Sunday, June 27

Sancturary: A white bengal tiger at the Singapore Zoo.

Photographer unknown. Click it for a bigger, sharper version.



Start up the sirens
Help me, somebody help me
I'm falling
Shaking, sweating,
There are bees in my head
There is nowhere to go
I can't even look behind me
I'm frightened
Past the point of caring
Who hears me calling out.
So help me, or kill me
Living in terror
Turns each second into hours
I have to get out.

But now, slowly
I feel my chest muscles
Gradually relaxing
The pit of my stomach has
Stopped collapsing
My head's no longer
Buzzing and burning
Some semblance
Of normalcy is returning.


Some metal sags and weakens
In the heat, and some emerges
Beaten and broken
Thrown on the scrap piles
To make horseshoes or hand grenades
And some turns into the finest blades
Tempered and hardened
For all its trauma in the coals
And if God does indeed play dice
I guess sometimes he re-rolls.


When you've stared down death, accepted it, realized it is both an inevitable outcome but also an option... Life can no longer hold any real fears for you. Nothing in this world scares me, medication withdrawal aside since that's beyond my control. My rational mind is dead to fear, even if I still have insecurities and more primal apprehensions locked inside that only a psychologist could probably get at. Instinctive fight or flight behavior is intact, but irrational thinking and the cycle of fear it leads the mind into it have been slain like St George's dragon; my eyes are that of a shark, cold and functional, and though I still strive for happiness and human contact, it's because of a desire to do so and not a fear of what will happen to me if I fail.

Saturday, June 26

I suppose it's about time.



"The Long And Winding Road"

Guest Article: "Should This Be The Last Generation?"

Reprinted from: The New York Times
Date: June 6th, 2010
Author: Peter Singer

My purpose is to perpetuate Mr. Singer's question and its exploration into a new medium for discussion or reflection. No copyright infringement is intended; I do no represent this work as my own in any way. A link to the original article at The Times is provided here. No changes have been made to the text whatsoever.

Should This Be the Last Generation?

Haven't been feeling normal all day... Maybe this guy is the reason.

Wednesday, June 23

What a striking pair of snow leopards...

USA, England both advance at World Cup 2010

Just as I predicted (hah!), the USA and England both advanced out of Group C and into the round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Both teams scored 1-nil victories over cagey opponents Slovenia and Algeria, who most pundits thought would go rather quietly before the tournament began. However, England played poorly their first two matches, resulting in two ties, and the US likewise had to come from behind late in both their first two matches to salvage ties as well.

Thus it came down to the final day of the first round for both squads, with all possibilities still alive: both teams could advance with wins, both could exit the tournament quite unceremoniously with losses, or either could advance and the other to go home depending on a complicated set of circumstances involving more ties.

In other words, the games already played all went out the window as the Group was wide open. But when England beat Slovenia 1-0 and the US responded with a 1-0 victory over Algeria thanks to a penalty-time goal by star Landon Donovan (pictured above), both favored countries could breathe a sigh of relief knowing they'd escaped Group C and will move on to single-elimination play. Well done to both countries and good luck in the next round! I don't know exactly how the bracketing works at the Cup (does anyone?), but if it's possible that the two countries could replay their 1-1 tie in the Final; that would be epic!

First things first though: Each team must advance to the round of 8, then 4, then the Final. In other words, before dreaming about being in the final game for the trophy, three consecutive victories against the champs from the other Groups will be necessary. Like the cliché goes, one game at a time...

Monday, June 21

Two Rolling Stones covers.

Sananda Maitreya (née Terence Trent D'Arby) covering "Angie"

The Sundays covering "Wild Horses"

To me these are some of the better covers of Stones songs out there. The Stones, like the Beatles and every other mega-band, have been covered to death by everyone under the sun: Some with very nice voices, some who ought never open their mouths in the presence of others; some who play it safe with a note-for-note copy of the original and some who distort it so much (Cat Power, Stina Nordenstam) that it really is a brand new song (sometimes very good on its own, sometimes...not so much).

