What Rhymes with Bastard by Linda Robertson

First published in 2008, What Rhymes with Bastard by Linda Robertson (on Goodreads here) is an amusing account of the author's life with her boyfriend, first in the UK and then in San Francisco around the turn of the millennium.

Her fella is a junkie who tends to disappear only to re-appear days or weeks later, a little worse for wear, requiring stays in psych wards having lost the run of himself.
Think typically English Hugh Grant type dialogue in this context and you get the idea. She, meanwhile, has been an assiduous student, painfully shy and academic and body conscious.
She ultimately blossoms into what could be described as a reasonably competent copywriter at what appears to be a ludicrous advertising firm. (Or something.)
Details on some of her job spec, and her work colleagues, highlight the crazy working life she led in SF. Meanwhile, she and her guy are crammed into an apartment with a bunch of other people. 
She's musically creative too. Navigating this life while dealing with her guy's newfound peccadilloes (found from where, we wonder?) the heroine is also writing music with whimsical lyrics.
Although the importance of family is a theme, she pokes fun at her parents' foibles as well as everyone else's. 
Funny stuff throughout, the work reads like fiction, and gives an idea of what went on during the first dotcom bubble.
Get it at Amazon and elsewhere.

Americans I HATE YOU!

You! Idiots!

What are you doing with this stuff? Look!
Look at what you return to us, in leprachaun form: LUCKY CHARMS?

This is no accident of nature!

It's got marshmallows in it FOR! BREAKFAST!

There are generic versions here too - competing with marshmallow-breakfast rivals. There should be no marshmallow breakfast competitors.

There should be no marshmallow breakfasts.

Why is it so very important?
Isn't there ENOUGH sugar?

Why? Do you think for ONE SECOND that you can be both as beautiful as you are AND provide marshmallows for breakfast? It defies logic. It is appalling.

AND MCDONALD'S? Slow down everybody!
We're eating the beef and the Japanese is getting too tall to WORK THE MACHINERY!

And this one:

She has keys for eyes all the better to unlock your common sense! And a capo on the other eye to change the key whenever she wants! Except even SHE couldn't manage it.
My life was going brilliantly until SHE came along.
Let me ask you, America: Why?
Why, America?

The chance of God's existence

An agnostic argument against the "Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God"

The recent arguments for God's existence suggest that the probability of life is infinitesimal. The thrust of these arguments is made through the prisms of DNA and astronomy, inter alia. Feel free to comment or correct in the comments below.

On the formation of life and our presence in the universe, even scientists say it’s very very very very very very very very very very very very very very unlikely, and there might be an intelligence behind it.

There was a Big Bang. What caused it? 
We’re not entirely sure, but there are scientific explanations.

The universe has been cooling down, decaying, and expanding into a weaker state, diluting, or whatever else, ever since this Big Bang. 
Brownian motion can operate in a quantum vacuum. (I just checked.) The early universe was filled with matter which was being blasted out. 
The matter slows down, and these tiny particles gather together. It congregates in the same way dust gathers on a window sill. Particles coalesce – a natural phenomenon that doesn’t necessarily require divine intervention – and they form larger bodies, stars, and the planets surrounding them. 
Over billions of years.
Billions of years.
So if at first a meteor doesn’t succeed in becoming a planet because it's too small, it collides with another meteor to form a planet, or it floats off on its meteoric way.

There’s a stickiness to it all, with ions and charged particles, and the gravity of these particles as they come together become a stronger force, locally, than the expanding universe’s force universally. So they slow down, settle into these stars, which settle into galaxies of stars, which settle into galactic clusters (or whatever they’re called). We could think of it like the balls dispersing across a pool table when you break. They hit each other, changing each other's trajectory, slowing down. But all the while the table (or universe) is still expanding.

