Daily Archives: December 23, 2012

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 11 Pepe 0001 (October 28, 2012)

 

“Historically, Populism like most mass movements scours up both the worst and the best in a society as it scrapes across its depths. It is prompted by a deep mistrust of a community’s most powerful individuals and institutions who, its adherents believe have misused and mishandled the trust they had been granted; violated the social contract if you will. As the indefatigable realist Machiavelli pointed out, on the broad areas of public policy the general populace is almost always more reliable than the élite.”
Trenz Pruca

TODAY FROM THAILAND AMERICA:

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND CALIFORNIA:

I took the train from Sacramento to San Francisco. The tracks ran through Susuin Marsh. I recall a time in my life when I would have moved Heaven and Hell to prevent even one acre of a wetland from falling beneath the blade of a bulldozer. Of course, I fully understand and agree with the intellectual, economic and ethical reasons for their preservation. At times when great flocks of birds fly screeching above the vegetation or mucking about in the shallows or at certain times of the year when they are bathed in the colors of spring or autumn, one can almost breathe in the tendrils of poetic inspiration rising from their fetid depths.

On the other hand at times like this, when the skies are overcast and grey, the vegetation a sickly yellow-brown and the waters a dingy black, I can understand a man coming upon them and thinking, “what a waste.” He would, I suspect be likely to aspire to killing it in order to create something that would profit him more than basking in the glow someone else’s idea of aesthetic pleasure.

I would like to think most women coming upon the same marsh would dream instead about how the marsh itself could benefit them and their families without killing it first.

Being male, today those same marshes look like shit to me. I would not mind seeing them disappear beneath the antiseptic familiarity of a few Starbucks or MacDonald’s or the like. By the time we left the marshes behind and chugged into Richmond, however, I changed my mind and decided that, if I were not be the one making the money from the deal, I would prefer leaving the wetlands pretty much as they are.

At night, at my sister’s house in Berkeley, I began reading Sheldon’s newest novel The Terrorist Next Door. Its main character is a cop who, I suspect, to the disappointment of his jewish parents failed to become a doctor, lawyer or famous writer of mystery novels and ended up a Chicago homicide detective. He is teamed up with a black partner in a relationship reminiscent of that between Danny Glover and that famous anti-Semite Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapon series of movies.

There are three things I noticed and appreciated about the novel. First it is an incomparable travelogue of Chicago (one should read the book with a map of the city nearby). Second is what one learns about Michelle Obama, a girl from the neighborhood. Third, Sheldon in his own good-hearted and upbeat way puts his finger upon the essential flaw in the American character and gives you a glimpse of how good things can be without it and how truly and horribly destructive it really it.

For those of you familiar with and aficionados of the Siegel cannon, he began his writing career trying to write a novel about a young jewish attorney wrongfully accused of the murder of one of his partners, a fictional stand in for a partner of ours at the time whose removal both Sheldon and I agreed probably would immeasurably benefit humanity. Alas, in his writing of the initial drafts, his main character was overwhelmed by a fast talking Irish criminal lawyer and his estranged Chicana attorney wife. This resulted in the beloved character’s prominence being eclipsed. He disappeared entirely by the third novel in the series; even his name is now lost to memory.

My experience is similar to Sheldon’s. I attempted to write a mystery (Red Star) here in T&T. The main character, a stand for yours truly, managed to come across as a boring jerk. He was ultimately replaced in interest and importance by a musclebound bisexual female deputy sheriff from San Mateo County.

Detective David Gold is made of stronger stuff. I see and hope for Gold’s career to be at least as long and as distinguished as Kaminsky’s Abe Lieberman, also a Chicago detective and also a disappointment to his parents.

I suspect Sheldon always wanted to write a novel with Chicago, the city he grew up in, as a setting.

I have visited Chicago only a few times. Nevertheless, for me given my ethnic heritage, it has always been one of the sacred places; like Umberto’s Clam House in New York’s Little Italy. For over a decade the stain remained on the sidewalk where, having staggered out of the restaurant after being shot, Joey Gallo fell down and bled to death. Every year, I would make an annual pilgrimage there until time and the City’s acid laced rains erased every vestige of the epic event.

Chicago was the home of the sainted Scarface Al. Alas, I have never visited any of the pilgrimage sites there; such as SMC Cartage warehouse site of the massacre that occurred on the feast day of the saint of love. I sometime wonder what ever happened to many of the relics of my legendary ethnic heroes. Are they in a museum somewhere? Where now, for example, are the artifacts such as Anastasia’s barber chair, Mo Green’s massage table, St. Frank’s used condoms,

The mausoleum of Joe DiMaggio at Holy Cross Ce...

The mausoleum of Joe DiMaggio at Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, California. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deano’s shot glass and Mario Puzo‘s typewriter? And, while I am at it, where have you really gone Joe DiMaggio? And, why did Tony Benedetto, (nee Bennet), a New Yorker who chose to live in LA, really decide to leave his heart is SF?
PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

Just because an outcome is determined does not necessarily make it predictable.

The motion system of three or more stars acting on each other gravitationally is generically chaotic. Similarly no activity affected by the behavior of three or more human beings is predictable in the long-term. On the other hand, as it has been pointed out time and again, in the long-term we all end up dead. But, not before someone does something so unpredictable it makes it all seem almost worthwhile.

DAILY FACTOID:

Tony Bennet (nee Benedetto) is the founder of the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in NYC.

I bet you did not know something like that exists. What do the students actually learn there; the art of punching out hecklers, the aphrodisiacal benefits of Wheaties Breakfast of Champions, how to be successful singing off-key, the secret meaning of doobie doobie doo…?

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. Testosterone Chronicles:

• When looking at pictures of immoral acts, women’s judgments of severity correlate with higher levels of activation in emotion centers of the brain, suggesting concern for victims, whereas men show higher activation in areas that might involve deployment of principles
(Carla Harenski and collaborators).

What this seems to me to mean, if one can generalize it to a gender based approach to public policy, is:

“For men, first punish the guilty and for women, first protect the innocent.”

 

• When men watch wrongdoers getting punished, there is activation in reward centers of their brains, whereas women’s brains show activation in pain centers, suggesting that they feel empathy for suffering even when it is deserved
(Tania Singer and collaborators).

Does this mean that women are genetically predisposed to liberalism? No wonder God considers them the lesser sex.

• Numerous studies have found that women are more likely than men to reciprocate acts of kindness.
(reviewed by Rachel Croson and Uri Gneezy).

Screw you Rachel and Uri. I will have you know that men are kinder to their guns, beer and dogs than women are. We also think we are kind to (and admittedly, at times a little frightened by) large female breasts; vaginas, not so much.

In an analysis of the range of findings of the emotional differences between men and women in situations that could affect social decision-making (some of which I have included in precious posts), the authors opine that on the whole, women seem to be more empathetic and more focused on the collective good. This is broadly consistent with the suggestion by at least one of the researchers that women are more likely than men to base moral decision on a care orientation, whereas men gravitate more towards principles.

This is why I previously wrote:

“For at least 10,000 years or so virtually every political system, economic system and religion has been designed by men for men. There is no natural or divine law that requires any of these structures to be designed in the way that they have been. During those same 10,000 years every justification of those structures have been developed by men to benefit men.”
Trenz Pruca’s Journal.

Would it not now be appropriate for men to just step aside and turn the whole sorry mess we have made of things over to women? I doubt very much that they could do worse than we men have.

B. Electioneering:

I am getting sick of receiving the same email from several of my more right wing friends about a “good friend” of theirs from Texas who threatens to close down his business if Obama is reelected.

1. He is not your “good friend.”
2. He is not from Texas.
3. He will not close down his business if Obama is reelected.

TODAY’S QUOTES:

“The Gross National Product includes air pollution, and ambulances to clear our highways from carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. The Gross National Product includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear warheads.”
Robert Kennedy, 1968

“Sadly, everything Communism said about itself was a lie. Even more sadly,, everything Communism said about Capitalism was the truth.”
Unknown

TODAY’S CHART:

Eco-Regions-USA-Source-EPA
Map of North American Bio-regions. I am not sure about the significance of this chart except that it looks nice and whoever did it spent a lot of time at it.

