Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving! Old teachings made new


Painting of the Mayflower by Mike Haywood. This post is revised and republished every year.

The 102 men, women, and children who left Plymouth in 1620 to sail west across the Atlantic crowded into a small boat with their ploughs, guns, a spaniel and a mastiff. Many of the pilgrims slept on the Mayflower's deck, sheltering under rowboats as they headed into the equinoctial gales of the Atlantic. Halfway across, storms cracked a main beam, and almost sank the ship, but they made the necessary repairs, and sailed on, not toward civilization, but toward a wild, unknown land. They had their reasons.

A Compact

According to their journals, they decided to go to America because they wanted to share Christ's Gospel and worship as they pleased and because they longed to retain their English language and customs.

In their minds these included local governance and a common law that was just to everyone. These ideals had not always been perfectly realized in England, but they had their birth there.

By late November, they had been sailing the Atlantic for two months, and they decided to land wherever they could. But desperate though they were, the wintry desolation of Cape Cod on America's eastern seaboard, took them aback. They realized they had to make a plan of action if they were going to survive.

On deck the men drafted an agreement. They bound themselves to cooperation and self-government under majority rule. Their agreement to make decisions democratically was remarkable then. It is still remarkable today. The Mayflower Compact they wrote was just three sentences long. Their brevity was unusual, too.

The Covenant

They didn’t churn out turgid paragraphs because they knew they had to live according to the Ten Commandments and Christ's teaching to love God and each other. They were not in any doubt about the honesty, respect and love which they were called to. Not surprisingly, they failed.

This was not because they were not good enough - who, we humbly ask, is good enough? - but because in trying to be good they ignored a fundamental fact of human nature.

After they landed on the Cape they fished and hunted for food with the help of the spaniel and mastiff. They owned land together. Everyone shared everything. The Indians brought them corn. Nevertheless half the pilgrims died of malnutrition and exposure. The Indians also suffered, many because they had no immunity to new infectious diseases.

The pilgrims had such a difficult time because they had turned their backs on a source of strength. It is the least-known aspect of the story.

A turnaround

They had tried to create a system in which no-one owned property, and everything was shared. Alas! Those who worked hard supported those who were willing to sit back. This created problems. Survival was an incentive, but it wasn't good enough. They need the fuel of competition and individual gain. They were human.

Rather than resisting reality, they made adjustments. In 1623 they established a 'new' economic system based on incentives and private property. America became a place where desperately poor people from all over the world could make a living. Government did not them how to make a living, did not insert innumerable regulations as stumbling blocks in their way, did not seize the hard-earned fruits of their labour in high taxes. Government upheld just law, and in time, with the growth of the economy, would protect citizens from unfair and unjust business practices.

By 1640 there were 20,000 Brits in New England, and they were flourishing. Despite death and loss, and sometimes despite themselves, they and their descendants would help to plant freedom in their newfound land.

The rest of the story is at:

This is a macabre thought, but how many people will die because of TSA?

AAA: Traffic on roads up 12%...

How many chefs do you have?

Obama Has a Live-In Pastry Chef

Poor Bill Yosses. He's the White House pastry chef. He makes desserts for a living. He works for Barack and Michelle Obama. They talk about healthy eating. All the time. Sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?

Not at all. Yosses' creations -- especially his pies -- have won over even the Obamas. The president calls him "The Crustmaster."

Wow! There is a story here.

Chinese villagers 'descended from Roman soldiers'

Genetic testing of villagers in a remote part of China has shown that nearly two thirds of their DNA is of Caucasian origin, lending support to the theory that they may be descended from a 'lost legion' of Roman soldiers.

Genetic testing of villagers in a remote part of China has shown that nearly two thirds of their DNA is of Caucasian origin, lending support to the theory that they may be descended from a 'lost legion' of Roman soldiers.

