The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: September 29, 2018
“Here’s something you don’t see everyday” version
Today’s Brunch includes political material. This may contribute to upset stomach, nausea, headache, and feelings of bitterness, irritability, and hopelessness.
If you smell gas or start to feel the buzz of righteous indignation, shut your mouth to avoid inhaling or exhaling poisonous fumes and leave the room immediately to protect yourself and others.
You don’t see this every day: Getting the leaves’ view of autumn
You don’t see this every day: Honesty in marketing
You don’t see this every day: Slap-happy, the octupus way
A Go-Pro camera caught the odd moment when a seal with an octopus in its mouth slapped a New Zealand kayaker in the face with said mollusk. Yikes!
You don’t see this every day: A beluga whale in the Thames
Speaking of sea creatures appearing in surprising places, NPR reports how a beluga whale was spotted swimming in the River Thames east of London, far from its normal habitat.
“Belugas are generally an Arctic species that, in Europe, are usually found in the seas of northern Norway and Russia, Phillip Clapham, director of the cetacean program at the Marine Mammal Laboratory at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, told NPR.”
The beluga has been named Benny. Of course.
You don’t see this every day: An increasingly wobbly planet
When looking at the Earth from afar it appears to be a perfect sphere, but that actually isn’t the case. Because Earth isn’t uniform on all sides due to land masses that shift and change over time, our planet actually wobbles a bit when it spins. Now, a new study by researchers with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and several universities and science centers has pinpointed the causes of Earth’s imperfect spin, called “polar motion,” and they found that humans are contributing to it.
The researchers used a wealth of data gathered over 100 years to build mathematical models to trace the causes of the wobble and found that three factors are at play, and mankind is responsible for one of them.
The three factors are:
- Glacial rebound: the pressure and release of pressure by the thick ice sheets on land masses.
- Mantle convection: the movement of liquid rock in the Earth’s core causing the plates on the surface to be in constant flux.
- Massive ice loss: particularly seen in Greenland and other areas.
According to the article:
…researchers estimate that Greenland has lost roughly 7,500 gigatons, or 7,500,000,000,000 metric tons of ice due to global warming. All that ice loss has happened in the 20th century, and greenhouse gas production has been cited as the primary culprit. Losing all that mass has caused a significant shift on the planet and has contributed to the wobble as well.
You don’t see this every day: A “new” letter from Galileo
The international journal Nature reports:
It had been hiding in plain sight. The original letter — long thought lost — in which Galileo Galilei first set down his arguments against the church’s doctrine that the Sun orbits the Earth has been discovered in a misdated library catalogue in London. Its unearthing and analysis expose critical new details about the saga that led to the astronomer’s condemnation for heresy in 1633.
The seven-page letter, written to a friend on 21 December 1613 and signed “G.G.”, provides the strongest evidence yet that, at the start of his battle with the religious authorities, Galileo actively engaged in damage control and tried to spread a toned-down version of his claims.
Many copies of the letter were made, and two differing versions exist — one that was sent to the Inquisition in Rome and another with less inflammatory language. But because the original letter was assumed to be lost, it wasn’t clear whether incensed clergymen had doctored the letter to strengthen their case for heresy — something Galileo complained about to friends — or whether Galileo wrote the strong version, then decided to soften his own words.
Galileo did the editing, it seems. The newly unearthed letter is dotted with scorings-out and amendments — and handwriting analysis suggests that Galileo wrote it. He shared a copy of this softened version with a friend, claiming it was his original, and urged him to send it to the Vatican.
You don’t see this every day: An airline crew forgetting to pressurize the cabin
As Jet Airways Flight 9W697 took off from Mumbai on Thursday, something terrifying quickly became clear: The cabin was not properly pressurized.
Oxygen masks dropped from the cabin’s ceiling. “Thirty out of 166 passengers experienced nose and ear bleeding [and] some also complained of headache,” an official with India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation said, according to the Hindustan Times.
The flight turned back “due to loss in cabin pressure,” according to a statement from the Indian international airline.
But as the Hindustan Times reported, the country’s civil aviation regulator stated that this happened because, “during the climb, crew forgot to select switch to maintain cabin pressure.”
…According to PTI, another unnamed passenger said that the plane “circled overhead for around half-an-hour before landing. There was no announcement (related to the problem) from the crew.”
The airline said five people were hospitalized and have been released. It added that 144 of the original flight’s passengers have been transported to Jaipur on a different flight, and 17 decided “to travel at another point in time.”
You don’t see this every day: Dining with a view like this
You don’t see this every day: “America’s Dad” jailed as a sexual predator
One of the saddest spectacles I have witnessed in my life is the fall of Bill Cosby. Turns out that one of the world’s great comedians, father figure to many of us who saw him as an example of paternal wisdom and humor, and star of one of my favorite TV shows ever, has been a sexual predator who used his celebrity power to drug women and take advantage of them.
This is a matter of great grief to me.
You don’t see this every day: A riveting partisan spectacle
“The hearings were a Rorschach test for America’s tribes.” (Roger Cohen, NYT)
Many were riveted to their TVs, radios, and internet sites Thursday as the Senate Judicial Committee heard radically different stories from Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Now, I don’t want to downplay the pervasive problem of sexual harassment or sexual violence. Nor do I wish to say anything to diminish the testimony of Dr. Ford, who by all accounts was a credible and sympathetic witness. And, although I don’t think Judge Kavanaugh did himself any favors by exhibiting a partisan spirit, a lack of judicial temperament, and some strange interactions with members of Congress, this post is not really about stating my opinion regarding what I think happened or its impact on his nomination.
But I really have to lament one of the most public examples yet of our broken political system and the hyper-partisanship that makes it impossible for virtually anybody in this country to give a testimony or express an opinion without it being interpreted through harshly polarized lenses. Both the left and the right talked right past each other and it seems that never the twain shall meet in any form of understanding or compromise again.
This is especially unfortunate because this unbridgeable divide has infected even the process that gives us Supreme Court judges, the one institution that is supposed to be about the rule of law and not partisan politics.
In fact, one of the saddest things I heard that day was when the nominee himself angrily blamed his travails on a left-wing conspiracy, calling the process a “calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election.” He even called it “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” [what???] and alleged that it was funded by “millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups.” Now, whether or not any of those assertions have any merit, this was an oddly partisan and over-the-top emotional rant from a supposedly sober-minded judge.
And Senator Graham, please, take a tonic.
As Emma Grey Ellis says in a piece at Wired:
These [liberal vs. conservative] stances are wildly, maybe disastrously, different. Each side casts the other as inappropriate, and lionizes their own entrants into the fray. And as these narratives grow, change, and refract their way across the internet—being discussed and rehashed by people in their own corners of the political spectrum as they go—the gap between them is likely to widen. Partisan narrative has come to trump attempted objectivity. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where that’s less appropriate than when trying to determine whether a man is fit to be an objective arbiter of truth and justice for an entire nation.
You don’t see this every day: The world laughing at a U.S. President
Here’s a first. At the U.N. this week, an international audience laughed at the President of the U.S. Despite his claims that they were laughing “with” him, it was perfectly clear that folks from other countries saw that the emperor has no clothes and were mocking his nakedness. Claims, such as those he made, that his administration has accomplished more than almost any other in U.S. history, drew snickers and then outright laughter as the delayed translation of his words got through to those listening.
Furthermore, and this is the part that I find utterly unfunny and downright dangerous, is when President Trump asserted, “We reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.” In contrast to a world of cooperation and partnership, he advocated for a doctrine of unilateralism that has a history no one who is sane wants to repeat.
Nationalism and unilateralism ruled in a world that led to World War I. Failed efforts to establish a Wilsonian world of cooperation “to end all wars” led to World War II.
In my opinion, one of the greatest achievements in the history of the world, led by the U.S., was the rebuilding of Europe and Japan after WWII and the establishment of a world in which nations entered into alliances and cooperated to prevent nuclear war, deal with crises around the world, and promote international relations and agreements based on peaceful partnership rather than each nation looking out for its own interests.
It has never led to a utopia, obviously. The world is fraught with problems. But, despite the widespread opinion that our planet is devolving into chaos, take a look at the powerful study, “The short history of global living conditions and why it matters that we know it” by Max Roser, an economist at the University of Oxford. This study contends that on virtually all of the key dimensions of human material well-being — poverty, literacy, health, freedom, and education — the world is a far better place than it was just a couple of centuries ago. You can also read this Forbes piece by Steve Denning, summarizing specific ways in which the world has never been better.
In my view, much of that is due to the progress made since World War II, especially as people and nations have learned to live and work together in peace. “Globalism” is not a dirty word.
Some are telling us now that we need to go back. Why in the world would anyone want that?
You don’t see this every day: The forgotten art of Cowboy Poetry
A New York Times article looks forward to the 35th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in January of 2019. It’s a great read, and it makes me want to hear more of these mesmerizing poets and storytellers.
Here’s a taste:
You don’t see this every day: Wisdom like this. The quote of the week.
When I was a monk, I thought that the rule of silence was mainly in service of contemplation. Now, after many years of suffering poisoned discourse in the halls of academe, I have come to understand that silence was mainly about charity. As we learn every day in our new world of constant chatter, savage judgment, and long-distance shaming via (anti)social media, when speech is totally without restraint, mercilessness is an almost inevitable consequence.
• Luke Timothy Johnson [emphasis mine]