Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rico Carty



In 1969 I saved box tops from Post Raisin Bran and got a free ticket to an Atlanta Braves Baseball Game. With the passage of so many years, I don't even remember who won or lost. But there is one thing that I remember.
In 1967, Rico Carty was struck down with Tuberculosis. He had begun his career with the Braves in 1964 and showed great promise, batting .330 and finishing second to Roberto Clemente in the batting championship. Everyone assumed that his career was over after contracting tuberculosis, but they failed to take into account his character and determination. When he returned to the Braves in 1969, he batted .342, but 1970 was even better, Rico batted .366 and won the batting championship(the highest batting average since 1957 when Ted Williams batted .388).
After the game, some of the players "hung around" to sign autographs, for us kids. Some signed autographs like automatons, without comment and encouragement, most of them left only after a few minutes; some signed politely and moved on to the next kid as quickly as they could, they also left early; a few engaged in actual conversations, but eventually they also left; only one stayed until every kid who wanted an autograph got one. He was Rico Carty.
He also engaged us in real conversations. If you played baseball, he wanted to know what position you played, but also what your grades were. If you didn't play baseball, he wanted to know why. He preached a variation of: "Mens sana in corpore sano," to have a healthy mind you had to have a healthy body. Even through his think Spanish accent and his Dominican Republic dialect we knew what he was saying, because he was speaking our language.
When he got to me, he asked whether I played baseball or not. I was kind of "geeky" looking so I guess my athletic prowess was open to some doubt. I wasn't offended, because you knew he really cared. There wasn't a false note, nor an ounce of phoniness in Rico. He was what he was. And that was what made him so wonderful to us.
I said neighborhood games mostly. He said that there was nothing wrong with that. His happiest memories were playing baseball with his friends as a kid; by High School, Baseball had become a career. He missed those games from his childhood. He told me that there was nothing wrong with reading books, but as soon as I got through with one, I should call my friends and get a game started.
Rico Carty was never a star, he was one of us: he was just a good guy, who became a great baseball player. That was to be expected, because we knew that he already was a great man. But, more importantly, as that last kid left got his autograph, we knew, which was better, that he was a good man. And being called good is a far better complement than being called great.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Imagine by John Lennon

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world
You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

I was at work one day a few years ago and it was kind of slow, somehow the subject of heroes came up and I mentioned Carl Sagan and John Lennon. Carl Sagan because he said something which has stayed with me since my teens: "Only people seeking the truth find it; People who know the truth, never do". John Lennon because he spoke for peace before it was popular and was attacked for it. It is easy to do the right thing when everyone agrees with you. Courage is doing the right thing when no one agrees with you.

Both of these of men possess that courage that John F. Kennedy spoke of, Grace under pressure.

I was attacked for my choice by several very religious people with whom I worked; they were relentless in their attacks and, what was more, they offered no quarter. I remembered Carl Sagan's words and asked for none. I stick up for my friends and I don't apologize for them when they haven't done anything wrong.
I must have been listening. My Nana always said that you can how intelligent someone is by how much they listen. Intelligent people always listen more than they talk.

The Original idea may have come from Henry David Thoreau, but the second Greatest Attorney in American History, Clarence Darrow, gave us the quote which comes down to us:
"If you are right, you are a majority of one."

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Candle on The Water

Candle On the Water
I'll be your candle on the water
My love for you will always burn
I know you're lost and drifting,
But the clouds are lifting,
Don't give up, you have somewhere to turn.

I'll be your candle on the water
Till every wave is warm and bright
My soul is there beside you,
Let this candle guide you
Soon you'll see a golden stream of light.

A cold and friendless tide has found you
Don't let the stormy darkness pull you down
I'll paint a ray of hope around you
Circling in the air, lighted by a prayer.
I'll be your candle on the water
This flame inside of me will grow
Keep holding on, you'll make it
Here's my hand, so take it
Look for me reaching out to show
As sure as rivers flow,

I'll never let you go
I'll never let you go
I'll never let you go

Written by Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn


One of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard was in a movie called Pete's Dragon, made by Walt Disney in the 1970's. The song was "Candle On The Water". I bought the album and played it so much that I eventually wore it out. I would tape record this song and send it anonymously to friends of mine who were having a rough time of it. I always figured that it was better to find out that you had an anonymous friend, than to find out you had an anonymous enemy. I think some of the most beautiful expressions of love and hope are included in this songs lyrics.

An interesting footnote: when Pete's Dragon came out on video, I bought a copy of it. I remember it was very expensive: $69, a lot of money at the time. Can you imagine how stunned I was when I got home and found that Disney had cut the song when they released it on video. Sometimes people can be incredibly shallow..., even at Walt Disney. But then again, when The Wizard of Oz was released some executives at MGM felt that it ran too long, so the first thing they wanted to cut was "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". When Breakfast At Tiffany's was released, an audience test said that movie was too long too. So the studio executives wanted to cut Audrey Hepburn singing Moon River. That was stupid. Marnie Nixon sang for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. And certainly Marnie Nixon has a beautiful voice. But in Breakfast At Tiffany's it the was fact that Holly couldn't sing that made the song beautiful. It was about love, ideas and feelings, not talent. We all have those, whether we can sing or not. Audrey Hepburn gave one of the most wonderful performances of all time. I wouldn't change anything. I'm glad that someone had the common sense to make the argument; and we are all the better for it.

