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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Back online, no damage

Just a quick note to say thanks for all the comments, prayers, good wishes and posts in various places about the typhoon in Philippines.  We are back online today for the first time since that event and I'll post something more substantial in a day or two.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Since I am socially inept, I took an online test for Aspergers syndrome a couple of weeks ago. I tested quite positive for this. I test high on IQ tests too, by the way.

Although giving a  mental condition a name doesn't really explain it, and may in fact give a misleading impression, still it's quite interesting.  When I make a comment on someone's post, or in a live conversation, it usually falls flat because the points I pick out are those that most people don't find interesting; conversely, what interests most other commenters and probably the original poster too, are not that interesting to me.  In real life, if I happen to be one of a group having a discussion, I may make a comment and it is either ignored or the conversation will stop while others look at me for an explanation as to why I should make an apparently irrelevant remark.  But to me, what I said was very relevant and perhaps even more so than most of the rest of the conversation (although it is true that I often try to lead the conversation in a direction that is more interesting to me - kind of going off at a tangent.)  It's quite puzzling really, and leaves me somewhat isolated.  I'm used to it, as I have had this experience so often.

I got interested in this through reading "Mick and Lynda's Place" a couple of months ago, then coming across a blog written by a man who laboured under the symptoms of Asperger's syndrome, much more so than me.

Friday, November 01, 2013

The fox guarding the henhouse?

Seems Edward Snowden has a job in Russia - protecting data for a social website.  I'm pleased to hear this.  I applaud his actions in exposing NSA surveillance, since my early youth I have been a fan of Russia and Russian culture (though not of the Soviet Union), my favourite literature is Russian literature, I love the euphonious language and regard Putin as a very sensible man - especially since he allowed Snowden to stay in Russia and even more so when he suggested disarming the chemical weapons of Assad.  I guess the US never thought of suggesting that because the American reaction is usually one of violent military retaliation to anything it doesn't like.

Admittedly, Assad probably felt forced to agree because Russia is his friend and protector, and if US had suggested it his reaction might have been different. I guess Assad might have felt his chemical weapons were more  of a hazard than an asset, seeing as how they had already been used and no-one is quite sure who used them.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Does the Past exist? Can it be changed?

Does the past exist?

Thinking about this carefully, it seems to me that only the present exists.  Certainly, traces of past events exist now, but now is the present moment, not the past.

To consider something we are looking at, what we perceive "now" depends on how far we are from the object we see.  Should we measure "now" as being our subjective sense?  Imagine we are looking at our home through a gigantic telescope situated a light year from Earth.  What is "now"? Our subjective sense, or something to be found only on the surface of the Earth itself?  And, I cannot see how we can link two places far apart with any one time moment, since we cannot find any way to coordinate the time between the two places.

So the whole idea of "now" is problematic.  I have not researched current philosophical notions relating to "now",obviously there might be some simple explanation.

There is another matter which interests me in this field of time: can the "past" be changed?  If Vadim Zeland's notion of the Space of Variations has any truth in it, it would seem possible.  It may also be useful to look at Richard Bartlett's "Matrix Energetics."  If the "past" does not exist, it's hard to see just what would be meant by changing it; but if it exists in some other universe, perhaps it is possible.  Changing the past is a pretty exciting idea.

Friday, October 18, 2013

More about free will and stuff.

This post is just clarification of the previous one, after reading mouse's comment.  I have to admit now that I used the word "God" partly intentionally to provoke and partly because it is short to type. For me, "God" does not mean some superior separate  being, arbitrarily visiting humanity with rewards and punishments; the standard "Christian" version of a loving, all-powerful, omniscient Being who sometimes apparently "answers" petitions and most of the time apparently does not, makes no sense to me. I could better use the word "Consciousness" or "Totality." The Tao.

Now by "accept" I do not mean lie back and do nothing. If you see something that needs to be done, of course then do it if you can. Before reading mouse's comment, I had never heard of Clara Barton, but from what I have read today I think she is an excellent example of what I mean: she saw what needed to be done and did it. If a clever person wants to invent a new gadget or system, he should go ahead and use his talents. Design a railway, an aircraft, an internet, a blogging service so you and I can exchange thoughts and be grateful for the work. By that word, accept, I mean don't waste time and energy wishing things were different now, but make plans and take action to make future moments more in line with how you want them. If you have toothache, arrange a dental appointment and don't regret your neglect, just accept it. You have neglected your teeth, accept that and start taking care of them. The present moment is already happening before we can do anything about it, just act as appropriate for your situation and avoid regret over the past and worry over the future.

I say all this, but do we really have any choice over what we do? Many say NO, there is no free will, and I am inclined to agree with that, because, after all, there is no way you can show that anything you have done you could have done differently at that time you did it. You can assert that, and you probably will, but you cannot demonstrate it, so it is likely you had no choice in the matter.  Neither can you show that you have any choice over what you are about to do in the next few minutes.  

I have to admit I think this way partly because my natural inclination is to regard with suspicion anything that is accepted by the great majority.  Almost everyone thinks he has the power to choose one course of action over another, but there is no evidence for that assumption and I doubt it.  Pretty well the whole of our society is based on commending or blaming people for the "choices" they have made, but I don't believe people do make choices. Behaviour is entirely automatic.  So if you are a worrier, you are going to worry!

Some time ago, I published a post querying whether life mattered.  I meant, should we agonise over what choices we, or other people, have made or are about to make?  Is it important?  If there is no free will, the whole question is irrelevant.  One follower of my blog, well known and loved in this particular blogging community, became so indignant at this post that she promptly unfollowed me!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

“Life presents problems because we fight life, we don't accept what-is in the present moment. We want to become something other than what we are. We want something other than what we now have.” Ramesh Balsekar 

Here's my take: Everything that happens must be God’s will. It cannot be otherwise; if this were not true, there would be no God worthy of the name. It follows that wishing life was other than what it is is simply creating a problem for yourself. Good and bad, right and wrong are man-made judgments, and a matter of conditioning. Life happens and our attempts to influence it are nothing more than part of that happening.

