Thursday, January 20, 2011

Crazy Nazis Goons Invade Falls Church!

A short exchange of letters published and unpublished in the Falls Church News Press.

August 19th 2010


To the person or persons who made off with the recently installed mid-street trail markers on the W&OD trail through Falls Church:

We don't know whether you have some vague, Tea-Partyish political motive (you don't like trail users?) or are simply drunken fools, like Paul Newman's Luke in the movie "Cool Hand Luke," who cut off the heads of parking meters.  It hardly matters; it was a silly and immature crime.  If you wish to join or rejoin the ranks of adults, you should do the following: own up to it in public; apologize; make redress to the city as adjudicated; and then join the debate of the body politic if you have something to say.  Exercise your citizenship out in the open.

If your courage is not equal to this course of action, you might at least return the purloined items, creeping like the mouse you presently are, under cover of dark, to City Hall, perhaps.  Please don't bother replying with some lame justification, for there is none.

Grow up.

Dave Rockwell
Falls Church
August 26th 2010
Tea Party Not Responsible for Bike Trail Thefts

Calling all cars, calling all cars... be on the lookout for one Mr. Dave Rockwell who appears to have escaped from the Cuckoos Nest and is writing letters to the editor.
Are you kidding me or what? Let me get this straight. There was something stolen from the bike path cross walks and the Tea Party Activists are responsible for this because of their "vague political motive"...and only liberals use the bike path. In Hitler's rise to power he was quite successful in convincing the masses that the Jews were the evil that were to be blamed for all that was wrong. In this country's era of severe racial discrimination, it was quite a successful campaign by those that spread hate and fear that blacks were only 2/3 a human being and should be despised simply because of the color of their skin and in today's hope and change atmosphere it would appear that at least one liberal feels that all Tea Party Activists are thieves. I can tell you that as a retired police officer I arrested more people who supported the democratic ideology than I did of the opposite side. But what does that mean...all Dems are thieves. Think again. Mr. Rockwell, Jewish people are not evil, all African Americans do not look alike and all thieves are not Tea Party Activists. Now back away from the keyboard, put the straight jacket back on and go quietly to your room, the attendants have a Nancy Pelosi doll, a Harry Reid doll and a President Obama doll for you to play with today.

William Butler Yeats  [name altered to protect the innocent]
Falls Church

Sept 7th 2010 (not published)

To the Editor:

I am glad to see the emergence of a brilliant new political satirist on our local scene, to challenge our inestimable Mike Gardner, namely, [William Butler Yeats].  In his recent letter he hilariously pretends to be an offended Tea Party sympathizer who, at the slightest of provocation, reflexively labels his opponent a mentally challenged Hitler aficionado.  This literary conceit then serves the additional purpose of lampooning the regrettable tendency, so common now in these days of much-devolved political discourse, to resort to slapping the big Nazi tar-brush on any issue, no matter how painfully trivial, thus instantly ending all intelligent give-and-take.  Call me a crazy Nazi goon, but I’m on the floor laughing.

Regardless of this uproarious sarcasm, I do take a certain point here, with regard to my previous letter: I may very well have inadvertently offended the Tea Party by implying, however tangentially, that all of them would steal traffic signs in order to further a political agenda.  I would therefore wish to substitute, for the phrase “Tea Party”, the completely different phrase, “survivalist/anarchist/Unibomber sympathizer”.   I realize that this may leave me wide open to criticism from the Unibomber Party, but one must draw the line somewhere.

Dave Rockwell 
Falls Church

Friday, January 07, 2011

Message in a Bottle

January 7th, 2011

Today at work I received a remarkable letter in one of our Business Reply Mail envelopes, having nothing to do with our work:

The original is writtten in blue ink on a torn and ragged piece of paper, on both sides.  I transcribe it as follows:

Alexander Gardner
General Delivery
San Francisco, CA 94142

I got problems and I
got 13 1/2 years in
California state prison
having hard time
ajusting feet to        [adjusting?  feel?]
kill myself        Can'nt
deal to much

I got problems
to much Problem
all problems

Alexander Gardner
General Delivery
S.F. CA 94142

                   I was instantly struck with a certain melancholy, for the fragility of our lives and minds, of our fortune and our ability to cope and thrive.  This Alexander Gardner is marooned on the drifting, sinking hulk of the derelict freighter of his life; he has lost all his lifeboats, and his ability to attack his problems has been reduced to this desperate, inarticulate appeal to anyone in America - to some random office worker in an obscure charity - for no specific help; no pitch or spiel, just a shout into the darkness as the waves wash over the rusting carcass of the boat. He's looking at thirteen and a half years as a guest of the State of California, and when he gets out, will he be any better off? Is the State investing anything in training this poor guy for anything useful?  If they did, is he capable of improving himself in any case?
                   I know of no way I personally can help this man.  The world is full of people with even less in the way of personal ability, who cannot cope, land in jail, lose their health and their teeth and the little money they had.  Something went wrong very early on in their lives, and their downfall, gradual or sudden, makes us insecure, and calls our basic dignity as conscious beings into question.  Every week I see beggars standing at the off-ramp holding signs, usually much better written than this letter.  Most typical is something simple, like:


                    I'm sure this sign causes us to cough up a certain amount of cash in a day; we have no sure way of knowing what that man's life is really like.  But I feel fairly certain that Alexander Gardner is sincere, desperate, and essentially incompetent, and that there is no one on this earth willing to really give a rat's ass about this one man.  The human condition is boiled down to its essentials in this single instance, and reveals a flash of terrifying blankness underlying all.

GĂ©ricault's Raft of the Medusa, 1819

                  Kind of makes me lose interest in Lindsay Lohan's problems, ya know? 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bring Back the Hindenberg!

            As I was visiting my parents in their winter retreat on Maui, I read and responded to a letter to the editor in the Maui News, the gist of which was the writer’s conviction that hydrogen will be the fuel of the future, as it is very safe and very clean, and that progress in this area is retarded by fear, prejudice and the cupidity of oil companies, etc.  Among his assertions was that hydrogen was not responsible for the death of the victims of the Hindenberg disaster.  The paper printed my letter on Feb. 5th, almost unedited, as follows:                        2/2/05

To the Editor:

            I wholeheartedly agree with most of Mr. Wagner's letter of Feb. 2nd.  Hydrogen is as safe as any other fuel (and extremely clean), and hidebound, defensive thinking plagues society on many levels including science and engineering.  Unfortunately, the use of hydrogen is an ‘energy luxury’.  Unlike fossil fuels, wind and solar energy, hydrogen is not found freely in nature; it must be separated from larger molecules before it can be used for fuel, and the energy required to extract it will always be at least slightly more than the energy returned, as no machine is 100% efficient.  A similar situation applies when an oil field becomes sufficiently depleted that more energy is required to raise the oil to the surface than is contained in the oil itself; any further pumping is a net energy loss.  Hydrogen cannot save us.
    I believe that the only long-term solution to our energy problems lies in balancing population size worldwide to the net available resources.  Easy to say; difficult, to say the least, to achieve.

                                                                                          David Rockwell (visitor)
            Back home, I got a letter and a clipping from my Dad, writing on 2/13:

            I assume this is the same guy whose letter prompted you to write yours, but I don’t have his original.
            He says he is “working on” a system which will allow you to “fill her up” with a garden hose.  Like most young boys, I also wasted many hours trying (in my mind) to perfect a perpetual motion machine.
            Well, I wish him luck.  If the answer to the world’s energy crunch is no further away than the garden hose then let’s get on with it before fossil fuel runs out.

            Ah-hah! The plot thickens, as it becomes apparent that Mr. Wagner is in fact a member of that lovable and indispensable fraternity, an American original, the basement/garage/crackpot inventor! And here is the text of Mr. Wagner’s follow-up letter, printed 2/13 in the Maui News, apparently without any professional editing, under the bold heading, “There are ways to produce onboard hydrogen fuel”:

                        I just wanted to clarify something about the my Feb. 2 letter regarding hydrogen fuel.  While   it’s true that trying to create hydrogen the traditional way or the way it’s being done by most takes way too much energy and has several drawbacks, I’m working on creating the hydrogen fuel internally [his italics] in cars rather than the externally.
            This is different then what companies like GM is doing because they want to create hydrogen stations and then you have to go there and pay to fill up.  The big advantage with creating the hydrogen fuel internally is that you never have to go to a gas station again.  You only have to take your garden hose and fill the reservoir for free gas for life and the exhaust will be cleaning rather then polluting our air.
                                                                                                Gabriel A Wagner

            I saw no amusement in further tweaking the earnest inventor, but I had to write back to my Dad, as follows:

            Gee, wouldn’t I have egg on my face if I turned out to be wrong about the basic laws of chemistry and energy conservation.  On a molecular level, doesn’t it take exactly the same amount of energy to disassemble a water molecule as is released when the hydrogen is re-oxidized? And then of course one must subtract the efficiency of whatever machine is using the energy.  I predict Mr. Wagner will be chagrined when he finally discovers that his water-car is costing more in electricity to run than a standard golf cart.  But since he doesn’t grasp the basic principles involved, he’ll just keep on trying.  Like you say, more power to him!  It’s an endlessly absorbing hobby, and keeps him off the streets.
            What surprised me about this letter is not that he doesn’t know the difference between ‘than’ and ‘then’, but that the newspaper editor did not correct it.  Oh well.

Additional Bonus Commentary at No Extra Cost!

            My Dad replied briefly that unless they had changed the laws of thermodynamics since he was in school (Cornell U., Engineering, early 1950s), I am correct.
            Mr. Wagner’s noble but futile quest is a modern manifestation of the eternal search for the Philosopher’s Stone, of course; he is irresistibly drawn to try to spin gold from straw, following the lure of pure reason: the infatuation with the magical power of the mind, which gives us dominion over so much of this world, and by a simple but mistaken extrapolation, the key to unlimited manipulation of reality.  Although an illusion, it makes perfect intuitive sense: if we can use science to do ridiculous, clearly impossible things like propel huge machines filled with people high across mountains and oceans, for example, why can’t we somehow tease the infinite power locked inside the atom to come out and do our bidding, like Kipling’s Djinns’ obeying the Sultan Sulieman-bin-Daoud’s command to momentarily snatch all his palace and gardens into outer darkness, and then return them with not a leaf out of place?  An interesting verbal clue is provided by Mr. Wagner’s choice of the word ‘create’ in place of ‘extract’ or ‘separate’ with reference to obtaining the hydrogen.  Science has explicitly shown that matter can neither be created nor destroyed under ‘normal’, earthly conditions; the inventor is here unconsciously assuming powers usually reserved to God.  But that is perfectly natural, and we all do it: we create the world and our gods, day by day and minute by minute, from the brilliant spangled whole cloth of pure symbol - the Word made real.  When we attempt to keep physical reality distinct from our subjective worlds, we have only the weak reed of reason, and the difficult and subtle tool of the scientific method, and these can’t match the boundless strength of human desire and self-deception.  Luckily we are forever penned up, like goats on an island, in the physical universe, and when Mr. Wagner tries to get free energy forever, not realizing what a terrible thing it would be to give to the goats, he fails every time.  It is bad enough that we are so clever that we can exploit our energy resources as efficiently as we do.  We can eat the cactus, and the bushes, and the reptiles and insects, and keep the luau going, but we as a group have no idea that we are living on an island, and our time is running out.  Eventually actual physical suffering will refocus our minds on the things in front of us, but whether by that time the situation will be salvageable - whether we can then take any kind of effective action - no one knows.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bioterror: Joe's Toilet Seat!

We are all just prisoners here, Of our own device.

