Posts Tagged With: Biology

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.
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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. 0008 (December 4, 2019)

 

“Just don’t take any course where you have to read Beowulf.”
Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) to Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) in Annie Hall.

 

HAPPY NATIVE AMERICAN AND ITALIAN PRIDE DAY.

 

Happy Birthday to my son Jason, to Annmarie and to Kesorn.

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:

 

I type this while riding on the train on the way to my tri-weekly immunotherapy infusion at UCSF. Later we will spend the night at Peter and Barrie’s house. We are approaching Suisun-Fairfield. The sky is overcast, gray and dark. Next to me, Naida naps. I think I will join her.

It is now the following morning. We’re sitting around Peter and Barrie’s home eating breakfast and watching Marie Yovanovich’s testimony in the impeachment inquiry. My treatment yesterday was same old, same old. They did discover my thyroid continues to underperform so they upped the dosage of whatever magic concoction they had me on. After the treatment, we headed off to Peter and Barrie’s. I enjoyed traveling around the Big Endive by the Bay on public transportation observing the antics of my fellow riders and watching the brief melodramas of the City as we pass by.

We arrived at Peter and Barrie’s home and spent a pleasant dinner together telling stories and laughing as we often do. The following morning, after breakfast, we all set off for North Beach. None of us had been there for many years. I used to live in North Beach for a few years but had not been back in over a decade. We passed the restaurant where I used to sit at one of the outside tables and eat lunch or dinner several times a week. It is also the site where, in my unfinished and never to be finished novel the main character, Dragon, would sit and conduct business lacking an office to do so. The novel opens with Dragon sitting at one of the tables when Mavis the beautiful Tattoo artist retained him to find her missing boyfriend. Dragon leaves the restaurant to pursue his first clue only too return a few minutes later bloody and frightened having been beaten by two mysterious fat guys. And so, the novel continues on to its non-conclusion. (I will be happy to send anyone interested a copy of the uncompleted novel.)

We also passed several of the sites where Carol Doda, she of the large naked breasts and hydraulic piano, and I during her declining years would meet now and then for dinner and tell each other stories, reminisces, and lies and laugh a lot.

We stopped first in front of a restaurant I intended to have us all eat lunch owned by a man who immigrated from the same town near Avellino in Italy where my grandfather grew up and whose wife was the chef and cooked some of the best Neapolitan food in the area. Unfortunately, it was closed.

Ultimately, we chose Cafe Sport on Green Street. Fifty years ago, when I first visited it, the place was a simple cafe with a pool table in the back room. Antonio (perhaps his name was Franco. I do not remember which), the owner, began also serving some full meals and added brightly colored tables. He also began decorating the place with whatever oddities he could find. Eventually, the pool table was replaced by more tables and more odd decorations. It became one of the favorite hang-outs of the Prop-20 Coastal Commission staff. For a short period, another room was added. To get there, one had to pass through the kitchen where Antonio, a cigarette in his mouth with its long ash drooping over the large pots of sauce simmering on the stove, held court. We would joke that it was the ash that made to food taste so good. That room became an unofficial meeting place of the Coastal Staff until the Fire Department realized it lacked fire exit and closed it down.

The four of us had a good meal, talked a lot and joked with the waiter. We then piled back into Peter’s car and he drove us to the Downtown Transit Station where we boarded the bus to the Emeryville train station to catch the train to Sacramento.
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B. A DREAM BACK IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 

For the past two nights, I have been having a pleasant dream set in the dream world of my ancestral home in Sicily. It is nothing like the real place I have so often visited. In my dream life, I have several places that over the years I return to. They are nothing like the real places they are supposed to represent. For example, San Francisco in my dream world has no Golden Gate Bridge. Instead, when I look north, I see a crowded harbor filled with large ships and pleasure craft. Further north, there is a mountainous island or peninsular. I sometimes climb those mountains and stare at the endless ocean beyond.

Another dream place seems like a combination of Mendocino and Eureka. Strangely when I face north the ocean is in my left as though I am on the East coast. I spend a lot of my dream time here. On the way to the town, there is an old hotel or resort sited a short way from the ocean. It’s a bit rundown down and the owner is a mysterious dyspeptic man who alternately frightens and annoys me.

The Sicilian town of my dreams appears like it had just emerged from the middle ages or had just been bombed during WWII. Both the women and men wear dark clothing — the woman generally long dresses, the men old working men’s clothing. My friend Vittorio, Naida and I were in a tumble-down house. A middle-aged woman (perhaps the owner) acted strangely, perhaps angry at us for some reason.  Fortunately, she took a liking to Vittorio and pulled him off into the bushes. At the back of the house, there was a large shed open on three sides. The shed operated as an impromptu cafe and meeting place for the neighborhood. In the evening, parties were often held there with a lot of singing, dancing, and storytelling. We had a great time and I woke up happy.

 
C. A FEW TRIPS INTO THE GOLDEN HILLS TO MEET WITH HRM:

 
HRM and I got together several times during the past few days.  The first time we met, while sitting in Subway’s eating a meatball sandwich and discussing his schooling, he mentioned he was enjoying High School and liked all his teachers because they each keep a toy for him that he is allowed to play with in class. It seems that since he had been diagnosed with ADD and refuses to take his meds, the teachers have decided it was best to allow him to release some of his excess energy by fiddling with these during class.

A few days later, I returned for the opening of the newly remodeled skatepark. A large herd of young boys and a few girls on scooters and skateboards crammed the place. After, watching things for a while, Naida and I went to lunch in Town Center.

One day I picked him up at the skate park. On the way to lunch at Subway, I inquired about his welding class. Some time ago I had told both him and my daughter Jessica that between adolescence the onset of adulthood they should develop competence in science, art, math, sports, social science, as well as a trade. I believed given the changes we go through in our lives and the changes the society we live goes through,  flexibility is needed for our sustenance,  health, and happiness. In my daughter’s case art became photography, science virology, math (the statistical analysis necessary for her virology doctorate), sports soccer (she continued to play competitively until very recently), and for social science her minor was semantics.

H then showed me his unfinished steel cube designed to look like a die. It was quite heavy and obviously unfinished. He explained he still needed to file down the welded joints.

On Friday, we went to have lunch a Panda’s a fast-food place we favor. He showed me his finished cube. It looked great. We discussed his upcoming Thanksgiving vacation and the possibility of he and I going away somewhere for a few days.

Another time, I picked up Kaleb and him and took them to the hot dog place in City Center for lunch. They had buffalo wings and IItalian a sausage sandwich called “The Godfather.” Like teenagers everywhere they seemed at sixes and sevens about things to do, a bit bored but unwilling to give up the general comfort of home and running off into the woods or onto a ship and sailing away into an adventure.

 

 

D. ODDS AND ENDS:

 
Days pass, my short term memory slowly continues to shred. I have read a number of books these past few weeks (see E. Below). This is notable because, for about a month or so, I, for some reason, had substantially slowed my normal reading regime.

Naida and I continue our regular routine of spending most days and evenings sitting on our reclining chairs and watching either the impeachment hearings or old movies on TCM. In the early evenings, we walk Boo-Boo the Barking Dog through the Enchanted Forest or to the nearby dog park where instead of playing with the other dogs and running around with them helter-skelter he just sits and waits at our feet staring at us until we give up and take him home for his dinner. When we do go out somewhere to shop or to dinner and I get a chance to see us reflected in say a shop’s glass window I see two slightly dotty old people shuffling along on one of those mysterious errands the aged seem to enjoy.

One evening we watched the movie “Marty” on television. I had always liked it for its dialogue and portrayal of the social lives of young Italian-American men in the 1950s in the Bronx. And yes, I found Marty’s relationship with Clara endearing and appreciated the loneliness experienced by the two central characters, but I had not recognized or appreciated the fear of isolation that pervaded all the characters in the film. Angie’s anger and desperation of losing Marty’s companionship, the mother’s fear of abandonment by their sons and so on permeate the film making it less a comedy and more a caution.

It has been raining and cold for the past few days. The weather reports describe it as an atmospheric river flowing across California bringing with it the weather change. One morning when I went outside it was quite misty. The mist appeared almost solid giving in bulk what it takes away in substance.

We have spent the past few days inside, avoiding the cold and the rain. Naida works on editing portions of Volume II of her memoir while I write this or read a novel on Kindle. At other times we watch the news and political commentary on television. In the evening and at times during the day, we watch the flood of holiday movies on television. We also saw the Battle of Algiers, Giant, the silent film version of Joan of Arc and several other non-holiday fare. I am bored. If the rain and cold keep on much longer, I think I will shoot myself.

 
E. NOT REALY BOOK REPORTS:

 
As usual most of the novels I read are candy for the mind. I guess since I no longer ingest spun sugar, cotton candy for the mind will have to do as a substitute. Well, that’s not true, I have always preferred to flood my mind with fluff. I believe living in a fantasy world is every bit as rewarding as living in the real world — perhaps even more so

I am currently reading, The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss the third in a series whose principal characters include Mary Jekyll the Daughter of Dr. Jekyll, Diana the daughter of Mr. Hyde, Beatrice Rappiccini the daughter of a man who raised her on a diet exclusively of poisons leaving her “as beautiful and she was poisonous,” Justine Frankenstein, a significantly over six-foot woman created by the famous doctor Frankenstein originally to wed the equally famous monster, and Cathrine Moreau a puma transformed into a woman by Dr. Moreau. They find each other during the course of the first novel and decide to live together in Mary Jekyll’s home, name themselves the Athena Club and with the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson set about solving arcane crimes. Cathrine is the Dr. Watson of these estimable ladies’ adventures. One of the many conceits in the books is to have members of the club interrupt Cathrine as she writes criticizing and commentating on her work.

Another book I just completed by one of my favorite authors, Joe Abercrombie who in “A Little Hatred” begins a new series continuing the tales set in a world living in something similar to medieval England with a dollop of magic thrown in. Abercrombie clearly intended to feature a bit more magic in his series but his main character, The Bloody Nine, was so compelling, he focused more on the Barbarians of the north of which The Bloody Nine was one and their ceaseless slaughter of one another in the Ring, a battle to the death between two heroes to determine who would be king. These are adolescent boys novels which is probably why I enjoy them so much.

“Dark Pattern” by Andrew Mayne features a mathematical biologist who gives up his post as a college professor to track down serial killers using the techniques of his academic specialty to do so. He is as obsessed with pursuing them as they are in their chosen profession of murder.

“Not my Fae” by Tom Kelly a multi-book series about a Las Vegas cop who discovered the city is really run by fairies (Fae) and demons and what is worse he learns that he is a fairy and even worse he is a son of Gaia and the King of the Fairies. Needless to say the stories deteriorate in each successive novel to such an extent that the author has to explain why in the afterward of his most recent novel.

“The Vital Question” by Nick Lane sounds like another trashy detective story, but it is not. Lane is a biologist. I think it is best that he explains what his book is all about

For me the best books in biology, ever since Darwin, have been arguments. This book aspires to follow in that tradition. I will argue that energy has constrained the evolution of life on earth; that the same forces ought to apply elsewhere in the universe; and that a synthesis of energy and evolution could be the basis for a more predictive biology, helping us understand why life is the way it is, not only on earth, but wherever it might exist in the universe.
Lane, Nick. The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life (p. 16). W. W. Norton & Company.

It is a slow read, but I think important to help clarify my thoughts about the biosphere.

 

 

F. THANKSGIVING:

 
On Thanksgiving, I picked up HRM in the Golden Hills and drove him to Naida’s daughter’s home for Thanksgiving dinner. It was very enjoyable and the food was wonderful. I had to leave a bit early to take HRM back home. Naida, later told me the family spent a few hours after dinner playing word games and singing rounds.

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PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

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The above photograph of the San Francisco Bay Area taken from space demonstrates not only a marvel of technology but the beauty of this corner of the earth. When I look at the photograph, however, I notice the grey urban developed areas. It reminds me of mold in a scientist’s petri dish devouring the agar until it is all consumed and the mold first cannibalizes itself then dies. In fact, the photo may indicate something very much like that on a global level may be happening. Like the mold in the petri dish, the principle organism remaining the white areas of the photograph ( humans), having exhausted the resources in the area, seeks out additional resources (agar for mold and in the case of humans, a variety of other organisms and inert materials) and energy in order to convert them into substances of use (chemically and mechanically) ultimately producing waste and energy (usually in the form of heat.)

The organisms in the dead zone (us) now lacking resources and energy send out filaments (roads, railroads, electric transmission lines, etc.) to transport resources and energy back into the dead zone so that the remaining organisms living there can flourish while the resources and energy at the source are eventually used up.

Meanwhile, waste in the form of unusable garbage and energy build-up everywhere until all the living organisms gradually die. In the interim, the organisms (us) slaughter one another in competition for the resources. This may be a good thing if it reduces demand enough the resources have an opportunity to renew themselves.

A stable population, renewability, and technological advances that promote a reduction in per capita use of resources and energy is “good” technological advancement. Whether humanity, as it has evolved, is the organism that can recognize develop and implement the “good” technological advancement remains to be seen. If not, then, like the mold setting about to devour the last bit of agar in the Petri dish, it is time to be getting ready to begin chanting kaddish.

 

 

 

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

 

 

 

While drifting through some old files on my computer, I came across an article I had written back in 1972. Shortly after I had helped put on the 1971 Buckminster Fuller’s World Games Workshop, I had a brief career as an education consultant, primarily for the Sonoma County Board of Education. During that time, I co-authored the following article. Only a brief portion was available through the internet. If I wanted to view it all, I had to go through some elaborate verification dance. I, to quote the members of the Scooter Gang, “Boring.” Nevertheless, I include here what wnNas immediately available.

 

 

“ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY WITH BUCKMINSTER FULLER’S GEOMETRY

MARTIN J. COHEN and JOSEPH E. PETRILLO

Cybernetics Systems Program, 125 South Seventh Street

San Jose State College, San Jose Ca. 95114

An experimental program in geodesics and Energetic and Synergetic Geometry was carried outwith third, fourth and fifth-grade students. This experiment was followed by a workshop designed to help elementary school teachers incorporate Fuller’s concepts into their teaching programs. Both programs included the building of geometric models, construction of geodesic domes, the study of basic structural patterns in the world, and the application of these patterns to environment and nature studies. In addition, the teacher’s workshop discussed methods of implementing the new studies through integration of study in mathematics, natural science, and social science. Both programs emphasized “learning through doing” — playing with, building, and experiencing physical models and structures and made extensive use of replicable media and learning aids.

 

 

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

 

 
SET — WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

I include this simply as an aide-memoire: there are more meanings for this innocent-looking trinity of letters than there are for any other word in the English language—fully 62 columns’ worth in the complete Oxford English Dictionary, and which naturally include such obvious examples as the condition of what the sun does each evening; a major part of a game of tennis; what one does if one embarks on a journey; what one does if one puts something down on a table; a collection of a number of items of a particular kind; and a further score, or more, of other disparate and unconnected things and actions. Set is a term in bowling; it is what a dog (especially a setter, of course) does when he is dealing with game; it is a grudge; what cement does when it dries; what Jell-O does when it doesn’t dry; a form of power used by shipwrights; what a young woman does when she wants to secure a man’s affections; the direction of a current at sea; the build of a person; a kind of underdeveloped fruit; the stake that is put down at dice … need I go on? In the search for a synonym it is worth pointing out, and only half in jest, that it is quite possible that one or other meanings for set might fit the bill, exactly, and will have you all set, semantically, and quite neatly, without nearly as much effort as you supposed.
Simon Winchester

Also, Set is an Egyptian God.

