Hell, but then how else could I serve great Churchillian bon mots?}

Friday, February 20, 2015

Flashback Friday - My Cars Part 2


This beauty was my first car.  I forget how much I paid for her, I want to say $100 but it could have been more.  I have simply forgotten.  I got it from a guy in Aledo.  I think it was a Mr. Morehead.  

When the experiment with sharing the Nova failed, and unable to secure the 63 Chevy Impala my grandfather owned, I simply took matters in my own hands and bought this lovely old Volkswagen.  And when I say antique,  it was pretty old when I bought it.  It was a 1957 model, and is most evident when looking at the rear - it has a small oval window.  These early bugs all had the small rear window and, today, these are worth quite a lot of money.  The first generation Bugs sold in the US were split-window.  Mine was a second gen and of I'd held onto it the average retail is around $12, 500 and depending on condition can go as high as $24, 000.  But then I wasn't concerned about which generation it was, small window or not, I had my first wheels.  I had other things on my mind.      



I loved that VW, so much so that a few years later I would get another one.  But I am getting ahead of myself.  This Bug ran like a charm and looking back I can't understand why I would have ever gotten it because as you can imagine there are no import mechanics in Seaton, or Aledo or anywhere else close by.  But I don't remember any breakdowns or how I ever parted with her.  



As you can see by the pictures she was a beauty.  No rust, dents or anything to flaw its beauty.  Chrome was all good and while I couldn't keep up with the farmer kids who had the latest muscle cars, I'd get there eventually.  She had just received a new coat of paint that I had done by some place in Galesburg.  The reason, quite simply, is because I removed her previous coat.  

I got in a habit of washing and waxing her every weekend.  I'd pull her out behind the house where there was an outside spigot and hose.  I usually did this on Sunday afternoons.  After a while I began to buff off the paint and reveal the primer beneath.   Thus the new paint job.  

She provided me the wings I had dreamed of.  I don't know if kids today have the same feeling their first wheels provide.  Perhaps guys don't mind riding around in their friends cars - no gas costs, insurance, maintenance and all that.  But for me, this was my temple, my wings.  I believe cars provide more than simple transportation.  They are the impetus to independent thinking and while maybe a bit hyperbolic, they are the gateway to independence.  It's not as simple as just hopping in and going; it takes planning, organization, and an awareness of what it takes to undergo and navigate to successful completion.  

One other aspect that may have played an important role in my loving my first car so much was the fact I was a twin.  Twins share. Twins wear same clothes.  It may have been that when we developed our own persona's that individual belongings mean more.   No wonder Marj and Herb wanted us to share - it was a kind of buddy system that would allow each of us to "parent" in our parent's absence.  

Aledo, where we went to Junior High and High school was no longer a place we went to by bus, older brother, mother or twin.  Now it was done on our own terms and our own abilities.  And that is true freedom.  

The V-Dub was a basic machine.  All it had in the way of extras was a radio.  It had a speedometer, heater, and ash tray.   There was a glove box and stick shift between two front seats.  The back seat was minimal but could seat a couple small people, which it did on occasion.  It was a not a make-out car.  (That added to the planning and preparation of outings.)  I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the engine was in the rear, was air-cooled, and the front was trunk space.  

The best feature was something found on some motorcycles.  Because there was no gas gauge, when you ran out of gas you could reach down under the dash to the left and flip down a small lever that would provide another gasoline of gas to get you wherever you needed to go or to the next gas station.  Of course, failure to flip the lever back up at refill would mean you were out of luck next time.

For our time together we plied the roads from Seaton and Aledo primarily.  I still recall the late nights trips back home puttering along, rather slowly in my car.  With the window rolled down on summer nights and the hum of a small 1200 cc engine (my motorcycle has 1854 cc), no front end to speak of to obstruct your view,  it gave you a very different view of the road.   

  

I found this video on YouTube of a kid driving his 57 Bug.  Mine was very similar to this: very spartan interior.  On the sides of the door were elastic pockets for storage.  Heat came in through two small vents on the floor.  You would simply open the vent and heat would come in that way.  There was no on-off switch, per se.  Just pull the vent open.  

And some point it gave out or needed an engine overhaul which signaled the end.  My memory is foggy.  Our Sunday afternoon wash and waxes ended and while everyone moves on from their first car,  this one was special.  But losses sometimes provide opportunity.  And we'll talk about my second car sometime fairly soon on Flashback Friday.   

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Perspective

There are racquetball courts here at Bedlam.  They are half open to the elements and not used very much.  Norah and I took Bry in here often and tossed the tennis ball around so she could chase it and get some exercise.  This morning, while in a funk, I took the ball and was going to toss it around a little but discovered the place was already occupied.



