Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Spitfire - one of the greatest fighter aircraft in WW2...

"The Spitfire"...
George Kerevan of The Scotsman has written a wonderful tribute to the Spitfire on the occasion of its 75th anniversary. An article that I just had to draw your attention to for its poignancy and the skill of its writing. The article is simply entitled- "The Spitfire - An Appreciation". You won't read anything like it in the NZ Herald.
75 years ago today, as darkness loomed across Europe, an achingly beautiful aircraft soared into the heavens on its maiden flight. The plane would become both an eight-gunned instrument of freedom and a near-spiritual symbol of it. The Spitfire was born.
AT 4:35pm on the afternoon of 5 March, 1936, a pilot called Joseph 'Mutt' Summers walked across the grass of Southampton Airport - currently a hub for Flybe. Summers had spent a tiring day testing a new RAF bomber. Now, he had to squeeze in the first flight of a new fighter called the "Spitfire". A plane that would become a legend and - arguably - hold the pass in 1940 long enough to save us from fascism.
[..]The Spitfire was the inspired creation of a true engineering genius, Reginald Joseph Mitchell. He was born in 1895, the son of two Stoke-on-Trent primary school teachers. His poor background precluded university, so he began an engineering apprenticeship with a locomotive builder.
[..] The Spitfire is one of the most beautiful aircraft ever designed. One Battle of Britain veteran later called it "flying totty". Its trademark elliptical wing curves like a piece of Lalique glass. But the wing was more than an ornament. It gave the Spit the manoeuvrability and turn of speed that proved the edge over the Luftwaffe's Messerschmitts during the Battle of Britain.
These are just excerpts. If you're interested in this kind of stuff, please go and read the full article, it is well worth it. Mr. Kerevan finishes off thus-
The nearest the non-pilot will ever get to what it felt like to sit alone in the cockpit of a Spit is a poem by John Gillespie Magee, a Scots-Irish American who came to Britain in 1941 to fight the Nazis:
"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth;
"And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
"Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth;
"Of sun-lit clouds - and done a hundred things;
"You have not dreamed of…
"And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod;
"The high untrespassed sanctity of space;
"Put out my hand and touched the face of God."
On 11 December, 1941, Magee was killed when his parachute failed to open. He was 19. At a time when the RAF is being cut to shreds, we should remember the Spit. But we should also remember the men and women who built it and flew it.
I have to reflect too on a man like Magee, who wrote that wonderful poem at 19, but more, came from America to the UK just to fight against the Nazis. At that young age. And what of today's youth with their nihilistic worldviews and their cellphones and their gaming? Would they go and fly that plane and shoot down other men in planes? Would they write such a poem? A more stark measure of what we have lost would be hard to come by.
Acknowledgements: NZ Herald
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

God and Agency in the Mind...

Main entrance to the main library of the Unive...
Main entrance to the main library of the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Tucson Islamic Center, University of Arizona
Tucson Islamic Center, University of Arizona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


God and Agency in the Mind:

An interesting article on why religion may be a byproduct of the way our brain attributes agency to objects and persons, starting very early in childhood:
So how does the brain conjure up gods? One of the key factors, says Bloom, is the fact that our brains have separate cognitive systems for dealing with living things - things with minds, or at least volition - and inanimate objects.
This separation happens very early in life. Bloom and colleagues have shown that babies as young as five months make a distinction between inanimate objects and people. Shown a box moving in a stop-start way, babies show surprise. But a person moving in the same way elicits no surprise. To babies, objects ought to obey the laws of physics and move in a predictable way. People, on the other hand, have their own intentions and goals, and move however they choose.
Bloom says the two systems are autonomous, leaving us with two viewpoints on the world: one that deals with minds, and one that handles physical aspects of the world. He calls this innate assumption that mind and matter are distinct "common-sense dualism". The body is for physical processes, like eating and moving, while the mind carries our consciousness in a separate - and separable - package. "We very naturally accept you can leave your body in a dream, or in astral projection or some sort of magic," Bloom says. "These are universal views."
There is plenty of evidence that thinking about disembodied minds comes naturally. People readily form relationships with non-existent others: roughly half of all 4-year-olds have had an imaginary friend, and adults often form and maintain relationships with dead relatives, fictional characters and fantasy partners. As Barrett points out, this is an evolutionarily useful skill. Without it we would be unable to maintain large social hierarchies and alliances or anticipate what an unseen enemy might be planning. "Requiring a body around to think about its mind would be a great liability," he says.
This leads to beliefs that the world is constructed "for" agents with minds:
Again, experiments on young children reveal this default state of the mind. Children as young as three readily attribute design and purpose to inanimate objects. When Deborah Kelemen of the University of Arizona in Tucson asked 7 and 8-year-old children questions about inanimate objects and animals, she found that most believed they were created for a specific purpose. Pointy rocks are there for animals to scratch themselves on. Birds exist "to make nice music", while rivers exist so boats have something to float on. "It was extraordinary to hear children saying that things like mountains and clouds were 'for' a purpose and appearing highly resistant to any counter-suggestion," says Kelemen.
Down by the Huttriver
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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wife cuts husband to pieces, feeds him to the dogs...

El Amrawy Mosque - in Minya, Egypt
El Amrawy Mosque - in Minya, Egypt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wife cuts husband to pieces, feeds him to dogs...

An Egyptian woman had sex with her husband all the night to exhaust him, waited for him to feel asleep and stabbed him to death. She then cut his body into little pieces and fed them to cats and dogs.
The woman, who was arrested two weeks after the murder, told police she decided to murder her man because he had persistently mistreated her.
It also took her nearly two weeks to plan for the murder. After surfing through the internet for a good plot that could elude police, she found that the best way is to exhaust him by having sex with him all the night so he will fall asleep.
The woman, a tour guide, said she carried out that plan to the letter and that it did work. Her husband Adel Abdullah, also a tour guide in the central town of Minya, was worn out and was fast asleep after a full night sexual session.
She then brought a knife and started to stab him but he did not die as the knife was small. She then brought a big knife and finished him off before lying on the bed next to him for several hours to take rest.
“After I woke up, I began skinning him and cutting his body into little pieces.…I put the pieces inside bags and started throwing them to stray cats and dogs in the back garden…I then sat on the balcony watching them eating,” she told police, according to Egyptian newspapers.
“Every time they finished a piece, I threw them another piece….I then crushed his skull and bones with the gas cylinder, put black paint on them and dumped them in the garbage bin so no one will recognize them.”
Newspapers said her husband’s brother, reported him missing nearly 15 days after the murder, adding that a dustman stumbled across a painted part of the husband’s leg, which led police to discover the crime.
“I killed him because he never stopped insulting and maltreating me…he had totally obliterated my personality…our dispute had reached a dead end after he refused to divorce me, which left me with no choice but to kill him,” she said.
One newspaper quoted a local university professor as saying it was an individual crime which showed the killer had been under strong psychological pressures given the hideous nature of the murder.
“This crime should serve an alarm to any one who exercises oppression and cruelty against the one who cares for him, whether a wife, a worker or a son…yet, a murder can never be justified,” said Dr Mohammed Abu Al Futouh, psychology professor at Cairo University.
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Monday, April 2, 2012

The difficulties of learning English as its spoken and written...

Dear Facebook
Dear Facebook (Photo credit: James…Campbell)

The bandage was wound around the wound.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse
We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
After a number of injections my jaw got number.
Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?


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