Posts Tagged With: Sir Terry Pratchett

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. 18 Mopey 0009. (February 4, 2020)

 
Treat The Earth Well, It Was Not Given To You By Your Parents, it Was Loaned To You By Your Children.”
Ancient Native-American proverb

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 
A. A PRELIMINARY COMMENT ABOUT RECENT COMMENTS:

Someone commenting on my previous T&T post wrote, “It was amusing but not particularly funny.” I’ll have you know Mr. Commentator it was neither amusing nor funny. It was ridiculous. If you want funny how about this:

Q. What was Harpo Marx’s favorite joke?
A. “ “.

You didn’t get it? Didn’t think it was funny? Don’t know who Harpo is? Well, Mr. Critic as Groucho says, “If you want to see a comic strip you should see me in a shower.” That not good enough? Then “Those are my principles, if you don’t like them I have others.”

 

 

B. POOKIE’S DAZE:

 

January and February are dreary months. Grey skies, naked trees whose spindly branches scrape the heavens, slick damp ground, chilling breezes creep through every crack and the silence. In the mornings when I look out through the sliding glass doors to the back yard, I see only the bleakness of the season — a forlorn flower or two, naked trees and gray skies.
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Naida and I spent the past few days watching the impeachment hearings. They fit the season. Dreary and dismal best describes the level of misery to which this nation has fallen. Again and again, the trial managers presented the facts and law that under the rule of law led ineluctably to the verdict they call for. Sadly, it appears the rule of law in our society has been shredded beyond retrieval.

The weekend arrived and I was getting restless. Not energetic mind you, just antsy like there is something I should be doing, exercising perhaps, or singing, maybe even taking a long hot bath. Instead on Saturday, we went to the coffee at Nepenthe Club House. That evening we watched “The Two Popes” on Netflix — great acting to go along with splendid shots of the Vatican and Castel Gandolfo. On Sunday while Naida was off visiting some old friends, I took Boo-boo the Barking Dog on a long walk through the Enchanted Forest. I am always amazed that no matter how many times I have walked through those woods over the almost two years I have lived here, I still find paths I had never walked on before and groves of majestic trees I had never seen.

I returned home to discover that Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. Perhaps, as far as history goes, his death is of little importance in light of the real possibility that our nation and even our world is poised on the brink of dissolution if not outright destruction. Nevertheless, the death of someone whose life, exploits and youthful enthusiasm have been cut short must sadden us all. Like a feather brushing up against my consciousness, it makes me wonder if it presents an analogy for our age, nation and indeed us all — the hero’s dreams and his enthusiasm for his future come crashing down in an uncontrolled helicopter. Good-by Kobe, I hope you find whatever it was that you devoted your life to.

I then took a nap, my usual remedy for depression. Later we watched a Nordic silent movie, Swedish I believe, in which a woman throws her three-year-old daughter over a cliff and then she and her lover die frozen to death in a snowstorm. It is interesting how it can be that even when you do little of anything to make you sad, it still can be a miserable day. But then again “tomorrow is another day.” (Scarlett O’Hara)

A few days later, the weather became warm for this time in the year — not balmy but lacking the cold wet chill of the winter months. In the early evening, Naida and I decided to take Boo-boo the Barking Dog on a long walk along the banks of the American River. It was a pleasant evening. There was a slight pink blaze in the sky to the Southwest. The naked trees painted dark stripes across our view of the river. We stopped for a bit at some benches along the path then continued our walk up to the Guy West bridge where we turned away from the river and meandered back home through the Enchanted Forest.
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The pastel colors of the evening.

 

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Naida and I rest for a moment during our walk.

 
A few days later the surprisingly balmy days continued so I drove into the Golden Hills. I picked up HRM after school at the Skatepark and took him to Nugget Market in Town Center for a healthy lunch of pepperoni pizza and soda. We had a great talk. I enjoy believing that I am the older wiser person guiding the callow youth past the rocky shoals of adolescence — an affectation, I know. He on the other hand, given his sweet temperament, probably considers it as spending a little time indulging a garrulous and lonely old man.

The next day, I returned to the Golden Hills for my physical therapy appointment. Before the appointment, I picked HRM and Jake from school and drove them to a nearby restaurant called the Relish House that served pretty good hamburgers. They chatted away about cars. H was excited that he had spent a day or two “detailing” Dick’s Mom’s automobile, a 30-year-old Honda. The car became Dick’s after his mom died and he promised it to H when he becomes old enough to drive in a year or so. H’s Mom objected and upset him very much.

It is mushrooms and camellias season in the Enchanted Forest. We had little or no winter this year — perhaps half a shiver’s worth. Now we seem to have slid into early spring without a cry of protest or a whisper of regret. Climate change will beguile us all for a moment or two before we may need to chant Kaddish. Perhaps this is the rapture, a moment of delight followed by eternal darkness.
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Today we attended the Saturday Morning Coffee at the Nepenthe Club House. We walked from our house to the clubhouse in the balmy morning. There were a few announcements today, The Super Bowl Party tomorrow, Happy Hour next Wednesday and a few more things. Then we got down to small conversations. Winnie and I exchanged treatment stories and our distress over the impeachment hearings. A man whose name I have forgotten and I discussed vests and Bangkok. After browsing through the clubhouse library and finding nothing trashy enough to attract me, we left to return home.

Later that day, I drove the Mitsubishi into the Golden Hills. HRM and Jake wanted to “detail” it — basically a car wash on steroids. So, gathered at Dick’s house were the two boys, Dick, Jake’s father and me — a gathering of the guys discussing cars. I know nothing about cars. I barely know how to drive them. So, my role in the discussions was to nod knowingly at what I had hoped were appropriate moments and at other times to look suitably serious.

Later this week, I have my immunotherapy infusion appointment. The past few days were days of disappointment. Disappointment in the results of the Impeachment, the Super Bowl, the pizza I devoured recently, and the movies on television I watched during the past few days, but as my favorite philosopher has observed, “It’s always something (Rosanna Rosannadanna)”

Then, of course, there was the Iowa Democratic Caucus to add a bit of levity to the week.

 

 

 

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY:

 

 
Can Impeaching Trump help Republicans to hold on to the Presidency and the Senate and Save the Republican Party?
There may be several ways to argue that if the Republicans in the Senate were to join with the Democrats to remove Trump from office, it may benefit the Republican party. It may also assist them in holding on to the Presidency and the Senate Majority.

For example, if after hearing from witnesses and reviewing whatever documents are produced, 20 or so Republicans join with the Democrats and vote to remove him from office, what happens next?

Pence becomes President and perhaps installs a somewhat more competent and arguably less controversial administration. He and his administration urge us, the nation, to come together again and reject the partisan political warfare that has so divided us. They then can go on to continue the pro-business, anti-immigrant and other policies of the current administration but with a more humane face. They could, for example, in order to show their good intentions, dial back on some of the more inhuman policies imposed on those seeking asylum on our Southern Border, and/or reverse the rhetoric regarding climate change, probably without taking effective action.

The at-risk Republican Senators can be buffered somewhat by voting against removal or by some other strategy. There would be plenty of time to repair the damage between the trial and the election.

One of the so-called moderate and well-known Republicans like Romney could then become the nominee. I suspect, as a result, Democratic enthusiasm for activism generated by Trump’s behavior would abate with a resulting fall-off in Democratic voters at the polls. Meanwhile, the 10% or so of Republicans who have left the party may flock back to support the more respectable business-oriented moderate. The older Trumpites can be relied upon to continue to vote and vote Republican because they always do so. They are also easily frightened by Socialism and open border Democratic candidates. The Trumpite radical activists, always a small percentage of the voting population, becomes the wild card. They would be somewhat like the more radical Democrats have been in several past Presidential elections.

I suspect there are other ways this can happen, but we should not assume there are not clever political operatives on the Republican already gaming options like this.

We should remember the 30 or so Senators not up for reelection in 2020 and at least 10 of those who are up for reelection have little fear of the blowback from Trump voters. Also, some of the 30 we know have Presidential aspirations. Removal of Trump may and probably is viewed by many of them as a positive.

Just ask yourself, if Trump is removed and a more “respectable” candidate replaces him, would you still vote for the Democratic candidate for President if the one we nominate is someone you abhor? Would you vote for a third-party candidate or stay home from the polls? Will the independent voters who may be troubled by Trump’s behavior stay home or vote for the moderate candidate?

Like most politicians, Republicans seek by whatever means possible to preserve their power and position. Neither courage nor martyrdom should be expected of our elected officials even though we may honor those few who do. Political calculations are rarely what they appear to be on the surface.

 

 

 

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES:

 

 

P
This is a continuation of several posts from a diary I had written more than 55 years ago.

More than a few times during my life, I have abandoned everything, taking with me only a suitcase and leaving everything else behind — From New York, to King of Prussia Pennsylvania; from there to Rome Italy and then back to Naw York; then to Cape Cod; then across the continent to San Francisco; then to Chiang Mai Thailand, followed by Jomtien Beach and Bangkok; then back to the US to El Dorado Hills and finally to Sacramento. Through all those changes, I was rarely accompanied by more than a single suitcase.

Every time I opened that suitcase upon arriving at my new home, I would find two diaries at the bottom. One from 1963 and the other from 1964. One with a brown cover and one with a red. I do not know why they were there. I never remembered packing them and rarely, if ever opened them. Instead, I would throw them into the bottom of a drawer there to remain unopened until I moved again. A few weeks ago, I opened the one from 1963 (brown cover).

I decided to post the entries here. I do not recall most of what was written there including many of the people and events mentioned and certainly not my thoughts and interpretations of them. Although I am sure the diaries were written by me (I recognize the penmanship), I do not recognize the me that appeared there. I was a bit of a shit. Probably always have been. I cannot apologize for what I wrote or did then. It is what it is. I was callow and shallow, sex-obsessed, and had not yet experienced the magical but alas ultimately fraudulent liberation of the Hippy Years.

I have added some commentary from myself to myself 60 years before — sort of like a memoir with a critique of my young self by my old self. But who will critique my old self? Worms, I guess.

 
Monday, February 18, 1963

 

I am beginning to get adjusted to studying again. My marks have not arrived yet.

I wore my double-breasted suit to school today. I received a few compliments. I think I will wear it to the party on Saturday.

Muriel McDowell is my date Saturday. Perhaps we will not end up living with each other but I hope we will at least enjoy the time we spend with each other.

I am beginning to lose interest in my “business deals.” They seem to be childish fantasies that I suspect will never be realized. I wish only to be a lawyer.

 
Thursday, February 21, 1963.

I received my marks yesterday, two Bs and a C. The C was in Domestic Relations. My cumulative average was a B, however. These marks are mediocre. I despise them. I need to do better next term.

I feel I am thinking clearly again. I am experiencing that part melancholy part happy feeling that usually results in things coming out well.

Someone said that anyone who writes should write as though they were writing the great American novel. I am not so sure about that but I guess I should try to be less sloppy in the future.

 

Friday, February 22, 1963

 

I did not meet with the men who took today’s 25-mile walk. I tried to. I hope they do not misunderstand. I will be hard-pressed to explain.

Mom and dad had another argument. This one raged for several days now. Mom told me she was thinking of getting a separation. I suggested they try marriage counseling.

I think she will take my recommendation although my opinion of marriage counselors is not very high. I think, however, just talking it out could be helpful. Mon was very distraught. She was crying today.

It is dad’s fault I believe. He seems to have great guilt feelings about his many business failures and insists on bragging about how hard he works. Any comment about either his failures or his workload no matter how innocuous enrages him because he sees it as an attack on him.

 

Tuesday, February 26, 1963.

 

I wrote to Tad tonight. Did not review my pleading notes.

Luis Maiello returned from Hollywood. He has become a beatnik. We went to a bar Sunday night and had a deep conversation. He is full of childish notions. They seem to consist mostly of themes from stage plays, movies, and his arty set. I was amazed, however, how knowledgeable and perhaps brighter he seems to be now than I had assumed him to be in the past. Although I thought his perceptions and ideas a bit infantile and unrealistic, he presented them with such vigor and enthusiasm I was hard-pressed to disagree.

We met a few European domestics. One and Irish girl with a nice ass seemed to have an eye for me but my poor financial situation prevented me from taking advantage of it.

 

Monday, March 11,1963.

 

A short summary of things that have happened since I last wrote here:

1. I have not studied. I am infected with second-semester malaise again.
2. I had dated Stephanie again. I must watch my step.
3. I am having difficulty dating Muriel. I called twice but she was dating someone else.
4. Received a letter from Tad. He is coming to NY on March 16. I will be happy to see him.
5. Completed the brief with Dick Perles.
6. I have stopped talking to several members of my class until I can pay them back for what they did or until they make it up somehow. My anger with Gio, I think, will last forever.
7. I need to find out why I feel so lethargic all the time. If I could only act more vigorously I would succeed.

 
Wednesday, March 13, 1963.

 

Once again, I have not kept to my study schedule.

Laziness, I am afraid will become the major cause of failure in my life.

I called Stephanie today. I shouldn’t have. I think I am pressing her too hard, I know I have many years yet. I should focus more on sex and less on virtue and fidelity.

Cassius Clay beat Doug Jones by decision, not in the four rounds he predicted.

 
Sunday, March 17, 1963.

 

I have never had such a miserable weekend. It is not that I have been defeated, I have never entered the fray in the first place. I walked through the halls of the hotel like the poor lost soul. Perhaps that is who I am.

I met a lovely blond girl with an Irish name. We were supposed to meet. She was late. I left the meeting place to search for her. When I returned, having not found her, I caught a glimpse of her disappearing into the elevator followed by a pack of drooling suitors.

Perhaps now I can get back to some serious school work and refrain from silly activities like this or at least stop writing about them.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

 

A. Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week:

 

 

Here in T&T, I write about my so-called “adventures.” I call them adventures even if they often are no more than sitting in my recliner watching Ethel Waters sing “His Eyes on the Sparrow” in the movie Member of the Wedding. Unlike my own ersatz adventures, my friend, Richard Diran, who goes by the name of Burma Richard, gemologist, ethnologist, artist, photographer, smuggler, a man of action, restauranteur, and soldier of fortune, is a real adventurer who goes on real adventures. The following post from his blog “Burma Richard” (http://www.burma-richard.org/2014/02/winter-in-japan.html) briefly tells about his visit to Japan a few years ago.

Winter in Japan

Over the New Year celebration, my wife and I went to Japan. Deep in the mountains of the Japanese Alps is a very ancient town called Hida Takayama. Some of my wife’s family lives there and some of her school friends.

Neolithic stone implements can be found there proving that it has been inhabited for thousands of years. During the Heian Period, two powerful clans, the Genji warrior clan, and the Heike who were a more of an aristocratic clan fought a war that saw the Genji defeat, Heike, in 1185 AD. Many of the Heike fled from Kyoto, their former seat of power to the Hida Takayama area and continued their artistic culture.

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The town has many beautiful and original buildings from the Edo Period from 1600 to 1868.

Close to Takayama is Shirakawago which is a world heritage site, a very mountainous and cold region. Until very recently Shirakawago was extremely remote but tunnels were bored through the mountains making access to that region easy.

There is a Japanese style inn run by an eccentric old man with a wispy white beard who owns the mountain where bear still roam. He brews his own sake. He sprays water on the trees creating a crystal ice forest one frozen layer at a time. If the temperature is sub-zero, he will step outside and make soap bubbles that freeze instantly and float through the forest like glowing orbs. At minus 10 degrees Centigrade, the large flowing bubbles crystallize as dancing glass spheres reflecting the colored lights hidden in the ice.

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End.

 

 
B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

 
Always carry a flashlight in case there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

 

C. Today’s Poem:

 
Along with being an amateur folklorist and musician, Bascom Lamar Lunsford was a lawyer practicing in rural North Carolina during the 1920s.[1] At the time, the manufacturing of beverage alcohol for non-medicinal purposes was illegal in the United States due to prohibition, but North Carolina residents nevertheless continued their longstanding tradition of making a form of illegal whiskey called moonshine. Lunsford frequently defended local clients that were accused of the practice,[2] and the original lyrics and banjo accompaniment to “Good Old Mountain Dew” were written during the course of one of these cases. In 1928, Lunsford recorded the song for Brunswick Records.

Scotty Wiseman, of the duo Lulu Belle and Scotty, was a friend of Lunsford’s. When Lulu Belle and Scotty needed one more song to finish a 1935 record for Vocalion Records,[3] Wiseman suggested using the song his friend had written. To make the piece appeal to more people, Wiseman added the modern chorus and replaced verses about a man appearing in court with verses about making moonshine. Two years later, at the National Folk Festival in Chicago, Wiseman showed his version to Lunsford.
(Wikipedia)

Mountain Dew

There’s a big hollow tree down the road here from me
Where you lay down a dollar or two
You stroll ’round the bend and you come back again
There’s a jug full of good old mountain dew

They call it that mountain dew
And them that refuse it are few
I’ll hush up my mug if you fill up my jug
With that good old mountain dew

My uncle Mort, he’s sawed off and short
He measures about four foot two
But he thinks he’s a giant when you give him a pint
Of that good old mountain dew

Well, my old aunt June bought some brand new perfume
If had such a sweet smelling pew
But to her surprise when she had it analyzed
It was nothing but good old mountain dew

Well, my brother Bill’s got a still on the hill
Where he runs off a gallon or two
The buzzards in the sky get so drunk they can’t fly
From smelling that good old mountain dew
By Bascom Lamar Lunsford and Scotty Wiseman.

 

 

E. Giants of History: Smedley Butler.

Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881, – June 21, 1940) a United States Marine Corps major-general obtained the Corps’ highest rank authorized at that time. At the time of his death, he was the most decorated Marine in US history. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. He also won two Congressional Medals of Honor.

Butler is well-known for having later become an outspoken critic of US wars and their consequences. He also exposed the Business Plot, a purported plan to overthrow the US government and assassinate Franklin Roosevelt. After retirement from the military, he ran for Senate as a Republican but was defeated. In 1932 he supported the military bonus marchers at their encampment in Washington DC and was there when Gen. Douglas MacArthur led the attack on them killing several veterans. He later became a spokesman for the “American League Against Fascism.”

War Is A Racket
By Major General Smedley Butler

 

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.

 

 

D. Apologies, Regrets, and Humiliations:

 
My friend the Old Sailor, responded to my last post with the following comment:

“Hairspray Tom would swim over to Hassle Island for $100 he’d have to crawl across the waterfront stopping traffic but when he rolled into the water he was like a fucking sea otter. Monte was always betting on him.”
The Old Sailor, Deep Sea Diver, Pirate Treasure Hunter and Good Friend of Mine.

I am not sure what it says about my post, but Hairspray Tom must be quite a man. I’d bet on him. Maybe I will start a Hairspray Tom fan club.

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

 

 

“In the absence of any gods to do the creating of life, life has managed, against the odds, to create itself. Yet the humans who have evolved on the planet believe in their hearts that there are such things as gods, magic, cosmic purpose and million-million-to-one chances that crop up nine times out of ten. They seek stories in the world which the world, regrettably, is not equipped to tell.”
Pratchett, Terry. Darwin’s Watch (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 2). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S CARTOON:

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This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 31 Capt. Coast 0008 (May 10, 2019)

 
.
“War is for defending ideals, not exercising them.”
Bancroft, Josiah. The Hod King (The Books of Babel). Orbit.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GEORGE.

HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY TO ALL

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 
A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN THE ENCHANTED FOREST:

 
This morning I woke up and bleary-eyed looked into the mirror. I was surprised by what I saw there — something I haven’t seen for about five months. There on my upper lip hair was growing. I felt mixed emotions about this. On the one hand, now that my Chemotherapy has ended, this bit of fuzz on my upper lip signified my hair might be growing back and that is good. On the other hand, it means that I will have to begin shaving again and getting haircuts — Or, I could just let everything grow out. More decisions.

After the Barr testimony before the Senate a day or two ago, I get the impression that the White House is under siege again. The question I have is, why is He Who Is Not My President so frightened of having the Mueller report, his taxes, and business records released? It is difficult to imagine that his opposition to their release is simply a question of principle.

Also, is it just my imagination or does He Who Is Not My President seem to vociferously attack every potential Democratic opponent he may meet in the 2020 Presidential election except Bernie Sanders?

The weekend has arrived and so has Nikki. The weather is sunny and warm. The azaleas are still blooming. Naida busily works on volume two of her memoir. I sit here at my computer wondering what I will do today knowing full well I have ignored or forgotten things I should be doing. That is one of the aspects of arriving at the age of decrepitude, doing things are less important than having pleasant thoughts.

I drove up into the now once again Golden Hills and parked at the skatepark. Nikki met me there and we gossiped while waiting for Hayden and the scooter gang to show up. A large contingent of the gang soon arrived, including HRM, Jake, Caleb and a host of others. I imagined them all on motorcycles roaring into a tiny town in the foothills somewhere like something from a biker flick of the 60s. I shuddered and put the image out of my mind.

After a long time spent meeting and greeting all the adolescents on scooters that descended on us, HRM, Jake, Caleb and I piled into the car Nikki was driving and went off in search of a pizza. Milano’s, H and my favorite pizza place, seems to have closed permanently (sob). We found another place nearby, ordered the pizza and returned to Dick’s house. The adolescents disappeared into the basement to devour their pizza and play video games. Nikki and I retired to the back deck to sit in sun, eat ours, and continue our gossip session. After exhausting the scuttlebutt and gobbling down a few slices of pizza, I left and returned to the Enchanted Forest.

On the drive back, I couldn’t shake the feeling that somehow I am failing HRM and that I simply am unable to give him the counsel, guidance, security, and friendship that he needs and deserves. Of the three children I have contributed to raising, I believe that somehow my efforts to guide them to happy and successful lives were horribly inadequate. It’s just another load of guilt we add to the pack on our backs that gets heavier and heavier as we grow older. Sometimes I think it is the crushing weight of accumulated guilt and failure that kills us in the end.

The weekend brought with it relief from my fit of melancholy. Perhaps it is because I keep lengthening my walks — you know, boosting my serotonin or dopamine or whatever. Perhaps it is because Naida wrote me a lovely poem — no one has ever done that for me before. Perhaps, it is because I was amused by attending a meeting at the clubhouse to meet those running for the Nepenthe HOC board — it seemed most of the people there favored the election of “anyone but the incumbents.” Of the pressing issues discussed, everyone seemed to agree they all hated leaf blowers. Naida suggested they be banned as they had been in LA.

Last night, Naida gave me a marvelous ring. It was made by one of her uncles, a prominent leader in the Methodist church. Naida said that when he was not doing minister things he would often wander into the desert looking for gemstones that he would bring home and, in a workshop in his basement, fashion them into jewelry. He made the ring from silver that he fashioned into lacework in which he set a remarkable opal he had found somewhere in the desert. The stone itself flashes through the spectrum from brilliant turquoise to a spectacular fiery red when light shines on it. I love it.
IMG_6131_2

I have noticed, after reading the last few T&T posts, my life has become dreadfully dull. Not traveling, wrestling with a crisis, or suffering through a real or imagined emotional or physical disaster makes retelling the day to day plod of an old man’s life tedious. After all, how many ways can one describe spending his days, reading the newspaper, checking his email and watching old movies on television? On the other hand, except for these fits of boredom and impatience, I am quite content and happy with my life as a grumpy old man starring at the end of his existence. It could be worse. I could be an adolescent again or I could be working in the Trump White House.

Today I drove back into the Golden Hills, picked up HRM and Big Tall Long Haired Jake at the Skate Park and drove them to the house where I left them after imparting to them today’s words of wisdom. “Remember.” I told them, “always keep on truckin.”

The next day HRM called me and asked me to pick him and Jake up again after school. I did. This time, after a brief stop at Dick’s house, I drove them to Caleb’s house in order for Caleb to give Jake his birthday present since it was Jake’s fifteenth birthday today. I then drove them back to Dick’s house where they picked up their bicycles and pedaled off to practice with the EDH mountain bicycling team.

 

 

B. OFF AGAIN TO THE BIG ENDIVE BY THE BAY:
Another beautiful sunny day. While Sacramento is no Paradise, here in the Enchanted Forest nestled between that city’s slurbs and a gentle curve of the picturesque American River this morning broke as close to that as can be and still not be considered a dream. Alas, we spent the morning rushing around preparing to leave for the foggy Great Endive by the Bay for my immunotherapy infusion. That preparation included getting Boo-boo settled with the dog-sitter. He wasn’t happy.
IMG_6133

That night at Peter and Barrie’s house where we spent the night, Barrie prepared a delightful meal that featured pasta with a sauce of garlic, butter, parsley, lemon, and topped with asparagus. It was accompanied by chilled Prosecco. (It has only been in the last few years that drinkable prosecco has been imported from Italy.)

They had invited a friend to join us for dinner. He was an aspiring author and wanted to discuss with Naida his literary ambitions and get her advice on publishing. He hoped to publish several works including a play about the travails of a man named Thomas White who had homes in San Francisco, Mexico and Thailand. He was accused by several alleged victims (boys) of having who sex with them when they were underage. He was tracked down in Thailand extradited to Mexico where he was tried, convicted and jailed. After spending almost seven years in jail White learned that the attorney who represented the alleged victims and reaped several millions of dollars in payoffs, he along with his accomplice as well as one of the underaged youths were convicted in California of murdering the target of another scam. The alleged young victim also confessed to lying about sexual contact with White. With the new evidence, he was released from jail but died soon afterward.

We had an enjoyable evening listening to the discussion of things literary and the pitfalls of publication. Over dinner, we all told stories. Peter told several about the early days of the Coastal Conservancy. I could not remember much about the things that he talked about although I was a major actor in the drama or more appropriate comedy. It seems my memory lately resembles a ragged lace curtain blowing in the breeze — more holes than substance.

I told the story of the developer who had been stymied by Denise, my wife at the time, in his plans to build a large spec house in our neighborhood and who had shot and killed his two investor threatening to withdraw their financing for the development. He then, gun in hand, jumped into his car and drove up into the Twin Peaks area, presumably to do to Denise and I what he had done to his investors. At the corner down from our house, I guess he thought better of the idea or perhaps he was stricken with guilt and decided to shoot himself rather than us.

As we finished dinner, Hiromi and my granddaughter Amanda showed up bringing dessert, a wonderfully light cake and strawberries dipped in chocolate.
IMG_6137.jpg

The next morning, we drove to the hospital for my immunotherapy treatment. The nurse explained that the immunotherapy was intended to halt reactivation of the cancerous cells that still remain in the tumor. Most of the time, however, was spent with the nurse and Naida discussing books and book clubs.

After the treatment, we drove home directly.

 

 

 

MOPEY’S MEMORIES:

 

 

MOPEY JOE’S MEMORIES: The depressing state of the American airline industry; two days in Orvieto; and a bunch of Giacomini’s.
June 2011

The following morning we left for LAX and our flight to Italy.

The depressing state of the American airline industry is additional evidence that the terrorists won. It was not the taking down of buildings, the killing of Americans or airplanes falling from the sky that was the goal of their attacks, but the subtle certainty of their understanding of the American psyche was their actual weapon. Their focus was to destroy the American economy by knowing precisely the reaction of America’s conservative elite’s thirst for power and profit. And we fell into the trap. Instead of making ourselves even stronger economically at home we wasted American treasure and dollars in unnecessary wars in the deserts of the middle east until we rewarded our attackers their victory, destruction of our economy. I consider the architects of our response nothing less than cynical traitors who wrapped themselves in the flag for personal benefit and power.

The American sad state of Airline travel is small but significant evidence of the extent of the terrorist success.

Anyway, following an especially uncomfortable flight, I arrived at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport with swollen legs, aching back and a foul temper. We were met by Nikki, who had arrived from Chicago a few hours earlier.

After about two hours of trying to secure a rent-a-car for our trip to Milan during which we experienced the full fury of Italian efficiency, we set off.

Within minutes it became obvious that we were not going to make the 4 or so hour drive to Milan that evening as both SWAC and I began to complain to Nikki of our various discomforts. At my suggestion, we agreed to spend the night in Orvieto a small hilltop city not far off the Autostrada.

As we entered the town, SWAC became quite excited. She thought she recognized the town as the site of George Clooney’s escapades in the movie “The American” or some such.

We located a pleasant B&B called “Las Palmas,” dropped off our luggage and set off in search of dinner which we found at an attractive restaurant a few doors away. Following a very enjoyable meal and the downing of two liters of local red and white wines among the three of us, we stumbled back to our respective rooms and to sleep.

The next morning we checked out of the B & B and set off in search of the Duomo as well as to hunt for the locations of scenes in the film that SWAC might recall.

Orvieto’s Duomo is an interesting church with a large Romanesque interior and Italian gothic façade decorated with large Bas-reliefs, statues, and glittering mosaics. On the piers, about 30 feet high are carved a series of Bas-reliefs depicting biblical stories from the Old and New Testament that along with the view from the city walls are the towns glory.

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The Facade of the Duomo in Orvieto

 

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Orvieto

 

Orvieto like many of the hill towns in this part of Italy specialize in a type of pottery called Faience. Each town promotes in a slightly different design on the pottery and ever since Faience pottery became beloved of collectors, each town has developed its own pottery “artist.” In Orvieto, the renowned artist is the daughter of the owner of a pottery shop on the Plaza del Duomo called Giacomini.
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Giacomini’s

For those with knowledge and experience with the California Coastal Commission, yes they are the relatives of the late beloved suspender wearing, rotund, ex-Marin County Supervisor and Coastal Commissioner, Gary Giacomini sometimes also referred to as “Farmer Brown”.

Gary was an ardent environmentalist as long as it did not interfere with his and his family’s economic and political ambitions.

I spent about a half an hour swapping “Gary” stories with the family before we departed to search for the supposed locations of scenes from the movie, take photographs and return to the Autostrada to complete our journey to Milan.

 

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

 

 
The following was posted in T&T in 2011 before Faux News became the all-encompassing mouthpiece for the radical right it is today. It is interesting to note, however, that in eight years many of the pundits mentioned are still with us and would probably be ranked in the same categories were this poll to be taken again today. Of course, Russ Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and a few others deserve a category of their own — Deplorables will do.

2011: “Are Talking Heads Blowing Hot Air”:

Students at Hamilton College sampled the predictions of 26 individuals who wrote columns in major newspapers and/or appeared on the three major Sunday television news shows (Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and This Week) over a 16 month period from September 2007 to December 2008. They used a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “will not happen,” 5 being “will absolutely happen”) to rate each prediction the pundits made, and then they evaluated each prediction for whether or not it came true.

What did they find? Basically, if you want to be almost as accurate as the pundits they studied, all you have to do is a) root through the cushions of your couch, b) find a coin, and c) start flipping it. Boom! You are now pretty close to being a political genius. Only nine of the 26 pundits surveyed proved more reliable than a coin flip.

Using the students’ statistical methodology, the 26 pundits were broken down into three categories: “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.” Here’s how they break down:

THE GOOD: Paul Krugman, New York Times (highest scorer); Maureen Dowd, New York Times; Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania Governor; Chuck Schumer, New York Senator; Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader; Kathleen Parker, Washington Post and TownHall.com; David Brooks, New York Times; Eugene Robinson, Washington Post; Hank Paulson, former Secretary of the Treasury

THE BAD: Howard Wolfson, counselor to NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor/Fox News host; Newt Gingrich, eternal Presidential candidate; John Kerry, Massachusetts Senator; Bob Herbert, New York Times; Andrea Mitchell, MSNBC; Thomas Friedman, New York Times, David Broder, Washington Post (deceased); Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune; Nicholas Kristof, New York Times; Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State

THE UGLY: George Will, Washington Post/This Week; Sam Donaldson, ABC News; Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Senator; Carl Levin, Michigan Senator; Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Senator; Cal Thomas, Chicago Tribune (lowest scorer)

In their executive summary, the students note:

“We discovered that a few factors impacted a prediction’s accuracy. The first is whether or not the prediction is a conditional; conditional predictions were more likely to not come true. The second was partisanship; liberals were more likely than conservatives to predict correctly. The final significant factor in a prediction’s outcome was having a law degree; lawyers predicted incorrectly more often.”

As for the factor of partisanship, it certainly didn’t help pundits if their predictions were primarily based on who they happened to be carrying a torch for in the 2008 election — Lieberman and Graham, obviously, did poorly in this regard. The students noted that “[p]artisanship had an impact on predictions even when removing political predictions about the Presidential, Vice Presidential, House, and Senate elections,” but I still imagine that this particular script may have flipped if the period of study was the sixteen-month period between September 2009 and December 2010.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

A. Terry Pratchett on Top:

“Wen the Eternally Surprised.”

“Why was he eternally surprised?” And they are told: ‘Wen considered the nature of time and understood that the universe is, instant by instant, re-created anew. Therefore, he understood, there is, in truth, no Past, only a memory of the Past. Blink your eyes, and the world you see next did not exist when you closed them. Therefore, he said, the only appropriate state of the mind is surprise. The only appropriate state of the heart is joy. The sky you see now, you have never seen before. The perfect moment is now. Be glad of it.’”
Pratchett, Terry. Thief of Time: A Novel of Discworld (p. 31). HarperCollins.

 

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations
Trickle down economics is an enviable thing. It affords those who promote it the appearance of concern for the people — with no responsibility for delivering anything to them.

 
C. Today’s Poem:

Good Morning

In slow rhythm I awoke in a bundle
of comfort and peace made of arms and legs
and torsos in sync with your low-pitched
intake of breath from our air-pool, forehead
snug against cheek, and then our exhale moans
through my chest while somewhere deep
in our bundle a spark flares to another beat.

I love you tells only half what I feel
when you are the other half of me.
N.W.

 

 

D. Joey’s Mystery Novel:
My partially completed unfinished novel, Dominion, can be found at, https://papajoesfables.wordpress.com/dominion-an-unfinished-and-never-published-novel/. Below is one of the draft chapters in which the main protagonist, Vince Biondi, is confronted by San Mateo County Sheriff Megs Polan.

JOEY’S MYSTERY NOVEL: “Dominion.” When Vince Meets Megs.

Chapter whatever:

Vince took into the office washroom the overnight suitcase he always kept available in his office in case he had to make a sudden short business trip or pulled an all-nighter like this one. He washed as best he could, shaved, changed his clothing and returned to his office just as Ray arrived to accompany him to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s office. Ray had obviously been called by Ike and was dressed in what for him passed for business attire, pearl button earrings, a military-style camouflage jacket, matching camouflage pants and neon green Crocs on his feet.

When they arrived at the Sheriff’s office, they were immediately ushered into the office of Sheriff Megan (Megs) Polan, former beauty queen, bodybuilding champion and a rising star in local Republican politics. Vince and Ray sat in chairs across the hygienically clean desk behind which Megs sat enthroned like a medieval duchess. Her still super toned body so filled out her tan uniform that it looked painted on. She had curly auburn hair that hung down to her shoulders and the steely blue eyes of either a stone cold killer or paranoid schizophrenic. She did not rise to greet them or speak but leaned across her desk and pushed a transparent evidence bag containing a small piece of paper towards them. As she bent forward, Vince caught a glimpse of cleavage struggling to escape the casually unbuttoned shirt. He also noticed the large black pistol riding high on her hip. Vince disconcerted that he found himself turned on, covered his embarrassment by dropping his eyes to the proffered evidence bag and studying its contents.

Inside the bag was a piece of paper torn from a small spiral bound notebook and on it, written in a shaky hand, was the message, “If anything should happen to me, call Vincent Biondi,” along with Vince’s personal mobile phone number.

“So Mr. Biondi,” Megs intoned in her surprisingly whiskey edged voice, “what can you tell me about this note and what may have happened to Mrs. Stephanie Coign last night?”

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

 

“Or an amicable pair,” said Sam. “Sorry?” “In math, that’s what we call two numbers each of which is equal to the sum of the divisors of the other. The smallest ones, 220 and 284, were regarded by the Pythagoreans as symbols of true friendship.”
Hill, Reginald. The Stranger House (p. 191). HarperCollins.

Consider telling your bestie, “I am 220 to your 284.” How long do you think your friendship will last? The Pythagoreans were always a pretty strange group. On the other hand, closer to our time, even Albert Einstein can appear somewhat otherworldly:

“We are slowed down sound and light waves, a walking bundle of frequencies tuned into the cosmos. We are souls dressed up in sacred biochemical garments and our bodies are the instruments through which our souls play their music.”
Albert Einstein

Try telling that to your bestie.

Categories: April through June 2019, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 20 Joey 0003 (April 10 2014)

 

“Nil mortifi, sine lucre. Remember. No killing without payment.”
(Motto of the Assassins Guild.)
Pratchett, Terry. Pyramids (Discworld) (p. 62). Harper Collins.

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

It is the season of the Swimming Cult. About two hundred other parents, various family members and I attended the orientation for the Sierra Sharks swim team that I signed HRM up for. It felt more like we were sending the kids to reform school than to an enjoyable athletic adventure. They seemed to have considerably more interest in what jobs the parents sign up for than in the welfare of the swimmers.

I agreed be responsible for checking the swimmers conformity to the rules as they make their lane turns during the meets. I intend to allow considerable opportunity for innovation.
*********************************************************

Hosts of California Poppies are blooming gold against the deep green or the hills. Mustard fields, a bright yellow ,have joined them. In the late afternoon from the rocking chair on the deck I watch hummingbirds and bees feed on the flowering trees.
*********************************************************

Today I saw five people walk past the house. Shocked, I stood in the driveway staring at them with my mouth open. One of them, a middle-aged man saw me and waved before continuing on out of view. They were followed by the postman in his little white truck who stopped by our post box on the side of the road and filled it with advertisements and offers of untold riches.
***********************************************************

I miss Thailand. Although it is not what it used to be and in a sad state of decline, it still has a certain seedy electric excitement much like the Las Vegas Strip. Now don’t get me wrong, El Dorado Hills is quite nice. Some magazine just ranked it the seventh best place in America to raise a family. But let’s face it, who wants to spend all their time someplace certified for family values. That’s like watching only G rated movies.

For example, in Bangkok each morning during the mile or so walk from my apartment to the health club I am almost guaranteed to see or experience the following: at least three offers of sexual congress, one of which will be from someone of uncertain gender; a fight between two ladies of the night complete with tearing off of clothes and pulling of hair; one person lying on the sidewalk in a coma or dead; a dozen or so rats scurrying away from my feet as I walk along; packs of soi dogs so mangy, flea ridden and rabid that should they ever chance upon a PETA meeting the participants would shoot them on sight; one or more farangs (Westerners), partly clothed and drunk, vomiting into the gutter; a rupture in the sidewalk every five feet or so that should I step on it wrong I would break an ankle or pitch into a sewer that runs underneath; several sidewalk stands purveying the latest in vibrator technology and pharmaceutical breakthroughs in male virility enhancement; other stands selling every possible mechanism for killing another human being that does not require gunpowder or dynamite; every sort of pirated good you can conceive of; food stands and sidewalk cafe’s selling almost every kind or food you would or would not want to eat; a hundred or so bars and go-go places including one specializing it BJ’s and another in anal sex; an equal number of massage parlors; a bazillion cars all stopped solid in the daily mother of all traffic jams and another bazillion motor bikes many carrying more than two passengers. Oh yeah, a lot of noise and air so thick with pollutants that it takes at least 10 minutes off your life for each breath you take. Now and then there is a political demonstration of some sort with the participants wearing either red or yellow shirts bitching about something I don’t understand. Police and soldiers heavily armed with about every weapon imaginable lounging around the side streets in great numbers as I pass by. All this backed by a huge unending series of monoliths containing hotels, office buildings and high-priced condominiums impassively reflecting in their mirrored sides the turmoil on the streets below.

In El Dorado Hills about the only things that change are the clouds.
************************************************************

 

B. POOKIES DREAM (continued):

A great brown and grey cloud billowed at the far end of the valley through which plunged a stampede of animals. Not like the great Serengeti migration where large herbivores run the gauntlet of predators but a stampede of all sorts of animals, herbivore and predator alike. Elephants, lions, leopards, giraffes, wild pigs and warthogs, even monkeys and chimpanzees plunged down the valley toward us. It looked a lot like the start of the SF Bay to Breakers race. I was so frightened I considered waking myself up. But recalling Mama’s calming words, I plopped down on the nearest rock, my heart pounding almost as loud as the the sounds of the hooves and paws plunging toward us.

The herd split into two, each half passing the rock outcropping on opposite sides. The others on the rocks with me clapped and laughed. Suddenly a large male lion all ruff and fangs detached itself from the herd and sprang up the rocks right toward me. It swerved just before it reached me, brushed by and bounded over the top or the outcropping to rejoin the stampede leaving me little worse for wear other than a slightly strained sphincter.

A rhinoceros bumped out of the pack stumbled up the rocks a few feet, fell down and struggled to get up again. A child sitting nearby leaned over and patted it on its horn. The beast chuffed, backed itself down and ran off.

After the animals passed leaving only the rumble of their passage further down the valley and swirling clouds of dust, everyone on the rocks clapped and cheered like the Forth of July crowds after the fireworks.

We then all walked off into the woods until we came to a stream. Everyone dove in to clean off the dust and dirt. Some removed their clothing and others jumped in clothes and all. I decided to explore the stream a bit and walked away until I could no longer hear their cries and laughter. I soon came to a place where the stream widened out into a small pool. Across the way the stream entered the pool in a small two-step waterfall. The upper stories of the forest were pulled back around the pool allowing the sunlight to flood down glittering the spray of the waterfalls and turning the bottom of the pool iridescent.

The trees surrounding the pool although open to the sun at their tops crowded the pool in a seemingly impenetrable wall. Sitting or hopping about on the branches of the trees were hundreds of birds of every color and shape of feather. Where they did not hide the trees behind from view, thousands of butterflies fluttered about filling up the spaces. Strangely there was no sound of birds calling to one another, only the thrumming of their wings and the shushing of the waterfall. After a while I began to think the whole thing was spooky and so I returned to the village.
(To be continued)

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

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

While I agree in principle with the sentiments expressed below, their intemperance probably results from living ones life, as the author does, in a thatched roof cottage on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean encased in almost constant fog.

“The theory of democracy holds that the most wretched is rightfully equal in status to the most powerful. This is history.

This is bunk.

Democracy is political theory reaching back 5,000 years to the pyramids for inspiration, an apex dependent on a broad foundation for its very existence. It is the few bearing down on the millions, and the millions feeling proud that they have provided an unparalleled view of the universe for the few. Democracy is a blizzard of options so thick it obscures the fact that there is no choice.

The cradles of democracy, London and Philadelphia, deployed genocide as a means of social engineering, in Australia and North America respectively, a full two hundred years before Hitler and Stalin began their pissing contest in Poland.

It is no coincidence that democracy evolved in tandem with the Industrial Revolution. Democracy and capitalism are symbiotic parasites. Democracy’s truth is not one man, one vote; it is one man, one dollar. Democracy’s truth is the abrogation of the individual’s rights in favor of collective procrastination, while those running the show exercise censorious control on behalf of the nervous disposition of the collective will….

Democracy has replaced religion as the opiate du jour. Democracy is the ostrich with its head in the sand and its ass in the air, begging to be taken in traditional pirate fashion. It is the subjugation of the people, by the people, for the people. It is the inalienable right to purchase your personalized interpretation of liberalized slavery. It is the right to sell your soul to the highest bidder. It is the right to pay for the privilege of being alive….

For some reason most dictators fail to realize that the trick to democracy is to have the slaves buy and sell themselves. The trick is to incentivize slaves to invest in their slavery, to pay for their own prisons, shackle themselves to brick and mortar.

The trick to democracy is in ensuring the slaves’ capacity for self-regulation is not taken for granted. The trick is to maintain the healthy tension between democracy and capitalism, so that one does not undermine or overshadow the other. The trick is to ensure that the slaves’ investment retains the illusion of value. Failure to do so will result in the slaves questioning the worth of their dollar and/or vote. The answer to this question is delivered in blood.

Masters of the Universe, do not say you weren’t warned.”
Burke, Declan. Absolute Zero Cool. Liberties Press.

 

B. More reflections on fly fishing:

I am always flattered when someone responds positively to something I wrote in T&T. The following is from Naida West. As you know, I consider Naida’s historical trilogy, The California Gold Trilogy, to contain three of the finest historical novels written about America. Unlike others who merely place their story in another era, Naida’s involves mostly actual people taken from diaries and other sources to which she adds missing thoughts, motivations and dialogue and a character or two. Her characters are not kings and queens and the like, but real ordinary (and some not so ordinary) people who populated the banks of the Cosumnes River more than 100 years ago.

“I loved your reflections of fly fishing, such as this: “(Fly fishing) is a type of meditation for those who like to be uncomfortable while doing it and are infatuated with gear.”

Here’s a reflection of my own:

My lawyer father, a delightful actor on life’s stage if one winked at his pursuit of women and booze, grew younger before my eyes as he neared his favorite trout streams. By the time we left the road and bumped violently over bushes and rocky outcroppings seeking a place to stop, he was a wide-eyed child at Barnum and Bailey’s tent door. He bounced out to retrieve his gear while I steeled myself for a day of boredom with the windows up, my only excitement murdering mosquitoes that had snuck in while the door had been open. As the sun edged across the sky I poached in my sweat, recalling the day I explored a riverbank in shorts while he fished. The angry welts all over me, overlapping even under my shirt, just about killed me or so I thought. My dad had scoffed and said I should control the effects with my mind like he did. Umm, no. He admired swamis who barefooted across glowing coals.

Yet for an hour or two, coming and going, I had my dad to myself. At the wheel he recited story-length poems by Longfellow, Gray, Coleridge, and Poe, using theatrical emphasis to convey the meaning of outdated idioms. Between poems he answered questions about the words and phrases, always in an interesting way, repeating the stanzas where they were used. I memorized some of those poems before my mother & grandmother hauled us to CA, and in the 8th grade my teacher had me go from room to room in Carmel High School reciting them to classrooms of older kids. I saw my dad only a handful of times after we left Idaho, though he lived until 1989.”
Naida

It is great to be reminded that there was a time when people quoted Longfellow, Poe and others instead of relying on street corner argot and advertising slogans to prove their intellectual integration with the greater American culture. I, myself, often sprinkle my speech with the word “fuck.” It signifies my affinity for the common idiomatic mode of discourse we Americans use to express ourselves.

Speaking of Longfellow, I always felt he got a raw deal from the critics. He was part of a movement that began with Washington Irving and continued until Whitman gave up the ghost in an orgy of pantheistic individualism. They tried to create a new song unique to America out of the diverse traditions of those living or migrating to the continent at the time. True it was mostly wrapped in Yankee sensibilities. Native American, Knickerbocker, Frontiersman, Acadian, Settler at the edge of the primeval wilderness and even the sad songs of slavery were all bundled into a single melody, recognizable even where altered. A violin differs from and oboe in its history, shape and sound. But, in a symphony by Brahms, joined together they create a song far different from what either could accomplish separately. No one criticizes old Johannes for failing  to allow each instrument its own solo. Even Jazz requires the solos to doodle around with the underlying theme. (Come to think of it, Jazz was another attempt to meld the diverse music of several cultures relying in part on the fundamentals of European folk music, African syncopation and rhythm, and Klezmer instramentalization.)

Romantic and fuzzy headed, this movement died at mid-century when the two true songs of America emerged, one indescribably evil and malicious. The other almost as bad, lacking a unifying theme other than simple revulsion.

Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha, an attempt to use new interest at the time in Native American culture and legends to create a syncretic myth for the new country, has been soundly criticized. At first the criticism appeared to emanate from the trolls of that era who focused, in part, upon the poems idealization of a people whom they believed deserved their extinction. Later, because the poem relied on the study of Native American culture by a man who was one of the first to take an interest in their way of life, it was ridiculed because significant portions of that research was in error and more recent studies decades after the poem’s publication came to different conclusions. This is like criticizing the ancient Egyptians for not using reenforced concrete to construct their pyramids.

Did you know that the recitation of the Song of Hiawatha provides greater psychological and physical benefits than meditation? It’s true, try it. Find a quiet room, darkened but not devoid of light. Make yourself comfortable and slowly in a hushed voice as deep you can manage recite the poem making sure you accent it properly.

Longfellow used the trochaic meter instead of the iambic that is more comfortable for Indo-European speakers. It is a more common rhythm in Ural-Altaic languages (in this case Finnish) that Longfellow believed, rightly or wrongly, reflected the language of the First Peoples. In any event, for some English speakers it seems to produce chthonic rhythms that reverberate in the marrow of their bones like the moan of a cello.

Try it, you’ll like it. Do not begin with that portion of the poem that we learned in grade school but at the beginning with the Introduction. To get you started I include it here:

Should you ask me, whence these stories?
Whence these legends and traditions,
With the odors of the forest
With the dew and damp of meadows,
With the curling smoke of wigwams,
With the rushing of great rivers,
With their frequent repetitions,
And their wild reverberations
As of thunder in the mountains?
I should answer, I should tell you,
“From the forests and the prairies,
From the great lakes of the Northland,
From the land of the Ojibways,
From the land of the Dacotahs,
From the mountains, moors, and fen-lands
Where the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
Feeds among the reeds and rushes.
I repeat them as I heard them
From the lips of Nawadaha,
The musician, the sweet singer.”

Note: Do not try this with Evangeline or any of the Acadian poems. Those rhythms can cause mild stomach upset to the inexperienced.

 

C. Apologies, Regrets and Humiliations:

Metaphor rhymes with pinafore.
But can a pinafore become a metaphor?

I apologize for the above, regret it and am truly humiliated.
 
TODAY’S QUOTES:

“Ever failed? No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
Samuel Beckett

“Spence patted him on the shoulder and said, “Goodnight, Bogie.” Bogie turned his eyes to Spence very quietly and with a sweet smile covered Spence’s hand with his own and said, “Goodbye, Spence.” Spence’s heart stood still. He understood.”
Kathrine Hepburn describing the last time she and Spencer Tracy (another man’s man who died in much the same way) saw Humphrey Bogart.

 

 

TODAY’S CHART:

Map showing what those place names actually mean:
17

I was born in New Yew Tree Estate, lived a while in The Land of the Main Hill Wood, and went to college in Marsh Farm before moving to Saint Little Frank One in the Land of the Succession.

 

Categories: April through June 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th. 3 Joey 0003 (March 24, 2014)

“When you die, the first thing you lose is your life. The next thing is your illusions.”

Pratchett, Terry. Pyramids (Discworld). Harper Collins.

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES IN EL DORADO HILLS:

The rains of the past few weeks have prompted the foothills to blush green. Every day I do pretty much the same few things at about the same time. As a result I have begun to lose track of time. I, for example, no longer know how long it has been between calls to people with whom I have previously been in regular contact. Everything seems the same day after day except for the clouds. I like the clouds here at the edge of the foothills. They are gloriously variegated from cottony white to pearlescent, sometimes grey and searing black as well as red, pink, orange and even yellow (see Today’s Photograph below).

*******************************
The “Mothers” rugby team played two games today. The first was against the team that beat them 95 to 5. This time they only lost 30 to 15. The second game however was a different story. They played the team made up of South Sea Islander kids, half of whom were girls. After less than three minutes the Mothers were down 30 to 0 so the coach halted the slaughter and requested the Islanders play with only the smallest and youngest (8 and under) members of the team. They fielded 6 members and the Mothers “loaned” them six of their worst scrubs to make up the difference. While the Mothers scrubs wandered around the playing field in semi oblivion, the remaining six Islanders continued to run up the score by another 30 points in 10 minutes before the game was called to save our team from further embarrassment. HRM was however voted by the refs as the Best Tackler of the Game, primarily for a thunderous last second tackle on an opponent running free toward the goal-line to the cheers, ohs and applause of the bloody minded parents watching the game.

*****************************

I am sick again and have been forced to lie in bed for about a week oozing bodily fluids while I wait for antibiotics and other various medicines to kill off those little buggers who have found my body an ideal place in which to vacation.

When once or twice a day I stumble out on the deck for a bit of sun and fresh air I notice that not only was this a year without winter here at the edge of the foothills but one without spring as well. We seem to have sprung directly into Summer. The grasses and trees starved for water have, in response to the feeble rains a week or so ago, panicky thrust their seeds and pollen into the air in order to propagate themselves before they brown and die as the drought regains control. Alas, the resulting hay fever and allergies have added to whatever miseries the vacationing bacteria and viruses have brought me.

******************************

The rugby season has ended with the expected thundering defeats for the Mothers at the regional tournament. Swimming season now begins. I sit at the edge of the pool, along with a group of proud mothers encouraging our charges to ever greater efforts while we fiddle with our smart phones.

 

B. POOKIE’S DREAMS:

I am what is referred to by some as a vivid dreamer. That is, my dreams are in color, I know that I am dreaming and I can alter them as they go along. I also can wake myself up if things get too stressful. Moreover, I generally remember a lot of them in their entirety. Sometimes, those dreams become as real in my memory as any other experience. Periodically I used to analyze which of my memories were real and which were dreams in order to purge those not real. I no longer do that. I now believe, if it is there it is as real as any memory.

I prefer sleep to being awake because on the whole my dreams are far more interesting and exciting than my waking life is. I guess that goes for most of us.

Perhaps a little over a score of years ago I dreamt I was flying in a plane. We passed from the ocean over the land somewhere in Africa where we landed. I then took a small jitney bus that drove directly from the airport into the desert. The desert was not the sandy dune desert of Lawrence of Arabia, but barren, dusty and rocky like parts of West Texas. After a day or two we arrived at a small city of mud-walled buildings. In the center of the city was a large dirt plaza filled with men with guns, shooting them into the air and shouting at people in cars or busses and stopping them as they tried to make their way through the plaza. The men seemed to be grouped into gangs with no one group in charge. They appeared mediterranean in complexion with large bushy mustaches. They wore dark pants and vests over their shirts. I assumed they were Muslims since most of them wore ragged turbans on their heads.

They would not allow our bus to continue, so I disembarked and walked into the city to search for some distant relatives whom I knew lived in the town. The relatives strangely were Armenian shopkeepers. I found their shop. I never learned what they sold there. The relatives lived above the shop. After I explained who I was, they welcomed me in. The father, a man of about 60, was relatively short statured, clean-shaven with a round face topped by a mostly bald head with a few long black hairs combed over. He had two grown sons, they were much taller than he, broad-shouldered and moustached. Strapped to their backs were guns of some sort. Their sister was a slender dark girl of about 14, I guess. She wore a light-colored dress imprinted with small pink flowers. The mother was thin like the daughter with more grey hair than the father. I told them I had been stopped by the gunmen in the plaza and I wanted to continue on to the jungle beyond the desert. He said that it would be difficult under the current chaotic circumstances to secure permission to travel beyond the City. He said he would have to think about it and promised to do his best. In the meantime, they prepared a dinner in my honor attended by the father’s brother and his family. After the dinner the brothers spoke with each other in a corner of the room out of my hearing. Eventually the father came over to me and told me that the leader of one of the strongest militia was a friend of his and he thought he could arrange passage for me.

Early the next morning after saying good-bye and thanking everyone I, accompanied the older son, returned to the plaza and after enduring several threats and insults from the militia leader, was put into an old Range Rover and allowed to continue on my way.

We drove on across that stoney dusty desert well into the early afternoon when the landscape began to change, first into scrub lands and then into a grassy savannah. Small copse of trees dotted the terrain here and there. Near to sunset we topped a small ridge and saw a little valley beyond. The savannah continued across the valley along with the dirt track we had been following until along the smaller ridge on the opposite side the green expanse of the forest began abruptly. Where the road disappeared into the trees, I could see a small village of conical mud-walled houses nestled in the shade of the trees stretched out along the road.

At sundown we arrived at the village. I got out of the vehicle at the edge of the village. About 10 or so adults and innumerable children assembled around the vehicle as I disembarked. One man approached. He seemed to be in his late twenties or early thirties. I guess he was Somali or other Cushite speaker, thin, light brown complexion and a straight narrow nose. He greeted me and asked what had brought me to the village. I answered that I had heard about what they had accomplished in creating their vast environmental and ethnological preserve and I wanted to see it for myself. This was the first time in the dream that I had become aware of what I was doing here.

He contemplated me for a moment then said, “Mama discourages casual visitors to the reserve.” At first I thought MAMA was an acronym for the NGO operating the place. I was soon disabused of that assumption when he glanced to a large woman standing off to the side surrounded by passel of young children.

She was a large woman, large indeed, about an inch or two taller than me and at least 50 pounds heavier. Her skin was a deep chocolate color and a thick dark tangled ring of hair floated around her head like Medusa’s snakes. She wore a deep blue tent like dress that fell from her shoulders almost all the way to the ground. Thick red stripes containing faint yellow pinstripes broke up the wall of blue.

“Perhaps I can persuade her to let me stay,” I said. “I don’t think so,” he responded quickly. “But it is too late in the day to send you back, so you can stay the night as our guest and if she is not too busy perhaps you can try to persuade her tomorrow.”

With that he led me into the town past several of the huts to one a little back from the road. “This is my house,” he said. “You can stay here for the evening. There is a cot in the back. You can leave your backpack there. I will show you where to wash up and you can join my family and others for dinner.”

The hut was nicely sized containing a single room. It seemed to be used only for sleeping. I found a small cot at the back and with both relief and trepidation dropped my backpack on it and rejoined my host.

He showed me to a surprisingly comfortable bathhouse with both hot and cold tubs and showers. It seemed to be available to both sexes.

After my bath he led me to a clearing a little way from the village. Here there were benches and a few sturdy wooden tables. Several modern grill type cookers and other tables containing copious amounts of food surrounded a large campfire around which on a variety of strange tripod like contraptions other pots and viands hung over the flames.

I met my host’s wife and their two small children. She was young and quite attractive. I am sorry to say, I no longer remember their names even though they became some of the closest friends I had even known. That’s the way it is with dreams.

The clearing filled up with what appeared to be at least a hundred adults and even more children running about. The others seemed to be a mixture of ethnicities and races, predominately African but I could see some Europeans and Asians also among the crowd.

Although I remember the food was delicious and the feeling that I enjoyed myself immensely I recall little more about the evening other than that whenever I glanced across the campfire through the flames I saw Mama on the other side staring at me with what appeared to me to be hard cold angry eyes.

After the dinner I returned to the hut, laid down on the cot and fell immediately asleep.
(to be continued)

 

C. MOPEY’S BOOK REPORTS:

“People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.”
Logan Pearsall Smith
1. The Ripper

At Ruth’s suggestion, I read Isabel Allende’s new novel. Unlike her previous novels, this time she tries the mystery genre. Her husband William C. Gordon, an attorney in SF, writes mystery novels set in The City during the sixties. Allende’s novel, The Ripper, is also set in the City but takes place currently, more or less. Nevertheless, much of the novel revolves around a shard of the sixties that lasted to the present day – the occupants and clients of a holistic medicine clinic in North Beach several of whom I could comfortably associate with some of the denizens of the counter-culture I met during those fabled if somewhat blurred times.

Pookie says check it out.

“…no one gets rich working,”
Allende, Isabel. Ripper (p. 152). Harper Collins.

2. Steam

Sir Terry Pratchett the beloved author of the innumerable “Discworld” novels was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year or so ago. “Discworld,” for those who do not know, is a flat world on a disc resting on the backs of four huge elephants standing on the shell of an enormous tortoise slowly making its way across the galaxy. The denizens of “Discworld” are delightfully human (even the humans), and humanly delightful. “Steam” is his most recent book. Although it is not as madly surprising and bizarrely inventive as his previous works, it still overflows with Sir Terry’s special brand of humor and insight.

To Sir Terry, captains of industry, commerce and banking are inevitably criminals, hucksters and scoundrels but they seem to do as good a job as anyone would do under the circumstances. Of course it helps, if the government is run by a highly trained assassin instead of a mass murderer. Sir Terry believes that is the best of all political arrangements. He thinks magic is a good thing because it is very funny when its spells go wrong, which they inevitably do. He also believes that goblins, golems, vampires, trolls, werewolves, and various other species of sentient being, more or less, are quite amusingly human and often even more so than humans themselves once you get to know them, even McFeegles.

Pookie says check it out.

“It is now known to science that there are many more dimensions than the classical four. Scientists say that these don’t normally impinge on the world because the extra dimensions are very small and curve in on themselves, and that since reality is fractal most of it is tucked inside itself. This means either that the universe is more full of wonders than we can hope to understand or, more probably, that scientists make things up as they go along.”
Pratchett, Terry. Pyramids (Discworld) (p. 313). Harper Collins.

Note: I also read Pyramids published several years ago in which Sir Terry reveals that the greatest mathematicians in the universe are camels who, alas have found no one within that same universe they deem worthy enough to share that knowledge with.

Pookie says check that out also. In fact read all or Pratchett’s books. There are so many of them you could read them for the rest of your life and still be happy.

 

 
DAILY FACTOID:

Sometime about the middle of the century or during the latter half of it, those of us still alive will experience a day not experienced by humankind since the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries when Genghis Kahn slaughtered about 10% of humanity living at that time and the following Plague carried by fleas riding along on those sturdy Mongolian ponies offed another 10%.

On that day in the near future according to several demographic studies there will be fewer humans living on the planet then the day before. This will occur not because some new Genghis or Plague will ravage us (although that remains a real possibility), but because of the education and liberation of women, increasing living standards and urbanization will have resulted in not enough babies born to offset the death rate among oldies.

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

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

1. The Great Gatsby Curve
slide_267889_1844551_free

For those who consider those nordic countries as small and homogenous and thereby not applicable to the situation in the USA, note that their combined population is slightly less than that of Canada and their percentage of foreign-born residents is greater than that of the USA and most other industrialized nations (Although it does beg the question of whether anything in Canada is applicable to the US). On the other hand, in terms of sheer numbers the US leads the world in foreign-born residents as it has more or less from its beginning.

2. Study by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center:

A new study sponsored by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilization could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.

“By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.

These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: “the stretching of resources ”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” These social phenomena have played “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,” in all such cases over ‘the last five thousand years.’”
B. A bit more Twain*:

“When I look around me, I am often troubled to see how many people are mad. To mention only a few: The Atheist, The Theosophists, The Infidel, The Swedenborgians, The Agnostic, The Shakers, The Baptist, The Millerites, The Methodist, The Mormons, The Christian Scientist, The Laurence Oliphant Harrisites, The Catholic, and the 115 Christian sects ( the Presbyterian excepted), The Grand Lama’s people, The Monarchists, The Imperialists, The 72 Mohammedan sects, The Democrats, The Republicans (but not the Mugwumps!), The Buddhist, The Blavatsky-Buddhist, The Mind-Curists, The Faith-Curists, The Nationalist, The Mental Scientists, The Confucian, The Spiritualist, The Allopaths, The 2000 East Indian sects, The Homeopaths, The Electropaths, The Peculiar People, The–

“But there’s no end to the list; there are millions of them! And all insane; each in his own way; insane as to his pet fad or opinion, but otherwise sane and rational. This should move us to be charitable towards one another’s lunacies.”
Mark Twain, Christian Science

* we need more twains and fewer singularities.

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTES:

“Somebody has to do something, and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us.”
~ J. Garcia

“Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.”
Henry David Thoreau

“Always assume everyone is an idiot. This saves time.”
Burke, Declan. Absolute Zero Cool. Liberties Press.

 

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

IMG_20140131_172058_675_3
Sunset over El Dorado Hills

 

Categories: January through March 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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