Friday, February 24, 2012

Lord Alfred Tennyson

Forgive me for a bit of crass commercialism. Forgive me presuming to play with the poetry of Lord  Alfred Tennyson. Still, one has to pay the bills and why not have a little fun in a Stressless chair.

Thoughts of Spring occurring while sitting in a Stressless reading Tennyson

Comrades, leave me here a little, while as yet 't is early morn:
Leave me here, and when you want me, sound upon the bugle-horn.
Many a night … [I marveled in my Stressless] , ere I went to rest,
Did I look on great Orion sloping slowly to the West.

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.

[Many a dark and lonely night, solitary gazed the silvery moon,
Until the clouds, all shades of grey softly covered its light all too soon.]
When I dipt into the future far as human eye could see;
Saw the Vision of the world and all the wonder that would be.—

[Ere I closed my book, an old copy of Lord Alfred Tennyson;
I looked about, one last time, and composed these thoughts just for fun.

Forgive me gentle reader, if I assuredly assume,
To place another’s words in my own poor costume

But when the blackest night again turned to the brightest morn,
And I saw the golden sun light the world once more.

The earth rising from its silent slumber,
And winter’s leaves stirring in the wind, a pale shade of golden amber.

From Locksley Hall, those simple lines stirred within me,
Fired by Minerva inspiration, Tennyson’s words set me free.

Those words were these: ]

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin's breast;
In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish'd dove;
In the Spring … [one’s] fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

[And what love’s fancy could be more fair,
Than to sit and compose a poem in a Stressless chair.]
The better part of the poetry is Lord Alfred Tennyson's Locksley Hall. The Stressless chair is the Vegas, perfect for watching the stars.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The first Wikipedia


No, this is not an article about Wikipedia. It is an article about ideas and the sharing of knowledge, something Wikipedia excels at. It is a look back to find the ancient ancestor of Wikipedia, where the idea of sharing information began. But, before we can look back, we have to know a little about Wikipedia and how in the space of ten years it has impacted the world.

From the Origin of Wikipedia:
Wikipedia is a multilingual, free and an open content encyclopedia project which is operated by Non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Wikipedia’s name is portmanteau of the terms wiki and encyclopedia. Wikipedia was launched in the year 2001 by Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales. At present, it is the largest, most popular and the fastest-growing common reference work accessible on the internet. 
From Facts and Figures:
Started in January 2001, The world's fastest-growing, most current, and largest encyclopedia, 6 million articles in over 250 languages. The largest sites are English, German, and French. Created entirely by volunteers. We have no paid editors. One of top five brands in the world [1]. Wikipedia is self-correcting for both content and users. The more eyeballs the higher our accuracy. An estimated 7 billion page views a month.
To see how truly international Wikipedia has become, view the index page of To see how Wikipedia impacts its readers, and for real numbers, go to the page where Wikipedia keeps stats on the readers of articles. Wikipedia article traffic statistics.

But, this article is not about Wikipedia. Rather, it is about the idea that idea sharing is the best way to gather and disseminate information. The free sharing of information is not a new idea. One only has to think back to the organization of colleges and universities where teachers and students gather to remember that learning and teaching is a worthy endeavor. Wikipedia records that the distinction of the first university goes to The University of Bologna, which adopted an academic charter, the Constitutio Habita, in 1158 or 1155, guaranteeing the right of a traveling scholar to unhindered passage in the interests of education. The idea of speaking one's mind freely and without fear of punishment must have been a welcome thought. One must remember that heresies were punished by swiftly and extremely by secular and religious institutions alike.

Universities might have taken credit for being the first Wikipedia but for the fact that ideas could not be widely published and disseminated. Scholorship during the Renaissance was confined to the scholars themselves and the few princes who could afford the hand copied and embellished books that were transcribed one book at a time.

The first Wikipedia

The idea of the first Wikipedia would have to wait, and two events combined to make it possible. First was the expansion of travel in during the 1400's that opened up new worlds to European traders. Thus, the Portuguese who rounded the Cape of Good Hope found a new route to the East Indies. And Holland built its maritime trade on that fact. Second, Christopher Columbus discovered America, even if he did not then realize it, and made possible the discovery of new riches and new colonies. The second event was Johann Gutenberg's invention, the Chinese would say reinvention, of the printing press.

History had arrived at the point where a middle class had the money to spend and for books and industry had the means of producing them cheap enough.

In my opinion, the Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales award of being the first Wikipedia inventor goes to Abraham Ortels or Ortelius as he is more commonly known. He was born in Antwerp, Holland and died there in 1598. He was in the right place at the right time and he possessed the skills that made it possible to create a new and modern atlas of the world. Consider that the last time an atlas of the world had been completed was Ptolemy's atlas in 150 AD.

The incentive for Ortelius' venture was money. Unlike Wikipedia, Ortelius would have to sing for his supper and it was necessary that someone would pay for his work. And the success of the venture would again depend on the public's purchase of printed volumes.

