One small step backward for humanity(?)… One giant leap forward for A.I.!

June 20, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

Dystopian movies featuring A.I. as the antagonist abound. The thought of a world in which a soulless “entity” is in the lead role with humanity at its behest is terrifying. How will the relationship between A.I. and humans play out over time is anyone’s guess, but with all the benefits artificial intelligence brings to the table, I feel a little like “a moth to a flame”, and it bugs me.

Why the angst? We recently came across a Los Angeles Times dated May 12, 1997, which had coverage of the historic(?) chess match between Gary Kasparov, the reigning world champion at the time, and “Deep Blue”, an IBM supercomputer. The strings of o’s and 1’s ruled the day, defeating Kasparov in the deciding game in 19 moves. I wonder if many moons from now, when/if A.I. decides to write its own developmental timeline, if this achievement will be listed as one of significance?Note: In case anyone is wondering, upon its victory, “Deep Blue” was NOT crowned the new World Champion of Chess.

Memorial Day – How many generations does it take to… (?)

May 27, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

Generation 1 – The Call to Sacrifice

The oppressed are willing to sacrifice their very lives to throw off oppression – and many of them do, giving their last breath for the sake of their children and their children’s children.

Generation 2 – Picking Up the Pieces

Those recently freed from oppression begin to reap the rewards of their new freedom, but many scars remain – particularly those caused by the loss of loved ones.

Generation 3 – Enjoying Freedom’s Bounty

The sacrifices of the past are still discussed, but the wounds are largely well-healed, and the benefits born of the sacrifice of others is fully embraced.

 

[an unspecified number of generations – usually not many]

 

Generation End (Minus 2) – Freedom Is & Always Will Be

Freedom is so commonplace, it begins to be taken for granted. The oppression and sacrifices of the past are long forgotten.

Generation End (Minus 1) – Heads in The Sand

Freedom, is it really all that important? Comfort and ease is what we want. Sacrifice? For what! A blind eye is turned to the new oppressors at the gate.

Generation End – The Demise!

Where did our freedom go? Why are we being oppressed?? How did this happen???

 

Memory – it’s indispensable. A simple internet search for “lest we forget”, “those who fail to remember”, or similar will return a plethora of warnings about the consequences which go hand-in-hand with not remembering the lessons, sacrifices, blessings, etc. of the past.

As an example, it would be hard to argue that the Jews/Israelites, through time, have been one of the most oppressed people-groups on the planet – a chain of horror which began with their enslavement in Egypt. One would have thought their eventual “deliverance” by the hand of God would have set them up for eternity, yet, just a few generations after their new-found freedom was realized, they found themselves enslaved once again. Why? “The Israelites failed to remember the LORD their God who had delivered them from the hands of all their enemies on every side (Judges 8:34).”

While each generation needs to take personal responsibility for “remembering”, one cannot remember that which one never knew. Therefore, we, as the current generation, must take ownership of teaching ourselves, keeping what we learn in the forefront of our minds, and then teaching the next generation – lest they never know.  Will this take considerable effort? Sure, but the sacrifice of time and energy pales in comparison to the sacrifices of the past.

To this end, perhaps the following will be useful:

Previous Memorial Day Themed Posts

Memorial Day Themed Newspapers

PS  I am grateful for the men and women who have given their lives so my family, friends, and neighbors, whether we be politically or philosophically divergent or parallel, can enjoy the freedoms which fall under the umbrella of “inalienable Rights which are endowed to each one of us by our Creator”.

 

A woodcut masthead is worth a thousand words… Slavery…

May 16, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

A few weeks back my favorite person posted: Take a Closer Look … The Delicate Details of Woodcut Prints… 

Such prints are truly amazing. However, as is the case with (most?) works of art, to some degree they tell a story. One such story is that of “Slavery – The Cry for Emancipation”, as told through the masthead of The Liberator. While we have many historic newspapers containing articles chronicling the path from the horrors of slavery, through emancipation, then on to suffrage and beyond, few rival what is communicated through this most-amazing, intricate, illustration which was present at the top of nearly every issue. At a distance its beauty speaks to the eyes, but a close-up view shouts to the heart: ENOUGH!