I like these two covers because A) I like both the original songs very much anyway, B) I loved both Terence Trent D'Arby and The Sundays long before they ever played these songs, and C) The covers are in my opinion excellently done, neither too exact nor too great a departure. One is intense and stripped down instrumentally, and one is more melodic, but both (I feel) are moving in their own way, the singers both putting their hearts into it as much as they do their own material, and thus they've made a nice tribute to the original songs and songwriters.

I generally don't care for covers, but like everything in life, there are always exceptions. Do you have some favorite covers? Not just of the Stones, but cover versions of any songs that you especially like? Feel free to name them in the comments section!

Friday, June 18


Not everything that happens in life is bad. :)

Thursday, June 17


Sunday, June 13

"Scarlet Ibis" by Edward Rooks.

No title.

I want a quiet life
I cede my fifteen minutes of fame
Billions of people on earth
Crush the streets every day
Crash in front of the TV each night
Turn someone's life around with a call
Make them rich and famous
And then quickly forget about them
Making a trail of tragedies
Popular heroes out of nobodies
Humanity has become an ant colony
No one is important
Or can contribute unique things
And have a chance to sit and breathe
And enjoy their tea,
Speculate on what it all means
The pedal is to the metal
It's been like this since the
Empowerment of the middle class
And the accelerating rate of change
From the Enlightenment
And the Industrial Revolution
Through the Information Revolution
And no one can hope to keep up
No one person matters anymore
So I just want a quiet life
And not to have to think
As far as is possible
Until I can get off this
Stinking wasteland
And pray that when my body dies,
My mind will go with it.

Celebration of trees.

Saturday, June 12

Epilogue: The Madman

Were you so able, then?
Human reverse
What, I really wonder were
You capable of at birth
Speech capped
Abstract thoughts
Your only input,
Monitoring dust motes
Each swirled trace a footnote

And did God give you so much
Ability, dear sir
That he had to handicap you
Thusly just to make sure
The table wouldn't fall over
Though still,
You made it turn.
And all in a chant, enchanted
Us with your words

For men on the moon
Never saw further
And seasons turning burnt
And froze,
But those which beheld your
Fullest gaze-
Well they never recovered
And in God's eyes they
Almost felt they saw another.

Thursday, June 10

An offer.

Something I really love to do is restore old photos, improve contemporary ones in terms of color and contrast and noise, or actually retouch photos (removing or adding elements, distorting them in a non-realistic but artistically-interesting way...). Not to deceive anyone, just as a hobby (when it's for myself) or a service (when it's for someone else) - the same as a professional lab might do. People clean up old photos, for example, all the time. There's nothing wrong with this because colors degrade over time and may not have been accurate in the first place, especially that common beast we all live with: The "family" photo.

I just wanted to mention that if anyone would like to send me a photo to "improve" (hopefully), just use my gmail address and explain briefly in the email what you would like done, and attach the photo. I'll send you back the original and whatever versions I create with a brief explanation of what I did. No charge, no fuss. If it's something I don't think I can do well, I'll tell you. But I truly enjoy it, am pretty decent at it (I'll even turn your color photos into faded, sepia-toned relics if you want), and need the practice. What better way than to provide a free service? Thanks for keeping me in mind. :-)

A big amazing photo.

Just because I can.

How does THIS BLUE look?

More of a royal blue than the greyish-blue I had before.
[UPDATE: This doesn't make sense any more. I reverted to a blue-grey again...]

Either you think this is more bold and colorful and less wimpy and passive, or
You think this is too common and the other was more subtle and artistic.
    I can see it both ways.
    I'll live with it for awhile and see what I think.
    I think that gobs of white almost demands a strong, rich color.

    On the other hand I don't want my blog to look like I used two or three crayons from the box.
    On the other hand sometimes that's the best thing to do.
      I can always use special colors or bold or italics or a different font to make something special stand out.

