Wednesday, December 21, 2016

COD: ...The Fish That Changed the World in 1,000 Years

Review of COD: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World
by Mark Kurlansky

A literary award winner, this history
of the last 1,000 years
of Western Civilization is given
all from the perspective

of a biography of one fish only, the cod.

The powerful history, especially shows the effect that this one fish had on multi-millions
of Europeans, Americans, and Caribbeans over hundreds of years.

It explains how it was part of the slavery/rum/cod
cycle of commerce, how it changed political, social
and economic fortunes, led to world travel, and finally how,
unexpectedly, this incredible sea story became an ecological disaster
for the Grand Banks of the North Atlantic.

As an American literature/history teacher,
I have an extensive background in history,
but time and again,
this book surprised me with new facts, bizarre
interrelationships between cod commerce and other events in human history--
fascinating side-tales about European countries,
their world exploration and their fishing industry,
all centered on the huge availability of this one species of fish.

Definitely, the most unusual biography I've ever read!

Of course, it's not really a biography so much of the cod itself--
though there are many descriptive details about the fish, even
a few delicious recipes from the last few hundreds
of years of European chefs, describing how multi-millions
of Europeans ate the fish as a staple in their diet
but in a wide variety of different ways.

Rather this page-turner
is a biography of all the many humans, beginning with the Basque and the Native Americans
who caught the millions of cod, even fought serious wars over fish, including the non-lethal
"Cod Wars" between the United Kingdom and Iceland in the 1960's and 70's.

Kurlansky helps us readers "see" the catching, processing, shipping, and eating of cod,
and its strange effects, some of them dramatic, on major historical events.

A real 10+ of an historical tome.

I've read the riveting book twice.

Don't miss the scrumptious virtual eating;-).

And, guess what, yes, I gobbled up seafood for breakfast this morning (as well as seafood at supper last night, though not cod this time. Smoked salmon and shrimp. Maybe, cod in a couple of days.

from the Amazon precis of the history book:
"Cod, it turns out, is the reason Europeans set sail across the Atlantic, and it is the only reason they could.

What did the Vikings eat in icy Greenland and on the five expeditions to America recorded in the Icelandic sagas? Cod, frozen and dried in the frosty air, then broken into pieces and eaten like hardtack.

What was the staple of the medieval diet? Cod again, sold salted by the Basques, an enigmatic people with a mysterious, unlimited supply of cod.

As we make our way through the centuries of cod history, we also find a delicious legacy of recipes, and the tragic story of environmental failure, of depleted fishing stocks where once their numbers were legendary.

In this lovely, thoughtful history, Mark Kurlansky ponders the question:
Is the fish that changed the world forever changed by the world's folly?"
from Amazon description

“Every once in a while a writer of particular skill takes a fresh, seemingly improbable idea and turns out a book of pure delight.
Such is the case of Mark Kurlansky and the codfish.” –David McCullough

Transitioning toward vegetarianism...
currently, a fishatarian:-)
Good to the 'finish.'

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Friday, December 16, 2016

Stephanie: Life Beyond Faith, The Tragedy of Islam from Ex-Muslim Mother

Not Without My Daughter, again. Only this time the daughters
are taken away by the Muslim father,
and the ex-Muslim mother is exiled.

Ex-Muslims of North America:
"We Envision A World Where Every Person Is Free To Follow Their Conscience."

In the LIGHT of Goodness, Tolerance, Human Rights, Compassion, Justice,

Daniel Wilcox

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Rescue refugees!

For centuries, the United States opened its arms to many refugees
whose lives had been torn apart by war,
and those ruthlessly hounded because of who
they are or what they believe in. But today, the people of Syria

are suffering these hardships on an unimaginable scale, and we're still waiting
for US leadership on the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time.

Take action. Urge Congress to increase the number of Syrian refugees
resettled in the US.

Please, let us accept at least 200,000 refugees.

How will we pay for this?

STOP funding oppressive Muslim governments such as Pakistan!

STOP supporting the wars and human rights violations of Saudi Arabia.

SUPPORT AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, WORLD VISION, and other human rights and development organizations.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, December 10, 2016


Please support Human Rights.

Write for prisoners of conscience.

Give to Human Rights organizations such as Amnesty International.

Vote for helping the millions of refugees suffering in the world today.

Oppose blasphemy penalties, Sharia Law, anti-freedom rules, and other oppressive Islamic, Christian, Jewish, and Hindu laws.

FROM Martin Luther King Jr.:
"...the first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this:...this is a moral universe, and...there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws.

...we have adopted in the modern world a sort of a relativistic ethic...have accepted the attitude that right and wrong are merely relative...

But I'm here to say to you this morning that some things are right and some things are wrong. (Yes) Eternally so, absolutely so. It's wrong to hate.