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Predicament of the Faithful

A man found himself in the unenviable position of hanging by his fingers on the side of a cliff. After a few moments he shouted, "Is there anyone up there? I need help!" He heard a voice that said, "Yes. I'm here." The man shouted again,"Who are you?" The voice replied, "I am God. I'll help you. Do exactly as I say." The man was relieved and said, "OK, I'll do whatever you say." God said, "Just let go, you'll be safe." After a pause the man shouted, "Is there anyone else up there?"

Ramesh S. Balsekar. Consciousness Speaks: Conversations with Ramesh S. Balsekar . Kindle Edition.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Are we the authors of our thoughts?

Rene Descartes wrote: “I am, I exist, that is certain.  But how often?  Just when I think; for it might possibly be the case if I ceased entirely to think, that I should likewise cease altogether to exist.  I do not now admit anything which is not necessarily true:  to speak accurately I am not more than a thing which thinks, that is to say a mind or a soul, or an understanding, or a reason, which are terms whose significance was formerly unknown to me. I am, however, a real thing and really exist; but what thing? I have answered:  a thing which thinks.”  Descartes: Meditations on First  Philosophy  (1641)  Trans. Eliz. Haldane

Descartes evidently had not had the experience of cessation of thought, for if he had, he would have found, with many others, that he would have been more sure of his existence than ever before – that is what seems to happen, by all accounts.

Thoughts arise, and I perceive them; but it cannot be said with certainty that I am doing the thinking.  That was an unfortunate observation on Descartes’ part, as it has affected us all since.  He was so close, yet missed the mark.  I certainly have many thoughts which I cannot claim any authorship of.  All I can be certain of is that I am aware of at least some of these thoughts.  Even in the absence of thoughts, which does occasionally occur, I am still aware and certain of my existence.

There may be thoughts arising which we are not aware of, or barely aware of: this happens to me quite often.  I suddenly begin to hear a thought which has apparently been going on in my mind for some time – particularly musical phrases.  I can wake in the morning with the same piece of music in my mind which was playing there before I went to sleep. For all I know it may have been there in my mind all night but I wasn’t aware of it while asleep.  Sometimes this persistence of musical thought seems like a nuisance.  From time to time verbalizations will make themselves internally heard, usually meaningless and irrelevant to the task in hand.  I am not the author of these thoughts, merely the perceiver.

It stands to reason that if a thought can be noticed, that thought is not the noticer.

That’s enough for the time being.  I want to continue later with discussion of thoughts driven by an intention – is that intention really mine?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Scrap of Autobiography.

As a small boy, I was very obsessive.  After pulling the chain of the lavatory, I raced the flush, thus: I ran down the corridor to the spiral stairs, and tried to get to the bottom of the stairs before the flushing had stopped.  If I succeeded, I awarded myself an imaginary gift – whatever gadget happened to be of interest in my life then.  Sometimes it was a telephone.

In those days a telephone was something of a marvel and not so many houses had one.  Our number at the local exchange was 45.  The exchange was attended by a young woman who served also as a general source of information, for example if you wanted to call Mrs. Luff, she would be able to tell you that Mrs. Luff was at that moment at the chemist’s and would you like her to put you through to that shop?

Our cat caught a dragonfly.  I was upset because the dragonfly was a large, multi-coloured insect of great beauty and possessing spectacular flying abilities, in addition to making a distinct rustling sound with its wings..  Yet I admired and was in fact really amazed at the cat’s quickness at snatching the dragonfly out of the air as it flew swiftly over just within reach of the cat’s paw, and considered ruefully that I was unable to do that.

At the age of five, my mother, father, sister, Simon my mother’s dog and sister's Scotch terrier (that never got a proper name) and I travelled by car from our home in Somerset to the lake district in Westmorland.  We stopped on the way and spent the night in a hotel in Kendal. I think it was near where the Brewery Arts Centre was later created, and there was then a patch of rough grassy ground outside, where I played.  On the hotel’s gramophone, my sister played some records of the music from the musical comedy “The White Horse Inn”, and I experienced the effect that music sometimes had on me, enabling me to feel the atmosphere of the place (I suppose, in the mind of the composer at the time.)  I still remember the melody.  This effect has always seemed important to me and accounted for much of music’s charm.

A day or two later, when we were ensconced in the farm house at Watendlath, a hamlet by a little tarn south of Derwentwater, my (half) brother Claude appeared on the scene, on leave from his work in India.  He approached me as I was playing in the stream there, and asked me if I had a boat to sail on the water.  “No,” I replied. “You have now!” says he, producing one from behind his back.  Of my four half brothers and sisters, Claude was the only one who paid much attention to me.  When he came home on leave he usually bought a flying model aeroplane, taking me out with him into the local fields to fly it, and when he returned to India he left it for me to play with, which I appreciated very much.  Alas, Claude died in North Africa, a casualty of war, six years later.

At school very early on, other boys pinned me up against a wall and threw stones at me.  I had no idea how to defend myself, as I had never before come up against aggressiveness.  I had no inner resources for this kind of situation, I felt forced to admit to them that I was no good, and felt bad about that.  In fact it became a lifelong habit of mine to back down in the face of confrontation or difficulties that I could not see how to solve.  On complaining to my mother, she had no useful suggestions; she was a defeatist and her only recourse was prayer, despite the fact that it seemed to do her (and me) no good.  She was religious, but like so many religious people her faith was weak, not to say non-existent; however, she loved me and I loved her.  I sometimes think that people who do not seem to need religion have enough faith in life to enable them to do without it, while those whose faith is lacking are forced to turn to a God so that they can feel supported.

