Facial Recognition Software

Donna and I were at O’Hare Field last weekend – off to Florida for a few days. At the airport, I walked by thousands of people.  And I didn’t recognize a soul. One or two prompted a second glance – is that . . . . no.   And then – from a hundred feet away, I went – that’s JT.   And it was.   A golfing pal.   We chatted (we were on the same flight) and boarded.   We arrived at the West Palm Airport and again saw a veritable sea of people as we shuffled toward the exit.  All shapes, sizes and attire.  But not one person did I recognize.  All had the same standard equipment.  Face.  Nose.  Eyes. Ears.  Hair.  But all were different (some really different).    

After getting our luggage and walking outside, I spotted Bob and Carol driving up in a car.   I find it pretty awesome that we humans all have a facial recognition software hardwired into our brains.  We can pick out someone we haven’t seen in ten years in a crowd of thousands.  We can detect an old friend from across the room (“well look who’s here!”).  And these faces – and what we perceive to be an evolution of them – is reposed with clarity and order in the gray matter between our ears.   Some people change dramatically and become unrecognizable.  But most retain some of the remembered characteristics from years past.   I remember seeing Jon H. – an old friend from Boy Scout camp – at O’Hare.  I hadn’t seen him in years but I knew him in an instant.  It’s amazing how our brains work. 

Now where did I leave my keys. . . . .   

The Gutenberg Bible

No book has received the attention or acclaim as the Gutenberg Bible.  The first example of mass-produced printing using “movable type,” the Gutenberg Bible is surely the rarest and most unique example of the printing art.  The Gutenberg Bible was first produced by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450’s with the financial backing of Johann Fust.  The Bible was completed in an “edition” of approximately 180 two volume sets (Old Testament/New Testament) with perhaps 100 on vellum (no one is quite sure).  The great curiosity is that today only 48 are known.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutenberg_Bible

I first became interested in the Gutenberg Bible when I acquired the rare book room of the Boca Grande (FL) Library in 1984.  The one rarity they would not sell was a page from an original 42 line Gutenberg Bible (grrrrr).  While it is speculated that the remainder of Gutenberg’s Bibles have been destroyed over the centuries, I have my own theory.  I believe that somewhere – out there – there is a copy or two of the Gutenberg Bible.  Lying undiscovered, layered with dust, laced with cobwebs and swarming with dust mites.  My daughter has suggested that I take a sabbatical to hunt for this treasure much as I did in the ’80’s when I traveled to Spain and Portugal every few months on the hunt for manuscript rarities.  I may still do this. . . . 

The last Gutenberg Bible (Old Testament volume only) sold in 1987  for $5.5 million.  Today, one might fetch $30 million.  Individual leaves sell well into five figures.  If and when I find a Gutenberg Bible, I may then go on a quest – to seek out the yet undiscovered ships’ logs from that 1492 voyage of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. . . . .  


[A repeat from March 18, 2013 – and Manual still stands there – every day]

Every day when I walk to work, there is a gentleman standing in front of the Corner Bakery across from my building.  He sells Streetwise — a weekly publication.  Manuel uses crutches to walk but he stands guard outside the CB from early morning until about noon.    Rain or shine.  I often stop and exchange a few words with him and ask him how he’s doing.  And I buy a copy of Streetwise once a weekStreetwise sells for two dollars though my math is not always good.

Streetwise was started in Chicago in 1992 by Chicago lawyer Judd Lofchie   The mission of Streetwise is to assist Chicago area men and women, who are facing homelessness, to achieve personal stability by providing them with a combination of supportive social services and immediate access to gainful employment.  Streetwise vendors are usually trying to make a go of it.  They are not to be confused with panhandlers. 

In my post of July 11, 2012, I wrote about Henry Nouwen – the great religious/spiritual writer.  Henry Nouwen in his treatise Out of Solitude wrote “The temptation is that we use our expertise to keep a safe distance from that which really matters and forget that, in the long run, cure without care is more harmful than helpful.”   Streetwise seems to be on the right track — offering cure, the all-important care — and a strong dose of compassion.   

Setting a Bad Example

(A repeat from January 27, 2013)

My daughter Lauren was about 3 years old.   I remember the moment.  It was a sunny day.  We were standing on a bridge looking down on a bubbling stream.  Several rocks jutted out from the rushing water — just below the bridge.  