Ortelius made up a volume of about thirty maps. The patron of this venture was a Dutchman by the name of Hooftman. He needed the maps so that he could decide on the safest and best routes for his merchant ships to travel. Commerce and capitalism then as now was the driving force behind invention and innovation.

What made Ortelius' project Wikipedia-like was the manner in which he proceeded. He was talkative and he was collaborative. Thus, he spoke to Mercator, the most famous of cartographers, and to others about reducing the size of their maps to something that could be easily handled and printed. Then, like Wikipedia he developed a Commons sort of idea, getting the permission of cartographers to use their maps in his publications. The process took ten years to complete, but by May of 1570, the first modern geographical atlas was issued.

The atlas was a commercial success. The atlas was made up of sheets folded once, in folio, and contained 35 leaves of text and 53 copperplate maps. Again, wikipedia-like, Ortelius included 87 names of geographers who he had consulted or used as sources. The first publication was sold out within three months, and a second publication followed with an errata sheet and minor changes. These changes often came from the public itself as both the Illuminati and the ordinary public sent him their own maps or wrote in with helpful suggestions of how to improve the atlas.

By being honest with his readers, inviting criticism, sharing ideas, and corrections, Ortelius gets the honor of being the first Wikipedia. By the time Ortelius died in 1598, the atlas was published in at least 28 editions in the languages of Latin, Dutch, Spanish, German, and French.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Nobody Gives a Shit

Nobody gives a shit. Well, actually there are 246 people that like this Facebook page, Nobody Gives a Shit.

I am not quite sure why even 246 people cared, because there is not much of a point to the posts that appear there. I only mention this because I tried to get my family involved in a worthy cause and the response was underwhelming. I mentioned to my loving family the parable of the Good Samaritan, and guess what, no one cared.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Just think about it.

It's is the same old thing, being misunderstood, that is. I say one thing, the other person hears something else. Just think about it.

Communication is not an easy thing. We talk, we listen. That is it. But what happens once the spoken word leaves the lips and before it reaches the brain seems to be a mystery. I could give a hundred examples of being misunderstood. We all could. That is why miscommunication seems to rank high on the chart of human conditions that needs addressing.

I guess the problem stems from the old cliche that we hear what we want to. After all, if the message is not one that sings to the ear, change the tune. A mother listening to her child's plaintiff cry, hears a cry for help. A stranger hearing the same thing, finds the cries annoying, that is, unless the stranger has his or her own small child and has a visceral transfer of emotion.

If I had to put my finger on the problem, I would chalk it up to a lack of empathy. Empathy, the ability to feel someone else's pain. Speaking of which, isn't that what the life of Christ was all about. Jesus is born to humble beginnings, preaches a message of love and understanding, is betrayed and crucified. His crucifixion symbolizes an atonement for the sins of the world. But Christ did not commit those sins. Why then did God demand that he be sacrificed for our sins? Well, just another example of transference. Let someone else deal with it. It is another day in Paradise for those of us who are well off.

Excuse me, if for a moment I become political. Mitt Romney, Republican candidate for President of the United States says in an interview "I don't care about the poor." Yes, I know, he followed that up saying that there is a safety net, and, if that is broke' he'll fix it. Nor does he care about the rich, he just cares about the hard working Middle Class whose votes he needs to get elected.

I like Mitt, he is a likable guy, and if he had a Facebook page, I would press the like button. Mitt's problem is not just his choice of words. How, after all can a candidate announce that he doesn't care about a voter. And sure enough, silver-tongued Newt Gingrich announces the next day that he cares about everyone.

I guess it is another example of Mitt not feeling the pain. I can sympathize with him. He is well-to-do, never wanted for anything, except votes, and has a hard time understanding what it means to struggle day to day. If he is going to communicate to the electorate, he better get the message. We are all struggling, we all have problems, and we all need to be heard. Empathize.

Enough of politics.

So, I am over half way into this essay, and I find myself talking about how others fail to relate to me. That, in itself, points to the problem. The major problem with communication is not with the talking or the writing of words. Rather, it is with the listening. Christ spoke rarely, saving his words for important occasions. Most of the time he was all about dealing with the problems of others. His most famous words, "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you." is itself a role reversal.

So, I will try to listen, and then, maybe in understanding, I will be understood. A good start is Phil Collins song, Another Day in Paradise. Here are the lyrics, You can also listen to it on Youtube in another window.

Just think about it. No, do something about it.

Another Day in Paradise, official version.

She calls out to the man on the street, "Sir, can you help me? It's cold and I've nowhere to sleep. Is there somewhere you can tell me?" He walks on, doesn't look back, he pretends he can't hear her He starts to whistle as he crosses the street, seems embarrassed to be there Oh, think twice, it's just another day for you and me in paradise Oh, think twice, it's just another day for you, you and me in paradise.

Just think about it She calls out to the man on the street, he can see she's been crying She's got blisters on the soles of her feet, she can't walk, but she's trying Oh, just think twice, it's just another day for you and me in paradise Oh yes, think twice, it's just another day for you, you and me in paradise
Just think about it, uh - huh, just think about it.