“The rich ‘learn lessons.’ The poor commit crimes. ‘Mistakes’ are generally considered a mark of the middle class.”
Bancroft, Josiah. The Hod King (The Books of Babel) . Orbit.
TODAY FROM AMERICA:
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:
It is Super Bowl Sunday. Rain dribbles from a grey sky clothing the empty branches of the trees with crystalline droplets. I am feeling a bit better today than I have this past week. The side-effects of the last infusion appear to be dissipating. The good news is that my oncologist has recommended that I meet with the surgeon to reexamine the potential for surgery now that the Chemo seems to have produced some shrinkage in cancer.
We were invited to a Super Bowl party at Naida’s daughter’s house. As we walked to the car, I noticed the camellias were in bloom throughout the neighborhood — a riot of pink flowers on the trees and pink petals littering the ground.
The party was pleasant and the food exemplary. It was too bad that I still cannot taste anything. The game was boring so we left early and returned home where I worked on my suggested revisions to the US Constitution one of my never to be seen obsessions. While working away, I also watched a documentary on the “royal beds” of 17th to 19th Century England. For those who like me find these things interesting or at least amusing, in the 17th Century, the highest courtier in the palace was the something or other of the stool. He was the only courtier allowed to accompany the king to the toilet and hold his toilet paper.
A week has gone by. Following a day or two of sunshine, another storm seems on the way. Although I am feeling better, the weather and my general fatigue have restricted me to spend most of my time around the house — watching old movies and cable news, reading, writing and when the weather permits walking the dog along the paths that wind among the misty trees of the Enchanted Forest.
Strangely, I do not find myself too bored during these the dreary days — more resigned then bored. I sit in a comfortable chair in the study and read. In the last four days, I have read four books, Tahir Shah’s Beyond the Devil’s Teeth, Sanderson’s Skyward, Josiah Bancroft’s The Hod King and Andrew Mayne’s Murder Theory. In between, I am reading Hitler in Los Angeles and tomorrow I will begin on Galbraith’s (Rowling) Lethal White. All of which indicates I am desperate for excitement.
I think I mentioned that I am losing my hair as a side effect of chemotherapy. This morning, while examining the recently exposed skin on my rapidly balding head, Naida noticed a large scar leading to a depression in my skull at the back of my head. This is a mystery. I have no recollection of ever suffering an injury to my head. Could I have forgotten it? Not likely. Could I have repressed it? Possibly. But why?
On Wednesday we set off for San Francisco for my infusion treatment. The surgeon reported that the tumor is still entwined with my cartroid artery and I would need additional chemo treatments before an operation would be feasible.
As usual, we were guests of Peter and Barrie who’s hospitality and kindness the I could never repay. Hiromi and my granddaughter arrived bringing us gifts and joy.
Amanda, Peter, and Pookie.
That night, while taking the dogs out into the backyard, Naida slipped on the wet steps and fell and injured her head, arm, and lower back. Nothing appeared broken, but she was sore and woozy for several days thereafter.
The next day, not too much to report there, I slept through most of it. My grandson Anthony arrived that evening bringing additional joy to my life.
Anthony and Old Baldie
The next morning Jason dropped by to see us off. It made me happy to see him. Naida and I left SF at about 10:30 and drove back to Sacramento and the Enchanted Forest. Exhausted by the trip we retired to bed early.
HRM broke his wrist. It had something to do with picking up the mail and slippery steps. I drove into the Golden Hills. He was in good spirits. Several members of the Scooter Gang were keeping him company. He was most distressed that the injury would prevent him from his weekly snowboarding trips to Heavenly.
There seems to be less and less activity in my life now — mostly sitting in the chair playing with my computer, napping and watching the news or old movies on the television — no exercise to speak of — no real boredom either — just settling into somnolent eighties where one simply waits. Still, at night, lying in each other’s arms remains even more pleasant than ever. I am happy then — the creeping eternal shadow seems softer and less forbidding somehow.
Well, after a week where I could barely get out of bed, I am now feeling much better. I can walk across the room without becoming so dizzy it was all I could do to keep from falling down. Outside, pre-spring seems to have arrived in the Enchanted Forest. The Japanese Cherry trees are in bloom and the weather definitely getting warmer.
Rain continues day after dreary day. Good for the snowpack and the reservoirs. Not so good for old men who like to walk through the forest for exercise. Nevertheless, despite the gloomy weather and my maladies I am quite happy if somewhat restrained. I live with someone who I enjoy spending the day with sitting side by side silently working away on our computers and at night holding tightly to each other as though nothing else matters.
I have not seen HRM for about a week now. I miss him. I miss the word games we play and watching him experience the excitement and difficulties of adolescence.
For those who have been following the saga of the Mysterious Orb, it finally seems to have disappeared. | have searched for it around the neighborhood but it seems to have gone. I will miss it. I somehow felt more secure having that odd orb looking over us.
The days go by and the rains continue. The Russian River has overflown its banks and flooded several towns. Well, as I wrote this the sun came out for a few moments.
On Friday, I drove into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM and his friends and drive them wherever. HRM told me he broke up with his girlfriend Camille. He said that he had to call her every day and other things but preferred to hang with his friends. “When I get older I can pay more attention to girls and girlfriends. Right now, I like what I am doing,” he added.
HRM, Big Jake, and Little Jake and Caleb piled into the car. I dropped little Jake off at his house and the rest of them at Dick’s place warning them not to get into too much trouble. I then went to have a hot dog and a root beer float at A&W. As I was finishing up my gourmet lunch H called me and asked me to drive them around again so I returned drove Big Jake home and HRM and Caleb to Caleb’s house where H would spend the weekend.
H told me a story on the way. At school that day, his Language Arts teacher told the class that the teachers have the right to award detention to anyone who comes even one-second late to class and then asked if there were any questions. H raised his hand and announced that he thought that would be very mean for someone to do so if the person was only a second late. She accused him of calling her a mean person. He said he was not accusing her of doing something like that but that he was only expressing his opinion that anyone who did that would be mean. While I was happy to see him stand up for what he thought was right and told him so, I was not sure how wise it was.
I am not sure what is happening as he grows older, he used to be the teacher’s pet and generally won the annual prize for deportment and behavior, suddenly he seems to be becoming the spokesman for student’s rights. That’s ok I guess.
Yesterday I learned that the ex-model Winnie who lives in the Enchanted Forest also has been diagnosed with cancer of the lung and brain. I feel very bad for her. She is a bit older than me and used to flirt with me. Either that or she thought me interesting because I was odd or somewhat more — I cannot think of the word… crude comes to mind — so maybe she thinks I am more interesting than the few other men in the subdivision.
On Saturday, we attended the weekly coffee at the Nepenthe Community Center. We haven’t taken part in this weekly event for a couple of weeks now. Many of the usual attendees were there — the two spies, the leader, the artist, the Big Guy, and a few others. Naida and the artist had a long discussion about their life among the Mormons. The artist who was born in a Mormon settlement in Wyoming told about her marriages to Mormon men one of whom had other wives or girlfriends, I couldn’t tell which. Naida mentioned the sex dances Mormon teenagers were encouraged to attend in Idaho when she lived there and her great grandparents escape from Salt Lake City.
Today I drove into the Golden Hills to pick up HRM and a couple of the Scooter Gand. SWAC had returned to Thailand yesterday and HRM was now a latch key child. He told me about school. He has become more outspoken with his teachers, questioning their rules. Expected, yes. Teenage boys quest for independence. Well, now I worry. It is his14th birthday on Thursday. Unfortunately, I will be in San Francisco. Nevertheless, I plan to hold a small party for him on Saturday after I return.
Tomorrow we leave again for San Francisco and another chemotherapy infusion
B. NOT A BOOK REPORT:
“You have fled before, Hodder Tom, haven’t you? You have the haunted look of a man who has bolted in every direction, a man who has fought every adversary and somehow never run out of enemies, a man who has plotted himself nameless, friendless, and nearly lifeless. You already know what happens when you run. You know you cannot panic your way to freedom; you cannot worry yourself home. You must face your fears. The only way out is inward.”
Bancroft, Josiah. The Hod King (The Books of Babel). Orbit.
While reading the third book in Bancroft’s The Books of Babel, a series I have commented on previously (https://trenzpruca.wordpress.com/2018/06/07/not-a-book-report-because-i-am-going-to-take-a-ship-instead/) I came across the above paragraph. For some reason, it affected me like few statements have. Again I am not sure why.
As some know, I have a habit of posting in T&T quotes of statements I come across that I find interesting. I got this approach from Don Neuwirth who would carry a notebook with him in which he would copy down aphorisms he read or heard that impressed him. I thought that was a good habit to get into. Since I do not keep a journal, or rather T&T is my journal, I post those I like here.
The series, classified as a Steampunk Fantasy, concerns the adventures and misadventures of a schoolteacher and his wife who travel on their honeymoon to the Tower as tourists. The tower, a gigantic edifice juts far into the sky. Each level contains a kingdom. On the lower levels, the several kingdoms are dedicated to a different attraction or vice intended to captivate the tourist — most often to their ruination and despair. At the top of the tower, far in the clouds resides a strange and secretive person called the Phoenix who develops most of the machines that keep the Tower running.
