Sunday, August 21, 2016

Why is the British Olympic Team Named Team Great Britain Instead of Team United Kingdom?

     I do not pay much attention to the Olympics these days. Since the Cold War ended, much of the drama of competition has been lost. The 2016 games were particularly uninteresting, and would be even if not plagued by Brazil's political, economic, and public health issues. This doe not count the various scandals of Ryan Lochte's false claim of robbery, whether Gabby Douglas should have placed her hand over her heart during the national anthem, and he Egyptian wrestler who refused to shake his Israeli opponent's hand. The games inspired little enthusiasm.
       The games inspired little enthusiasm for me as an American, at any rate. If one is British, there was quite a bit to celebrate. The British enjoyed their bet Olympic performance in history, finishing second in the medal count behind the United States and ahead of China. Considering the country's tough transition out of the European Union after June's successful Brexit referendum, the accomplishment is a source of national. But placing the country in the international spotlight brings up a burning question that may matter only to political scientists: why is the British Olympic team called Team Great Britain and not Team United Kingdom?
      The problem succinctly put is United Kingdom refers to the union of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Britain excludes Northern Ireland. One might assume it is a political matter. Irish unification is a touchy, historically violent issue. Similar occurred at the 2015 Olympics. Taiwan was forced to compete as Chinese Taipei. But athletes from Northern Ireland were part of Team Great Britain, so that is not the case.
       The answer is less dramatic, but no less baffling: inclusivenes. The name Team Great Britain was chosen by the British Olympics Committee in 1999 just ahead of the 2000 games in Sydney, Australia. Elected officials in Northern Ireland objected to the exclusion of its athletic contributions in the abbreviated team name. The British Olympics Committee issues a statement in response declaring Team Great Britain includes Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Channel Islands, Gibraltar, and the Falklands, among other overseas territories.
       But would Team United Kingdom not include of those as well? One would assume the name would be even more inclusive than Team Great Britain. Truth be told, it may all boil down to the uncooperative International Olympics Committee. The IOC has listed the United Kingdom as GBR since the modern inception of the Olympics, so the name Team Great Britain may a resignation to the country's Olympic designation fate.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Why No Daily Politics?

       The question remains unanswered—why do I not cover politics like I once did on my previous, long-running blog? The simplest answer is the other, extremely important issue on my mind way back in spring 2014 when I began writing again. Suffering an existential crisis compels one to search inward rather than wxx poetic on the day's events. While I have improved spiritually and emotionally, the fire in my belly for politics was extinguished and has yet to be re-lit. Well, except for my little excursion into the Darlington County sheriff' race.  But that was personal.  I can explain why daily politics holds no interest for me with the following three points.
       One, politics these day is absurd. I started paying attention to politics again when the primaries began in January. I had all intentions of blogging regularly on the subject, but found myself to make snarky comments via Twitter while live tweeting debates or after examining news items. I could not muter the will to produce any serious content because there was no serious content to find. Seriously...the Republican party could not stop a loose cannon, political novice from winning it nomination even though it put up sixteen other candidate in the effort. Meanwhile, the Democrats colluded to defeat an elderly socialist so their seizure prone favorite could earn the nomination—assuming she stayed out of federal prison. Try writing intellectual content that source material.
       Two, day-to-day politics is all about quickly forgotten sound bytes and quickly irrelevant, often contradictory, polls. No news lasts more than a day or two in the rapid mass media these days before being overshadowed by the next big thing. It I simply a waste of time to write about daily issue. The bigger picture lasts far longer. As for polls, I till feel burnt from 2012 when Mitt Romney was s far ahead, the blogosphere ran victory laps around Nate Silver's August prediction Barack Obama would win big. I reported on the accuracy of polls back then, but no more. Even Silver blew it earlier this summer when he predicted an 86% chance the United Kingdom would remain in the European Union as late as the morning of the referendum. Oops. I would not touch poll numbers with a ten foot poll these days.
       Finally, politics is a pageant. The government is a giant monster that gets a new head every four to eight years, but virtually nothing changes beyond which set of Wall Street banks benefit. If you looked at policy over the last sixteen year, could you tell which party was in charge when if they were not readily identified? I doubt it. I do not believe I could, at any rate. Rooting for a particular political persuasion feels more like a fruitless task by the day. Mercilessly mocking the process on Twitter ha its merit, even if just entertainment value, but I do not feel like going any deeper.
       Yet I still possess a strange affection for the academic discipline of political science. Useless though political science may be. History will teach you more about political science than actual political science. The subject is all about the big picture. The big picture is generally worth examining. So maybe some long, boring treaties on political issues may appear. You are all looking forward to those, right?             

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Saudi Arabia Jinn Hoax

       The above video has been circulating the internet for about a year and a half now. Various uploads offer differing accounts of what it actually is. The video has supposedly originated from Saudi Arabia, India, or Mexico. The hunched over figure is a witch, ghost, or just a creepy old woman. I will run through the possibilities debunking what I can below. One thing is for certain—the video is incredibly disturbing.
       Starting wit the most obvious...the figure is not a ghost, witch, or jinn. (Jinn is an Arabic word for demon.) I do not believe While I cannot change your mind if you are open to he possibility since I have no proof against, a natural explanation is a presupposition as far as I am concerned. Take it for what it is worth to you.
       What may not be so obvious is the terrified men panicking off camera are speaking in Arabic. So that rules out India and Mexico. That leaves us with the two most popular theories: Saudi border patrol video or Kuwaiti film students.
       The internet appears to prefer the Saudi border patrol theory. The story goes two border patrol officers, a veteran and a rookie, are driving near the Saudi-Kuwaiti border when they encounter this hunched over figure. It is the rookie you hear screaming to back up the vehicle as the figure chases them. The veteran remains calm throughout. Because the veteran remains so calm, it is presumed the encounter is a prank played on the rookie as hazing the new guy. 
       The only problem with this is the strict religious law in Saudi Arabia. Witchcraft and mysticism are capital offenses. I doubt anyone, particularly government employees, would risk being accused of witchcraft for the sake of pranking the newbie. Certainly they would not upload such evidence online.
       In every discussion thread I saw while researching this pot, someone inevitably popped up to say this video was made by two Kuwaiti film students who wanted to make a “found footage” movie like The Blair Witch project. This sounds like a far more reasonable explanation for the video's origin. The hunched over figure is clearly fake. Kuwait has a more modern sensibility, Film students would have more leeway playing with the horror genre there than in Saudi Arabia.
       While I lean towards the film students theory, the internet consensus says Saudi border patrol prank. You will have to make up your own mind. If it is a Saudi border patrol prank, they had better hope ISIS never get a hold of this video. They will learn the bet way to invade is to deres up like a Scooby Doo villain.

Friday, August 12, 2016

One Measly Pound

        One measly pound.
      All I have managed to gain in the last month is one measly pound. After all the pizza, burgers, donuts, and assorted cookies and candy bars, I only managed to add a pound. Sure, I weigh in at the second highest weight I have ever been besides the day the feeding tube was removed, but still. My metabolism is burning it off about as fast as I can shovel it in. Perhaps I need to become lazy.
       Here is a selfie to go along with the weight update. It is not my usual holiday selfie, but vanity require no special day. Yes, I need a haircut. I will try to get one before the end of next week. When my hair gets to a certain length, I can only style it with a part down the middle. Right now, it is so long and thick, I might lose that pound simply in lopped off hair.
      The picture is my new Facebook profile photo. But I am not sure it will remain in such a lofty position. As noted, the shaggy hair looks awful. The upward angle posses a certain Charles Foster Kane sense of self-importance, as well. Considering all the egocentric naval gazing frequently going on here, I do not need a similarly themed photo making things wore.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Getting My Blogging Groove Back

