Happy New Year (See below)
TODAY FROM THAILAND:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THAILAND:
1. Maggots are amusing only to those who consider them a culinary delight.
One morning I woke up in the midst of one of my periodic struggles with depression and despair wondering if I even was going to be able to get out of bed that day. I turned over and looked across the room to the blanket on the floor in the corner where LM slept. She was lying there staring up at the ceiling giggling.
Annoyed that in the midst of my existential crisis anyone could find anything amusing, I growled, “What’s so funny?” Besides who giggles at 6:30 in the morning?
In her fractured English she said, “In America you white and fat. In Thailand you black and small.”
“And, you find this amusing,” I responded?
She did not answer but got up, squatted by the small water heating appliance and began making that morning’s jolt of instant coffee.
I turned back and stared up at my section of the ceiling and contemplated the impenetrable barrier of intercultural humor while she continued to chuckle in the background.
I later got up and glanced in the mirror and noticed that indeed my belly, if not necessarily flat, seemed to protrude much less than when I was most recently in California. As for the blackness, I decided that she was referring to the current state of my soul.
As I sat at the table drinking my coffee (three heaping tablespoons in a small cup), I wondered if there was not something about that morning that was auspicious, but alas, its meaning escaped me.
2. Creation myth update #I
Recently I have been reading several books about genetic research that trace the descent of humanity since that moment when our ancestors first dropped from the trees and began walking upright through the veld until, through sheer persistence, we now are poised on the brink of becoming the only species to consciously choose to risk their own continued existence.
I have now read five books on the subject and several articles. The books, because the unraveling of the human genome that enabled much of the research only occurred within the last 10 years or so, all have been published within the past three years. Although they are “popularizations”, they are for the most part written by the scientists that actually worked on many of the breakthroughs that enabled the current view of human genesis to develop. One book, however, written by a journalist who has been covering the field for the past twenty years, is the best written of the lot.
According to the generally agreed upon calculations based upon the analysis of the Y chromosome in males today and something called mitochondria DNA in females, both of which strangely enough remain mostly unchanged throughout the generations, they estimate that the male and female ancestors of just about everyone outside of Africa today lived in East Africa (Ethiopia, Somalia etc) sometime between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago, give or take a few thousand years or so (Adam Y and Eve Mitochondria).
It is a fascinating story but one still full of inconsistencies and holes. For example, although I do not for one moment doubt that modern humans first arose in Africa and then spread throughout the world, a mystery surrounding indigenous Australians persists. The generally accepted theory is that about two dozen individuals from a tribe left Africa sometime around 45,000 years ago, most likely by crossing the Red Sea into what is now the country of Aden on the Southern tip of the Arabian peninsula. All of the rest of humanity outside of Africa (not including migrants from that continent, forced or otherwise, within the past 600 years) according to DNA analysis appears to be descended from this small but obviously determined and exceptionally fecund band.
At that time because of the various cold spells that sucked moisture from the air and the sea and deposited it in its crystalline form, ice, in great glaciers around the earth’s higher latitudes, the sea was often much lower, about 100 meters or so, and the climate considerably drier than it is now. The most accepted speculation is that the descendants of this band went walk-about along the sea bed thus exposed until, after what I am sure were many adventures, a group ended up in the Australian outback feasting on kangaroo meat and dingoes.
The problem is that some archeological and anthropological evidence puts the original native Australians in Australia at about 60,000 years ago. Now I figured out that early migration patterns move roughly about a kilometer a year. One kilometer would put the new settlement probably in sight of the old. I pictured one or two of the younger members of the band every year or so sitting around the campfire suddenly announcing they were tired of the same old songs and stories and were moving out down the road a bit. After they have a few children of their own, this little traditional domestic scene would play itself out again, until eventually one disgruntled adolescent stumbled over a platypus, decided he had gone far enough and began the first aboriginal song-line.
“…the labyrinth of invisible pathways which meander all over Australia and are known to Europeans as ‘Dreaming-tracks‘ or ‘Songlines’; to the Aboriginals as the ‘Footprints of the Ancestors’ or the ‘Way of the Law’.
Aboriginal Creation myths tell of the legendary totemic being who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the name of everything that crossed their path – birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes – and so singing the world into existence.””
Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines.