From a 2006 column published in the Wash. Post and syndicated by Amy Dickinson:

Dear Amy:

In a recent letter, a husband and wife were arguing over the proper position of the toilet seat (when not in use). Please tell them that the issue is not one of inconvenience but one of health.
Tests have shown that a toilet flush atomizes parts of the toilet bowl's content and spreads the tiny particles into the air, which end up on any object in the room. So unless they want to brush their hair or teeth with an extra ingredient, close not only the seat but also the lid BEFORE each flush.

Member of the Closed Lid Society

Amy's reply:
Gross thought.
Great solution.

Great Caesar's atomized, aerosolized, dirty-biological-bomb corpse! How in the world did I live this long after brushing my teeth with human ordure all these years?! But no: down that way lies the special madness of Howard Hughes, and other unfortunates terrified of the invisible death that lies in wait all around us. The fear is far worse than the death, for the most part. The illustrious members of the Closed Lid Society live inside their special Closed Lid Houses, with sealed airlock entrances and constant climate control, down to one-micron filtration of all air and water. When they venture outside they wear full-coverage micropore protective garments, 100% UVA/UVB Ray-Bans and a coating of discouraging chemicals to keep off the swarming, West-Nile and Lyme infected ticks, mosquitoes and centipedes. They raise their children in this bubble, who then miss out on the critical development of a normal immune system, and are then condemned to life inside the bubble, nursing their asthmas and allergies.

Unfortunately for the Closed Lidders, the world is and will remain a vast soup of organisms big and small, all competing for their respective genes to be reproduced, and no organism, however wondrously intelligent and made-in-God's-image, can stand aloof from this soup and hope to thrive. Every so often we are reminded that human skin is infested with a seething scum of tiny parasites and symbiotes that look not unlike the plankton of the Sargasso Sea in a microscope, and that the human digestive tract as well as the rest of the body contains more benign bacteria than the actual number of human cells in the body. Each of us is a massive high-rise development housing whole cities of amusing little critters. The complex is maintained by a really nasty, efficient security system that makes Orwell's totalitarian government of 1984 look like something run by FEMA. If you don't have your ID card right there on your chest, the T-cells eat you without benefit of counsel. Only a few very clever counterfeiters and con-proteins, like HIV, can game the system from the inside; all other invaders depend on blitzkrieg tactics to take advantage of some temporary weakness in the great Maginot line of the immune system, and usually their incursions only get as far as the Marne, where the tide turns and they get rolled up by a billion tiny Pattons.

The attempt to physically shield one's self from all biological harm, while reasonable in moderation, becomes a nice metaphor, when taken too far, for the alienation from nature that seems to wax every day, proportionately to the constant increase in technical ability in all our lives. If we could live without any of the 'drawbacks' of the physical world, why wouldn't we? There are deep and cogent philosophical answers to this question, expounded by eloquent philosophers, but here is my own simplistic answer: this alienation is killing us. We no longer understand how to operate the world on a stable basis. Poor and ignorant people do the best they can without knowledge or resources; rich and ignorant people pick and choose their beliefs and complacently imagine that they can control their personal worlds to any degree they choose.

Did we ever understand how the world should be operated? Yes, we did, for a while; on an intuitive rather than a scientific basis, we understood that existence is arranged in a great cycle, that we are all an equal part of it and that all the parts and members are important to the balance of the cycle. We made myths and handed them down, to transmit the knowledge of the Great Balance onward indefinitely. Gradually the myths became co-opted to serve special interests, so to speak; the interest of each tribe against all others, following the primal necessity of increasing one's progeny.

You can check out any time you want, But you can never leave.

Copyright 2006 byDavid Warren Rockwell

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Andy Rooney, Astrophysicist and Breakfast Theoretician

Some knotty problems in Astrophysics solved.