When I was nearly seven my father sent me to King’s School, Bruton, two miles away by road.  It is a boarding school for most pupils, but for the first month or two I went as a day boy, my father taking me and fetching me back every day.  It had an elementary section, which was of course where I started.  My mother had already taught me to read; my first lesson was a Latin lesson.  No-one had told me there was such a thing as Latin; however, it wasn’t difficult and I still have a book given as a prize for Latin a year or two later.  I soon became accustomed to being at or near the top of the class except in matters of History, which I found incomprehensible, irrelevant  and dull.  The past meant little to me.  The school had a good library, and I read adventure stories like Rider Haggard’s “She” and “King Solomon’s Mines”, reference books on subjects such as British Butterflies and text books on science.

I must have been about fifteen when I took a silent fancy to a girl working in the grocery store in Evercreech where my mother often shopped.  She was probably a couple of  years older than me, I guess.  I was home for the holidays, and one evening I suddenly took the notion of walking the mile or more to Evercreech and seeing if she was around.  I had no definite plans, certainly I would never have asked anyone where she might be found, I don’t think I even knew her name and the shop was closed for the night.  I really couldn’t understand it myself why I thought it might be possible to see her.  Anyway, I walked to the village in the dark evening and past the shop where she worked.  A few yards further on I heard footsteps behind me, looked round and to my astonishment it was she, walking just a few yards behind me.  No one else was on the streets at that hour.  Of course I had no idea of how to approach her, and even wondered whether it would be advisable.  I was scared, so I continued walking until she had turned off somewhere and was no longer following me.  It was my first experience of the phenomenon of synchronicity, perhaps telepathy, and an early example of the many missed opportunities that have been scattered through my life over the years.

I suppose it must have been from the age of about eight that I found myself interested in the subject of punishment with a cane.  I had experienced this once when all five of us boys in one dormitory at school were finally caned by the normally very tolerant housemaster for persistently disobeying his order to give up talking late at night.  It was only a token punishment but served to shut us up for the time being.  This incident was not the beginning of this interest, it had been there for some years: where it came from and how it arose I don’t know, my parents never used any kind of punishment on me.  At school when I was about sixteen I got properly caned for ignoring many rules, the failure to attend church one Sunday morning was only the last straw and the Headmaster told me I needed “a sharp lesson.”  This sharp lesson having been administered, he shook my hand and said “You took that very well,” but in truth no bravery was needed, I was so surprised by the sudden unexpected turn of events and kind of anaesthetised mentally that it didn’t seem to hurt much, although examining myself immediately afterwards, the ridges of the welts could quite plainly be felt  and it was obviously not a token punishment but the real thing.  The marks remained visible for couple of weeks.

Experimenting upon myself, I realized the prosecution of this interest needed a partner.  My first wife Barbara was somewhat interested, and we played with the practice a little; we might have made more of it, but our relationship was not stable due to general ignorance and restlessness on my part and a rather strange, perhaps neurotic personality on her side.  Much later while married to my second wife (who had no interest in these games) I met a woman who needed what I wanted to offer and I gave her a quite severe caning.  A day or two afterwards she wrote requesting “more of the same”, but I was not in a position to offer any permanent relationship, and she found someone who was, so we didn’t meet again.  She was an intelligent, frank and courageous woman, though somewhat overweight, and I regretted the loss of her acquaintance.  A year or two later I became friends with a couple living not far away, they had recently started to discover the delights of this practice and I joined them on three occasions, they were younger than me and I had ideas for scenarios which they did not have.  I instructed the wife to write a story involving punishment and we played out the roles in that story, so that the wife got severely caned and strapped; she was tied down to the kitchen table for the occasion and we did not relent, however much she screamed.  .  This was evidently what she needed as she developed a sudden attachment to me, which I had warned them might happen before we started.  But the husband became insecure.  “Allegiances can alter,” I had said, even before we met; we had to give it up.

Power of words

When I reached the age of about sixty-five, my appreciation of poetry increased very noticeably.  Sometimes I would wake in the night with a half-remembered poem in my mind, and feel compelled to get up and look up the exact words.  Then, what is it exactly that gives certain arrangements of words a power to move the emotions beyond what would be expressed by the mere words?  How is it that this:

“Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake
And no birds sing.”

                             is not just a simple question?  We can point to some interesting things: for example, the alliteration in the second line that makes your tongue wag up and down; the contrast in line lengths of the third and fourth lines; the choice of “knight-at-arms” to stir the imagination.  But I feel there is something more that gives it life, and that something is partly in me, not just in the poem.  It’s something to do with the interaction between the poet and myself, mediated by his gift of writing.

Not just poetry has this effect: reading Moby-Dick, I feel delight at the way Herman Melville has put the words together: the extraordinary originality of the writing, the wide vocabulary, some of it made up for the immediate purpose.  I sometimes wish I could write like that!

Why do these words:


Lay her i' the earth;
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest,
A ministering angel shall my sister be
When thou liest howling.”

                                    bring tears to my eyes?

And why is this:               

   The winter evening settles down
                With smell of steaks in passageways.
   Six o’clock.
   The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
   And now a gusty shower wraps
   The grimy scraps
   Of withered leaves about your feet
   And newspapers from vacant lots;
   The showers beat
   On broken blinds and chimney-pots,
   And at the corner of the street
   A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.

   And then the lighting of the lamps.

                                                   so intensely evocative?  Why do I feel I have really been to that city and walked those dirty streets on a wet, windy winter evening?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Missy Jones has disappeared

I used to enjoy reading Missy jones' blog at, but now she is saying, '... Blogland is not what it used to be. People are building groups, led by others who are after numbers, and page hits. It's become like the teenage movies, we see, where only the popular can win, and if you are a little different to them, or have a different opinion, you are ridiculed, and attacked.

I have witnessed, people being "gathered and Collected", as trophies. Being stalked, and followed, and then attacked for not following suite, and accepting "the" leader.'

Is this actually happening? I haven't noticed itAdmittedly I haven't been reading much lately, but I have not seen any sign of this.  I'm a very un-paranoiac person, maybe I should be more suspicious?  Has some other blogger attacked Missy?  Before the "article" ruckus? Or even after?  I'm aware of Mr BB's machinations, but nothing more.