        It is the start of a new month. Every time the first of the month roll around, I say I am going to press full speed ahead into developing my blog into something worth reading. But every month so fr, I have faltered. It is largely because I like to focus, and I imply have not don that yet. Until now, that is. Yes, really. The following is the battle plan for the near future.
       First, I changed the name from Sine Qua Non to Gods & Monsters. Latin phrases are interesting and usually pointed, but they come across as awfully pretentious. It is not wise to make a blog inaccessible from the title on down. Hardly anyone will make it to the posts if they cannot draw some assumptions from the title. The title is from a toast offered by Dr. Victor Frankenstein in The Bride of Frankenstein to "A new world of gods and monsters!” It will probably still be off putting to some—especially the skeleton wearing a crown in the banner—but I like it. The feeling evoked fits in with the theme.
       Speaking of theme, coming up with a workable one has been the tougher challenge for lifting what is now gods & monsters off the ground. I have written this explanation before, but for the sake of thoroughfare, I will do so again. I wrote a blog called Eye of Polyphemus for the decade 2003-2-13. It began as a personal blog to cover my law school days and morphed into a place to vent over my nearly overwhelming health issue when they began piling on. It later settled into a groove of political blogging before devolving into some directions I never really cared about for the sake of visitor number. If you were around during the last days of The Eye, you could tell it was fading for more reasons than just the lack of attention because of my convalescence from my last abdominal surgery. I call this the Macular Degeneration Era of the Eye.
       By the way, I am irked to use the word devolving above. It is a valid word to describe a thing which I regressing. But whether a thing is regressing or progressing, it is still evolving. For some reason, the word evolution is synonymous with changes for the better, so we invent an unnecessary word for the sole purpose of accentuating the negative aspect. Language is a peculiar creature. But I digress.
       I ended The Eye in spring 2014 after a year off the grid because of some “unpleasant' circumstance. I needed to cope with thee new circumstances, and I felt writing about being dumped into a nursing home and all the lovely issues going along with it would not fit as a con continuation of a blog I had already lost interest. So I started up this blog in its original form. There were many dark emotions to purge and a twisted story to tell, as with all things, they passed. As such, the blog has meandered since leaving the nursing home a year and a half ago to settle in a more normal living arrangement. Sp what was next?
       Which leads to the second point. The last year and a half has been the first peaceful time I have enjoyed in over a decade, so I have used it to immerse myself in various interest. I went through a philosophy phase inspired by both recent intersection and long ago apologetic s. I soon became hooked on history podcasts. All the while, I experienced the usual daily encounters that make cause one to stop and think. Yet, I possessed little of my old discipline to park it at the keyboard and write the thoughts down like I used to do. Now I want to make a better effort to do so.
       My final point establishes what Gods & Monsters will be. For one, it is still a personal bog. Blogging is an act of vanity, so one might as well embrace the fact. Not all my experience of recent year have bean written down yet. I plan to complete them all. Because some things imply need to be preserved. Two, while I have steered away from politics, I have been bitten by the bug in recent weeks. You might have noticed a few personal touches in recent weeks. Day to day politics like poll watching and sound bites still does not interest me. They are the main reason I drifted away from politics during the latter days of The Eye. But political science issues still intrigue me. Does that mean my political coverage will be boring. Depends on how much you like dry analysis mixed with sarcasm, because that I how I roll. Finally, we will have interesting points of philosophy and history as I run across them.
       So basically, whatever pique my interest is likely to show up. Hopefully on a more regular basis. The new title some the possibilities up pretty well, does it not? Also hopefully with more outside interest. I was once part of a blogging community. The landscape has certainly changed, but I aim to rejoin the ranks. I remember those old days of launching a blog when you were pretty much performing a concert to an empty theater. In some ways, they were a lot of fun. Maybe steady blogging can bring it all back.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Social Darwinism of Satoshi Uematsui