See for yourself:

National Day of Prayer… Love our neighbors… Newspapers provide perspective…

May 5, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

As we reflect on the political, religious, racial, socio-economic, etc., etc., etc. diversity of the citizens of the United States on this National Day of Prayer, one cannot ignore what appears to be our ever-increasing polarization and wonder if our days are numbered. Is it possible to learn to appreciate our differences… to be kind… to play nice? When we were just sprouting, many of us were taught the Biblical mandate to love our neighbors – albeit a difficult task, at least we could wrap our minds around the concept.

However, Jesus, in His famous Sermon on The Mount, upgraded this calling to a height eclipsing human reason:

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.”

Is this really possible? Can we actually learn to love those who violently oppose us – who would wish us harm? God tells us that with Him, ANYTHING is possible. He also provides considerable encouragement when He states: “You often do not have because you do not ask.”

Reading news from the day it was first reported through historical first-hand accounts as found in Rare & Early Newspapers provides incredible perspective. Our shared heritage was built upon diversity. Did we make mistakes, have passionate disagreements, and even come to the brink of our demise? Absolutely! However, through it all we managed to stay together – to be a melting pot unlike any the world had ever experienced. Was this… is this a God-thing? One thread woven throughout our history has been the calls by our leaders (Presidents, Governors, etc.) to seek God through prayer – often given as Proclamations for a Day of Thanksgiving, Humiliation, and Prayer. The truth is, prayer has been woven throughout the fabric of our nation from the start.

So, on this agreed upon, country-wide, National Day of Prayer…

Dear Lord,

We, as a nation, need Your help. Please give us the ability too see others through Your eyes and to love those with whom we fervently disagree. We understand the truth in President Lincoln’s words: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” We realize there are many from outside our borders who are actively fomenting such division, and rather than steeling ourselves against such attacks, we too often respond as mere pawns.  Help us to unite against such nefarious intentions. Help us to appreciate our common Source – that we are all made in Your image, our common citizenry, and the abundance of our shared experiences – birth, death, and a ton of joys and sorrows in between. Help us to play nicely with one another – to seek common ground whenever possible, and to agree to live peacefully with our differences. While humanly absurd, please give us Your strength to love one another. We grasp this is a You-size quest and therefore come to You with child-like humility – pleading for You to do that which we cannot do ourselves. We, as a nation, need Your help. Thanks in advance.

Amen

The following is a post from the past which, in my opinion, is worth a second look:

America – pulling a nation back together…

blog-11-14-2016-jfk-jr-photoMy Fellow Americans: Devastating hurricanes, Pearl Harbor, 9-11, the end of WWII, Lindbergh’s 1st flight across the Atlantic – while there is much that divides us, there have been times throughout our history when both triumphs and tragedies have inspired us to lay down our weapons and to unite as one. While these times of mutual good will are typically short-lived, they often act as a reset to help center us on that which binds us together. We need such a time!

It is was with the current atmosphere of angst as a backdrop that I was moved by an under-the-radar prayer found buried on page 11 of an issue reporting the assassination of President JFK. His death, airmailed via television directly into the living room of nearly every home in America, brought together Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike and unified us around shared grief.  May a day come when such unity of spirit flourishes without the inspiration of deep sorrow, tragedy, or war. As another assassinated President once said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand (Abraham Lincoln).” It is time for us to lay down our weapons. Much is at stake.blog-11-14-2016-prayer-jfk

Snapshot 1844 – Voter Fraud… “death by a thousand cuts…”

April 8, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

Political scientist Robert Dahl defines a free and fair election as one in which “coercion” is comparatively uncommon.

Did voter fraud occur in the 2020 U.S. Presidential election? Of course. To think otherwise would be naive. Some degree of fraud has likely occurred in most, if not all elections which involve an imperfect people. This may seem a bit jaded, but I’m actually encouraged by the degree to which most elections in America have been “free and fair”. Still, complaints regarding election fraud have been documented throughout our history. True? In some cases, yes. Enough to impact the final outcome? It’s hard to know.

One such cry came from Louisiana in 1844, and was recorded in the National Intelligencer dated Nov. 30, 1844 (originally printed in the New Orleans Bee). Truth be told, fraud cannot be stopped. However, for the sake of the confidence of the electorate (i.e., to preserve a free and fair election), every intention must be made to keep it to a minimum – while not inhibiting citizens from voting. Balancing both is no small task – but is worth our ongoing effort.

 

Insight into the mind of Tesla…

April 4, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

I am always dumfounded by the breadth of brilliance some well-known inventors of the past possessed.  Leonardo da Vinci, who is credited with the invention of the parachute, the barreled cannon, the Helical aerial screw, the winged flying machine, diving equipment & the self-propelled cart, also painted the Mona Lisa.  How can one not stand in awe? Let’s face it, inventors are often trend setters who give the world around them inspiration as well as practical solutions for common problems.

On Oct. 14, 1893, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN featured an article by Nikola Tesla which caught my attention.  We think of Tesla as one of the 2-3 most famous “explorers” who contributed to our current-day electrically powered world.  However, in this article, he is using his study of the eye to further his insight into electrical currents.  Below is a fitting quote from the article by this genius from the late 19th and early 20th centuries:

“The day when we shall know what ‘electricity’ is, will chronicle an event probably greater and more important than any other in the history of the human race.” Much ground has been covered in this regard since he made this statement, but most would agree we have yet to arrive.

The more things change… Vaccinations and the immoral influences on children…

February 15, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

Currently, the whole world over is speaking of virus and antibodies, of carriers and immunization. Outbreaks are mapped in news blurbs, along with identified hot spots and constant status reports on flattening the curve.  Comparisons are made to the “Spanish Flu”, but an article in a September, 1808 issue of The Gentleman’s Magazine led me to comparisons with smallpox instead.  More specifically, they led me to the smallpox outbreak that eventually brought Edward Jenner into focus — he of the cowpox vaccination fame (or, infamy, as critics would have it).

The mannerly Gentleman’s employs an ambitious article heading as it delves into the fray: “Practice of Vaccination Dispassionately Discussed.”  As the Reverend Cotton Mather discovered in 1721, there is much passion involved in the subject.  He, who pleaded for the adoption of the African method of inoculation to save the afflicted residents of Boston, was the object of threats and the target of a bombing.  The periodical contributor, pen named “Cosmopolitan,” attempts a scholarly address of the merits just twelve years after Edward Jenner formalized the medical application of a controlled injection of the cowpox virus in order to immunize a human body against smallpox, which was disfiguring and killing people by the thousands.

After Mr. Cosmopolitan completes his summary of the beneficial relationship between the vaccine and the decreased virus contraction rate, he promises the editor, Mr. Urban, that as the science may not be completely convincing to all, he is prepared to offer testimonials in the next issue.

I was able to locate the fulfillment of that pledge in the October issue.

The facts which were there mentioned, must of themselves be nearly sufficient to convince an unprejudiced observer of the efficacy of the Vaccine preservative.  It now remains to take an impartial review of the remaining part of the evidence on this interesting topick, which may be gathered from the experience of eminent individuals and from the avowed opinion of public bodies.

These are the same methods employed today about the still-controversial procedure of immunization — presentation of scientific data, followed by explanation of that data from medical professionals, and the promotion or recommendation of the practice by public officials.  For the Coronavirus of today, the vaccine has not even been developed, and the debate is already heated.

PS This issue also has an article regarding juveniles obtaining access to “age-inappropriate literature” through libraries. Two current topics which reach back to the early 1800’s: “The more things change…”.