Her last post can be read on feedly, but not on blogger.  It disturbs me somewhat that there might be a trend I have not detected. I mean, a trend won't disturb me much but not seeing it would.

Friday, June 28, 2013

A girl friend

Claude, 17, is bringing home a girl I like.  She's the same age as him and a psychology student.  What I particularly like about this is to hear the two of them laughing and playing while washing the dishes.  Laughter is not often heard in this house, and the loud laughter of young voices even less often, in fact I cannot ever remember it happening before.  Rose has only managed to have one child despite twenty years of trying, so there has been no-one for Claude to laugh with, and that sound is now making me very happy!

When not engaged in laughing their way through the washing up, they are lying on Claude's bed closely clasped, mouth to mouth, door shut and locked. I laid in a stock of condoms, but haven't told Claude yet as I am just not sure about it; I don't want to give him the impression he should be having sex with her.   I suspect she is not ready for that.  This is the Philippines, after all.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

still here

I apologise to those who like to read my blog, for not posting anything for some weeks.  I just haven't felt in a communicative mood.

I've been reading a lot recently. Trashy science fantasy stuff, plus polemical anti-religious writings by David Fitzgerald, Sam Harris and others.  Fitzgerald's book on the Mormons is hilarious but telling a deeply tragic tale of lies, deception and murder by the founders and other officials of the Mormon church.  What amazes me most is how anyone could follow the "teachings" of someone like Joseph Smith or Brigham Young, criminals as they were. I have only a moderate reasoning ability, but I like to use it, and, it seems to me, I should use it.

I am continually exercised in my mind about one of my sons who converted to Islam probably in order to marry the girl of his choice, herself a Muslim convert, and has become something of a leader in his local mosque in Cape Town.  He is a good father, generous son and devoted husband and has four articulate and beautiful children; he is very intelligent, dropped out of Oxford University in revolt after only a few weeks, then made himself a career in translating and writing.  Years ago he sent me a copy of the Koran. I read some of it, enough to realise how it can be used to justify killing of innocent people by fanatics.  Would it be better for him to realise the sham of religion?  Perhaps not; but I am thinking of asking him just what is this "Allah" Muslims are so interested in?  I want to spend the next few days trying to get to the bottom of the origins of the Koran, who was Muhammad, was he a real person and where did the writings in the Koran really come from?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Separations. A woman of sterling worth.

My second wife divorced me in 1990 because of my infidelity.  The whole process was extraordinarily easy, quick, painless and cheap, and I interpreted that as a good sign.  We had been together about twenty-five years, since she was nineteen and I was thirty-three, but we were never a very good match sexually, and I sought other women and couples.  She was straight and I was kinky and as all readers here know, those characteristics do not blend well. I had formed a relationship with a couple of whom the wife liked to be spanked, the husband was inexperienced and I had ideas and some experience, they sought my co-operative help, and my wife did not like that.

However, she helped me valiantly in bringing up my two children from my first marriage, and she and I had two lovely children of our own together. In many ways we were happy with each other.

She was and is industrious, sensible, absolutely trustworthy with money and everything else.  After we were divorced she found separate accommodation and we remained good friends, helping each other whenever possible. She was never one to be shy with men, and soon found new relationships, one of which lasted for seven years or so and when he died he left her his good house and furniture, so that was very helpful to her.

One summer three years after I married Rose here in this tropical country I took her to England to show her my old country, and we visited my ex and her then current man (a retired mining engineer) in his house.  He was friendly, he possessed a good piano and my ex and I were able to sing a couple of our favourite songs together while I was there.  He died in 2001, collapsed while playing a round of golf. Later she found another man and was with him for a number of years, I don't know what happened to him but he is not in the picture now.

My ex has always been a somewhat religious person, a long time Quaker, but after her man's death became a "lay reader" in a local Protestant church.  Following that she became ordained and now takes services in that same church - a very old and historic one.  Last year she met yet another man and decided to get married.  She was married in March this year in her own church at the age of 68, her husband being 87.  She sent me photos and they are a good looking couple, the church was almost full for their wedding. Her marriage doesn't seem to have affected her attitude to me.  She has her own house and her everyday life is, I understand, not all that different from what it was before her marriage.  She tells me she never expected to have so many relationships, but that's just how things have turned out.

I felt pleased for them though conscious of yet further separation from her - in a certain sense. More isolated. I still have a joint bank account with her, for practical reasons. She is quite likely to be widowed yet again, but of course that's no barrier to getting married if you have no young children to care for.  Enjoy life while you can!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Death of a Friend

There is sadness in my household these days. Many tears are being shed.  First, my piano.

I have had this piano for thirty-five years.  It was made by Chappell and Co, a London company of good repute, in 1906 and has been my faithful friend for many years.  But in this country, termites and humidity attack pianos, eating the wood from inside, rusting the metal parts and causing the glue to fail.

I reluctantly decided to scrap it, and began to dismantle it.  After removing the keyboard lid, front panels and action, I removed the keys, which were themselves falling apart.  Then I removed the strings and wrest pins.

After some correspondence with an old friend in England, I began to wonder if restoring it was a possibility.  That would give me something to do for a year or two and perhaps result in a playable instrument.  But then it would be starting to disintegrate as soon as I had finished, and since no-one else here is interested in playing it, and I no longer play well, it would really be pointless.

I stood close to my old piano and said to it, "My old faithful friend, I am afraid I shall have to dismantle you completely and dispose of the remains".  I seemed to hear from inside, its reply: "Yeeess" in quiet, hollow tones.  The soul of this good instrument was going to be released into wherever the souls of old pianos go - oblivion, I guess.  I know that well-loved and well used objects retain around them, or in them, impressions of those who have loved and used them, which can be sensed by certain people.  Perhaps those impressions constitute the soul?

So I proceeded with the work of destruction. It became ever clearer that restoration would have been impossible - the whole carcass was partially hollowed out by termites, and every glue joint could simply be pulled apart with the fingers.The very heavy cast iron frame I could not lift on my own, and with help we got it off and put it aside. I am giving the rest to a neighbour for firewood.  The scrap metal will buy shoes for Claude and more.