All very unlikely. Why gravity as a powerful force? Gravity works for me! Does it work for you? If not, stay in the clouds. So it’s very unlikely, for example, that the Big Bang happened at all, and very unlikely that it blasted out matter at a rate that enabled the celestial bodies, the galaxies and stars, to form with such random perfection.
But that happened.
It’s very unlikely that the Earth collided with another planet early on in its formation, perhaps contributing to the formation of its iron core which gives us our poles and our magnetic field to keep out the carcinogenic ultraviolet rays, and perhaps causing the very unlikely formation of the moon through the throwing up of debris in this huge collision, and very unlikely again that this lunar influence enabled the formation of the tides of the seas and oceans, to further encourage life, and to assist with life cycles.
But that all happened before life was ever formed at all. 
So the building blocks for aspects of life, such as photosynthesis, and respiration, were already in place, at least in part, with this collision that made Earth bigger, and formed the moon to orbit it.
To recap: It happened because in this small pocket of the universe, dust and gas molecules gathered in a flawed vacuum to form a sun, and dust circling that sun or star formed the planets, and one of these planets was the Earth.
Very unlikely too, that the Earth happens to be in this Goldilocks zone, situated near enough to, and far enough away from, the sun to be “just right” for life. But that happened. Why?
We know how it happened. But why?

Perhaps it happened in part because there was a collision with another planetary body early on in Earth’s formation, to knock it into that Just Right for Life zone (see above).
It happened because dust coalesces, and the more massive a body, the bigger its gravitational pull. (See above again.)
Because atoms and molecules were scooting around the universe as it cooled down, and these got stuck to each other. (See above again, for the implied cause-and-effect).

So the formation of life is very very very very very very very very very very very very very very unlikely.
See how the verys get crossed off because things happen? I’m not counting, by the way. 

But these things happen because the previous things happened
It’s still very unlikely that these things happen the way they do. And sometimes things can't happen any other way in this universe.
But these things happen the way they do, one after the other or sometimes more randomly, like it or not, and all of them so far have a rational or scientific explanation. 
We don't know why matter was blasted out at the rate it was blasted out just after the Big Bang - or maybe some in the scientific community do have those answers. 
But it only happened once in this universe, and it happened the way it did.
A lot of the stuff that happened doesn’t have to happen once.
This isn’t some magical clock being created out of debris by a blind horologist, to just fall into perfectly functioning existence within the space of six days. It nearly is. 
But it's not quite like that. Things may happen thousands of times before something “clicks”. 
Because how long? Aeons of time. 13, or 17 billion years. Or whatever.

As for DNA: They say that crystals can self-replicate under certain conditions. So it’s rare but it happens, this replication, in a natural world devoid of life.
So let’s say we were already in the Goldilocks zone (because of planetary collisions early in Earth’s formation, and the formation of the moon, and whatever else).
There’s a flash of lightning into the gloop, and life is somehow created from the electric spark and the gloop. 
Or let’s say a comet struck the earth containing the first bacteria – and this life had formed elsewhere in the universe, in a similar fashion, with thunderbolts and lightning very very frightening ME!
What’s the likelihood of that happening?A gabillion to one, says you.
(Obviously lightning was probably not involved. But we've been galvanising dead frogs for centuries and re-starting hearts with electricity for decades. So this is just an example, okayyy?)

So let’s say the lightning strikes happened a thousand times rather than once.  How many lightning strikes hit the oceans today, every day?
Let’s say there was a lot of static charge in the air back then, let’s say thousands of bolts of lightning struck lots of primordial ooze, every single day for years, either here or elsewhere in the universe, or up in the sky, and the first bacteria or amino acids somehow sprang into being.

I say "somehow" but I stress we could probably discern how it happens if we watched on macro, micro and quantum levels.
Let's say instead of thousands of times, it happened once. (It only has to happen once.)

One of these bacteria or molecules of acid, or the only bacterium that flared into existence in the second scenario, has to survive and reproduce by mitosis, or meiosis, or by whatever method it did, or come together with another strip of molecules, and then do it again, and so on, and so forth. 
We still have this glueyness in things. Similar principles to dust gathering. For example, water might attract things, like trapping dirt, and it repels things through capillary action, in various ways. Makes things acidic or alkaline. Erodes. It does all sorts of stuff.