 

Categories: October 2012 through December 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 8 Pepe 0001 (October 26, 2012)

TODAY FROM THAILAND AMERICA:

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN CALIFORNIA:

Thankfully my travels are over for a while, along with it my Travelogue. I hate Travelogues. I have found only two travel books that I have consider to be worth reading. The first is Tahir Shah‘s Sorcerer’s Apprentice in which Shah sets off to India, where he had never been before, in search of a magician of ill repute he had heard about as well as initiation into the brotherhood of Indian godmen. The second is A Short Walk Through the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby in which a pair of doofuses set off to go where no westerner had gone for almost one hundred years and lived to tell about it.

I have returned to El Dorado Hills where sameness rules and where excitement is generated by realizing ones gas gauge shows the tank is only 1/4 filled.

El Dorado Hills, The Hills of Gold, an apt name for the virtually worthless mounds of dirt that proved to be a goldmine for the developers and a place of unrelenting servitude to those who chose to live here; as tied to the mortgages on the land and houses on which they live as any serf was bound to the lord of the manor a few centuries ago

My mornings here in El Dorado Hills, are spent at Bella Bru Coffee Shop in a nearby shopping center, eating a bagel and café latte breakfast while huddled next to the only electrical outlet available to customers into which I can plug in my new Macbook Air computer. Around me, at the nearby tables, aging white men mumble about evils inflicted on the country by that black man in the White House while studiously avoiding mentioning his Mormon challenger.

I intend to stay here for about one month and leave to return to Thailand in mid November.

We won the custody suit. The petitioner, the Federal Policeman sworn to uphold the law, argued to the amusement of all in the courtroom at the time, that a law more than 20 years old should not be enforced.

With the victory, SWAC was free to fly away; which she did a few days later. And so, I returned to my nanny duties for the month. She has promised to return in time for my departure for Thailand. In the meantime Hayden’s four or so putative step-fathers seem to be coping ok.

Winter is coming. After perhaps the longest summer in my memory, with temperatures in the high 80’s and 90’s lasting through the third week in October, winter descended on El Dorado Hills with the suddenness of the explosion of a land mine. Amidst tornado warnings and intermittent rain squalls, dark black clouds banished the blue skies of summer to search for somewhere else to spread their cheer.

My daughter Jessica signed me up for Kindle and bought me two books. As with most new Kindle readers, I approached it feeling that I was a traitor to the world of printed books. I feared someone from the Strand Bookstore would find me out; much as adolescents masturbating in the bathroom fear being caught by their parents.

The books she bought me were the first two books of a planned trilogy by Justin Cronin. They are about vampires. I have always been terrorized by vampires. As a child, Wolfman, Frankenstein’s monster, ghosts or ghouls I could deal with with a certain level of aplomb, but Dracula terrorized me. At night I could not take the few steps from my house to the garbage cans to throw out the trash without fearing I would hear the sound of leather wings beating softly above me. I could not walk past a poster of that great Vamp, Bella Lugosi, with his cape and fake incisors without a shudder (come to think about it, I wonder if it wasn’t the lipstick and eye shadow that scared me).

The books themselves are about the end of the world as we know it, caused by a US military experiment gone awry. It is more about atmosphere and fatalism than character or plot. The author’s style is simple, almost child like. Yet, the world he paints has a depressing sense of completeness, if not believability.

As I grow older, I find that for about a half hour or so after reading something, my perceptions are subtly altered. For example, after reading A Cat in The Hat to Hayden, should I return to reading a prose description of something or another, for a while the words, in my mind fall into the cadences and rhythms of Dr. Seuss. After reading Cronin’s book, if I go outside and stand on the deck looking across the subdivision at the hill across the valley that circumscribes my view, I am depressingly convinced that the rest of the world has disappeared beneath ravening hordes of blind rapaciousness and fury. Come to think of it, perhaps that is not all that far from the truth.
B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:

The Mystery of Tutankhamen’s penis:

According to an article in New Scientist:

When I started investigating a news story about the possible cause of King Tutankhamen‘s death, I never expected to end up on the trail of his penis.

As I’ve reported today, a letter published in JAMA this week suggests that contrary to what was said earlier this year, the boy pharaoh did not die of a combination of an inherited bone disorder and a nasty case of malaria, but of a genetic disease called sickle-cell anemia.