I remember the joys of accompanying my second wife in songs - Schubert, Schumann, Elizabethan love songs were our favourites.  My present wife has no interest in playing, singing or listening to such music.  Before I married her she told me she could read music, but that was a lie, though she is usually truthfull in practical matters.  I find it hard to get past that lie, long ago though the saying of it was. I did mention my disquiet over it once, but she tried to defend it - she never apologises for personal failings of that kind.

Thursday, May 02, 2013


From the Washington Post May 1 2013

BURKESVILLE, Ky. — In southern Kentucky, where some children get their first guns even before they start first grade, Stephanie Sparks was cleaning the kitchen as her 5-year-old son played with the small rifle he was given last year. Then, as she stepped onto the front porch, “she heard the gun go off,” a coroner said.
In a horrific accident Tuesday that shocked a rural area far removed from the national debate over gun control, her son, Kristian, had fatally shot his 2-year-old sister, Caroline, in the chest, authorities said.

Kristian’s rifle was kept in a corner of the mobile home, and the family didn’t realize a bullet had been left in it, Cumberland County Coroner Gary White said.
“Down in Kentucky where we’re from, you know, guns are passed down from generation to generation,” White said. “You start at a young age with guns for hunting and everything.”
What is more unusual than a child having a gun, he said, is “that a kid would get shot with it.”
In this case, the rifle was made by a company that sells guns specifically for children — “My first rifle” is the slogan — in colors ranging from plain brown to hot pink to orange to royal blue to multi-color swirls.

“It’s a normal way of life, and it’s not just rural Kentucky, it’s rural America — hunting and shooting and sport fishing. It starts at an early age,” said Cumberland County Judge Executive John Phelps. “There’s probably not a household in this county that doesn’t have a gun.”
In Cumberland County, as elsewhere in Kentucky, local newspapers feature photos of children proudly displaying their kills, including turkey and deer.
Phelps, who is much like a mayor in these parts, said it had been four or five years since there had been a shooting death in the county, which lies along the Cumberland River near the Tennessee state line.
“The whole town is heartbroken,” Phelps said of Burkesville, a farming community of 1,800 about 90 miles northeast of Nashville, Tenn. “This was a total shock. This was totally unexpected.”
Phelps said he knew the family well. He said the father, Chris Sparks, works as a logger at a mill and also shoes horses.
The family lives in a gray mobile home on a long, winding road, surrounded by rolling hills and farmland that’s been in the family since the 1930s. Toys, including a small truck and a basketball goal, were on the front porch, but no one was home Wednesday.
There’s a house across the street, but the next closest neighbor lives over a hill.
Family friend Logan Wells said he received a frantic call telling him that the little girl was in an accident and to come quickly.
When he got to the hospital, Caroline was already dead. “She passed just when I got there,” Wells said.
White said the shooting had been ruled accidental, though a police spokesman said it was unclear whether any charges will be filed.
“I think it’s too early to say whether there will or won’t be,” Trooper Billy Gregory said.
White said the boy received the .22-caliber rifle as a gift, but it wasn’t clear who gave him the gun, which is known as a Crickett.
“It’s a little rifle for a kid. ... The little boy’s used to shooting the little gun,” White said.
The company that makes the rifle, Milton, Pa.-based Keystone Sporting Arms, has a “Kids Corner” on its website with pictures of young boys and girls at shooting ranges and on bird and deer hunts. It says the company produced 60,000 Crickett and Chipmunk rifles for kids in 2008. The smaller rifles are sold with a mount to use at a shooting range.
Keystone also makes guns for adults, but most of its products are geared toward children, including books and bright orange vests and hats.
“The goal of KSA is to instill gun safety in the minds of youth shooters and encourage them to gain the knowledge and respect that hunting and shooting activities require and deserve,” the website said.
No one at the company answered the phone Wednesday.
According to the website, company founders Bill McNeal and his son Steve McNeal decided to make guns for young shooters in the mid-1990s and opened Keystone in 1996 with just four employees, producing 4,000 rifles that year. It now employs about 70 people.
It also has a long list of testimonials from parents who talk about how grateful they are to be able to go shooting with their children.
Sharon Rengers, a longtime child advocate at Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville, said making and marketing weapons specifically for children was “mind-boggling.”
“It’s like, oh, my God,” she said, “we’re having a big national debate whether we want to check somebody’s background, but we’re going to offer a 4-year-old a gun and expect something good from that?”
Associated Press writer Janet Cappiello in Louisville contributed to this report.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

I sometimes think there must be whole swaths of the world where "responsible" people actually possess very little commonsense.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Islamic Extremist Gives Up On Radicalizing Dim-Witted Friend - another excellent piece from The Onion

I wish I dared send this to my son who converted to Islam, but I won't because it would probably create a bad split.  Muslims have no sense of humour where their religion is concerned, apparently.,32189/?ref=auto


Who has written this?

...  Nisargadatta's teachings also focus on our notion of causality as being misinterpreted. He understood that the interconnectedness of varying forces in the universe is so vast and innumerable that the notion of causality, as presently understood, is wasted. The endless factors required for anything to happen means that, at most, one can say everything creates everything; even the choices we make are predetermined by our genetic code, upbringing, mental strivings and limitations, our ethical and philosophical ideals, etc., all of which are uniquely combined to each person and recontextualized accordingly.
This leads to the radical notion that there is no such thing as a "doer". According to him and other teachers of Vedanta, since our true nature or identity is not the mind, is not the body, but the witness of the mind and body, we, as pure awareness, do nothing. The mind and body act of their own accord, and we are the witness of them, though the mind often believes it is the doer. This false idea (that the mind is the self and responsible for actions) is what keeps us from recognizing our Self. Nisargadatta cautions:
"The life force [prana] and the mind are operating [of their own accord], but the mind will tempt you to believe that it is "you". Therefore understand always that you are the timeless spaceless witness. And even if the mind tells you that you are the one who is acting, don't believe the mind. [...] The apparatus [mind, body] which is functioning has come upon your original essence, but you are not that apparatus." 
Nisargadatta —The Ultimate Medicine, (pp.54 - 70) Copied from Wikipedia.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Can you guess?

