Give Me That Old Time Religion

I hate it when history can’t decide how to spell someone’s name and this is the case for Zoroaster, or Zarathustra, Zarathushtra Spitama or Ashu Zarathushtra who lived in a time that is not firmly established (anywhere from 1400 BC to 500 BC) was a unique Persian thinker.  Zoroaster was a prophet who worked as a priest and he was said to have received a vision from Ahura Mazdā (the supreme god known as the Wise Lord), who appointed him to preach the truth.  Zoroaster lived in a time when the Iranian people were evolving a settled agriculture, and he broke with the traditional Aryan religions of the region which closely mirrored those of India, espousing the idea of a one good God.  Initially these people were opposed to his teachings, but he was confident in the truth that was revealed to him so he spread his monotheistic message. He placed his god at the center of a kingdom of justice that promised immortality and bliss and he attempted to reform the ancient Iranian religion.  His referred to those who opposed his views as the followers of the Lie.

After the Jews were exiled and held as captives in Babylon, Cyrus the Persian king liberated them and one of his successors Darius, organized and funded the return of some of the captives to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  Ezra focused on the rebuilding of the temple, while Nehemiah focused on the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem.  Ezra concentrated on religious reform, while Nehemiah concentrated on political issues.  From this a stricter monotheistic version which was consistent with basic beliefs of the Persian imperial religion, emerged what it is known as Zoroastrianism and the Persian influence on Judaism was powerful and long lasting.

Zoroaster was a family man, with a wife, three sons and three daughters.  He rejected the current religion because of the multitude of gods, the oppressive class structure, the use of animal sacrifices and the hallucinogenic rituals.  When Zoroaster was thirty years old he had a divine vision of God during a ritual purification rite.  This vision radically transformed his view of the world, and he tried to teach this view to others.  Zoroaster believed in one creator God, teaching that only one God was worthy of worship.  He also said that some of the deities of the old religion appeared to delight in war and strife and Zoroaster said that these were evil spirits and were God’s adversaries.  After Zoroaster was granted a vision from god, he said, “Bless the cup that is about to overflow, that the water may flow golden out of it, and carry everywhere the reflection of thy bliss!”

Literary Conflict

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.  Conflict can arise at any time between people who are close friends, family members, co-workers, or romantic partners as disagreements about their perceptions, desires, ideas, or values spring up.  Some people try to avoid conflict at all costs, because they feel out of control when conflict arises.  Others feel that any criticism or disagreement is an attack on them and others that are stubborn will bottle up all of the complaints from their distant past.  Conflict may make you feel like you have been hit below the belt and it may cause others to withdraw and become silent.

Conflict is the struggle between opposing forces and it is present everywhere in the world around us.  We experience conflict on a daily basis, and it can be as minor as a disagreement with a friend about where to have lunch, or as major as countries deciding whether or not to go to war against each other.  In literature, a conflict is a literary element that involves a struggle between two opposing forces and conflicts can be a recurring theme throughout the story or a momentary and temporary obstacle.  Conflict in a narrative is created when the main character wants something.  When something else gets in the protagonist’s way, a conflict arises.  All stories contain conflict, and some people disagree about how many different categories of conflict there are.  These discrepancies depend on individual narrative circumstances, but there are cases in which you should recognize a total of seven different categories of narrative conflict.

Conflict is used to create reader involvement.  Conflict is a literary device used for expressing a resistance that the protagonist of the story finds in achieving his aims or dreams.  The conflict is a discord that can have external aggressors or can even arise from within the self.  It can occur when the subject is battling his inner discord, at odds with his surroundings or it may be pitted against others in the story.  Usually a protagonist is pitted against an antagonist and the two different kinds of conflict are internal or external.