Notes on the Inflationary Universe: Djever notice how bagels keep getting bigger, until they’re too fat to fit in your toaster, and then you have to buy a larger and fancier toaster? This detail from the Breakfast Arms Race (which spawns such abominations as the White Chocolate-chip Raisin Bagel) is an illustration of the universal Law of Ongoing Bloat, which states that, a) greed must be served, but b) will never be satisfied. Only a bigger and more hideously adulterated bagel is acceptable to the greedy mind, and this bagel then drives all other aspects of civilization until that sad final day when the Ultimate Plutonium Bagel is accidentally dropped on the President’s toe at breakfast and we all disappear, screaming, into a discontinuum, some weird little crack in reality’s sidewalk.

Perhaps, however - just perhaps - we can avoid this sad fate if only more influential people like the President, the Reverend S. Y. Moon and Dennis Rodman learn more about the basic structure of the universe, by reading the following simplified primer.

1. The Origin of the Universe.

I like to think I'm one intellectual cut above the average cave dweller, and so it's not too unusual to find me curled up in an armchair, reading some exciting mathematical/philosophical/ astronomical tome whose author has nobly flung himself once more against the very gates of Heaven, seeking to explain the instant of creation itself, or at least say something about it that will make a guy like me buy his book. I'm too smart for that; I wait until I see it at a yard sale, or remaindered for two bucks. But alas - these geniuses inevitably come to a point where they can't explain themselves except by using a lot of brand-new symbols they just thought up for the occasion, and torturing the logical faculties of ordinary mortals with statements like: if a is not equal to a', and b is not equal to b', and “not equal” is defined as equal to all subsets of c less or more than d or, during lunar eclipses, d', THEN... And they triumphantly gallop off into a weird ever-receding landscape that Mandelbrot saw once in a mushroom nightmare, riding a cubist pony and holding high a banner with the strange device, QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRATUM; but I'm snoozing in the comfy chair, falling ever deeper into a delightful five-dimensional rabbit hole full of dancing pentangles, and everything seems so very clear, yes, even the long-lost key to that endless moment of fire that hung in the dark, when everything began to unfold; temperature meant nothing, yet they tell us anyway that it was 500 million degrees (Kelvin) or whatever. I love doing that, although I'd be just as enriched and enlightened if I drank beer and watched the football game.

Thusly I establish my intellectual credentials, even if Godel’s Eternal Golden Braid, or whatever he called it, is as far beyond me as trigonometry is beyond an ant. I can appreciate Leonardo’s Codex just as much as Bill Gates, though he may have the original sitting on his solid gold coffee table, stained with cappucino latte for all I know. And who among us, the miserable PC users of this world, has not said to himself, “I could have written a Disc Operating System one hell of a lot better than this garbage.”? Now, it’s a little-known fact that in science, Attitude is often just as potent as The Scientific Method when it comes to finally establishing the truth of something. So, vigorously employing the general attitude displayed above, I state the following:

a) The universe either “began” or it did not, and has never not existed.

b) The universe will either “end” or it will not, and will always exist.

c) We will almost certainly never “see” either event, no matter what telescopes we build.

d) To propose a definite “mechanism” for the origin of the universe is plain silly.

Notice, if you will, how quickly ordinary concepts decay in their meanings when asked to bear the burden of an infinite context.

2. Entropy

It was Yeats who famously tossed off the line, “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold,” and he struck a fatalistic chord on the world’s psyche - good old Captain Bringdown. Later he was vindicated by the codification of the various laws of thermodynamics, and everyone relaxed and had a beer or three. But why is this true? And if we just build a new centre, say, a few miles away in the new megamall, what difference does it make? Sure, I admit we will all end up as lonely atoms wandering untethered in space, like so many tetherballs whose tethers finally frayed and broke, and sent us rolling into a dark corner of the infinite playground, but, by my calculations we still have plenty of time to go get some pizza and red wine, and catch a movie.

