April through June 2020

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 23 Capt. Coast 0009. (May 9, 2020)

 

“By the logic of the free-market theorists, shouldn’t religious exemptions from U.S. taxes—state subsidy by other means—breed complacency and laziness among the leaders of every American church?”
Andersen, Kurt. Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History (p. 292). Random House Publishing Group.

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, George.

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES DURING THE PANDEMIC:

 

 

I returned from my one-day trip to UCSF in the Big Endive by the Bay for my immunotherapy infusion. As soon I entered the house from the garage and placed my hat in the closet, the front door opened and Naida entered with the dog in tow. They obviously were returning from a walk. She was holding in one hand something that looked like weeds —sprays of tiny white flowers radiating from a pale green stalk. “Welcome back,” she exclaimed. “Guess what I have?”

“It looks like hemlock.”

“No,” she laughed. “They are elderberry flowers. I picked them from the bushes by the river. The early California pioneers used to dip them in pancake batter and fry them. It is supposed to be very good.” And so, she flounced off into the kitchen and whipped up two elderberry pancakes. They were very tasty.

Two of three days after I wrote the entry above and not related to it, I felt sick. I checked for coronavirus symptoms — no fever, cough, or difficulty breathing but slight chills, headache, upset stomach, and fairly intense fatigue. I spent most of the day in bed. It could be simply a more severe than usual reaction to my immunotherapy infusion due to the doubling of the dosage at my last appointment. Or, it could be just another episode of my hypochondria. Time will tell.

I got up in the late afternoon still feeling terrible — sat in my recliner, ate a lunch of bread pudding with raisins (I’m not kidding), and instead of returning to bed, I watched “Singing in the Rain” for the umpteenth time. Still great.

I was still feeling bad, so I prepared to go back up to bed. The next movie on TCM, however, was Francis the Talking Mule starring Donald O’Connor. So, I decided to stay up and see it. Wouldn’t you?

After the movie, I was feeling a bit better but I felt as though I had a fever. I asked Naida to find the thermometer from where she left it so that I could take my temperature. She found it. Unfortunately, we had no alcohol with which to clean it so she took the bottle of Limoncello I had just purchased and plunged the thermometer into it. I had not known how pleasant taking one’s temperature could be (Of course, it was under my tongue.) Finding myself happier after sucking on a Limoncello flavored thermometer, I stayed up and watched “Fallen Angel” a noir film from 1945 directed by Otto Preminger and starring Dana Andrews, Linda Darnell, and Alice Faye. Good movie.

The next morning, I woke up feeling much better (the Limoncello?) I decided to visit HRM, But before I go, a few words about hypochondria.

 

B. A FEW WORDS ABOUT HYPOCHONDRIA:

 

 

I often make fun of my relatively slight case of hypochondria, but for many, it may be a rather serious mental health disorder. Being a hypochondriac and experiencing health anxiety can be debilitating. It can severely affect the lives of the people who suffer from it. “A person with health anxiety often may have gone through a serious illness and fear that their bad experience may be repeated. They may be going through major life stress or have had a serious illness during childhood.” (As a child, I had repeated hospitalizations for pneumonia — virtually every winter from when I was about 7 until I was 14).

To those suffering severe episodes of this disorder, I apologize for making light of it. Nevertheless, according to the literature hypochondriac symptoms may include:

· Regularly checking oneself for any sign of illness.

(I do this, especially at night when I am trying to get to sleep.)

· Fearing that anything from a runny nose to a gurgle in their gut is the sign of a serious illness.

(Me too — a gurgling gut also keeps me awake. Doesn’t it do that to you too?)

· Making frequent visits to their doctor.

(I do. I love going to the doctor. Lots of shiny things to look at and also they, the doctors and nurses, really do try to make you believe they care.)

· Conversely, avoiding the doctor due to fear that the doctor will find they have a dreaded disease or serious illness.

(Not me. As I said, I love doctor visits.)

· Talking excessively about my health.

(Just read my previous T&T posts — I manage to mention the state of my health in just about every post.)

· Spending a lot of time online, researching their symptoms.

(I do this. Where else would I find the statements in italics I have included here?)

· May focus on just one thing: a certain disease (example: cancer) or a certain body part (example: the lungs if they cough). Or, they may fear any disease or might become focused on a trending disease (example: during flu season, they may be convinced that a sniffle means they’re coming down with the flu).

(My focus over the years may change, but I generally concentrate on one imagined disease at a time — I am not an Omni-hypochondriac).

· Are unconvinced that their negative medical tests are correct, then worry that they have something undiagnosed and that no one will be able to find it and cure them.

(All the time. Just today I read in the report of my most recent CT scan:

Redemonstration of tubular low density 10 mm structure in the right lower lobe tracks along the bronchovascular bundle unchanged over multiple prior studies. Previously seen groundglass nodule in the left lower lobe measuring 5 mm now appears to be entirely solid rather than groundglass (series 2, image 196).

 

If groundglass in your lung doesn’t concern you, nothing will. What frightens me most, however, is that I cannot understand what they are talking about. I mean, solid rather than goundglass should be a good thing, no?)

· Avoiding people or places they fear may cause them to get sick.

(I do. I even cross the street when walking past a hospital.)

On the other hand, the opposite of hypochondria is anosognosia a symptom of severe mental illness experienced by some that impairs a person’s ability to understand and perceive his or her illness. Now that is serious. Don’t be an anosogniac.

 

 

C. OFF TO THE GOLDEN HILLS:

 

 

 

Anyway, I drove off into the Golden Hills in the Mitsubishi to visit HRM. He and Jake washed the car and then, as teenage boys do, put their heads under the hood and practiced car-talk for a while.
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HRM and I also stopped by the little lake where I used to watch HRM fishing when he was younger. We reminisced about this and other things as we strolled around the ponds. I one point he said, “You know something? I never caught anything.”

We also watched some geese and ducks shepherd their goslings and ducklings on the grass by the water.
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Back at HRM’s house, while the teens were occupied with the Mitsubishi, I took the time to examine the new landscaping they were all busily installing this last week or two.

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D. BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

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Another view of the Enchanted Forest.

 
After my return to the house in the Enchanted Forest, Naida spent much of the evening entertaining me with stories about the two goats she owned when she and Bill lived on the ranch by the Cosumnes River. Her original intention was to have the goats eat the unwanted invasive vegetation in the horse pastures. In fact, they named them Black and Decker because they were supposed to remove the weeds. Although it did not work out quite as she planned, and, if her stories are to be believed, they were more trouble than helpful, she nevertheless loved the goats until they passed away leaving her sad but with a lot of funny stories. One of them has her chasing the escaped Decker across the golf course fairways that bordered the ranch and urging the surprised golfers to join her in the pursuit.

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Naida with Black — Decker hides in the shadows.

 

 
A day or so later, Naida and I decided to take the dog and spend the afternoon on the banks of the American River. The river is separated from the Enchanted Forest where we live by a fifty-foot high levee. In the bottomland between the levee and the river, bike and hiking trails snake through cottonwood, black oak, and elderberry woodlands. Arriving at the edge of the river, we put down a yoga mat to sit on, watched some people fishing from boats, and eventually fell asleep.
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This week seems longer than most. In addition to my frequent naps, and watching the political punditry and old movies on TV, I spend the afternoons dozing in my chair in the garden, like an old man waiting for sundown. Perhaps tomorrow I will do something odd and unusual, perhaps even a new adventure, but right now I wonder why I would want to. At my age, naps and afternoons dozing in the sun seems to be as good as it gets.

I almost forgot, we still have our evening walks through the Enchanted Forest. They are nice too.

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Naida and Boo-boo the Barking Dog on one of the paths near our home in the Enchanted Forest.

 

 
Today the sameness of the day was broken with a FaceTime call with Peter and Barrie. There was a lot of talk about dogs, music, food (marzipan), and toilet paper.

One day. I dove back into the Golden Hills to do a little shopping. I also picked up some medicines and visited HRM. The crew at Dick’s house remains in their landscaping frenzy. SWAC has Dick, Adrian, Bob the Handyman and HRM working every day for the past week or so buying plants and trees (hundreds) at the nursery, hauling them home, planting them, installing the drip irrigation, transporting rocks and masonry and building the paths, terraces, and rock gardens. It all seems a bit mad.
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Hayden by one of the several new rock gardens.

 
I do not recall much of the past few days because I have felt, ill, listless, and irritable in the 90-degree heat and have taken to spending much of my time in bed — what else is new.

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MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

 

 
I began writing, “This and that…” 10 years ago when I moved from the US to Thailand. It was not called “This and that from re Thai r ment” then. That happened almost a year later when my good friend Irwin Schatzman suggested I name it that. Irwin also suggested “3Th,” but I no longer remember what that means. About eight years ago, my beloved “cuzin” died, a victim of cancer.

I moved into a house in Chiang Mai I built but no longer owned in order to take care of Hayden who was four at the time.

My original purpose in writing what became T&T was to make it more efficient to keep in touch with my friends and relatives back in the US by writing a single email rather than separate ones to each. I also wanted to begin keeping a journal about my exile. I had tried to keep a diary many times in my past but would soon lose my resolve and abandon it. For a while, I kept the journal separate from my letter but I thought by combining my journal with that letter I would feel obligated to keep on writing it and it also would be more efficient and less work for me.

Here is my first post from Chiang Mai and the associated journal:

My first full day in Chiang Mai. The house that I had built, for those of you who have seen it, is in pretty good shape. The landscaping has grown in well.

This morning I walked Hayden to school. As befits the dawdling scholar, he took absolutely the longest way possible, stopping to examine every hole in the ground, viewing from both sides each muddy mosquito-infested canal that passed under the road and insisting on discussing the wonders of each thing he investigated.

Joe…

PS: Below are photographs of the grounds of the house and of Hayden and I clowning around. I apologize for the mawkishness of this e-mail. I am composing it at the local coffee shop that I realize may, in part, circumscribe my life here.

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My home in Chiang Mai Thailand.
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Haden and I horsing around.
——————————————————————-

FROM MY JOURNAL: January 19, 2010

Walked Hayden to school this morning. He said he knew the way since I did not. It was a boy’s map, full of turns to visit points of interest (friends houses and residences of selected and named canines). We also explored any interesting holes in the ground and had several discussions about my walking stick among other similarly engaging and important topics. We stopped at all of the muddy weed-choked and mosquito-infested canals that crossed beneath the road on which we walked, first to one side and then the other searching for ways to get down to the water (me of course counseling against it).

A car stopped driven by a woman who I believe lives in the house across the road from ours. She offered us a ride and over Hayden’s objection, I accepted.

At Haden’s school, “Sunshine Kindergarten” we were met at the gate by an attractive young Thai woman. And of course, even in my dotage, I preened.

The school contains the main building and several small attractive adobe like outbuildings.

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The entrance to “Sunshine Kindergarten.”

 
After seeing him off, I searched for the cafe in order to have a latte. At first, I went in the wrong direction but retraced my steps and found it. I ordered a cafe latte and an orange juice and played with my computer answering some emails and trying to set up my calendar.

I left the cafe. As I walked towards home I passed a group of buildings that I recalled were either a school or the subdivision office but were now mostly derelict. One building in good repair contained a restaurant. I went in and ordered pad thai and an iced tea. Mediocre. The other customers were Europeans of whom there is a lot living in the subdivision. I left and slowly walked home.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

 

A. On Top: A Few Brief and at Times Amusing Essays for Understanding Some Basic Science with Which to While-Away Your Time During Self-Confinement (continued) Part IV.

 

 

Part IV

 

ENTROPY, THERMODYNAMICS, AND THE UNIVERSE.

 

There is another puzzle associated with entropy in our universe.

Astronomical observations do not fit well with the Second Law. On cosmological scales, our universe seems to have become more complex with the passage of time, not less complex. The matter in the universe started out in the Big Bang with a very smooth distribution and has become more and more clumpy – more and more complex – with the passage of time. The entropy of the universe seems to have decreased considerably, not increased. Matter is now segregated on a huge range of scales: into rocks, asteroids, planets, stars, galaxies, galactic clusters, galactic superclusters, and so on. Using the same metaphor as in thermodynamics, the distribution of matter in the universe seems to be maturing increasingly ordered. This is puzzling since the Second Law tells us that a thermodynamic system should become increasingly disordered.

The cause of this clumping seems to be well established: it is gravity. A second time-reversibility paradox now rears its head. Einstein’s field equations for gravitational systems are time-reversible. This means that if any solution of Einstein’s field equations is time-reversed, it becomes an equally valid solution. Our own universe, run backward in this manner, becomes a gravitational system that gets less and less clumpy as time passes – so getting less clumpy is just as valid, physically, as getting more clumpy. Our universe, though, does only one of these things: more clumpy.

Paul Davies’s view here is that ‘as with all arrows of time, there is a puzzle about where the asymmetry comes in … The asymmetry must, therefore, be traced to initial conditions’. What he means here is that even with time-reversible laws, you can get different behavior by starting the system in a different way. If you start with an egg and stir it with a fork, then it scrambles. If you start with the scrambled egg and very very carefully give each tiny particle of egg exactly the right push along precisely the opposite trajectory, then it will unscramble. The difference lies entirely in the initial state, not in the laws. Notice that ‘stir with a fork’ is a very general kind of initial condition: lots of different ways to stir will scramble the egg. In contrast, the initial condition for unscrambling an egg is extremely delicate and special.

In a way, this is an attractive option. Our clumping universe is like an unscrambling egg: its increasing complexity is a consequence of very special initial conditions. Most ‘ordinary’ initial conditions would lead to a universe that isn’t clumped – just as any reasonable kind of stirring leads to a scrambled egg. And observations strongly suggest that the universe’s initial conditions at the time of the Big Bang were extremely smooth, whereas any ‘ordinary’ state of a gravitational system presumably should be clumped. So, in agreement with the suggestion just outlined, it seems that the initial conditions of the universe must have been very special – an attractive proposition for those who believe that our universe is highly unusual, and ditto for our place within it.

From the Second Law to God in one easy step. Roger Penrose has even quantified how special this initial state is, by comparing the thermodynamic entropy of the initial state with that of a hypothetical but plausible final state in which the universe has become a system of Black Holes. This final state shows an extreme degree of clumpiness – though not the ultimate degree, which would be a single giant Black Hole.

The result is that the entropy of the initial state is about 10-30 times that of the hypothetical final state, making it extremely special. So special, in fact, that Penrose was led to introduce a new time-asymmetric law that forces the early universe to be exceptionally smooth.

Oh, how our stories mislead us … There is another, much more reasonable, explanation. The key point is simple: gravitation is very different from thermodynamics. In a gas of buzzing molecules, the uniform state – equal density everywhere – is stable. Confine all the gas into one small part of a room, let it go, and within a split second, it’s back to a uniform state. Gravity is exactly the opposite: uniform systems of gravitating bodies are unstable. Differences smaller than any specific level of coarse-graining not only can ‘bubble up’ into macroscopic differences as time passes, but do.

Here lies the big difference between gravity and thermodynamics. The thermodynamic model that best fits our universe is one in which differences dissipate by disappearing below the level of coarse-graining as time marches forwards. The gravitic model that best fits our universe is one in which differences amplify by bubbling up from below the level of coarse-graining as time marches forwards. The relation of these two scientific domains to coarse-graining is exactly opposite when the same arrow of time is used for both.

We can now give a completely different, and far more reasonable, explanation for the ‘entropy gap’ between the early and late universes, as observed by Penrose and credited by him to astonishingly unlikely initial conditions.

It is actually an artifact of coarse-graining.

Gravitational clumping bubbles up from a level of coarse-graining to which thermodynamic entropy is, by definition, insensitive. Therefore virtually any initial distribution of matter in the universe would lead to clumping. There’s no need for something extraordinarily special.

The physical differences between gravitating systems and thermodynamic ones are straightforward: gravity is a long-range attractive force, whereas elastic collisions are short-range and repulsive. With such different force laws, it is hardly surprising that the behavior should be so different. As an extreme case, imagine systems where ‘gravity’ is so short range that it has no effect unless particles collide, but then they stick together forever. Increasing clumpiness is obvious for such a force law.
The real universe is both gravitational and thermodynamic. In some contexts, the thermodynamic model is more appropriate and thermodynamics provides a good model. In other contexts, a gravitational model is more appropriate. There are yet other contexts: molecular chemistry involves different types of forces again. It is a mistake to shoehorn all natural phenomena into the thermodynamic approximation or the gravitic approximation. It is especially dubious to expect both thermodynamic and gravitic approximations to work in the same context when the way they respond to coarse-graining is diametrically opposite.

See? It’s simple. Not magical at all …

Perhaps it’s a good idea to sum up our thinking here.

The ‘laws’ of thermodynamics, especially the celebrated Second Law, are statistically valid models of nature in a particular set of contexts. They are not universally valid truths about the universe, as the clumping of gravity demonstrates. It even seems plausible that a suitable measure of gravitational complexity, like thermodynamic entropy but different, might one day be defined – call it ‘gravtropy’, say. Then we might be able to deduce, mathematically, a ‘second law of gravitics’, stating that the gravtropy of a gravitic system increases with time. For example, gravtropy might perhaps be the fractal dimension (‘degree of intricacy’) of the system.

Even though coarse-graining works in opposite ways for these two types of systems, both ‘second laws’ – thermodynamic and gravitic – would correspond rather well to our own universe. The reason is that both laws are formulated to correspond to what we actually observe in our own universe. Nevertheless, despite this apparent concurrence, the two laws would apply to drastically different physical systems: one to gases, the other to systems of particles moving under gravity.

 

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

 
Liberals have principles, Conservatives ideology.

 

 

C. Today’s Poem:

 

 

Untitled — Anonymous Australian Aboriginal Poem.
The white man dropped from the sun bright sky,

For he envied the blackfellow’s land,

With greed and revenge in his restless eye,

And disease and death in his hand.

And he grasped the forest, and he seized the strand,

And claimed the blue mountains high;

And he scours the bush with a ruthless band,

’Till its denizens trembling fly —

And his pigs and his cattle pollute the land

’Till it stinks, and the blackfellows die.

Anonymous (source language unnamed), “Untitled,” Bendigo Advertiser (Victoria), September 26, 1855, page 4.

 

 

D. Pookie’s Musings:

 

 
I discovered the following quote on Wikipedia while looking for something else. It is one of life’s great conundrums that whenever you look for something, you inevitably discover something else more attractive but far less useful than that for which you were originally looking. Anyway, I have posted what I found here in the hope that Peter, who studied and received advanced degrees in philosophy from one of the world’s great Universities and sometimes reads my postings, could unravel the meaning and significance of it as well as the conundrum I mention above.

In the philosophy of science, the distinction of knowledge versus reality is termed epistemic versus ontic. A general law is a regularity of outcomes (epistemic), whereas a causal mechanism may regulate the outcomes (ontic). A phenomenon can receive interpretation either ontic or epistemic. For instance, indeterminism may be attributed to limitations of human observation and perception (epistemic), or may be explained as a real existing maybe encoded in the universe (ontic).

After reading the above, I concluded it has one of two meanings. The first has something to do with universal fecundity. After all, of what use is one’s epistemic without an ontic? On the other hand, perhaps it all has to do with the effect of self-quarantine on my mind. Could it all be attributed to its limitations on my observation and perception — a hallucination perhaps? Or, could it be explained as something real, existing, and perhaps encoded in the universe? Is whether anyone cares an epistemic surmise or an ontic reality?

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

 

The Mayfly and the Great Trout.

“[A]n old mayfly is telling some youngsters about this god, as they hover just above the surface of a stream:

‘… you were telling us about the Great Trout.’ ‘Ah. Yes. Right. The Trout. Well, you see, if you’ve been a good mayfly, zigzagging up and down properly—’ ‘—taking heed of your elders and betters—’

‘— yes, and taking heed of your elders and betters, then eventually the Great Trout—’ Clop. Clop. ‘Yes?’ said one of the younger mayflies. There was no reply.

‘The Great Trout what?’ said another mayfly, nervously. They looked down at a series of expanding concentric rings on the water. ‘The holy sign!’ said a mayfly. ‘I remember being told about that! A Great Circle in the water! Thus shall be the sign of the Great Trout!’
Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

 
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The view from my window at night

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This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 11 Capt. Coast 0009. (April 28, 2020)

 

“Any system can be corrupted as long as people will pretend it’s not their problem.”
Mayne, Andrew. Dark Pattern (The Naturalist) (p. 78).

 

Happy Birthday — Naida, Nikki, and George.

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES DURING THE GREAT EPIDEMIC OF 2020:

 
The weather was warm and sunny today, the temperature reaching into the 80s. We decided to go out wander along the edge of the nearby American River. Although we were breaking confinement, we were sure we would not violate social distancing guidelines because usually there were not too many people wandering around there. We walked to our favorite spot on the riverbank. Along the way, Naida, as usual, instructed me on the local flora.

We sat on some dry grass and watched people on the opposite bank launch a boat and the birds taking off and landing on the water. Naida recited a part of a love poem that featured rabid cormorants. She also, for some reason, sung an old Sam Cooke tune:

Every day, along about evening
When the sunlight’s beginning to pale
I ride through the slumbering shadows
Along the Navajo Trail

 

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The American River by the Enchanted Forest.

 

Before she became an accomplished novelist, Naida obtained a Ph.D. in sociology. Her 1978 thesis, entitled Leadership, and Gender: A Comparative Analysis of Male and Female Leadership in Business, Politics, and Government, She had previously published a book on the early results of her study, Leadership With A Feminine Cast. She interviewed such people as Ivy Baker Priest US Treasurer in the Eisenhower Administration who famously quipped, “I’m often wrong, but never in Doubt”; Ruth Handler of Mattel fame; Jess Unruh the powerful leader of California’s Assembly and over 70 other well known civic and business leaders.

We spent much of the day reading sections from the thesis. It was fascinating for me to learn that an overwhelming majority of these leaders, most of whom were and still are household names, were the children of immigrants or, in the case of African Americans, had migrated from the South. Another consistent element in almost all of their lives was the presence of a strong mother. One female leader commented:

“My grandmother never wanted to come to the United States. She made my grandfather unhappy some of the time. For instance, she wanted to see the Panama Canal. So she left to see it. She said. “If all these kids can’t take care of him, something is wrong (fourteen children) My grandmother went off to more places than you can imagine in those days when traveling was difficult.”

 

What seemed to differ in the lives of the women leaders from the men, other than the resistance of the latter to the aspirations of the former, was that women generally worked harder to get where they were. As for management and leadership skills, the men mostly learned and honed their skills in the military and tended to manage their institutions in a hierarchical top-down manner. The women, on the other hand, generally tried to encourage a feeling of family in their organizations with her as the matriarch. In fact, the woman leaders overwhelmingly reveled in being considered different in how they dressed, behaved, and led. (Note — because women leaders overwhelmingly were the children of immigrants Naida specifically choose male children of immigrant parents to balance it out. She said, in either case, women or children of immigrants [including people of color] had a more difficult time of it than white males [and they were aware of it])

Days have rolled on by with little to comment on other than that the days of our confinement have increased. We have begun losing track of the days of the week, We have been in self-quarantine for about 50 days now — almost 15% of the year.

Interesting — the retirement village not too far from the Enchanted Forest that has been actively promoting us to choose them when we inevitably divide it is time to ender an assisted living facility, called today and offered us a free dinner from the local restaurant of our choice delivered to our home this evening. We chose Zinfandel a somewhat expensive Italian-American restaurant that we enjoy eating at.

I drove up into the Golden Hills to see Hayden. I arrived just as he returned with SWAC from buying flowers for planting around the house. I put on my mask and rubber gloves and keeping my social distance when with him as he showed me what they had been planting these past few days. In the side yard, they had planted about eight trees — a Japanese Maple, an orange tree, a lemon tree, apricot and peach trees, pomegranate, and some Thai fruit trees. I do not know how well some of these trees will do in that environment.

The front yard, actually a slope from the garage up to the road, has been planted with many flowers and an olive tree. On a bare area between two massive redwood trees next to the driveway had been used for burying pets — Pepe and Pesca the two Bichons, a crayfish, a couple of lizards, a tiny snake and a large goldfish named Sharky. A few clumps of flowers have now been planted on that hallowed ground.

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I then returned home. Shortly after my arrival, our free dinner that I had been eagerly anticipating arrived. It was a hamburger for me and chicken tacos for Naida. I was disappointed and pissed. What’s worse, the meat looked and tasted like it came in a can.

This afternoon we took Boo-boo the Barking Dog on a long walk through the Enchanted Forest. It was sunny and warm, in the upper 70s. We tried to find paths we had never walked before and we did. At one point we found ourselves by the lake and sat there awhile enjoying the view.
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Land Park is a large park in Sacramento. The Sacramento Zoo is located there. According to Naida, the developer of the area created it as an amenity for his development. He went on to be elected mayor of the city. We decided to visit it today, taking all the care necessary to avoid breaching social-distancing guidelines. Equipped with masks and rubber gloves we walked around a lake and through the rock garden.

The story about the rock garden: In the late 1930s a woman began planting the garden in the public park. The city did nothing to stop her. They even gave her an award. After she died, the garden she worked so hard on was taken over by the city. I do not know if any of this is true, but history is story and if the story is good enough then it is good enough. As Pratchett writes, “We make up our world according to the stories that we tell ourselves, and each other, about it.” (Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.)

For the next few days, the weather hovered in the mid-80s. Sunny with a slight breeze. I placed a folding camp chair in a spot of shade in the back yard and spent much of the afternoon dozing with the dog lying at my feet and now and then typing things like I am doing now. I wonder why lazing away outdoors in sunny weather is so pleasant and not boring at all, while sitting indoors often feels tedious and uncomfortable. Perhaps Peter knows. He understands things like this. I consider him a master keeper of obscure and unconventional notions.

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I think I will go up to bed. Napping also is neither boring nor unpleasant.

That night after I got up, we watched The Sunshine Boys for perhaps the fifth or sixth time in the last month. I did not want to. I thought of going back to bed. I couldn’t. I love that movie. One could say I liked it because of the timing between the actors, the directing, Neil Simon’s script, seeing Gorge Burn’s again on the screen, or Matthau tearing up the scenery. No, I liked it because it was about old guys. Also, because once, at a Coastal Commission meeting, I was mistaken by the press for Walter Matthau. I would have preferred being mistaken for Rock Hudson.

Last night, I had a dream. No not a dream about freedom from four centuries of oppression. Instead, I was riding a bus. I do not know where that bus was or where it was going, but something about it made me think it was somewhere in San Francisco. I was sitting as usual in one of the reserved for seniors and handicapped seats that are generally filled by 20 somethings or the mentally ill. Anyway, the bus was full of men — stuffed full. They started hassling and ultimately punching me. Eventually, I fought back, swinging my cane and discovered they were all ghosts because when struck they each disappeared in a puff of smoke — except for four big heavyset men. They were real and, hopeless as it may have seemed, I waded in, punching them with all my might only to wake up and discover I was punching Naida. Having experienced this before, she knew enough to avoid my punches and calm me down until I fell back to sleep.

The next morning I felt physically, mentally and emotionally like dog shit so after breakfast and a bit of news about our Commander in Chief recommending we shoot up with Clorox to cure us of the plague and stop us from criticizing him, I drove into the Golden Hills to visit HRM in hope that it would cheer me up. Donning my mask and gloves, I met him and Jake in front of the house and accompanied them on a walk through their most recent plantings at the back. Haden now has a bedroom on the bottom floor with a large deck extending into the backyard. He has festooned his deck with flowering plants everywhere, hanging from the rafters, on the floor, and in the backyard. He has included a large wisteria bush that he plans to train to extend onto the deck.

The next day or perhaps the day after, we packed some soft drinks, a box of Fig Newtons, some coffee and Boo-boo the Barking Dog into the car, and set off for a ghost town on the banks of the Mokelumne River Naida had visited a few years ago. We drove through the Gold Country on Route 49, until we came to the turnoff to the town. Alas, the road was closed. “Let’s walk” I suggested. “How far can it be?”

So we parked the car and set off. The walk started out delightfully. The route ran along the banks of the river that snaked through the foothills of the Sierra’s. California Poppies, Lupine, and many other spring wildflowers covered the hills. A blue oak and Digger pine forest grew along the banks of the river.

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IMG_8195      IMG_8205

 

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The Mokelumne River through arches of blue oak.

 

 

The town we were heading to was originally built to house the workers building a hydroelectric project on the river. Now and then small groups of hikers passed us along the road some of them looked like they had been bathing in the river. As the walk lengthened, I began to grow tired. I asked a group of young men coming down the path how far it was. “Not far,” they responded. Of course, “Not far,” for some 20-year-olds and “Not far,” for an eighty-year-old are two entirely different concepts.
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My plan was to walk as far as I could. Not too far (80-year-old far) from where we passed the young men, I had reached my limit and sat, exhausted, in some shade at the side of the road. I realized my plan to only walk as far as I could was flawed. I still had to walk back.

Naida, being healthier and more athletic than I, felt no such fatigue. Nonetheless, She agreed we should head back. And so we did. I walked from shadow to shadow and collapsed at just about everyone we came to. At one point I considered keeling over and forcing Naida to call for an ambulance.
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Naida discovered an unusual poppy along the way.

 

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She also found some bush lupine growing by the road.

 

 

Once we left the path to walk a few steps to the river so the dog could get a drink. (Did I fail to mention that despite bringing copious amounts of water and juice and Fig Newtons along, we left them all back in the car) While the dog was drinking his fill, a big black snake with golden stripes slithered out from under some detritus just after they passed. I thought it might be the California version of the east-coast deadly coral snake except 10 times larger. Not being much of a woodsman, I did the only thing I could think of. I screamed. “What’s the matter?” Naida responded. “A big snake,” said I. “What color?” she inquired. The snake had disappeared into the grass by now. “Yellow with black stripes,” I said. “Oh, no problem, they eat baby rattlesnakes” she explained. Not knowing if that made me feel any better, we slowly and for me agonizingly made our way back to the car without further mishap except for me almost stepping on an evil-looking thing that Naida said was an alligator lizard that she said grew much larger than the specimen I almost stepped on.
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Just after taking this photo, the snake appeared from beneath some fallen piece of bark at the foot of the tree.

 

 

(In case you wonder about my relationship with the natural environment, I am a city boy. As Neuwirth said, “We get nose bleeds if our feet are not touching cement.” We may love the wonders of nature but still prefer to sleep in our beds at night. We like the wonder better than the feeling of nature on our skin. That is why for some of us, our knowledge may be deficient but the wonder never dies. Sort of like, believing in God is a lot more pleasant than actually meeting the bearded old bastard.)

