Thursday, January 1, 2015

Editor's Corner

January 2015

(Volume 17 - Issue 12)
Your editor has often been accused of paying more attention to the sky and stars than the people around her. Well, guilty. But isn't it fascinating to see into the wonders of astronomy displayed free just for looking up? Much of what we see, for instance, when there are meteor showers, is all that was left from some astral body that deteriorated centuries, eons, ago. Using the word was instead of is, defines many of the multitude of stars we see in our Galaxy, since we are told we are only now seeing what is no longer actually there because of the distance that those lights had to travel to get here.

However, the planets we can observe are still there (today at least) as are these meteor showers orbiting thru our own atmosphere, some that will burn out in passage, and some that will even land somewhere on our Earth. A few years ago, one did crash thru the roof of one of our local residents and the scientists flocked to town to observe the projectile, and now it is on display with its history and possible origin explained in one of Texas' Museums.

For your future entertainment, here is a guide to the predicted meteorite showers for 2015. The web site offers this link 2015 Meteor Shower Guide

Back to Earth! This issue brings the poetry of Bud Lemire plus his philosophical notes: "A Christmas Heart," "Precious is The Time," and "Those Moving Planets," which sync's with the link above.

"Love and Let Go" by Phillip Hennessy is another poem that has become a song. He sent along an mp3 link but your editor has not figured out how to share it and told him so. He responds that soon it will be on youtube and he will send the link to that. Thanks, Phil !

Bruce Clifford has added these three to the many he has published with our ezine: "Breaking My Heart Today," "This Time," and "Bittersweet Goodbyes." John I. Blair penned "Another Cold December Day," "The Darkness," and "V."

Jennifer Terwilliger who speaks in words that transform what you are hearing her say into pictures. The very memorable and quite precious impressions of the arrival of her second son can be found in "Well ... 8:10am." She is one of your editor's multi-talented granddaughters.

Rounding up the dozen poems in this issue is one by yours truly, "Brain Refrain." This recalls some flood scenes in Kilgore, Texas, both anxious and comical are included.

Robert Treat Paine, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence is featured in Blair's column "Always Looking - People Who Made A Difference XXV." Mattie Lennon's "Irish Eyes" is an informative piece about the Methuselah Foundation that speaks of a time not far in the future when the life expectancy may well be a thousand years. Thomas F. O'Neill in "Introspective" tells how the younger Chinese population would like to use technology of the internet and broadcasting, and their current restraints.

Andrea Heisler, the first grandchild of the late Leo C. Helmer shares his love of cooking, "Cookin' With Andrea." Though exceedingly busy, Andrea brings us some comfort for the stressful holidays with a recipe to add as a tradition in your home as it is in hers.

In the article, "2015 – An 8 UNIVERSAL YEAR," Michael John Fierro reveals the numerology for the Universal Year (beginning with the New Year January first) it is time to be informed what is at stake. Well known for his expertise in many areas, Fierro makes numbers easier to understand, giving numerology a practical application in your life.

Wishing our co-founder and webmaster Mike Craner all the best in the New Year. His web work for the ezine and the blog have kept us online through 17 years. Thanks Mike!!! Looking forward now to Volume 18 which begins with the Valentine month of February, for an issue focusing on Living Life in Love and Happiness.

Look for that issue of Pencil Stubs Online in February. Compositions are accepted throughout the period from publication on the first through January 25th. If you'd like to do a regular column, send your suggestion and let's get you into action.


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This issue appears in the ezine at and also in the blog with the capability of adding comments at the latter.

Always Looking – People Who Made A Difference XXV

Robert Treat Paine

   Robert Treat Paine was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and served as the first Attorney General of Massachusetts and a member of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. He was a lifelong Congregationalist and a devout Christian. When his church, the First Church of Boston, moved into Unitarianism late in his life, Paine followed that path.

