a little online jalp

(occasional green & peaceful thoughts)


Leave a comment

Terry Pratchett, Rest In Peace (but not too peacefully)

I read the sad news today that Sir Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld books (and a good bit of good bits more), passed away yesterday.  His works were funny and serious — he often and avidly rejected the idea that those two were irreconcilable opposites — and inspiring, to me at least.

Here, for a sample — a taste of a Hogswatch treat, perhaps — are two longish quotes from Hogfather, a book which loosely revolves around the jolly fat fellow in red and white who delivers toys around the Disc from a sleigh pulled by four hogs (Gouger, Rooter, Tusker, and Snouter, if you must know).

The first quote is Death’s adoptive granddaughter Susan being concerned about her grandfather’s odd behavior.

/=========================\
She thought:  thousands, millions of years in the same job.  Not a nice one.  It isn’t always cheerful old men passing away at a great age.  Sooner or later, it was bound to get anyone down.

Someone had to do something.  It was like that time when Twyla’s grandmother had started telling everyone that she was the Empress of Krull and had stopped wearing clothes.

And Susan was bright enough to know that the phrase “Someone ought to do something” was not, by itself, a helpful one.  People who used it never added the rider “and that someone is me.”  But someone ought to do something, and right now the whole pool of someones consisted of her, and no one else.

Twyla’s grandmother had ended up in a nursing home overlooking the sea at Quirm.  That sort of option probably didn’t apply here.  Besides, he’d be unpopular with the other residents.
\=========================/

And the second is a later conversation between Susan and Death (who talks in ALL CAPITALS) observed only by the author and Death’s pale horse — Binky.

/=========================\
“All right,” said Susan.  “I’m not stupid.  You’re saying humans need . . . fantasies to make life bearable.”

REALLY?  AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL?  NO.  HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN.  TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.

“Tooth fairies?  Hogfathers?  Little –”

YES.  AS PRACTICE.  YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.

“So we can believe the big ones?”

YES.  JUSTICE.  MERCY.  DUTY.  THAT SORT OF THING.

“They’re not the same at all!”

YOU THINK SO?  THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY.  AND YET —  Death waved a hand.  AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME . . . SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

“Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point –”

MY POINT EXACTLY.

She tried to assemble her thoughts.

THERE IS A PLACE WHERE TWO GALAXIES HAVE BEEN COLLIDING FOR A MILLION YEARS, said Death, apropos of nothing.  DON’T TRY TO TELL ME THAT’S RIGHT.

“Yes, but people don’t think about that,” said Susan.  Somewhere there was a bed . . .

CORRECT.  STARS EXPLODE, WORLDS COLLIDE, THERE’s HARDLY ANYWHERE IN THE UNIVERSE WHERE HUMANS CAN LIVE WITHOUT BEING FROZEN OR FRIED, AND YET YOU BELIEVE THAT A . . . A BED IS A NORMAL THING.  IT IS THE MOST AMAZING TALENT.

“Talent?”

OH, YES.  A VERY SPECIAL KIND OF STUPIDITY.  YOU THINK THE WHOLE UNIVERSE IS INSIDE YOUR HEADS.

“You make us sound mad,” said Susan.  A nice warm bed . . .

NO.  YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN’T TRUE.  HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME? said Death, helping her up on to Binky.
\=========================/

I hope this much inspires you at least to try a Pratchett or two yourself.  (And maybe to think about how the serious bits line up with some Green values. . . .)

Advertisements


Leave a comment

I’m not watching the “Football NIT”

Before I move forward into the New Year and focus on more conventionally political matters, let me say this one thing.

I’m not watching the mockery of a “playoff” for bowl-division (formerly Division 1-A) football.

(Why did I say “not conventionally political”?  Well, the effort smacks of an attempt by big-time college football to protect its trust-like multi-billion-dollar big business from regulation-imposed fairness.  It’s of a par with the legislation just passed here in Michigan to stem the trickle-ish tide of unionizing among college players smart enough to consider protecting their financial and health interests.  Heck, consider the playoff committee’s membership . . . including Condoleezza Rice?!  Oh, she might be an enthusiastic fan . . . but so am I, and so are lots of people more interested in and qualified to judge football than either of us — who also wouldn’t have a chance of being picked for the committee.)

To me, it’s not a true championship playoff tournament unless a team can play its way in by winning its conference.  The NCAA knows how to run a real tournament for football at all other levels.  And it knows how to do it for other sports — think of the basketball tournaments.  Winners of conferences get automatic spots, and the committee is left to fill the brackets with the next-best teams.

This would work fine for a true Division 1-A football tournament.  Automatic bids could go to the winners of the ten conferences:

http://espn.go.com/college-football/standings

leaving six at-large spots.  We could set a limit of two or maybe three at-large representatives from any conference, or encourage the inclusion of any high-ranked team that loses its conference.  But those are negotiable details.

Note that this preserves the possibility that particular bowls keep some or all of their traditional relationships with particular conferences.  That could let more bowls be involved in a four-round 16-team playoff . . . but that in turn, would mean that either

  • the rest of the existing bowls wouldn’t have to reach as deep in the standings for barely eligible teams; or
  • there would have to be more bowls to accommodate all the bowl-eligible teams.

