Chase MortgageSo, we finally succumbed to the low interest rates and decided to refinance our house, and they just can’t get the paperwork right. They faxed over some documents for us to sign, and even though both the original loan and the new loan are with the same finance company (we did this to help it go smoothly, you see), they’ve got the payoff value of the old loan off by about $10,000. The gal on the phone says something like, ‘oh, well, that’s no problem, this is just an estimated escrow something or other,’ but I say, bullshit. Over and above points, etc., we’ve paid something like $400 in little niggling fees for the filing, couriers, notary public, you know the drill, gone through a credit check, had our house appraised at our expense, and all of that, and when they send that guy out at 10:00 am on Saturday to have us sign something in triplicate, it had better have the right numbers on it.

Here’s a good article on human cloning, with 3 laws of cloning that are designed to echo Isaac Asimov’s famous 3 Laws of Robotics, from I, Robot: Scientific American: I, Clone
I, Clone

Old GloryThere’s sure a lot of interesting stuff to think about. I picked up an old compilation of Playboy interviews to reread the 1980 interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono that they did around the time Starting Over came out, right before he was shot. Then I got sucked into reading several other interviews, like Bertrand Russell, Vladimir Nabakov, and Albert Schweitzer, and they’ve all had interesting things to say about war…

Here’s Lord Russell on the cold war:

…I would strongly recommend an agreement on both sides not to teach that the other side is wicked. For Americans, communism is the Devil; for Russians, capitalism is the Devil. The truth is that neither is wickeder than the other. They are both wicked.

and again,

Another matter to which I have always attached great importance in education is that schools ought not to teach nationalism. Every school, with hardly any exception, has as one of its objects the deception of children. They teach them patriotism, to salute the flag. But the flag is a murder symbol, and the state is a pirate ship, a gang of murderers come together. When they salute the flag, they salute a symbol of bloody murder. All this is perfectly clear, valid psychology.

Here’s Vladimir:

The fact that since my youth – I was 19 when I left Russia – my political outlook has remained as bleak and changeless as an old gray rock. It is classical to the point of triteness. Freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of art. The social or economic structure of the ideal state is of little concern to me. My desires are modest. Portraits of the head of the government should not exceed a postage stamp in size. No torture and no executions.

Here’s Dr. Schweitzer, when asked, ‘Considering the differences which split the world, do you think war can be averted?’:

My friend, we must hope so. But deep-down among men, you know, the differences are not always as great as they appear on the surface. Look – quick! – look at those two chickens fighting under the tree. See how they rush at one another, make a big noise and ruffle their feathers… and now, what? You see, it’s all over. It was just bluff, just noise. Big nations are like those chickens. They also like to make big noises. But very often, it means no more than two chickens, squabbling under a tree.

But what took me the deepest into thought concerning the war was the interview I read last night and this morning with Albert Speer, the architect of the Third Reich and Hitler’s second in command, who was condemned to 20 years in Spandau after confessing during the Nuremberg trials to the enslavement of 5,000,000 people into forced labor. Here he is on Hitler’s comments about a son as a successor:

‘Think of the problems if I had children! In the end, they would try to make my son my successor, and the chances are slim for someone like me to have a capable son. That is almost always how it goes in such cases.’ He always cited the example of Goethe’s son, who was a cretin, to explain his distrust of a hereditary succession.

How’s this for cognitive dissonance?

I was forced to wait on the airstrip in freezing cold for several hours while Soviet POWs strove to clear the snow and ice from the runway, and at one point, several Russians in padded jackets surrounded me and gesticulated animatedly. They spoke no German, and I no Russian, but finally, one scooped up some snow and rubbed my face with it. I realized he was warning me of frostbite. Another of the Russians reached into the filthy, tattered remnants of his Red Army uniform and handed me a clean, folded, white handkerchief to wipe my face. Later, that image stuck in my mind: Here was one of a race we were determined to turn into helots, a people whom we already regarded as little more than pack animals, giving me what was probably the last of his personal possessions – and for no other reason than that I was a fellow human being threatened by the elements.