This view is from the outside window looking in.  Clear in the far corner I saw a blanketed fellow or fellow-ess sleeping.  That sooty dirty stuff at the bottom is a kind of grunge on the window.  




This is a cropped version of the above picture.  

After I got over the OMG-ness of it all, my philosopher side kicked in and began to reflect on the haphazardness of life.  The first 25 years of my life began in the small town of Seaton with my folks.  The final 6 years were mostly just habitating bedspace during the summers because of college and grad school, but it was still home nevertheless.  And in that small town, village really, everyone was clothed, fed and had a place of their own.  Some houses were better than others, of course, but even the most unsightly were good enough. 

I bought a couple places in G-Burg through the years and they provided the comforts of home, even the boxcar ala abode.  There was always the fun of motels or hotels (what's the difference?) when traveling.  Spent a lot of time in them for work training and conferences, then a lot in Clarksville when Brendan was in the Army.  But mostly it was home and work.  

A couple trips out West in 2004 where I tried, I really tried to camp out every other night to save money and get the true "roughing" it experience.  Soon, after a fateful night in Deadwood at the local KOA, I swore as fervently as Scarlett O'Hara swore about hunger that I would never go bedless again.  

Days Inn or any place, really, as long as it had a mattress,  a toilet and shower became my imprimatur.  I must stop you here, if you didn't already, and tell you that I type these missives generally stream-of-consciousness and without much polish.  I have no idea where the word imprimatur came from and should apologize for its use: it seems so arrogant to use such a word, but my father doled out a lot of money for my education and I want to let you know that, at times,  it shows.  I think it also very important to note that I most likely will never ever use it again.  And finally, I think it works in this case, but I am not sure.  Perhaps I should have paid more attention in class. 

OK, so where was I?  Ah, yes.  I swore never to go bedless again.  Which brings us to the past few years after finding myself a reluctant passenger on the SS Florida.  I have availed myself often of places to lay my head while in Northlandia and I should once again thank those who have provided that luxury and service.  Beyond those friends and family I have foisted myself upon and for those friends who have offered, this is the time I give thanks once again.   Thanks.



One of the openings into the woods for the homeless right next door to Bedlam.


So what does this all have to do with the guy above?  "There but by the grace of God, go I."  Whether by financial calamity, madness, laziness, developmental slowness, or sheer bad luck, the line that separates the bedded and the unbedded can be thin.  I was lucky.  I had the support of family and friends, I worked hard, I endured my share of suffering and enjoyed the good times.  I married and had great kids.  I did what was necessary.  But there are those who have not nearly enough of the things I took for granted.  Today I am thankful and terribly, terribly aware of my good fortune.  That man in the pictures slept on a cold cement floor that night.  I suspect he stayed there because they have been flushing out the woods adjacent to Bedlam of an army of homeless.  I walk by the woods and you can see their camps, their trash, their homes.  Wooded area that hides them for a while until the authorities arrive to drive them to some other quiet secluded place.  




It is that perspective that I need to whisper to myself every so often about the unabashed luck of being me.  This morning I scream it to you.  


ADDENDUM:

In what was supposed to be a short little post about luck and one's place in the world, this has expanded into a two-cup-of-coffee essay.  

The phrase "There but by the grace of God, go I" has been attributed to a few people through history, but the oldest reference is to a fellow by the name of John Bradford.  Mr. Bradford lived in the 16th century and was an educated man who was prominent in the protestant Church of England.  As people were led to the gallows he would often say, "There but for the grace of God goes John Bradford."  

As luck or cruelty would have it, he was jailed for inciting mob action, a thoroughly trumped up charge and sent to the Tower of London.  Hey folks, not much of an appeal process once you get there, and on July1st, 1555 he and three others were burned at the stake.  Before the fire took hold he glanced over at a young man  and said, "Be of good comfort brother, for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord tonight," which seems particularly in poor taste as they are about to become human shish kabob's.        
   

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rough Seas

Going to the beach on nice calm sunny days is nice.  Going after a storm is just as plain exhilarating.  Last month after a particularly crisp blow around here we went down to Pass-A-Grille which is at the southernmost tip of the protusion some call home.  




Look clear down at the bottom and you'll see Cabbage Key.  Pass-A-Grille is right above.



Going early before the shell poachers is a requisite.  Churning seas often brings interesting sea shells onto he beach.  This first picture is not at night.  Frankly i have no idea, other than to say the camera was on Auto and the sensor focused on the foreground, thus blackening out everything else. 

It is a fail, but an interesting one.  










The rest of the pictures were better and I did some tweaking here and there, thus the differences.  Experimentation is fun but confusing.  How do you know what is the best setting until you actually get home?  Anyway, as the time went on I noticed that the pictures became fuzzier.  What was happening was the wind was blowing junk onto the lens.  Thank heavens, because I thought I was going blind. 