Cai Junnian's green eyes give a hint he may be a descendant of Roman mercenaries who allegedly fought the Han Chinese 2,000 years ago

Tests found that the DNA of some villagers in Liqian, on the fringes of the Gobi Desert in north-western China, was 56 per cent Caucasian in origin.

Many of the villagers have blue or green eyes, long noses and even fair hair, prompting speculation that they have European blood.

A local man, Cai Junnian, is nicknamed by his friends and relatives Cai Luoma, or Cai the Roman, and is one of many villagers convinced that he is descended from the lost legion.

England looking for that GW

Wintry weather for 10 days

Wintry weather to last for 10 days

The wintry weather is set to last in coldest November spell for 17 years.

Road Trip? (Lisa got me a car for my birthday, but I don’t think it is up to this.)

The First People To Drive Across The Congo In 20 Years

In 2008, a Belgian couple traversed the Congo in a Toyota Land Cruiser, a drive few have attempted in decades. This is their story of adventure, corruption, and crumbling infrastructure in the world's second poorest country

“Jimmy Carter” may final make Peace

Super-Silent Jimmy Carter Ready to Spy on North Korea

It’s not the diplomacy-minded former president who is ready to spy, it’s the secretive nuclear submarine named for him. The surveillance and attack capabilities it’s supposed to have could keep the tense situation on the Korean peninsula from spiraling out of control.

In the wake of yesterday’s North Korean artillery barrage against a South Korean island, the U.S.S. George Washington is sailing to South Korea to participate in joint exercises.

A statement from the Navy’s Seventh Fleet, which patrols the western Pacific, says the drill was planned before the “unprovoked” North Korean attack, but will demonstrate “the strength of the [South Korea]-U.S. Alliance and our commitment to regional stability through deterrence.” In other words: to stave off another attack, not to initiate a retaliation.

The George Washington aircraft carrier is equipped with 75 planes and around 6,000 sailors. But it’s not coming alone. It’s got the destroyers Lassen, Stethem and Fitzgerald with it, and the missile cruiser Cowpens in tow. Rumor also has it that the carrier strike group will link up with another asset in area: The undersea spy known as the Jimmy Carter, which can monitor and potentially thwart North Korean subs that might shadow the American-South Korea exercises.

According to plugged-in naval blogger Raymond Pritchett, word’s going around Navy circles that the first surveillance assets that the United States had in the air over yesterday’s Korean island battle were drones launched from the Jimmy Carter.


Thanksgiving And The Science of Happiness

Recent research into happiness has shown that your happiness is a simple equation:

H = S + C + V

H is your level of happiness.

S is your set level of happiness. This is largely dictated by your genes and brain chemistry. Pharmaceuticals can affect this somewhat, but their effects are limited.

C is your circumstances. Amazingly, geography, race, etc. play very little role in determining your level of happiness. Even income doesn’t! Studies have shown that paraplegics and lottery winners are about equally happy one year after they had an accident or won the lottery. In fact, just about anyone on the planet who has adequate food, clothing, and shelter is probably as happy as Bill Gates is.

Marriage and religion have a positive correlation with happiness. But it’s hard to tell if marriage makes people happier, or if happier people tend to get married. Ditto religion.

V is your voluntary efforts to improve your happiness. This is where you have the most control. A couple of things that have been shown to have a marked effect:

1. Thank someone publicly and profusely.

2. Forgive someone in your heart.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you use the opportunity to make yourself happier, and spread a little happiness amongst your friends and family.

Personalized vaccines are one of the great hopes to stop cancer

Using a Patient's Tumor to Form Vaccine: Dendritic Cell Vaccine Induces Immune Responses in Patients

ScienceDaily (Nov. 24, 2010) — A new process for creating a personalized vaccine may become a crucial tool in helping patients with colorectal cancer develop an immune response against their own tumors. This dendritic cell (DC) vaccine, developed at Dartmouth and described in a research paper published this week in the journal Clinical Cancer Research, was used after surgical resection of metastatic tumors to try to prevent the growth of additional metastases.

