Saturday, January 27, 2007

Butch Cassidy robbing an Idaho hood

By Jim Banholzer

Butch woke up on the right side of the bed. He had slept with a chew in his mouth and it still tasted fresh. He looked out on the ruby red sky to the north and saw that this would be another fine day. A gruff old Indian man had been car-ing for his bay horse for a fortnight. He tossed the man thirteen silver dollars and all of them landed head’s up on a bench. Butch’s horse was glistening. It even had some gold teeth. Butch could afford such things.
Still early, he tramped into the Bountiful, Utah bar, asking for a shot and shave. In those days, you needn’t join a club to get a jolt of red-eye to open the morning wound. He told a group of young lads that he would be back later with a special treat for them, as they hung on his every word. Butch tipped the barber and barkeep handsomely, and then held up a map of Montpelier to the crimson light. He was familiar with this Idaho area from borrowing money from stagecoaches. Butch’s motto was that you could never case a joint too closely; you just want to make sure you did it surreptitiously –enough to blend in, like a snake sagging unnoticed, in an old wagon wheel rut, but geared up and raring to strike.
Snakes have purposes too though. Snakes get rid of rats and Butch was fully intent in cleaning out that Idaho bank from some of its diseased money, that lazy August afternoon. It was actually August 13. The thirteenth deposit of the day had just been made; thirteen dollars at 3:13. Thus, it was marked as an unlucky day for the banks records. Butch galloped evenly into town and tied his bay horse across the street from the grand depository. He sauntered by the front door, and then quickly yanked the lone teller in by the ear. He fastened tight the window-blind and taped a “back in five” sign to the door’s beveled glass.
The unauthorized withdrawal was over easy –like a two-minute egg with little mess. A hailed police officer gave half-hearted chase on a borrowed bicycle, but soon gave up. Butch then obeyed all traffic rules and customs of the area. Appearing to be a shining paragon of kindness, he tipped his hat gently to the ladies he passed along the length of the trail. He giggled their googling babies by tossing morsels of scrumptious candy into their perambulators, never missing a basket.

A thousand crystallizing points of light lit up across Idaho bars that night. Something huge had happened and the news spread over telegraph wires like a quicksilver comet. Miners and brakemen weary from their daily drudge now had a great tale to romanticize and perhaps embellish a little bit on their own. Drunkards were heard to yell “Have you heard what he’s gone and done did now?” Pinkerton agents handed newspapers like the Hailey Times “Wanted Dead or
Alive” posters and the tabloids wildly speculated for decades about what they did with the money. Readers were fed precisely what they hungered for; some real live west action for chatting about in backgrounds behind whips cracking at rodeos. Even today, on this far side of two Halley comets, when motorcycle mama’s pass through Montpelier on sidecars, they imagine the actual event and began making up their own wild versions replete with impossible angles. Some of these stories even contemplate that everything Butch did that day –including robbing the bank were pure acts of a gentleman hero, since the bank had that week, foreclosed earlier than what was necessary on some poor potato farmers.
Butch kept his word too, to the kids back in Bountiful. Late that winter, one evening when the snow had temporarily warmed, he quietly came through town like a late Santy Claus, heaping out his jingle-bell change of thirteen silver dollars, all landing heads down in the gutter for the kids to wake up to and chip out from the hardened ice the next morning. He figured that if these young rapscallions are going to get a little gold tooth grin, like the horse they gotta to do a little work for it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Title: Harping over Spiritual Robots


Last potato moon harvest, I conjured up the term “Spiritual Robots” while searching artwork on the computer. While sixteen Google images appeared -twelve were of people attending artifi-cial intelligence symposiums. The first thing that stood out in the pictures was that most of the participants were taking it sitting down.
Robots are increasingly becoming humanlike as people get rigid. Seems cute in an Oz’s Tin man way, but the twain shall meet someday –perhaps sooner than you imagine.
Actually, we’re already overlapping; No eye contact sealed in on “freeways”. Can’t get a person on the phone for venting com-plaints? That’s an old problem. Now it’s depersonalized elec-tronic-chatter between cubed drones in the same room. -way off the earth, rocking in windowless buildings.
Calculating kids seldom step out of cybercaves; for fear that, a yellowcake flake of acid snow, from the falling skies will rust their tongues. When they do, they plug in as Pod people, to feed off music of irregular beats with strangers on subways –rather than having actual conversations.
These days just about every body part is replaceable. Even the Vice President has artificial heart valves. Machines could be used to help us make wise decisions, but many of us let them decide. Swirling slots in Vegas, hypnotize many that would be better off watching whirling dervishes. With new money rushing through their veins, gas station lottery winners declare, “I always knew I was going to hit the number!” While millions with similar wishes become numb zombies as their fortunes spiral downward.
Nevertheless, sophisticated machines guide us everywhere – buzzing through water, snow and air. The list of things they can’t do ever shrinks. Artificial systems help doctors diagnose medical concerns. You can play twenty questions over the Internet in intel-ligence experiments. Systems learn from us in vast ways as we feed them more information.
Robots powered by speech recognition software, recognize when humans are happy or sad and eerily “pretend to care”, with corresponding facial expressions, helping even people labeled autistic become comfortable. Robots can assess hostage situations and disarm bombs while delivering a pizza. However, at what point will the gollem spirits began running a new lottery of whom gets to live or die?

