//I added the following metatags
Posted (crates) in Miscellaneous, People on May-13-2009

I have just begun reading a book called The Last Theorem (2009) by Arthur C. Clark and Poul Anderson, the famous science fiction writers.  It begins in Sri Lanka, where Clarke spent so many years of his life, and spends some time talking about the tensions between the various ethnic groups.

It got me to thinking about the problems that so many countries have with their ethnic and religious groups.  Here in our country, we try to celebrate our diversity and claim that it makes us stronger, but in some countries the conflict between the many factions makes me wonder if such diversity can go just so far before being counterproductive.  Sri Lanka seems to be a good example of this type of this type of conflict.

There are many ethnic and religious groups in Sri Lanka.  Some of these groups have been living in this area for many years, and instead of being assimilated, they still retain their identity.

The Veddah’s are the descendants of some of the ancient inhabitants of Sri Lanka.  These indigeneous hunter-gather people were gradually supplanted by the immigration of the Sinhalese people.  Human remains 18,000 years old have been found in Sri Lanka that show genetic links with the present day Veddahs.  They have not preserved their own language which is related to Sinhalese, and are becoming less numerous as they become assimilated into the population.  Their religion is a mixture of animism and of Buddhism or of Hinduism depending upon the part of the country.

The Tamils are of two main groups, one group of Tamil speaking people has been in the area since ancient times (12.7% of the population), whereas other Tamils are of more recent immigration from India, coming as workers under the British Raj to work on plantations in the central highland area (5.5%).  They have never become assimilated and many are emigrating back to India.  Many of the Indian Tamils are of lower castes and looked down upon by some of the upper caste Sri Lankan Tamils.  Most of the Tamils are separated from the majority Sinhalese by their religion (Hinduism) and their language which is of Dravidian origin.

The Sinhalese are the largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka (about 74%) probably migrating from northern India about 500 BC.  Their language, Sinhala, is of the Indo-European group, and most of the Sinhalese are Buddhists.  There is a difference between the low country Sinhalese which have been influenced by 400 years of European influence and the high country Sinhalese which remained independent (Kingdom of Kandy) until the early 1800s.

The Muslims (about 7% of the population) are comprised of three primary groups of Islamists: the Sri Lankan Moors who are mostly descendants of Arab traders which came to India between the 8th and 15th century (now speaking a dialect of Tamil but originally speaking Arwi) ; the Indian Moors who came to Sri Lanka during the colonial period looking for opportunities consisting of: the Memon (from Pakistan), and the Bohra and the Kohja (mostly from northwestern India); the Malays of south east Asia, many whom came with the Dutch and English as soldiers or convicts.

The Burghers are primarily descended from the union of male European colonists who imigrated to Sri Lanka beginning back in the 16th centuries and local Sri Lankan women.  Many of the Burghers have immersed themselves into the European culture and are mostly Christian, tending to concentrate in urban areas.   Recently their numbers have begun to diminish primarily because of emigration.

And as if all this mixture of groups, languages, religions, ethnicity and cultures wasn’t enough, many of the groups have a caste system, often differing between the groups.  In India, another fantastically diverse country, such diversity has more room to spread out resulting in fewer groups attaining political power to the point where it can destablize the national government, whereas in the much smaller Sri Lanka such diverse groups have become entrenched and contribute to the destabilizing of the national government.  Most people are aware of the civil war between the Tamils and the national government that now seems to be drawing to a resolution.  See this site for a wonderful description of Sri Lanka, it’s government, history and culture.

So what’s my point?  It is just a concern that these conflicts between various ethnic, racial and religious groups that have been going on for centuries and even millenia, and which have caused untold conflict and suffering, could conceivably destabilize our own country.  Yes, such diversity enriches our lives, but…how does a political system act to incorporate such diversity and at the same time preserving social order?

How does America preserve our political system while accomodating the beliefs of such diverse groups?    The American founding fathers had a horror of involving themselves in the conflicts of the old world.   Unfortunately sometimes new imigrants bring all the old hates and conflicts to the new beginning that is America.  There seems to be a fine line between oppression and anarchy.  Thus far our country has managed to maintain this balancing act.  As new imigrants flood into the country, I fear this accomodation may be upset, resulting in increased turmoil.

We are living in a hurricane of change.  Old verities are being swept away as the change accelerates.  At such times I think that we must hold to certain unassailable beliefs in order to prevent being swept away in chaos, while at the same time maintaining a flexibility of mind and belief that allows us to adapt to this change–an absoluteness of principles combined with suppleness of mind.  Is this possible?

Posted (crates) in Books, Personal Stuff on May-7-2009

I have a bad habit of buying books.  Really it is the only bad habit that of mine that I can think of –unless it is overweening modesty (cough).  The reason this is a problem is that I have no more room for books.  All my bookshelves are full, and I have boxes of books in the garage and under the bed.  My house in Texas has bookshelves full of books, rooms full of books.  Why have I kept them all these years?  I admit it…it is a vice.   I have never been able to rid myself of books…except once when I thought that I was going to move I gave away 19 boxes of books to Goodwill.  I have regretted this rash act ever since.

