This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. September 23, 2011


A Child Shall Lead Them: Recently a 13-year-old boy has discovered a means of making solar cells 20 to 50 percent more efficient by altering the normal design for solar arrays to that of a spiral as found in the usual arrangement of branches in trees.


My last view of Bangkok as I winged away to return to the US was of the gathering clouds of the monsoon rains that quickly obscured the city below. The adventures of Princess LuckyGirl, Thaksin the Terrible, Cheeky Cherlerm and Abhsit the Unready have already begun to fade from my consciousness, as The Little Masseuse, who accompanied me to the airport, faded from my sight as I passed through security and customs into the boarding area.

I arrived in San Francisco last night at about 8pm and was pickedup by my daughter-in-law Anne and my grandson Anthony. The flight was remarkably unremarkable. I spent the time that I was not asleepwatching the video of the first 12 episodes of The Game of Thrones that I enjoyed very much. Like many others, I have read the novels over the years and became convinced the author has not the slightest idea about how he was going to resolve the many plot lines that he unleashed in his novels, a number of which seemed to just peter out. Like many of the aficionados of the work I was furious at his refusal to complete the set, promising to deliver the concluding book than failing to do so year after year until coterminous with production of the first book in the HBO mini-series, he published an over 1000 page tome, that I have not yet read but which I understand still does not tie everything up. I assume he hopes the mini-series lasts a decade or more.

First Impressions:

Sleeping: Last night I enjoyed a good sleep, on a soft bed, covered with a warm blanket and the windows open. In Thailand I sleep on a rock hard bed (as do most Thais) without covers (usually starkers) since the temperature in BKK even during the coldest part of the night rarely drops below 80 degrees and even the AC, if it exists and is working, rarely drops the temperature below 77. If I set the AC below that temperature, the Little Masseuse starts shivering and covering herself up with multiple blankets. When I explained that Americans prefer to sleep with the temperature in the high 60’s and in SF at least, I prefer it even cooler, she shuddered.

Dressing: Putting on more clothing than a light shirt and shorts (which, except for questions of modesty, in BKK is still too much clothing for me at least and I suspect most Westerners) was delightful.

English: Bernal Heights, San Francisco

English: Bernal Heights, San Francisco (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Walking: Today I walked the over six miles from Bernal Heights where I am staying to Downtown and then on to lunch in North Beach. I tell you this, not because I am proud of walking that far, but because the last time I was in the city I could not conceive of walking that far in one trip. It is one of the benefits of my exercise regime of the past two months that I can now spend hours doing something that a sensible human being would take minutes to do by riding in a car or a bus. I would never walk that far in BKK, first because it is too hot and second because Thais believe walking from place to place is a sign of low-class.

Banking: One purpose of my trip this morning was to get to my bank and withdraw my money before the Franchise Tax Board (California’s tax storm troopers) took it to pay my back taxes. Last time I was in the US and travelled to Italy I decided not to remove the pension funds the day of their deposit but to wait until I had returned to Italy. Sure enough, the FTB looted my account. This was especially bad for me since they effectively took my savings for the year as well.

Hats: The second purpose was to buy a Panama hat to replace the one destroyed by the little masseuse. She had complained that my existing Panama had begun to look and smell bad, a criticism I could somewhat agree with. So, one day while I was out, she decided to wash it in the washing machine and then scrub it with strong soap and a brush. When I returned she presented me with a mat of very clean Ecuadorian straw. When I complained that not only was I fond of the hat but that it was expensive, she replied, “Expensive maybe, but not very strong.”

Anyway, I had purchased that hat on Union Street during my last visit to the City. As I walked past the shop, the hat spoke to me, so I just had to go in and buy it no matter its impact on my budget. This morning I searched again for the shop and after I found it I told the shop girl, that I had travelled all the way here from Asia to replace the hat that spoke to me. She smiled, took my money and hustled me quickly out the door.

beatniks in the summer of 1969

beatniks in the summer of 1969 (Photo credit: Martin Pulaski)

Lunch: After banking and before buying my hat I walked to North Beach to eat lunch. For those unfamiliar with SF, North Beach is the so-called Italian neighborhood, home of overpriced generally mediocre italian restaurants and the ghosts of Beatniks past (Kerouac, Cassidy, Burroughs et al.) Two of my favorite places were closed. Franchetti’s which not only serves some of the best Southern Italian cooking in the area, but the husband and wife who run it and do the cooking came from a little town near Avellino in the mountains outside of Naples, not more than a mile from the town from which my grandfather emigrated. Panta Rai is the other restaurant. Its food, while acceptable, is not so good. What I like about the place, however, is that when I lived in the neighborhood, I got to know the waiters and owners. And, the owner always hired beautiful young Russian student waitresses who flirted with me. Also, I like to eat at the sidewalk tables since, as any italian knows, dining al fresco improves the taste of the food. In addition, the location ofthe place is at the Green St. and Columbus Street intersection, the busiest in the neighborhood. Another reasons why italians enjoy eating al fresco is that it is much more interesting to watch the world go by while eating, than simply sitting in a room with other diners burying their faces in the food.