This letter is just one of six comments that JAMA has published on the work, carried out by Egypt’s chief archaeologist Zahi Hawass and colleagues. Another one suggests that Tut and his relatives may have suffered from a hormonal disorder that is similar to Antley-Bixler syndrome. In this singularly interesting syndrome, a single genetic mutation causes elongated skulls, and over-production of oestrogen. Male sufferers can have distinctive physical features, including breasts and under-developed genitalia.

Irwin Braverman of Yale Medical School and Philip Mackowiak of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, believe that a variant of this syndrome could explain why artwork from the time depicts Tut and his relatives – in particular his father Akhenatun – as having feminine bodies, with hips and breasts, and particularly long heads.

Hawass dismisses the idea, in part because Tut’s penis is, as he puts it, “well-developed”. But on closer scrutiny of his paper, I spotted a note admitting that the penis in question is no longer attached to the king’s body.

I smelled a conspiracy. Could ancient Egyptian embalmers have replaced the royal member to hide the fact that their king’s manhood was somewhat lacking?

 Can one erect a sturdy theory on such flaccid evidence? Stay tuned for further developments.

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

The presidential election season is drawing to a close. I have a few observations.

1. Republicans believe that facts are unnecessary; only opinion matters. Democrats on the other hand believe facts count and cannot understand why no-one else does.

2. Republicans rarely ever defend Romney or whatever policy he supports in any particular week. They however constantly attack Obama but not on the facts (see #1 above). Democrats on the other hand list ad nauseum Obama’s accomplishments as well as the factual errors in the Romney/Ryan plan of the week. No-one cares.

3. Republicans are better at voter fraud than Democrats. Democrats point to studies and reports that Republicans have taken over the leadership in that area from the Democrats of a generation or so ago. Republicans ignore the studies and insist on blaming Acorn for everything including global warming. (See #1 and #2 above.)

4. Nothing matters in the election but Ohio anyway (see #1, #2, and #3 above).

DAILY FACTOID:

DURING THE 736 DAYS BEGINNING May 9, 2010, Harper Reed walked an average of 8,513 steps, reaching a high mark of 26,141 on September 13, 2010, and a low of 110 on April 21 of this year. (His excuse: broken pedometer.) On that day, Reed, age 34.33 as of this writing, sent one tweet, 55 below his average. Reed was traveling from Chicago to Colorado, where he grew up, where he has spent 39.5 percent of his time away from home since 2002, and where, in 1990, he attended his first concert (David Bowie, McNichols Arena, row HH, seat 8). He has read 558 books in three years—roughly 1,350 pages per week at a cost of 4 cents per page. On May 11, 2011, he slept 14.8 hours before waking up at precisely 2:47 p.m. It was a personal best. (Mother Jones)

Harper Reed records everything he does. Harper Reed is one of the Obama campaign’s technical advisers. He describes his campaign role as a “force multiplier.”

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

A. What “Occupy” is all about and what it really wants:

“Why would anyone be morally bound or wish to be morally bound to a civil society that does not share the goal that it’s citizens deserve a fair distribution of wealth, income and power? If the civil society is not dedicated to that end what else could it possibly be dedicated to? What is freedom, to those without wealth, income or power?”
Trenz Pruca

B. Electioneering:

“Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke. They stand four-square for the American home–but not for housing. They are strong for labor–but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights. They favor minimum wage–the smaller the minimum wage the better. They endorse educational opportunity for all–but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools. They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine–for people who can afford them. They consider electrical power a great blessing–but only when the private power companies get their rake-off. They think American standard of living is a fine thing–so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people. And they admire of Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.”
~Harry S. Truman

At least the Republican’s have not changed their principles in over 70 years…on the other hand it seems like the Democrats have not either.

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
Frederic Bastiat

Bastiat was a strong libertarian of his time (19th Century), not so much because he believed in the fictional invisible hand of the free market, but because he saw how the bourgeois class that was so supportive of the American and French revolutions immediately manipulated the democratic institutions they helped create for their own benefit. Socialism he believed did the same thing. He considered strong laws limiting what someone could do to someone else necessary in a free society but could not figure out how the to keep the institutions from becoming perverted. Alas he died before resolving that conundrum.

TODAY’S CHART:

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TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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Categories: October 2012 through December 2012 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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