Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Song - Come Thou Fount

Today I woke up at 6:30, got up, took a shower and felt nothing like going to work.  I had not had contact with my car pooler so I called him,  he told me that we weren't going to work today.   So because of this unexpected day off i decided to record some music.   Originally I was going to sing the song,  and I still probably will (though you will doubtfully never hear that version),  but to get a better feel of the song I played the general melody with my guitar (the lead portion),  it went well so I decided to keep it as is for the moment.  It is still rough in areas but tell me what you think about it.

(Click on the picture below to be redirected to listen to the song)

Friday, February 12, 2010

An Author, A Priest, and A God: The Making of Saint Valentine’s Day

In a few days it will be the dreaded Valentine’s Day, a day which is most feared and loathed by the world in general.  Ok well maybe not, but to some it is quite intimidating.  It is marked with large red counterfactual shaped hearts, mystical flying doves, boxes of cheap chocolate, cheesy long steamed roses, and a pleasant naked winged baby called cupid who flies around shooting people with his infatuating arrows of love.  It is a time to express love, a time to exchange cards of care,   a time to unveil your true feelings, maybe even a time to become more committed to your significant other.  
                Although all these things are very heart warming and pleasant to the eye it begs a few questions; where did these symbols come from?  A naked winged baby?  Hearts?  Roses? Doves?  How did these ludicrous ideas become a national holiday?  Furthermore who or what is a Valentine?  What is special about February the 14th? Why are we celebrating this day in the first place? All legitimate question to which over 90% of the people celebrating the holiday likely have to clue!  Today I am going to explore the origins and the symbols behind this festive holiday.

History

     Let us start with the name, which is officially “Saint Valentine’s Day”.  So we are remembering and honouring Saint Valentine.  Now comes a shocker, this holiday (Holyday) patronizes two Catholic Saint Valentines!
              
Saints Valentine of Rome

                Saint Valentine of Rome was a priest of Rome (surprise!), and even possibly a bishop.  He was known as a physician.  The sources for Saint Valentine of Rome are sparse and uncertain, but it is believed that during the reign of Emperor Claudius II Valentine aided to-be martyrs which were in prison.  Unfortunately for Valentine he was found and taken before Emperor Claudius II, who attempted to make Valentine deny his faith in Jesus Christ.  This being ineffective Valentine was then beaten and imprisoned.  In lore it is said that while imprisoned he converted the jailer by restoring sight to the jailer’s blind daughter, who then he fell in love with.  Valentine was in due time further beaten and finally beheaded on February 14, 270 C.E. An interesting postscript found in lore is that on the eve of Valentines death, he penned a farewell note to the jailer's daughter, signing it, "From your Valentine".
Saint Valentine was buried in Rome on the Flaminian Way. His relics are at the Church of Saint Praxed in Rome, and at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.  The date of his Sainthood is unknown.


Saints Valentine of Terni

                Saint Valentine of Terni was born around 175 C.E. at Terni, Italy.  He was Ordained by Saint Felician of Foligno and later consecrated as the Bishop of Terni, Italy by Pope Victor I around C.E. 197.  Saint Valentine of Terni was a noted evangelist, a miracle worker, and a healer.  During the reign of Emperor Aurelian he was imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded by order of the prefect Placid Furius during the persecution of Aurelius. He was murdered in secret and at night on the Via Flaminia between Rome and Terni to avoid riots and revenge by the people of Terni. He is also buried on the Via Flaminia, but in a different location than Valentine of Rome. His relics are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni.  Some scholars believe that he and Saint Valentine of Rome are the same person.
             

   Older Traditions
                In older tradition in Rome, or possible pre-Rome, there is a holiday called Lupercalia, observed in Rome on February 13 through 15.  Lupercalia was an archaic rite connected to fertility.  This festival was in congruence with the more general Roman Festival of Juno Februa, was also celebrated on February 13 through 14.

