From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Friday, July 3, 2015

Human rights: Who's on first, U. S. or China?

Henry "First in war..." Lee III   (Public Domain)
In a tit-for-tat battle over who's got the better (or, more pointedly, worse) human rights record, results from the U. S. and China seem far too close for comfort.

Whereas the United States has long accused China of violating rights in an abysmal manner, China has replied with scathing critiques of America’s own record. 

China’s State Council Information Office recently stated that the United States not only brazenly violates the rights of those in foreign lands, but is also “haunted with spreading guns and frequent occurrence of violent crimes” among its own citizens.

China further asserted that U. S.  “repression and coercion were routine” against Americans who challenged the status quo, and then praised its own success “at lifting millions out of poverty.”

This race to the bottom might be comical if it weren’t so tragic.  “First in war” does not always mean “first in peace.”  Nor does it always mean “first in the hearts of countrymen.”


Copyright July 3, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Brain-to-text mind reading

Hawking in 2006  (Public Domain)
According to Levi Sharpe of Popular Science, it is now possible for a computer algorithm to “associate speech sounds… with different firing patterns in the brain cells.”

What this literally becomes is a system that can “translate brain activity into written words” (in other words, a type of computerized mind reading). 

This remarkable system works best when its electrode grid is placed directly on the brain, rather than on the scalp.  It also needs to be highly customized because “every person’s brain is so unique.”

Whereas ALS-sufferer Steven Hawking has been using an external device “to pick out words on a screen for a computer to read,” this new brain-to-text technology would make it possible to more directly
“speak” what’s on his mind.


Copyright July 2, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cameroon's 'King Solomon'

Vanity of vanities...  (by Isaak Asknaziy) 
Although King Solomon was known for his wisdom, he was also known for his folly.  One such latter example was his seemingly insatiable desire for women.

Perhaps 700 wives and 300 concubines just weren’t enough.  Solomon allegedly then added the Queen of Sheba to his list of female “conquests.”

To add insult to injury, many of these women were subsequently blamed for Solomon’s own idolatry.  Because some were from foreign lands, they were said to have lured Solomon away from Yahweh (as though this mighty king had no will of his own).

Fast forward to 2015 AD:  King Solomon is long gone, but blatant polygamy is not.  With almost 100 wives and 500 children, Cameroon’s King Abumbi II is well on his way to emulating Solomon’s eye for the ladies.

In his "defense," Abumbi had a “mere” 30 or so wives before inheriting 72 more from his dad.  And the kids?  Abumbi also inherited the huge responsibility of caring for his wives' children.

The king and his often well-educated queens uphold their traditions proudly.  Abumbi’s third wife explained:  …the elderly wives remain to hand down the tradition to the younger wives, and also to teach the king… because the king had been a prince, not a king.    


Copyright July 1, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fido: Love me, love my 'owner'

(Photo by Mdk572)
The way to a dog’s heart may not be through its stomach, but rather through its owner’s heart.

John Moore of AFP reports on a Japanese study in which dogs refused “food offered by people who have snubbed their master.”

This discovery shows that dogs have a “capacity to cooperate socially” beyond the motivation of self-interest.  This social
capacity, which is also found in “humans and some other primates,” is allegedly rare among animals.

Study leader Kazuo Fujita of Kyoto University pointed out that this trait “is one of [the] key factors in building a highly collaborative society.”


Copyright June 30, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 29, 2015

Through a lens lightly

(Public Domain)
Ever wonder why people seem so drawn to photography? 

Whether they’re peering through pages of images gone by at family reunions, or gaping at front-page sensations in the local newspaper, viewers have been significantly impacted by such captured moments.

What is it about photography that draws people in?  Jan Phillips, Executive Director of The Livingkindness Foundation, views this art as “an act of intimacy… between other individuals and herself, the earth and herself, or the great
mysteries and herself.”

Having utilized a camera to “express her emotions, heartbreaks and hope since 1969,” Phillips will soon be sharing her experiences via a Spirituality & Practice e-course.   

Themes within this course will include the following:  …retraining our eyes to see divinity in our midst…  identifying our commonness with those who seem
different…  discovering new ways to add light to the world.  


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Space elevator: Tower of Babel?

Up, up and away!   (Circa 1370 AD)
When humans tried to kiss the sky the first time around, it didn’t work so well.  Neither did it seem to work for Hendrix himself.

Nevertheless, we’ve come a long way since the days of “Lingerie, Third Floor” type elevators.  So long, in fact, that we’re now planning an elevator into space…

Astronaut Chris Impey explains to NPR’s Terry Gross that this is not as far out as it seems.  You simply “string a cable up into space… to a geostationary point [the point at which the cable’s “orbital period” equals the rotation period of the heavenly body from which it was launched].”

Impey compares this to “an Indian rope trick” in which the spinning of the cable sends it “straight out away from you by the centrifugal force.”  If launched from Earth, the cable “rope” would have to be 100,000 kilometers long.  We don’t currently have “a material strong enough to make a cable that long suspended against [Earth’s] gravity.”

Our current technology, however, could make this work from the Moon’s surface.  Because the Moon has only one-sixth the Earth’s gravity, our current cable materials can withstand that lesser amount of opposing force.

Impey concludes:  …if you build a space elevator, you can get essentially anywhere in the solar system for the cost of almost no rocket fuel.  A free ride?  Hardly.  We don’t yet know the hidden costs.   


Copyright June 28, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

Saturday, June 27, 2015

'Healer-in-Chief' sings 'Amazing Grace'

Olney Hymns   (Public Domain)
When you’re President of the United States (POTUS), it often seems as though you’ve “been in the barrel tumbling down Niagara Falls…”

After surviving all that, President Obama is feeling liberated, so much so that he belted out a heartfelt rendition of “Amazing Grace” for all the world to hear.

While paying tribute to the Charleston, South Carolina shooting victims, Obama also put out “a call to action” for ending “racial insensitivities.”

This plea included some firm words regarding the “pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens.”

During a Rose Garden “victory lap,” the president referred to recent Supreme Court decisions regarding “Obamacare” funding and gay marriage as “justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

All in all, it's been an amazing week for a president who hasn’t forgotten “Amazing Grace.”


Copyright June 27, 2015 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved