Posts Tagged With: Social distancing

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

 

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

 

Happy Birthday — Naida, Nikki, and George.

 

 

 

 

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 

POOKIE’S ADVENTURES DURING THE GREAT EPIDEMIC OF 2020:

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

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

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

 

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The American River by the Enchanted Forest.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Mokelumne River through arches of blue oak.

 

 

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

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

 

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She also found some bush lupine growing by the road.

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care.

 

 

 

 

PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

 

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

 

 

Part III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

B. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

 

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

 

 

C. Today’s Poem:

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Which makes sense in a quantum world.

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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Peter

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH:

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

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This and that from re Thai r ment, by 3Th.    1 Joey 0009. (March 26, 2020)

 

“Progress just means bad things happen faster.”
Abercrombie, Joe. A Little Hatred: 1 (The Age of Madness) (p. 152). Orbit.

 

I hope you all remain properly socially distant while enjoying, Palm Sunday, Passover, April Fool’s Day, Good Friday and Easter and those who don’t (except for medical personnel, pharmacists, farmers, grocers and the like) may you be forced to spend the next six months locked on the oval office with He Who Is Non Our President.

 

 

 
,

TODAY FROM AMERICA:

 

 

A. POOKIE’S ADVENTURES DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING:

 
We have hunkered down at home in the Enchanted Forest to wait out the coronavirus emergency. This is not as difficult for us as for some since our lives have become quite sedentary as of late. Given the number of times we have received the same information about the epidemic on the media, we are almost saturated enough to return to watching TCM and old movies.

The mismanagement of the crisis by the federal government, unfortunately, probably will result in more deaths than would have occurred with even a little bit of competence. I suspect these deaths will pale in comparison to those that will happen as a result of the economic impacts from the mishandling of this crisis.

In the evening, at about dusk, we took the dog for a walk. We figured it was OK to leave the house since the only thing we would be touching would be dog poo and even then our hands would be protected by some plastic.

Recently, I have taken to replacing the forlorn turkey feathers that I find around the paths in the Enchanted Forest and place in the bands of my hats with fallen seasonal flowers that I locate the same way — currently camellias. At eighty years of age who cares how silly you look. It’s the pleasure that counts.
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Camellia Joe.

 
Speaking of fallen Camellias, Naida has taken to plucking up those in the yard that fall from the bushes and creating a centerpiece for our table.
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A Bowl of Camellias.

 

IMG_7884 - Version 2A Smiling Lady of the Camellias. 

 

As long as we are on the subject of Camellias or at least of flowers fallen or not, here is a photograph of Naida taken at a restaurant a few days ago before we decided on seclusion from the depredations of the coronavirus. She is in the midst of telling me one of her fascinating stories or pointing at some interesting birds or something else.
IMG_7961
Not a Camellia.

 
We briefly went out to shop for provisions to sustain us during our self-quarantine. When we arrived at the Safeway nearby, it seemed like everyone else had the same idea. While most things appeared well-stocked, toilet paper and hand wipes were all gone. While I understand the run on hand wipes, I fail to comprehend the toilet paper mania. After all, how many times does one shit during a 14 day period? Two or three rolls per person seem more than adequate to me. If someone needs much more than that, I think they should have seen a doctor long before now.

Of course, my hypochondria is in high gear. Every fifteen minutes or so, I become convinced I have caught the disease and am sure I am about to die. I must be driving Naida mad.

While sitting around in my recliner watching CNN ramble on endlessly about coronavirus, I played on the computer and looked up Pookie. I discovered there was someone in San Angelo Texas named Pookie who forced a woman into prostitution for drugs. I bet he doesn’t wear hats festooned with flowers. On second thought maybe he does.

Another day of self-quarantine. It is raining and dreary outside. Same same.

One day I spoke to Nikki by phone. He is quarantined on the top floor of an apartment building in Busto a small town near Malpensa airport a few miles from Milan. He is alone and spends most of his day doing what we all are doing, watching television finding busy work, talking on phones, and taking long naps. Sometimes, he goes out onto his balcony and sings along with others imprisoned in high-rises nearby. At other times he goes out on to the balcony and dances.

Nikki is a senior pilot for Al Italia. He is on call to fly his plane to pick up some of the 10,000 Italians stranded in foreign countries. He is scheduled to fly to South Africa to pick up some of them this week.

While I am bored and a little concerned during my isolation, I do have Naida with me and of course, the dog who barks a bit less now that fewer people and vehicles pass by the house. I also try to ruminate on the good things this junior plague may bring. We are forced to briefly halt whatever things we believed we had to do and now have time to consider its value to us. Everyone has the opportunity to do this at the same time. Almost the entirety of the people of the world is being forced to stop and take stock of what is really important in our lives. That could be a good thing.