Internal conflict resides inside the character as they struggle with morality, fate, desire and belief, to name a few.  An internal or psychological conflict arises as soon as a character experiences two opposite emotions or desires, such as virtue or vice, or good and evil inside of them.  This disagreement causes a character to suffer mental agony.  Internal conflict develops a unique tension in a storyline marked by a lack of action.  This form of conflict is central to the character, or characters and must be resolved by the character alone.  Every good character suffers from the weight of internal conflict, as it lends them an air of complex believability.  Internal conflict is also known as man versus self.  Internal conflict is the least complicated form of conflict.

External conflict deals with the problems of the world.  The story’s characters will struggle against the circumstances of external conflict, they may even suffer internal conflict resulting from the issues of external conflict, but this is not as simple as internal conflict.  External conflict occurs when characters are involved in the world’s woes, such issues as community, nature, government and other characters are all examples of external conflict.  External conflict is marked by a characteristic involvement of an action wherein a character finds himself in struggle with those outside forces that hamper his progress. The most common type of an external conflict is where a protagonist fights back against the antagonist’s tactics that impede their advancement.  External conflict manifests itself as man versus man, man versus nature, man versus society and man versus fate.

Most stories show a character arc from the beginning of the end, displaying development or transformation of the main character(s) nature or opinions.  The majority of this development and transformation occurs due to conflict.  Conflict challenges a character’s convictions and brings out their strengths and/or weaknesses, much as it does in real life.  Literature would be boring without conflict and conflict is not necessarily a bad thing.  Often it is not always obvious which side is right or wrong.  Conflict is the result of competing desires or the presence of obstacles that need to be overcome.  It is necessary to propel a narrative forward; the absence of conflict amounts to the absence of story and often there is one overriding conflict that is lasts the duration of the story.  The seven categories of conflict that exist in literature are: Man versus Man, Man versus Nature, Man versus Society, Man versus Self, Man versus Technology, Man versus Supernatural and Man versus Fate.  Each type of conflict is not mutually exclusive, as stories often have overlapping struggles, containing multiple characters and storylines.

In Man versus Man or Character Versus Character conflict, characters are pitted against one another as one person struggles for victory over the other.  Man versus Man involves a struggle is between two or more characters in a story.  The antagonist (or other character) tries to keep the protagonist from reaching his goal.  The protagonist must overcome the efforts of the antagonist to reach their goal.  In these sort of conflicts your characters will be opposed by or will oppose the actions, reactions, motivations of another character or characters.  When two characters have opposing desires or interests, this situation typically ends in a scenario that creates a conflict between the protagonist and antagonist.  This type of story usually features a hero and a villain or villains where the villain may in essence be the alter ego of the protagonist (thus representing the conflict of person versus self) or they might stand for society.  This is probably the most common form of external conflict, and is also known as interpersonal conflict.  This mode lies at the heart of all dramatic arts and places the struggle directly between the protagonist and the antagonist and is otherwise known as the good guy and the bad guy.  In a man versus man conflict, the protagonist wants something, and the antagonist obstructs the protagonist from getting what he wants.  A writer might choose to use this sort of conflict to provide comic relief to their narrative.

In Man versus Nature or Character versus Nature, the hero must overcome a force of nature to meet their goal.  Man versus Nature pits the main character against the forces of nature, which could be in the form of a natural disaster, or a similarly dangerous situation and this is often associated with literary naturalism, which hinges on the idea that nature is indifferent to humanity.  The force of nature can be Nature itself, like a storm, an earthquake, a flood, a difficult climate, or it might be a predatory animal, or a disease epidemic.  The hero sometimes meets their goal, but sometimes they are defeated.  This is a battle for survival against the inexorable and apathetic force of nature.  The hero may be forced to confront nature, or the protagonist may be seeking the conflict, trying to exert dominance over nature.  This can be an inspirational story where human spirit is able to triumph over adversity and this type of story will never go out of fashion.