I consider the series to be one of the better fantasy efforts I have come across and perhaps the best among the steampunk slice of the genre. Goodreads describes the first book in the series as follows:
The Tower of Babel is the greatest marvel in the world. Immense as a mountain, the ancient Tower holds unnumbered ringdoms, warring and peaceful, stacked one on the other like the layers of a cake. It is a world of geniuses and tyrants, of airships and steam engines, of unusual animals and mysterious machines.
Soon after arriving for his honeymoon at the Tower, the mild-mannered headmaster of a small village school, Thomas Senlin, gets separated from his wife, Marya, in the overwhelming swarm of tourists, residents, and miscreants.
Senlin is determined to find Marya, but to do so he’ll have to navigate madhouses, ballrooms, and burlesque theaters. He must survive betrayal, assassination, and the long guns of a flying fortress. But if he hopes to find his wife, he will have to do more than just endure.
By the third book, our newlyweds, separated in the vast market that surrounds the entrance to the Tower, still have not gotten back together although they each have had many splendid, frightening and often painful adventures as well as few affairs.
I am clearly upset about the state of politics in this country. The destruction of democratic societies rarely come from without. They most often are swamped by the oligarchs of wealth before they are finally done in by foreign enemies or just expire like summer flowers in autumn.
MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:
Dick just returned from a ten day trip to Italy. I spoke to him a few days after he arrived back in EDH. Among other places, he spent a few days in Florence which he enjoyed a lot. That reminded me of one on the many times I visited that city. It was about twenty years ago and I was driving along the Lungarno on my way to The Hotel Principessa something or other where I usually stayed because of its wonderful view of the Ponte Vecchio and the Boboli Gardens that rise up behind the Pitti Palace when passing a small plaza I saw a crowd milling about in front of an elegant old hotel (I no longer remember its name). There were television cameras sent up also. I suggested to the woman I was traveling with that we stop and find out what it was all about. We got out of the car and I asked one of the cameramen what was happening. They told me that the son of the deposed King of Italy had just married some Italian heiress and they, the King himself and his court were staying at the hotel. Everyone was waiting for the happy cow-le and the King to arrive.
Now, at that time the King who lived in Spain was prohibited from visiting Italy, but the prohibition was waived for the wedding so everyone was eager to get a glimpse of him. So we decided to stay also
A few minutes later two large limousines and several other cars drove into the plaza and parked. From the back of the first car the bridegroom, (the Prince), and the bride (the heiress) exited. The Prince who was reputed to be gay scurried quickly into the hotel. His wife, the heiress, who I had learned could be quite demanding began ordering about some of the people from the other cars contains the luggage. From the front of the limousine, a tall grey-haired man wearing a blue blazer and a shirt without a tie exited and stood by us watching the activity. Believing him to be the chauffeur, we began talking with him. He spoke English quite well. I thought it would be fun for us to stay in this hotel with the royal family. It certainly would make a good story.
The old gentleman urged us to do so and volunteered to help us get a room. So, in we went and after a few whispers to the man at the desk we had a room. It was then one of the harried retainers approached our new friend and humbly said, “Your Excellency, your room is ready.” And that was when we realized that he was not the chauffeur but the King himself.
Anyway, we checked into our room, a rather large lovely old elegant room. The room was directly above the newlyweds suite. While standing on the balcony we could hear the bride shouting at someone or two for a while.
That evening we went to dinner in the hotel. The newlyweds had left for a party in their honor somewhere else. The King and his court, however, did not join them but instead sat at a large table in the center of the dining room. We were placed at a table near them. We ate a fabulous meal while the King shamelessly flirted with my date.
The next morning we left having thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and with a story as well.
A. Logarithmic History on Top:
It is always a pleasure to drop into the blog Logarithmic History. Using a logarithmic scale mapped onto the course of one year the blog traces the History of the universe from the Big Bang to the present day. In case you are unfamiliar with logarithms and how they are applied here the author Doug Jones explains:
Other folks have proposed putting the history of the universe on a logarithmic scale; here I map that scale onto the course of one year. 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.
So, here is his entry for February. The history of the universe has progressed from the creation of the galaxies to the birth of the solar system to the early stirrings of life of earth.
Between Darwin and Saint Valentine’s day
Yesterday was Darwin’s birthday (and Lincoln’s). Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Here’s a post appropriate for either day.
Imagine sex worked like this:
You’ve been feeling bad lately, getting sick a lot. You’re not at your best. You find someone who seems to be in better shape. One thing leads to another and you wind up acquiring body fluids from the other party — and picking up some new genes from them. The new genes help a lot in fighting off infection. You’re feeling better now.
Reproduction? That’s another matter, nothing directly to do with sex. When you reproduce, your offspring will carry all the genes you happen to have at the moment.
