Goodnight Leonard Cohen

News of 82 year old Leonard Cohen’s death found me driving home from work, they played Hallelujah and I cried. Home compelled So Long Marianne to fill the room. Not youthful or studio Marianne, I needed proof of Marianne in Cohen’s sinew. I found it in a live performance from 2012.

Cohen’s effortless spell rippled through the room. I saw an ageless man, a man whose beautiful presence transcended the shell of his being. Swaying melodically to the cadence of his unabashed existence, I whispered goodnight.

David Souter Ponders Democracy

This morning CBC radio aired a sound bite of retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter speaking at a 2012 UNH (University of New Hampshire ) open forum. Souter was asked to comment on declining civics education and what effect that has on government. His answer runs almost 8 minutes. For those short on time, patience or inclination skip to 4:00 or read the transcript below.

“But the reason I said I think it is the most significant problem that we’ve got is that I think some of the aspects of current American government that people on both sides find frustrating are in part a function of the inability of people to understand how government can and should function.

It is a product of civic ignorance.

What I worry about is a remark that Benjamin Franklin made and Susan Leahy quoted Jefferson at the beginning about how “an ignorant people can never remain a free people.”

Democracy cannot survive too much ignorance.

Franklin, in effect, had a comment to which the Jefferson comment is a kind of an answer or a response. You’ve probably heard this but it bears repeating.

Franklin was asked by someone I think on the streets of Philadelphia shortly after the 1787 convention adjourned in what kind of government the constitution would give us if it was adopted. Franklin’s famous answer was “a republic, if you can keep it.” (edited)

You can’t keep it in ignorance. I don’t worry about our losing republican government in the United States because I’m afraid of a foreign invasion. I don’t worry about it because I think there is going to be a coup by the military as has happened in some other places.

What I worry about is that when problems are not addressed, people will not know who is responsible. And when the problems get bad enough, as they might do, for example, with another serious terrorist attack, as they might do with another financial meltdown, some one person will come forward and say, “Give me total power and I will solve this problem.”

That is how the Roman republic fell. Augustus became emperor not because he arrested the Roman senate. He became emperor because he promised he would solve problems that were not being solved.

If we know who is responsible, I have enough faith in the American people to demand performance from those responsible.

If we don’t know, we will stay away from the polls. We will not demand it. And the day will come when somebody will come forward and and we and the government will in effect say, “take the ball and run with it.”

“Do what you have to do.”

That is the way democracy dies. And if something is not done to improve the level of civic knowledge, that is what you should worry about at night.

Limited Supply Of Space Pickles

With Christmas fast approaching, dilemmas over what to give someone who has everything arrive with predictable angst. Never fear – agonizing year after year just got a little easier. Who wouldn’t appreciate a space pickle?

Earth to Sky Calculus hails from Bishop, California, a small community in the Sierra Nevada foothills, population 5,000. Dr. Tony Phillips (production editor of science@nasa ) began teaching Calculus and Quantum Physics to his daughter’s 5th grade class. By 2010, the now high school students wanted hands on cosmic discovery – Earth to Sky Calculus was born.

Earth to Sky relies on crowd funding to launch weather balloons into the stratosphere. Research focuses on monitoring atmospheric cosmic rays, stress testing Mars microbles and development of biological radiation sensors. With over 100 successful deployments, Earth to Sky Calculus is recognized as a leader in edge of space research. So why a space pickle you ask?

Flights to the edge of space cost $500. Doesn’t sound like much, but one flight a week adds up. Innovative minds at Earth to Sky settled on bang for your buck. Donations of $500 grant flight to your imagination –  birthday cards, photographs, business logos, small personal items hitch a ride to the stratosphere. Immortalized on HD video with print quality stills to do with as you please. Or you can shop “Gifts From Space” for space pickles.

Earth to Sky declares “the Christmas pickle” a holiday tradition in America. Who am I to argue. Recently Earth to Sky sent several dozen Santa capped glass pickle ornaments to the edge of space. $49.95 secures a space pickle, every space pickle comes with a Christmas card showing your ornament in space. To sweeten the pot, Earth to Sky tosses in a “fragment” of the balloon that carried it to space (how they manage that is beyond me but I applaud the sentiment ) Act fast – supplies are limited.

Sour on space pickles? Thrifty alternatives jostle for consideration at the link below –