Set, also known as Seth and Suetekh, was the Egyptian god of war, chaos, and storms, brother of Osiris, Isis, and Horus the Elder, uncle to Horus the Younger, and brother-husband to Nephthys. His other consort was the goddess Tawaret, a hippo-headed deity who presided over fertility and childbirth. He is one of the first five gods created by the union of Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) after the creation of the world. His name is usually translated as “instigator of confusion” and “destroyer” and he was associated with disorder, foreign lands and people, and the color red. He is sometimes depicted as a red-haired beast with a forked tail and cloven hooves or a shaggy red dog-like animal. His symbols were the griffin, hippopotamus, crocodile, and tortoise, but he was mainly associated with the serpent. Epithets for Set include “Lord of the Desert” and “Ruler of the South” as he was originally a god of Upper Egypt (the south) and the barren lands beyond Egypt’s borders.

So, let us all set ourselves down and praise the great god SET.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 
A. Pookie and Naida’s Journey through the Northwest (continued) on Top:

 

Yellowstone Park and Gardiner Montana
The next morning, we woke up and left the BHB intending to return to Yellowstone Park and visit Tower Falls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. As we left the building we were greeted with a magnificent view. A large valley spread out in front of us dotted with herds of elk and pronghorn antelope munching on the green and brown grass. On the far side of the valley, large hills rose up and beyond them, snow-capped mountains and the blue sky.
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We had a pleasant breakfast at the BNB, talking with the owners and other guests before setting off back into the Park to visit Tower Falls and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. As we passed back through the town of Gardiner on our way back into the Park, we passed herds of Elk along the roads and grazing on the lawns of the town. The town itself was a mix of western picturesque and tourist ugly. After entering the Park we passed additional herds of Elk and Bison grazing the rolling grasslands accompanied by gaggles of cars parked along the roadway disgorging piles of tourists taking photographs of the herds. We also passed some of Yellowstone’s more beautiful vista’s.

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The falls and the canyon were both impressive and picturesque.
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Naida and I got separated as she misplaced her purse and walked back to find it and I ambled off along the path above the canyon. It became a bit comical when she returned and saw me ahead on the trail and tried to catch up but for one reason or another, she got close but then fell back again. Eventually, she caught up and celebrated doing so.
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We returned to Gardiner with a stop at one of the mineral springs.
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That evening we ate dinner at a pleasant restaurant with mediocre food. We enjoyed sitting before the fire listening to western music.

The following day, we set off for Yellowstone Falls. We found it, along with hundreds of other tourists, marveled at its beauty and took off for the lakes.
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Along the way, Naida told stories and entertained me identifying the plants and animals we passed by. To Naida, Yellowstone was in her backyard when she was a child. Her father would take her there often on day trips. During a stop for a quick lunch, she pointed out the bear-proof garbage cans. At one time Park garbage was piled up in large open dumps. The bear population of the Park exploded as the bears spent their time scrounging the dumps and the unsecured garbage cans. The park administration believed the bears and other animals were losing their wildness and becoming dependent upon the refuse so they stopped dumping refuse in the park resulting in a radical fall off in the bear population because they lost their ability to live in the wild.