I believe good ol’ Lao Tzu said it best more than two millennia ago: “Small country, few people.” I paid a real California channeler to get him on the astral horn and explain that annoyingly cryptic remark, and he was kind enough to translate it for me into modern buzzspeak idiotica: “Basically, Dave, there's a limit to the effectiveness of any system, however skillfully managed. Systems tend to bloat and complicate, and at a certain mysterious point the anti-synergism of excessive numbers of variables destroys their ability to produce their product, whatever it might be; and then the momentum of organization pushes the system over the line into decline and total failure, unless, of course, the controlling entity is able to downsize and simplify in a real snappy manner. It would be nice if things could be kept small, cozy and stable. And if pigs could fly you could send packages, a big improvement over pigeons - call it Pig-Ex/” I eventually had to hang up, he just wouldn't stop jabbering. Apparently there isn’t much to do on the astral plane once you’ve read all the books in the library a hundred times and sampled every dish in the cafeteria.

3. The Arrow of Time - careful! It’s sharp!

Another thing I’d like to clear up is this pesky cosmological constant thing, i.e. the arrow of time problem: why it always goes this-a-way but never back that-a-way, or any other weird direction. Well, it's simple, and you can pass this along to Mr. S. Hawking, free of charge: the reason time is a one-way street is because cause A always causes effect A', and the reason for that, smart guy, is because we say so. Our very thoughts about it instantly create the fourth dimension of perceived-cause-and-effect (time) and also the fifth dimension of intelligence/
stupidity/free will/love. Conduct, if you will, the following ‘thought experiment’. Imagine that consciousness never arose anywhere in the universe; all that exists is insensate matter moving about here and there in accordance with the dictates of the forces inherent to matter, such as interstate speed limits, postal regulations, and the like. Now: where is time? What possible meaning can the concept have without an observer to mark it? Of course, the experiment is bogus; we cannot imagine, with any cogency, our own non-existence, and the fifth dimension is beyond the reach of numerical description, being the very medium of our existence; the fish cannot analyze water, etc. Well I hope that reduces the constant stream of plaintive questions people direct to me here on Mount Olympus. (What is life, really? Why are the stars spread out in such a messy way like marbles dumped on the floor? Who's going to go get the beer?)

Copyright 2006 by David Warren Rockwell

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Unknown Knowns: Quagmire of Lies

"Drive all the way to Reno, on the wrong side of the road."

-Tom Waits

In the beginning there was the Word, but it was sluggish and lacked Context. When you’ve only got one Word it’s difficult to build meaning. Sometimes if I type too fast the clogged and muddy processor has to think a bit before it shows me what I have written. My thoughts are languishing momentarily in a limbo, their faults as yet unknown to the visible world. (This mechanical limbo resembles a tiny mud puddle, while the limbo of unrevealed and unrealized thought behind my forehead is more like the Pacific Ocean.) As for the invisible world, once called the id by Mr. S. Freud, more and more we seem to know that it resides not only in the tumbledown shacks and dirty cellars on the outskirts of consciousness, but in our machines themselves. Such essential mechanical elements of our world system such as software, the street layout of D.C. and the tax code, to name only a few, have outgrown our ability to entirely control or understand them, and they display a witty and willful wickedness in their mad proliferation.

Donald Rumsfeld has begun to elucidate a basic taxonomy or ontology of knowledge. There are the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns. Presumably this is a tool of military analysis: we know the enemy has weapons; we know that we don’t know precisely what they are or how they are deployed, but we want to know those things and are actively seeking them out; and we also presume that there are things we don’t know that we should know, but we have no idea of where to start looking for them because we know nothing about them at all. This leaves out the fourth possibility, and the most difficult: the unknown knowns. These are things that we should know, and in fact do know, except that we have deliberately or accidentally hid or mislaid or denied or forgotten or disguised them, so that we are now in the territory of the false knowns, and every step takes us farther from actual knowledge. Some say the human species has been lost in this territory ever since the first Word was spoken, but I say, with others: no matter how far down the wrong road you have gone, turn back! Perhaps fatalism is the only true faith, but I reject it now and forever just on principle; I stand up and testify for the free mind and the unknown future, for these make me glad. No idea or image of Heaven has ever been able to make me want to trade away my front yard. The idea of a final and settled universe, the Eternal Reward, seems to me lifeless, an oil painting and nothing more. Even though the Tree of Knowledge has a huge dying limb with an infinite involution of complexity, full of rotting self-deceit, I am still willing to use my reason. I just wish everyone sitting on that limb would go straight to Heironymus Boschland when the limb falls off, and leave the rest of us in peace.