Anyway, unfortunately, I ended up eating mediocre Spaghetti Bolognese at a sidewalk table at another near-by establishment.




Delayed because the author is busy traveling.


a. I Didn’t Know That:

In the old days in Europe, people cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight, then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: ”Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot, nine days old”.

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over they would hang up their bacon, to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, “Bring home the bacon.” They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around talking and “chew the fat”.

b. What Adam Smith (Considered by Some as the “Father” of Capitalism) Really Said:

“Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always the masters. When the regulation, therefore, is in favor of the workmen, it is always just and equitable; but it is sometimes otherwise when in favor of the masters.”
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, [Book I, Chapter X, Part II, p. 164]

c. From God’s Mouth to your ears:

“But it is dominion that we are after. Not just a voice.

It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.

It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.

It is dominion we are after.

World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish. We must win the world with the power of the Gospel. And we must never settle for anything less.”
D. James Kennedy one of the theological progenitors of Rick Perry’s fundamentalist brain trust.
d. The Difference Between a Traditional Conservative and a Modern Conservative:

A traditional conservative believes that government is necessary but that its costs and efficiency are what matters. A modern conservative believes government is the problem.

e. Today’s Screed:

Some of you who have read these posts (and although I write these primarily for my amusement, I am pleased some of you do) have wondered about my fixation with religion in my posts over the past few months, often quoting unsympathetically from the Good Book and modern christian divines and at other times posting tidbits about the notorious personal lives of various religious leaders throughout the ages. One reader asked if I were a communist atheist. Communist I will leave for another time, atheist, hardly.

To me atheism and religion both represent the same syndrome, a fixation on what they do not and never can know. The organizing principle of most religions are based not on any morality but on exclusion (I’m saved but you’re not), except for something like Buddhism who’s organizing principle seems to be “I don’t give a shit what you believe because it doesn’t matter anyway.” Atheists, although generally a fiercely independent and curmudgeonly bunch, are equally affected, especially when they get together, as we experienced in, say, Soviet Russia where they practiced merely a less virulent form of intolerance.

No, what fascinates me is the penchant of these religious elites to blithely ignore the horror of their own history and their so-called sacred writings in their mad rush to control (Dominion, if you must) the fruits of society.

I find it frighteningly amusing to observe, certainly in the case of modern fundamental christianity, their leaders alliance with capitalism and its ideology (Atheists appear to mostly prefer communism). Their goal seems to be to expropriate the fruits of liberal democracy and capitalism without having to participate in the risks of the market, work hard, increase productivity and all the other requirements of a free enterprise economy. The purpose of the religious élite has always been to secure for themselves a by on what the rest of us have to do to survive.

(Have you noticed the tendency among most politicians to ape the religious élite more than their industrial padrones. They, especially those of a conservative bent, frantically seek to make money without working, while at the same time their voices thrash with emotion in anger at some of those whose labor affords them this option to live on the dole, who instead, taking the pols and religious élite as role models, attempt to get something for nothing.

I say send them all into the tomato or cotton fields to work alongside some illegal aliens and learn something about real life. Lets have our own “great leap forward,” except that instead of sending our intellectual elites out to enjoy the pleasures of rural and industrial toil we send out our conservative religious and political brethren (and perhaps a few of those classical economists who argue with a straight face, unemployment does not exist). It could not have any worse impact on our economy than that inflicted on it by our own brand of parasites; the politicians, bankers, fundamentalist preachers, lawyers and economists.)
f. Trolley Test iii:

Now let us look at the 5 woebegone people on the track facing the onslaught of the out of control trolley car.

Would your answer to the questions in the last to posts be the same if those five people were:
1. Illegal aliens, Mexicans fleeing from the border patrol.
2. Nuns
3. Children between the ages of 3 and 8 years of age.
4. Ghetto teenagers decked out in their colors or whatever else it is that the use today.
5. Your children or other members of your family.

White obviously this test cannot be validly used for scientific analysis lacking controls, priming and the other techniques required by this type of scientific study, I have used it to explore my own biases and morals. I have found in my case not only do my morals and ethics sadly range from situational to essentially nonexistent, but that without a doubt I would be so fearful and indecisive that I know that I would be unable to act relegating 5 people to their certain death.

But what about the default option, the one that says these five people are somewhere they should not be, whether through intent, mistake or ill-fortune they should not be there so what happens to them is not my fault? I should feel neither guilt for their misfortune nor take it upon myself to weigh their lives against any other. If I was the motorman and could not stop, it is their problem and not mine to play God.

On the other hand what about if they were my children or family members? What then?


“Now the Jedi are all but extinct.”
~ Obi-Wan Kenobe


Rick Perry patron of illegal immigration?

Or, do immigrants work harder than indigenous white Americans? In the early part of the last century, a group of Italian immigrants in Louisiana, in the largest mass hanging in American history, were lynched because, in part, they were willing to work harder for lower wages than native rednecks. In this case, hanging them raised the cost of labor for employers, sort of like raising the minimum wage.

Categories: July 2011 through September 2011 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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