In Man versus Society or Character versus Society, a protagonist sees something in a unique way.  Man versus Society is a mode of external conflict which occurs when the protagonist is placed at odds with a government or cultural tradition.  This is an external conflict where a character must take on society itself, and not a single person.  The character stands at odds with societal norms and realizes the necessity to work against these norms.  People in the town or a specific culture may not like the way that the leading character is thinking, because their bold ideas diverge from tradition or the established rules. They ridicule and threaten the protagonist and eventually they are compelled to act.  Our hero may convince the others that he is right, or they might be forced to flee town and they may even be killed.  These conflicts involve your characters’ firm beliefs which are against norms that the entire society as a whole endorses.  It could be social evils or discrimination practiced by society that is opposed by a minority or your character might be confronting institutions, traditions, or laws.  This is often found in a dystopian genre, where the person-against-society conflict follows the storyline of an individual or a group fighting (sometimes successfully, sometimes not-so-successfully) against injustices within a corrupt society.

In Man versus Self or Character versus Self, the protagonist must overcome his or her own nature to reach their goal.  The protagonist struggles within their own mind, their own prejudices or doubts or character flaws.  The protagonist may, or may not, succeed.  These conflicts involve internal battles that characters wage within themselves, where these internal issues affect their actions, motivations and interactions with other characters.  The conflict can be a recurring theme throughout the story or at a particular point in time.  The struggle or opposition is within a character to make a tough decision.  A character might struggle to overcome fear, addiction, emotional damage or another crippling personal issue.  This conflict develops from a protagonist’s inner struggles, and may depend on a character trying to decide between good and evil or overcome self-doubts.  Conflict takes place within the mind of the main character, and it often involves the character making a decision between right and wrong, or other mixed emotions, however, this struggle could also exist in the form of a character battling mental illness.  This conflict has both internal and external aspects, as obstacles outside the protagonist force the protagonist to deal with inner issues.

In Man versus Technology or Character versus Technology, the protagonist must overcome a machine or technology or something not normal in this world.  This is an external conflict and most often the encounter with the machine or this technology is through the character’ own doing, as perhaps they created, purchased, or owned the technology or the machine with the assumption that it would make their life easier.  In many stories the antagonists use technology to gain power or this technology takes over or becomes a malign influence on society.  Over time the protagonist must overcome the technology, in some instances, possibly even destroying it before it destroys them.

In Man versus Supernatural or Character versus the Unknown/Extraterrestrial, the protagonist battles against an entity that isn’t entirely known or comprehensible, whether it is extraterrestrial or metaphysical.  This is a common thread in science fiction and supernatural horror movies and books and it might include monsters, aliens or deities.  Supernatural elements are typically those that defy the laws of nature and are beyond scientific understanding.  Such a setting adds gravitas and drama to the story.  If you are using super natural elements you might want to make sure what genre you are writing in.

In Man versus Fate or Character versus Fate, a protagonist works against what has been foretold for that person.  This category could be considered part of conflict with self or with society, as many people only count four types of conflict, including those two and conflict with another person or with nature.  This type of conflict occurs when a character is trapped by an inevitable destiny and loses their freedom and free will as everything they try seems impossible.  This type of conflict was more prevalent in stories where gods could control fate, such as in ancient Greek dramas, but there are still examples of this type of conflict in more contemporary literature.


Around 4000 BC, the ancient Sumerians invented the sailboat.  Sailboats were important as transportation was essential to their culture.  The Sumerian civilization flourished because it was able to trade and with other cultures.  They set up trade relationships with nearby cities and countries, but since transportation of goods by land routes was hectic and difficult they relied on water transportation for travel and trade.  An ancient legend tells that a Babylonian hero endeavored to cross a lake when he was advised by a ferryman to fabricate a punting pole.  He fabricated it but he could not use the pole to touch the bottom of the lake.  The hero then took off his clothes, stood on his boat, raised his two arms as two masts, and held the clothes over his arms and then the boat sailed along.

Choices In Life

I believe that happiness is a choice and that people can choose to take advantage of the opportunities that they are afforded, so they can learn how to be happyAbraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”  You don’t need to chase down that elusive butterfly and try to get it to sit on your shoulder, just start off with a smile and take responsibility for your own contentment.  I guess some people do suffer from depression, but I have never experienced that.  I have had my share of bad times, but I never saw any sense in being miserable because of any circumstances that I encountered.