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

The Truth is hardly ever where you look for it, but always where you find it.

"Awed by nature ...and a little odd by nature"

Borrowed from Rich Blundell, but oh so true.


Jack Bresnahan signed my Sandy Springs Annual in the crease of the binding "I bet I'm the first guy to sign your crack." To return the favor, I signed "Life Sux and then you die." We both told the truth.

Carl Sagan

The universe is neither benign nor hostile, merely indifferent.

Only people seeking the truth find it;
People who know the truth, never do.

Carl Sagan

A Prayer written by Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanov

Give patience, Lord, to us Thy children
In these dark, stormy days to bear
The persecution of our people,
The torture falling to our share.

Give strength, Just God, to us who need it,
The persecutors to forgive,
Our heavy, painful cross to carry
And thy great meekness to achieve.

When we are plundered and insulted
In days of mutinous unrest
We turn for help to thee, Christ-Saviour,
That we may stand the bitter test.

Lord of the world, God of Creation,
Give us Thy blessing through our prayer
Give peace of heart to us, O Master,
This hour of utmost dread to bear.

And on the threshold of the grave
Breathe power divine into our clay
That we, Thy children, may find strength
In meekness for our foes to pray.

A poem found in the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg inserted in one of Olga's books and written in her own hand after her execution on July 18, 1918 by Yakob Yurovsky on orders of Yekaterinburg Soviet Leader Sverdlov, Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin. Found by forces under the command of the Commander of the White Russian Forces under Admiral Kolchak.

Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov

With the recent recovery of the bodies of Alexei and Maria Romanov, I was reminded how I have always believed that Anna Anderson was Anastasia Romanov. Well, it turned out that I was wrong. In fact, it was Grand Duchess Maria Niklovena Romanov who was missing, not Anastasia. I don't feel foolish about it. Looking for something good from something awful is never something for which to apologize.
Anna Anderson and her handlers were merely among the greatest frauds in all of history, certainly not worth anymore consideration than that.
I guess that I wanted to believe that someone survived that awful day in July 1918.
But there is one thing that I can believe in: Nicholas and Alexandra may have been horrible as Autocrats of all the Russias, but as human beings and parents there has never been anyone better.
It reminds me how Trotsky lied about Lenin's knowledge of the massacre of the Romanovs. We now know that Trotsky, Sverdlov and Lenin gave direct orders to Yakob Yurovsky to kill the family.
In my mind there is nothing good that you can say about somebody who would do that.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ask Not for Whom The Bell Tolls

"No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."John Donne (1572-1631)

Dedicated to Wes Steiner, smarter than anyone gave him credit for having been, but everyone knew that he was as good a friend as anyone could have. I remember and miss you to this day, thirty years later.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Death Be Not Proud

Death Be Not Proud

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

by John Donne/1572-1631

Sunday, November 11, 2007

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

Robert Frost

Friday, November 9, 2007

Meaning

“Perhaps when we find ourselves wanting everything, it is because we are dangerously close to wanting nothing.”

Sylvia Plath

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Lost at Sea

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.



I remember seeing "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1962 when I was five. When I started school, I remember looking for a biography of TE Lawrence. Of course, what I found was a childish, simplistic, sanitized version of his life, but it still kept my interest and I read it straight through. I remembered this quote from that time.



Carl Sagan's Tools to use when in search of the truth.

The following are suggested as tools for testing arguments and detecting fallacious or fraudulent arguments:

Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts
Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.
Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities").
Spin more than one hypothesis - don't simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.
Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours.
Quantify, wherever possible.
If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.
"Occam's razor" - if there are two hypothesis that explain the data equally well choose the simpler.
Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, is it testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?

Additional issues are
Conduct control experiments - especially "double blind" experiments where the person taking measurements is not aware of the test and control subjects.
Check for confounding factors - separate the variables.
Common fallacies of logic and rhetoric
Ad hominem - attacking the arguer and not the argument.
Argument from "authority".
Argument from adverse consequences (putting pressure on the decision maker by pointing out dire consequences of an "unfavourable" decision).
Appeal to ignorance (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence).
Special pleading (typically referring to god's will).
Begging the question (assuming an answer in the way the question is phrased).
Observational selection (counting the hits and forgetting the misses).
Statistics of small numbers (such as drawing conclusions from inadequate sample sizes).
Misunderstanding the nature of statistics (President Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence!)
Inconsistency (e.g. military expenditures based on worst case scenarios but scientific projections on environmental dangers thriftily ignored because they are not "proved").
Non sequitur - "it does not follow" - the logic falls down.
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc - "it happened after so it was caused by" - confusion of cause and effect.
Meaningless question ("what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?).
Excluded middle - considering only the two extremes in a range of possibilities (making the "other side" look worse than it really is).
Short-term v. long-term - a subset of excluded middle ("why pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?").
Slippery slope - a subset of excluded middle - unwarranted extrapolation of the effects (give an inch and they will take a mile).
Confusion of correlation and causation.
Straw man - caricaturing (or stereotyping) a position to make it easier to attack..
Suppressed evidence or half-truths.
Weasel words - for example, use of euphemisms for war such as "police action" to get around limitations on Presidential powers. "An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public"


Carl Sagan's Baloney Detector