The 23rd

When 2 + 3 Is Not 5,
Some Call it an Enigma

Numbers and the Internet. Man-made to gauge and track the world, they’re now endless and will go on long after we’re gone. As matter can always be reduced to its numeric essence, so all manner of human expression may one day reside on the digital realm.
Take 23, for instance, the number assigned by fate to my first breath. Like with other numerals, there are hundreds of Websites about it, on math and numerology to cults and strange coincidences, with everything in between, besides, of course, celebrity birthdays.
Age-wise, few are like 23, and most of anyone would consider it among life’s best years. Perhaps. We tend to appreciated this sort of thing when we’re either heading towards it, or receding from it. But it is a time when choices are wide open and self-fulfillment is still a priority.
A mind-boggling assortment of arcana is related to 23 as a prime number, but even as its complexities keep planets spinning, and the Space Station aloft, few are wise to them. We all have 23 pairs of chromosomes, though, even if they no longer dictate one’s gender.
A curious statistical theory, the Birthday Paradox, says that within a group of 23 people, chances are, two share the same day of birth. That’s the least amount of people to whom such a likelihood is higher than 50 percent. But please, don’t go asking strangers for their day.

Yes, there are at least two weird groups that attribute 23 a special meaning. Discordianism associates it with chaos, with some mumbo-jumbo about inverting the pyramids (you read it right), and the goddess Eris. By the way, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built with 2.300 stones, so there you have it.
As for 23rdians, they see the number as an enigma permeating all spheres of existence, claiming author Robert Anton Wilson as a spiritual mentor of sorts. Wilson, in turn, may have caught the 23 fever from William Burroughs, who once told him about his own obsession with it.
Add to these, well, peculiar people, Nobel Prize winner John Forbes Nash. Despite his work on economics, he was almost better known for having a strange, and tragic, thing about the number (and Pope John XXIII, but if you have to ask, don’t). And of course, (more)
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Good Morning to All

Happy Birthday to Ya. Would
That Be Cash or Credit Card?

Minds of the practical kind know it all too well; birthdays can be expensive. And tricky too, specially if it’s your own mate’s, who happens to be picky about that sort of thing. Something else is increasing the overall price of celebrating you being around: the song everybody sings. (Don’t you dare, if you know what’s good for you.)
Good Morning to All, the tune American sisters Patty and Mildred Hill wrote in 1893 for school children to sing, somehow became Happy Birthday to You in the early 1900s, through a very serendipitous journey. Along the way, it changed copyright owners, got thrown into a corporate balance sheet and became very expensive indeed. 
Technically, every time someone sings it, which probably happens worldwide thousands of times a day, someone, or rather, some institution collects some dough. It used to be the estate of Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R.R. Forman, who were given credit for the new lyrics in 1935. Now, rather than pay up, some want this tradition changed.
Which means, there’s a new Happy Birthday song around the block, after a radio station in New Jersey set up a contest and chose a winner to replace the old tune. But it’s unlike that you’ll be hearing it sang by a group of underpaid waiters at your local diner anytime soon. These things take time.
Which is just as well. Nothing to remind you of its passage than that over familiar melody, and those repetitive chorus, which by the way, get different lyrics in different countries, not necessarily only its translation. But in English, it may only underline how old you really are. And that’s almost unbearable.
That could be also what’s behind WFMU‘s idea, when it teamed with the Free Music Archive to replace the copyrighted song. But the main point was to send the new one straight to public domain, so no one would (more)
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Curtain Raiser