Now understand that when a guy is standing on a bridge, looking down, there is a genetic hardwiring that impulses him to do something.   Spit.  So, without thinking,  I did and hit a rock down below.  Lauren thought this was really neat.  Lauren giggled and she puckered her lips and began drooling royally.   Smiles.  🙂  Laughs.  🙂 More drool.   “Noooo Sweetheart.  This way — ‘pffft’.”  And I hit the rock again.   More drool.  Laughs.  Smiles.  More drool.  Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.  I guess it really is a guy thing. . . . . (sigh). . . . .

It’s Never Just a Ride

I frequently take taxis.  And I have concluded that most Chicago taxi drivers are from Pakistan, India, Nigeria and Ghana. A smaller number are from Somalia and Ethiopia. And there is a crop of young drivers who are from the Transylvania region of Romania. It is my custom whenever I get in a taxi to never allow it to be “just a ride.”  I turn my cab ride into a tutorial.  After all . . . . . why not?   

Upon closing the door, I’ll ask “how’s business”? That usually prompts a response.   If I can identify the driver’s name or accent, I offer a few words in their language.  With the Pakistanis, Indians and Somalis (who are nearly all Muslim), I start talking religion.  We discuss the Quran (I have a copy – with the Bible – by the bed) and the Pillars of Islam.   And when quoting surras, I have gotten long looks in the rear view mirror and an occasional free ride (“please Sir – this ride is on me“).  

We discuss the similarities of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. We are all children of Abraham (which makes us all cousins).  After all Jews and Christians are Ahl al-Kitab (“People of the Book“) for whom Mohammed instructs tolerance.  Then there is the Quran’s acknowledgment that all are born in innocence. This preamble usually opens the floodgate for comments. And I sit back and listen.  We share the lament that the vast majority of victims of Boko Haram, ISIS, the Taliban, al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda are Muslim.  Upon leaving the cab, I will offer Assalamu Alaikum (“peace be unto you“) and always receive back Wa-Alaikum Assalaam (“and peace unto you“). 

From the Horn of Africa people, I learn of the sectarian strife and territorial conflicts in Eritrea, Somalia, Ethipia and Somaliland.   From the Nigerians it is fascinating to hear of the tribal tensions among Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo (Ibo).  And from the Romanians, I learn of struggles with school and advancing careers.    For me, sitting in a taxi is neverjust a ride.”    

A Culture of Violence

On Saturday mornings when I was growing up, I could watch one hour of television.  I was not allowed to watch “Superman” (the old one with George Reeves) because my mother thought it was “too violent.”  So I usually picked “Mighty Mouse” and “Sky King.”  On Saturday nights, I sometimes watched “Have Gun Will Travel” and “Gunsmoke” with my father.   In the old Westerns, if a bad guy was shot, he’d fall down.  Narry a drop of blood.  No coughing.  No twitching.  No movement.  And no gloating.   

In 1969, Sam Peckinpah ended that age of innocence with his iconic “The Wild Bunch” in which blood flowed in rivers and the carnage was suffocating.  I remember seeing the movie and going “whoa!” 

Today we accept that young people can watch movies that glorify horror, death, murder and fear.  They play (often for hours on end) the most violent, brutal, cruel and bloody video games.   Killing.  Burning.  Defiling.  Bombing.  There is the scalding inhumanity of and bloodlust for ultimate fighting and the degrading and debasing reality television shows where manipulation and back-stabbing win.  Hollywood sinks lower.  And lower.  And discourse more hateful.  But – hey – don’t you dare try and impose your values on anyone.   There is no “right” or “wrong.”  Don’t even think of mentioning the word “God” in school or a public place.   And heaven help you if you bring a Bible to school.   The ACLU and secular “progressives” (who want to impose their distorted values on you) will sue you, condemn you and run you out of town under the guise of safeguarding liberty.   

When you see the horrific violence that we as a Society wreak upon ourselves, I have to wonder if this new casual acceptance of violence and debasement of traditional values — doesn’t invite it. . . . .

The 1000 Pound Man

(A repeat from October 20, 2013)

The heaviest person in the world weighs 1,076 pounds. He is about 5 feet 8 inches “tall.” The regulation National Hockey League goal is 6 feet by 4 feet.   You see where I’m going?? 

I have long felt that the Chicago Blackhawks could win the Stanley Cup every year by simply recruiting the largest people in the world to be the goalies.  You upholster them in padding, mask and protective gear, give them a stick and stuff them into the goal and let them take a nap. Every shot on goal would simply bounce off the goalie. Defense would become a thing of the past. The goalie would go into the history books and the Blackhawks would win the Stanley Cup every year.

The only “hitch” would be that other teams might start recruiting similarly-endowed goalies.  Games would typically end 0 to 0.  Shootouts in overtime could go on for years . . . .