      I also made visited posts have the same title color as unvisited.
      This might be a usability blunder, but almost all the titles you see if you come here often will be visited ones.
      So the effect of the more royal blue would have been lost.

      But, the jury's still out...

      Working on a vibrant, classical, minimalist logo to tie the colors, the starkness, and the flourish together. This is the hardest graphical bit to do right, and the most important to get right. Otherwise, the site looks generic.

      I may go through several until I hit on one that I (and you) agree is "it".
      I'm happy to be emailed examples if you stumble on any that have the right feel...

      Do you like embedded links for terms that may be unfamiliar - jargon or difficult languages or references to people or events - which link, say, to a simple wiki article to save you the look-up? Or do posts filled with linked bother you and clutter the aesthetics of the page? With Firefox and Google (and maybe others) you can double click a word (or drag select a phrase) and then Right-Click > Search Google for "[word or phrase]".

      I tend to like what I read to be clean and visually appealing, and look up terms I don't know myself, but I know of others who rather passionately disagree on this and think the point of being on the Web is to use hyperlinks. I can't really argue with that logic; to me it's just a matter of personal taste.

      What do you think?

      And finally, I think we need more Winnie-the-Pooh posts and illustrations on this blog. I find he makes a lot of the other stuff less stuffy, don't you?

      Monday, June 7

      My Ethnic Heritage (approximately).

      Note: 'Other' almost certainly contains Polish, Irish, and possibly some French. I'm doing research to try to create a more accurate chart than this, but it's a first shot at it anyway.

      Some quick questions about the blog.

      So far, what do you like and not like about the new blog look? You don't have to go crazy, but I really value other people's perspectives since I'm too close to the thing to be objective.

      I fixed some of the spacing in the footers of each post.

      It's very minimal, yet resizes dynamically and I'm using larger photos. Do you like this? Or does it make the page choppy on your system?

      Would you like to see a sidebar of some kind that listed archived posts, or had widgets like a fancy analogue clock and links to other sites/blogs of interest, a poll of the day, that kind of stuff like you see on many other sites?

      What about a chat box like Mandula's blog has, where anyone can leave comments?

      I was thinking about going with white and a steely blue as my main color scheme. The background is currently white and the titles are blue (I may tinker with the RGB values for the blue a little). I was thinking about making a logo in Photoshop that would also use the same color of blue and maybe look crytaline, with white flecks of light as though you were looking at a brilliant-cut sapphire. And maybe a drop shadow to make it float or a bevel to make it feel 3D. Any opinions?

      Right now, I've put the archives on the bottom, as well as the search bar. It's my experience that no one uses the search feature on a blog, but the archives might be a bit obscure down there. I reduced the number of posts that display vertically at one to half the number, so it should still load fairly quickly even with larger pictures. That puts more posts into the archives, but also makes the end of the page come up more quickly when scrolling, where you can find the archives in the first place.

      I like the flourish between the posts a lot, and no, I will not give away the graphic file. Sorry. But I can teach you how to embed things like it in your own Style Sheet. In fact, I don't mind helping anyone with anything. I don't know a lot, but I'm a fast learner. I don't mind even designing graphical elements or schemes for people, though usually people want to do that part themselves.

      I will probably center almost every graphic - photo or other visual element (video, graph, and so on) - because it retains a nice look as the window is resized. And title for pictures and famous quotes and snippets of text like that will probably get centered. But I hate centered paragraphs of text, so I really want to keep them flush-left. Agree or disagree?

      What about the main body font? Readable? Suitable or boring? Too small, just right, or too large? Anything you'd change.

      I'm open to all kinds of suggestions. In all my design work I like to start with nothing, or at least the bare minimum, and then build onto it only as is vitally needed. I never start with something elaborate and then start removing things. I guess that would mean I'm an architect and not a sculptor.