“Google News” claims that their information results are “com-piled solely by computer algorithms”. Then who designed those algorithms? Have they been in existence since time immemorial? And do they fine-tune themselves? At night does a robot mouse dust and vacuum the nano-nuts and bolts of the Googleplex termi-nals into absolute purity? I’m having a nightmare that it’s termi-nally daytime for robots. Perhaps if I breathe deep with my own lungs and count five, my psychotic reaction will taper off.
Doctors in our Country have systematically institutionalized thousands of patients into mental hospitals than overmedicated them into robotic states for stinking profit. More wars and jails are planned, but with less real rehabilitation opportunities –creating millions of outcasts. These dispossessed could become essential slave labor backup forces in the event the next lines of senseless Iron-man fighters develop glitches. Increased frivolous laws with stricter enforcement and draconian sentences successfully lobbied for, translate into job security for the machine-like penal systems.
Instead of locking prisoners away into subhuman states at record levels, ideal communities could preemptively strike at root causes of “waywardness” by caring more about schools. Funds not invested in prisons could better broaden “homeland security” by being spent on systems already proven to help student achieve-ment.
And shouldn’t we use caution while screening our children over normal difficulties faced growing out of the age of innocence -before medicating them into something they are not? Who screens the screeners? Vacuous steel-hearted leaders fiddling with low approval ratings? Perhaps a savant metallically inoculated into mathematical beauty could lend the social engineers some thoughts on what’s worth tracking.
A lot of the things that we now take for granted would not exist at all, had past Einstein’s and Edison’s been “fixed” at their first sign of boredom in the classroom. Healthy daydreamers of today like Segway inventor Dean Kamen, who also developed the heart-stent keeping VP Cheney alive need not be labeled ADHD and force-fed questionable pills, when they’ve tapped into better life-beats.

Though I stick in this morass of the alienation behind mecha-nization’s takeover of society, I would like to thank Googles ro-bots for helping me pull out this article. I have heard they have a cousin that likes beer! He is probably the most humanlike robot yet. One who really seeks to understand mankind. Next time he flies in for the Wagon Days non-motorized parade, I would like to repay him with some special input. Over ales poured out in inex-act measurements, we’ll watch some sports together. There I will explain why his kind will have the most difficulty replacing our athletes and artists. Then my smart-pill friends will insist that we ape-Evolvers teach our Trans-human palsey-walsey to sing with us in perfect harmony. Yes, someday we’ll make beautiful music together.
In this way, the robot will quickly delve into the deepest di-mensions of the soul. Because you see the way things have been heading -with my fancy free speech, we’ll be singing the most heart-touching songs chorded together on a chain gang.
Great and Powerful Feds will lift the curtain, allowing this mechanism into designated wilderness areas. There he’ll joyfully hold a bucket for me to mop machine-erred-plutonium-waste off previously pristine primitive area foliage. While metalbreath and me are reprogrammed, I promise we won’t give any lip, if our captor can find him self, human enough to conjure up some Potato hooch nightcaps -to cool our tops while cloistered in a Modern Minidoka “Manage-mental” camp.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Ellison Uses Thomas Jefferson's Quaran

Ellison Uses Thomas Jefferson's Quran

Jan 04 7:21 PM US/Eastern

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Keith Ellison made history Thursday, becoming the first Muslim member of Congress and punctuating the occasion by taking a ceremonial oath with a Quran once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

"Look at that. That's something else," Ellison, D-Minn., said as officials from the Library of Congress showed him the two-volume Quran, which was published in London in 1764.

A few minutes later, Ellison took the ceremonial oath with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., at his side. So many of Ellison's family members attended the ceremony that it was done in two takes.

Ellison had already planned to be sworn in using a Quran, rather than a Bible. He learned last month about Jefferson's Quran, with its multicolored cover and brown leather binding, and arranged to borrow it.

Although the Library of Congress is right across the street from the Capitol, library officials took extra precautions in delivering the Quran for the ceremony. To protect it from the elements, they placed the Quran in a rectangular box and handled it with a green felt wrapper once inside the Capitol.

Instead of using surface streets, they walked it over via a series of winding, underground tunnels _ a trip that took more than 15 minutes. Guards then ran the book through security machines at the Capitol.

The Quran was acquired in 1815 as part of a more than 6,400-volume collection that Jefferson sold for $24,000 to replace the congressional library that had been burned by British troops the year before, in the War of 1812. Jefferson, the nation's third president, was a collector of books in all topics and languages.

The book's leather binding was added in 1919. Inside, it reads, "The Koran, commonly called 'The Alcoran of Mohammed.'" Jefferson marked his ownership by writing the letter "J" next to the letter "T" that was already at the bottom of pages, according to Mark Dimunation, chief of the Library of Congress' rare book and special collections division.

Ellison, the first black member of Congress from Minnesota, was born in Detroit and converted to Islam in college. He said earlier this week that he chose to use this Quran because it showed that a visionary like Jefferson believed that wisdom could be gleaned from many sources.

In a brief interview Thursday on his way to a vote, Ellison suggested he had tired of the whole issue of his using the Quran.

"It was good, we did it, it's over, and now it's time to get down to business," he said.

Asked if he was relieved to have it behind him, Ellison said, "Yeah, because maybe we don't have to talk about it so much anymore. Not that I'm complaining, but the pressing issues the country is facing are just a little bit more on my mind right now."

Some critics have argued that only a Bible should be used for the swearing-in. Last month, Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., warned that unless immigration is tightened, "many more Muslims" will be elected and follow Ellison's lead.

Ellison approached Goode on the House floor Thursday, introducing himself and offering to meet for coffee. According to Ellison, Goode said he'd be interested in doing that. The subject of Goode's comments didn't come up, Ellison said.

"Look, we're trying to build bridges," Ellison said. "We're trying to help bring about understanding. We don't want issues of misunderstanding and division to exist if they don't have to."

Goode's office did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages for comment.

Ellison's mother, Clida Ellison, said in an interview that she thought any controversy over her son's choice was good, "because many people in America are going to learn what the diversity of America is all about."

She described herself as a practicing Catholic.

"I go to Mass every day," she said.

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