Ha! You reply heatedly: an oil painting can have a lot more life in it than most people. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Good luck falling in love with that marble bust of Helen. True, she don’t talk back and she stays faithfully on the pedestal. But the killing boredom! You’d be a lot happier with the widow next door, Edith, who like to polka and has that big old wart. So what if she’s been married seven times before?

But I digress. (And why the hell not?) There is no magic Word, Rummy. You’re an unusually straightforward guy, or so you seem. Think about the unknown knowns, and try to admit that mistakes, as they say, were made, and lies told. Otherwise we’ll be stuck in this mud until Kingdom Come or the next election, whichever comes first.

Copyright 2006 by David Warren Rockwell

Monday, April 03, 2006

Chomolungma Reveals All!

10/21/05 "Little darlin', I feel that ice is slowly melting..."

George Harrison, "Here Comes the Sun"

All over the world, that ice is melting. Satellite photography over the decades show polar ice shrinkage over the decades, clearly visible to the naked eye - and the naked eye is all we really trust. However incontrovertible this may be, it is nevertheless a bone of political contention, now that we no longer put our childlike trust in Science. Is global warming really the fault of our smelly, burgeoning species, or just a coincidental blip in the random wanderings of the goddess Gaia, or if you prefer, the magnificent planetary machine, that has maintained a nearly constant atmosphere for our pleasure for the past couple of billion years? We can't be completely certain, but we know for sure that those idiots on the other side of the aisle are dead wrong.

Be that as it may, the shrinking ice returns to us things that were lost, that we thought were lost forever, and we examine them with intense interest. Just the other day an airman returned from his crash site in the California mountains, where he had disappeared into thin air, as we like to say, in 1942. Not long ago the legendary disappeared mountaineer George Mallory reappeared on his home ground, the slopes of Everest, a.k.a. Chomolungma, Mother Goddess of the Snows, with gear and all, but without a clue as to whether he and Irving had reached the summit they so devoutly wish'd. And not long before that, of course, there was found the man in the Alps who had been there, encased in ice, with a spearpoint in his back for the last seven thousand years, waiting with infinite patience to tell us of his murder all those centuries ago. The ice gives us these objects, these mute clues, and we have to somehow decipher them; it is salubrious to our being to realize that the past is real, that we are standing on it, that we are built from the stuff, and therefore there is a thread of causation, if not of ultimate meaning, running though the whole monster maze, and we can follow it, at least for a short way.

Melting glaciers can be found metaphorically thoughout the world. For example, there is the crumbling of the longtime omertá of the Roman Catholic Church regarding the peccadillos of some percentage of priests who cannot be celibate and yet still wish to remain priests. This frees up thousands of victims to literally get hopping, screaming, suing mad. Along with the breaching of various rusting moral fortresses there are falling statues with feet of clay - the political theories that enabled and rationalized on a monstrous scale some of the worst tendencies of the human animal, viz. Lenin, Saddam Hussein, etc. Although Vladimir Putin pays lips service to democracy, he keeps his hidden hand on the machinery of absolute control, even as the basis of that control, which is the peoples' ignorance, fear and acquiescence, melts away faster every day. The Chinese Communist Party tries desperately to have its cake and eat it too, and have capitalism without democracy, but it is now too late to stuff the yowling Cat of Western Decadence back into the Blackout Bag of Repression - the people know that there is another kind of existence outside the Middle Kingdom, and they're intensely interested in what they see sticking out of the ice.

Will this gradual melting of ignorance and silence result in global peace, prosperity and a general Golden Age? Alas - we have some major problems that do not hinge on our politics, philosophy or morals; we must go back and trust pure science to find and tell us the truth, and then we must find the will to act on it. If we fail, at least we knew, for a while, what was actually emerging from the ice, before it started to close back in.