Snapshot 1879 – A former slave’s trek from bondage to bounty…

January 24, 2022 by · Leave a Comment 

As I was reading interesting articles regarding Mormons, Frederick Douglass, and other news of the day in a January 19, 1879 issue of The New York Times, a somewhat nondescript heading caught my attention: “A COLORED MAN’S HISTORY”. Knowing (second-hand at best) a bit about the struggles of being Black during this post-Slavery era of American history, I was quite surprised by what I read. His trek was certainly not the norm, and it in no way negates the horrors experienced by far too many who had once been in bondage, however, I could not help but be inspired by the brief account of his life. Please enjoy.

Thankful for today, but dreaming of a better tomorrow…

December 28, 2021 by · Leave a Comment 

Christmas in the rearview mirror… New Year’s Eve just a stone’s throw away…

The week between these two holidays is prime for a healthy blend of contemplation, nostalgia, and anticipation. Was 2021 a banner year? Will it go down in the annals of history as one of the best years ever? Probably not, however, I am thankful for each and every day. Why? I was blessed with the breath of life, the love of God and family, a mix of both warm sunshine and nourishing rain, and the God-given ability to appreciate the (albeit) flawed present while looking forward to an even better tomorrow. The capacity to dream of a day when COVID, masks, and the inability to see the smiles of my “red and yellow, black and white” brothers and sisters are a thing of the past… when these very same “created in the image of God” siblings can engage in respectful dialogue even while holding opposing deep-rooted views tightly… when people trump politics, is no small gift.

Sometimes dreamers get criticized and dismissed as being naïve for having their heads in the clouds – for being unrealistic and perhaps a bit insane. These accusations may be true for some, but please don’t tell those who thought a band of ill-equipped, untrained, and often uncouth colonists could defeat the world’s greatest superpower of the day, that slaves could one day be free, that humans could fly and perhaps (as ridiculous as it sounds) travel to the moon… and back, that women could be given the right to vote, that a group of people who were treated by many as inferior simply due to the color of their skin would one day be viewed as equals, etc., were crazy. After all, they had a dream, and their dreams are now our reality.

So, today I choose to appreciate the fruit of yesterday’s dreamers while I dream of an even better tomorrow. Are you a dreamer? I hope so.

Please enjoy the last few says of 2021, AND although a bit early, Happy 2022! I can’t wait for what comes next.

Snapshot 1864… Confederacy’s fight – for independence or slavery?

December 20, 2021 by · Leave a Comment 

In grade school back in the 1960’s/1970’s I was taught that the Civil War was fought between the Northern (Yankee) States who wanted to free the slaves and the Southern States (Confederates) who wanted to keep the slaves in bondage. Bad Southerners! Perhaps if I had been born in The South my education would have been bent in a different direction, but through my teenage years I assumed this was the accepted “truth”. When I moved on to college… and then graduate school, my assumption of such a simplistic view was challenged by my enlightened (now I think they would be called “woke”) professors who informed me of the true reason: The Southern States merely wanted to exercise their right to self-government (i.e., “State’s Rights”)… to not be controlled by a federal government whose reigns were largely in the hands of the Northern States and their own interests… the right to separate (succeed)., while the Northern States wanted nothing more than to preserve The Union (largely for selfish reasons). Bad Northerners!

Of course I now know the reasons were varied and complex, but by far the most important result was in fact the Emancipation of enslaved blacks. After all, how could “We The People” possibly stand the test of time without embracing (to the core) the self-evident truth that “all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”?

However, I digress. Circling back to the divergent views I was taught…

As I was perusing a Sacramento Daily Union (Nov. 3, 1864), the heading of a front-page article caught my attention: “The New Agitation in the South – Slavery as Well as Separation the Ultimate Object of the Rebellion”. It turns out that while revising history to meet a specific narrative may be the order of the day, the historical perspective regarding this particle issue may not be a victim of these Orwellian efforts.  The article (in full) is as follows:

 

 

 

 

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