We have agreed upon two rules so far:
1) computers closed before 22:30; and
2) a goodnight kiss, properly done, no matter what.

These two rules have proved easy to implement and beneficial.  Now I want to add another: 

"No silence when speech is called for." 

I have a good reason for wanting this.

I told Rosie about my new rule proposal while we were having our evening drink this evening in the cool twilight outside.  What was her response?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tribute to J S Bach

I sat down yesterday at my piano to play through two or three pieces from J S Bach's second book of the the Well-tempered Clavier (48 preludes and fugues), while waiting for some cooking to complete (I was making the supper as usual).  I had already drunk a couple of small glasses of whisky – more than usual and perhaps too much, for when I came to play these amazing creations I kept bursting into tears at the sheer beauty and rightness of them. Prelude number III in C# (BWV 872) is one of my favourites, and it's not difficult to play.  At first it doesn't seem much but you soon begin to realise the delicate lacy tapestry of sounds, the patterns and progressions alternating between bass and treble, the unexpected yet apparently inevitable figures appearing and disappearing.

I absolutely agree with Glenn Gould (famous Canadian pianist) that Bach was “beyond a doubt the greatest architect of sound that ever lived.”  I consider myself highly fortunate to be able to read, play and enjoy some of his creations three centuries after he committed them to paper.  The ability to hear and understand, and even to play for myself in some cases, Bach's music is one of the greatest blessings with which I have been blessed in this life.

Here you can find two different recordings of Glenn Gould himself playing this prelude and the paired fugue as well, which I have not yet learned to play.  The first one shows Gould in action (video stuck for about the first 30 seconds); the second one, which I prefer because slower, has better sound for my ears but no video. (If your browser warns you about redirection, ignore that, it's OK).  Gould was regarded as a master of Bach's music, and there's no doubt about THAT; but I find him a little heavy, and he uses a piano, whereas these pieces were written with harpsichord in mind, which is altogether a lighter and less dominant instrument.  Pianos had hardly been invented and were still a novelty by Bach's time.

Glenn Gould had a habit of humming to himself while playing, making things difficult for his recording engineers, who often did not manage to avoid recording that too.  I like it, personally; I do it myself a lot, I would not like to be compelled to remain silent while playing.  Playing this music for yourself is an awful lot better than listening to someone else playing, however much more skilled they may be!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Two questions about DD

It's now more than a week since our first proper foray into punishment for DD violations, and Rose got 5 smacks with the hairbrush for not closing her computer at the agreed time.  They were not hard, only about 30% of full force.  She didn't like it and got distant for a few minutes, but afterwards gave me a hug and a kiss.  Not only was this a surprise to me, something that seldom happens just out of the blue, but she has been unusually affectionate ever since.

As for my own feelings, I am shy to reveal this, but it's certainly true that I feel more loving towards her and more proud of her when I exercise this authority.   Not right at the time, for I don't like spanking her as a punishment; but some time later.

Though I have been theoretically enthusiastic over DD for years, my surprise at this development shows me that I was not in fact quite so enthusiastic as I had thought.  Now, I am really beginning to be more confident and think it is going to do us some good.  Such a simple thing, how is that it isn't more widely adopted?

That's the first question, that I don't expect to get an answer to.  The second question is:  Last year Rose's room was disgracefully untidy and dirty, and for six months I had been asking her to tidy it, but with very little result.  Finally when one day she was absent for some hours, I did it myself, taking care not to throw out or burn anything that looked as though it might be something she would need.  It took me about four hours and I filled a large garbage sack with rubbish, almost all off the floor of her room.

Rose was very indignant and sulky with me for a long time over this.  In my opinion now, I should have spanked her long before it got to the stage of my having to do it.  I would still like to punish her quite severely as her conduct was really indefensible and very disrespectful.  She refused to apologise.  Is there in practice a statute of limitations in matters like this?

I recently read Christina and Jim's account of their beginnings in DD and let Rose read it too;  it included just such a delayed spanking; but the circumstances were admittedly different and Jim had not delayed out of timidity, whereas I did - mostly.  I feel diffident on account of this delay of my own.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Reading to Rose

All through Claude's childhood from the age of four or younger (he's now sixteen) I read to him every evening at bedtime, until he was about fourteen, when he didn't want me to do that any more..  During those years we got through many books, children's books and classics of English fiction.  I just hope it will turn out to have been useful to him.

I started reading to Rose about three or four months ago.  Rose doesn't have the patience or the vocabulary to read English fiction, although she likes researching stuff online such as herbal cures, and knows quite a lot about them. I began with "Gone with the Wind", not really a good choice as I had not read it myself before, it's very long and there are too many passages where the author is just trying to describe someone's feelings.  I got bored with it myself at times! But we got to the end eventually, and Rose and I will both have some idea of the American Civil War and its devastations. 

I followed with "Cider with Rosie" by Laurie Lee, a favourite of mine, but until I started to read it to her I had not realised how complex the language sometimes was, dialect (familar to me from my childhood in that area) and allusions to classical works abound.  Nevertheless it seemed to hold her interest, to a certain extent.

I realised I would have to find something simpler, so I  decided upon "Anne of Green Gables", which we started a few days ago.  This is much more successful, and we are both crying and laughing our way through it.  While I can read such a book quite calmly to myself, when reading it to Rose I find tears and laughter uncontrollably bubbling up frequently, and have to keep tissues nearby.  To me, Anne is a very sympathetic character and much like myself in many ways.  It's clear that Rose is enjoying it and looking forward to the next installment.

I"m interested in reading aloud to someone as it gives "scope for the imagination", as Anne herself would say, whereas watching a film or TV leaves nothing for the imagination to work on.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Reasons for following a DD lifestyle

Bas wrote a post recently that prompted me to try to articulate my reasons for wanting a DD marriage.

