Saturday, October 27, 2012

Frankenstorm and Frankenthrow

I've spent the day watching a slow, drippy, blessedly boring rain and trying to finish my first big crochet project.  We're far enough south that the so-called "Frankenstorm" is very wimpy here, but I dearly hope all my northern friends and loved ones are ready.

I also hope that, like most impending disasters that I've prepared for in the past - such as the 3 hurricanes aiming for us in 2008, or the Y2K global crash - this turns out to be nothing.

The Frankenthrow is another matter.

I call it that because I did not crochet one huge piece.  I crocheted 63 squares, finished the last one yesterday, and now have to stitch them together, patchwork-style. It qualifies as a monster, big enough to be more like a twin bedspread.  I really did not intend that.  Let's call it an Opportunity For Growth.  I learned something about patterns and planning.

So it's at the assembly stage.  I'm starting with the center row, with its unique diamond-in-a-square design.  That light blue yarn forming the corners is only used in that one square.   That's because it comes from a special skein of yarn.

My maternal grandmother left a basket full of yarns, which came to me back in the 1980's, since the needlework thing skipped a generation.  My mother's aversion to needles and thread was kind of a family joke.

But I lacked the patience for it too, and gave away the yarn.  It's (almost) all gone.  URGH blast crap, what was I thinking?!

But it made sense at the time.  I'd started at least THREE afghans/throws, and found the process endlessly tedious, and abandoned them all.  I thought I'd never do it again - and I didn't, for most of 3 decades.

When I resumed, it was gonna be small projects or none.  But now I'm tired of making mufflers.  I decided to rethink the afghan idea.

Only, I need to adapt the project to my psychology.  I have to feel I've completed something.  I'm not good at deferred gratification, and especially when it's deferred by monotonous handwork.

 VoilĂ !  The answer!  Don't make one big square, make a bunch of little ones.  Say "Cool, I finished that!" 63 times.  Watch the pile grow.

 And incorporate into it just a little of the one skein of Gran's yarn that somehow escaped my purge.

Much smaller squares, and to be a much smaller throw

See that skein of blue, next to the little pile of squares that will start the next one?   This is all that's left of that big workbasketful.  It's 40-50 years old.  I don't even know what it's made of, but before I started, I crocheted a little piece with it, washed and machine dried it and it did not shrink, so I guess it must be synthetic.

I use only a little of it in each project.  A single square in this, a couple rows in that.  I put a row of it in a muffler I made for myself.

So in the last photo posed with Graymatter, you see the one patch of Gran's yarn that I'm using in the next throw.  The rest of the throw will be other colors.  Oh, and smaller.  A LOT smaller.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

None dare call it Heaven

Nothing illustrates religious division in this country better than all the anger that's falling on a neurosurgeon, who interprets the visions he had during a coma as a visit to the real and true Heaven.

And the pile-on he's getting makes me wish and, haha, pray that somebody in the rationalist community would suggest cutting him some slack. I'm here doing it, but I'm a known Buh-Liever and am therefore suspect as to my motives.

One post railed that he has no right to call himself a scientist after this.

Let's admit that he's declaring an unproven - probably unprovable - interpretation of an experience to have a final-answer meaning, and scientists aren't supposed to do that.  He's not being very scientific about his visions, and the question of whether that disables him as a scientist in any unrelated endeavor is open.  I'd argue that the near-death experience is uniquely overwhelming and is not a general science deal-breaker.  But I'm not a scientist.

Come hither...Ignore the frog...

Let's also admit that the images he experienced in his vision are inane in the extreme. A lovely woman guide in blue robes with flowing golden brown tresses?  It's tempting to say, "Oh, come on."  Do blonde hotties get all the jobs there, too?  Can I have a large, bossy cat guide me?

It's not like this is anything new.  Many other such experiences have been documented.  Our brains are built to have these events under certain circumstances.  They undoubtedly craft them out of images that our history and imagination (or lack of it) resonate to.

But that doesn't mean they're illusions.  They might not come from God but the neuroscience and the imagery are not proof that they don't either.  The occurrence of these experiences can't be pointed to as proof of anything except that we're human.

It means we evolved to have them.  Our chemistry either creates the experience...

...or is the wiring through which God connects with us.

Either way, the chemistry is part of what we have evolved to be, and its reality has to be accepted, no matter its first cause.

I know, yeah yeah. So do LSD trips, so do allergy attacks, so do a lot of perception-changers, all of which should be viewed objectively.

Here's the thing - the near-death experience, once we admit we're built to have it, evolved to be powerful at a level so deep, so central, that reaction can be full, unquestioning embrace of it.  If it were weak enough to allow the person having it to stand back, to say, "This is biochemicals," then it would not be what it is.  It evolved to declare itself absolute.

I keep referencing evolution, not to placate non-believers, but because it's real. Not that I know much more than high school taught me, and it's slightly crazy for a non-scientist to explain anything scientific.