The probability of these random events happening is infinitesimal. But somehow, it happened. Things got stuck to each other because things stick to each other, from negatively and positively charged atomic particles up.
Maybe it happened more than once. But why did it happen? 
It happened because hydrogen fits with oxygen in a neat way to make water, and there happened to be some carbon around, and light and heat from the sun, and because Earth was in the Goldilocks zone, because it had collided with another planet to knock it off its original axis and orbit in the solar system, because yaddah yaddah.
Maybe that's the miracle.
And basic evolutionary theory shows how natural selection plays on random mutations to allow successful species to evolve and flourish. 
The dodos were successful in Mauritius after they stopped bothering to fly anywhere. They had food sources, they could raise their families, and they couldn’t give a rat’s ass about flying. So they evolved their wings-of-flight away.

But they died out because they suddenly stopped flourishing when Man arrived, on his post-Renaissance era boats, and they came up like fools to greet him on the beach, after he’d had tens of millions and millions of years of evolution and struggle, and more than a little experience in killing fowl.
Darwinian Evolution is questioned today by biologists who have evidence that species can do things we had no idea they could do previously, in terms of mid-life mutations, or sending genetic instructions on to future progeny, even skipping a generation. 

But these attacks on basic Darwinism from today’s biologists are generally not to suggest the existence of a God.

It’s very unlikely that aAn asteroid struck the Earth 65 million years ago to cause the mass extinction of dinosaurs, and to give mankind the chance to flourish, if we're to phrase things teleologically. 

Was that fate? The Earth and its sun are situated on an arm of the Milky Way spiral galaxy. As the solar system (with the Earth) bobs into and out of its point on this arm, it sometimes moves into clusters of busier celestial traffic than usual.

Most of the four or five mass extinction-level events experienced by Earth’s life forms have occurred during what astronomers and geologists and the scientific community believe to be periods of busy celestial traffic. Every few hundred million years, the Earth floats into a zone where there are a lot of bullets flying around, and is struck by an asteroid or comet, and 70 percent of all life is wiped out.

So that’s why extinction-level events happen. Half a billion years of dinosaurs, or dinosaur-like creatures, plodding along (or whatever length of time it was that they were around), and they were wiped out. 
We haven’t been around for as long. 
Did God gift us this opportunity, after creating the first RNA and DNA molecules hundreds of millions of years earlier? 
Or did our solar system go into some busy zone where there were lots more comets and asteroids shooting around the place, and one of them hit Earth, and that's why we're here? 
We have had four or five chances already to become sentient, to give God his due for our existence. Four or five mass extinction events over three billion and more years. The supermassive snails (or whatever) didn't thank Him for their beautiful shell designs or the Fibonnacci sequence. The T-Rex (or whatever) spent all her time hunting the young of sauropods.

Let’s say He gifted us this opportunity, after wiping out worlds of molluscs and lizards and triffids and ferns (or whatever) in a number of antediluvian and prelapsarian hellfires.  He did that so we could all speculate like this, or worship Him for creating this world. Because in a universe that’s in a state of decay, when as organised and destructive and smart a bunch as homo sapiens comes along, it might just have happened by chance is miraculous.

So it’s about as likely as unlikely that God exists. Because He hasn’t “happened” the way all the other stuff happened the way it did. None of what’s happened above proves His existence. 
Evidence of Biblical events can be questioned far more readily than the physics and geology above. Why is that? Because there's a massive crater off the isthmus of the Americas. That's there
But there was no census at the time of Jesus' birth, for example. That's from a time of recorded history and even that does not tally up with the facts. We were framing stories back then. More interested in truth than fact. "Love thy neighbour" is fair enough. But also let him ride into town on this donkey and cause a storm of controversy so that they kill him? That makes a good story too.
We're talking about a region where farming and writing first took off millennia earlier, a region where state-backed currency became a thing, where they had lists of pharaohs and annals of kings and they kept proper records (in North Africa and the Middle East), dominated at this point by an efficient empire from the continent (Europe) that most successfully exported its beliefs by hook or by crook across the whole planet over the next two thousand years, and annihilated the records of other civilizations.