       Horrible news out of Japan today. Satoshi Uematsu, a 26 year old former worker at a nursing facility for the elderly with mental disabilities, went on a stabbing spree at the facility. Uematsui killed 19 resident and wounded 24 more. Twenty of the wounded are considered critical. The brutal act is not only shocking because Japan is a relatively safe country with little major crime, but Uematsui's social Darwinist rationale for his actions. When he turned himself in Uematsui confessed and said he committed the murders because he wanted to get rid of the disabled.
       Uematsui delivered a letter to the lower house of the Diet in February declaring he would kill 470 disabled people because he wanted Japan to be a country in which the disabled could be euthanize d. Uematsui rationalized the disabled are a drain financially and emotionally and cannot participate in society. Uematsu was himself institutionalized because of the letter, but was released after two weeks. Today he made good on his threat, though thankfully not the number of casualties he originally intended.
       If not for my experience in recent years being dumped in a similar facility, I might have glossed over this news item with little emotional. Instead I feel great empathy for those living in such places. Not only do they suffer physical and mental ailments, but also face a growing societal condescension as the people they used to be fade into twilight. You would like to think it does not happen, but I can tell you first hand residents of nursing homes are frequently considered lesser people because of their debilitating health issues and/pr advanced age. Uematsui's despicable act is rightfully condemned by the public at large, but the seeds of his attitude regarding the disabled are there. Faint perhaps, but not as faint as would make me comfortable.
       I would like to have some solutions to offer up, but unfortunately, I do not. I am only glad I was fortunate enough to escape the facility in which I was trapped. Lord only knows how long I will bear the emotional sears that came along with it. Maybe telling my story and the things I witnessed during my experience can count as my fair share. Proper compassion must come from within. You cannot make someone draw the right conclusion. You can only hope to appeal to the better angels of human nature.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Force is Strong with This One

       Always two there are
       Master and apprentice.
      But as a friend asked on Facebook, which one is which?  I am not revealing for certain.   You must make up your own mind.  Who is the more insidious?    
       I  had forgotten about how I promised to post a photo with the Darth Vader candy dispenser Kristy gave me a couple weeks ago. It was a nice gesture, even if it was arguably a concession for the tendon stretching splint I sleep in thee days. The Sith Lord tickles my fancy regardless.     

Monday, July 18, 2016

Belated Holiday Selfie

       I have gotten into the habit in the last couple years of posting selfies on holidays. The Fourth of July came and went without one. It was not a mistake. If you will notice in the photo from Swan lake a few days back my hair flowing in the wind. I needed a haircut desperately. There was no way I was going to post a photo permanently on my blog with me looking like one of those dime a dozen country singers who came and went in the '90's.
       Now the hair has been trimmed, so here is the Fourth of July selfie actually two weeks later.   I always deliver...eventually.        

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Fourth of July

       Today we celebrate the United States' fortieth birthday. As a fiercely independent person, I was curious why my first instinct was to make that as my opening sentence. Our nation's 240th birthday, not Independence day? What gives? Then it struck me I am a little more than five months away from turning forty. I am a Bicentennial Baby, so I am always reminded of the number soon coming up for me. More so when the number is a milestone.
       I wanted to wrote a few words about what American means to me, but it I difficult to do in a brief blog post without sound trite. I am not competing in some high school essay writing contest. Sine Qua Non is for my thoughts and reflections, whatever they may be. So in keeping in brief, I will say this: I ran across an article this morning that said an average of 7,000 American renounce their citizenship very July 4th. Good riddance. They were probably all going to vote for Hillary Clinton.
       Lunch was a cookout. It was hot as all get out in Sumter, but I managed a nice spot for my two cheeseburgers, chips, and ice cream. I am all about American junk food when celebrating. Or any other time, for that matter. There was enough left over to have more for supper, so double the fun, folks. I live in the city limits, so no fireworks. Good food is a bigger deal to me than minor explosives, so I will manage.
       I hope everyone else enjoyed the same kind of day as I.   

Happy Fourth of July!

       I hope he can see with those.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Swan Dive