So I have tried to buy fewer books and check out more from the library.  This has worked somewhat.  Below is a list of books checked out from the library this year.  Looking at the list and how small it is reminds me that this is just a small number of the books that I am reading.  The rest I  have bought or reread from my personal library.  It is embarrassing to look at the list.  Obviously I am no highbrow.  I lean to science fiction and action books.  I have been reading more mysteries also.  The problem with the library is that sometimes I am forced to read a particular book.  They often don’t have the books that I am looking for, so out of a sense of desperation, I pick out something that normally I would never buy or read otherwise.  It’s hard, this habit of mine.  I know it is useless to complain though since I have always been this way, and I really don’t think that I can change.

Daemon a novel Suarez, Daniel, 1964- 4/27/2009
The blood of Caesar : a second case from the notebooks of Pliny the younger Bell, Albert A., 1945- 4/22/2009
On, off McCullough, Colleen, 1937- 4/22/2009
The Bellini card : a novel Goodwin, Jason, 1964- 4/22/2009
Starship– mercenary : book three Resnick, Michael D. 4/22/2009
Why we make mistakes Hallinan, Joseph T. 4/22/2009
Postsingular Rucker, Rudy v. B. (Rudy von Bitter), 1946- 4/9/2009
Transhuman 4/9/2009
The art of war the Denma translation Sunzi, 6th cent. B.C. 3/13/2009
God’s demon Barlowe, Wayne Douglas. 3/13/2009
Ender in exile Card, Orson Scott. 3/13/2009
The Meq Cash, Steve, 1946- 3/5/2009
Jesus a story of enlightenment Chopra, Deepak. 3/5/2009
A dark traveling Zelazny, Roger 3/2/2009
The godfather Puzo, Mario, 1920- 3/2/2009
The Father hunt Stout, Rex, 1886-1975. 2/25/2009
Jesus in the mist : stories Ruffin, Paul. 2/25/2009
The beekeeper’s apprentice King, Laurie R. 2/12/2009
Magician’s ward Wrede, Patricia C., 1953- 2/12/2009
Become a better you [7 keys to improving your life every day] Osteen, Joel. 2/4/2009
The sword-edged blonde Bledsoe, Alex. 2/4/2009
The janissary tree : a novel Goodwin, Jason, 1964- 1/23/2009

Posted (crates) in Miscellaneous, Personal Stuff on May-4-2009

      I just call it the City.  It is a place that I have dreamed about for many years.   Recently the dreams have increased in frequency.

     It is huge, and the central area is old and decaying with crumbling red brick buildings and dark alleys.  It is always night when I visit the decaying inner area, and the street lights, when present, are dim and yellow, except for some areas which have brilliant green halogen lamps.  I wander the dim streets and pass through the maze of hallways in the buildings, climbing down steep stairways with no rails, past stained walls dripping with moisture.  

    The people in the decaying area are furtive with shadowed faces.  They wander the passageways also on missions of their own.  They rarely speak.  Sometimes I pass dim rooms which are filled with their quiet presences.   I look in but can’t make out exactly what they are doing.  There is always a hint of forboding and danger mixed with a strange expectation.

   There are other more normal areas of the city.  The buildings are well kept and the people appear normal going about their business.  In my dreams I only visit these areas in the daytime.  Last night in my dream,  I was in an expensive looking area with upscale buildings and thick, milling crowds.  There was an amusement area and the crowds seemed in a light mood.  I heard two ladies talking, however, about something so bizarre that it changed the entire atmosphere in my dream…from light to very strange.

    Over the many years that I have been dreaming of this strange city, I have lived in several places, each in different neighborhoods.  I have also had several jobs, and I have attended different universities in the city. 

    I have only recently realized that all these dreams over the years have been about the same place…the same city.  I realized this as the frequency of these dreams increased.  That’s when I began just calling it the City.

Posted (crates) in Miscellaneous, nature, Plants on May-1-2009
I was talking to a person about the flower, Trillium ovatum, mentioning how it was blooming in the woodlands now, and they mentioned how it occurred in both white and purple colors.  I said that it was my impression that the flowers were white when it first bloomed, but that some turned purple after it had matured a while.  I wasn’t sure about this and thought that I would take some photos of some white Trillium, wait a few days and then see if they turned purple.  Here are the results of some of my photographs.  They do, in fact, start out a brilliant snow-white and then it seems that most turn purplish to various degrees.
Looking online, I realize that I am always discovering what everybody else knows!    Here is a place that specializes in native plants and gives tips on propagating these native flowers.  As a reminder, one should never pick or remove wild flowers in such a way that it could harm the population.  Here is an absolutely wonderful account of this flower, how it was used by the indians, and  how it cursed a young woman who picked the flower for her wedding day.
Sorry for the fact that these photographs are dribbling down into the prior entry.  I haven’t gotten the hang of placing the photographs exactly where I want them!
Trillium ovatum, white before turning purple.

Trillium ovatum, white before turning purple.

Trillium ovatum, once white,  now a beautiful purple color

Trillium ovatum, once white, now a beautiful purple color

B. A clump of Trillium showing their white color before turning.

B. A clump of Trillium showing their white color before turning.

D. Trillium ovatum turning purple

D. Trillium ovatum turning purple