1)    Our marriage must not stagnate in mediocrity but must shine as an example to all.

2)    A man should be able and confident to lead and a woman should be able and confident to submit, because these characteristics are natural, sexy in the broadest meaning of the word, and generate mutual attraction.

3)    Malcolm needs to learn to be more decisive.  Too often - almost always -  the native hue of resolution gets sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, and not because of conscience but from sheer timidity.

4)    Rose needs to learn to accept Malcolm’s decisions without aggressive arguing; but Malcolm must ask Rose for her input on a matter about which he will make a decision.

5)     Malcolm needs to become more self-confident

6)    Rose needs to avoid sulking and unwarranted silence

7)    Malcolm needs to speak his thoughts to Rose more readily, when they might affect her.

8)    Rose needs to be more proactive about following an agreed housework schedule and be held accountable for it

9)    Malcolm and Rose both need to be better disciplined and not neglect obligations and duties

10)  Malcolm and Rose both need to avoid “distancing”

11)  Many success stories on the internet encourage us

Will DD will help us to make these improvements?


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

The Thin End of the Wedge - 2

I wrote out our agreement about computer shutdown time and after showing it to Rose and negotiating some more, we settled on using the last event log of the day as the final shutdown, but added three minutes as it does sometimes take quite a long time to shut down.

Last evening Rose was late in shutting down her computer.  She doesn't do this from defiance, but because she gets so immersed in what she is reading that she forgets the time.  I do that myself, too.  I saw she had it open at 10:36, looking at a web page, so that was more than six minutes late, entailing seven smacks with the hairbrush.  But the last event log was at 10:37:13, so taking into account the extra three iinutes allowed, that made 5 smacks.  We did have an argument over this: Rose wanted only four,  and I was pissed off about this as arguing is the very thing I want to avoid, especially as I am a very slow thinker, and let pass what I should not let pass.

So she got five smacks with the hairbrush after I had checked the last event log.  I was terribly nervous about this as the one thing Rose hates is not so much the smacks, but the idea she deserves punishment.  After that she found it difficult not to sulk a bit and get distant (I think that has been a coping device since early childhood); but later, after about half an hour, she recovered and gave me a hug and a kiss - not something she does often.  I felt more optimistic.  Actually I felt very loving towards her.

By the time we were ready to go to sleep it was after midnight.  I suggested a goodnight kiss - something many couples do but we never have.  She complied readily and agreed to make it a rule.

This morning I determined to do something to avoid further arguments, so after a long search online ( I am not a computer geek) I found out how to enable logon/logoff events on her computer, which were not previously recorded.  Today I will re-draft our agreement to revert to the 10:30 shutdown time, using her logoff time, which will now be recorded on her computer automatically...

All this might seem to be making a mountain out of a molehill; but I am a very diffident man and before imposing sanctions have to be absolutely certain that I am right, and that however much Rose argues, I am not going to change my decision.  It's something I really need to learn as I have suffered from indecision and diffidence since my teenage years.

I may be an old man by the calendar but I am a newbie at DD.  Rose has not been enthusiastic to take it up, but I have persisted as I want our marriage to shine and not descend into mediocrity during my last years in this incarnation.  So any advice will be gratefully considered.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Divine Hypnosis

Wayne Liquorman has a very illuminating metaphor for Enlightenment - losing something you never had in the first place, but was causing you unnecessary suffering.

Imagine being in a town where all the inhabitants have been hypnotised to thinking they have stones in their shoes. Except you, on whom the hypnotism has suddenly lost its power.

Everyone wants to know how you walk about so comfortably, and don't seem to worry about the "stone in your shoe."  You try to explain that they don't really have any stones in their shoes,  and although they look for it and can't find it, they cannot help believing they have a stone in their shoe that makes walking painful.  Hypnotism is like that: it can make you believe something that has no foundation in reality.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Thin End of the Wedge

Rose is one who has always found it hard to apologise; she maintains she does no wrong.  In fact she isn't a naughty girl, doesn't smoke, drive fast,  spend much money on my credit card (she has no access to it anyway) swear or become much overweight.  She does neglect stuff, though. Twenty years ago she used sometimes to apologise, but always tacked on a sentence or two purporting to show that it couldn't be avoided or was my fault anyway.  She doesn't do that much nowadays, I am happy to say.

OK.  She agreed with me some weeks ago that her laptop (and mine) would be closed down by 10:30 p.m.  Last night hers was still open at 10:33, and that isn't the first time she has broken the agreement.  So when we were in bed and I had made sure sure she was in a good mood, I said to her:

  "We have an agreement that laptops will be off by 10:30, and yours was still on at 10:33, maybe later.  I'm going to test your sincerity.  Will you agree that if your computer is not shut down by 10:30 YOU will come to ME and apologise, admit that you were late shutting down your computer by, for example, three minutes, and ask me to give you three smacks with the hairbrush?  One smack for every minute?"

To my surprise she answered with a giggle,  "Tee-hee!  Yes, all right!"

I ran with this and continued, "And if you don't come to me straightaway but I find out and have to confront you with it, it will be double - two smacks for each minute?"

There was no laugh in response to that, I was sorry to note.  I will try to find out if the computer (Windows XP) keeps a log file of times of events, if it does it may come in very useful.  I will type out this agreement and ask her to sign it, we'll take it from there.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Extract from "I Am That", a compilation of conversations with Nisargadatta Maharaj.