Valentinian Evolution
In 496 Pope Gelasius I (C.E. 492-496) abolished Lupercalia in what is commonly believed to be the attempt to Christianize this pagan holiday, and in its place they were to celebrate Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in honour of the Valentine Saints and all “those "... whose names are justly reverenced among men, but whose acts are known only to God,"”  This is in similar nature to most holidays,  this being the Christianizing of Paganism, or as sometimes I think of it, the Paganising of Christendom. 
In these forefathers of today’s Valentine’s Day there was almost no romantic association with the cultural or the historical events,   not until much later was these sentiments graphed into the tradition.  The first claims of romantic contamination commonly arise in the late 13th century and the early 14th century where they start cropping up in westerns Europe’s poetry associating Saint Valentine with love, and birds.
Conversely many associate the romantic intrusion into the holiday as early as the 1300’s claiming the author as Geoffrey Chaucer and the medium being his poem “Parlement of Foules” (1382).  This theory is based on a singular line speaking of a “Volantynys day”which many now believe is not in association with what we know now as Valentine’s Day, but rather a Bishop Valentine that died around 307 C.E. some years after the before mentioned Valentines.


The Valentine Card and the EXPLOSION of Love
In the late 17th century in England Valentine’s day progressed to sending poetry and cards to those your loved ones, there started to be published books of love poetry specifically designed to help those woo their maidens even if they themselves were not great poets or orators.  In the early 18th century this became so popular that Valentine cards would be assembled in factories.  During the 18th century, Valentine’s day became a more commercial, and as such, a more established holiday, particularly in Britain.    Britain was the breading pool for modern Valentine’s Day, soon gifts were being delivered to their wooed victims; chocolate, flowers, and fancy laced letters to show their love.  As one observed in 1849, "Saint Valentine's Day... is becoming, nay it has become, a national holyday.”.  Like always, the United States of America one step behind jumped on the Valentine card frenzy around 1847 starting in Massachusetts.  Within a few years the whole civilized culture was celebrating Valentine’s Day as if they had always been so, and just as quickly forgot why they were doing it.

Symbols
Cupid
Cupid (known to the Greeks as Eros or Amor both which means ‘love’) originates as Roman mythology.  Cupids name literally means ‘desire’, which epitomized his role in both Greek and Roman mythology wherein he is the God of sexuality and beauty. Cupid is usually portrayed as a nude winged youth, or child.  He was known to cause people to fall in love by shooting (or throwing) his magical arrows at them
 Cupid is the son of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty.  Venus was jealous that a mortal princess called Psyche (meaning soul) was infatuating the peoples mind so much that they were forgetting to worship her.  Venus sent her son to put a stop to this, but cupid soon fell in love and by and by married Psyche who became a Goddess as well.
 The connection to this mythological creature to Valentine’s Day is simply by natural Association.  His character resonates so well with the commercial portrayals of Valentine’s Day that he has come to be associated with it, the time when this association took place is unknown to me. 


Valentines' Day Cards
As seen and explained in the above “Valentinian Evolution” and “The Valentine Card and the EXPLOSION of Love`` portions, Valentine’s Day cards originated in England during the popularization of Valentine’s Day.


Roses
Roses have always been the subject of great importance and a certain hit with the lovers all around the world. Roses symbolize love, compassion, peace, friendship and romance. They are available in various colors, each in turn signifying a different thing. Red for passion, Yellow for friendship and White stands for true love and devotion.


Hearts
The Heart in literature and in art does not so much have to do with your biology as it does your passions.  It is a symbol of who you consciously are. Hearts are also given to symbolize ones love being given exclusively to another or to give one's existence to another. Hearts pierced with arrow forms the most important symbol of Valentine’s Day and can have various meaning from sexual fulfilment, to the sting of love.

                Birds, Love Birds, and Doves


            Birds have long been a symbol of souls, they represent the dreams of mankind,  a fascination that man has.  The flight which is so effortless to these winged animals eludes and allures us,  we desire it,  as an escape, as a freedom, Birds represent natural, spiritual and free man .

Lovebirds are social and affectionate small parrots. Often used in English they are so named for their affectionate attitude and mannerisms, they groom each others and date for life (up to 15 years); such dedication is hoped for inhumanity and is a symbol of commitment and affection for their human counterparts. Lovebirds were also commonly used in English weddings where their symbolism was further established.

            An interesting belief about birds and Valentine’s Day is the belief that birds find their mates on Valentine’s Day.  This is believed to have stemmed from the writings Geoffrey Chaucer’s “Parlement of Foules” (1382) which states:

“For this was on seynt Volantynys dayWhan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.”["For this was sent on Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."]

Ironically many now believe that the Valentine’s day that Chaucer referred to was not February 14th, nor in celebration of the afore mentioned Valentines but rather a different Valentine altogether.

 Doves signify purity, peace, humility, and wholesomeness.
Alternatively swans are also a common sign for affection in the bird species.




                 Love Knots
     There is a custom of sending love knots, which custom originally was from Arabic traditions wherein young Muslim Women in traditional and orthodox households displayed their love through the giving of love knots. They would send their messages to their beloved one's woven in the knots of a carpet. 
Later, the Dutch sailors adapted this and tied ``love knots`` to remind them of loved ones back home.  Thus came the Celtic and the Dutch Love knots. 
Knots in general represent fastening of two ends, implicitly we can see that a knot can represent a relationship where two people are intertwined to become stronger.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New Song: Halcyon

I made a new song today.  I had the day off so I decided that I should make a new one.  This originally was only  going to be a melloish intro to the song, but when it can down to it, when it was time to add some crunch onto it, it just didn't fit, and I didn't feel like it was the mood I was feeling from the song.  I made it using my Peavey Raptor II plus, Yamaha Bass, and GNX4 Comments?

P.S. Just for your information the audio in this video is slightly modified from the video that I posted on Facebook, though I doubt anyone else but myself could tell.


Or just click the picture to be redirected to YouTube

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Best Education on Earth - Part I: The PISA Test

So what country has the best education? What country should we look to while examining the educational standards of our perspective countries?
The following table is the ranked results of a PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) survey. The surveys purpose was to measure the scholastic performance of various countries, as well as their practical applications. The test was administered by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) to 15 year olds around the globe in most of the educated countries. The only major exception to this would be mainland China who did not take the test (though Hong Kong did).
Ranking
Mathematics
Science
Reading
1
Taiwan
Finland
South Korea
2
Finland
Hong Kong
Finland
3
Hong Kong
Canada
Hong Kong
4
South Korea
Taiwan
Canada
5
Netherlands
Estonia
New Zealand
6
Switzerland
Japan
Ireland
7
Canada
New Zealand
Australia
8
Macau
Australia
Liechtenstein
9
Liechtenstein
Netherlands
Poland
10
Japan
Liechtenstein
Sweden
11
New Zealand
South Korea
Netherlands
12
Belgium
Slovenia
Belgium
13
Australia
Germany
Estonia
14
Estonia
United Kingdom
Switzerland
15
Denmark
Czech Republic
Japan
16
Czech Republic
Switzerland
Taiwan
17
Iceland
Macau
United Kingdom
18
Austria
Austria
Germany
19
Slovenia
Belgium
Denmark
20
Germany
Ireland
Slovenia
Now who is conspicuously absent from the scores? I have already told you that the only significant absentee was mainland China which statement still stands. Our world leader in economics though, seems to have not made an entrance yet; perhaps it is due to the fact that their scores were too low to merit a ranking? No! That can`t be... There must be a mistake... There is no mistake in the test... We must accept it, the United States of America failed to merit a ranking in either mathematics or science. The only consolation is that we will never know how the American children would have done on the reading portion of the survey as the United States children were so confused about a misprint in the test that it and invalidated the results of the test.
If we arrange theses results to see which country has the best overall education according to the ranks (not the scores), we get the following.
Ranking
Country
Sum of Rankings
1
Finland
5
2
Hong Kong
8
3
Canada
14
4
South Korea
16
5
Taiwan
21
6
New Zealand
23
7
Netherlands
25
8
Liechtenstein
27
9
Australia
28
10
Japan
31
11
Estonia
32
12
Switzerland
36
13
Belgium
43
14
Slovenia
51
15
Germany
51
16
Ireland
45+
17
Macau
47+
18
Poland
49+
19
Sweden
50+
20
Czech Republic
51+
21
United Kingdom
25+
22
Denmark
54+
23
Austria
56+
24
Iceland
57+
*The Countries in the red are a lowest estimate. Meaning that they did not qualify in all three categories so I (not wanting to go the extra mile) decided instead of trying to figure out what exactly their ranking is, I would just assume the best possible and then put a plus sign next to it. This is why they are ranked lower than the countries in the black, as although it is hopeful and merciful to assume this, it is also unrealistic.