      I like negative space too, and I like that so far this design has plenty of it. It never feels cramped or busy. Having no ads or widgets helps, but I think the spacing padded white spacing around each post helps, and the colors are cool and soothing, or are they boring?

      Photographers like to work against grey backgrounds on their monitor, their light table, and in their display galleries, because that way the eye forgets the boring grey and attention is thrown on to the work itself. Do you think this current design has that effect, making pictures and polls and things stand out and not distracting the eye?

      What about rollover effects - links that glow blue slightly when you hover over them, things like that... Cool and futuristic, or lame and annoying?

      How about a music player that stays put in some corner and plays music like a jukebox while you're visiting (but can be muted)? Or would that just be clutter, and you have your own music players anyway...

      Should there be a blog with serious stuff on it and a second one with polls, quizzes, music, and video clips? Or do you like it all jumbled in one blog, like trailmix?

      Any opinions would be great :-D

      Upcoming on the Meta-Plane.

      Don't be surprised if posts follow hot and heavy so to speak for the next few days - Right now I'm ripe with ideas. Of course, I'm not promising anything because sometimes even the best ideas stall out when the magnitude of actually committing them to writing dawns on the author! I like to be fairly thorough when I explain something, or do anything else for that matter, and while I realize this is a blog and not a collection of PhD dissertations, I still have to fight the tendency to keep going on and on about my topic - a 'feature' of my character you might have noticed in some of my existing posts and especially in some of my comments. I'm probably the only person on this blog who routinely curses Blogger's comment limit of 4096 characters. What do I do about it? I just post multiple comment in succession, of of course!

      4096 is 2^12 by the way, and if each character is stored as a single byte (which consists of 8-bits, but never mind that), then that means a full comment will occupy roughly 4k (4,096 bytes) of memory on Google's storage farms. That's not much in this day and age of megabytes, gigabytes, and terabytes, but obviously the programmers have decided that 4 kilobytes is enough for a substantive comment, especially when you add up all the users on Blogger and realize that they're getting this online storage for free. And to top it off, with Unicode becoming the dominant text-standard over ASCII due to its ability to handle much larger character sets and letters and glyphs from non-Latin languages, the situation is probably even more of a concern. ASCII is an 8-bit system like that described above, where each character (a letter, number, punctuation mark, or even a space) take 1 byte to store.

      The problem with ASCII is that it was developed long ago when computers largely lived in universities and large corporations, and mostly American ones at that. Even French, German, Italian, Spanish, and so on could be handled quite easily, since they all use the same Latin alphabet and Arabic numerals more or less, the odd accented or umlauted or circumspected (to get very lose with my use of the English language) notwithstanding. ASCII still provided enough "headroom" to incorporate all these characters. One byte consists of eight bits, each of which can be a 1 or a 0 (on or off, or whatever metaphor you like). From basic math we know that a string of 8 bits yields a total possible number of combinations of 2 (the number of possible states of the bit - 1 or 0) to the power of the number of bits in a byte. A byte therefore can "hold" 2^8, or 256, discrete values. For a long time this was enough for the Latin alphabet, punctuation, numbers, and even some Greek characters, arrows, wingdings, and so on. For the original (non-extended) ASCII set see here.

      On the other hand, 256 is not nearly enough characters when you start adding in the non-Latin languages of the world. So a standard called Unicode was created, which has now been though many iterations and revisions, and has taken a long to replace ASCII, but it finally has done to a large extent (thanks mostly to the Web). So how were programmers going to make room for all those extra character? Pretty straightforwardly, it turns out. They allocated TWO BYTES for each rather than one; therefore doubling the amount of space in the computers memory or hard drive, but exponentially growing the number of possible combinations a 16-bit "word" (to use the jargon) could accomodate. Rather than 256, Unicode's 16 bits in essence created 2^16 little labeled cubby holes. 2^16 is 65,536! The problem seemed solved. And indeed, Unicode is what the vast majority of OSs, browsers, web sites, and applications use these days. You can represent a 256-fold increase in the number of discrete symbols while only doubling the memory footprint.

