A nice way to stay in touch with loved ones, and a convenient way to share my opinions without having everyone just walk away...wait a minute, where are you going? I wasn't finished..

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Did I post this before?

I think Christie O'Brien posted it on Facebook and I saved it 'cause I like it!

Yesterday's post was not what I intended when

I started. I was actually thinking of the opening lines:


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

and I was thinking of them in connection to Barrack Obama.

I was thinking he is the center trying to hold. His eloquence is labored, as though it is straining to express truths that most can accept while provoking as few as possible at either extreme.

With humility he conveys that he cannot devise a simple solution for Afghanistan, or the correct answer for Wall Street and Main Street. Like other presidents he's found that his freedom of action is limited by preexisting circumstances and commitments, but more than others he must try to build consensus at a critical moment. Like a shepherd, he really wants to find the greener pastures, but now must concentrate on getting his flock safely down the icy slope.

Something I've observed is that one might question his personal loyalties. Those who have helped him in the past can be left aside as he presses onward and brings into the fold former adversaries. A very risky tactic, except that it isn't a tactic, it is the mission. The former adherents must be counted upon to remain committed in spite of being displaced. Why? Because they share the vision, not a Utopian vision, but a pragmatic appreciation that this is what must be done.

The attempt at consensus slows, if not impedes, progress, as has been the case with health care reform. We barely seem to be inching forward. Perhaps, he sees that it is not the measure of the progress that it is critical, but the directional shift.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From Wikipedeia re Yeats' Second Coming

The lines "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity" can be read as a paraphrase of one of the most famous passages from Percy Bysshe Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, a book which Yeats, by his own admission, regarded from his childhood with religious awe:

In each human heart terror survives
The raven it has gorged: the loftiest fear
All that they would disdain to think were true:
Hypocrisy and custom make their minds
The fanes of many a worship, now outworn.
They dare not devise good for man's estate,
And yet they know not that they do not dare.

I worry, but not too much, about being a cynical and embittered old man. Web surfing, tv watching, and news reading have led me to feel near to despair. Our brothers and sisters suffer intensely at the hands of the most rapacious few and statesmen do not intervene or even seem to notice, as they rely on the diversion of a small fraction of a percent of those greedy few's annual income to fund their public relations efforts. And the public relations effort, does it serve to inform or educate the electorate? Only so far as to convince thirty plus per-cent of the voters that this candidate is, at worst, the best of a sorry lot.

But I won't despair, because it was a simple accident that I was born to be a person who was given the time and education to ponder our situation. I've asked myself why was I not born an indentured slave in an Indian stone quarry, a Chinese peasant farmer, an Ethiopian goat herder or a Bolivian miner? If we strip away the accident of birth and I lived a life of hard labor and desperate poverty, I would know that despair is a luxury I can not afford, and that given nothing else I have only God. If I could not provide welfare or even assure the survival of my chidren, I would stare into the eyes of God every day and learn that He expects me to know that what matters is my relationship to Him, and that I need be a humble supplicant.

The human comforts we enjoy in our time and place are a pleasant distraction, but should we not be staring into the eyes of God and receiving the same message? Does the accident of our birth really alter the metaphysics? If the four horsemen crash down upon us and we lose all that separated us from the others, would we lose ourselves, would we lose our God?

I remind myself not to worry over what to require from this broken world, or from broken people. And I remind myself that in God's eye my fretful pondering is another self-indulgence and another distraction. I'll try to elevate myself to humble supplication.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A nugget

Amidst the angst over Coach Weis' travails at ND, there have been a lot of comments posted on the boards. An interesting one observed how closely coaches' percentage of wins and losses at a school in the coaches' first three years predicted their career percentage at that school.

Personally, I appreciate what Coach Weis has done. By recruiting a lot of talented kids he dispelled premature reports of the school's demise as a factor on the collegiate stage. Also, I think he emphasised character in promoting the program and his players can be proud of how they've conducted themselves on the field as well as off. I also liked the way he seemed to promote the school's unique identity to the players. Hopefully, even after disappointing careers for some, his players will love the school and will have participated in a way that will benefit them for years to come.

After the losses of the last couple weeks, I accept the evidence that Coach Weis is unable to solve the problems that have hurt the team's performance. No point in enumerating those problems here, or postulating on why Coach Weis could not correct them. We now have to conclude the head coaching position at ND is not a good fit for Coach Weis.

Toward the end of Coach Willinghams's tenure I expressed anger that he was not engaged in a way that made the ND experience beneficial to his players. I don't feel that way about Coach Weis, but I fear that if he continues in his position harmful effects will occur for the coach as well as for the young men. Just as I felt that terminating Coach Ditka from his position with the Chicago Bears probably saved his sanity if not his life, T think the same is now true for Coach Weis and ND.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

This past week on TV

Channel 11, our national public affiliate presented "World War II on HD". I kind of thought it would be edited from the Ken Burns series which I haven't seen. I don't think it was. I hope not. It was OK for the historical content, and the personal accounts were interesting, but how many charred bloated corpses does it take to convey the war is hell message?

I remember my mother telling me that people couldn't believe in 1943 and 1944, that ten thousand American casualties would be suffered in a couple of days on some little (a couple of square miles) atoll that no one had ever heard of before and would not here of again. Apparently several little islands were desired because they provided air strips to support the bombing campaign against Japan. I've also heard it said or read that some of these little fortresses could have been bypassed.

We all know that our enemies in World War II, specifically Japan and Germany engaged in cruelty that was worse than barbarism. Germany seems to have behaved most grotesquely against civilians in their own country and in countries they overran.
The Japanese were inhumanly savage and sadistic toward military prisoners as well as to subjugated civilians. Even though the Japanese suffered tragic consequences of their military madness, one feels they never were adequately humiliated for their their insane criminality, and that their national hubris emerged unscathed. After the war both of these countries were transformed in the diplomatic game into "bulwarks" against encroaching communism, and both played their hands skillfully. Germany suffered more from the occupation, especially by Stalin's minions, and also from the worldwide revulsion at the horrors of the concentration camps. Japanese crimes against humanity have never been appropriately addressed. Maybe someone should do a thoughtful series on the Cold War.

At any rate, after a couple of evenings of viewing I stopped watching, feeling physically ill and psychologically distressed from what I had seen.

Monday, November 16, 2009

More gold shenanigans, but worse

I have to go to work and don't have time to break this article down for you, but the author's contention is that fake gold bars (over a million 400 oz bars) have been minted with US Treaury connivance (during the Rubin-Clinton days). Half those bars are at Fort Knox and the other half have been sold in world market.

People who brought GLD, an exchange traded fund which theoretically was buying gold bars on behalf of it's shareholders, may need to be concerned that GLD's vault is filled with tungsten, not gold, and that their GLD shares are going to plummet.

Thee "real" gold market might fall initially as everyone who is uncertain tries to unload, but presumably the revelation of this counterfeiting will increase the value of actual gold.

"Gld ETF Warning, Tungsten Filled Fake Gold Bars
Commodities / Gold & Silver 2009
Nov 12, 2009 - 12:22 PM

By: Rob_Kirby

“Gold Finger - A New Take On Operation Grand Slam With A Tungsten Twist”

I’ve already reported on irregular physical gold settlements which occurred in London, England back in the first week of October, 2009. Specifically, these settlements involved the intermediation of at least one Central Bank [The Bank of England] to resolve allocated settlements on behalf of J.P. Morgan and Deutsche Bank – who DID NOT have the gold bullion that they had sold short and were contracted to deliver. At the same time I reported on two other unusual occurrences:

1] - irregularities in the publication of the gold ETF - GLD’s bar list from Sept. 25 – Oct.14 where the length of the bar list went from 1,381 pages to under 200 pages and then back up to 800 or so pages.

2] - reports of 400 oz. “good delivery” bricks of gold found gutted and filled with tungsten within the confines of LBMA approved vaults in Hong Kong.

Why Tungsten?

If anyone were contemplating creating “fake” gold bars, tungsten [at roughly $10 per pound] would be the metal of choice since it has the exact same density as gold making a fake bar salted with tungsten indistinguishable from a solid gold bar by simply weighing it.

Unfortunately, there are now more sordid details to report.

When the news of tungsten “salted” gold bars in Hong Kong first surfaced, many people

who I am acquainted with automatically assumed that these bars were manufactured in

China – because China is generally viewed as “the knock-off capital of the world”.

Here’s what I now understand really happened:

The amount of “salted tungsten” gold bars in question was allegedly between 5,600 and 5,700 – 400 oz – good delivery bars [roughly 60 metric tonnes].

This was apparently all highly orchestrated by an extremely well financed criminal operation.

Within mere hours of this scam being identified – Chinese officials had many of the perpetrators in custody.

And here’s what the Chinese allegedly uncovered:

Roughly 15 years ago – during the Clinton Administration [think Robert Rubin, Sir Alan Greenspan and Lawrence Summers] – between 1.3 and 1.5 million 400 oz tungsten blanks were allegedly manufactured by a very high-end, sophisticated refiner in the USA [more than 16 Thousand metric tonnes]. Subsequently, 640,000 of these tungsten blanks received their gold plating and WERE shipped to Ft. Knox and remain there to this day. I know folks who have copies of the original shipping docs with dates and exact weights of “tungsten” bars shipped to Ft. Knox.

The balance of this 1.3 million – 1.5 million 400 oz tungsten cache was also plated and then allegedly “sold” into the international market.

Apparently, the global market is literally “stuffed full of 400 oz salted bars”.

Makes one wonder if the Indians were smart enough to assay their 200 tonne haul from the IMF?"

Also makes me wonder if the timing of this discovery by the Chinese just coincidentally occurred while President Obama was in Japan on his way to China. If there's any truth to these reports the president could be extremely embarassed in meetings with the Chinese. Those clever devils.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

John Gagliardi

I googled to see how Bobby Bowden and joe Paterno were doing in their death match struggle to retire (or die) with the most career coaching wins and came across an article about Joe Gagliardi, coach at St Johns College in Minnesota, who actually holds the record, but since St Johns is a Div III school, he's not competing with the big boys. Still, he's an interesting guy. You can read the article here.

Here's an excerpt:

Gagliardi, 76, began his coaching career at age 16 when his high school coach left to serve in World War II. With no one else available, Gagliardi took over the team and guided it to its first conference championship. A couple years later, he was coaching at Carroll College in Montana. He interviewed for the job at St. John's in 1953.

"They asked me if we needed scholarships to win. I had never had them, so I said, 'No, I don't think so'," Gagliardi says. "Well, I could see the reaction of the 10 priests in the room and I could tell by their faces that I had the job then and there.

"Then one monk says, 'I have one more question. Can you beat St. Thomas and St. Augustine without scholarships?' I had never heard of either team, but I said, 'Sure, I don't see why not'."

Athletic scholarships aren't allowed in Division III sports, so Gagliardi is nothing special there. It's his own rules that separates him from everyone else. When he took over as coach in high school, he did away with every rule that seemed stupid or unpleasant -- "We even drank water during practice" -- and he's been adding to them ever since. The list of 'no's is over 100 by now.

In addition to the no-tackling-during-practice rule, there are no coaches' whistles and no playbooks. No roster cuts. No mandatory weight-lifting. No use of words such as "kill," "hit" or "Coach" (players call him John). There are no long practices. There are no calisthenics. Well, there arecalisthenics, but they include such drills as laying on the ground, looking up at the sky and saying, "It's a nice day."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fast Food

I saw an article this morning on Burger Kings new value menu item, a double burger for $1. It's reported that the franchisees are suing over being required to offer this product because using $.55 as ingredient costs and $.45 as service and overhead cost they compute they lose a dime on every one they sell.

The comments posted below the article were interesting. Apparently a lot of people think Burger Kings are dirty and the food gives you diahrea. One commentor pointed out that profits are made on soft drink and fries, not on the burgers. Another said he drove through a BK and ordered two of the new doubles and a water to be sure they lost money. Personally, I go to BK every couple of months and next time I'm going to try the new double because they keep making the Whopper Jr smaller.

I googled "fast food survey results" and found results of a Zagat survey posted.
I copied some of the results below.

But first, allow to me to say our new favorite is Sonic. That's where Janett takes me when we go for rides. (The nearest two Sonics to our home are each more than five miles away) The food is good with a varied menu, including a wide range of soda fountain specialities. The burgers have an old fashioned drive-in taste, and I guess that's good. Prices are competitive, but they're not afraid to charge $3 for Mozzarella sticks. You can park to walk in or park at a speaker to order and a car-hop, sometimes a young lady on roller skates, brings you your meal.

PS If Subway is the favorite, how come they're always empty? Maybe because they sold too many franchises and tho stores are too close together?

Fast Food – Mega Chains
4.Taco Bell
5.Burger King

Fast Food – Large Chains
1.Panera Bread
3.In-N-Out Burger
5.Au Bon Pain

Quick-Refreshment Chains
1.Starbucks Coffee
2.Dunkin' Donuts
3.Cold Stone Creamery
4.Jamba Juice
5.Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shops

Full-Service Chains
1.P.F. Chang's China Bistro
2.Cheesecake Factory
3.California Pizza Kitchen
4.Outback Steakhouse
5.Carrabba's Italian Grill

Best Value:
3.In-N-Out Burger
5.Chipotle / Taco Bell (tied)

Best Value Menu:
3.Taco Bell
4.Burger King

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vita, Dulcedo, Spes

I was given a rosary at my first Knights of Columbus meeting Monday night. Most people know praying the rosary consists primarily of saying Hail Mary's. (There is less familiarity with the contemplation of the mysteries suggested to accompany the prayers.) Commonly, folks question Catholic's veneration of Mary, in the same tone with which they refer to Catholics as praying to statues. As usual my daughter Kim is a source of wisdom. On this topic she questioned why Catholics seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin or other saints, when the relationship with Jesus is the source of salvation, quoting Jesus, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me." Jesus does not seem to suggest we distract ourselves with middle men. Perhaps some Christians see the Church's promotion of the Virgin and Saints as intercessors to be reflective of the Church's seeming to position itself between the followers and God, as the definer of orthodoxy and custodian of the sacremental graces.

On the other hand, can we not acknowlege that Jesus may wish His Mother to be venerated? First because He loved her for her exquisite goodness. But more, from the day the Archangel came to her, she participated in Jesus' redemptive mission, and more than any other person offered herself to the Father and shared in Christ's suffering.

The words from the cross, "Woman, behold thy son. Son, behold thy mother." are taken by Catholics to indicate Jesus bestowed on the faithful the maternity of Mary. Also, her appearances at Lourdes and Fatima, would seem to be evidence that Christ views Mary as emmisary and as intercessor.

We could do a little reading, pray on it, and discuss this issue further, but today I just wanted to share a couple of prayers remembered fondly from my childhood also addressed to Mary.


Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly to thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to thee do I come; before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Salve Regina

Hail holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us. And after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.

The Salve Regina referring to Mary as our life, our sweetness, and our hope, does seem to supplant Christ. Since the phrase appears on the crest on my university, I'm accustomed to it, but I can understand why critics object. The prayer has been a hymn in lyturgy and in common usage for a thousand years, and when church authorities are asked to explain this quasi heresy they say "the language of devotion is not that of dogma"

Saturday, November 07, 2009

On the ND board, they've quit complaining about

Coach Weis and started evaluating replacement candidates. I guess we're done paying Willingham for his buyout, so we can start paying Weis for his. I really like Coach Weis. He runs a classy program and is bringing in great talent. But he isn't a very good head coach.

Kabong posts a lot and seems knowlegable, but I feel that talking to Urban Mayer would be fruitless and more importantly, a betrayal of principle.

Brian Kelly from Cincinatti? Well, he has an Irish name and a pretty good record.

Brian Kelly
by El Kabong (2009-11-07 21:21:27)
[ cannot delete ] [ Edit ] [ Return to Board ] [ Ignore Poster ] [ Report Post ] [ Highlight Poster ] [ Reply ]

I'm not nearly as down on Kelly as some other folks are. I realize he's not the high-profile hire we'd want, but it's very difficult to argue with results. The guy takes low-tier talent and wins with it. No, his schedule doesn't set the world on fire, but I think he's something like 26-8 at Cincinnati right now, and since he's in his third year, it's difficult to say he did it all with the previous guy's players. In comparison, Dantonio was close to .500, and isn't raising eyebrows at MSU.

What gives me pause on Kelly, though, is that he's low-hanging fruit. I could probably walk into his office today and convince him to be the coach at ND, so I imagine Jack Swarbrick and Fr. Jenkins would have an even easier time.

I'd like to believe ND's admin is as interested in winning as I am, and doesn't want to do the least amount of work and just "get by". Getting Brian Kelly, while possibly a solution, smacks of the latter.

There's no reason not to make a run at Meyer and Stoops this year. Meyer's losing Tebow and a lot of other talent, and should at least get a phone call. Stoops may be feeling unappreciated at OK these days, with people grumbling about how it's been a while since the last title. I also think Gruden should get a call. If they go right to Kelly, that'll disappoint me.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Maybe I bit off more than I can chew.

I finally got Europe Central by William Vollmann from the library. The reviews tell me he's a really acclaimed author (like the best in 30 years?). Other novels by him on the shelf seemed to focus on North American Indians, in different situations, but it seems his fascination is with violence and how people come to engage in violence. Well I guess the war between Hitler and Stalin is as good a case study for exploring that topic as any one could imagine.

The first chapter was about Nanya Krupskaya, Lenin's wife and Fanya Kaplan, the Social Dewmocrat who tried to assasinate Lenin. Some kabaalistic references I couldn't relate to, but interesting characters.

The next chapter was about Kathe Kollwitz, German painter. sculptor, printmaker, and socialist whose life was touched with tragedies common to her era, but burdened even before personal losses with sympathy for the suffering of the working class. Interestingly she was never imprisoned by the Nazi's, maybe because her art was in the tradition of naturalism, and she wasn't an expressionist creating what Hitler referred to as gutter art. She died in '45 a couple of months before the Russians overran Germany. Thank goodness she was at least spared that spectacle of suffering.

I think the next chapter may focus on Shostakovich. Am I ready for that? I've become so accustomed to perusing electronic journalism that I'd forgotten how challenging reading could be. Wish me luck.

PS I took the night off and watched High Noon.