Or else the playoff games themselves would be new games, held separately from the bowls.  The choices are more games or better teams in the games.  (Or maybe a little of both.)   Any way you look at it, there’s more for the fans.  And the NCAA would probably make even more money.

But instead of this tried-and-true model, we get the football equivalent of . . . the NIT.

The National Invitational Tournament was big early on in the history of college basketball.  Before there was an NCAA tournament focused on play-in by conference championships.  In fact, it’s a year older than the NCAA tournament.  How did it work?  A committee hand-picked its own favorite few teams and had them play for a championship.

Was it artificial?  Yep.  Was it controversial?  Sometimes, at least.  Did it survive?  Well, there is still an NIT — and it’s an exciting event with good, deserving teams.  But nobody thinks it’s the national championship.

If we want a real championship, we need a real play-in playoff tournament.  And this ain’t it.  So I’m throwing a flag on the NCAA for unsportsmanlike conduct.  I’m not watching their NIT “playoff” games, or paying any attention to the alleged “champion” crowned by them.  Next year, I’m going to urge the NCAA to do the right thing — and I’ll keep it up for as many years as it takes until they do.  (Much like my efforts with the Green Party.)

And I hope others will do the same.


Leave a comment

Another week, another Opinion For the People . . .

. . . and more “attachment” files I have to come here to post.

Here’s the Opinion itself (1-page PDF) . . . on the Secretary of State’s legal authority to have information she considers “necessary” posted at every precinct in Michigan on election day, and a few ways the authority could be used to make elections work For the People.

And here’s an e-mail to the Bureau of Elections today (2-page PDF), reminding them that they haven’t posted any information on nominees of alternative parties yet — and that “fairness and evenhandedness” are part of the Michigan Constitution’s charge to them to “preserve the purity of elections”.

If you want to see my old 2012 voter-capacity analysis work, or if you have a suggestion for the topic of a future Opinion, please let me know.


Leave a comment

Even somewhat-random acts of kindness can have unforeseen consequences. . . .

You may have heard the story of “Captain Pizza”, a Frontier Airlines pilot who found himself and his passengers unexpectedly grounded for an hour and a half in Wyoming and ordered in Domino’s pizza for everybody.  I heard it on All Things Considered yesterday.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/07/10/330496150/captain-pizza-saves-the-day-but-doesnt-save-himself-a-slice

Corporate detour, kind thoughts, cute tagline of a happy ending for (almost) everyone . . . great story, no?

Well, not quite as happy for anyone on the flight who was lactose- or gluten-intolerant, or had celiac disease.  Or vegans, for that matter.

And the ending might not have been nearly as happy if my sister had been on board that flight.

She is *severely* allergic to the sweeteners in some commercial pizza chains’ sauces. She’d have had to evacuate the plane as soon as the pizza came on board. Which is why, while I respect and appreciate Captain Brandner’s kind thoughts, I also have to wonder what arrangements he or Frontier would have made for her to get where she was going on another flight.


Leave a comment

Want to know *all* your choices for November before you vote strategically in August?

Well, then, this may be a better place to come than the Bureau of Elections Website.  As my campaign Facebook page mentions, the Bureau has a page for listing candidates who have already qualified for the general election — they’ve had it since late March, in fact.  But they haven’t used it, even though they’ve known about me and the other nominees coming out of the Green Party of Michigan’s June 7-8 state convention for a month now.  Heck, they’ve known about the Libertarian nominees for almost two months; their convention was May 17!  Even the US Taxpayers Party of Michigan has had its nomination paperwork in for a week and more since its June 28 convention.

Now, 46% of voters polled by Gallup last month identified themselves as neither Republicans nor Democrats.   (And the percentage has been going up over the past ten years; it could top 50% soon.)  For them (well, us) and for all the Democrats and Republicans who also want to consider voting strategically in the August 5 primaries — in short, For the People — I have created the chart posted here:

chart of alternative candidates for 2014 (latest)

(The chart is posted here because I can’t post it at Facebook; it’s a 6-page PDF document in landscape format.)

It’s based on party Websites, news reports, and the state’s campaign-finance database.  It even has my best guesses for which of the absolutely independent (NPA = “No Party Affiliation”) candidates with active campaign committees are actually running in 2014.  I’ve been in contact with the other alternative party on the Michigan ballot, the Natural Law Party, and hope to update the chart with their nominees if and when.  If anyone else has updated information, please contact me.  And that includes information that the Bureau has finally activated its own general-election candidates page here.

(Incidentally, the Secretary of State could have this information posted at the polls on primary election day — if she considers it “necessary”.  More on the provision of state law that makes this possible, and how else it could be used For the People, soon.)

In the meantime, here is a one-page PDF “Opinion For the People” document on this issue.


Leave a comment

first thought

A first thought  – perhaps a motto – for this blog:

Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system.  We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder.  This will happen if we see the need to revive our sense of belonging to a larger family of life, with which we have shared our evolutionary process.

In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground.  A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other.

That time is now.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has challenged the world to broaden the understanding of peace:  there can be no peace without equitable development; and there can be no development without sustainable management of the environment in a democratic and peaceful space.  This shift is an idea whose time has come.

The late Wangari Maathai of Kenya, from her 2004 Nobel Peace Prize lecture.   She founded the Green Belt Movement — and her country’s Mazingira Green Party.