Back at the car, we drank copious amounts of water. Naida drove us back while I dozed and recovered. Back home we discovered the Fig Newtons were missing. We had not eaten any. We suspected the culprit was Boo-boo the Barking Dog, but we could find no evidence. (He is a very sloppy eater.) Perhaps if was the alligator lizard.

The next day, fully recovered from my adventure, I set off for SF for some CT scans. Traffic was so light, I was able to get back by early afternoon in time for lunch. After lunch, I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting and dozing on a chair in the back yard. I one point, Naida woke me from my reverie to inform me that she had just discovered a nest of black widow spiders in a cranny in the wall near where I had been resting.

That evening we watched every episode of Ricky Gervais’ network series After Life. It was great. One of the best things I have seen in a long long while. It was about a man with deep unrelieved depression and a group of extremely odd but often engaging characters with which he was involved. It resonated with me. It seemed to say a life of pathological depression is livable and amusing. See it you’ll like it.

Finally, this morning I awoke, the room was dark, Naida’s body was pressed against my back. “It must be early,” I thought. Boo-boo the Barking Dog had not yet barked his wake up bark. I turned over to give Naida a hug and as I did so I heard a low growl. It was the dog in my arms. I looked up at the clock it was almost noon and the shutters on the window were still closed.

Later the doctor called about the results of the CT scan he said the cancer in my neck has not grown but a nodule in my chest had thickened and he will be speaking with the surgeon about removing it.
That was how my day began today. I wonder how the rest of it will play out…

And, that was my past week or two of self-confinement. How was yours?

Take care.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

 

A. On Top: A Few Brief and at Times Amusing Essays for Understanding Some Basic Science with Which to While-Away Your Time During Self-Confinement (continued).

 

 

Part III

INFORMATION, ENTROPY, AND THERMODYNAMICS
A central concept in Shannon’s information theory is something that he called entropy, which in this context is a measure of how statistical patterns in a source of messages affect the amount of information that the messages can convey. If certain patterns of bits are more likely than others, then their presence conveys less information, because the uncertainty is reduced by a smaller amount. In English, for example, the letter ‘E’ is much more common than the letter ‘Q’. So receiving an ‘E’ tells you less than receiving a ‘Q’. Given a choice between ‘E’ and ‘Q’, your best bet is that you’re going to receive an ‘E’. And you learn the most when your expectations are proved wrong. Shannon’s entropy smooths out these statistical biases and provides a ‘fair’ measure of information content.

In retrospect, it was a pity that he used the name ‘entropy’, because there is a longstanding concept in physics with the same name, normally interpreted as ‘disorder’. Its opposite, ‘order’, is usually identified with complexity.

The context here is the branch of physics known as thermodynamics, which is a specific simplified model of a gas. In thermodynamics, the molecules of a gas are modelled as ‘hard spheres’, tiny billiard balls. Occasionally balls collide, and when they do, they bounce off each other as if they are perfectly elastic. The Laws of Thermodynamics state that a large collection of such spheres will obey certain statistical regularities. In such a system, there are two forms of energy: mechanical energy and heat energy. The First Law states that the total energy of the system never changes. Heat energy can be transformed into mechanical energy, as it is in, say, a steam engine; conversely, mechanical energy can be transformed into heat. But the sum of the two is always the same. The Second Law states, in more precise terms (which we explain in a moment), that heat cannot be transferred from a cool body to a hotter one. And the Third Law states that there is a specific temperature below which the gas cannot go — ‘absolute zero’, which is around-273 degrees Celsius.

The most difficult — and the most interesting — of these laws is the Second. In more detail, it involves a quantity that is again called ‘entropy’, which is usually interpreted as ‘disorder’. If the gas in a room is concentrated in one corner, for instance, this is a more ordered (that is, less disordered!) state than one in which it is distributed uniformly throughout the room. So when the gas is uniformly distributed, its entropy is higher than when it is all in one corner. One formulation of the Second Law is that the amount of entropy in the universe always increases as time passes. Another way to say this is that the universe always becomes less ordered, or equivalently less complex, as time passes. According to this interpretation, the highly complex world of living creatures will inevitably become less complex, until the universe eventually runs out of steam and turns into a thin, lukewarm soup.

This property gives rise to one explanation for the ‘arrow of time’, the curious fact that it is easy to scramble an egg but impossible to unscramble one. Time flows in the direction of increasing entropy. So scrambling an egg makes the egg more disordered — that is, increases its entropy — which is in accordance with the Second Law. Unscrambling the egg makes it less disordered, and decreases energy, which conflicts with the Second Law. An egg is not a gas, mind you, but thermodynamics can be extended to solids and liquids, too.

At this point we encounter one of the big paradoxes of physics, a source of considerable confusion for a century or so. A different set of physical laws, Newton’s laws of motion, predicts that scrambling an egg and unscrambling it are equally plausible physical events. More precisely, if any dynamic behaviour that is consistent with Newton’s laws is run backwards in time, then the result is also consistent with Newton’s laws. In short, Newton’s laws are ‘time-reversible’.

However, a thermodynamic gas is really just a mechanical system built from lots of tiny spheres. In this model, heat energy is just a special type of mechanical energy, in which the spheres vibrate but do not move en masse. So we can compare Newton’s laws with the laws of thermodynamics. The First Law of Thermodynamics is simply a restatement of energy conservation in Newtonian mechanics, so the First Law does not contradict Newton’s laws. Neither does the Third Law: absolute zero is just the temperature at which the spheres cease vibrating. The amount of vibration can never be less than zero.

Unfortunately, the Second Law of Thermodynamics behaves very differently. It contradicts Newton’s laws. Specifically, it contradicts the property of time-reversibility. Our universe has a definite direction for its ‘arrow of time’, but a universe obeying Newton’s laws has two distinct arrows of time, one the opposite of the other. In our universe, scrambling eggs is easy and unscrambling them seems impossible.

Therefore, according to Newton’s laws, in a time-reversal of our universe, unscrambling eggs is easy but scrambling them is impossible. But Newton’s laws are the same in both universes, so they cannot prescribe a definite arrow of time.

Many suggestions have been made to resolve this discrepancy. The best mathematical one is that thermodynamics is an approximation, involving a ‘coarse-graining’ of the universe in which details on very fine scales are smeared out and ignored. In effect, the universe is divided into tiny boxes, each containing (say) several thousand gas molecules. The detailed motion inside such a box is ignored, and only the average state of its molecules is considered. It’s a bit like a picture on a computer screen. If you look at it from a distance, you can see cows and trees and all kinds of structure. But if you look sufficiently closely at a tree, all you see is one uniformly green square, or pixel. A real tree would still have detailed structure at this scale — leaves and twigs, say — but in the picture all this detail is smeared out into the same shade of green.

In this approximation, once ‘order’ has disappeared below the level of the coarse-graining, it can never come back. Once a pixel has been smeared, you can’t unsmear it. In the real universe, though, it sometimes can, because in the real universe the detailed motion inside the boxes is still going on, and a smeared-out average ignores that detail. So the model and the reality are different. Moreover, this modelling assumption treats forward and backward time asymmetrically. In forward time, once a molecule goes into a box, it can’t escape. In contrast, in a time-reversal of this model it can escape from a box but it can never get in if it wasn’t already inside that box to begin with.

This explanation makes it clear that the Second Law of Thermodynamics is not a genuine property of the universe, but merely a property of an approximate mathematical description. Whether the approximation is helpful or not thus depends on the context in which it is invoked, not on the content of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. And the approximation involved destroys any relation with Newton’s laws, which are inextricably linked to that fine detail.

Now, as we said, Shannon used the same word ‘entropy’ for his measure of the structure introduced by statistical patterns in an information source. He did so because the mathematical formula for Shannon’s entropy looks exactly the same as the formula for the thermodynamic concept. Except for a minus sign. So thermodynamic entropy looks like negative Shannon entropy: that is, thermodynamic entropy can be interpreted as ‘missing information’. Many papers and books have been written exploiting this relationship — attributing the arrow of time to a gradual loss of information from the universe, for instance. After all, when you replace all that fine detail inside a box by a smeared-out average, you lose information about the fine detail. And once it’s lost, you can’t get it back. Bingo: time flows in the direction of information-loss.

However, the proposed relationship here is bogus. Yes, the formulas look the same … but they apply in very different, unrelated, contexts. In Einstein’s famous formula relating mass and energy, the symbol c represents the speed of light. In Pythagoras’s Theorem, the same letter represents one side of a right triangle. The letters are the same, but nobody expects to get sensible conclusions by identifying one side of a right triangle with the speed of light. The alleged relationship between thermodynamic entropy and negative information isn’t quite that silly, of course. Not quite.

As we’ve said, science is not a fixed body of ‘facts’, and there are disagreements. The relation between Shannon’s entropy and thermodynamic entropy is one of them. Whether it is meaningful to view thermodynamic entropy as negative information has been a controversial issue for many years. The scientific disagreements rumble on, even today, and published, peer-reviewed papers by competent scientists flatly contradict each other.

What seems to have happened here is a confusion between a formal mathematical setting in which ‘laws’ of information and entropy can be stated, a series of physical intuitions about heuristic interpretations of those concepts, and a failure to understand the role of context. Much is made of the resemblance between the formulas for entropy in information theory and thermodynamics, but little attention is paid to the context in which those formulas apply. This habit has led to some very sloppy thinking about some important issues in physics.

One important difference is that in thermodynamics, entropy is a quantity associated with a state of the gas, whereas in information theory it is defined for an information source: a system that generates entire collections of states (‘messages’). Roughly speaking, a source is a phase space for successive bits of a message, and a message is a trajectory, a path, in that phase space. In contrast, a thermodynamic configuration of molecules is a point in phase space. A specific configuration of gas molecules has a thermodynamic entropy, but a specific message does not have a Shannon entropy. This fact alone should serve as a warning. And even in information theory, the information ‘in’ a message is not negative information-theoretic entropy. Indeed the entropy of the source remains unchanged, no matter how many messages it generates.

 

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

 

 
The internet provides the opportunity to create a world-wide society or culture with its own stories, customs, and biases. The question is whether or not it will be any better than what we have now.

 

 

C. Today’s Poem:

 

Along the Navaho Trail
Every day, along about evening
When the sunlight’s beginning to pale
I ride through the slumbering shadows
Along the Navajo Trail

When it’s night and crickets are callin’
And coyotes are makin’ a wail
I dream by a smoldering fire
Along the Navajo Trail

I love to lie and listen to the music
When the wind is strummin’ a sagebrush guitar
When over yonder hill the moon is climbin’
It always finds me wishin’ on a star

Well what a ya know, it’s mornin’ already
There’s the dawnin’, so silver and pale
It’s time to climb into my saddle
And ride the Navajo Trail

I love to lie and listen to the music
When the wind is strummin’ a sagebrush guitar
When…
Sam Cooke

 

D. Pookie’s Musings: Something somewhat more that risqué but a smidgen less than pornographic.

 

 

While reading The Science of Discworld II with which you should all know by now I am somewhat obsessed, I came across the following sentence by the author in the midst of his attempt to explain quantum theory or evolution or something like that:

“The Hedgehog Song, a Discworld ditty in the general tradition of Eskimo Nell, first made its appearance in Wyrd Sisters with its haunting refrain ‘The hedgehog can never be buggered at all’.”

The reference to The Hedgehog Song apparently referred to the author’s contention that:

“Stories have power because we have minds, and we have minds because stories have power.”

 

Which makes sense in a quantum world.

Having been intrigued by the reference to “the general tradition of Eskimo Nell” and its possible importance to a possible unified theory of everything, I looked up Eskimo Nell in Wikipedia. There I found a poem, The Ballad of Eskimo Nell, the last stanza of which, if not a unified theory, nevertheless expressed the almost universal status of males of my age. I guess that is a unified theory of sorts

When a man grows old, and his balls grow cold,
And the tip of his prick turns blue,
And the hole in the middle refuses to piddle,
I’d say he was fucked, wouldn’t you?
The Ballad of Eskimo Nell

 

What was even more amazing to me was that two movies have been made about that apparently fascinating young woman.

 

 

 

E. Giants of History: Peter on the benefits of Sloth during times of crisis.

 

 

To my paragraph ending with, “I feel like what those old mountain men must have felt like while being trapped all winter in a snow-covered cabin in the wilderness” Peter responded with:

I remember, many years ago when we were living in Boston, a friend moved up to northern Vermont to live. Never mind why. Anyway, we met a couple of his new friends; I recall one was living solitarily. He was very talkative; I imagined that living alone in semi-wilderness might engender an inclination to volubility when one infrequently is in contact with other humans.

As for me, the daily routine of arising, ablutions, dressing, breakfast — first big decision of the day: eat minimally or have more — reading the newspaper and e-news, and — ta-da! morning is half or mostly gone already. Barrie back from walking Ramsey, lately at MacClaren Park – mostly empty and beautiful. Today, though, I went out to pick up one of my various prescriptions at Walgreens. Wore a mask during the pick-up. Staff was fully garbed and covered. Stood the requisite six feet behind the person in front of me in line. Another periodic routine.

A vague memory of early 1972, playing tennis and sightseeing and learning the city and hanging out stoned after having moved to SF. Different times.

 

I wrote about breaking quarantine and gamboling in the Oak woodlands with Naida. That take ended with, “Following our visit we drove back into the Enchanted Forest.” Peter responded:

 

 

We, on the other hand, have transformed sloth into fine art. However, still, several big steps removed from solitary crypto-holiness meditation with endless recitations of the Diamond Sutra and slurping gruel. Although, this week, in a sudden paroxysm of activity, Barrie decided to clean up her office. She is now about 90% done; prodigious effort, but apparently very satisfying. My “office”, however, needs no such treatment. Anyway, it would interfere with my reading of the portion of Robert Caro’s tome about Lyndon Johnson about his election to the Senate in 1948. Talk about Texas!

Meanwhile, I got notified that our next periodic teleconference of the CMIB board (the CA Maritime Infrastructure Bank, of which I am a member — still!) is canceled for lack of a quorum, due to the virus disruptions. We’ll wait a couple of months +/-. Put the file back in the drawer…..

 
After describing another escapade of flight from incarceration I wrote, “We returned refreshed if a bit concerned that we may have snared a coronavirus or two along the way.” Peter wrote:

We get to walk around the block; practically no one out except a dog walker or two, or some Latina pushing a baby carriage with some gringa’s kids inside.

Although, the New Neighborhood Thing!: two houses down live a couple who moved in a few years ago, relatively recently. Affluent. He’s on the phone all day. Turns out she owns a winery business. With this house arrest fiddle, she has now set up a children’s lemonade stand in front of their house, except it’s her wine selling table. $20/bottle, red, white, rose. Fairly decent stuff, in fact. 3-6pm daily, more on weekends. I’ve purchased a couple of bottles, and hung out and gossiped with her. Quite pleasant, and my kind of practically effortless productive activity. Proper distance, masks, wash hands, all medically kosher. The Ernest Winery. right here on 25th St. Careful not to make it a habit.

 

Having a had jaunty run through some amusing and risqué aphorisms of the ancient Sumerians that ended, “That is civilized. And, the abominations of Utu to you to too,” Peter added:

Interestingly, you refer to the Sumerians. I was recently looking at various maps, which I enjoy, these were of ancient civilizations, in particular those of the Levant and the Middle East, including, of course, the Sumerians! There were entries about the “collapse of civilizations” around 5,000-3000 years ago. Perhaps you picked up on the very recent article in the Atlantic about the United States as a failed state. The author nailed it perfectly. It’s really horrifying, infuriating, and frightening. I can imagine what the Europeans are thinking and saying. The outlook for our children and grandchildren is grim. I don’t like to think about it.

 
At one point during my description of our trip to the Sandhill Crane refuge, I commented, “We saw huge flocks of geese and other birds feeding in the wetland.” Peter interjected:

 

Sounds delightful, all this outdoorsy touring. It’s too built up where we are, even with very little traffic, but parking lots are all closed, and anyway, we are too slothful.

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Peter

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

 

1. The importance of “our group”. When times are hard, our group is primary. When times are disastrous, group loyalty disintegrates. When famine strikes, one will even eat one’s children. Nothing has changed. Perhaps, someday, they will really engineer human genetic make-up. Then the degrees of villainy will Really shine.
Peter Grenell

 

 

2. Hollywood is a potential gold mine for anthropologists because it’s the only culture in the world where educated and rich and powerful people have the mind-set and manners of Southern white trash.
Burke, James Lee. Robicheaux: A Novel (p. 95). Simon & Schuster.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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BOO-BOO the BARKING DOG and POOKIE spend a pleasant Sunday morning in bed.

Categories: April through June 2020, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th.   24 Joey 0009. (April 15,2020)

“Ten men in our country could buy the whole world and ten million can’t buy enough to eat.”
          Will Rogers (He made this comment about 90 years ago. Sometimes nothing changes)

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SELF-QUARANTINE:

Today is the fortieth day of our self-quarantine. It began like most of my days do now, quarantine or not, with my usual breakfast followed by sitting in the reclining chair to watch the mornings news. What differed now was the recognition that, more or less, it also would be what the rest of our day would be like. We are beginning to run out of novel ways to entertain ourselves. I suppose by now that has become common for most of us stuck waiting for this pandemic to end. I feel like what those old mountain men must have felt like while being trapped all winter in a snow-covered cabin in the wilderness.

Having read the prior paragraph and checked back through previous posts, I noticed that I often begin these issues of T&T with either over-melodramatic tales of woe or irrational joy. Why not? After all, I am 80 years old and just woke up. Who the hell knows what I may feel like on any given morning.

Easter Sunday, same old, same old. Last night, I did not sleep well. My mind tossed about reviewing lengthy examples of what I would write here when I woke up. As expected, they are all gone now. Anyway, it is Easter.

For we Catholics (fallen away, apostate or believer), despite the vast number of feasts and holy days on the liturgical calendar, Christmas (Originally Saturnalia) and Easter ( Eostre or Ostara, a Germanic pagan sex goddess) stand out as the most revered (Renewal and redemption — the renewal of the sun and the start of planting. Yes, redemption for what you did during the winter can be redeemed by a good spring plowing.) Although one would think all children would prefer Christmas and the presents they received, I liked Easter better. For me, Christmas always was filled with disappointment and family strife. Easter, on the other hand, required only dressing up in new clothes you probably did not like, suffering through an over-long mass (loved the music and the smell of incense though) and no-one cared what you did thereafter.

 

B. Naida, Pookie, and Boo-Boo the Barking Dog Break Quarantine.

 

Anyway, on Easter Sunday we broke confinement. We were pretty stir-crazed, so, instead of church, we decided to drive into the country — to the Cosumnes River near the ranch where Naida used to live — the history of which was included in her remarkable books, The California Gold Trilogy (bridgehousebooks@gmail.com). It took only about fifteen minutes to get to the turn off onto the unpaved portion of Latrobe Road. Naida told me it was the main road from the train station at Latrobe (a town that no longer exists) to Sacramento. Along the road, several buildings and structures from the middle of the 19th Century that she mentioned in her books still existed.

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Naida and Boo-Boo the Barking Dog standing in front of a typical Oak Woodland.

 

We expected the road to be empty but instead, there were a few motorbikes churning up dust and some cars with couples looking for someplace to park. The dirt road wound through a few enormous cattle ranches. Eventually, we also parked and got out of our car for a walk. The ranches have preserved the landscape as it more or less had been since the Native Americans roamed the area unmolested. The famous Oak Woodlands of California remain much as they did then. The grasslands, on which the woodlands stood, were cropped clean by the vast herds of Elk and other ruminants until they resembled manicured golf courses. They also do today trimmed by the grazing herds of cattle.

Almost everywhere along the road and in the meadows spring wildflowers bloomed — California poppies, dwarf and standard lupin, fiddle necks, and others.

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We then drove through another large ranch that contained the remnant of the Gold Rush town of Michigan Bar. The miners in that town during the Gold Rush slaughtered the Native-Americans that lived on Naida and Bill’s old ranch located about a mile downstream on the Cosumnes River. Naida recalls the event in her novel, River of Red Gold. The novel also tells of the miners from Michigan Bar fighting a water war with the local ranches and killing Jared Sheldon a leader of the ranchers who were attempted to dam the river downstream to irrigate crops at Naida’s ranch site.
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A View Across the Cosumnes River to the Remnant of the Old Gold Rush Town of Michigan Bar.

 

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The Old Hotel at Michigan Bar.

 

While driving through the town two odd things happened. The first occurred when we parked to photograph a remaining tiny log cottage in which the miners lived (those that did not live in a tent or sleep in the open). When later I looked at the photo, I saw this:
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I do not know what caused this but I love the result so I included it here.

The second strange event began while I was taking the above picture. Not too far from us, an old car was parked with what looked like one person sitting in the front seat enjoying the river view. The car appeared to be an old Hudson or Mercury, you know, all black with tiny windows resembling the Bat-mobile. Suddenly he jumped out of the car and walked off a few steps at stood there as we drove away.

We drove on to the edge of town and stopped to photograph some wildflowers exposing their passionate spring colors along the side of the road. Suddenly, I noticed the black car speeding down the road toward us. It passed, went up the road away, turned around, and stopped by our car. There was a young man and a young woman in the front seat. The young man rolled down his window and said, “Can you take our picture?”

Forgetting all about social distancing, I agreed. Then remembering and being embarrassed to now refuse, I grabbed some lens-wipes l had brought along to clean my glasses hoping they would somehow protect me. I got out of our car, took hold of his camera trying but failing to grasp it with the lens-wipes, and prepared to take their photograph.

The young man was skinny, with a bleached white complexion, scrawny brown beard and a few odd small blue poorly executed tattoos, The woman, who seemed annoyed about something, had a little more heft to her dark hair and brown skin. I guessed her to be a Latina or perhaps of Native American extraction. They insisted on being photographed sitting on the car bumper and showing the car behind them rather than the beautiful landscape all around.

After taking the photographs, I returned to the car convinced that I had broken all the rules of social distancing and that within the next two weeks I would surely die.

Following that bit of misadventure, we drove onto the massive 15,000 acre Van Vleck Ranch. The Van Vleck’s were friends of Naida and Bill. I was in state government when Gordon Van Vleck was Secretary of Resources. He was a pleasant man who tried to do the right thing in a Republican administration. Both Gordon and his older brother Stan had died while piloting his small plane over the ranch. Stan’s wife, Lynn, who inherited the ranch, shortly after his death had married a sheep rancher from Texas whose ranch was even larger than the Van Vleck’s. Naida wanted to visit them in order to see how her friend Lynn was doing because she had not been able to contact her for a while because she had misplaced her phone number. Lynn was at home and we, observing the proper social distancing protocols, had a delightful conversation.

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Naida and Lynn observe social distancing across the fence.
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The Van Vleck Ranch Center at dusk.
Following our visit, we drove back into the Enchanted Forest.

 

C. Back in the Enchanted Forest.

 

The next morning we woke up to discover that our portion of the subdivision was without water. We think that is because the HOC is installing a new water metering system. So, we spent the day just like we always do except today without water.

I think self-confinement is beginning to get to Naida. She has begun shouting at her smart-phone. It is not so much that she did not do it in the past. We all do now and then. I suspect that in the future will recognize a new health hazard — smart-phone fury syndrome. Anyway, it is now happening more often. Like my own rage at sitting here reading Facebook posts and watching endless news programs on why we are confined and our President’s whining about how it is not his fault. We could go for another ride somewhere. It will be good for both of us. Instead, we decided to spend today watching crime shows like “Forensic Files.” They did not improve our mood.

At about 5PM having grown tired of learning about the several gruesome ways of committing murder, noticing the sun was shining brightly and recognizing the meaning of the dog’s whining we decided to once again break containment and take a walk. This time we walked to the levee along the American River. The azaleas bloomed everywhere. There were a lot of people, mostly from nearby Sac State walking, running, bike riding, and generally enjoying this pleasant warm evening. We returned refreshed if a bit concerned that we may have snared a coronavirus or two along the way.
IMG_8133_2
Azalea Madness in the Enchanted Forest.

 

D. OFF TO THE SANDHILL CRANE PRESERVE:

The following day we decided death by plague to be a superior method of meeting one’s maker than death by cable-news. So, we set off for the Sandhill Crane Reserve at some restored wetlands in the Delta near Gault. The sandhill cranes had long departed the wetlands and had returned to Canada for the summer. Nevertheless, I was eager to visit the restored wetland having a hand in promoting and developing early wetland restoration techniques over 40 years ago.

We took care this time to pack masks, food, drink, and rubber gloves. The wetland restoration was as well done as any I have seen and the wildlife surprisingly varied. We saw huge flocks of geese and other birds feeding in the wetland.

IMG_E8141

IMG_E8145

IMG_E8143

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That’s all for now. Take care of yourselves. And, above all, remember to always keep on truckin…

th-1

 

 

 

DAILY FRACTURED FACTOID:

 

 

A Few More 5000 Year Old Zany Aphorisms From Sumer.

The fox, having urinated into the sea, said: “The depths of the sea are my urine!”

For a donkey there is no stench. For a donkey there is no washing with soap.

For his pleasure he got married. On his thinking it over he got divorced

To serve beer with unwashed hands, to spit without trampling upon it, to sneeze without covering it with dust, to kiss with the tongue at midday without providing shade, are abominations to Utu.

He came, he stayed a while; he finished, he did not stay put.

All day long, oh penis, you ejaculate as if you have blood inside you, and then you hang like a damp reed.

To appreciate the earth is for the gods; I am merely covered in dust.

Bitterness afflicted the anus; but it entered by way of the mouth.

The dog gnawing on a bone says to his anus: “This is going to hurt you!

Not only were the ancient Sumerians the creators of Civilization but they also seem to be the originators of slapstick comedy. That sounds reasonable. A civilization without humor cannot be considered civilized. Or, as Groucho said, “I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.” Or, even more appropriately, “It isn’t necessary to have relatives in Kansas City in order to be unhappy.” That is civilized. And, the abominations of Utu to you too.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

 

A. On Top: A Few Brief and at Times Amusing Essays for Understanding Basic Science with Which to While-Away Your Time During Self-Confinement.

 

Part II

INFORMATION, A NUMBER — Biology and Physics.
Most people, scientists in particular, are happiest with a concept when they can put a number to it. Anything else, they feel, is too vague to be useful. ‘Information’ is a number, so that comfortable feeling of precision slips in without anyone noticing that it might be spurious.

Two sciences that have gone a long way down this slippery path are biology and physics. The discovery of the ‘linear’ molecular structure of DNA has given evolutionary biology a seductive metaphor for the complexity of organisms and how they evolve, namely: the genome of an organism represents the information that is required to construct it. The origin of this metaphor is Francis Crick and James Watson’s epic discovery that an organism’s DNA consists of ‘code words’ in the four molecular molecular ‘letters’ A C T G, which, you’ll recall, are the initials of the four possible ‘bases’. This description led to the inevitable metaphor that the genome contains information about the corresponding organism. Indeed, the genome is widely described as ‘containing the information needed to produce’ an organism.

The easy target here is the word ‘the’. There are innumerable reasons why a developing organism’s DNA does not determine the organism. These non-genomic influences on development are collectively known as ‘epigenetics’, and they range from subtle chemical tagging of DNA to the investment of parental care. The hard target is ‘information’. Certainly, the genome includes information in some sense: currently, an enormous international effort is being devoted to listing that information for the human genome, and also for other organisms such as rice, yeast, and the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. But notice how easily we slip into cavalier attitudes, for here the word ‘information’ refers to the human mind as receiver, not to the developing organism. organism. The Human Genome Project informs us, not organisms.

This flawed metaphor leads to the equally flawed conclusion that the genome explains the complexity of an organism in terms of the amount of information in its DNA code.

Humans are complicated because they have a long genome that carries a lot of information; nematodes are less complicated because their genome is shorter. However, this seductive idea can’t be true. For example, the Shannon information content of the human genome is smaller by several orders of magnitude than the quantity of information needed to describe the wiring of the neurons in the human brain. How can we be more complex than the information that describes us? And some amoebas have much longer genomes than ours, which takes us down several pegs as well as casting even more doubt on DNA as information.

Underlying the widespread belief that DNA complexity explains organism complexity (even though it clearly doesn’t) are two assumptions, two scientific stories that we tell ourselves. The first story is DNA as Blueprint, in which the genome is represented not just as an important source of control and guidance over biological development, but as the information needed to determine an organism. The second is DNA as Message, the ‘Book of Life’ metaphor.

Both stories oversimplify a beautifully complex interactive system. DNA as Blueprint says that the genome is a molecular ‘map’ of an organism. DNA as Message says that an organism can pass that map to the next generation by ‘sending’ the appropriate information.

Both of these are wrong, although they’re quite good science fiction — or, at least, interestingly bad science fiction with good special effects.

If there is a ‘receiver’ for the DNA ‘message’ it is not the next generation of the organism, which does not even exist at the time the ‘message’ is being ‘sent,’ but the ribosome, which is the molecular machine that turns DNA sequences (in a protein-coding gene) into protein. The ribosome is an essential part of the coding system; it functions as an ‘adapter,’ changing the sequence information along the DNA into an amino acid sequence in proteins. Every cell contains many ribosomes: we say ‘the’ because they are all identical. The metaphor of DNA as information has become almost universal, yet virtually nobody has suggested that the ribosome must be a vast repository of information. The structure of the ribosome is now known in high detail, and there is no sign of obvious ‘information-bearing’ structure like that in DNA. The ribosome seems to be a fixed ‘machine’. So where has the information gone? Nowhere. That’s the wrong question.

The root of these misunderstandings lies in a lack of attention to context. Science is very strong on content, but it has a habit of ignoring ‘external’ constraints on the systems being studied. Context is an important but neglected feature of information. It is so easy to focus on the combinatorial clarity of the message and to ignore the messy, complicated processes carried out by the receiver when it decodes the message. Context is crucial to the interpretation of messages: to their meaning. In his book The User Illusion Tor Nørretranders introduced the term exformation to capture the role of the context, and Douglas Hofstadter made the same general point in Gödel, Escher, Bach. Observe how, in the next chapter, the otherwise incomprehensible message ‘THEOSTRY’ becomes obvious when context is taken into account.

Instead of thinking about a DNA ‘blueprint’ encoding an organism, it’s easier to think of a CD encoding music. Biological development is like a CD that contains instructions for building a new CD-player. You can’t ‘read’ those instructions without already having one. If meaning does not depend upon context, then the code on the CD should have an invariant meaning, one that is independent of the player. Does it, though?

Compare two extremes: a ‘standard’ player that maps the digital code on the CD to music in the manner intended by the design engineers, and a jukebox. With a normal jukebox, the only message that you send is some money and a button-push; yet in the context of the jukebox these are interpreted as a specific several minutes’ worth of music. In principle, any numerical code can ‘mean’ any piece of music you wish; it just depends on how the jukebox is set up, that is, on the exformation associated with the jukebox’s design. Now consider a jukebox that reacts to a CD not by playing the tune that’s encoded on it, as a series of bits, but by interpreting that code as a number, and then playing some other CD to which that number has been assigned. For instance, suppose that a recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony starts, in digital form, with 11001. That’s the number 25 in binary. So the jukebox reads the CD as ‘25,’ and looks for CD number 25, which we’ll assume is a recording of Charlie Parker playing jazz.

On the other hand, elsewhere in the jukebox is CD number 973, which actually is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Then a CD of Beethoven’s Fifth can be ‘read’ in two totally different ways: as a ‘pointer’ to Charlie Parker, or as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony itself (triggered by whichever CDs start with 973 in binary). Two contexts, two interpretations, two meanings, two results. Whether something is a message depends upon context, too: sender and receiver must agree upon a protocol for turning meanings into symbols and back again. Without this protocol a semaphore is just a few bits of wood that flap about.

Tree branches are bits of wood that flap about, too, but no one ever tries to decode the message being transmitted by a tree. Tree rings — the growth rings that appear when you saw through the trunk, one ring per year — are a different matter. We have learned to ‘decode’ their ‘message,’ about climate in the year 1066 and the like. A thick ring indicates a good year with lots of growth on the tree, probably warm and wet; a thin ring indicates a poor year, probably cold and dry. But the sequence of tree rings only became a message, only conveyed information, when we figured out the rules that link climate to tree growth. The tree didn’t send its message to us.

In biological development the protocol that gives meaning to the DNA message is the laws of physics and chemistry. That is where the exformation resides. However, it is unlikely that exformation can be quantified.

An organism’s complexity is not determined by the number of bases in its DNA sequence, but by the complexity of the actions initiated by those bases within the context of biological development. That is, by the meaning of the DNA ‘message’ when it is received by a finely tuned, up-and-running biochemical machine. This is where we gain an edge over those amoebas. Starting with an embryo that develops little flaps, and making a baby with those exquisite little hands, involves a series of processes that produce skeleton, muscles, skin, and so on. Each stage depends on the current state of the others, and all of them depend on contextual physical, biological, chemical and cultural processes.
Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

I have come to accept that here on our earth there are no heroes only different degrees of villainy.

 

C. Today’s Poem:

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The poem below is an excerpt from a much longer one written by Renee Verona that I discovered while wandering through the internet. The poem appears to be based, in part, on Dante’s Paradisio. Verona, a self-published poet, has an internet site (https://rarityofparadise.com/). In it, he periodically publishes his poems and requests donations to enable him to continue his work.

It is not unusual for poets to try to find novel means of publishing their work. Whitman used to wander through the bars of NY (as did Blake in London) selling handwritten copies of his poems, and Shelly often stood on busy street corners and tossed bundles of his poems into the carriages of the noble and wealthy as they drove by.

What attracted me to Verona was, admittedly, less his poems than his audacity and some of the artwork that accompanies the poetry.

 

From “Obsidian and Alabaster.”

 

Through the reflection of my obsidian blade, I saw a jester drowning in the sorrows belonging to his hopeless witticism

Scarlet to cover the tulips that laid foolish, herald a cut-throat… forsaken in this storm praying for thunderbolts to alleviate me,

Sharp lighting to scream, and there, bury me within an unholy divinity as devilish is my creed,

Yet this clown that smirks comforts thee

Thine eyes have witnessed much suffering, men art, but demons chasing eternity, misguided by prophecy… and he dares to laugh

The reckless Montague a saint unto I… to empathize…to seize, realize a moment of freedom when all is cursed by hypocrisy

(…To despise… To visualize )

God favors the trickster, giving unto him a horrible truth that he bears with a grin ( a glimpse at how the world primarily sins)

Watch as they abandon themselves all for epicurean philosophies,

Drink a bit more the red wine, corrupt your soul a little more to hold a few pieces of sol …More the greed…this obsidian grow thirsty

Unsated…hungry… the blood moon calls, onward towards the twilight where hellhounds roam free, festering, and feasting

Fair Jester,

I will be an angel unto thee, unto you that bards hysterically… a sad epigram life has become ( everlasting is the hologram)

Forever is nevermore, soon we will have our reckoning…upon the sun we horde, shadows epithetical to the moon

The forgotten, the vigilant defacing the vox populi, simple mercenaries that seek only to bloom, the evening to forbore…

 

D. Giants of History: The Old Sailor, Deep Sea Diver, World Traveler, ex-Pirate, and So On.

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It is always a pleasure to receive communication from my old and dear friend. He used to live in Thailand but I think he may have returned to his beloved Virgin Islands. Here are his two most recent messages.

 

1. Am now at Walmart…”titusville” “old people struggling..to get inside…going to buy wine.”

2. Jerry _____ ..he was staying with pat. About the time when marcelle got pregnant…..dot and I were living in the slave quarters…..
Jerry would leave leave everyday “cleaned up” ..by 9 or so to work ..at the end of the day ..he would be back and we would meet upstairs .for drinks with Candeed. …he…would always COMPLAIN he could not get paid ..he would half to chase people to get paid….every day the same working hard and having trouble getting paid …this went on for months ..
…Guess what his job was

HE was selling Coke at FAT CITY
…..Dot and I moving to FRENCHTOWN>

 

Life in the Caribbean must very exciting.

 

 

E. Useful Simile of the Week:

“…like some mad weaving machine or a squadron of Yossarians with middle-ear trouble.”

          Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

“The most important role of the tribal Make-a-Human kit is to provide the tribe with its own collective identity, making it possible for it to act as a unit. Tradition is good for such purposes; sense is optional. All religions are strong on tradition, but many are weak on sense, at least if you take their stories literally. Nevertheless, religion is absolutely central to most cultures’ Make-a-Human kit.”

“The growth of human civilization is a story of the assembly of ever-larger units, knitted together by some version of that Make-a-Human kit. At first, children were taught what they must do to be accepted as members of the family group. Then they were taught what they must do to be accepted as members of the tribe. (Believing apparently ridiculous things was a very effective test: the naïve outsider would all too readily betray a lack of belief, or would simply have no idea what the appropriate belief was. Is it permitted to pluck a chicken before dark on Wednesday? The tribe knew, the outsider did not, and since any reasonable person would guess ‘yes’, the tribal priesthood could go a long way by making the accepted answer ‘no’.) After that, the same kind of thing happened for the local baron’s serfs, for the village, the town, the city and the nation. We spread the net of True Human Beings.”
          Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Categories: April through June 2020, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 24 Joey 0009. (April 15, 2020)

 

“Ten men in our country could buy the whole world and ten million can’t buy enough to eat.”
          Will Rogers (He made this comment about 90 years ago. Sometimes nothing changes)

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN SELF-QUARANTINE:

 
Today is the fortieth day of our self-quarantine. It began like most of my days do now, quarantine or not, with my usual breakfast and then sitting in the reclining chair to watch the mornings news. What differed today was my recognition that, more or less, it also would be what the rest of our day would be like. We are beginning to run out of novel ways to entertain ourselves. I suppose by now that has become common for most of us stuck waiting for this pandemic to end. I feel like what those old mountain men must have felt like while being trapped all winter in a snow-covered cabin in the wilderness.

Having read the prior paragraph and checked back through previous posts, I noticed that I often begin these issues of T&T with either over-melodramatic tales of woe or irrational joy. Why not? After all, I 80 years old and just woke up. Who the hell knows what I may feel like on any given morning.

Easter Sunday, same old, same old. Last night, I did not sleep well. My mind tossed about reviewing lengthy examples of what I would write here when I woke up. As expected, they are all gone now. Anyway, it is Easter.

For we Catholics (fallen away, apostate or believer), despite the vast number of feasts and holy days on the liturgical calendar, Christmas (Originally Saturnalia) and Easter ( Eostre or Ostara, a Germanic pagan sex goddess) stand out as the most revered (Renewal and redemption — the renewal of the sun and the start of planting. Yes, redemption for what you did during the winter can be satisfied by a good spring plowing.) Although one would think all children would prefer Christmas and the presents they received, I liked Easter better. For me, Christmas always was filled with disappointment and family strife. Easter, on the other hand, required only dressing up in the new clothes you probably did not like, suffering through an over-long mass (loved the music and the smell of incense though) and no-one cared what you did thereafter.

 

B. Naida, Pookie, and Boo-Boo the Barking Dog Break Quarantine.

 

Anyway, on Easter Sunday we broke confinement. We were pretty stir-crazed, so, instead of church, we decided to drive into the country — to the Cosumnes River near the ranch where Naida used to live — the history of which was included in her remarkable books, The California Gold Trilogy (bridgehousebooks@gmail.com). It took only about fifteen minutes to get to the turn-off onto the unpaved portion of Latrobe Road. Naida told me it was the main road from the train station at Latrobe (a town that no longer exists) to Sacramento in the mid-1900s. Along the road, several buildings and structures still existed from the middle of the 19th Century that she mentioned in her books.

We expected the road to be empty but instead, there were a few motorbikes churning up dust and some cars with couples looking for someplace to park. The dirt road wound through a few enormous cattle ranches. Eventually, we also parked and got out of our car for a walk. The ranches have preserved the landscape as it more or less had been since the Native Americans roamed the area unmolested. The famous Oak Woodlands of California remain much as they did then. The grasslands, on which the woodlands stood, were cropped clean by the vast herds of Elk and other ruminants and resembled manicured golf courses. They also do so today except now they are trimmed by the grazing herds of cattle.

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Naida and Boo-Boo the Barking Dog standing in front of a typical Oak Woodland.

 

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Almost everywhere along the road and in the meadows spring wildflowers bloomed — California poppies, dwarf and standard lupin, fiddle necks, and others.
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We then drove through another large ranch that contained the remnant of the Gold Rush town of Michigan Bar. The miners in that town during the Gold Rush slaughtered the Native-Americans that lived on Naida and Bill’s old ranch located about a mile downstream on the Cosumnes River. Naida recalls the event in her novel, River of Red Gold. The novel also tells of the miners from Michigan Bar fighting a water war with the local ranches and killing Jared Sheldon a leader of the ranchers who were attempted to dam the river downstream to irrigate crops at Naida’s ranch site.
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A View Across the Cosumnes River to the Remnant of the Old Gold Rush Town of Michigan Bar.

 

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The old hotel in Michigan Bar.

 

While driving through the town two odd things happened. The first occurred when we parked to photograph a remaining tiny log cottage in which the miners lived (those that did not live in a tent or sleep in the open). When later I looked at the photo, I saw this:

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I do not know what caused this but I love the result so I included it here.

The second strange event began while I was taking the above picture. Not too far from us, an old car was parked with what looked like one person sitting in the front seat enjoying the river view. The car appeared to be an old Hudson or Mercury, you know, all black with tiny windows resembling the Bat-mobile. Suddenly he jumped out of the car and walked off a few steps at stood there as we drove away.

We drove on to the edge of town and stopped to photograph some wildflowers exposing their passionate spring colors along the side of the road. Suddenly, I noticed the black car speeding down the road toward us. It passed, went up the road away, turned around, and stopped by our car. There was a young man and a young woman in the front seat. The young man rolled down his window and said, “Can you take our picture?”

Forgetting all about social distancing, I agreed. Then remembering and being embarrassed to now refuse, I grabbed some lens-wipes l had brought along to clean my glasses hoping they would somehow protect me. I got out of our car, took hold of his camera trying but failing to grasp it with the lens-wipes, and prepared to take their photograph.

The young man was skinny, with a bleached white complexion, scrawny brown beard and a few odd small blue poorly executed tattoos, The woman, who seemed annoyed about something, had a little more heft to her, dark hair, and brown skin. I guessed her to be a Latina or perhaps of Native American extraction. They insisted on being photographed sitting on the car bumper and showing the car behind then rather than the beautiful landscape all around.

After taking the photographs, I returned to the car convinced that I had broken all the rules of social distancing and that within the next two weeks I would surely die.

Following that bit of misadventure, we drove onto the massive 15,000 acres Van Vleck Ranch. The Van Vleck’s were friends of Naida and Bill. I was in state government when Gordon Van Vleck was Secretary of Resources. He was a pleasant man who tried to do the right thing in a Republican administration. Both Gordon and his older brother Stan had die Stan while piloting his small plane over the ranch. Stan’s wife, Lynn, who inherited the ranch, shortly after his death had married a sheep rancher from Texas whose ranch was even larger than the Van Vleck’s. Naida wanted to visit them in order to see how her friend Lynn was doing because she had not been able to contact her for a while because she had misplaced her phone number. Lynn was at home and we, observing the proper social distancing protocols, had a delightful conversation.
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Naida and Lynn observe social distancing across the fence.

 
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The Van Vleck Ranch Center at dusk.

 
Following our visit, we drove back into the Enchanted Forest.

 

C. Back in the Enchanted Forest.

 

The next morning we woke up to discover that our portion of the subdivision was without water. We think that is because the HOC is installing a new water metering system. So, we spent the day just like we always do except today without water.

I think self-confinement is beginning to get to Naida. She has begun shouting at her smart-phone. It is not so much that she did not do it in the past. We all do now and then. I suspect that in the future we will recognize a new health hazard — smart-phone fury syndrome. Anyway, it is now happening more often. Like my own rage at sitting here reading Facebook posts and watching endless news programs on why we are confined and our President’s whining about how it is not his fault. We could go for another ride somewhere. It will be good for both of us. Instead, we decided to spend today watching crime shows like “Forensic Files.” They did not improve our mood.

At about 5PM having grown tired of learning about the several gruesome ways of committing murder, noticing the sun was shining brightly, and recognizing the meaning of the dog’s whining we decided to once again break containment and take a walk. This time we walked to the levee along the American River. The azaleas bloomed everywhere. There were a lot of people, mostly from nearby Sac State walking, running, bike riding, and generally enjoying this pleasant warm evening. We returned refreshed if a bit concerned that we may have snared a coronavirus or two along the way.
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Azalea Madness in the Enchanted Forest.

 

D. OFF TO THE SANDHILL CRANE PRESERVE:

 

 

The following day we decided death by plague to be a superior method of meeting one’s maker than death by cable-news. So, we set off for the Sandhill Crane Preserve at some restored wetlands in the Delta near Gault. The sandhill cranes had long departed the wetlands and had returned to Canada for the summer. Nevertheless, I was eager to visit the restored wetland having a hand in promoting and developing early wetland restoration techniques over 40 years ago.

We took care this time to pack masks, food, drink, and rubber gloves. The wetland restoration was as well done as any I have seen and the wildlife surprisingly varied. We saw huge flocks of geese and other birds feeding in the wetland.
IMG_E8141

 

IMG_E8143

 

IMG_E8145

 
That’s all for now. Take care of yourselves. And, above all, remember to always keep on truckin…
th

 

 

 

 

DAILY FRACTURED FACTOID:

 

 
A Few More 5000 Year Old Zany Aphorisms From Sumer.

The fox, having urinated into the sea, said: “The depths of the sea are my urine!”

For a donkey there is no stench. For a donkey there is no washing with soap.

For his pleasure he got married. On his thinking it over he got divSumerorced

To serve beer with unwashed hands, to spit without trampling upon it, to sneeze without covering it with dust, to kiss with the tongue at midday without providing shade, are abominations to Utu.

He came, he stayed a while; he finished, he did not stay put.

