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Never Forget Her Face

Czesława Kwoka in 1943 at Auschwitz. She is 14 and terrified as she looks at the camera.  She was born in Wólka Złojecka, a small village in Poland.  Her mother was Katarzyna Kwoka, a Catholic.  Their crime? Being Poles, who were considered racially inferior. She died on 12 March 1943, her mother on 18 February 1943.
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Ghandi Offers A Murderer A Way Out of Hell

In a scene during Richard Attenborough's fine 1982 movie, Ghandi, a wild-eyed Hindu stands before Mahatma Ghandi. He is desperate, this man, and has just come from the fighting. His head is sweaty, his hands restless. There is rioting in the streets, Hindu against Muslim, Muslim against Hindu. Whole houses have been put to the torch by both sides. Overwrought, unable to contain himself, he cries at Ghandi,

"I'm going to Hell! I killed a child! I smashed his head against a wall."

Ghandi, looks at the man, and tries to sooth him.

"Why?," Ghandi asks.

"Because they killed my son! The Muslims killed my son!"

The man holds his hand up to show the boy's height, only about eight or nine years old. He puts his head in his hands.

Ghandi says softly, "I know a way out of Hell."
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Notes for A Modern Descent into Hell

How should I pack?
What should I wear? Walking shorts and a polo shirt? Nothing? (If so, is there a nudist beach?)
Do I need dark glasses?
What should I say if I meet people I know? Good seeing you here! How's business?
Do I tip the ferryman?
Should I carry a foreign language phrase book?
Do they have welcome kits?
Do I take my American Express card?
Can I get a room with at least HBO and cable TV?


From My Cold, Dead Hands

This is far from a complete list.

After  George Hennard  drove his pickup truck through the front window of Luby's restaurant in 1991, killing  23 people, wounding 27 others, the NRA made sure nothing was done about it.

After Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris murdered 13 students at Columbine High School in 1999 the NRA insured nothing was done.
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Tranquilized by The Trivial

A life can be spent in avoiding confrontation with itself.  That phrase echoes in the very marrow of our bones.

Faces along the bar cling to the average day. The lights must never go out. The music must always play. (September 1, 1939. W.H. Auden)

Daily lives, culture, society--all is arranged for distraction, else people discover that they and the world are not as they want.  No deep reflection, no serious reasoning--avoid them at all costs, and that is easy as the purchasing power of a wealthy economy allows whatever it takes to keep the music playing, the action coming, the thoughts at bay.

Distraction serves the national agenda, both politically and economically, as it stokes material ambition and acquisition. Climb the corporate ladder, buy a fancier car, a bigger house, a faster boat. Is everybody happy?
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Pot Pourri--Chance, Consciousness, AI, Fate, Free Will--Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Roger Penrose, Peter Lynds

Black swans. A black swan is an outlier, an event that lies beyond the realm of normal expectations. Most people expect all swans to be white because that's what their experience tells them; a black swan is by definition a surprise. Nevertheless, people tend to concoct explanations for them after the fact, which makes them appear more predictable, and less random, than they are. Our minds are designed to retain, for efficient storage, past information that fits into a compressed narrative. This distortion, called the hindsight bias, prevents us from adequately learning from the past.
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The Enchiridion By Epictetus

1. Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.

The things in our control are by nature free, unrestrained, unhindered; but those not in our control are weak, slavish, restrained, belonging to others. Remember, then, that if you suppose that things which are slavish by nature are also free, and that what belongs to others is your own, then you will be hindered. You will lament, you will be
disturbed, and you will find fault both with gods and men. But if you suppose that only to be your own which is your own, and what belongs to others such as it really is, then no one will ever compel you or restrain you. Further, you will find fault with no one or accuse no one. You will do nothing against your will. No one will hurt you, you will have no enemies, and you will not be harmed.
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An Excerpt From Don't Die in Bed: The Brief, Intense Life of Richard Halliburton.


Almost losing his life, he treks across the Malay Peninsula from the Andaman Sea to what was then called the Gulf of Siam.