Let's say God did send his son two thousand years ago. And He left us with four (and more) shoddy journalists who needed to spin their narratives so that the Lord descended from the House of David. Why are the Gospels so very different, from account to account?

It is speculative to suggest that there is a personal God who will send His Messiah, or who sent His Son, or spoke through his Prophet, or will send his son again with the Mahdi, or is a pantheon of gods, or we’re all reincarnated, and that He, or the adherents to some life force, or Britcham R. Hubbard, passed down books full of war and righteous anger and punishment, and eating instructions, and slavery, 
as well as Love. 
Yet you say the book, whichever book it is - and it may as well be the myths of Ancient Greece or Scandinavia - is there. Teleologically, again, maybe it was God's will that one of the last Roman emperors had a vision that converted him to Christianity. 
God's will was involved in sparing enough European civilization in the form of monastic life when the Roman empire died out in a manner that prevented the spread of Christianity via the legions. 

What are the chances that, when Rome was pushed back into Italy, a network of Catholic-run universities and monasteries would remain open for business? 
Is it as likely that the Goths or Mongols or Huns or Vikings could have pushed their mythologies onto the locals across Europe? It didn't happen. What did?
Tell me how God was involved in pogroms before the Crusades, that wiped out pockets of Judaism in England and across Europe, or how the genocide and influenza of the conquistadores inspired the Americans to convert.

Maybe we made all that stuff up is what’s as likely to have happened, when we got bored colouring in our bull murals on the cave walls, and started snorting the paint instead of drawing with it. And we added to it when a carpenter came on the scene preaching love and claiming divinity.
This is not to say that Jesus didn’t believe himself the son of God, for example. 
It’s not to say that he didn’t exist. 
It’s not to even say that God doesn’t exist, or that Jesus is not the Son of God, nor that He didn't rise from the dead.
It's not to suggest that we can't dismiss Islam, for instance, as a source of civilisation. When it comes to Enlightenment, Islamic philosophers were debating elements of rationalism and empiricism five hundred years before Descartes and Locke. 
It's not to say we can't look to Buddha or Hinduism for inspiration.
If you do a raindance and it rains, then dance, MFs!

It’s just to suggest that maybe Jesus isn't the son of God, and we can as readily dismiss Abrahamic religions as any that have gone before or come since. 
It's to suggest that maybe Jesus wasn't descended from David and Abraham.

Perhaps the scientists who speculate on a divine explanation for our existence - due to the laws of probability - are simply doing their job.
And that is to say that to rule out the existence of God entirely is unscientific, because absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and because the hum of the background radiation in this universe endows us with an environment to beg questions about the lunacy of its perfection, and all of the things that had to happen to bring us to this point.

Broken Pieces by Rachel Thompson

In Broken Pieces, available at Amazon, Rachel Thompson proves extremely eloquent at sharing experiences of fear and trauma, and how she comes out the far side.

She details abusive relationships in harrowing and frightening detail. She discusses stress, and coping mechanisms, and medication, and healing. Most of the pieces are about past abuse, or love, or stalking, or her fears for children - and men are usually to blame. Even rebound relationships feature, with a poetic beauty that could echo the adage that All's fair in love and war. 