Facsimile of Paine's signature

   Robert Treat Paine was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 11, 1731. He was one of five children of the Rev. Thomas Paine and Eunice (Treat) Paine. His father was pastor of Franklin Road Baptist Church in Weymouth but moved his family to Boston in 1730 and subsequently became a merchant there. His mother was the daughter of Rev. Samuel Treat, one of the principal founders of Newark, New Jersey. The Treat family in particular had a long history in the British colonies dating back to the Mayflower.

   Paine attended the Boston Latin School and at the age of fourteen entered Harvard College, from which institution he graduated in 1749 at age 18. He then was engaged in teaching school for several years back at the Boston Latin and at Lunenburg, Massachusetts.

   He also attempted a merchant career with journeys to the Carolinas, the Azores, and to Spain, as well as a whaling voyage to Greenland. He began the study of law in 1755 with his mother's cousin in Lancaster, Massachusetts. Another cousin, Col. Samuel Willard, raised a regiment to fight in the French and Indian War. Paine was unsuccessful in gaining an officer's commission in that regiment and so volunteered to serve as chaplain.

   When he returned from a brief military campaign to Lake George (the Crown Point Expedition), he did some occasional preaching and returned to his legal studies. In 1756 he returned to Boston to continue his legal preparations with Samuel Prat, and he was admitted to the bar in 1757. He first considered establishing his law practice at Portland (then part of Massachusetts but now in Maine), but instead in 1761 moved to Taunton, Massachusetts, then back to Boston in 1780.

Robert Treat Paine

   In 1768 he was a delegate to the provincial convention which was called to meet in Boston and along with Samuel Quincy conducted the prosecution of Captain Thomas Preston and his British soldiers following the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770. John Adams was opposing counsel, and his arguments won the jury's sway, and most of the troops were let off.

   Paine served in the Massachusetts General Court from 1773 to 1774, in the Provincial Congress from 1774 to 1775, and represented Massachusetts at the Continental Congress from 1774 through 1778. In Congress, he signed the final appeal to the king (the Olive Branch Petition of 1775), and helped frame the rules of debate and acquire gunpowder for the coming war, and in 1776 was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

   He returned to Massachusetts at the end of December 1776 and was speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1777, a member of the executive council in 1779, a member of the committee that drafted the state constitution in 1780. He was Massachusetts Attorney General from 1777 to 1790 and prosecuted the treason trials following Shays' Rebellion.

   In 1780, He was a charter member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He later served as a justice of the state supreme court from 1790 to 1804 when he retired. When he died at the age of 83 in 1814 he was buried in Boston's Granary Burying Ground.

A statue to commemorate him was erected in the Church Green area of Taunton.

Researched and compiled by John I. Blair

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Irish Eyes

Methuselah Foundation

   The Undertaking business, “ . . . will still remain valuable for another couple generations at least.” So David Gobel told me. And now you are asking who is this David Gobel and what question did I put to him to elicit such an answer?

David Gobel
   David Gobel along with Aubrey de Grey, co-founded the Methuselah Foundation, a medical charity based in Springfield, Virginia , in 2003 in order to “shed light on the processes of aging and find ways to extend healthy life.” De Grey says, “The first person to live to be 1,000 years old is certainly alive today … whether they realize it or not, barring accidents and suicide, most people now 40 years or younger can expect to live for centuries.” The Methuselah Foundation is a non-profit organisation and on September 16, 2006, Peter Thiel, co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, announced a pledge of $3.5 million to it, "to support scientific research into the alleviation and eventual reversal of the debilities caused by aging" Of course many believe that humans shouldn’t live for centuries and anti-ageing crusaders are coming up against an increasingly influential alliance of bio conservatives who want to restrict research seeking to “unnaturally” prolong life. They oppose the idea of life extension and anti-ageing research on ethical, moral and ecological grounds.
Aubrey deGrey

   Bioethicist Daniel Callahan of the Garrison, New York-based Hastings Centre, agrees: “There is no known social good coming from the conquest of death.” I can only answer with the line from the late Donal McCann’s poem, “A man would be better off not dead.” Whatever about opinions in far-flung places what do we think on this island? What Irish person would want to live to one thousand (I suppose you’ll say, “Someone who was aged nine hundred and ninety nine”!) I think we should put it to the Irish people; have a referendum on it. And if we don’t get the desired result? Ah, sure we can have another one.