I'm going to sift through the rest and if I come up with any others I'll post them, but again, with the blurriness it was kind of a wasted shooting opportunity.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits



1.  They Are Here

Remember last week I mentioned I saw a UFO fly over Bedlam?   Well, I saw another one the other day, must have been last Friday morning.  




That is the complex right across from me and I was taking a picture of the jet heading into the sun, which you can just barely see if you look close enough.  By the way, the building on the right is the racquetball courts that Norah and I go and play "Fetch the Tennis Ball."  

I grabbed my iPhone and quickly snapped a picture because I liked the whole jet trail and sun thing.  Just as I did this craft came into view.  It seemed to have a particular coloring around it like some kind of energy propulsion field.   It was saucer shaped, with upper and lower structures.  It even had some kind of antenna protruding from the upper section.  It hovered briefly, quietly, then in a nanosecond sped off toward the Love Toys adult shop across Route 19 next to Bedlam.  Maybe some Valentine's day shopping for that special alien back home?   They are here.  And in Florida.  Imagine traveling billions of miles, not to mention light years and end up in this place.  It certainly explains some of the people I saw at the Wagon Wheel Flea Market last week.

2.  Plant City  

Plant City Florida is a squalid little place outside Tampa that grows strawberries and hosts a festival.  I had the pleasure to travel with the current Mrs. Blythe and son Brendan on Sunday to meet my current sister and brother in-law.  Parksdale Farm is a Tanner Orchard-like place that features jams, salsa, gifts and all things strawberry.  The line snaked all the way around here to there with people queuing up for this delicacy: a shortcake.



I have no idea how many calories this monstrosity contains.  I did my best, not wanting to be rude, but we first spooned off the mountain of whipped cream and then proceeded with steady determination.  



The way home was hairy.  Does anyone ever use the word hairy anymore to describe snarky or dangerous?  Tampa is a cesspool of traffic that even my Garmin can't handle with any efficiency.  We got lost because Greta went mute with fear.  

3.  The Equalizer

I'm not much of an action movie guy.  Fist fights that go on forever with really no purpose, cars going airborne and flipping to one side (because that's how they launch them) gets tiresome and boring.  I had the misfortune to see The Equalizer last weekend and hated it from about the 20 minute mark.  I laughed in all the wrong places like when Denzel does the slo-mo hero stud-walk out of the warehouse where he blew away 25 bad guys.  And where rain drops fell off his eyelids in those really close-up scenes where we  figure out this guy is a really aware person.  

Denzel Washington, now 60, wants to show everyone he's a real cool bad-ass.  An AARP bad-ass in the same vein as Liam and Sylvester, which doesn't say much for Denzel or his agent.  I'm sure he got paid a lot and I hear they are talking a sequel, but really, folks, it was a bad cliche with absolutely no new way of looking at the genre.  Not only that but it bordered on porn-death: corkscrews, tree trimmers, barbed wire and mallets, just a few of the methods this guy killed the villains.  I'm still shaking my head just thinking about how bad it was.  But there must be a lot of people into that sort of thing because it made a mint.  You've been warned.

4.  Something Wonderful Is Going To Happen

Yes, I have been toying with you.  Can't say yet what is going to happen, but whatever it is will be wonderful.  I tossed about four balls up in the air, one has come down in a disappointing fashion, but three remain.  They will start dropping soon and at that time I can tell you what is going to be so damn wonderful.  Maybe next week, maybe the week after.  Until then be patient.  

5.  Postcard Inn

The Wombie arrives with his entourage on the 23rd of this month and will be playing golf, maybe having a beer or many and according to this Google earth picture of the Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach, maybe sunning on the beach.  




It's about 13 miles away and a half hour or so to get there so it won't be any trouble to slip down and see him/them.  

The long range forecasts have predicted seasonal to above seasonal temps so I am optimistic the weather will be conducive for golf, sunning and partaking in adult beverages.   

6.  Did You Know?

Did you know that if we taxed religious institutions in the U.S. we would be 83 billion dollars richer, and that that would pay for every person on food stamps and house every homeless person, with some left over? 

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Funny Thing Happened On My Way To See Comet Lovejoy - Part 2

Today we revisit the morning picture taking attempt to capture Comet Lovejoy started last Monday.  By now I have left the lonely gravel road near Parrish, Florida and the Skyway rest, and travelled to the Gulfport pier.   













The sun was coming up and I had failed to capture Lovejoy.  But I was able to get some fairly decent pictures of a sunrise and felt that that helped soothe the pain of failure.  Thanks as always for coming along for the ride.