Well it is not like its the Nobel Prize

Michelle Obama named to Vogue’s Best Dressed List.

Excellence Crushed in the Name of Diversity – Why public schools are for losers.


In a world run by egalitarian elites, no child left behind means no child can be allowed to get ahead.

One of the most racially mixed high schools in Illinois, Evanston has a mission of embracing diversity and promoting equity and excellence for all students. But its own data show that few minority students make it into the school's most rigorous courses that will best prepare them for college and the future.

Who could be to blame for minority students failing to achieve excellence? Overachieving white kids, of course. So educrats have no choice but to punish them:

Across the Chicago region, high school officials say they are making inroads in diversifying their advanced classes, but Evanston is considering the boldest step of all: eliminating an elite honors English course that has traditionally been offered to the highest-achieving incoming freshmen — usually white.

Freshmen who outscore 95% of their peers nationally on achievement tests will no longer have their own class, but will be lumped in with students who can barely read in the name of imposing social justice.

There's only one way to achieve equality of outcome: coercively reduce everyone to the lowest common denominator.

Where not to go

A Map of the World That Reveals Natural Disaster Hot Zones

A Map of the World That Reveals Natural Disaster Hot Zones Want to know where you should live if you are hoping to avoid the next catastrophic earthquake, flood, megavolcano, or storm? Consult our map of disaster hot zones of the world.

A Staircase and a Chandelier

A Staircase and a ChandelierYou've probably seen plenty of spiral staircases and plenty of chandeliers in your life. But I doubt any have looked quite as cool as this photograph of the new cylindrical light in Edinburgh's Usher Hall. Here's another view:

A Staircase and a Chandelier

The light, designed by Spiers + Major, is comprised of fluorescent tubes encased in 45 total feet of acrylic cylinders, a clever way to light the entire staircase and keep mounting and cable routing headaches to a minimum. And of course you get the benefit of that neat wormhole-like vista when you view it form below.

Why does she dominate the headlines? (My take: she is not an Elite and that motivates the Elites and the Country – just in different ways)

The extent to which Sarah Palin--a non-office holder, the veteran of less than a single term as Governor of Alaska, an unsuccessful Vice-Presidential candidate who, polls tell us, incurs the disapproval of most voters--dominates the news these days is remarkable. If you run your eyes down the headlines of any on-line newspaper, you will most likely see multiple Palin stories. Take today's Washington Post, for example: An Excerpt from Sarah Palin's New Book (which is actually an anti-Palin cartoon), Sarah Palin's "Snuff Film" Has Animal Rights Activists Angry, Who Will Be Next Year's Bristol?, Attack on Michelle Obama Shows Palin's Ignorance of History, Palin Fires Back at "Blue-Blood" Barbara Bush.

Is there any precedent for this level of obsession with a politician who, by any objective standard, should be a secondary figure at best? I can't think of one in my lifetime. Consider the other losing Vice-Presidential candidates of recent years: Sargent Shriver, Bob Dole, Walter Mondale, Geraldine Ferraro, Lloyd Bentsen, Dan Quayle, Jack Kemp, Joe Lieberman and John Edwards. A couple of them I had to look up. Several were important for other reasons. But it would have been absurd to think of any of them dominating the headlines two years after losing their Vice-Presidential races.

This is so wrong. People should be fired.

IRS to Jewish group: 'Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?'...

"Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?" IRS agent Tracy Dornette wrote the organization, according to this week's court filing, as part of its consideration of the organizations application for tax exempt status. "Describe your organization's religious belief sytem toward the land of Israel."

One of the best ideas I have heard in a long time

Jindal: Make Congress part-time!

The Jury has spoken

HAMMER, NAILED: Jury convicts Tom DeLay in money laundering trial...

Many would disagree

Michelle Obama on a second term: It’s important for Barack to finish what he started