12. The Person is not Reality
Questioner: Kindly tell us how you realised.
Maharaj: I met my Guru when I was 34 and realised by 37.
Q: What happened? What was the change?
M: Pleasure and pain lost their sway over me. I was free from desire and fear. I found myself full, needing nothing. I saw that in the ocean of pure awareness, on the surface of the universal consciousness, the numberless waves of the phenomenal worlds arise and subside beginninglessly and endlessly. As consciousness, they are all me. As events they are all mine. There is a mysterious power that looks after them. That power is awareness, Self, Life, God, whatever name you give it. It is the foundation, the ultimate support of all that is, just like gold is the basis for all gold jewellery. And it is so intimately ours! Abstract the name and shape from the jewellery and the gold becomes obvious. Be free of name and form and of the desires and fears they create, then what remains?
Q: Nothingness.
M: Yes, the void remains. But the void is full to the brim. It is the eternal potential as consciousness is the eternal actual.
Q: By potential you mean the future?
M: Past, present and future -- they are all there. And infinitely more.
Q: But since the void is void, it is of little use to us.
M: How can you say so? Without breach in continuity how can there be rebirth? Can there be renewal without death? Even the darkness of sleep is refreshing and rejuvenating. Without death we would have been bogged up for ever in eternal senility.
Q: Is there no such thing as immortality?
M: When life and death are seen as essential to each other, as two aspects of one being, that is immortality. To see the end in the beginning and beginning in the end is the intimation of eternity.
Definitely, immortality is not continuity. Only the process of change continues. Nothing lasts.
Q: Awareness lasts?
M: Awareness is not of time. Time exists in consciousness only. Beyond consciousness where are time and space?
Q: Within the field of your consciousness there is your body also.
M: Of course. But the idea 'my body', as different from other bodies, is not there. To me it is 'a body', not 'my body', 'a mind', not 'my mind'. The mind looks after the body all right, I need not interfere. What needs be done is being done, in the normal and natural way.
You may not be quite conscious of your physiological functions, but when it comes to thoughts and feelings, desires and fears you become acutely self-conscious. To me these too are largely unconscious. I find myself talking to people, or doing things quite correctly and appropriately, without being very much conscious of them. It looks as if I live my physical, waking life automatically, reacting spontaneously and accurately.
Q: Does this spontaneous response come as a result of realisation, or by training?
M: Both. Devotion to you goal makes you live a clean and orderly life, given to search for truth and to helping people, and realisation makes noble virtue easy and spontaneous, by removing for good the obstacles in the shape of desires and fears and wrong ideas.
Q: Don’t you have desires and fears any more?
M: My destiny was to be born a simple man, a commoner, a humble tradesman, with little of formal education. My life was the common kind, with common desires and fears. When, through my faith in my teacher and obedience to his words, I realised my true being, I left behind my human nature to look after itself, until its destiny is exhausted. Occasionally an old reaction, emotional or mental, happens in the mind, but it is at once noticed and discarded. After all, as long as one is bur-dened with a person, one is exposed to its idiosyncrasies and habits.
Q: Are you not afraid of death?
M: I am dead already.
Q: In what sense?
M: I am double dead. Not only am I dead to my body, but to my mind too.
Q: Well, you do not look dead at all!
M: That’s what you say! You seem to know my state better than I do!
Q: Sorry. But I just do not understand. You say you are bodyless and mindless, while I see you very much alive and articulate.
M: A tremendously complex work is going on all the time in your brain and body, are you conscious of it? Not at all. Yet for an outsider all seems to be going on intelligently and purposefully. Why not admit that one’s entire personal life may sink largely below the threshold of consciousness and yet proceed sanely and smoothly?
Q: Is it normal?
M: What is normal? Is your life -- obsessed by desires and fears, full of strife and struggle, meaningless and joyless -- normal? To be acutely conscious of your body is it normal? To be torn by feelings, tortured by thoughts: is it normal? A healthy body, a healthy mind live largely unperceived by their owner; only occasionally, through pain or suffering they call for attention and insight. Why not extend the same to the entire personal life? One can function rightly, responding well and fully to whatever happens, without having to bring it into the focus of awareness. When self-control becomes second nature, awareness shifts its focus to deeper levels of existence and action.
Q: Don’t you become a robot?
M: What harm is there in making automatic, what is habitual and repetitive? It is automatic anyhow.
But when it is also chaotic, it causes pain and suffering and calls for attention. The entire purpose of a clean and well-ordered life is to liberate man from the thraldom of chaos and the burden of sorrow.
Q: You seem to be in favour of a computerised life.
M: What is wrong with a life which is free from problems? Personality is merely a reflection of the real. Why should not the reflection be true to the original as a matter of course, automatically? Need the person have any designs of its own? The life of which it is an expression will guide it. Once you realise that the person is merely a shadow of the reality, but not reality itself, you cease to fret and worry. You agree to be guided from within and life becomes a journey into the unknown.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


A couple of years ago I noticed a girl working in one of the stalls of our town market.  Her employer was called Max, and he was a big, smiling man, well known in the market.  Every time the girl and I saw each other, we exchanged smiles and glances.   I guess she was about fifteen or sixteen.  I felt curiously happy when we met, and one day I said to her, “I am always happy when I see you!” She made some reply, I think it was “Thank you”.  I saw her quite often when I passed that stall or bought something there, though there were long periods when she was not there.
About two months ago our old market buildings were torn down to make way for a department store, and many of the stallholders moved to a new market building which had been built some distance out of town.  Max lost his quite big market stall.  For a long time I did not see Max or the girl and I missed her, felt uneasy.
This morning I asked someone I knew who had taken a stall in the new market building if Max had a stall there.  “No,” he said.  “He has a small store in Gomez street opposite UCPB bank now.”

Of course I knew that little store but had never thought of it as being Max’s, despite a sign with his name over the opening.  Max is a common name, after all.  So I went there and seeing some chilli peppers in a box in the front of the shop, I picked up a handful, greeted Max  and handed them to the female assistant so I could have them bagged and pay for them.  She started looking at me in a steady way, and I suddenly realised that this was my girl.  She was taller, older, more grown-up with a different hair style, different clothes, but her steady smile and intense glance was there all right and I began to feel as though a big empty space in my chest was filling up.  I smiled at her in return and the usual silent, wordless understanding was exchanged between us.
For the remainder of the day I have felt this warmth in my chest and the unease at not seeing her had gone.  I have never even asked her name.  I would like her to be near me for the rest of my life.


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