      So I imagine that the 4096 characters that Blogger allows us actually occupies 8k on disk. Again, a very small size these days, but then, in case you haven't noticed, there are a hell of a lot of people in the world. At some point a revised standard using 32 bits (4 bytes) may have to be adopted, which would again double the memory requirement to store each character but would allow for millions of letters, numbers, punctuation, wingdings, inflections, complex Chinese ideograms, glyphs, typesetter's marks, flourishes, ligatures, and almost anything else you can imagine. This is very simplified explanation of how character encoding works in a computer; wars have nearly been fought over proposed standards, as well as what character actually fills each little empty box in a given scheme. There are multiple ASCII standards, multiple Unicode standards, and other standards you'll probably never hear about.

      The ENIAC - the first true electronic computer.

      In summary, I wish Blogger/Google would increase the maximum comment space to double-precision, allowing for many, many words to be written while only doubling the size on their end. But hey, it's free, so we can't really complain too vociferously. Or we can, but we'll be ignored or labeled as ingrates.

      Just for fun, you hear a lot about bit-depth when it comes to color; old systems like the Apple II and the Atari were 8-bit (256 colors), the Sega Genesis was capable of outputting 16-bit color (65,536 hues), and for more than a decade now the standard on both PCs (a Mac is a PC, by the way, in the sense that it's a Personal Computer. It's not a Windows PC though, which causes much confusion in people who were born without a brain) and modern gaming consoles has been 32-bit color, which allows for a palette of literally millions of colors and is responsible for the astounding realism in games and CAD and animation you see these days. Will 64-bit color ever be needed? Apple and Adobe think so, as they're both building support for that standard into their products even now.

      Generally speaking, 8-bit is dead. 16-bit continues to be valuable for graphics apps, photography and digital editing, and for the large character sets required to meet the world's needs with one standard. 32-bit color is also important for gaming, photography, scanning, and editing (and for Hollywood CGI effects); but if we go any further than that, current display technology (i.e., your monitor or HD television) will be unable to render so many colors distinctly, decoding video from a Blu-ray disk will take forever and require more horsepower for little to no noticeable gain, and video cards for PCs will render any games who dared to use that many colors as slideshows... in other words, unplayable.

      Music in digital form, just like graphics and text, is stored in the same way, which is why you hear about different "bitrates" when you go to pirate music - you soon find out that higher bitrates give you better sound, but at some point the returns begin to diminish (asymptotically toward lossless fidelity, if you want to know); while file sizes increase linearly and start to eat up more space on your iPod than you like. Music works a bit different (mostly it's the nomenclature and not any real physical difference) than graphics or text, but it's always going to be a trade-off in terms of quality vs size. When most people were on dial-up and MP3 technology was in its youth and hard drive space at a premium, you saw lots of music "on the web" encoded as 128 kbit/s or even 96 kbit/s or 48 kbit/s. It sounded a little tinny but that was the situation. With much more bandwidth available to people generally these day, along with bigger hard drives and more efficient compression schemes than MP3 (eg, AAC and OGG), most people are shifting to ripping or downloading 160 kbit/s, 192 kbit/s or even 320 kbit/s music. 320 kbit/s is the last stop on the quality train before you enter Lossless Station, which is a 1:1 state of noncompression, and at current CD-mastering technology is rated at about 1,411 kbit/s.

      So you can see that the bitrates 128, 160 and 192 kbit/s represent compression ratios of approximately 11:1, 9:1 and 7:1 respectively, still a huge space savings over lossless formats like M4A, FLAC, and WAV.

      Graphic compression algorithms like JPG, GIF, and PNG, and video compression like MPEG-2, MPEG-4 (DivX), and H.264 follow the same analogy as music. The more you compress, the smaller the file but the worse the quality. There's no free lunch - just ask Rudolf Clausius.


      This isn't what I really wanted to say, though.