All-day long, oh penis, you ejaculate as if you have blood inside you, and then you hang like a damp reed.

To appreciate the earth is for the gods; I am merely covered in dust.

Bitterness afflicted the anus, but it entered by way of the mouth.

The dog gnawing on a bone says to his anus: “This is going to hurt you!”

 

 

Not only were the ancient Sumerians the creators of Civilization but they also seem to be the originators of slapstick comedy. That sounds reasonable. A civilization without humor cannot be considered civilized. Or, as Groucho said, “I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.” Or, even more appropriately, “It isn’t necessary to have relatives in Kansas City in order to be unhappy.” That is civilized. And, the abominations of Utu to you too.

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

 

A. On Top: A Few Brief and at Times Amusing Essays for Understanding Basic Science with Which to While-Away Your Time During Self-Confinement.

 

Part II

 

INFORMATION, A NUMBER — Biology and Physics.
Most people, scientists in particular, are happiest with a concept when they can put a number to it. Anything else, they feel, is too vague to be useful. ‘Information’ is a number, so that comfortable feeling of precision slips in without anyone noticing that it might be spurious.

Two sciences that have gone a long way down this slippery path are biology and physics. The discovery of the ‘linear’ molecular structure of DNA has given evolutionary biology a seductive metaphor for the complexity of organisms and how they evolve, namely: the genome of an organism represents the information that is required to construct it. The origin of this metaphor is Francis Crick and James Watson’s epic discovery that an organism’s DNA consists of ‘code words’ in the four molecular molecular ‘letters’ A C T G, which, you’ll recall, are the initials of the four possible ‘bases’. This description led to the inevitable metaphor that the genome contains information about the corresponding organism. Indeed, the genome is widely described as ‘containing the information needed to produce’ an organism.

The easy target here is the word ‘the’. There are innumerable reasons why a developing organism’s DNA does not determine the organism. These non-genomic influences on development are collectively known as ‘epigenetics’, and they range from subtle chemical tagging of DNA to the investment of parental care. The hard target is ‘information’. Certainly, the genome includes information in some sense: currently an enormous international effort is being devoted to listing that information for the human genome, and also for other organisms such as rice, yeast, and the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. But notice how easily we slip into cavalier attitudes, for here the word ‘information’ refers to the human mind as receiver, not to the developing organism. organism. The Human Genome Project informs us, not organisms.

This flawed metaphor leads to the equally flawed conclusion that the genome explains the complexity of an organism in terms of the amount of information in its DNA code.

Humans are complicated because they have a long genome that carries a lot of information; nematodes are less complicated because their genome is shorter. However, this seductive idea can’t be true. For example, the Shannon information content of the human genome is smaller by several orders of magnitude than the quantity of information needed to describe the wiring of the neurons in the human brain. How can we be more complex than the information that describes us? And some amoebas have much longer genomes than ours, which takes us down several pegs as well as casting even more doubt on DNA as information.

Underlying the widespread belief that DNA complexity explains organism complexity (even though it clearly doesn’t) are two assumptions, two scientific stories that we tell ourselves. The first story is DNA as Blueprint, in which the genome is represented not just as an important source of control and guidance over biological development, but as the information needed to determine an organism. The second is DNA as Message, the ‘Book of Life’ metaphor.

Both stories oversimplify a beautifully complex interactive system. DNA as Blueprint says that the genome is a molecular ‘map’ of an organism. DNA as Message says that an organism can pass that map to the next generation by ‘sending’ the appropriate information.

Both of these are wrong, although they’re quite good science fiction — or, at least, interestingly bad science fiction with good special effects.

If there is a ‘receiver’ for the DNA ‘message’ it is not the next generation of the organism, which does not even exist at the time the ‘message’ is being ‘sent,’ but the ribosome, which is the molecular machine that turns DNA sequences (in a protein-coding gene) into protein. The ribosome is an essential part of the coding system; it functions as an ‘adapter,’ changing the sequence information along the DNA into an amino acid sequence in proteins. Every cell contains many ribosomes: we say ‘the’ because they are all identical. The metaphor of DNA as information has become almost universal, yet virtually nobody has suggested that the ribosome must be a vast repository of information. The structure of the ribosome is now known in high detail, and there is no sign of obvious ‘information-bearing’ structure like that in DNA. The ribosome seems to be a fixed ‘machine’. So where has the information gone? Nowhere. That’s the wrong question.

The root of these misunderstandings lies in a lack of attention to context. Science is very strong on content, but it has a habit of ignoring ‘external’ constraints on the systems being studied. Context is an important but neglected feature of information. It is so easy to focus on the combinatorial clarity of the message and to ignore the messy, complicated processes carried out by the receiver when it decodes the message. Context is crucial to the interpretation of messages: to their meaning. In his book The User Illusion Tor Nørretranders introduced the term exformation to capture the role of the context, and Douglas Hofstadter made the same general point in Gödel, Escher, Bach. Observe how, in the next chapter, the otherwise incomprehensible message ‘THEOSTRY’ becomes obvious when context is taken into account.

Instead of thinking about a DNA ‘blueprint’ encoding an organism, it’s easier to think of a CD encoding music. Biological development is like a CD that contains instructions for building a new CD-player. You can’t ‘read’ those instructions without already having one. If meaning does not depend upon context, then the code on the CD should have an invariant meaning, one that is independent of the player. Does it, though?

Compare two extremes: a ‘standard’ player that maps the digital code on the CD to music in the manner intended by the design engineers, and a jukebox. With a normal jukebox, the only message that you send is some money and a button-push; yet in the context of the jukebox these are interpreted as a specific several minutes’ worth of music. In principle, any numerical code can ‘mean’ any piece of music you wish; it just depends on how the jukebox is set up, that is, on the exformation associated with the jukebox’s design. Now consider a jukebox that reacts to a CD not by playing the tune that’s encoded on it, as a series of bits, but by interpreting that code as a number, and then playing some other CD to which that number has been assigned. For instance, suppose that a recording of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony starts, in digital form, with 11001. That’s the number 25 in binary. So the jukebox reads the CD as ‘25,’ and looks for CD number 25, which we’ll assume is a recording of Charlie Parker playing jazz.

On the other hand, elsewhere in the jukebox is CD number 973, which actually is Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Then a CD of Beethoven’s Fifth can be ‘read’ in two totally different ways: as a ‘pointer’ to Charlie Parker, or as Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony itself (triggered by whichever CDs start with 973 in binary). Two contexts, two interpretations, two meanings, two results. Whether something is a message depends upon context, too: sender and receiver must agree upon a protocol for turning meanings into symbols and back again. Without this protocol a semaphore is just a few bits of wood that flap about.

Tree branches are bits of wood that flap about, too, but no one ever tries to decode the message being transmitted by a tree. Tree rings — the growth rings that appear when you saw through the trunk, one ring per year — are a different matter. We have learned to ‘decode’ their ‘message,’ about climate in the year 1066 and the like. A thick ring indicates a good year with lots of growth on the tree, probably warm and wet; a thin ring indicates a poor year, probably cold and dry. But the sequence of tree rings only became a message, only conveyed information, when we figured out the rules that link climate to tree growth. The tree didn’t send its message to us.

In biological development the protocol that gives meaning to the DNA message is the laws of physics and chemistry. That is where the exformation resides. However, it is unlikely that exformation can be quantified.

An organism’s complexity is not determined by the number of bases in its DNA sequence, but by the complexity of the actions initiated by those bases within the context of biological development. That is, by the meaning of the DNA ‘message’ when it is received by a finely tuned, up-and-running biochemical machine. This is where we gain an edge over those amoebas. Starting with an embryo that develops little flaps, and making a baby with those exquisite little hands, involves a series of processes that produce skeleton, muscles, skin, and so on. Each stage depends on the current state of the others, and all of them depend on contextual physical, biological, chemical and cultural processes.
Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

 

I have come to accept that here on our earth there are no heroes only different degrees of villainy.

 

 

C. Today’s Poem:
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The poem below is an excerpt from a much longer one written by Renee Verona that I discovered while wandering through the internet. The poem appears to be based, in part, on Dante’s Paradisio. Verona, a self-published poet, has an internet site (https://rarityofparadise.com/). In it, he periodically publishes his poems and requests donations to enable him to continue his work.

It is not unusual for poets to try to find novel means of publishing their work. Whitman used to wander through the bars of NY (as did Blake in London) selling handwritten copies of his poems, and Shelly often stood on busy street corners and tossed bundles of his poems into the carriages of the noble and wealthy as they drove by.

What attracted me to Verona was, admittedly, less his poems than his audacity and some of the artwork that accompanies the poetry.

From “Obsidian and Alabaster.”

Through the reflection of my obsidian blade, I saw a jester drowning in the sorrows belonging to his hopeless witticism

Scarlet to cover the tulips that laid foolish, herald a cut-throat… forsaken in this storm praying for thunderbolts to alleviate me,

Sharp lighting to scream, and there, bury me within an unholy divinity as devilish is my creed,

Yet this clown that smirks comforts thee

Thine eyes have witnessed much suffering, men art, but demons chasing eternity, misguided by prophecy… and he dares to laugh

The reckless Montague a saint unto I… to empathize…to seize, realize a moment of freedom when all is cursed by hypocrisy

(…To despise… To visualize )

God favors the trickster, giving unto him a horrible truth that he bears with a grin ( a glimpse at how the world primarily sins)

Watch as they abandon themselves all for epicurean philosophies,

Drink a bit more the red wine, corrupt your soul a little more to hold a few pieces of sol …More the greed…this obsidian grow thirsty

Unsated…hungry… the blood moon calls, onward towards the twilight where hellhounds roam free, festering, and feasting

Fair Jester,

I will be an angel unto thee, unto you that bards hysterically… a sad epigram life has become ( everlasting is the hologram)

Forever is nevermore, soon we will have our reckoning…upon the sun we horde, shadows epithetical to the moon

The forgotten, the vigilant defacing the vox populi, simple mercenaries that seek only to bloom, the evening to forbore…

 

D. Giants of History: The Old Sailor, Deep Sea Diver, World Traveler, ex-Pirate, and So On.
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It is always a pleasure to receive communication from my old and dear friend. He used to live in Thailand but I think he may have returned to his beloved Virgin Islands. Here are his two most recent messages

1. Am now at Walmart…”titusville” “old people struggling..to get inside…going to buy wine.”

2. Jerry _____ ..he was staying with pat. About the time when marcelle got pregnant…..dot and I were living in the slave quarters…..
Jerry would leave leave everyday “cleaned up” ..by 9 or so to work ..at the end of the day ..he would be back and we would meet upstairs .for drinks with Candeed. …he…would always COMPLAIN he could not get paid ..he would half to chase people to get paid….every day the same working hard and having trouble getting paid …this went on for months ..
…Guess what his job was

HE was selling Coke at FAT CITY
…..Dot and I moving to FRENCHTOWN>

Life in the Caribbean must very exciting.

 

E. Useful Simile of the Week:

 

“…like some mad weaving machine or a squadron of Yossarians with middle-ear trouble.”

Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

 

“The most important role of the tribal Make-a-Human kit is to provide the tribe with its own collective identity, making it possible for it to act as a unit. Tradition is good for such purposes; sense is optional. All religions are strong on tradition, but many are weak on sense, at least if you take their stories literally. Nevertheless, religion is absolutely central to most cultures’ Make-a-Human kit.”

“The growth of human civilization is a story of the assembly of ever-larger units, knitted together by some version of that Make-a-Human kit. At first, children were taught what they must do to be accepted as members of the family group. Then they were taught what they must do to be accepted as members of the tribe. (Believing apparently ridiculous things was a very effective test: the naïve outsider would all too readily betray a lack of belief, or would simply have no idea what the appropriate belief was. Is it permitted to pluck a chicken before dark on Wednesday? The tribe knew, the outsider did not, and since any reasonable person would guess ‘yes’, the tribal priesthood could go a long way by making the accepted answer ‘no’.) After that, the same kind of thing happened for the local baron’s serfs, for the village, the town, the city and the nation. We spread the net of True Human Beings.”
Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

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This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 23 Joey 0009 (April 11, 2020)

 

“Trump is… a gang boss, born and bred. Brought up to screw civil society all ways up, not be part of it.”
          le Carré, John. Agent Running in the Field (p. 222). Penguin Publishing Group.

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 

 

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES DURING THE PLAGUE:

 

 

I read somewhere that there is no reality only story — no matter, no energy, no universe, no love, no sorrow, no up or down — only stories. So, what is my story? This is especially pertinent now as I sit here during the great self-confinement of 2020. Who knows? Who cares? I only want to get back to a different story. One I used to know, with people I know. With goals other than simply waiting it all out. Does this make me a delusional bundle of narrative? You know, between you me and the storyteller? I don’t really care. I want out.

This morning I woke up earlier than I have for the past week or so. It was sunny outside following a couple of days of rain. That lifted my spirits. That and the fact that I had finally slept well after a few nights of disturbing dreams.

After screwing around on my smartphone a while (you know checking messages, reviewing the weather reports, sport stories, Facebook posts and a porn site or two) I got up, did significantly less than half of the exercises prescribed for by the physical therapist, I took my pills (Those that I have left) brushed my teeth, patted down my hair and dressed. I then set off downstairs for breakfast.

Naida, as usual, had arisen much earlier than I in response to Boo-boo the Barking Dogs barking. She went downstairs with him to let him out into our backyard to do his thing. I have come to believe this is more convenient and neighborly than putting the dog on a leash and taking him out to do his thing on the neighbor’s property.

After that, as usual, she, still in her housecoat, made her coffee and sat in her recliner to watch the morning news.

I strolled down the stairs slammed open the doors to the study where she was quietly sitting at peace enjoying her coffee with the dog on her lap and I belted out:

Hello my baby, hello my honey
Hello my ragtime gal
Send me a kiss by wire,
Baby, my heart’s on fire,

I do this routine at least four times a week (sometimes, but not often, I change the tune). I do not really know how this goes off with Naida. She always smiles and gives me a kiss when I bend my head down to receive one. Boo-boo the Barking Dog on the other hand generally scampers off her lap and hides under the desk. There are critics everywhere.

 

It rained for a day or two, I do not recall for how long. I have a vague recollection of writing in here about the minutia of our lives, but, if I had, it clearly has disappeared, most likely caused by the imps of the computer, those arbiters and critics of our life nowadays.

Anyway, today the seventh day of April the sun came out. The washing away of the pollen and civilizations grit (with an assist from social distancing) allowed nature to shamefully but happily expose itself with sparkling clarity. The tree on my back yard whose colors, the vibrancy of which, I rely upon to tell me that the glory of the day was worth experiencing gleamed in splendor.
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Frank called from Florida shortly after I had settled into my recliner with my usual breakfast of coffee and toasted English muffins slathered in butter and marmalade. He, like the rest of us, has settled into self-imprisonment comfortably having had the pleasure of experiencing its, joys, sorrows, and tedium in a far different circumstance a number of years ago. Like me and you and most of the world, he spends a lot of his time before the television viewing movies like a movie critic on steroids. He suggested I see “The Godfather of Harlem” a series of which about 10 episodes have been shown. It stars Forest Whitaker as the Godfather. He said it portrays many of the Italian Mafiosi I have met (Like Frank Costello) in actual historical events. He also recommended “Machine Gun Preacher,” a movie described as “The true story of Pennsylvanian [USA] biker Sam Childers, who overcame a life of drugs and violence to embrace Christianity and wage a 13-year war to free enslaved child in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan, Africa.”