As the dugout moved upriver, as the river narrowed, the sky became lost under dense canopies of mangrove.  Richard swatted at mosquitoes and flies.  Crocodiles slipped silently into the water as the boat approached.  Parrots screeched somewhere in the jungle and the men heard monkeys chatter.  Fish leaped out of the water to gulp a mosquito.  Deer timidly approached the bank to drink, eyes out for crocodiles.  Elephants drank from the other bank.  Cranes and herons reeled into flight upon seeing the boat.  Orangutans peered through underbrush at the men.  The men could smell rafflesia, a parasitic flower that smells like rotting meat.

That same year, in 1922 in the familiar world, people sat outside Parisian cafés discussing James Joyce’s new book, Ulysses.  In Vatican Square the faithful gathered under the third floor window of the papal apartments to pay homage to Pius XI, the new Pope.  Reporters stood around Warren G. Harding as the President listened to the first radio in the White House.  History was still in the making.

A boa constrictor hung from a tree.  Scorpions scampered across the forest floor, passing an anteater. Upon seeing the men in the sampan, a Sumatran rhino crashed away through the undergrowth.  Chattering Gibbons clambered up trees to look at them.  On the jungle floor a cobra, hood swollen, reared to strike its venom into an unsuspecting young Gibbon.
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An Excerpt From Don't Die in Bed: The Brief, Intense Life of Richard Halliburton

For an idea of what Halliburton and crew encountered, Halsey’s Typhoon offers an example. On December 17, 1944 Admiral William “Bull” Halsey’s Task Force 38 met a typhoon that claimed many lives and sank ships. Looking through windows of pilothouses, helmsmen saw water in the air, air in the water. They could not tell where sea ended and sky began. Piles of sea drove horizontally against wheelhouse windows. Wind roared through the rigging. Flags hauled down, only a tiny battle ensign flapped raggedly in the storm. Beaten by the typhoon, some ships were locked in irons, the vessels helpless in the eye of the storm and could not come about to a new direction. Ships could not see one another and a captain’s mind was fraught with only one idea—keep to the weather. The bows of small ships, destroyer escorts, plowed into mountains of sea that came crashing down on the wheelhouse.

On aircraft carriers, fighter planes down in the hangar bays tore free of lashings and were hurled into other planes, rupturing fuel tanks and igniting fires. The light carrier Monterey was set ablaze at 0911 with fire so intense despite seas washing over the flight deck that it spread below and she quickly lost steerage. On Monterey eighteen planes were destroyed or thrown overboard by wind. Another sixteen were almost destroyed. Her ventilation system was badly damaged.

Lieutenant Gerald Ford―one day a US President, then a young officer on Monterey―was almost swept overboard. He volunteered to lead a damage control team below. In the bowels of the ship all night, Ford and his men braved stifling smoke and intense heat to put out fires. He had been assigned as athletic officer, assistant navigator and gunnery officer and this, he might have joked years later, was not in his job description.

USS Langley rolled through seventy degrees. A plane broke loose in San Jacinto’s hangar and crashed into several other planes. On Cape Esperance the flight deck erupted in flames. In heaving seas, the damage control team risked their own lives to put it out and they did. Kwajalein rolled so far to port that when she righted, her catwalks came back washing with green water. Flat on the flight deck, crewmen crawled inch by inch to three aircraft torn loose and the men tried to push them from the flight deck before they could do more damage. The men worked and struggled against the storm, expecting any moment to be washed overboard but an hour later they had jettisoned the planes into the ocean.
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Some Koans of Quantum Mechanics

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After a two-week sesshin, and in deep meditation, a Zen disciple is tapped on the shoulder by a monk so the disciple can visit his Zen master about his assigned koan. He arises in the silent zendo, padding past others in lotus position, and enters a room for dokusan with his roshi. With a gassho to the Zen master, the disciple sits and waits for his teacher to speak. The roshi studies him silently. Then, rather than asking the student to show him Mu, the Roshi poses these to him, and they are all quantum puzzles:
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