Land of Fire & End of Water, Colltalers

Words lose currency. For instance, fatality, as in ‘something determined by fate,’ an accident. It certainly can’t be used for the slaughter of school children in Parkland, Florida. Or for the water about to run out in Cape Town, South Africa. Someone, quick, go tell it to the media.
Because both last week’s carnage, caused by a disturbed kid with an assault rifle, or the ecological disaster expected to hit a major world city in May, were expected and thoroughly predicted. Not by seers or mystics, but by the logical progression of facts. Both could’ve been avoided.
That may sound callous if it wasn’t for the bottomless callousness displayed once again by the president and congressmen. Predictably, while many were AWOL, they all rehashed old misleading National Rifle Association boilerplates, which is fitting since they’re all sponsored by it.
Something’s different this time around, though; the surviving children themselves. Eloquent and articulated, many quickly seized the moment to rebuff Trump on national TV, and indict elected politicians for profiteering from their tragedy. Suddenly, they were the adults in the room.
To expect that the normalization of school shooting can be reversed is a political matter, and the ascendancy of a new segment, that of high school students engaged in resetting the conversation about guns in this country, is more than merely welcome, it’s crucially overdue.
This is, after all, the demographics closest to affect change in a very short run. As they approach the age of voting, Continue reading

Seen From Above

Pictures of Earth at Night From
Space: Stunning Beauty & Concern

Watching Earth from 199 miles up has changed how we see ourselves, our cities and the planet, thanks in part to photos taken from satellite and by the astronauts at the International Space Station. As they’re staying ever longer up there, aerial photography has greatly improved.
All that these recent photos have in common is that they’re all night pictures, but boy, aren’t they striking. They’re also surprisingly revealing and instructive about what’s going on down here. Hopefully, they’ll become valuable tools for raising awareness and change.
Credit should be given to NASA which, despite its current shoestring budget, still manages to wow us with some of their ongoing projects. One such program is the Earth Observatory, which is a comprehensive six-month study, using high-resolution night images of Earth, to ‘gain insight on human activity and poorly understood natural events.’
The now little government agency that still can often works in conjunction with other scientific research teams, such the National Geophysical Data Center, NOAA, as well as the European Space Agency. The ISS is also an integral part of such programs, as it orbits through different patches from satellites.
Whereas the Earth Observatory is a set study, the astronauts are free to photograph Earth following their own instincts. And photograph away they do, to stunning and quite meaningful results. Whether they direct (more)
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Curtain Raiser

Teaching the Kids Well, Colltalers

Explaining the Great Swindle of 2016, and how Americans fell so easy to the Con of Trump, is now a full-time job for those in the business of the ‘yes, but.’ Sure, there were the Russians, the hackers, money in the campaign, a corporate-serving media and an uninformed electorate.
But adding it all up and more hasn’t been enough to provide a definitive set of actionable answers many seek. A few psychiatrists threw the mental card on the table – is the president really fit? Yet others brought up an intriguing theory that offers fresh insights: bad parenting.
Pointing to flaws in the way kids are raised in this country, it traces a correlation between political apathy and either overprotective parental interference, or full neglect. All helped by a mostly uncritical educational system, and demands of a gadget-driven social media culture.
Before going further on this venue, though, it’s worth mentioning that this is no theory. Not yet, anyway. Like the punditry of the Trump administration by prominent psychiatrists, invoking parenting to explain matters of government is no serious academic research, and books and studies in the matter are yet to be published. Apart from several articles, there hasn’t been any scientific endorsement of this approach.
Neither there are sociological papers on the matter and, as far as it’s known, no academic institution has promoted research on such subject. Which doesn’t mean it’s not worth delving into it or that one day, it won’t branch out as a scientific theory. Let’s hear it from the moms, then.
Several books about raising kids, written by Americans living in mostly contemporary European countries, focus on their radically different approach to parenting. The works often sound like indictments to values we hold high, and end on a similar note: we’re spoiling our children, preventing them from experiencing life as it happens, and imbuing them with false notions of safety and ultra-rigid moralistic attitudes.
To jump to the conclusion that all this ‘helicoptering,’ and puzzlingly almost irresponsible, culture of raising insulated kids is what has eroded our collective common sense, or that it boosted racism, class struggle, and political alienation, is a stretch. But when the president himself is accused of sex misconduct by 20 women, and Continue reading