   Of course the question had been asked, “What would Methuselah himself think?” According to the Hebrew Bible ,Methuselah was Noah’s grandfather. He died, aged 969, seven days before his famous grandson set sail in the Ark. But, of course, you all know the story of the Great Flood or, as they say in Kerry, “a hoor of a shower.”

   Wexford-born genius, Walter O ‘Brien says, “If you’ve made enough money where you’re not worried about the rent or survival, you start asking yourself why you’re on this planet. Your point is to do the most good you can before you die – well I could do more good if I didn’t die.” I must say the man from Clonroche has a point

   Michael Rose, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of California, says, “I am working on immortality .Twenty years ago the idea of postponing aging, let alone reversing it, was weird and off-the-wall. Today there are good reasons for thinking it are fundamentally possible.”

   George Bernard Shaw said, “Death is neither natural or inevitable.” And that as human beings we were capable of extending our lifespan. He didn’t do too badly himself. He lived to 94.

   I am well over forty and Gobel, deGrey and Tony Clarke, the local undertaker, all agree that I won’t make the thousand.

   Have a Happy 2015 and if you are under 40, and if Messrs Gobel and de Grey are correct, you may by still around to wish your friends a Happy 2515

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Cookin' With Andrea

During the Holidays there are so many activities, not all of which are chosen but may be forced upon us as obligatory occasions. It is dificult to fullfill each with any degree of holiday cheer, but one tries, from school parties to home visits, preparing for guests which include Santa, as one tries to tolerate the unending bombardment from TV ads seeking to guide children's requests in their letters to that white-bearded, (not-at-all-totally-giving) visitor. 

No wonder thoughts turn to comfort food and those memories that certain dishes evoke. In this season's hustle/bustle, longing for a bit of nostalgic tastes, thoughts kept returning to one dish, so to share the goodness, here is:


My Grandmother's Beef Roast Soup

What you need:
  • 2-3 lb beef round roast
  • 8 carrots sliced
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 lb frozen green beans
  • 1/2 lb frozen corn
  • 6 or 7 potatoes, chopped to bite size
  • Minced garlic
  • Seasoned meat tendorizer
  • 2 Beef bouillon cubes
How to do it:
Place roast into a soup pan and cover with water.
Add in chopped onion, celery and meat tendorizor to taste.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and cook for about 2-3 hours or until falls apart.
Once meat is done:
Remove from heat
Then add carrots, green beans, corn, potatoes and bullion cubes.
Stir, return to a boil and cook for ten minutes.
Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 more minutes.
Salt and pepper to taste.

This is Perfect Comfort Food!

Happy New Year!

