Robert H. Rines, I salute you!

I am always interested by the things we choose to believe.  For myself, I happen to be a Christian.  Some people find this unbelievable, as I am also a logical and intelligent being.  Some others find it just plain wrong.  But for me, it’s right.  I also collect unicorn figurines, but have currently given up trying to find them in the woods.  However, I would not take it upon myself to disparage others for doing so.

I recently found this blog on global warming and the ‘disappearance’ of the Loch Ness monster.  Now, here are two items believed or not by different people.  As for the more scientific debate of climate change, our understanding of ice ages and interglacials, and whether or not current global warming is our fault, I am not qualified to comment.  I did review the summary of the IPCC report and found that they said that warming and sea levels rising will continue for centuries and there was a less than 5% chance that these increases were caused by natural climate change alone.  So, natural climate change may have some increasing or decreasing impact.

As for Nessie, I am even less of an authority.  There are tons of eyewitness reports.  Of course, people can be mistaken, and many feel that these sitings are of other animals – otters, seals, even deer.  There are other scientific reasons for doubting the existence of the monster, due to the coldness of the water, the Loch’s geologic youth not being able to support such a large animal, and the lack of a sufficient breeding population to sustain the life of such creatures in such a small, confined space.  Plus, there’s always the doubtful quality of existing photos and fakery of both photos and fossil specimens.  Still, this article tracks the dedication of one man’s search for the fabulous beast, and the possible end to his search.

When I found out this guy was from Boston, I decided to find out more about him.  Check out wikipedia here.   He’s listed as a lawyer, researcher, inventor, and composer.  The guy wrote musicals, served in WWII, went to both the Oven Glove and Georgetown.  He’s definitely a smart cookie with a wide variety of skills and interests.  This could mean a couple of things.  It could mean that the guy who developed modern radar and ultrasound is looney-toons.  It might mean that this guy, who seems to be a genuinely nice sort of fellow dedicated to science, education, and the public good, also likes to spend his money on some more fantastical ambitions.  But what does it say on a base level about who he is?  What does it say that this man wants to be the one to find real, scientific proof of Nessie?

At the end of the day, belief remains the hardest thing to disprove.  But without it, would discovery or challenge ever occur?  And who would we be as a species without it?

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1421, 1606, and Wrack

Few may know the significance of these dates and their relation to ocean spume.  I myself was not really aware of them until coming across this article about a map.  Of course, when I saw the headline, I went, ‘oooohh, map!’, because the designs of the cartographers of old fascinate and delight me.  But the idea that the Chinese were first in yet another arena made me chuckle.  Who would I be today if the Americas had turned out Oriental, instead of Occidental?

The description of the map itself reminded me of one of my favorite novels, Wrack, by James Bradley.  In the vein of Eco, it chronicles the story of a modern archaeologist, a dying man, and the age of Australia’s discovery.  I like it, both for the cadence of the words and the winding of the narrative in upon itself.  Since the Chinese map also included Australia, it invokes the question now of whether the Chinese had explored that continent as well before Europeans came to the region.

The book itself leaves many questions unanswered about the true European discoverers of the island-continent, many of those questions sparked by the existence of European maps reflecting an accurate representation of Australian coastline before the supposed date of discovery.  It’s the same sort of questions that will have to be asked regarding the Chinese map if its authenticity is proven.  After all, does the existence of map imply discovery?  How accurate must a map be to ‘prove’ that someone has visited a particular coastline?  If you have any interest, these two sites give some general outlining information for the 1606 date of discovery for Australia.  Personally I prefer the questionable spin that Bradley puts on the whole situation.

V-day: Eros Nemesis or Saviour?

It is again that day that most people in the US either love or hate — Valentine’s Day.  For those of you that love it, whether you’re with your life-mate or not, it’s a time of celebration for that most wonderful emotion, love.  It’s a celebration of the joys of friendship, the camaraderie of the workplace, and the affections of family.  For those of you who hate it the day is filled with  bitterness over a personal situation or frustration with yet another materialistic, hypocritical holiday.

For myself I do get a bit frustrated when the V-day candies come out right after New Year’s (only to be swamped by Easter chocolates a few weeks later), but I can’t help but love this little holiday.  I like the excuse to give people stuff, or make people stuff.  I like being able to share my joy, to have an excuse to celebrate with others.  Be that as it may, it’s not the case for many people, who find the whole idea offensive.  So, back to the root of the problem – how did this whole holiday get started anyway?  And how the heck did Cupid, a pagan god of love who typically made people fall for one another to thier detriment, come to be taken as its symbol?

So, a little about the saint first.  Saint Valentine, who at one time had a feast day on February 14 (though many Roman Catholics no longer celebrate this day), was a saint that nobody ever recorded anything about.  In fact, the feast day could’ve referred to more than one saint.  Various saints with the name ‘valentine’ also exist in the orthodox church.  So basically, I have no idea how this guy got sainted and neither does anyone else, which was probably part of the reason the Catholics stopped feasting him.   Also, there ended up being a number of stories made up about him later, but none involved romantic love.

Enter the mid/late Middle Ages and the popularity of courtly love.   Chaucer makes up a new story implying ancient traditions associating this popular topic with the saint.  Some also think that early Christians associated the saint’s feast day with Lupercalia (a Roman celebration of fertility, NOT love) and the season of Zeus and Hera’s marriage (lots of great love there.  really).  So basically Valentine’s day began to be associated with courtly love (I guess that’s romantic?) and the Greco-Roman tradition.  Actual cards and tokens were exchanged at this time to express affection and show devotion.  Still, kinda hard to see where Cupid comes in at all.  In the 1840s (after the Catholics had abandoned the saint), Valentine’s day was reintroduced as  a holiday.  Then people start the marketing.  Go capitalism!  One of the first ladies to start marketing was the daughter of a stationary store owner here in Massachusetts.  Pretty classy stuff.

Despite all that, and the continual reuse of the holiday for various manipulative purposes, I enjoy it.  It reminds me of the things I’ve forgotten, and helps me to take time for love, which could always use a little more time.   Considering the countless similar variations of the day that exist around the world, it’s probably something we need.