My step-father

My step-father was a small farmer. He worked with his hands all of his life. He worked with mules, horses, and later tractors. Otto was primarily a wheat farmer. He took pride in his farming. Straight rows, sowing at the right time, cultivating, knowing when to harvest. There was a German Lutheran toughness to him and a real pride in growing crops and beasts to feed the people. 

It was a real shock to him when he made his first trip to the east coast. He went up to the top of the Empire State Building and looked out over the city. He noticed barges in the Hudson River that were dumping their loads into the river. He asked what they were dumping. He was told they were dumping excess wheat and also milk. He could not believe it. 

Why would they do that,” he asked. For the futures market he was told. Too much wheat brings the prices down now and in the future. 

When he came back to the farm he was changed. Those barges had stolen his life’s purpose. 

At about the same time Camus was writing his Notebooks 1951 – 1959. He writes (35) : 

According to Melville, the remora, a fish of the South Seas, swims poorly. That is why their only chance to move forward consists of attaching themselves to the back of a big fish. They then plunge a kind of tube into the stomach of a shark, where they suck up their nourishment, and propagate without doing anything, living off the hunting and efforts of the beast. 

The remora reminds me of the Wall Street speculators of today. They do not produce any wheat or corn – they merely bet on its price in the future. And they don’t manufacture anything to use for anything – they specialize in gambling. 

Oh, yeah, and Otto paid his fair share of taxes. 

Greenland continues to melt

Yet we now know that the Greenland of today is different from the Greenland that Rink experienced. The ice sheet is melting more, and melting earlier in summer, and melting in ways that computer models suggest will ultimately threaten its long-term existence. A recent paper in Nature presented compelling evidence, gathered from cores extracted from the ice sheet, that demonstrated Greenland’s recent melt is “exceptional” over the past 350 years and that the ice sheet’s response to higher temperatures is now “nonlinear.” In the last two decades, melting rates of the ice are 33 percent higher than 20th century averages; the melting, moreover, is not only increasing but accelerating.

Read the article.

Harmful Beliefs

The Top Ten
Most Harmful Beliefs

For the past few years as part of its annual fundraising efforts, the Skeptics Society led by Michael Shermer has used little fold over mailer booklets with Top Ten lists. This year the focus is on Shermer’s list of “the strangest beliefs I’ve come across in my quarter century as a professional skeptic” with the addenda that the beliefs be not only wrong but have a wide impact on society. Go here.

“The Post”

Saw “The Post” recently. Highly recommend it! It speaks not only to the past (the Nixon years) but resonates with today as well. Katharine Graham is the first female publisher of a major American newspaper — The Washington Post. With help from editor Ben Bradlee, Graham races to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spans three decades and four U.S. presidents. Together, they must overcome their differences as they risk their careers — and very freedom — to help bring long-buried truths to light.

Many liberties were taken in “The Post,” the Steven Spielberg movie on the publishing of the Pentagon Papers. But the movie stuck to reality when it described how the Supreme Court sided with the press and not the Nixon administration in what was a cliffhanger of a legal battle. It’s worth reading Justice Hugo Black’s triumphant words at the CORNELL LAW SCHOOL »

Review here.

Philosophers’ Café

The next Philosophers’ Café is Wednesday.  Mark your calendars and join in on the fun as Dr. Laura Shanner, researcher and consultant in health care ethics, leads you through a discussion on lifesaving interventions. 


Philosophers’ Café: How Far Should We Go to Save a Life?

Wednesday, Nov. 22nd, 6:30-7:30 pm

Nanaimo Harbourfront Library