After exchanging stories of our current confinement, I hung up and looking out of the into at the splendor outside (a good name for a television movie), I suggested to Naida that we break out of our socially imposed confinement, leash up Boo-boo the Barking Dog, jump in the car and drive to Discovery Park. And we did.

Discovery Park lies on a low bluff at the confluence of the Sacramento and American River. The Native Americans called the area Mo’mol, (pronounced mok mal) The Big Drink.

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Someone Fishing at the Confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers. (The clear waters American River coming from the right meets the muddy waters of the Sacramento. The buildings of downtown Sacramento loom in the distance.)

 

The Maidu group of Native-Americans inhabited the area of Sacramento around the Park prior to the arrival of the Spanish. According to Naida, this area in effect could be considered a Native-American town because of the number of villages supported by the enormous fecundity of the immediate area.

The park area itself during this period, according to Naida, was park-like, a meadow with huge trees of Black Walnut, Cottonwoods, Valley Oaks, and Sycamores growing around.

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Naida and Boo-boo the Barking Dog resting by the Massive Trunk of a Cottonwood.

 

Large trees still dot the landscape.
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The Native-Americans from the villages would often gather on the meadow for festivals and other get-togethers. Naida said that when the first Spanish explorers arrived at the confluence of the rivers and noticed its park-like visage and grazing elk one of them exclaimed that it was so beautiful it was like a sacrament of God. Hence the name Sacramento was born.IMG_8076

 

Today the park is a bit unkempt. Still, there were hikers, bicycle riders, and a few people just lounging around, all social distancing and enjoying the day. Many of Sacramento’s homeless were there also. They too were social distancing from one another and everyone else.

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That evening after returning home, I was exhausted and irritable. Trying to figure out what is going on after going through the usual, I suddenly remembered that I had run out of my happy pills several days ago. I had started taking them about 12 years or more ago because I was fed up with my inability to control myself when I was under stress or fatigued and convinced my psychoanalyst at the time that pills were quicker and less expensive than he was. Naida told me that Bill had been taking similar medicine to deal with some of the physical and psychological effects of his last months and she still had some. So I will be taking some tonight if we can find them.

The next day, I arranged for my original prescriptions to be filled. I was still feeling bad so Naida drove me to the Walgreens in El Dorado Hills to pick up those prescriptions and after that, we collected our groceries at the pickup spot at the Raley’s near our home.

On Thursday I drove into SF for my immunotherapy appointment. After parking, I put on my face mask. As I entered the Hospital everyone else was also wearing a mask and it was strangely quiet. After the treatment Drove to Peter’s house where Peter, Barrie, and I had a brief social distancing discussion through the car window. Then I drove home.

Friday was a day for naps.

 

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOIDS:

 

 

 

A. Gravity:

 

 

The gravitational attraction exerted by a single doctor at a distance of 6 inches is roughly twice that of Jupiter at its closest point to the Earth.”
Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

 

B. Burning Wood:

 

 

Burning wood gains weight.
(This occurs because the oxygen added is heavier than the heat released. That is also why the bucket of ash the morning after feels so heavy as you take it out to the trash.)

 

 

C. Race, Racism, Thomas Jefferson, and Sally Hemmings:

 

 

“Race exists, of course, but its reality is not primarily biological. The reality of race is in the domain of the symbolic. Race is most real in the sense that, as is well-known, Thomas Jefferson fathered children with his black slave, Sally Hemings. Yet according to the only extant descriptions of her, Sally Hemings had light skin and long, straight dark hair. Why? Because only one of her four grandparents was African. She was a slave because of her symbolic ancestry, not because of her biological ancestry or her appearance.”
(http://anthropomics2.blogspot.com/2019/12/i-coined-phrase-human-biodiversity.html)

 

 

D. Eternal Truths From Sumer.

 

 

Within a collection of proverbs written in ancient Sumer in about 2300 BCE, the following was discovered:

“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial: a young woman did not fart in her husband’s embrace.”

“To be sick is acceptable; to be pregnant is painful; but to be pregnant and sick is just too much.”

“In respect of both expenditures and capital goods, the anus is well supplied.”

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

A. On Top: A Few Brief and at Times Amusing Essays for Understanding Basic Science with Which to While-Away Your Time During Self-Confinement. PART I

 

 

Introduction:

During this period of self-confinement as we begin to discover electronic entertainment remains inadequate to fill our thirst for distraction, I thought it may be interesting to some to learn of developments in modern science written in a simple, entertaining, and understandable way. To that I turn to the beloved Sir Terry Pratchett, the recently deceased O.B.E. and author of the many, many volume Discworld series who with his able coconspirators, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen, produced a four-volume work entitled “The Science of Discworld” in which they attempt to explain and compare the science of Discworld (none only magic) and our earth, Roundworld, (no magic only science) and the universe in which it sits.

Terry Pratchett is the acclaimed creator of the bestselling Discworld series. He has been appointed OBE and a Knight Bachelor in recognition of his services to literature. Ian Stewart is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick, and the author of numerous books on math and popular science, as well as science fiction novels coauthored with Jack Cohen. Jack Cohen is a professor of biology and honorary professor of mathematics at the University of Warwick.
The odd chapters of the four novels relate the adventures of the Wizards of the Unseen University located on Discworld in the center of that world’s largest, most dense, and least desirable place to live Ankh Morepark. They created the Roundworld universe which is contained within a small glass globe at Unseen University either in the offices of the Archchancellor of Unseen University Mustrum Ridcully, or in the subterranean offices next to or behind the boiler that provides heat and other things to the university occupied by the Egregious Professor of Cruel and Unusual Geography, Rincewind, or in the library presided over by the librarian. a 300-pound Orangutang named Ook because that was the only recognizable word he spoke. These Wizards and others periodically travel to their creation, Roundworld, attempting to right whatever they think has gone wrong and usually failing at it.

The even chapters, written for the most part by Stewart and Cohen, attempt to describe, quite successfully I believe, the mysterious science of Roundworld.

Although the four books explore a huge variety of things odd and mundane, this post entitled Part I contains excerpts only from chapter 18 of the second book in the Science of Discworld entitled, The Globe.

 

 

                                                    PART I.

 

Is information a concept, or a number? Is it meaning or message or is the medium the message?

 

 

INFORMATION IS A CONCEPT —

 

Information Technology.
Information is not a thing, but a concept. However, the human tendency to reify concepts into things has led many scientists to treat information as if it is genuinely real. And some physicists are starting to wonder whether the universe, too, might be made from information. How did this viewpoint come about, and how sensible is it?

Humanity acquired the ability to quantify information in 1948, when the mathematician-turned-engineer Claude Shannon found a way to define how much information is contained in a message — he preferred the term signal — sent from a transmitter to a receiver using some kind of code. By a signal, Shannon meant a series of binary digits (‘bits’, 0 and 1) of the kind that is ubiquitous in modern computers and communication devices… By a code, he meant a specific procedure that transforms an original signal into another one. The simplest code is the trivial ‘leave it alone’; more sophisticated codes can be used to detect or even correct transmission errors. In the engineering applications, codes are a central issue, but for our purposes here we can ignore them and assume the message is sent ‘in plain’.

Shannon’s information measure puts a number to the extent to which our uncertainty about the bits that make up a signal is reduced by what we receive. In the simplest case, where the message is a string of 0s and 1s and every choice is equally likely, the amount of information in a message is entirely straightforward: it is the total number of binary digits. Each digit that we receive reduces our uncertainty about that particular digit (is it 0 or 1?) to certainty (‘it’s a 1’, say) but tells us nothing about the others, so we have received one bit of information. Do this a thousand times and we have received a thousand bits of information. Easy. The point of view here is that of a communications engineer, and the unstated assumption is that we are interested in the bit-by-bit content of the signal, not in its meaning.

So the message 111111111111111 contains 15 bits of information, and so does the message 111001101101011. But Shannon’s concept of information is not the only possible one. More recently, Gregory Chaitin has pointed out that you can quantify the extent to which a signal contains patterns. The way to do this is to focus not on the size of the message, but on the size of a computer program, or algorithm, that can generate it. For instance, the first of the above messages can be created by the algorithm ‘every digit is a 1’. But there is no simple way to describe the second message, other than to write it down bit by bit. So these two messages have the same Shannon information content, but from Chaitin’s point of view the second contains far more ‘algorithmic information’ than the first.

Another way to say this is that Chaitin’s concept focuses on the extent to which the message is ‘compressible’. If a short program can generate a long message, then we can transmit the program instead of the message and save time and money. Such a program ‘compresses’ the message. When your computer takes a big graphics file — a photograph, say — and turns it into a much smaller file in JPEG format, it has used a standard algorithm to compress the information in the original file. This is possible because photographs contain numerous patterns: lots of repetitions of blue pixels for the sky, for instance. The more incompressible a signal is, the more information in Chaitin’s sense it contains. And the way to compress a signal is to describe the patterns that make it up. This implies that incompressible signals are random, have no pattern, yet contain the most information. In one way this is reasonable: when each successive bit is maximally unpredictable, you learn more from knowing what it is. If the signal reads 111111111111111 then there is no great surprise if the next bit turns out to be 1; but if the signal reads 111001101101011 (which we obtained by tossing a coin 15 times) then there is no obvious guess for the next bit.

Both measures of information are useful in the design of electronic technology. Shannon information governs the time it takes to transmit a signal somewhere else; Chaitin information tells you whether there’s a clever way to compress the signal first, and transmit something smaller. At least, it would do if you could calculate it, but one of the features of Chaitin’s theory is that it is impossible to calculate the amount of algorithmic information in a message — and he can prove it. The wizards would approve of this twist.

‘Information’ is therefore a useful concept, but it is curious that ‘To be or not to be’ contains the same Shannon information as, and less Chaitin information than, ‘xyQGRlfryu&d%sk0wc’. The reason for this disparity is that information is not the same thing as meaning. That’s fascinating. What really matters to people is the meaning of a message, not its bit-count, but mathematicians have been unable to quantify meaning. So far.

And that brings us back to stories, which are messages that convey meaning. The moral is that we should not confuse a story with ‘information’.
           Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

 

I have recently realized that I don’t leap to conclusions, I plunge headlong toward them.

 

 

C. Today’s Poem:

 

 

School of Truth

O fool, do something, so you won’t just stand there looking dumb.
If you are not traveling and on the road, how can you call yourself a guide?

In the School of Truth, one sits at the feet of the Master of Love.
So listen, son, so that one day you may be an old father, too!

All this eating and sleeping has made you ignorant and fat;
By denying yourself food and sleep, you may still have a chance.

Know this: If God should shine His lovelight on your heart,
I promise you’ll shine brighter than a dozen suns.

And I say: wash the tarnished copper of your life from your hands;
To be Love’s alchemist, you should be working with gold.

Don’t sit there thinking; go out and immerse yourself in God’s sea.
Having only one hair wet with water will not put knowledge in that head.

For those who see only God, their vision
Is pure, and not a doubt remains.

Even if our world is turned upside down and blown over by the wind,
If you are doubtless, you won’t lose a thing.

O Hafiz, if it is union with the Beloved that you seek,
Be the dust at the Wise One’s door, and speak!

HAFIZ. From: ‘Drunk On the Wind of the Beloved’ Translated by Thomas Rain Crowe

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

 

“‘The Lords and Ladies,’ she said. ‘Who’re they?’ Nanny looked around. But, after all, this was a forge … It wasn’t just a place of iron, it was a place where iron died and was reborn. If you couldn’t speak the words here, you couldn’t speak ’em anywhere. Even so, she’d rather not. ‘You know,’ she said. ‘The Fair Folk. The Gentry. The Shining Ones. The Star People. You know.’‘What?’ Nanny put her hand on the anvil, just in case, and said the word. Jason’s frown very gently cleared, at about the same speed as a sunrise. ‘Them?’ he said. ‘But aren’t they nice and—’ ‘See?’ said Nanny. ‘I told you you’d get it wrong!’ You said: The Shining Ones. You said: The Fair Folk. And you spat, and touched iron. But generations later, you forgot about the spitting and the iron, and you forgot why you used those names for them, and you remembered only that they were beautiful … We’re stupid, and the memory plays tricks, and we remember the elves for their beauty and the way they move, and we forget what they were. We’re like mice saying, ‘Say what you like, cats have got real style.’

Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder. Elves are marvelous. They cause marvels. Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies. Elves are glamorous. They project glamour. Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment. Elves are terrific. They beget terror. The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning. No-one ever said elves are nice.

Elves are bad.

          Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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Categories: April through June 2020, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 11 Joey 0009 — the twenty-eighth day of our confinement. (April 5, 2020)

 

“One thing about Republican presidents: They never went in much for plans. They only had one plan. It says, ‘Boys, my head is turned. Just get it while you can.'”
          Will Rogers

 
HAVE A HAPPY SOCIAL DISTANCING.

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 

 

A. AFTER TWENTY-EIGHT DAYS OF CONFINEMENT:

IMG_8046

Would you believe that six months ago I was bald?

 

 

B.POOKIE’S FURTHER ADVENTURES IN SOCIAL DISTANCE LAND:

 
Today is my 28th day in self-quarantine. It has begun to feel like years. I never thought that by becoming a recluse I would be seen as being socially conscious. On the other hand, in my case and a few others, I can think of that may be true.

This evening in keeping with the national social distancing policies during the coronavirus epidemic, Naida, Peter, Barrie, and I had a virtual dinner party. Naida and I were in our house in the Enchanted Forest here in Sacramento and Peter and Barrie were nestled in their home in Noe Valley in the Big Endive by the Bay. We were connected to each other by FaceTime. Naida and I enjoyed fettuccini arrabbiata with a side of raw cabbage and washed it all down with cran-raspberry juice. Peter and Barrie were dieting and refrained from dinner. We had a good time. We discussed these days of social distancing and the impact of the current plague on coffee and comfort.

I wonder when this epidemic is over if we will not find ourselves in a totally different world. People are discovering new ways to entertain themselves by devising different means of enjoying social interactions with others through the internet. And, what is more important, we are now beginning to find them enjoyable. Shopping has changed. Corporations may find that passing on the cost of real-estate to work at home employees is beneficial to their bottom line. I guess what I am saying is that we won’t go back to the way we lived before the plague nor how we worked. Whatever the trends and possibilities of the so-called connected society that may have been coming will be greatly accelerated by this damned plague.

On this same subject, while prowling through the internet, I came across the following in Daily Kos:

Here are some of the things that are going to fundamentally change.
A big return of Keynesian economics. Almost overnight, Republicans ditched their austerity mantra and quickly voted for a $2 trillion stimulus. There was no talk of “we need to balance the budget;” instead there was talk about keeping people whole.
A return to government expertise. Watching Dr. Fauci and other experts during this crisis has been very comforting because they tell the truth (which stands in stark contrast to Trump). Polls show that the public trusts them. Once this is over, expect the public to become a lot more comfortable with expertise.
A rise of teleworking: Modern technology allows people to work remotely. I’ve observed there’s a clear generational divide regarding this idea: old people dislike it, younger people are all over it. Once this is over, expect this idea to become part of the modern workforce
A huge rise in automation. One of the big problems with manufacturing in the current crisis is that large groups of people have to be in close proximity, which prevents social distancing. Expect factories to adopt automation at a faster pace to ramp-up production as this thing comes to an end. And this will lead to …
A future discussion and eventual adoption of Universal Basic Income: I’m behind in understanding the specifics of this concept, but I understand the basic idea, which is pure Keynesian in concept. Expect this to become a commonly expressed idea.
A complete rethinking of the US health care system. Watching this disaster unfold one thing has become very clear: the healthcare system has to change in a big way. I have no idea what it will look like. But it’s going to change. (https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2020/3/29/1932324/-Accept-That-Everything-You-Understand-About-the-World-Will-Fundamentally-Change?utm_campaign=trending)

 

I am not so sure about some of these but clearly, times are changing.