      Actually I wanted to let you know what the next week or so on the 'Plane will be like. I'm working on some educational pieces, musings, and poetry (and hopefully some photos of my own) with some solid substance, but that stuff takes inspiration and writes itself when it's ready.

      In the meantime I may post an inordinate number of quizzes, surveys, polls, and some other interesting but not-too brain taxing things, to keep the blog moving while I hopefully complete some new changes to the structure of the blog itself, and also finish up some of the higher-quality and original work I mentioned. So if you like polls and quizzes, be sure to check back often! If not, then don't lose faith, more prose and poetry of my own creation will come soon... Also, I may post short little questions to YOU in an attempt to start interesting conversations. And of course, if anyone has a question for the Oracle or just a subject they find interesting, by all means submit it to my gmail address, and I'll be sure to make sure it sees the light of day.

      Lol... I was just thinking about what a typical post this is for this site. If I ever become a "real" author, I'm gonna need one hell of an editor to cut all my tangents and irrelevant babblings. I can't help it - midway through a sentence something about what I'm typing will occur to me, like say the difference between a hyphen, an en-dash, and an em-dash, and I just start in on it and usually lose the main topic, or come back to it at the end. *sigh*


      Ever noticed that the flags of four of the most powerful countries in the world, four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in fact (all but China), are Red, White, and Blue? And not only that, but only those three colors. I wouldn't dream of going out wearing those colors, but they seem to be in vogue with flag-makers apparently. The four nations are of course the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, and France. Check it out:

      Russia's blue is a little wimpy, but it's still blue and not some other color. In fact, the other three flags use a dark blue more than a true blue. At any rate, I just thought it was an odd coincidence that these powerful nations all use the same basic colors in their flags. And China's flag is red and white - it's just missing blue. If it had some blue in it we might suspect some sort of flag conspiracy amongst the five Security Council members!

      Saturday, June 5

      Tolkien Essentials, Part One: A Very Concise History of Arda.

      Oromë the Hunter

      Arda is the "World" in which JRR Tolkien's legendarium/mythos is set. It includes the places first created by the musical envisioning of the spirit-like ainur, who were inspired by Eru, the One.

      In the First Age, Arda included Aman, a vast land where the valar and maiar (both of them groups of ainur who chose to exist bodily within their creation rather than remain in the void) dwelt, as well as the elves who were awoken at Cuiviénen and who, heeding the call of the vala Oromë, came westward across the sea to abide there with them. The island of Tol Eressëa, and the great lands of Beleriand, as well as the Encircling Sea, were also a part of that world. Many long eons passed during this Age, and tales which do not come into this telling are plenty.

      Arda was then remade in large part after a war between the valar and Morgoth, a fallen vala who had enslaved or ensnared much of Beleriand, which had become a home for men and dwarves, and other races besides. The new "continent" of Eriador (where the tales of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings take place) was wrought from the upheavals of Beleriand, and the new island of Númenor created for men, much as Tol Eressëa was given by the valar over to the elves. Morgoth was cast back into the void, and banished from returning to Arda.

      The Fall of Númenor

      Trouble again cast a shadow upon the Second Age. Many maia had followed Melkor (the name of Morgoth before his fall) into Beleriand to cast their lot with him. They were the balrogs and a maia called Sauron who grew in favor to become Morgoth's chief lieutenant. With Morgoth gone, most of his followers returned to Aman to seek forgiveness from the valar, and many were granted it, though some were imprisoned within the Halls of Mandos, a sort of limbo. Sauron himself seemed to reform, and was allowed to stay in Eriador, the re-shaped Beleriand. Men grew powerful in those days, and learned much wisdom and many crafts from the elves who had also chosen to live in Eriador. Their lifespans grew many times, and they built huge fleets and massive armies from their cities in Númenor.