Thompson would not fall into the women's literature or chick lit categories. I was surprised by this book. Thompson's other work sometimes analyses gender dynamics through the prism of humor with expertise. Although few would deny they're pretty easy to figure out, she clearly understands and critiques men through hilarious insights in a way that is rare. This book could be regarded as the shadow side of this satire.
The fragmentary nature to the collection - in keeping with its title - makes it easy enough to dip in and out, to take a poem or an essay at a time. That's not to suggest that each standalone piece is not a rounded gem, compositionally; it's just that often each piece or poem is very different to the ones surrounding it.
No bad thing to be capable of writing in any number of styles, it allows Thompson to include experiences that are forensic in detail, while describing others through an ephemeral, airy and impressive employment of poetic licence. There is light and hope here, and - despite some horrific experiences - Thompson doesn't play the victim. Didactic elements are more of the leading by example kind than the instructional rulebook.
Broken Pieces is worth reading. You can get it at Amazon.

Taking a knee during the anthem

Could I suggest that this photo shows an Irish rugby player as more disrespectful of the British head of state than the US footballers are to the flag? O'Gara denied he did anything wrong or disrespectful. He said he wouldn't have attended if he didn't like the Queen.
But could I also suggest that kneeling is a more respectful posture - indeed, it's far less confrontational, and jingoistic (or indeed patriotic, in a pejorative sense, if you'd like to label it that) than standing tall is?

Standing with hand-on-heart could be the beginnings of a fascist salute. Fascists don't kneel.

If you feel you've a right to do it - to stand up and face the flag or listen to the anthem as a proud American - you've earned that right as a citizen or resident. 

But these football players are no slouches.

The West Wing and a Conservative Radio Host

So I am pretty sure I've seen every episode of The West Wing in recent months (although I could be wrong). It took some time. I've watched at least 30 episodes more than twice. Lucky me, eh? Lucky. Me. (Coz it's good.)
I got a Season Two boxset from Irish radio station Newstalk (on George Hook's show) after texting my answer to a TWW-related question back in the way back when, before the second series premiered in the Raging Thirties.
Hook's been in some hot water recently over a comment he made (I believe) related to women inviting rape. There's nothing right about what he suggested. He apologised.
Hook has also said in the past that he relied on his wife financially for much of their working lives, while he crossed streets to avoid debtors. He has said he'd be dead without the women in his life. 
He also has (he claims) an aberrantly low cholesterol level, so I imagine this (apparently) conservative voice will be around for some time, even though he's in his seventies.

Much as with George today, due to trouble with the distributor Newstalk were a year late sending out the boxset. That's another bug-bear I have with George Hook. This isn't about Mr Hook though. Read a couple of disjointed thoughts about The West Wing here.

A couple of thoughts on The West Wing

A couple of random thoughts have recently sprung to mind about this mostly excellent tv show.

Josh Lyman

Josh has PTSD after getting shot in an assassination attempt on President Bartlett. Bartlett (also shot at the end of Season 1 in the same attempt) has trouble sleeping later too. 
Bartlett's been plagued by insomnia for some time, apparently. So they're both working through their problems. Josh loses it at Christmas, with the military brass band being too loud. He's counselled by Leo.
At the end of the show's run, Josh has been running Matt Santos's campaign, and he becomes the new White House Chief of Staff under the Santos administration. He brings Sam back to play Josh Lyman's role in the Bartlett adminsistration to Josh's Leo role in the new administration. If that doesn't make sense to you, it's fine.
But Josh vents at an underling about where his phone is, when Josh is almost completely at fault. Sam insists that Josh take a vacation immediately. 
It struck me that Josh clearly still has things to work through, maybe having run the course of the entire series. But the PTSD, Josh's temper et al, might correlate here to Leo's alcoholism under Bartlett.

CJ and Danny 
Former Press Secretary CJ thinks she's missed the window for having a relationship with Danny, the Washington Post's White House Correspondent. She says:
"I'm not good at this!" and "I don't need training."
Danny says "You can be scared. That's okay. But you're not going to walk away from me because you're scared. I'm not that scary."
Among the best scenes in the series. But wouldn't it be great if he had screwed up his face, and gurned like a Notre Dame hunchback when he said that? "I ngott ghatt shcary." Dripping saliva etc.

That's it.