Airy Persiflage

Airy Persiflage

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Thanksgiving

This photo is by photographer Gerald Waller, and was published in Life magazine in 1946. It shows an Austrian orphan with a pair of new shoes given to him by the Red Cross.

It may be my all-time favorite photo. It seemed appropriate for today.

New shoes

Airy Persiflage
Politics

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Little Note Nor Long Remember

Abraham Lincoln delivered his Gettysburg Address 150 years ago today — or as Gwen Ifill said tonight on the PBS NewsHour, “four score and seventy years ago.”

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns put together this mashup of famous people reciting the address:

Airy Persiflage
Music

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Not Much Time!

Yesterday was my sixty-first birthday.

That means I’m frantically busy now, because today was the start of my sixty-second year — although I must say it already seems to have lasted longer than that.

My theme song for the year:

Airy Persiflage
Science

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The Most Interesting Man in the World

Today would have been physicist Richard Feynman’s 95th birthday.

I can’t think of a better way to observe this day than to listen to him talk, or to read his first memoir, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman.

This is a long video — about 50 minutes. It’s well worth the time to watch it all.

Airy Persiflage

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Abe Lincoln is 203!

Years ago, when I first heard about plans to “colorize” some old movies, I was very curious about the process, but opposed it for “artistic” reasons.

In the meantime, I’ve seen a handful of colorized movies, and I think my artistic objections were justified.

But just a few days ago, I got this photo in email:

Lincoln Colorized

(Click for a larger image.)

Mygrapefruit is a photo retoucher who also colorizes old photos. This seems to bring Abraham Lincoln back to life on this, his 203rd birthday.

Airy Persiflage

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Personal History

Thirty-eight years ago today, at 10:00 PM, I started work at my first full-time job at the Ohio State University.

I was a custodial worker. I spent a long time last night trying to remember dozens of people I worked with back then.

It was my intention to work there for a few years to pay my way through school, but things don’t always turn out as we imagine.

Thirty years and twenty-five days after I started, I retired from Ohio State. Happily, I had moved up the employment ladder in the meantime. I retired with a job title of “Senior Systems Programmer.”

As it happens, retirement is the career I was born for.

Airy Persiflage
Computers

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RIP, Steve Jobs

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs has died.

He shared life lessons:

Update:

Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams wrote:

I once thought his success was mostly a matter of luck. Anyone can be at the right place at the right time.

But then he did it again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

He was my only hero.

Links to many more tributes in the comments at TidBITS.

Airy Persiflage

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Emmett Till’s 70th Birthday

Emmett TillToday would have been Emmett Till’s 70th birthday.

Would have been, but Emmett Till was murdered when he was 14 years old.

A negro boy from Chicago visiting relatives in Mississippi, he may not have known that there were places in 20th-Century America still untouched by civilization. He carelessly violated one of the countless “unwritten rules” of the savage Mississippi culture, and for that he was kidnapped and brutally tortured to death.

His body was found three days later, horribly mutilated. His mother insisted on an open-casket funeral. She said, “There was just no way I could describe what was in that box. No way. And I just wanted the world to see.” Photos of the body were published in JET magazine (Warning: the photos are extremely disturbing) and other publications around the country.

In retrospect, it seems that the photos opened a lot of eyes to the nature of race relations in the American South. It was no longer possible to be blind. It was no longer possible to look away.

A little more than three months after Emmett Till was killed, the Montgomery Bus Boycott began, launching the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

It seems to me that the Civil Rights Movement is bookended with the murders of children: Emmett Till in 1955, and four little girls in 1963.

It wasn’t all that long ago. Emmett Till would be just 70 now.

Airy Persiflage
Politics

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Happy Birthday, John Glenn

One day in the autumn of 1970, I was given a ticket to an Ohio Democratic Party fundraising event at Veteran’s Memorial here in Columbus.

I was seated way back, at a table far from the podium. I was close enough that when a well-known statewide official or candidate rose to speak, I could say, “Ooh, that’s really him!” but distant enough that I felt like a spectator rather than a participant.

As I made my way out at the end of the event, I found myself walking right past John Glenn, one of the first American astronauts. I eagerly shook his hand. He said something like, “How are you?” but I couldn’t say anything in reply. I was in awe.

Today is John Glenn’s 90th birthday.

Since my first encounter with him, he became a U.S. Senator from Ohio. After he retired from the Senate, he flew on the Space Shuttle and became the oldest human being to go into space.

Happy Birthday, Senator Glenn. I’m still in awe.

Airy Persiflage

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Channeling Pat Robertson

The BBC has an astonishing silent video of a huge dust storm in Arizona.

After watching it, I feel compelled to channel the spirit of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson:

Maybe God is saying, “You know, I made Mexicans, too.”

I think I do a pretty good impression of those guys, not because I have the same message, but because I use the same methodology.

I have a political bone to pick with Arizona, so when a disaster strikes there, I seize upon it to say, “God agrees with me. Therefore, I’m right! Congratulations, me!”

Airy Persiflage

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Prize the Doubt

Hilarious, though it’s being reported as news, so I guess we’re still listening:

The evangelical broadcaster who left followers crestfallen by his failed prediction that last Saturday would be Judgement Day says he miscalculated.

Harold Camping said it had “dawned” on him that God would spare humanity “hell on Earth for five months” and the apocalypse would happen on 21 October.

Billboard: That Was Awkward. No one knows the day or the hour... -- Matthew 24:36

I’ve read a lot of comments online that say “This is not a reflection on Christianity or the Bible; obviously these people didn’t interpret the Bible correctly.”

I believe — without any supporting facts; I’m going on faith here — that the majority of Biblical literalists didn’t actually believe that the world would end on May 21.

Camping and his followers represent a small fraction of Biblical literalists; literalists are a small fraction of all Christian fundamentalists, and fundamentalists are a small fraction of all Christians. (There are literalists who would say that anyone who isn’t a literalist isn’t a true fundamentalist, and there are fundamentalists who would say that anyone who isn’t a fundamentalist isn’t a true Christian. Cliques at work.)

Camping’s failure doesn’t cast a shadow of disrepute on the Bible or on Christianity, but it does cast a shadow. What it brings into disrepute is certainty.

It seems to me that, whatever you may believe, there should always be a small part of your mind whispering, “But I could be wrong.” As Robert Browning wrote:

Rather I prize the doubt
Low kinds exist without

The doubting part of your mind should always be on the lookout for evidence that you’re mistaken about anything you believe. The continual search for better understanding is the essence of being human.

Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth’s smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three-parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!

For thence, — a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks, —
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i’ the scale.

Certainty isn’t the end of the search for understanding; it’s the abandonment of the search. It’s the end of the road.

Airy Persiflage

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Only the Righteous

Okay, here’s my theory.

The Rapture actually did take place yesterday. The Righteous actually were taken up to Heaven. The self-righteous, who told us how we’d be left behind unless we became more like them? None of them made the cut.

Airy Persiflage

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This Time for Sure

This time for sure, I think.

As you have no doubt heard by now, an evangelical broadcaster with lots of followers is predicting that tomorrow will be the end of the world. I think he’s probably right.

Evangelicals have been predicting the end of the world for a couple centuries, now, and so far, all the predictions have been false. The present-day prophet has been wrong once before, himself. After that embarrassment, he went back to the old drawing board, studied very hard, double-checked his math, and this time he’s sure. Doesn’t the law of averages tell us that he’s due?

In the unlikely event that the world doesn’t end tomorrow — or maybe by Monday; I’m willing to allow some slop for rounding errors — I’m going to have to re-evaluate the credence these people deserve.

In such a case, the next time one of them says, “God wants you to do this,” or “God forbids you to do that,” I will be sorely tempted to reply, “Hah! Like you know!”

But I’m sure it won’t come to that. This time it’s for sure!

Airy Persiflage

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Sneaky Sign

Okay, now I think somebody’s just playing with certain Republicans’ heads.

This Sign is in Spanish When You're Not Looking

(Via DarkRoastedBlend.)

Airy Persiflage

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The Final Moment

Daily Kos looks behind the scenes at Osama bin Laden’s final moment:

Ah, yes, my [Terrorist Mastermind Daily Brief]! I don’t even know why I bother reading them anymore. They always say the same thing: ‘Trail is cold. Trail is cold. Trail is cold.’ Look, it’s been ten years…I got away with it. I tell you, this is going to be the last TMDB I ever read. I simply do not need them anymore.

Warning: some may be offended by the language.