For a brief moment in, we are also forced to halt our collective assault on our environment, giving that environment a brief respite from our onslaught upon it.

The saddest thing for me is my awareness that many of those who were led to believe it was all a hoax, just another common cold, still believe it.

Yesterday was my onomastica, my name day. I did not celebrate it. I would celebrate it if I could find somewhere that makes fresh Zeppole. Tomorrow is St Patrick’s Day. We probably will not celebrate that either.

It is now 4:30 PM. I awoke at 11AM this morning and spent most of the day writing the above 10 or so lines. So it goes in these our days of confinement. I think it is about that time for Naida, Boo-boo the Barking Dog, and I to break away from our computers and sing and dance for a while.

Saint Patrick’s Day, we went for a walk along the river. On the way, we passed the dog park. It was empty. People seemed to be walking their dogs along the levee and keeping their distance. I have begun coughing. I do not know whether I am simply clearing my throat or if it is an artifact of my hypochondria or something else. The Hospital called and put off my immunotherapy appointment for three weeks.

Have you noticed, that recently the world seems full of omens? The good thing is you get to choose those you like.

You know we shouldn’t be so hard on the Donald for his constant lying. It may just be that he thinks the truth is so precious that it shouldn’t be waved around too much.

It is now a week or more into the local version of social distancing huddled in our houses while the coronavirus prowls outside. In addition, to boredom, it also gives one time to think and reflect — two very dangerous activities especially when one is 80 years old.

Try as we like, during our lives we still will have words we think we should have spoken left over in the end.

Everyone is good at something. Sometimes, alas, you don’t find out until too late. And, unfortunately, even if you do find out in time, it may very well be of no use or value to anyone even yourself. For example, you may be good at picking your nose and that may very well please you immensely, but it is hard to imagine that talent has any benefit to anyone. I do not know what I am good at, but there are times when picking my nose pleases me a lot. And while I take pains to hide my ability from view, I still take a bit of pride in it.

Speaking of ability, it has been said, or I have read it somewhere that most sane, rational human beings learn quite early on that you feel just as certain even when you’re wrong. For this reason, the strength of your belief is usually not a valid measure of its relation to reality. I believe a lot of things. For example, I often believe that whenever I get a sniffle or a slight headache, it means I will surely die before morning. Well, it hasn’t happened yet. But I haven’t given up hope. I also believe I am as knowledgeable and smart as the next guy or gal. I never really found that to be the case, but I still believe that to be true despite the amount of evidence to the contrary.

It is now Friday at about 1 PM. We are sitting here watching Belmondo in Breathless on TCM. Boo-boo the Barking Dog lies half asleep on the chair. I read an email from Peter. He writes, “Vaccine is 18 months off; meanwhile should be interesting. Universal voting by mail? The Hyatt Regency Hospital? Or is it the Homeless Repository? Will Batman close the Bat Cave and move to the Hyatt Regency Homeless Repository?”

To which I responded, “Speaking of Superman, do you have any idea where he changes into his tights now that there are no more phone booths.”

Peter replied, “Now, about Superman, that’s a great question! more great possibilities: A knock on the door, you open it in the Enchanted Forest, and there stands this mild-mannered, bespectacled, besuited fellow, who asks politely: “Excuse me, but may I enter so I can change clothes? There are a bank robbery and kidnapping happening down the street I need to attend to.” Alternatively, he could use the old red phone booth our sister-in-law (Barrie’s brother’s wife) Migiwa used in Yellow Springs, Ohio, in front of the Tasty Freeze that was one of her artistic creations. Of course, he’d have to transport this to Gotham City or wherever. I haven’t been present where he actually does his changes, so I have no idea.”

So that’s what Peter and I do during this era of social distancing. What do you do?

This evening Naida played the piano and I danced. She played a hot rendition of Malagueña. I strutted around the room clicking my heels on the new wood floors.

For the past two days, I have spent most of my time in bed overcome with fatigue. I do not know what caused it, the only other symptom was a thickening of mucus. Of course, I thought I was sure to die in a day or two. I didn’t. Today, however, I am up and about. Up and about for me means sitting in front of the television and watching the news about the pandemic.

It has been two weeks now of our confinement. Like others throughout the world, we are getting a bit of a taste of what imprisonment is all about. At least many of those actually in prison know when it is they will get out. Everyone, I guess, has their own way of coping. For me right now it is staring out into the back yard at one of our trees that has just begun to bloom.
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OMG! —— I never thought I would see myself use that acronym but I cannot conceive of a worse disaster during this time of plague. Our television has broken down. True we have another set but we cannot get it to work. We have tried and failed to find a repairman. Anyway, who would want to allow a potential carrier of the plague into the house? What to do? What to do? We need help quickly before we fall into entertaining ourselves, or God forgive, reading. When, if the future, they write the history of this time of the plague I am sure they will have a chapter on the horror experienced by those poor souls forced to rely on their own imagination. The horror.

I finally hooked up the other TV, but for some reason we only get TCM. It could be worse. We could have been stuck with Fox News or the Weather Channel.

It is a day or two later and we fixed the TV. That is not much of an improvement since all that is on is stories about Coronavirus and He Who Is Not My President talking about it or old black and white movies and Technicolor musicals. It could be worse. Someday in the future, if there is a future, children will ask their parents what they did during the great plague.

Of course, everything we talk about or write about is not really real. It is just energy screwing around doing its thing here in this infinitesimally small and remote portion of the Universe. What we write or tell each other about it is a narrative imperative — a story or Naritivium as Terry Pratchett calls it. We make it up and tell each other about it and feel good or bad about it as the Naritivium dictates. Naritivium essentially replaces magic in a universe without it.

“The curious thing about the human belief in narrativium is that once humans evolved on the planet, their beliefs started to be true. We have, in a way, created our own narrativium. It exists in our minds, and there it is a process, not a thing. On the level of the material universe, it’s just one more pattern of buzzing electrons. But on the level of what it feels like to be a mind, it operates just like narrativium. Not only that: it operates on the material world, not just the mental one: its effects are just like those of narrativium.”
Pratchett, Terry. The Globe: The Science of Discworld II: A Novel. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

In other words, in my case, and I suspect also with most of you out there, we just make shit up.

 

 

B. NAIDA, POOKIE, AND BOO-BOO THE BARKING DOG BREAK OUT OF CONFINEMENT.

 
One day while I was complaining about creeping cabin fever Naida, for no reason that I can identify, suddenly said, “We need to get a new key for the Mitsubishi.” We had either lost or misplaced the keys several weeks before. I had decided not to get them replaced until the current emergency ends. Despite this, and again for no reason, I immediately called the key-smith thinking he would tell me they were closed until the crisis ends. To my surprise, he said instead, “Someone will be right over. He’ll meet you at the car.” So we gathered up the dog and walked to where the car was parked and waited. The key-smith arrived. We had no way of knowing how many coronavirus carriers he had come into contact with. We passed over our information standing closer to each other than six feet. He then crawled all over the car setting about doing whatever key-smiths do leaving behind, I am sure, whatever bugs he was carrying around.

While watching him work another car pulled up. It was the dog walker and her daughter. They exited the car, came over to us, and stood well within the six-foot barrier. She was carrying two packages of Thomas’ English Muffins which she thrust into our hands saying, “I knew you were running out. I found a store that still has a few packages and bought them for you.” Out of a misplaced sense of politeness or gratitude, we could not refuse the offer even if it might be another potential plague vector. So, I held the tip of the plastic bag they come in between my fingers and thanked them for their consideration. They then returned to their car and left.

The key-smith handed me the new keys. I passed over my credit card and took it back. He drove off and we deciding, “In for a dime in for a dollar” got in the now, I was sure, thoroughly contaminated vehicle and drove around Sacramento for about an hour.

We returned home, put the keys in a drawer, placed the muffins on a shelf, and washed our hands. I then sat in my recliner and pondered mortality. After two weeks of stringent social distancing, I am now convinced that death is crawling through the Enchanted Forest headed to our door.

 

 

C. RETURN TO CONFINEMENT.

 
So following that adventure into stupidity, we returned to enjoy the pleasures of social distancing. Naida discovered a container of three-year-old Lysol wipes that were dried up. In the hope of rejuvenating them, she pored Clorox into the container and set about wiping down whatever she could find. I went back to watching CNN drone on about coronavirus. They broke off their symphony of woe to tune into He Who Is Not My President’s daily publicity sessions at which he bloviated on about how he was going to make our impending deaths especially meaningless.

At about six PM today Naida discovered the missing key. The one we felt so important that we broke containment to replace and risked death by the Trump virus. I assume either “It’s always something,” or “Tomorrow is another day” is appropriate here.

And with that, I think I have gone on enough in this post. So I think I will end it here.

Take care of yourselves. Don’t lose your car keys. Stay socially distant. Don’t take anything too seriously. And above all:

th

 

 

 

DAILY FACTOID:

 

 

Humanity/life = >7.65 MeV and/or 30 fundamental constants (+ or – )? I do not know what this means but some scientists believe it represents the basis of the existence of the biosphere and, in the case of the fundamental constants, existence itself, here there or perhaps anywhere. Other scientists, not so much. What do you think?

“An atheist is not someone who believes that God doesn’t exist. It is someone who doesn’t believe that God does exist. If you think those are the same, ponder this statement by the comedian Penn Jillette: ‘Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.’
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 324). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
“The writer and comedian Ricky Gervais made a similar point more pithily in 2010:
‘The dictionary definition of God is ‘a supernatural creator and overseer of the universe’. Included in this definition are all deities, goddesses and supernatural beings. Since the beginning of recorded history, which is defined by the invention of writing by the Sumerians around 6000 years ago, historians have cataloged over 3,700 supernatural beings, of which 2,870 can be considered deities. So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say ‘Oh, which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra…?’ If they say, ‘Just God. I only believe in the one God,’ I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.’”
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 322). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

 

Comedians and clowns, I believe, are the physicists of the soul

“We have been around for a few million years at most, perhaps only 200,000 if you restrict attention to ‘modern’ humans; the universe is about 13.5 billion years old. We occupy one world orbiting one of 200 billion stars in one galaxy, which itself is one of 200 billion galaxies. Isn’t it just a tiny bit arrogant to insist that the entire universe is merely a by-product of a process whose true purpose was to bring us into existence?
Pratchett, Terry. Judgment Day (Science of Discworld Series) (p. 302). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

I do not know if I completely buy this last point. I mean, if you are so irrelevant in the scheme of things why would you even bother to get up in the morning?

 

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PEPE’S POTPOURRI:

 

 

 

A. Trenz Pruca’s Observations:

 
The Nobel Prize in Economics was established in 1966 by bankers who fund it and is not one of the prizes that Alfred Nobel established in his will in 1895. It is not technically a Nobel Prize.

 

B. Today’s Poem:

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A Double Standard
BY FRANCES ELLEN WATKINS HARPER

Do you blame me that I loved him?
If when standing all alone
I cried for bread a careless world
Pressed to my lips a stone.

Do you blame me that I loved him,
That my heart beat glad and free,
When he told me in the sweetest tones
He loved but only me?

Can you blame me that I did not see
Beneath his burning kiss
The serpent’s wiles, nor even hear
The deadly adder hiss?

Can you blame me that my heart grew cold
That the tempted, tempter turned;
When he was feted and caressed
And I was coldly spurned?

Would you blame him, when you draw from me
Your dainty robes aside,
If he with gilded baits should claim
Your fairest as his bride?

Would you blame the world if it should press
On him a civic crown;
And see me struggling in the depth
Then harshly press me down?

Crime has no sex and yet to-day
I wear the brand of shame;
Whilst he amid the gay and proud
Still bears an honored name.

Can you blame me if I’ve learned to think
Your hate of vice a sham,
When you so coldly crushed me down
And then excused the man?

Would you blame me if to-morrow
The coroner should say,
A wretched girl, outcast, forlorn,
Has thrown her life away?

Yes, blame me for my downward course,
But oh! remember well,
Within your homes, you press the hand
That led me down to hell.

I’m glad God’s ways are not our ways,
He does not see as man,
Within His love I know there’s room
For those whom others ban.

I think before His great white throne,
His throne of spotless light,
That whited sepulchers shall wear
The hue of endless night.

That I who fell, and he who sinned,
Shall reap as we have sown;
That each the burden of his loss
Must bear and bear alone.

No golden weights can turn the scale
Of justice in His sight;
And what is wrong in woman’s life
In man’s cannot be right.

 

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (September 24, 1825 – February 22, 1911) was an abolitionist, suffragist, poet, teacher, public speaker, and writer, one of the first African American women to be published in the United States.

Born free in Baltimore, Maryland, she had a long and prolific career, publishing her first book of poetry at the age of 20. At 67, she published her novel Iola Leroy (1892), which was widely praised.

As a young woman in 1850, she taught sewing at Union Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, a school affiliated with the AME Church.[1] In 1851, alongside William Still, chairman of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, she helped refugee slaves make their way along the Underground Railroad on their way to Canada. In 1853 she began her career as a public speaker and political activist after joining the American Anti-Slavery Society.

Her collection Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects (1854) became her biggest commercial success. Her short story “Two Offers” was published in the Anglo-African in 1859, making literary history as the first short story published by a black woman.

Harper founded, supported, and held high office in several national progressive organizations. In 1883 she became superintendent of the Colored Section of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Women’s Christian Temperance Union. In 1894 she helped found the National Association of Colored Women and served as its vice president. Harper died aged 85 on February 22, 1911, nine years before women gained the right to vote. (Wikipedia)

 

 

 

TODAY’S QUOTE:

 

 

“You smell that? Do you smell that? Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for twelve hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. But the smell! You know — that gasoline smell… the whole hill! Smelled like… victory. (Pause) Some day this war is going to end…”
Apocalypse Now. Lieutenant-Colonel Bill Kilgore.

 

 

OLD PHOTOGRAPH OF THE DAY:

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That is me asleep on the couch many years ago. Bobby, Ruth’s dog, is my partner in lethargy.

 

 

 

TODAY’S ART ODYSSEY:

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