Also, I forgot to mention that you’re neither male or female — the gene exchange could have gone in the other direction if you’d both been in the mood. And your partner in the adventure above might not even have been the same species as you. (Just what counts as a species here isn’t well-defined.)
This is more or less how bacteria work out sex. (Joshua Lederberg got the Nobel Prize for figuring this out.) Eukaryotes (you’re one of them) mostly do it differently, combining sex and reproduction. It’s the story you learned in high school about passing on half your genes to a gamete (sex cell), which joins with another gamete to make a new organism.
Most eukaryotes also have two sexes. The best theory we have about why that got started goes like this: Most of the DNA in a eukaryote cell is in the nucleus. But a small fraction is in the mitochondria, little powerhouses outside the nucleus that started out as bacteria and got domesticated. Imagine that two gametes join together, and combine two sets of mitochondria. There’s a potential conflict here. Suppose your mitochondria have a mutation that lets them clobber your partner’s mitochondria. This is good (evolutionarily speaking) for the winning mitochondria, but very likely to be bad for the cell as a whole. Better for the cell as a whole is if one gamete, acting on instructions from the nucleus, preemptively clobbers all their own mitochondria, so that all the mitochondria come from just the other gamete. This is the beginning of what will eventually lead to a distinction between sperm and eggs, pollen and ovules, male and female. Which means you got all your mitochondrial DNA from your mom, something that will turn out to be important when we look later in the year at geneticists unraveling human prehistory. This is also an example of how selection at one level (within cells) can conflict with selection at another level (between cells). We’ll see such multilevel selection again and again, for example in the evolution of complex human societies.
Sex has to be highly advantageous, although we’re not sure exactly what the advantage is. The general answer is probably that an asexually reproducing organism almost never produces any offspring who have fewer harmful mutations than she has. But a sexually reproducing organism, passing on a random half of her genes to each of her offspring, can have some offspring with fewer harmful mutations, at the cost of having other offspring with more. There are various reasons (Muller’s ratchet, Kondrashov’s hatchet) why this could be evolutionarily advantageous.
In other words, with sexually reproduction, at least some of mum and dad’s kids can be less messed up than their parents; it’s asexually reproducing organisms that really embody Larkin’s dour verse …
Man hands on misery to man,
It deepens like a coastal shelf
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
… insofar as, when eukaryote species give up sex, they don’t seem to last long. Dandelions reproduce asexually: based on what we see in other organisms, they probably won’t be around for long, evolutionarily speaking. There’s one mysterious exception, tiny animals called bdelloid rotifers which have been reproducing asexually for tens of millions of years. For readers who are not bdelloid rotifers: Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow! We’ll have an appropriate evolutionary post up tomorrow.
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:
It is those who stand and fight that die. Those that run and hide often live. Therefore, when confronted with danger or even a fairly serious challenge first run and hide and if that is impossible than fight as though your life depends on it.
C. Today’s Poem:
The poem was written by an injured afghani child in a hospital in Pakistan following the Russian retreat from Afghanistan.
My own village with green fields and high
When I see fields of wheat I remember
When I see a river I remember the rivers
Of my own province, Paghman.
When I see the mountains I remember the range
Of the Hindu Kush. I will never forget
My friends, nor how I went with them to the nearby hills,
Covered by green grass,
With hundreds of cattle grazing there;
And then we were forced to leave.
Shah, Tahir. Beyond the Devil’s Teeth: Journeys in Gondwanaland (p. 172). Secretum Mundi.
“There is a subculture in this country that seems to have no antecedent—a conflation of reality television, National Enquirer journalism, fundamentalist religion, militarism, and professional football. At the center is an adoration of celebrity, no matter how it is acquired or in what form it comes.”
Burke, James Lee. The New Iberia Blues: A Dave Robicheaux Novel (p. 116). Simon & Schuster.
You can make a periodic table of consonants.
Across the top are the different places in the vocal tract where you block the flow of air. Along the left side are different ways of blocking the flow (stopping it completely –t-, letting it leak out –s-, etc.) The table can explain why, for example, we use in for intangible and indelicate, but switch to IM for impossible and imbalance. (The table contains sounds we don’t use in English and uses a special set of signs, the International Phonetic Alphabet, which assigns one letter per phoneme.) This is why a book title like The Atoms of Language makes sense (a good book by the way).
So sometimes the universe gets more complex because already existing stuff organizes itself into complex new patterns – clumps and swirls and stripes. But sometimes the universe gets more complex because brand new kinds of stuff appear, because a new particulate system comes online: elementary particles combine to make atoms, atoms combine to make molecules, or one set of systems (nucleotides to make genes, amino acids to make proteins) combines to make life, or another set of systems (phonemes to make words, words to make phrases and sentences) combines to make language.
HRM and Pookie