Yellowstone Lake, a large expanse of water that fills a portion of the ancient Yellowstone crater was quite beautiful.
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We spent some time enjoying the view before retiring to the old hotel on the lakes where we bought some books and had a snack.
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It was at this hotel or perhaps at one in the Grand Teton’s National Park we visited a few days ago that Naida told me the following story:

Perhaps 70 years or so ago, Bill Geyer, Naida’s husband who passed away almost two years ago stopped at the hotel for a few weeks. He was about 11 years old at the time. He and his buddies found a small mouse inhabiting the room with them. They befriended it and even gave it the name Crunchmiller. When it became time to leave the boys became concerned that their friend Crunchmiller would be mistreated or killed by some future inhabitants of the room, not knowing he was a friendly and playful little rodent, so Bill decided to write a letter to the Hotel Manager pleading for the Crunchmiller’s life on the grounds he had become a rodent of character and discretion. The Manager becoming so impressed with the letter promptly sent it off to Reader’s Digest, the Fox News of its day where a few weeks later it appeared in print. Bill’s mother, so proud of the letter and her son’s compassion she wrote a book about it. When I enquired about what became of Crunchmiller she responded, “No one knows and no one seemed to care.”
On the way back to Gardiner we passed through the Park Headquarters at Marathon where a herd of elk grazed on the lawns including this big fella:
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That evening back at the BNB, we prepared for leaving the next morning to visit one on Naida’s relatives a cousin Julie Madison in Alder Montana. Unfortunately, she did not have her cousin’s phone number. Nevertheless, although people may no longer use phone books, Naida was able to locate her cousin’s phone number in the one-horse town of Alder Montana by calling “Chick’s Bar.” The bartender, sure enough, knew her cousin’s number and gave it to her. The next morning after saying goodbye to the BNB owners, we left to plunge into old-time Montana.
(To be continued)

 

 
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

 
Taxes never can be set so high that they could ever discourage the wealthy from pursuing their efforts to become even richer.

 
C. Today’s Poem:

 

Tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl
I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl—
Life’s little duties do—precisely—

As the very least
Were infinite—to me—

.
I put new Blossoms in the Glass—
And throw the old—away—
I push a petal from my gown
That anchored there—I weigh
The time ’twill be till six o’clock
I have so much to do—
And yet—Existence—some way back—
Stopped—struck—my ticking—through—
We cannot put Ourself away
As a completed Man
Or Woman—When the Errand’s done
We came to Flesh—upon—
There may be—Miles on Miles of Nought—
Of Action—sicker far—
To simulate—is stinging work—
To cover what we are
From Science—and from Surgery—
Too Telescopic Eyes
To bear on us unshaded—
For their—sake—not for Ours—
Twould start them—
We—could tremble—
But since we got a Bomb—
And held it in our Bosom—
Nay—Hold it—it is calm—

.
Therefore—we do life’s labor—
Though life’s Reward—be done—
With scrupulous exactness—
To hold our Senses—on—
by Emily Dickinson

D. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:

 
Another snag from Jason Colavito (http://www.jasoncolavito.com/blog) in his unending battle with the lunatic fringe. Today he pursues Nephilim hunters and SkyWatch.tv.

Steve Quayle Claims Fallen Angels Will Return Soon to Kill Us All
11/13/2019

This week, Nephilim hunter and Christian bigot Steve Quayle visited the Evangelical extremist broadcaster SkyWatch.tv to discuss UFOs, cataclysms, and giants, as well as the True Legends conference he held in America’s conservative entertainment capital, Branson, Mo., a few weeks ago. The True Legends conference builds on Quayle’s True Legends brand of Christian Ancient Aliens knockoff products, which like much of the Christian entertainment market involves copying something secular, adding sanctimony and hypocrisy, and reducing the quality by 40-50%. Things got off to a great start when Quayle told viewers that he believes that we live in a holographic universe dominated by demons who have created a “hell-o-graphic” world, and that UFO disclosure is imminent because Satan is using demon-driven flying saucers to undermine belief in Nephilim giants.

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

“The difference between our rich and poor grows greater every year. Our distribution of wealth is getting more uneven all the time. A man can make a million and he is on every page in the morning. But it never tells you who gave up that million he got.”
WILL ROGERS

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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Categories: October through December 2019, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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