The Space in Between

Silica, New York Hacks
& How to Sell Your Soul

Here’s for holding more than one thought at the time. It’s easy to overlook the many worlds one goes through, and ignores, in the course of a day. Or curses we allow ourselves to be trapped. But fear not: others have been there and escaped. All it takes is an unbiased focus.
It’s hard to incorporate certain words into conversation, such as silica, let alone to add tips on how to make the best out of it. Or hacks to suggest out-of-towners. And while at it, souls be damned, but why not get the most out of a good, old-fashioned blood pact with the devil?
It’s all in a New York minute, as they used to say when a movie followed news at 11. One would need change to make a phonecall, and a camera to take a picture. In those deceivingly quaint times, time itself seemed to last longer. But if you could get a glimpse of the past as it really happened, you’d catch everybody running.
The years when one has no concept of how things even worked before their era end when they first get fired from a job. Or step onto the spilled contents of someone else’s stomach. When you realize it can happen to you too, but at least, you’re not the only one. Granted, it’s as twisted a consolation as sex before breaking up.
Or when one stops thinking about sex. For life really starts once you get it where it comes from. But it’s all so brief; linger much, and you’re already on the other side, that river has passed you by. But while fools dwell on counting waves, the quick sells a self-help kit. Hence, the quirks, hints, and multiple vices of living in the big city.

Sometimes one can’t avoid using one of those detestable buzzwords like iconic, or hacking. But if there’s anything that gets very close to both is those little silica bags that come inside a new shoebox or latest gadget. You’d think they’re poisonous but you’d be dead wrong.
What they are is stuff that clogs our landfills. Good thing then that you can use them for drying you phone, after fishing it out of the toilet bowl. Or stick them into your smelly luggage (please, don’t use the same ones). They’re handy for dissipating fog too, but you’re not crazy of visiting us during winter, are you?
Silica is also good at preserving old photos. Chances are, though, your favorites are already on the cloud, and the old ones got trashed by your ex. In any case, be creative and use those bags (more)
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Curtain Raiser

About That Gorilla, Colltalers

The first reminder – and if anything, this is a but a reminder – is that, once it starts, ending it is unlikely. No such thing as a warning either: we’ll lose count by the second shot. Also, while it won’t drag on as climate change, once the first nuke strike lands, so will all others.
It’s crucial that this generation gets the gist of it, and fast, for some are working to normalize it on our minds. Even ‘extreme rhetoric’ pales compared to reality, and talk about ‘tactical weapons’ is a deranged lie. So, again: a nuclear war may leave survivors but no survivable life.
Let’s get down to the nasty of it, for a moment. It’ll be unpleasant, and many may’ve already averted their eyes while hearing once more about the gory details of a nuclear hit. Get acquainted with them, though; they’re handy if coming across some sweet folks still needing convincing. Many movies did inform us about what may happen, but only a handful are realistic enough to show it without a sugar-coating happy ending.
First, they’ll take Manhattan. For before 9/11, few would bet that terror would punish America by picking its most open, liberal, and diverse city. But when New York got hit, the pain inflicted was but a small payback to millions living in hellish war zones they blame on the U.S.
Scientists at the Center for Social Complexity at George Mason U. have run some pretty dire computer simulations of a blast to the Big Apple. And found that a bomb with half the power of the one that razed Hiroshima, for instance, would instantly level downtown Manhattan.
That likelihood is corroborated by Nukemap, an interactive map using Google API, created by Stevens Institute of Technology historian of science Alex Wellerstein. Besides creating a 1.09 square km radius fireball, a 150kt H-bomb, would instantly kill some 386.000 people.
Plus, given that about 10 million people, including tourists, move in and out of the island at any given time, another 600.000 or more would be injured. Obviously it gets immediately worse. An air blast would cause most residential buildings to collapse, destroying parts of midtown, Brooklyn and east New Jersey. Mortality in following weeks, due to spread out radiation, is expected to be from 50 to 90% of anyone around.
It comes without mentioning that such a catastrophe would, at least momentarily, overwhelm city and state’s health and emergency systems. Even though this is New York, massive amounts of concrete of its back-to-back tall buildings, now collapsed, Continue reading