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    When I moved to China I soon noticed that millions of Chinese are huge fans of American television programs and movies. It has become a way for them to learn about our American culture and our English language.
    There are internet sites that stream American television series and films with meticulous Chinese subtitles.
    American television programs have become hugely popular for Chinese viewers and I myself enjoy accessing American films in English.
    In late November, though, millions of Chinese fans of our American entertainment found their ability to gain access, shutdown, by the Chinese Government. Most of China’s legitimate video streaming sites are now falling victim to harsh censorship and you will not find any western television series on China’s broadcasting networks. Even Satellite television is no longer immune to China’s over-the-top censorship of western programs which has become a huge disappointment to television viewers in China.
    The hit political thriller "House of Cards" was released on the video site Sohu in February of 2014 and many in China viewed it as a sign of liberalization in China's strictly-controlled media market. The show appeared uncensored despite unflattering story lines about China's ruling Communist elite. The show had over 103 million views and that’s more than double of Netflix’s 50 million global subscribers. As of late November, though, the show has been banned in China.
    The Chinese government is now banning shows without warning or explanation. In April many popular American programs were blocked on China’s popular streaming sites including the immensely popular show ‘The Big Bang Theory.’ China’s Broadcasting regulators have announced that it will only allow healthy content to be streamed on China’s sites.
    What is more disappointing for China’s fans of American entertainment is that they will have to wait for an entire season to air in the U.S. before the Chinese Broadcasting regulators will allow the shows to air on China’s internet sites. Many in China feel the released versions of their favorite shows will be highly edited and chopped up by the Chinese censors.
    It now seems that the Chinese government has become alarmed by the popularity of our American programs. The programs get millions of hits per hour and they have become more popular than the Chinese programs, especially, among China’s youth.
    A release of a new episode of a popular American program often attracts millions of views or downloads within hours of its release. The popularity of American programs has gotten so huge that officials in China are nervous about the impact it’s having in China. They are reacting as though the impact the western culture is having on their country’s youth could possibly become an ideological threat.
    It’s unfortunate how many people in China accept China’s censorship or should I say crackdown on what can or can’t be streamed on China’s controlled internet. People are wearily accepting it as being China’s "new normal" under an increasingly powerful and hardline President Xi Jinping.
    China’s growing image in the west is that anything associated with a [differing ideology] or the image China would like to portray to the world; is being squeezed, tightened, or limited and it’s being done out of fear that our western ideology will grow into a threat within China’s borders.
    Many of China’s educated youth, however, are discovering ways to get around the blocked content. They continually explore technical workarounds such as using VPN’s (Virtual Proxy Networks) to bypass China’s censorship.
    The Chinese Government views VPN’s as a growing threat because they are enabling internet users to get around China’s internet restrictions. The majority of China’s youth do not want to watch domestic shows, known for their over-the-top propaganda, and low production values.
    Most Americans living in China see this type of censorship as being absurd and many of the Chinese youth, on various social media sites, are expressing outrage and concern about it as well. One concern for the Chinese is that the Chinese Government will totally shut the door to American TV, and that would most certainly be a tragic thing for millions of Chinese viewers.
    The Chinese Government by dictating to its people on what it deems to be of entertainment value is in actuality restricting not only their people’s freedom but the creative spark of their country’s youth.
    I told my students here in Suzhou, China, that television programs in the U.S. get canceled all the time due to ratings. The American television viewers determine the show’s entertainment value or lack thereof and the shows longevity is determined by the U.S. viewership not the American Government.
    I pride myself on knowing that in America people can freely find their own sources of entertainment free from government interference. In America people will not stand by and let their freedoms be trampled upon because freedom is a major part of the American culture. Our freedom is what the Chinese people are desperately seeking and they are continually striving to emulate our culture. The Chinese people’s love for American entertainment is in actuality an embrace for our freedom of expression.
    An unfortunate reality for the Chinese people, though, seems to be that the more they seek to express themselves freely the more of an ideological threat they become for the Chinese Government.
    Hopefully, in the near future as technology continues to advance, the ability of the Chinese people to communicate instantly and freely will also advance. The Chinese Government will then have to realize that the will of the people seeking a Democratic system of Government will become more and more difficult for the Chinese Government to control.
    The cry for Democracy will be heard, loudly, not only in China but throughout the world and that is the Chinese Government’s greatest fear.
    But as I told my students’ only time will tell …….
    Always with love from Suzhou, China
    Thomas F O’Neill
    U.S. voice mail: (800) 272-6464
    China Cell: 011-86-15114565945
    Skype: thomas_f_oneill
    Other articles, short stories, and commentaries by Thomas F. O'Neill can be found on his award winning blog, Link:

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