       I received a pleasant surprise today. In the late morning, my friend Christie—Christie of Christmas cheer, not of occupational therapy—contacted me. She had her grandchildren for the day and wanted to know if I would like to join them for lunch and a trip to Swan Lake Iris Gardens. I did indeed want to partake in the adventure, so within thirty minutes, we were all on the road.
       The first order of business was to agree upon a lunch destination. Placing a high priority of kid friendliness, I suggested Pizza Land. Pizza Land is a Sumter landmark featuring a pizza buffet and wide screen televisions always airing cartoons. I frequently allow my inner child frolic on a long leash. Pizza and Loony Tunes sounded great to me. Alas, I have been slow to earn my Sumter street cred. Although I had eaten at Pizza Land before, I could not recall its exact location or, as my bad luck would have it, the proper name. Oops.
       As I turned out, mistaking the correct name for a pizza place wreaks havoc on a GPS system. I felt guilty over messing things nd apologized profusely as a wandered the cityscape. I found solace with the realization none of the locals asked offered correct directions, either. Surely Pizza Land was not a mythical Shangri La of nigh unlimited pepperoni and cheese for a reasonable buffet price?
       Pizza Land did exist. I had not imagined it. But we did have to confirm its existence from the waitress at East of Chicago Pizza, a competing eatery with buffet and cartoons on wide screen televisions. So our failure to find Pizza Land ended happily. Mistakes rarely turn out so well. One must take a moment to appreciate the blessing when visited upon you.
     We made it to Swan Lake Iris Garden with little difficulty, presumably because I offered up no insight on how to get there. I had been once before in December to view the two million Christmas lights on display, but I left the driving to the GPS. While this was my second trip to Swan Lake, it was the first time I walked around. I spent most of my time lounging in the shaded picnic area people watching while the kids played on the playground. Quietly watching people puts me in my element as far as the great outdoors goes. I do plan to return in the near future for the butterfly garden which was way too much of a hike for our current location and in dire need of naps kids. So an excursion exists for another day.
       So I have now eaten at Pizza Land and visited Swan lake both at Christmas to see the lights and summer to see the garden bloom. Thee are the rites of passage for Sumter residents, so I appear to have long last made it official with the help of Christy, Morgan, and Ray!

Breakfast of Champions

            With apologies to Kurt Vonnegut.
     My long holiday weekend began early when Christy, my occupational therapist, surprised me with several bags of sugary goodness. On the one hand, she wants to fatten me up. On the other, she wants to make up for putting me through the ringer these last five weeks. We have pent this time together working on some adaptations for household tasks including a few gadgets I used to own, but are now allegedly boxed away but more likely thrown away by the Chavis clan, my time with Christy is coming to an end. Next week will be our last.
       But I am certain the sugar rush from chocolate donuts, honey buns, chocolate chip cookies, and a crate of Dr. Pepper will leave a lasting impression. It is not all sugar, either. There are plenty of Doritos and Ritz crackers, too. Christy speaks my language fluently. So fluently, she also gave me a Dath Vader candy dispenser. I am a science fiction geek, what can I say? I will post a photo of it up soon.
        Do all these goodies make up for the strenuous exercise program and tendon stretching splint that went along with the household adaptations? You bet. I am going to miss Christy when it is all said and done. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

An Amazing Trick of Physics

       My day began at 4:30 AM for no reason than I am currently in a period of awkward sleep patterns. I know it is not healthy to just sleep whenever you want without an established schedule, but I have no obligations beyond the flowing of my own creative juices, so my whims win out. Then again, the day started off on the wrong foot, so maybe there is something to the whole warning about not messing with the natural order of things.
       So here is the deal...i was changing clothes. My shirt was laying on top the dresser. My key was resting in its usual spot on the dresser, but suffering the unusual indignity of being smothered by said shirt. When I yanked my shirt off the dresser, the key came flying. Presumably a valiant escape attempt. I heard the key hit the floor. No problem. I will just put my shirt on a grab the key afterwords. No such luck. But it was not as simple as that. The little bugger was no where in sight. After frantically searching, I surmised it must have landed under the dresser.
       The only way the key could have done this acrobatic trick was to have precisely hit the leg of the nearby chair and squeeze in between an incredibly small space between the dresser and the floor. A most impressive feat I recognize in retrospect. In retrospect, because at the time I was quite irritated. This is definitely not the way to start the day off right.
      The dresser was too heavy to move, of course. The ordeal created a milestone. I was forced to bend down on my hands and knees for the first time in at least four years. My knees re less than six months away from turning forty, and they protested highly about being too old for this sort of thing. I sympathized.
       The narrow space between the dresser and the floor was too narrow for my hand to slip through. I was secretly relieved by this revelation. The arachnophobic never want to stick their hands in a dark place even when there is logically no spider there. You can never truly trust those critters not to be there. I had to get a thin piece of cardboard to fish the key out. It was a frustrating endeavor for a few moments, I eventually met with success.
       So...did your day start off right/?

Monday, June 27, 2016

A Living Witness to History

       I was talking to a friend over lunch Friday about his interest in genealogy. He has traced his family history back to the mid-19th century. Knowing my interest in history leans more towards the big picture, he asked this intriguing question: if I had a time machine and could go back and witness—and only witness—an historical event, what would I choose?
       A history buff I may be, but I do not think there are any historical events I want to witness personal. In some cases, the mystique would be destroyed. Meetings are meetings, whether it is the signing of the Declaration of Independence or the surrender of Imperial Japan. I would hate to think such events are more mundane in reality than in my mind's eye. I doubt I would like to bear witness to any famous battle, either. I am not certain what purpose seeing such a thing would serve.. So I was in a quandary. The honest answer was I would not care to see any event first hand.
       Now any history buff out there must have a desire to hit me in the back of the head for not wanting to take advantage of such an opportunity. I was immediately bemused at m own refusal to indulge. It only took a couple minutes of discussing the idea further before I decided if I had use of a time machine, I would use it to solve some of history's mysteries. The answer suited me so well, I am surprised it did not occur to me immediately. I would rather know something new rather than see in person something I have already read about. I came up with three.
       One, I want to know what the adult Jesus looked like. The bible never describes Jesus' appearance in any detail. We know he had beard, and that is about the extent of it. The generally accepted appearance of Jesus with long, dark hair and a full beard has been around since the 6h century, but there is no solid evidence for it. The question of whether Jesus was a classic hero type or ordinary would have interesting spiritual implication. I am not certain there is a specific event in Jesus' life I want to visit, but I would choose some point in the last three years of his life.
       Two, some points in prehistory. Again, my purpose would be to settle many questions in the religion v. science battle that has raged for centuries. I am not certain even to begin, hence I say key point. What I would like to do is settle the evolution v. Intelligent Design debate. White I have spent much time studying apologetics, I have largely avoided this aspect of defending the Christian faith. I have done so because, quite frankly, I see no reason why theistic evolution would be a bad thing if true, and much evidence says it is true. Of course, biologists, anthropologists, and religious thinkers cannot agree on significant aspect of Creation. It would be amazing to see the truth with my own eye. Yes...eye. I only have one these days, remember.
       Finally, I would like to know what happened to Amelia Earhart. Admittedly, this is a personal one with no religious consequences possibly echoing into eternity. A woman's body was discovered on Gardner island of the Phoenix Islands, Kiribati. The corpse was determined to be that of a white woman of northern European descent. Was she Earhart? Did Earhart live as a castaway for a time after her plane went down attempting to circumnavigate the globe in 1937? I would like to know, but the only way I could was to travel to Gardner Island when the mystery woman was still alive. The non-intervention aspect of serving only as a witness would cause a moral dilemma that would probably haunt me. Maybe the positive aspects of my first two sojourns into history would offset.
       There are many other mysteries I would like to see solved. What happened to the Mary Celete? Where did the lost colony go? What is the fate of Josef Mengele? What real crashed at Roswell? But a top three is a good number to choose. Feel free to provide your own top three, five, ten, or what have you in whatever social media venue you like. HiIt would be interesting to see what historical events others are curious about.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Wibbly, Wobbly, Timey, Wimey... Stuff

      I received this surprise in the mail today. It was a gift from friend and fellow Doctor Who fan, Kristina. My camera may not do justice.  If you cannot see clearly, it is the various doctors rendered as cats with a feline rogues gallery.
       The poster currently hangs proudly among my increasingly number of geeky decorations. The place is a haven for sociopolitical nerds with a penchant for comics and science fiction.

Monday, June 20, 2016

It Was a Papa John's Night

       It was a Papa John's night. As I said a couple posts ago, I am fatter than I once was, but not as fat as I want to be. Therefore, a pizza is required every now nd then. The evening's feast was a Swiss burger smothered in garlic sauce. I approved. According to the advertisement, this selection is a limited time special. If you want it, you have to order it soon.
       For the record, I have experimented with sauces other than tomato on my pizza. Barbecue is a good alternate, but I now think garlic sauce is my favorite. Just watch out for the dragon breath. But that is what toothpaste is for, no?