      Sauron, ever one to seek power, came to be trusted as a source of immeasurable lore by these mighty men, who also grew ambitious, lacking the temperance of elves and growing jealous at their eternal lives and their connection to the undying lands of Aman. Eventually Sauron's councils persuaded the greatest of the sea-kings, Ar-Pharazôn, to mass his armies and navies to sail for Aman itself. This was their great undoing, for they were strictly forbidden to travel west of Tol Eressëa. The valar summoned up a great tidal wave which destroyed their navies and the island of Númenor forever. Only a handful escaped, and those were the wise men among them who had seen the folly of Sauron's councils and had sought refuge east in Middle-Earth (roughly the northwest portion of Eriador) before the catastrophe.

      Minas Tirith

      These great men ruled mighty kingdoms in Arnor and Gondor, and at Isengard where they built the impenetrable tower Orthanc and placed within it one of the palantíri, or seeing stonesand generally lived in peace alongside the elves, dwarves, and 'lesser' men who already inhabited the continent. Yet, Sauron had not participated in the war against the valar but had also returned to Eriador, to stake dominion over it if he could after what he thought would be the sure destruction of the men of Númenor.

      When he learned their destruction had not been complete, and that a minority had escaped east (and even a fraction of Ar-Pharazôn's army was formidable) and built these two kingdoms, he took refuge in the wastelands of Mordor and slowly built up a following of his own. He also began to nurture an interest in the craftsmanship of Rings... The Second Age came to its denouement when the mightiest captains of elves and men residing in Middle-Earth besieged Sauron, knowing of his treachery and determined to rid themselves of his shadow, which they had seen growing longer as the years passed. In the Last Alliance of Elves and Men, the great King Elendil shattered his mighty sword against Sauron and was slain, but his son Isildur picked up the pommel and shard and struck Sauron's Ring of Power from his hand.

      The tale of The Rings of Power cannot be given space here; but with that loss the power of Sauron was severely weakened and his forces crumbled before the Alliance. And thus ended the Second Age of Arda. The Valar and Eru saw fit to reshape the world again, removing Aman from the world so that no man could ever find it again. Elves alone had that privilege and could still find the way west, but men sailing thither would find no eternal land, only a vast ocean, until at last their ship may come to find the far eastern coast of Eriador. Thus ended the Second Age.

      The Gate of Moria

      The story of the Third Age was of a long peace finally interrupted by the emergence of Sauron again; first in Mirkwood and later in Mordor, where he sought desperately to find and recover his Ring, which he knew had not been destroyed but only lost. The tales are related in The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, which concludes with the destruction of Sauron and his armies, and the crowning of Aragorn II, descended from Elendil himself and therefore of royal Númenorean lineage, as King Elessar of the reunited realms of Arnor and Gondor. The last elves eventually left for Aman to live among the valar for eternity, and the Third Age gave way to the Fourth Age, the Age of Men. Our age.... though long, long ago.

      In the next installment I will briefly outline the languages that JRR Tolkien created for his mythology.


      Thursday, June 3

      Tuesday, June 1


      Happy 1 June 2010, happy 2001st post, and I have a fun poll for you!

      Following are 25 cities off the top of my head, some big tourist spots and others less so. I'm aware the list reflects my own biases and leaves out big chunks of the world and dozens of extraordinary cities, but I had to cut the list off somewhere.

      YOU GET 10 VOTES! So of these 25 cities, please vote for up to 10 that you'd love to visit for a week only. You would be confined to the town and immediate environs, so you'd want to spend your time intensively getting to know the place a bit, and not drive off somewhere else that happens to be nearby.

      Also, assume there would be be no jet lag, travel would be instantaneous, and visas or any bureaucratic nonsense would be nonexistent or taken care of for you. The idea is just to build up a picture of which parts of the world people think are interesting enough to visit.

      The poll will not let you exceed 10 choices. Your choices are all equal; you are not ranking your chosen cities. And you may write in your OWN choice if you so desire, at the very bottom. And yes, I'm aware of the graphical glitch in the poll's header - I'm trying to fix it...

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