And finally,

If Adolf Hitler had possessed a button that would destroy the entire world, he would have pushed it at the end. Today, there are such buttons in the war rooms of all the great powers. None of the world’s leaders is a Hitler, but the hatreds and fears on which Hitler thrived still persist, and the potential for mass destruction is even greater today. in the 1970s, an executioner never has to see his victims, whether they number in the hundreds or the thousands or the millions. This was the nightmare of Nazi Germany, the first modern state to mechanize murder. It is also the nightmare of a world of H-bombs and high-altitude jet bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles and chemical-biological warfare. In such a world, terrorized by technology, we are all in Auschwitz.

I know that these instruments of death are in the hands of sane men, often decent men, but there were sane and decent men in Nazi Germany and they did not avert the greatest bloodbath in recorded history. The automated juggernaut of modern mass destruction can all too easily achieve a momentum of its own, carrying the world to total annihilation. Once the beast is loosed, it can travel in only one direction. The descent into hell can be an exhilarating ride, but it is a one-way trip. I know. I have been there. I still am.

I was going to write something about how distracted I’ve been lately, like telling you how last night, when I was changing the cat’s litterbox, I reached for the wrong bag and accidentally filled her litterbox with dry cat food, but instead, I’ve decided to share this prayer that I’ve written for the war effort:

We thank you for the blessings that you’ve showered upon us,
and the bountiful resources you’ve given us to affect positive change in our world.
We ask that you guide us gently in our pursuit of freedom and peace
in places where these blessings have not yet come to pass.
We thank you for giving us the thoughtfulness to choose good
over harm wherever possible, and for protecting us and our troops
from committing evil or falling prey to the evil of others.
Whatever happens over the next few months, we praise you and
pray that your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

I don’t have time to write much today, but here’s a link to something pretty entertaining…FLY GUY

Buy It and Read It! Small Wonder at Amazon

I’m just finishing up reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book Small Wonder, and it is fabulous. Simply some of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking essays on the meaning of post-9-11 patriotism, U.S. foreign policy, literacy, human rights, and environmental issues that I’ve ever seen all together in one place.

The essay I read this morning was about the flag and how it belongs to all of us, the doves as well as the hawks. It got me thinking about all those people who printed out flags on their color printers a couple of falls ago and taped them to their car windows, and now you see them going down the road and the paper is all warped and yellowed, and the colors have faded to pink, green, and purple. What are they thinking?

The flag is a symbol that becomes sacred by virtue of the way we treat it – without transubstantiation, the body of Christ in the Eucharist is just a cracker. That’s why we have rules of flag conduct like, ‘don’t ever let the flag touch the ground,’ and ‘don’t fly the flag at night without a light on it.’ One of my old high school girlfriends actually pestered the dean at her college so much about that one that he ended up having a spotlight installed for the flag out in front of the Student Union so that they could leave the flag up at night. She was very proud of that, too.

So then I hear that we’re now getting back at the nation of France for not supporting the war effort by referring to french fries as ‘freedom fries,’ and french toast as ‘freedom toast.’ I would sure like to live in a country that I wasn’t embarrassed by! I mean, why not go all the way and rename them frog’s legs? Pathetic.

Speaking of french fries, here’s another book I recommend highly:

Buy It and Read It! Fast Food Nation at Amazon

Hiss!Superstitions… can’t live with ’em, well, that’s about it.

We’ve had a fairly spirited discussion here at work this week – our order entry system is about to hit order number 666000, and the question came up whether it was worth bumping the number up to 667000 to avoid reading back a number that began ‘six-six-six.’

I’d love to say that we decided to ignore it, but I was actually one of the people who argued for bumping up the numbers, because in a world where buildings and airplanes skip the 13th floor and the 13th row of seats, why risk a one-in-a-thousand chance of offending someone a thousand times? Hmm… I wonder if they give a discount for 14th row seats for people who can count?