This 1 kilometer or so rate has been confirmed by several scientists and is consistent with every other migration during these initial expansions of humanity (for example, Tierra del Fuego is about 30,000 kilometers from the Red Sea by way of Alaska and the first humans arrived there about 15,000 years ago). So, if it is about 15,000 Kilometers from Ethiopia to Adelaide, the original Australians should have arrived there about 30,000 years ago, not 15,000 years before they even left Africa. That’s a lot of dream time to go walk-about in. Even were one to assume that the notoriously difficult dating methodology was off; to be off by 30,000 years is a pretty broken song-line. (More to come)
Blind Rainbow Serpent is old;
he does not want Law from the
Whirlwind Rainbow Serpent
Whirlwind Rainbow Serpent moves on;
he leaves the Blind Rainbow Serpent
B. NEWS STRAIGHT OR SLIGHTLY BENT:
Retirement: A few days ago I read that Thailand was among the top five places in the world to retire to. Panama was number one and Ecuador number two. About five years ago, I visited the town in Panama referred to in the article. It is located by the ocean and was chock full of new retirement developments. Unfortunately, I found it somewhat remote requiring the retiree to possess personal transportation options. Ecuador I have never visited but suspect that although the retirement communities are located in the mountains, they also are somewhat remote from the country’s major urban areas. Thailand, in addition to being less expensive than the other countries identified, has an abundance of public transportation (only the craziest’s farangs drive). Also, even when living at the sea-shore or in the mountains, you are usually close to an urban area, if actually not right in one. Finally Thailand is thankfully free from the retirement community blight, thereby forcing retirees to forgo living next door to other retired farangs and instead necessitate that they live cheek by jowl next to native Thais, who for the most part ignore their existence (but not their money).
A. Quantum Mechanics:
Just in case you wondered–
1.2 Basic axioms of quantum mechanics…
Axiom (States). The state of a quantum mechanical system is given by a vector in a complex vector space H with Hermitian inner product <·,·>…. *
(* Is this the quantum version of a happy face? Can a Hermitian inner product ever be happy?)
Note two very important differences with classical mechanical states:
The state space is always linear: a linear combination of states is also a state.
The state space is a complex vector space: these linear combinations can and do crucially involve complex numbers, in an inescapable way. In the classical case only real numbers appear, with complex numbers used only as an inessential calculational tool….
[T]he notation introduced by Dirac for vectors in the state space H: such a vector with a label ψ is denoted:|ψ⟩
Axiom (Observables). The observables of a quantum mechanical system are given by self-adjoint linear operators on H….
Axiom (Dynamics). There is a distinguished observable, the Hamiltonian ℋ. Time evolution of states |ψ(t)> ∈ H is given by the Schrodinger equation: d/dt(|ψ(t)⟩) = − (i/ħ)(ℋ|ψ(t)⟩)
The Hamiltonian observable ℋ will have a physical interpretation in terms of energy, and one may also want to specify some sort of positivity property on ℋ in order to assure the existence of a stable lowest energy state. ħ is a dimensional constant, the value of which depends on what units you use…. We will see that typically classical physics comes about in the limit where(energy scale)(time scale)/ħis large….
Principle (Measurements). (1) States where the value of an observable can be characterized by a well-defined number are the states that are eigenvectors for the corresponding self-adjoint operator. The value of the observable in such a state will be a real number, the eigenvalue of the operator. (2) Given an observable O and states |ψ1⟩ and |ψ2⟩ that are eigenvectors of O with eigenvalues λ1 and λ2 (i.e. O|ψ1⟩=λ1|ψ1⟩ and O|ψ2⟩=λ2|ψ2⟩), the complex linear combination state c1|ψ1⟩ + c2|ψ2⟩ may not have a well-defined value for the observable O. If one attempts to measure this observable, one will get either λ1 or λ2, with probabilities c1^2/(c1^2 + c2^2) and c2^2/(c1^2 + c2^2), respectively.
This principle is sometimes raised to the level of an axiom of the theory, but it is better to consider it as a phenomenological over-simplified description of what happens in typical experimental set-ups…
Peter Woit: Quantum Mechanics for Mathematicians http://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/QM/fall-course.pdf
(Now you know — or you don’t know. It is quantum mechanics after all. On the other hand, perhaps it is all a phenomenological over-simplified description of what happens. Wouldn’t that be a shame?)
(You know now that I think about it, God seems to be a simpler source for it all than quantum mechanics. Perhaps it is as Kurt Goedel implies, no matter how far you go or how deeply you think about it, sooner or later it all comes down to six of one or a half-dozen of the other.)
B. Fun in the labyrinth or giggles in the heart of darkness (Chapter four: At the airport with no place to go).
Having arrived at the airport and ignoring the insane itching all over my body from the flea bites, I rushed up to the fourth floor as I was directed to by the bemedaled and braided uniformed character back at the immigration office. I was still clutching the tiny slip of paper with my printed interview number on one side and the scribblings of that esteemed gentleman on the other: “Airport, fourth floor immigration” in both Thai and English.