This morning Naida awoke with severe pain in her right shoulder. She believes it is a return of something that occurred several years ago that was alleviated by a trip to a chiropractor. I am not so sure. Tonight we watched Fiddler on the Roof for the umpteenth time. Before that we saw Sterling Hayden in a great Noir feature whose name I forgot, and before that one with Cary Grant playing a doctor and before that…well, you get the picture. All the movies were very good, unlike some of those we see on other nights.

I usually work on my computer, read or eat during the movies. I, also, sometimes just sit there daydreaming — not so much fantasy or mulling over regrets but debating with myself about things like:

Is sufficiently advanced magic practically indistinguishable from technology? Or, can we hear the thoughts of thunderstorms or the conversations of dogs? And, for something to be true, does it have to be expressed in numbers? If so, does nature care whether humans can do sums? Also, if God were separate from the material universe, would then there be an entity greater than God, namely, the entire universe plus God? Even, which of the King’s sons win the hand of the fair princess? Perhaps, does feminism address the same questions as male-oriented models? Also, why is it the three Rs and not two Rs and an A? In addition, are homo sapiens not ‘wise men’ but apes that got what they wanted or were they simply apes who gave up trying? And finally, what really is ‘the magic word’?
(Note: Thanks to T. Pratchett’s The Science Of Discworld II, for much of the foregoing paragraph.)

I am getting sick of movies. Today they were all about baseball.

Today, a day or two after the baseball movies, I decided to move into the living room from the studio in order to get away from the tv while reading. I was immediately rewarded with a bit of a new and erotic interpretation of fairy tales like Cinderella. Most fairy tales, as that old lecher Freud pointed out some with a fairly racy interpretation and so does cinder girl’s glass slipper. It seems in the old German version of the tale, the young women of the kingdom gave the lusty young prince their “fur slipper” to try on for size. When the story arrived in France and was translated in that language ‘verre.’ Verre can be translated as either ‘glass’ or ‘fur’. The Grimm brothers went for the hygienic alternative, saving parents the danger of embarrassing explanations.

As long as I am going on about the real story behind the fairy tales of our youth, here is another one from the irrepressible Terry Pratchett.

Rumpelstiltskin was an interestingly sexual parable, too, a tale to program the idea that female masturbation leads to sterility. Remember the tale? The miller’s daughter, put in the barn to ‘spin straw into gold’, virginally sits on a little stick that becomes a little man … The dénouement has the little man, when his name is finally identified, jumping in to ‘plug’ the lady very intimately, and the assembled soldiers can’t pull him out. In the modern bowdlerized version, this survives vestigially as the little man pushing his foot through the floor and not being able to pull it out, a total non sequitur. So none of those concerned, king, miller or queen, can procreate (the stolen first child has been killed by the soldiers), and it all ends in tears. If you doubt this interpretation, enjoy the indirection: ‘What is his name? What is his name?’ recurs in the story. What is his name? What is a stilt with a rumpled skin? Whoops. The name has an equivalent derivation in many languages, too.
Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

I much prefer my fairy tales explained to me by Terry Pratchett than Joseph Campbell, don’t you?

Several days have gone by mostly sitting here in my recliner with the television rumbling on and Naida dozing off on the recliner next to me with the dog asleep on her lap. Sometimes I dip into Pratchett’s four volumes of The Science of Discworld and extract one phrase or another to paste in here for lack of anything else to write about.

Naida just woke up and told me that it is time to walk the dog. I used to think it was some obligation that life forced upon those with dogs in their house. Now I respond like the dog, excitedly running around the house tongue hanging out and looking for the leash.

Last night I thought, no believed, I had caught the dread coronavirus and was going to die before morning. A tickle in my throat, an upset stomach, a feeling of general malaise, and a few other things I no longer remember had me terrified. Naida said it was just a springtime allergy and gave me our last Loratadine pill. I was dubious and remained convinced of my imminent death. This morning I woke up feeling great. Later in the day, she discovered Loratadine pills she had purchased for the dog containing enough pills for all three of us to get through the next few weeks.

Today, whatever day this is, Naida scheduled a video conference call with her daughters, Sarah and Jennifer. She spent a few hours excitedly preparing for it — changing clothes, straightening her hair, reviewing the directions for operating the application. Boo-boo the Barking Dog slept and I happily banging away on the computer keys here recording the event. Thinking about it all, I could have been more up to date by recording everything on my smart-phone, but instead, I attempt to record it in words on paper— oops, on my screen. Damn, I wrote the word “paper” in the last sentence, and spellcheck changed it to “tape.” I give up, even the machines know what’s coming.

Alas, Naida’s conference call sadly was canceled in part because of technical difficulties.

Today I woke up at noon after a night of horrid dreams. It is raining outside and bit dreary but the tree at the back of the yard, at the height of its spring colors, cheers me up.

IMG_8048

 

That’s all. Keep on social distancing. Remember to say hello to yourself in the mirror every morning. You are always there for you.

 

 

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

 

 

 

For every species, their main competition is members of the same species. They’re the ones that want exactly the same resources that the others of your species do. This goes for humans too. We compete with each other for resources. Collections of humans, whether tribes, states, empires, or whatever also compete for resources with other tribes, states, and empires.

This is the problem with human-caused climate change either local or global (we do have many examples of other species causing local climate change [recently at times with human assistance] and one or two examples of global climate change).

For this reason, global human-induced climate change cannot be dealt with unless humanity sees itself as one single society.

Even so, Malthus is correct in that without some means of controlling population or securing off-world resources ultimately we will destroy ourselves. Hope is the myrrh of disappointment.

 

 

 

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

 

 

 
This continues my posting of the entries in a diary I kept in 1963, 57 years ago. The diary and another one from 1964 for some unknown reason have accompanied me all these years through all my different life experiences. They are the only things that have, given my tendency to abandon or give away everything I have including wives every 10 years or so. The only other things that have remained with me consistently throughout the years are my children and a few dear friends. That is not too bad a deal I think.
May 18, 1963, Saturday.

I feel terrible about the exam. I must have done very poorly. I will do better on my next one.

President Kennedy has decided to visit the pope during his tour of Italy because, he says, of the Pope’s failing health. When John XXIII the world will lose a great man. Few men have done more for humanity and the human spirit in this quarter-century than Pope John. What makes his accomplishments more impressive is that he has done it all not through the use of power or dialectic but only through the greatness of and compassion in his soul.

(I cannot believe I used “myrrh” in a sentence. I was a little over-wrought about Pope John, but I was a practicing Catholic back then. I am a non-practicing Catholic. agnostic. or atheist now depending on the day you ask me.)

 

May 20, 1963, Monday.

It is raining today. It is on of those pleasant warm weather showers that I have always found enjoyable. It is like a dark curtain that drops over one separating him from the heat and dust of the day. It cleans the air as it cleans the mind.

We had a study session today in which we went over the previous contract exams. I found myself opposing every answer to the questions that were advanced by the other members of the practice group. Two of them left in disgust.

I hope I will do better on the next exam. I am sure I will.

 

May 22, 1963, Wednesday.

With every examination, I feel like I did poorly. I find myself faced with two choices, either I should drive myself harder so that I do better or should I allow the haunting question of whether what I am doing is worthwhile at all.

Perhaps deep analysis would solve the dilemma. Analysis in-depth, however, is not something accomplished in a single day. Sometimes it takes a whole life.

My social position is not one that lends itself to the dedication of one’s life to analyzing primary human problems even if those problems are our own. A choice of goals must be made but without some faith, it is probably impossible. Unfortunately in our society today that faith seems to have been driven from the hierarchy of human values.

(For the life of me, I do not know what I was talking about here. I clearly was having a bad day.)

 

May 23, 1963, Thursday.

Today, regretfully, I have not studied. Instead, I began reading a new book, Sea Venture. It is partly a historical tale based on the shipwreck of Ad. G. Sommers (?) on Bermuda Island. I wish I could read books with the cold analysis of a dispassionate reader. Instead, I always seem to find myself entering the story as a participant. The words disappear. I discover myself on the deck of that ill-fated vessel. With my modern prejudices and fears, I find myself deposited back in that exciting if cruel time. It is my hands running along the barmaid’s thighs as I prepare to rape her. It is my face feeling the spray of the water as we enter Portsmouth Harbor, my nose smells the stench of the ships hold, my stomach destroyed by years of bad diet and my heart longing for a new start in the New World.

Perhaps entertainment is better than self-improvement. It certainly is much more enjoyable.

(Maybe that is all I have ever wanted in my life — to sit and read. In that way I could live thousands of lives, travel everywhere even into worlds of fantasy, experience things I could never have experienced in my mundane life. I guess those more modern than I hooked into their smart-phones or computers experience even more that I did by reading. But alas, who brings the food. Perhaps that is the future, machines produce the food and delivered it to us sitting before our screens traveling through dreamland.)

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

A. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:

 
Today, I decided to drop into one of my favorite blog sites Logarithmic History (https://logarithmichistory.wordpress.com/). It is a blog that traces the history of the universe throughout the year beginning on January 1 with the Big Bang and ending on December 31 with today. The years progress, however, day by day on a logarithmic scale. The author explains:

“If you’re a bit hazy about logarithms, all you have to know is that each day of the year covers a shorter period in the history of the universe than the preceding day (5.46% shorter). January 1 begins with the Big Bang and covers a full 754 million years. January 2 covers the next 712 million years, and so on. Succeeding days cover shorter and shorter succeeding intervals in the history of the universe. At this rate, a given calendar date covers only a tenth as much time as a date 41 days earlier.”

“On this logarithmic scale, Earth is formed on January 20, trilobites arise toward the end of February, and dinosaurs meet their doom on April 6. The middle of the year finds Homo erectus giving way to early versions of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. October begins with King David and ends with Columbus. By December 7, we reach the year of the Beatles’ first LP (1963). December 31 covers just one year, 2017; calendar time and history-of-the-universe time finally coincide at midnight.”

 

Here is his entry for today March 28th, he discusses the rise of social insects.

“Certainly the statistics on social insects today are impressive.”

‘The twenty-thousand known species of eusocial insects, mostly ants, bees, wasps and termites, account for only 2 percent of the approximately one million known species of insects. Yet this tiny minority of species dominate the rest of the insects in their numbers, their weight, and their impact on the environment. As humans are to vertebrate animals, the eusocial insects are to the far vaster world of invertebrate animals. … In one Amazon site, two German researchers … found that ants and termites together compose almost two-thirds of the weight of all the insects. Eusocial bees and wasps added another tenth. Ants alone weighed four times more than all the terrestrial vertebrates — that is, mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians combined.” E. O. Wilson pp 110-113”

“E. O. Wilson, world’s foremost authority on ants, and one of the founders of sociobiology, thinks that the origin of insect eusociality might have lessons for another major evolutionary transition, the origin of humans (and of human language, technology, culture, and complex social organization). In his book The Social Conquest of Earth he argues that a key step in both sets of transitions was the development of a valuable and defensible home — in the case of humans, a hearth site. Wilson returns to this argument in his book Genesis: The Deep Origin of Human Societies, just published, which I’ll get around to saying more about here eventually. On the same topic, Mark Moffett’s book The Human Swarm: How Human Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall, asks how it is that we somehow rival the social insects in our scale of organization.”

“One trait found in both ants and humans is large-scale warfare. Wilson gives an idea of the nature of ant warfare in fictional form in his novel Anthill. It’s an interesting experiment, but also disorienting. Because individual recognition is not important for ants, his story of the destruction of an ant colony reads like the Iliad with all the personal names taken out. But Homer’s heroes fought for “aphthiton kleos,” undying fame (and got some measure of it in Homer’s poem). The moral economy of reputation puts human cooperation in war and peace on a very different footing from insect eusociality. (Here’s my take on “ethnic group selection,” which depends on social enforcement, perhaps via reputation.)”

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

 

 

People are not only people. They are people surrounded by things and circumstances. Human beings are their history. There is no such thing as an individual. We are each the sum of our history and the circumstances that enfold us.

 

C. Today’s Poem:

 

At a certain age
We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.
White clouds refused to accept them, and the wind
Was too busy visiting sea after sea.
We did not succeed in interesting the animals.
Dogs, disappointed, expected an order,
A cat, as always immoral, was falling asleep.
A person seemingly very close
Did not care to hear of things long past.
Conversations with friends over vodka or coffee
Ought not be prolonged beyond the first sign of boredom.
It would be humiliating to pay by the hour
A man with a diploma, just for listening.
Churches. Perhaps churches. But to confess there what?
That we used to see ourselves as handsome and noble
Yet later in our place an ugly toad
Half-opens its thick eyelid
And one sees clearly: “That’s me.”
     Czeslaw Milosz

 

D. Apologies, Regrets, Humiliations, and Comments:

 
Some comments on my previous post. I have omitted the names of the commenters because in the past some people objected to being identified.

1. This is an excellent and very funny blog. It cheered me up in the time of the Plague; or Corvid19. Or whatever this fucking thing is.

2. So, is it true that the Decameron is the product of the stories Boccaccio and his friends told each other while isolating themselves up on Bellosguardo hill while the plague raged below in Firenze?

Should we take some meaning from it? Or at least start looking for some equivalent enterprise?

3. Stay safe Al-Azeem!

4. In response to the entry that ends with “Naritivium essentially replaces magic in a universe without it”:

Sentence one takes me back to my days as a philosophy major. Epistemology- how do we know what we know? Etc. Are you sure phlogiston isn’t really real? And causality and David Hume: Prove it! — you can’t. But you can stick it in your desk drawer, as he did, and carry on. And of course, the Buddhists, for whom it’s all Maya and illusion, so go sit under a bodhi tree and seek apotheosis, OR: go wallow in social distancing and house arrest and hope your TV doesn’t conk out.

5. In response to “Speaking of ability, it has been said, or I have read it somewhere that most sane, rational human beings learn quite early on that you feel just as certain even when you’re wrong. For this reason, the strength of your belief is usually not a valid measure of its relation to reality”:

This, of course, is the root of much domestic strife and sitcom comedy. Imagine if everyone Didn’t do that. Probably if all were like that, it would describe the terminal boredom of heaven.

6. I have been thinking of you. Lots of time to think, as you mentioned. How are you planning to get your treatments in SF? It is even possible to get the treatments? Is it safe to go for them? I presume the overnight at Peter’s is not going to happen. I know that you will figure it out, because that is what you are good at, figuring hard things out. Better than most. You are also good at getting hard stuff done when you want to.

To which I responded, “I don’t know about getting hard things done. It is usually those who remain strong and give support that allows others to get the hard things done.”

7. Thank you for your email. Due to the Coronavirus, our office is closed until April 7, 2020.
8. This is a system-generated message to inform you that your email could not be delivered to one or more recipients.

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

 

“Nowadays only cosmologists and particle physicists are allowed to invent new kinds of matter when they want to explain why their theories totally fail to match observed reality.”
Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S MYSTERY:

cinema_volta

DOES ANYONE KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS?

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S ART ODYSSEY:

Zoe Lacchei 5

 

ZOE LACCHEI

Categories: April through June 2020, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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