Don’t dwell on unhappy events, instead focus on something that made you smile.  Happiness is a feeling of exhilaration, satisfaction and a deficiency of worries and anxieties, that is usually experienced when everything is okay, when your plans have proceed as expected, or when you recognize that you are loved or respected.  I derive happiness from writing and right now I have set a personal goal of writing my 500th post before the end of the year.  In my dreams I reach tranquility by watching the Sun setting, or by laying on the beach.  I choose to allow happiness into my life, and it has become a permanent part of who I am.  I am not saying that everyone should be as jolly as Chevy Chase in the National Lampoon’s Vacation movie, where he loses it on the way to Wally World and says, “It’s a quest, a quest for fun, I’m gonna have fun and your gonna have fun, were all gonna have so much fucking fun that we will need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles, as you’ll be whistling zippydodah out of your assholes.”

Holly Jolly Christmas Burl Ives / Norman Rockwell

Have a holly jolly Christmas
It’s the best time of the year
I don’t know if there’ll be snow
But have a cup of cheer
Have a holly jolly Christmas
And when you walk down the street
Say hello to friends you know
And everyone you meet
Oh ho, the mistletoe hung where you can see
Somebody waits for you, kiss her once for me

Angle Measurement

Radians and degrees are two ways of measuring the same thing.  Angle measurement can be calculated, in both degrees and radians, but in certain cases radians are more important.  There are 360 degrees in a circle and 2π radians in a circle.  We usually use fractions with pi when talking about radians, because it is actually easier to work with the fractions.  Pi radians translates to 180 degrees and half of that 90° = π/2 = 1.5707964 as a decimal equivalent.  Radians are just another form of measurement that can be used to scale things with larger form.  Anything that is measured in degrees can also be measured in radians.  One degree has a measure of 60 min, and 0.5 degrees is equivalent to 0.5 * 60 = 30 minutes, so 30 minutes is half of one degree.

Our counting and measuring system is based on the number 10, but the Babylonians used a base 60 number system.  The number 360 is totally arbitrary, it was chosen simply because the Babylonians preferred multiples of 60.  The circumference of a circle ‘C’ is equal to the length of the radius ‘r’ times 2π, thus C = 2πr.  Degrees let us work with integers (like 30o) instead of nasty ratios involving irrational numbers (like π/6) and they are easier for most measurements, but Trigonometry marked a turning point in math, and to navigate that terrain, you need a notion of angles that’s more natural, more fundamental, than slicing up the circle into an arbitrary number of pieces.  The number π, strange though it may seem, lies at the heart of mathematics.  The number 360 doesn’t fit well with pi and radians can take you places that degrees simply can’t.

The new way of teaching trigonometry works with the unit circle, which is a circle that has a radius of ‘one’ and because it is so simple, it has become the new method to learn about lengths and angles.  The polar coordinates (r, θ) of the point P, where r is the distance that P is from the origin O and θ (theta) is the angle between the lines Ox and OP, this is shown in the following diagram.

In the Polar Coordinate System, we go around the origin or the pole a certain distance out, and a certain angle from the positive x axis.  The ordered pairs, called polar coordinates, are in the form (r, θ), with r being the number of units from the origin or pole (if r > 0), like a radius of a circle, and θ being the angle (in degrees or radians) formed by the ray on the positive x axis (polar axis), going counter-clockwise.

Skiing At Great Gorge

I went skiing at Great Gorge once and that was it for me. I went with my wife, her mother, her sister and her two kids.  The older kid was a good skier and he asked me if I wanted to follow him down the hill, so I said sure that sounds like fun.  My wife and her mother went to the practice hill to take lessons and they asked me to join them because they thought that maybe I needed a lesson.  I did plenty of snurfing (a monoski the predecessor of the snowboard) at the country club before and I figured that it would be much easier with two skis than just one board.  A snurfer is wider and shorter than a pair of skis, and it had a rope tied to the front that let you steer.