But so much of any science vs. faith debate -- when they are about what ordinary people should be taught and should think -- depends on the understanding we non-scientists have; ordinary schleps like me who need a simple version, and who are in danger of embracing an inaccurate simple version because we haven't the training to comprehend the more accurate complex version.

I need to address it as an ordinary schlep, but I need to do it as a Believer one who is willing to take a scientific explanation as far as it can be taken, because faith is worthless if we're not willing to shine light into every dark corner.  It isn't faith if we've got anything to fear.   So.

It makes sense to me -- with that aforementioned limited knowledge -- that, in a social species with minds complex enough to need hope and wonder and reasons to stay brave against pain, the divine experiences of some members can benefit all, and that this need selects for such an experience, even though it often comes later in, or at the end of, life.

Acknowledging that the evolution of the human species can explain this brain chemistry doesn't answer the God question either yea or nay.  It's about the building's structure, not about what built it.
So, whatever the source, it's ridiculous to rage at the guy for seeing it as real and true.  It's like raging at someone for finding that salt tastes salty.

It.  Is.   How.  Our.  Bodies.  Are.  Built.  By God or by process, the building is what it is, regardless of the builder's moniker.

But this man's experience seems to threaten a lot of people.

It's common enough to label non-believers who get angry or contemptuous about Believer claims, as feeling threatened.  I've run into a few who find it offensive to be told they're acting threatened, but they are.  Why else should anyone care what this man experienced or to what he attributes it?

But more important, why deny feeling threatened, since there's a very real basis for it?  The Visit To Heaven, at a few removes, is a threat to separation of church and state.  At least, it gets used by Believers to further a political agenda.

So.  I wish they'd just admit they feel threatened, O-freaking-kay?  Because that is not a statement that they're being irrational.  They're being quite rational, so let's just admit that too.

I'm not stupid.  The evangelical political right's issues -- abortion, gay orientation, evolution, Israel, SpongeBob -- might seem several steps removed from any issues about near-death experiences and the afterlife, but to deny that anything shoring up claims of God and afterlife strengthens the religious right is denial of reality.

That's the issue.  Increasing Rightwing political power.  The Right Wing has no right to use these accounts for recruitment by leapfrogging them over the whole vast body of faith to land them on Biblical Literalist Christianity, but they try to do exactly that.

If his experience could just be taken as his experience, without the ridiculous and absolutely untrue idea that it has to mean joining the AntiMuslim MegaTemple of Holy Lobbying, we could look at it on its own terms.

My mom was talking happily to people she'd lost, during her last hours.  My mom-in-law was seeing them for days, and this while fully awake and totally lucid in every other way, completely engaged and sharp in conversation with us, able to connect to things previously said and keep track of statements we'd made the day before.

What-the-bleep-ever caused this for both of them, I like.  It brought them peace and joy as they passed.  I can no more prove its source than anybody else can, and I'm more than ready for everybody to stop declaring that the other point of view is absolutely disproven.  If we could get past that insistence, we could all believe what makes sense to us without others fearing that we're trying to use it to force doctrinal compliance on them.

Any theory about these experiences is fully compatible with keeping doctrine out of civil law.


Bicycles for use by guests, Whistling Swan Inn by nickelshrink
Bicycles for use by guests, Whistling Swan Inn, a photo by nickelshrink on Flickr.
(a little too big for the blogger frame, but clicking it will take you to the flickr original)
We're just back from our first vacation since 2007. More to come, but here's a photo that I oddly love.

We stayed in a wonderful bed-and-breakfast where they've thought of everything, including bikes for the guests to use. I was standing inside, at the jar of homemade chocolate chip cookies, trying not to have another, and I looked out the window onto the side porch.

This sight called out to me - the bikes ready to fly off into the autumn sunlight and falling leaves. I wanted to capture it, and it was a rare case of my ipad's camera doing exactly that. This is what I saw, the light, the mood, everything! How often does that happen, especially with no cropping or enhancement?

We were away for 5 days, 2 for airports and only 3 to do anything with, but it was perfection and a break from cares that neither of us has had since 2008.

More pix coming.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Everything old is...still old, but spruced up!

They're new bikes.....!  Wait! No! They're old bikes, refurbished!
And nicely.  Not only does GS Bicycles sell swank new bikes for both athletes and comfort-riders, but they'll restore your old ones with quality parts.

I won't pretend that I didn't look on the new ones with a little lust in my heart.  To be more accurate, I lifted one of the new ones and its light weight sparked lust in my heart.  The Trek Larry uses is 18 years old, and my Schwinn is 15, both very well built, but not exactly Space Age high tech metals.  I figure I'll burn extra calories just propelling its poundage down the path.

It's OK. I love my old bike.  I loved it when I bought it, and its association with our much-missed NJ house adds to that.

And my cycling has been sporadic, so until I figure out whether I'll actually get serious about it, refurbishment made sense.

But man, the search goes on for a form of exercise that I don't loathe!