Upon reaching the fourth floor, I recognized it as the departure floor with its row upon row of counters for ticketing and hundreds and hundreds of people busily engaged in going or processing the going or cleaning up after whoever was going actually went.
Knowing that in all this turmoil I could never figure out the location of the immigration office, I sought out an airport information desk. Found it. The woman behind the desk smiled at me. I explained the situation to her and waved around the piece of paper. Her smile disappeared and she motioned me to wait while she called someone. After speaking to whomever for a few minutes she put down the phone and told me to wait and then proceeded to completely ignore me. I recognized that particular Thai trait. To her I had suddenly become a non-entity; someone no longer quite human.
Perhaps a little explanation about Thai culture would help to understand her reaction. To a Thai you are not completely human if you are not Thai or are a lower social status (this is a trait not unknown among Americans also). Farangs, could be forgiven their non-Thai-ness only if they are of a superior class . A superior class in Thailand usually means, money. If you have it you are rewarded with a smile and an acknowledgement of potential humanness even as they try to separate you from the money. There were three reasons that disqualified me from being truly human in the eyes of the lady behind the information desk; 1) I was not Thai; 2) I was not dressed like I had money (I was in my Ocean’s Eleven outfit, flowered shirt, short pants and floppy hat) and; 3) If I had money, I would not be doing this myself but would have paid some Thai some of it to run around collecting the documents and paying the bribes on my behalf.
The phone rang. She picked it up, spoke for a moment and handed the receiver to me. I explained everything to the woman on the other end and waved the piece of paper around even if she could not see it. She said that I should hang up and wait until someone calls back. I did and waited. After awhile the phone rang and we repeated the process, at the end of which the voice at the other end directed me to be at door M-28 at precisely 20 minutes after the hour where someone will appear there to help me. After profusely thanking the voice, I hung up. I asked the information lady where door M-28 was located. She pointed vaguely across the departure area to the right and returned to ignoring me. I went off in search of door M-28 full of optimism that someone there would finally solve all my problems. It was only 10 after the hour. I, nevertheless, rushed to find door M-28 not wanting to risk being late. (To be continued)
C. Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:
In my last two posts, I have included: a series of holiday photographs, seasons greetings, my feeble attempts at holiday inspired wit, and clever observations of others about the festive season. With one or two exceptions all I received in return was silence. On Christmas Day, I sent out an email containing some of this same photographs and a simple holiday greeting. Almost everyone who received it responded.
From this I deduced that for the most part the appearance in ones email the words, “This and that…” produce in the recipient the irresistible urge to click on the delete button.
Having thought at length about the merits of the amusement generated by writing to myself versus the desperation exhibited in repeatedly shouting down into an empty well, I decided that it is simpler and less onerous for one to click on the delete icon than it would be for me to give up hoping that someone at the bottom of that particular well will respond to my pleas for recognition with the hoped for, “All-right, I hear you. Shut the fuck up already.”
So, no apology or regrets and only the slightest humiliation.
1. James Lee Burke:
“…Marry up, Screw down.”
2. Wisdom from Lake Woebegone:
Really now — As much as I like Keillor this is a bit over the top: in fact, golfers are totally oblivious to the fact that golf is nihilistic as well as sadistic; only pimps would wear brown shirts with pinstripes and; the rest of the world believes we hear well enough, it is just that we do not listen.
This is an interesting graphic. It shows assaults in the US by region. Over all, among the world’s advanced democracies, the US is by far the most violent. The Southern portion of the US is significantly more brutal than the rest of the nation [Note: In some urban areas in the US the rate of violence approaches and even exceeds that found in the South]. Firearms make up a major and sometimes majority component of the violent events. Interestingly enough, although in the rest of the country there is a sizable “hunting” contingent, it is in the exceptionally violent South where gun control efforts have had the least success. Not surprisingly, the death and injury rates from firearms in the South approach those experienced in the charnel house that is Mexico.
[ Note: Perhaps one of the best repositories for these type of peer-reviewed studies can be found at the Harvard School of Public Health [http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/index.html]] )
HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THAILAND
Note: those interested in back issues of This and that…. they can be found at: josephpetrillo.wordpress.com
- IHT Rendezvous: The Brewing Terror Threat in Thailand (rendezvous.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Genetic evidence suggests that, four millennia ago, a group of adventurous Indians landed in Australia (3quarksdaily.com)
- India shares a 4000-year-old link with Australia, study shows – Livemint (livemint.com)