My nephew took me to the expert hill, which sort of went straight down and it was kind of scary going that fast.  He zipped in and out around trees and I stayed right on his heels, until we got to the bottom of the hill.  My nephew snowplowed to a stop and I had no idea how to do that.  The lodge with all of its glass windows was approaching me quickly, so I dove into the snow, as I felt that was the only way for me to stop.  Snow went down my coat and down my shirt and even down my pants.  I realized that I was able to ski, but it would have been a good idea for me to take a lesson on how to stop.  I was done skiing after one trip down the hill and I spent the rest of the day drinking in the lodge.

A Saint

God exists as an unapproachable light that few living people have ever got the chance to see.  God lives in heaven and He looks down on us and watches over us.  My mom was born on All Saints Day and I feel that she is now up in heaven with my dad and God, as she was a saintly woman and a truly good person.  My mom was not perfect and the church may not look at her as being an Angle or a Saint, but I will always think of her on the Feast of All Saints which is a holy day of the Church that honors all saints, which is similar to the way that Veterans Day and Presidents Day are celebrated to honor many people on those days.   My mom was raised at a much different time than now, a time where there was trust and honor, and this country that she loved went through the great depression and the Second World War.  The whole world was a much simpler and safer place years ago before the Internet.  People had beliefs about what they felt was true and what they expected as consequences to their actions and they developed values like (honesty, integrity and dignity).

My mom was a twin and she had a deformed ear.  No one outside of my immediate family ever knew about this, as she was always able to wear her hair long enough to cover up her bad ear.  When women are pregnant with multiples are more likely to have health complications, both them and their babies than if they are pregnant with just one baby.  While still in the womb, some babies have problems with how their organs and body parts form.  Deformation can result from mechanical interference with the normal growth, or improper positioning of the fetus in the uterus. If your child has an ear birth defect, where the deformity was caused by abnormal positioning in the uterus or during birth, you might be feeling overwhelmed and unprepared, but many parents often decide to wait it out, hoping it will be resolved when the ear unfolds and takes on a more normal form, as the child grows.

My grandparents were of Russian decent and my mom Mary was the last of 4 girls.  Mary had a sheltered childhood because her right ear was bad from birth causing her to have a hearing deficiency.  My grandparents found a doctor to examine my mom and he wanted to adopt her because he did not have any children of his own.  He told my grandparents that he would be able to provide much better care for my mom but her parents would not give her up.  My voice is louder than most people and I have trouble whispering sometimes, because I was raised to speak loud so my mother could hear what I was saying.

My mom passed away on Mother’s Day and that seems appropriate as I will always think of her as the world’s greatest mother, because she did so much for me.  My mom had Several incidents involving this turkey soup that will never be forgotten.  She made it with turkey, vegetables and rice.  One incident involved my sister’s dog Rommel, who was a German Schnauzer.  My mom asked my sister if it would be OK to give the last of the turkey soup to Rommel as it was just over a week old and everyone had had their fill of it and my mom did not want to keep the little bit that was left.  About an hour later Rommel was lying on his back kicking his legs up in the air and my family all thought that he was dying from possibly eating turkey soup that had gone bad.  They rushed him off to the animal hospital where he had his stomach pumped and then he recovered.  About 20 years later my brother had enough of my mom taking the blame for Rommel having to go to the hospital, so my brother finally let the cat out of the bag and he spilled the beans, snitching on me that Rommel had gotten into my stash and eaten up my entire bag of weed.

Another event dealing with my mom and turkey soup happened when my mom had just finished cooking a batch of turkey soup.  She put some of it in a container to take it to sister’s house for her family.  My mom placed the container on the passenger front seat of her car and as she drove around the corner she noticed that the soup was sliding off the seat.  She put a lot of work and love into making this soup, so she let go of the steering wheel to try and save the soup.  Her car went off the road, she crashed into a ditch and ended up spilling all of the turkey soup.