So there you have it! There is a good representation from Asia there, also from Europe. Some notable surprises to me where in the USA, in Russia(see Article from Moscow News), Germany and the UK, all of who got lower marks then I expected, and honestly I was surprised about Canada ranking so high among the world. Interesting....
Although this graph does not rate the entire education system or have explicit outset to do so, it is interesting to see how the countries children have absorbed these three testes areas.
Comments? Arguments? Leave a message I’ve spent way too much time making graphs and fooling with numbers.
P.S. I have figured out why Canada has such high numbers.... Canada is 11% Asian!




- - - - - - - - - - - - - March 22, 2010 Update - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I just came across a Wikipedia article on this PISA test. The test was designed to test all the catagories for all the countried ever 3 years but for each test period they would particularity focus on one of the three categories. On the year 2000 they preformed their first test with their focus on reading, in 2003 on math, in 2006 on science. It takes over a year to mark these tests. In 2009 they were to test reading again thus making a four year cycle.

Here is the graph of the focus years for the perceptive categories as provided by Wikipedia.




200020032006
Reading literacyMathematicsScienc
1. Finland546
2. Canada534
3. New Zealand529
4. Australia528
5. Ireland527
6. South Korea525
7. United Kingdom523
8. Japan522
9. Sweden516
10. Austria507
11. Belgium507
12. Iceland507
13. Norway505
14. France505
15. United States504
16. Denmark497
17. Switzerland494
18. Spain493
19. Czech Republic492
20. Italy487
21. Germany484
22. Hungary480
23. Poland479
24. Greece474
25. Portugal470
26. Luxembourg441
27. Mexico422
1. Finland544
2. South Korea542
3. Netherlands538
4. Japan534
5. Canada532
6. Belgium529
7. Switzerland527
8. Australia524
9. New Zealand523
10. Czech Republic516
11. Iceland515
12. Denmark514
13. France511
14. Sweden503
15. Austria506
16. Germany503
17. Ireland503
18. Slovakia498
19. Norway495
20. Luxembourg493
21. Poland490
22. Hungary490
23. Spain485
24. United States483
25. Italy466
26. Portugal466
27. Greece445
28. Turkey423
29. Mexico385
1. Finland563
2. Canada534
3. Japan531
4. New Zealand530
5. Australia527
6. Netherlands525
7. South Korea522
8. Germany516
9. United Kingdom515
10. Czech Republic513
11. Switzerland512
12. Austria511
13. Belgium510
14. Ireland508
15. Hungary504
16. Sweden503
17. Poland498
18. Denmark496
19. France495
20. Iceland491
21. United States489
22. Slovakia488
23. Spain488
24. Norway487
25. Luxembourg486
26. Italy475
27. Portugal474
28. Greece473
29. Turkey424
30. Mexico410


- - - - - - - - - - - - - April 6, 2010 Update - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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