(Yes, That's right) It always has been wrong and it always will be wrong. (Amen) It's wrong in America, it's wrong in Germany, it's wrong in Russia, it's wrong in China...

It was wrong in 2000 B.C., and it's wrong [now]...It always has been wrong, (That's right) and it always will be wrong."
From A Knock on Midnight, speeches by Martin Luther King Jr.

"I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history.
I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally
incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him."

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
--Martin Luther King Jr.

In the Light of Human Rights,

Daniel Wilcox

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Failing Why of Prayer

Here's my brief response to one atheist's
carefully reasoned views of prayer,
psychologist Valerie Tarico's thought-provoking article,
"If "Nothing Fails Like Prayer" Why Do People Keep at It?"

Part 2 of a series on her website:


Here’s my thoughts on prayer:

At first, Valerie Tarico PhD., writes,
“One simple answer, of course, is that human beings are wired for superstition.”*

But are all of us human beings "wired for superstition"?

That was never the case with me in the 55 years that I was a Christian,
mostly of the very liberal Quaker sort.

Many humans, even atheists are superstitious,
such as the famous novelist and atheist Ernest Hemingway.
And, of course, millions of religious people are superstitious in strict conservative Christianity and Islam.

But, in our family, and our Baptist church, we positively berated and strongly opposed superstition.

My father, a Baptist minister and history teacher, was also very practical, a carpenter and skilled handy-man, too. And my mother, tended to be very realistic about life.

They had survived the Great Depression and suffered through WWII, knew that despite best efforts by people, sometimes horrific events happen. They both took a dim view of popular Christian beliefs such as "Name it and Claim" magical prayer, for instance.

So, I don’t remember ever having any sort of superstition when I was a kid. We were completely against all those sorts of beliefs from astrology to praying for your car to keeping lucky coins, etc.

So then why did I continue for many years to pray fervently, even long after I had quit believing in most traditional Christian beliefs?

Besides, NOT ONE of my many central prayers
(unselfish ones, centered healing for others, for world peace, etc.) in 55 years was ever answered. NONE!

So why continue to pray?!


#1 We heard many sermons from brilliant and caring leaders which gave various excuses that I took to heart. If leaders who I deeply respected, said that ‘it wasn’t God’s time’ or that ‘we didn’t have enough faith,’ etc., they must know more than I did.

#2 Prayer was, at it deepest level, much more than requests for miracles, etc.

Prayer, especially among Quakers, focused on communion, empathy, sharing, and transcendence.

Such prayer wasn't the magical/superstitious "trying to figure out the cause and effect relationships that govern our lives" by God/Gods so that we could "manipulate what they do."

NOT at all.

Like so many words, "prayer" has become so connotatively associated with bad stuff, maybe it's a word that we people ought to recycle, not use at anymore.

My deepest experiences with "prayer" weren't anything like "magic" or "superstition." They didn't involve petition or "trying to figure out the cause and effect" and "manipulate" God.

There was the dramatic conversion experience with God (that's what I felt and thought) when I was young in the family car on a country road in southeast Nebraska.

And then later as an adult, I encountered several inexplicable transcendental experiences
(like Ralph Waldo Emerson’s sort of Transcendentalism explained in his essay, "Nature"),
experiences in which I was very clear-headed, not in a church, experiences that greatly
affected me for the positive and the best.

I don’t claim to know their nature from a scientific point of view, but they were joyful, life-changing,
and beneficial.

Long after, I had come to the conclusion that there are no miracles, that all such claims are hearsay, placebo, misdiagnosis, false-reports, even fraud,
I still
thought that the human sense of the transcendent is real,
and, for that matter still do.

Also, when I was an adult, I became a liberal Quaker, and many modern Quakers tend toward the rational side. Einstein in later life said that if he wasn't of a Jewish background, he would be a Quaker.

#3 Also, prayer was an important response--a form of deep meditation--when all possible humans actions have failed.

Many humans curse, others kick the wall, etc., I prayed:-)

My prayers did no good for any real-life changes,
but the inner communion helped me emotionally in the midst of despair and sorrow.


FROM If “Nothing Fails Like Prayer,” Why Do People Keep at It?

Posted on December 5, 2016 by Valerie Tarico, PhD.

“If prayer actually worked, everyone would be a millionaire, nobody would ever get sick and die, and both football teams would always win.” –Ethan Winer

"The phrase “nothing fails like prayer” was coined in 1976 by secular activist, Ann Nicol Gaylor, and the evidence is on her side. Research on “petitionary prayer,” the kind that makes requests, shows no overall effect or one that is very weak.
And yet, despite a stack of evidence that God is either deaf or dead (or otherwise unaffected by human supplication), theists by the hundreds of millions keep sending their requests heavenward.

In a 2010 Pew Survey of 35,556 Americans over half said they prayed daily, with 48% of Millennials (born 1982-2002) and 68% of “the Greatest Generation” (born 1900-1924) reporting prayer as a daily part of their lives.
Millions more respond to “acts of God” like hurricanes and tornadoes or, worse, to violence committed in the name of God like bombings and mass murder with words like “Please pray” or “Our prayers are with the victims.”

Since prayer has no measurable effect and religion often plays a causal role in mass violence, requesting or offering prayer in response to a natural disaster or terrorist assault may seem particularly cynical or cruel.
One simple answer, of course, is that human beings are wired for superstition. We see patterns in all sorts of random phenomena and engage in wishful thinking that knows few bounds. The scientific method is powerful precisely because it erects barriers against our tendency toward wishful thinking, forcing us to ask the questions that could show us wrong. It has been called, “what we know about how not to fool ourselves.”

So why is it that intelligent, compassionate educated adults—folks who would laugh if you suggested they carry a lucky rabbit’s foot or sacrifice a small goat or cross the street to avoid a black cat—still pray?"
(She deals with more complex issues which I will answer later.)

READ the full thought-provoking article at Valerie Tarico's blog:

Then share your own views and experiences--positive or negative at her website and here on this blog.

In the Light,

Daniel Wilcox

Quaker Corny Humor #13

After the 3 am tragic results of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, the next morning early, one tired liberal Quaker turned his combine left into the next set of corn rows in southeast Nebraska and ruminated:
“The good candidates always seem to lose these major elections. It’s so discouraging, but I do see a little corn-husking humor
in the thrashing." And grinned.

He stopped the gears, picked up a a little corn cob by his feet, and pulled at the shucks.

Later, he said to his wife, "As a former University of Nebraska Cornhusker (1965)—and literally a corn husker
with my dad on my grampa’s farm near Table Rock, Nebraska, I can combine;-)
those memories with the current thrashed debacle.

"NO, dear, don't go there!"

He shifted the tooth pick in his mouth, grinned and said, "Ear, ear! Countrymen give me your...Or, how about this sweetheart?

See, I usually am on the outs with whatever group I am in, particularly in being a citizen of the U.S.

With ‘wrong’-wing American voting patterns, I keep getting liberated from U.S. policy. For instance, I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries, though I am actually left of him, so in the final election, my views got left out,
But I and others aren’t left-OVER."

"Forget your corn, and come help me snap these green beans, please."

He got up, gave her a hug and said, "On the contrary, we are determined to ‘left’ up--

"NO, no," she pretended to scream and laughed.

"Seriously, we need to--especially with this bad turn of event--lift up
all those ignored by this new U.S. president, and continue to oppose
the increasing religious intolerance of Christians—
(you know)
help the needy, the suffering,
the persecuted,
undocumented immigrants,
hard-working single moms,
prisoners of conscience in various Islamic countries,
and so forth."

"Yes, darling, I agree." But now please snap the green beans."

He picked up a bean and snapped its ends. "I wish we could say that we are so hopeful that we could afford to enjoy a little leftar;-)"

With that his wife hit him with a wooden spoon and kissed him.


As we used to say in Adams, Nebraska, “Shucks, that ain't nothin' yet. I reckon I can get to the bottom of the corn crib before I'm done.”

For those who always want Scripture verses with their reflections, no matter how corny
here's a few:
Genesis 1:10 “And they came to the thrashing-floor of Atad,”

Numbers 28:27 “As though it were the corn of the thrashing-floor”

Ruth 3:7 “Ruth lay down at the end of a heap of corn on the thrashing-floor.”

from The Farm Engineer by Robert Ritchie, page 6, 1849

The taciturn Quaker in northern Oregon, suddenly, spoke up with fervency,
“What ought one to call a line
of rabbits hopping backwards, losing their hairy fur,
across several generations from the young
getting older, to parents, to grandparents, and great grandparents?”

A visiting Portlander looked puzzled. "I don't know. What's your meaning?"

“A receding ‘heir’ line,”
and the old Quaker grinned and went back to hoeing his corn.


What is the fastest country in the world?

What is the slowest country on record?

In what country is running a passionate activity?


What country doesn’t run at all?



The danger of semantics! See below:

William Penn crossed the road despite lots of horse-drawn vehicles.

Can you spell that without any r’s?

Huh? I’m baffled.

It’s easy, T-H-A-T.



Why did the jolly Quaker stop grinning early one morning, on the Oregon Trail,
when his oxen stubbornly refused to be hitched up?


They wouldn’t take a yoke.



Daniel Wilcox

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Those Who Forget the Central Cause of Past Wrongs...

What Americans are forgetting in their current debacle of political, religious, and social name-calling are these words: