Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Shell Shock

Years ago, what remains of your correspondent had a physics teacher who had survived the Trenches of the First World War but for the remainder of his life he suffered from a shell shock that made him very shaky when he heard a loud or sudden noise. Sadly his enthusiasm for physics wasn't shared by a majority of his pupils who were far more interested in observing his reactions to both loud and sudden noises. The Girl Cat doesn't like thunder. She doesn't go all shaky and start quivering, she quietly disappears to one or other of her "secret" hiding places, and remains there until all possibility of thunder has passed.

Safe to say the Girl Cat might not have made a very good soldier in the Trenches of the First World War, and very likely her commanding officer would have had her shot for cowardice. It happened quite a lot, an example to others, keeps people upright and decent. But I will suggest that there's another side to war and in that other side of war the Girl Cat would most certainly have risen through the ranks, become one of those stars that you're not supposed to talk about because they do things like pay reluctant insurgents to kill correctly uniformed soldiers instead of doing it themselves, or con you into believing that Cadbury's Milk Chocolate is good for hair balls. Don't get me wrong, when she wants to be, the Girl Cat is charming, she's adorable, she's gentle, butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. But, just a little Bolton-like in her desire to avoid the trenches.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Wee Beasties and Fledging

Boy and Girl Carolina Wrens share the responsibility of nest building. They work as a team, but to make absolutely certain it's comfortable it's the Girl who lines the nest, she likes moss, and for some reason hair cuttings, how she manages it I don't know, but they're beautifully arranged. Earlier in the year I had to discourage Wrens from building a nest on the front porch. They'd chosen a cracked pot, literally a cracked pot, which I use as a place to dispose of cigarette butts. It was in my humble opinion the wrong place to even think about building a nest. Not only was the site unhealthy for the young ones, it was low down and right by the door into, out of, and around which the two four legged members of the domicile are apt to loiter, on far too regular a basis. I was first made aware of this potential nest when I noticed cigarette butts carelessly scattered on the porch decking, which is a big no no here, you can't just scatter cigarette butts around without upsetting somebody. My first instinct was to blame the Kitten, I reckoned she was just trying to get me into trouble. It was the content of the cracked pot and Carolina Wren with a small stick in her beak staring at me as though I was geriatric MAGA hat wearing rally attendee in a golf cart that enlightened me. It wasn't easy, I apologized profusely and covered the cracked pot with a broom head. There was some disgruntlement, accusing looks, but I felt I was doing right by my neighbors, saving their children from terminal damage not only from mostly feral domestic pets but also the demon of nicotine.

It was probably later that week the Wrens chose to have another go at a nest site, this time in a small basket hanging against the wall on the back porch, a couple of feet above the railing, well sheltered from the elements. I did consider moving the basket, the Kitten might not have been a problem but the Girl Cat has the determination and athleticism of a gymnast and the basket was well within her capacity to reach, she'd probably consider it a splendid challenge if she decided there was something small, soft, alive and innocent taking first steps into the world inside the basket. The thing is, you can only do so much before becoming a mentally deranged bossy boots in the eyes of others and in the end in life there's no substitute for bitter experience. Days past, the two legged members of the domicile tiptoed around, there was much eagerness from the nest, the Kitten had her suspicions but had no intention of doing anything radical like leaping around. The Girl Cat for her part was very aware of the presence, three little ones, gaping maw, rather demanding, their parental side in high alarm, a level of noise that you'd have to be incredibly tolerant to ignore. It was tense, but nature raw in tooth and claw, what will be will be, I callously decided. Then the Artist and I were gathered in the barn for an Onion conference, she was underneath a Phoebe nest. I can only assume the Phoebe is born again or something, it's third of fourth brood this year. But something burst from that nest, a mite hatching of some sort and the Artist has been in and out of a hot shower for some days now attempting to rid herself of what the Scots would call wee beasties. On the back porch, happy to announce, the Carolina Wrens have successfully fledged.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Traduced

The original quote is not "to the manor born" it's "to the manner born."  The meaning of manner: "fashion, appearance, custom." And there was a time, many years ago, when Manor was often spelled as Manner. So there you go, let's not get all worked up about some class ridden fiction built around confused posh people surrounded by impoverished sycophants. And of interest it's the current Attorney General of these here United States that blames a perceived moral rot within the nation on Hollywood, drugs and disobedience to the laws of God. And oddly it was a Palestinian mother, her child killed by an outrage. who wailed "While God is mostly silent people do terrible things in his name." Generally it's mother earth and God is a commandment wielding boy.

The other line from Shakespeare worth considering is: More honored in the breach than the observance. The quote goes this way : "...But to my mind, though I am native here and to the manner born, it is a custom more honour’d in the breach than the observance. This heavy-headed revel east and west makes us traduced and taxed of other nations." Yes indeed, many generations before the electric, the King of Denmark would spend his evening at the drink. And each sip of wine required a toast, followed by a drum roll, the sound of trumpets and the loud hurrah was assumed. On it went late into the night, it was an unnecessary repetition that aggravated many and still does. And so, according to Hamlet, the custom was more honored in the breach than the observance. For those interested Traduced means "to speak badly of."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Onions

Not being clinically insane I too am guilty of hubris, a moment of abject idiocy, an absurd decision that brings on regret and self loathing. The rule is to rationalize the error in a desperate attempt to regain some self respect. Sadly the other rule is that no matter how respectable the rationalization might sound to me no one else is taken in by it for one tiny little moment, unless they are deluded and quite devoid of thought processes of their own. Worse, much, much worse, it was suggested I wait for better advice before I pulled the Onions. And the question for the ages is: Have I learned a lesson.

There is another solution. One frightens the naysayers into retreat with a tweet or something equally terrifying. Let them squirm around looking for their own reasons to support my claim that pulling the Onions was actually, despite all the advice, wisdom, common sense to the contrary, the right thing to do. Then when they've flattened their own curve of identity to match my own, I'll command their presence and ask them to worship me. The Onions will continue to rot but the hurrahs and chants of my captives will make me feel worthy. Sadly here were I live, there are characters with grit and resolve so that's just not going to happen.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Great Crested

It could be anything, and I well recall some time ago when I was outwitted by a combination of my own arrogance, the Artist and a Blue Grey Gnatcatcher. I wasn't saying that the Artist didn't have 20/20 vision, I was just suggesting that in the general area of bird identification there was a very good chance I was correct. Well I wasn't correct, and if I recall there was some joy in the Artist as I admitted to an error, a joy that is easily awakened when I recently offered the odd off hand remark about having spotted a yellowish breasted bird that could have been anything from some kind of Oriel to the yellow Cardinal I'd read about which had been spotted about ninety miles north of us, it was an exciting, yet absurd thought. No way the bird is a Cardinal, there's no flipping around, all busy or beating the head against the wing mirror of a vehicle. It's not vanity from the Cardinal it's more of a berserker behavior that results from out of control seasonal hormones.

This mysterious bird has been loitering around the vegetable garden for a week or so, and this morning while digging the last of the Red Norland I saw that yellowish breast again. She was on the fence, typically, which is more of Bluebird, Flycatcher and Sparrow perch, the fence posts are more Mockingbird and Thrasher perches, neither of them particularly upright citizens when it comes to Strawberries. Cardinals tend not to be particular about where they perch, unless he's a boy Cardinal who has been called to song which requires from him a certain amount of gusto and concentration so he'll choose a sturdy tree branch before proceeding to verbally remind everyone of his presence, his passions, his hopes, his wishes and blah blah blah. Either way, currently I suspect the yellowish breast belongs to a Great Crested Flycatcher, she's a fence sitter and has that quiet "don't mess with me" confidence of Flycatchers.  Mind you "great crested" anything has certain charm, so I'll tread warily.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Third World

In the 1950's a Third World Country was a country unaligned with either the NATO Block or with the Soviet Union and China. Simple not complicated. In the 1950's the Third World was associated with underdevelopment. And underdevelopment was defined as not industrialized, and therefore less threatening.

Third World today is more of a value judgment. Things like poverty, rampant unchecked spread of disease, random and incompetent forms of government, dictatorship, absence of a Rule of Law, poor levels of education, corruption and it's rather a long unhappy list list.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Autonomous Factions

There's Robert Michels Iron Law of Oligarchy. Here the tactical and technical necessities of organization inevitably result in rule by an elite. And as the elite secures positions within the organization the organization becomes more and more of an oligarchy, and less and less a representative democracy. All sorts of reasons why elites reckon they have all the answers, know how to make things work, are better than anybody else, more experienced in the real world and so on, not least of which is the desire to be at the top of the heap and surrounded by others who kind of owe their own position to having spent a considerable portion of their career telling the elites how wonderful they are. And this is why within Oligarchic organizations there is a benefit to democracy from factions within an organization, most especially autonomous factions. In a political party an autonomous faction in order to maintain autonomy against an atrophying elite would have its own source of funding, which is why everyone talks about "grass roots" and by grass roots they mean you and I.

The sad fact is that focus groups are about as useful as a Chafer Beetle. Which incidentally are natives of Europe, an invasive species now found north of the Tropic of Cancer in North America. The Chafer grub is the oily looking big fat white thing that can apparently walk on its back, got them all over the place here, and the Mockingbird is very suspicious of them. With respect to focus groups, you can't just drag five people into a room, go on about how important they are and then ask them a bunch of questions, and come away with some deep insight into the the thoughts and feelings of the rest of us. First of all, it's very obvious to me that anyone who agrees to go into a room take part in a focus group already has something seriously wrong with them. But more importantly they'll always tell you what they think you want to hear or what they think you ought to hear, and if there's a camera in the room, well you got the theatrical nonsense of a reality show. So focus groups are like looking at a patch of dead grass and assuming the entire lawn is dead. Oligarchs of course love Chafer Beetles and they deeply distrust grass roots.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Pros and Cons

Yuma Arizona sometimes refers to itself as "The Winter Lettuce Capitol of the World." On New Year's Eve at the stroke of midnight an Iceberg Lettuce is dropped from the town's water tower. This is called the Iceberg Drop, which does rather lack anything that might appeal to a Romantic Poet. Alarmingly, in the average year, Yuma has 175 days when maximum temperature exceeds 90 Fahrenheit, which explains a lot. They say it's a dry heat, and worth recalling that the Sahara Desert makes the same claim about the quality of its heat. Dry heat means low humidity, which in turn means your body desiccates before it stinks up the place as it rots, so Yuma is a perfect place for a Zoroastrian Tower of Silence, which is rather central for us converts who might be concerned by the rapid reduction in Vulture populations due to pesticides and an increasing disinterest in doing anything about it.

Our hymn advises the part of the mind which reacts reflexively to pause, think a while, weigh the pros and cons, before reacting in ways that might be really very, very stupid and short sighted, idiotic and moronic. And don't be fooled by any pictures of our sage that you might have come across. Rest assured he didn't wear a funny hat, he had no saintly aura, he very rarely looked up to the heavens in his search for further insights, he didn't know much about Sheep husbandry, but he knew a lot about Camels. He was the father of ethics, a rationalist, and sure his one god was reasonable rather than all knowing and a little disinterested in the lot of us people. God had to be, there was a reason he gave us a capacity to think through problems for ourselves rather than dismiss them as in interference with a life style, an inconvenience to be ignored. And yes our guide would consign those who can't bring themselves to wear a mask in a virus pandemic to hell for being wimpy and far too vain, whether his God would I don't know.

Monday, June 22, 2020

The Knight

Never good to gloat. I say this in the tradition sense of gloat, which was to glow or shine as if red hot, and then you have gloaming which is the fall of evening, possibly the sunset. "Oh what can ail thee knight at arms, alone and palely loitering, the sedge has withered from the lake and no bird sings." And you can consider yourself lucky if in your looming years you weren't forced to learn the entire poem on pain of detention. Who knew it might come in useful.

"She took me to her elfin grot, and there she wept and sighed full sore, and there I shut her wild wild eyes with kisses four." It didn't end well for the knight because he had a bad dream. "I saw their starved lips in the gloam with horrid warning gaped wide, and I awoke and found me here, on the cold hill's side."  Yes indeed that was why the knight was palely loitering, tie off, hat in hand. Keats, the poet who wrote La Belle Dame Sans Merci died of tuberculosis at the age of twenty five.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

HPD and The Domestic Pet

"The Kitten becomes histrionic when she wants someone to open a door for her, give her a brush, sit on the chair you're sitting on or refresh her water bowl." The archaic meaning of the word histrionic refers to an actor. More recently the definition of the word is, "exaggerated and dramatic behavior designed to attract attention." Fortunately there's a recognized personality disorder called Histrionic Personality Disorder, or HPD. The calculation is that between 1-2% of a given population suffers from the disorder and more interestingly between 10-15% of inpatients and outpatients in mental institutions are diagnosed with the disorder. And as a secondary caregiver who himself is occasionally touched by histrionics I am always sensitive to possible challenges to the wellbeing of my charges that might actually be beyond their control rather than my histrionically accusing them of being spoiled rotten little entitled brats.

For those wishing to diagnose the disorder in friends, relatives, colleagues, pets, politicians and presidents there's a mnemonic to remind one of the principle characteristics of the disorder. PROMISEME. The mnemonic itself is sufficiently expressive to explain itself, so probably better to examine some of the additional characteristics of the disorder none of which apply to the Kitten : excessive sensitivity to criticism, being easily influenced by others especially those who treat them approvingly, blaming personal failures on others, rapidly shifting emotional states. But the Kitten has : very low tolerance to frustration or delayed gratification. Generally speaking I'd argue that when it comes to HPD safe to say she might not an inpatient but she could be an outpatient. Which means there's a possibility the Kitten isn't a demanding little creature who's totally lost touch with those highly endearing principles of cat-dom which are aloofness and independence, instead she's suffering from a debilitating disorder.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Journey On

There's a 6th Century poem called His Camel by Alqamah which is worth exploring as one ponders the emotional strength of mothers who have lost their children to police bullets. There's the desire for vengeance, perhaps forgiveness, but of the possibilities, I'd argue that down through the ages the more powerful is the desire for justice. In the battle between good and bad, justice is when good wins. Oh sure quarrel all you want about what good and bad might be, but that's not the point, justice is an idea always will be, right or wrong it's an idea people fight for. "They crouched by the artà-brake, the hunters, and thought to win a safe prey: but she escaped their shafts and pursuing hounds." You can see it all in those words, and there she goes, onward into a horizon.

"Towards thee the Pole-stars led, and there where men's feet had passed a track plain to see that wound by cairns over ridges scarred. There, bodies of beasts outworn lay thickly along the road, their bones gleaming white, their hides all shriveled and hard and dry." Desolate and lonely, it takes a will of unsurpassed courage. There will be moments of hope, all the phases of mourning, and yet she always knew it could happen, it might happen, and then it happened. A snap in the ether, loud as thunder, again and again, generation after generation, so she'll have that to lean on, it's the color of her skin, those uniforms, the peaked hats, the sirens, skinheads with guns. I picture the tears, they hurt and they cry out "why?" But "..all the choice is to journey on."

Friday, June 19, 2020

Rasputin

The last Czar of Russia, Nicholas II, belonged to a family that was pretty much related to every other Royal Family in Europe. His son, like many other royals, had inherited hemophilia and a man called Rasputin, Nicholas was persuaded, could cure his sons hemophilia through hypnosis. It was amazing. Rasputin was a mystic, a holy man who himself was the son of a peasant farmer, as a young man he'd travelled to Saint Petersburg where his powers impressed not only the church but the high end socialites. He was an absolute winner at parties and he was a holy man which was a refreshing combination.

Czar Nicholas II  gave him a job as the Royal Lamp Lighter for holy festivals and so on, this gave Rasputin access to all sorts of possibilities. And many a courtier was very, very jealous around the idea of the son of a peasant farmer having so much influence over the Royal Family. During the First World War, the Czarina, possibly on Rasputin's advice, was thinking of persuading her husband to arrange a separate peace with the Germans, and then in 1916 Rasputin was shot dead, possibly by the British Secret Intelligence service.  Rasputin's daughter survived, she travelled to the USA, where she became a dancer and a Lion Tamer.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

End Times

One of the characteristics of technology and particularly with the algorithms that drive technology, vaguely referred to as AI, is that the devices do not know or speak the language that we people do.  As their creator we are incomprehensible objects to AI. We, for our part are, much enamored with our creations, and I guess it's the "Isn't it Cute" phase of the technology. As an example the more Likes you get on Facebook the more likely whatever nonsense you've posted will be seen by more people. It's the basis of the business model. "You too can be famous." This way something utterly absurd or totally false or downright dangerous spreads as a result of it being infected by Likes, and off it goes as innocent as "Yippee, I must be doing something right with the kittens" or as guilty as "Yippee I must be doing something right with the swastika shaped Christmas Cakes."

And if you want to make more money because the billions of dollars you already command just isn't enough, the more something spreads through the internet whether that thing be nasty or nice the better able you are to add to your bank account. Putting people in there to guide a wider interest is too expensive. Your servant, or employee  isn't slave labor in a North Korean prison, it's literally a sleepless, eternal string of numbers with a bundle of cleverly designed "if's" and "therefore's" mixed in along with them. The vaccine is censorship or maybe laws making a social media platforms liable for perceived damage done by the platform's users, in the same way that the Free Press is liable. Then you have someone like Sarah Cooper or the Lincoln Project, go ahead, "like" away or "favorite" or whatever your finger decides.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Book Banning

The odd thing about trying to ban a book, is that even if you weren't going to read it, you kind of feel the need to. The subject matter of the banned book, the dubious nature of it's author, none of it matters.

An unexpurgated edition of DH Laurence's Novel was subjected to legal trouble in 1960 in Britain. But by 1963 if you were an eleven year old schoolboy and hadn't read, or couldn't quote from it there was something wrong with you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Gibbon

His name was Edward Gibbon and his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire was published between 1772 and 1789. He's been accused of misunderstanding Byzantium which was the late Eastern Empire, and there are other things, but his point was to present a history of an Empire that had set the tone for Modern Europe. I mean you can understand why King Offa of Mercia was much taken by the accomplishments of Rome, their technical skills, their overall capacity to get things done, but even in Gibbons day England was still pretty much dependant on the roads Rome had built, not to mention Latin being the lingua franca of the intellectual elites, you were dumb as an ox and pretty much illiterate if you couldn't write and read Latin.

When it came to drawing a conclusion as to why it was Rome fell and declined Edward Gibbon really had very few useful conclusions. He mentioned corruption, loss of spirit and purpose, an obsession with luxury, farming out the military to mercenaries. He had a wonderful account of a Chariot Race that resulted in riot that would have toppled the Emperor of Byzantium had the Emperor's wife not told her husband to pull himself together and for god's sake behave like an emperor. Gibbon's knowledge of the Roman Empire was gleaned from his study of the more ancient scripts which were often propagandist rather than highly disciplined. So I do hope that somewhere today highly disciplined evidence is being gathered so that some future Historian might actually explain to his or her own generation what happens when you don't voluntarily wear a mask in public during a pandemic.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Local Gossip

Getting on to the end of June, and generally round here there's rain around July Fourth. It's the Lore, so best not mess with it. This early June rain can play havoc on your Onions, it damps them down, sometimes to the point of being water logged and they never recover, you can harvest them after the July Rain sure, but they'll rot on you no matter how valiant your attempt to cure them, and for the gardener the whole thing, unless the gardener is brute of the forest, guarantees a period of ennui which does not bode well for a gardeners attitude to the Bean Bloom swiftly followed by the Bean Beetle, the Squash Bug, the Stink Bug, marauding Chipmunk, and it's a horribly long list. 

The immediate worry, as June wends its way, is the Irish Potato. Round here it's called the Irish Potato to distinguish it from the Sweet Potato, and round here the Irish Potato is the posh Potato, it's the Asparagus of Root Vegetables, not sure why but have a nasty suspicion it's related to the custom amongst some Southern Baptists of  referring to the Episcopalians as the African Church. I kind of like it, but not convinced it's meant in a wholesome, broad minded, open handed way. The Irish Potato, the red Norland, will be ready to harvest in about ten days I'd guess. Sounds exciting I know, but there's always the potential for some sooty pox, white scab, and that vile thing that turns the inside of the Potato black And as the vine dies back, the Potato crop is prime nibbling for the  bloody Voles.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Mocko Jumbie

In 2008 the US Virgin Islands in an effort to improve their revenues chose to rebrand their islands. An Atlanta, Georgia firm did the market research, came up with the ideas and were probably well paid to do so. Market research had suggested that what the tourist wanted was an "unscripted Caribbean experience." They were looking for something more than a "cookie cutter" Caribbean vacation, something with vim and verve that went a little beyond lounging around on beaches, being waited on hand and foot, eating, drinking, vomiting, wasting fresh water, souvenir shopping and the evening disco. What the firm came up with for the new logo was a stylized, very stylized, Mocko Jumbie and three stars, each star representing the three US Virgin Islands. Yes indeed a logo. The West Indian Mocko Jumbie is a stilt dancer, he wears a mask, bright colored clothes, the rhythm he dances to is from a drum, any drum, wood, steel and I guess cowhide.

The word Mocko is from Africa, its best meaning, as I understand it, is "Diviner." And good chance the more European mind would see in the word diviner a hint of witchcraft rather than a divinity. But the word Mocko can be traced to West Africa, and on eastward toward the savannahs of the Maasai. Jumbie, as I understand it, is a West Indian word that might have come from a Congo word Zumbi which means spirit, ghost, something that's gone but might still be around. The Mocko was tall, could see above the heads of others into more distant horizons of thought and being. One theory: "...walking all the way across the Atlantic Ocean from the West coast of Africa, laden with many, many centuries of experience, and, in spite of all inhuman attacks and encounters, yet still walks tall, tall, tall." The other theory "crossing the Middle Passage, manacled and starving in the bowels of a wooden ship and was exchanged for raw materials to feed the factories of Europe, a process that made slave traders very, very rich."

Friday, June 12, 2020

Seeking Praise

In 2016 two or three young female representatives of Black Lives Matter stormed a political stage to shout their message. Democratic elites and their propaganda wings were horrified. The Democrats had an election to win and the last thing they wanted was a bunch of out of control black youths saying things like Black Lives Matter. It just set the wrong tone. Then, in 2017 I think it was, at a demonstration in Louisville Kentucky against a rally against the current president, a few brave young ladies from Black Lives Matter gave the majority white demonstrators a good talking too about white entitlement. Most whites were made very uncomfortable, we were wishy-washy liberals and therefore we thought ourselves pure. There was a thing at the time about Black Lives Matter being funded by Russia which was rumor placed into the ether by Russian operatives in their on going attempts to destabilize US society.

Years ago, when I was a callow youth, a theater group would do the rounds. They would engage the audience, invite the audience to enter a dialogue that challenged preconceptions. A visceral experience for audience members that resulted in some of them walking out in a huff. This particular theater group had been inspired by a desire to introduce the Gay Community into a wider society. Inevitably those who turned up to watch the show were a little more open minded than the majority of a given population. My own reaction was to be mightily impressed by the courage of the performers. It took grit and determination, but mostly it took organization, and as I understood it the theater group received funding, over and above the pennies they charged as an entry fee, from a School of Theater. It must have been wonderful training for an actor or an actress to look an audience and tell them how wrong they were instead of seeking their praise. 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Numbers and Probability

75% of genes that produce disease in Humans are found in Fruit Flies. What is a genetic disease. Marfan Syndrome is one, you inherit it from the parent. Symptoms include, fainting, nausea, shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating. The reason to use Fruit Flies to explore genetic anomalies in Humans is because Fruit Flies have a prodigious capacity to reproduce. Several generations in a month. It's a fleeting moment I imagine, but for it to be successful it does require the participation of a boy and a girl Fruit Fly. Eggs have to hatch and so on. Virus are different, they don't require a boy and a girl, they require a host, another creature to give them the capacity to reproduce, or replicate themselves, and without that other creature they're doomed, so basically all they do is drift around, waiting for the chance to reproduce. A virus is smaller than the wavelengths of light that are visible to us, which means you can't even see them under a optical microscope, you need an electron microscope. Viruses don't have to eat or anything like that. But when viruses find that host, prodigious-wise they are in the area of reproduction pretty damn amazing.

After attaching itself to and penetrating a host cell a single virus gets busy, and as the host cell begins to fail an odd thing happens. It's called a Burst and from that burst a good chance around 50000  copies of the virus emerges, varies from virus to virus of course, but which ever way you look at it, it's more like pollen than Bambi. With something like a lung, it's a moist environment, the new viruses have no capacity to do anything very much much than to go with the flow. They can attach, fall in love with other host cells and they can sometimes find themselves coughed, or sneezed, or simply exhaled into the outside world. They drift and are quickly doomed unless they can find a new host, a savior. And the thing about it is, whether you call it reproduction or replication, a new virus can come out different, a little hairier, a little more prickly perhaps. Not many of them, but enough. And if that single slightly alterted virus strikes lucky a new brand of the virus introduces itself to the environment and is better able to replicate. Not necessarily a bad thing, instead of swiftly killing the host, it might let the host linger on, so that it might develop a more lasting abusive relationship. Covid 19 is an RNA virus, and RNA viruses have "relatively high mutation rates."  It's all about numbers and probability.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Ministry of Propaganda

In a sense the vegetable garden is a fascist state. If you don't fit in, or if you're in anyway irritating or creep in through, or leap over, the fence line you are ruthlessly suppressed. As a result it's not so much an ecosystem as it is a prison. It's a most depressing thought. Herr Goebbels of the propaganda ministry wrote in his diary about how posterity might remember him and his fellow apparatchiks. History he reckoned would either consider them criminals or great statesmen. So basically all the choice was to journey on and you got to wonder a little about this and that with particular reference to the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

In an early speech (1933) Goebbels claimed, "It seems you cannot have a good government without good propaganda, but then, you can't have good propaganda without a good government. However, you cannot lie! We must never lie! It is the Jews who must be made to pay for their lies to our people!”  It was after the defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad (1943) Goebbels made the speech about "Total War." He asked "Do you believe with the Leader and us in the final total victory of the German people." It wasn't so much a lie as it was an exhortation to work and fight harder. Most of Goebbels' speeches were on the radio. He wasn't that charismatic. And Goebbels once advised that the radio didn't really suit their leader's peculiar oratory skills, they were better reserved for public rallies.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Alvin and The Ship of Theseus

Alvin has the  National Defense Service Medal with two stars and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Alvin is a manned submersible that was commissioned in June of 1964. The point about Alvin is that it's still called Alvin even though all of its parts, every single one of them, has been replaced at least once. And the question, "Is Alvin still Alvin?" Thomas Hobbes, somewhere around 1650, might have asked, "Well, what happened to the discarded bits of Alvin, and if they were gathered up and made into another submersible would this other submersible be Alvin?" In the Wonderful World of Oz, which was a book written in 1900, written by the editor of a magazine on Window Decorations, not the product of Hollywood, the Tin Man was a Woodsman called Nick Chopper who over the years had lost all his original bodily parts and each of them had been replaced by tin. When the tin Nick Chopper met the reconfigured flesh and blood Nick Chopper they quarreled about which one of them was Nick Chopper. So you got a sort of theme around an ancient Paradox in Western Philosophy which is generally referred to as the "Ship of Theseus."

Theseus and the youth of Athens had gone off to Crete in the Ship of Theseus, it had thirty oars. Held captive they'd had all sorts of terrifying adventures, Theseus had killed the Minotaur and thirty years later he and his band of ruffians managed to escape. The ship they'd sailed home on was the same ship with thirty oars that had taken them to Crete, apparently. And because Theseus was one of the founding fathers of Athens, a super hero, possibly mythical, Athenians preserved that ship. As each plank decayed they replaced it exactly as it was. Athenians would look at the ship and they'd oooh and ahhh at how wonderful and sacred it was. Alvin, in something like 1968 was attacked by a Swordfish, terrible damage was done, and they had to make an emergency surface.  Alvin once fell off a ship, sank 5000 feet to the bottom of the ocean. Impossible to retrieve him, some said. Others considered his retrieval a worthy challenge. He was given better mechanical arms, a capacity to go deeper, a longer range, the latest cameras, an aluminum hull instead of a steel hull, he was given a better emergency surface system incase of Swordfish, giant Octopus, or whatever and time and again, improvement after improvement he was sent back to the front. 2000 scientific papers have emerged from Alvin's work at sea. Then the tornado comes, and people say "let's rebuild exactly as it was." I think it was Einstein who said doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is just nutty behavior. And "Yes" he's still Alvin because the fourth dimension is time.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Local Gossip, South End Mockingbirds

The South End Mockingbirds are with teenagers. There are two of them, tails haven't quite grown in, and clearly it's been explained to them that their safest bet is to hang out within the bounds of the vegetable garden fence. And they appear to be gripped by a desire to explore the possibilities of vegetables in their diet coupled with an attitude I will call Bolshevik in the presence of a hard working and over heated gardener. It's the Carrot seedlings that most interest them. Frankly I blame their mother, who is clearly a Whole Foods shopper and I dread to think what will happen when the handful of Blueberry's ripen.

As a rule with Mockingbirds a pair has three broods a year. That means three nests. The lore suggests that once the brood has fledged, the Girl Mockingbird busies herself with a new nest while the Boy Mockingbird feeds and keeps an eye on the children. A new nest I imagine is hard work, but at least it's more hygienic. Well, the South End Boy Mockingbird is clearly very pleased with himself for having handed off his post fledging duties to the vegetable garden. He seems to enjoy watching teenagers randomly hunting and gathering anything that moves or is jiggled by what passes for a breeze. But in another few days, he'll have to chase them off his territory, let them fend for themselves. The vegetable garden is the heart of his territory. Brutal business rearing children.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Local Gossip

It was the Kitten who some years ago reprogrammed the synaptic pointing device on a technical device. I was disappointed in her to the point of rage. Hardly spoke to her for a good few days and I have discouraged her interest in computing ever since.

Then this afternoon, engaged in an emotional struggle with the heat and the new email system, I caught sight of the Kitten guiltily padding around on the keyboard. I thought "why not!" I was in no condition to quarrel with her. And Lo, the synaptic pointing device is functioning. There's a tin of worms here.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Labor Movements

Interesting word Bourgeoisie. It's a French word that has its equivalence in the English word Burgess, meaning a freeman of the borough. A borough was and still is a town. In the middle ages boroughs were granted a royal charter and the people who lived in boroughs were generally freer and more troublesome than those who lived in the countryside. The French had their bourgeoisie and as towns developed they had the Fair Bourgeoisie who were townspeople who live just outside the town,  in the country, and the Fair Bourgeoisie became what English speakers call the suburbs. The  Bourgeoisie, had to hustle to earn their crust and as they did so they accumulated wealth. They were more interested in the political processes, paid their dues and had a sort of satisfaction that claimed all was well with their part of the world, so why mess with it. Revolutionaries have always distrusted the Bourgeoisie, too fat and well fed to man barricades and stuff. But the fact is that the elites piss off the Bourgeoisie at their peril. The English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell, was an insurrection of the Bourgeoisie, they wanted their fair share of the wealth and they wanted to be better represented in the Parliament. The English Civil War of the 1640's fundamentally changed the way British Society was run. The Peasants Revolt of the 1380's followed a demographic change caused by the Black Death, it spawned wage laborers.

As cities grew they accumulated larger and larger numbers of people who were essentially wage laborers. They rented they didn't own, and if their employer didn't need them they went hungry. Wage laborers didn't get much help from the Bourgeoisie, so wage laborers in order to improve their lot organized. The very first of these organizations, to the applause of the Bourgeoisie, were ruthlessly crushed. History is ripe with the stories of men and women wanting to be heard, improve their lot. Spartacus was one. The Tolpuddle Martyrs. The Chartists. The Peterloo Massacre, none of the charging dragoons with their sabers drawn were hurt, 18 people were killed and 700 injured. Then in around 1910 when the British Empire was at its zenith, the wage laborers got the sense of their own power when they chose to use it correctly, they found their leaders from amongst their own ranks and they were stubborn, they were persistent and the Bourgeoisie were greatly inconvenienced by things like General Strikes and not being able to get good help, coal shortages, no mail from the postman twice a day. Then in 1914 the great majority of wage laborers went willingly to the First World War. They didn't want revolution, it was their country, their home, they wanted their dignity, they wanted a fair share of the wealth and security their labor had produced. In The election that followed the Second World War, British people didn't reelect Churchill the war leader and aristocrat, they elected a Labour Government which had been born in the British Labour Movement. Labour won the 1945 election 393 to 197, it was a landslide as they say. Mind you in the 1951 Labour lost the general election and Churchill squeaked back in as Prime Minister. The current movement in the USA has been at it for 400 years.

Friday, June 5, 2020

David Schumpeter

A man called David Schumpeter, he was an Austrian political economist left his native land for the USA in 1939 and he became a professor at Harvard University, argued that many an economist had it wrong, and he kind of blamed Adam Smith. He suggested that the number of variables in an economy were enormous, and choosing just a couple of them and ignoring everything else resulted in flaws, especially when it came to deciding how to handle economic calamity. He claimed his theory was based on an historical analysis rather than a particular political bias. Capitalism he reckoned was essentially  a creative destruction, it burnt parts of itself down and continually rebuilt itself, a sort of Phoenix.

His view of intellectual elites was that they too were Capitalists because they kind of relied for their own sources of idea and income on being critical of the society they lived in otherwise why listen to them or pay them to think. I imagine he'd have agreed that cable news was a good example of his point. A result of this need for attention, new ideas were constantly flowing, some helpful, some not, some painfully self serving. Invariably he concluded that Capitalism as it was understood at any one time was doomed and whether you liked it or not, something new was on the way. And no reason not to think that Capitalism would see what I guess current business studies professionals would call "market opportunities" in socialism or fascism or whatever kind of ism you want to think of. The man died in 1950, long before many of us were born. Truman was president.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Colonials

When French elites decided they were going to own Algeria back in the 1840's there was a big discussion. The military part was fairly straightforward, and the general opinion was that the various peoples of Algeria would soon enough get the idea that becoming part of France was the civilized thing to do. Except for the Berbers who according to Alex de Tocqueville were too unruly in their understanding of freedom, brotherly love and so on. Better he argued to tease the Berbers into the French idea of civilization through commerce and cultural interactions. Otherwise he was all for the invasion of Algeria by whatever means necessary, primarily because a small war would be good for France's self esteem and sense of purpose which was rather lacking since the days of Napoleon. He reckoned that once conquered Algeria should be segregated into two separate legislations, one for the French, the other for the Arabs. De Tocqueville had visited the United States, the attempts to exterminate the indigenous populations made him a little queasy, but after much world travel and study he did conclude that some time in the future the United States and Russia would "share half the world." And why, because both lands were rich in natural resources. so they wouldn't have to have things like colonies.

When I was little, the grownups had to wait a couple of days or even a week to get the newspaper. During times of international crisis it was down to what was called a Steam Radio. A large delicate device that didn't get "reception" indoors, it had to warm up and needed a working car battery to give the electricity it needed. The device would then hum and whine, someone would hold an aerial, everyone had to be quiet to listen to a distant voice that sometimes was very hard to understand. From my own narrow horizon and deep ignorance I came to the idea back then that South Africa and the United States were pretty much the same country. Unlike us they had things like ice cream every day, sugar daddies whenever they wanted one, and whole pile of stuff like the electric light and they were downright frightened of black people. De Tocqueville in his various opinions of cultures concluded that in many ways Arabs were less barbaric than Europeans, and as a result the colonization of Algeria would be concluded fairly swiftly. France would then benefit from Algerian resources and be a genuine colonial power on the African Continent and could hold its head up when in company with other colonial powers. Since the days of Steam Radio I might have changed a little, but one simple opinion remains with me. White people are afraid of black people, argue all you want.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Summer Tanager And Foucault

Beginning to think that Socrates and the Summer Tanager have much in common, but at least it was decent of Plato not to force stuff down our throats, which puts a whole new perspective on that story about Plato which suggested he was actually much more challenging in person. In person, I'd suggest, he had Summer Tanager qualities. For any who may have forgotten a Summer Tanager is a post structuralist, he just rambles on endlessly, pausing occasionally to grab a bight of something like a Bee. There was a lot of fuss around 2016 about how the world had ended because people had just given up on structure. May own response, if I remember, was to leap to the defense of post structuralism. And every time I heard critical attitudes toward the post structuralist thinkers, I realized that the critics had no idea what they were talking about, instead they were yearning for a form that didn't make them feel fundamentally uncomfortable. In another way they had their cake and wanted to keep it and they reckoned ignorance was their answer.

My argument was that structure is all very well and fine, but structure was static to the extent it could ever by be usefully analyzed. And to place all your bets on structure, especially with us people, was an error in our constantly changing environment, we are more like chaff than we are like stones. Normal, to my way of thinking at least, doesn't exist, and if you're worried about this, think of a Family, and ask yourself "what is a normal family." Rather, what we as people are looking for is somewhere to go, it's a path through the forest, and it's scary. Then when structure or normal becomes something like a wall blocking our way, effectively what happens with us people is that many of us rather lose interest in questions like, "where are we going, why are we going there," and as a result for many of us normal becomes a real pain. So much easier if the slope in our existence actually had a structural answer instead of being an often horrible adventure. So when you hear the Summer Tanager remember the warnings of Foucault, "Justice must always question itself, just as society can exist only by means of the work it does on itself and on its institutions." "It" of course is us.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Who knew

Stark reality. Let's loot Macys. Don't know much about Macys. Something to do with a balloon parade and quality designer handbags, but clearly for those devoted to the shopping experience it's a temple of some sort, no doubt righteous tears will be shed, calls for vengeance and human sacrifice, and oddly enough I haven't seen a vapor trail for some weeks now, there's normally one or two in the sky. Which is not to say I don't have my own responsibilities, I am currently acting primary caregiver to two semi-domesticated felines both of whom know my weaknesses and insecurities. Last night I was permitted a sheet, a pillow and one third of my bed, so it was an uncomfortable and sleepless night for me but my charges were well rested by morning when they roused me for their breakfast at 5 am. Unrest! Absolutely, might be time to find a bible take it to the nearest church stand outside wondering how one's suppose to hold a sacred scripture. It'll be iconic and certainly it'll impress the Girl Cat, but maybe not the Kitten, who did notice I've been a little casual with her water bowl.

In the 1960's you had President Johnson, he couldn't take it anymore, Vietnam destroyed him, broke his heart some say. The war was wrong and he couldn't get out of it with any kind of dignity other than just admitting the whole thing was a huge mistake, which wouldn't have gone down well with his party. You had the Democratic Governor of Alabama, a man called George Wallace, who like our current president had what's called the populist message, basically the whole world sucks, lets go back to something like 1776. Wallace didn't make it as a Democrat much beyond Alabama, so he had his own party, called the American Independent Party, it was real big in the Carolinas. You had a man called Hubert Humphrey, who was Johnson's vice president, he was about as exciting as cold toast. And you had Richard Milhous Nixon. So politics-wise what to do. Nixon's advisors said, "Look, you got plans which include an understanding of a useful future for our country, and good jobs for us, but you're not going to beat Wallace unless you have something that roughly makes sense to people who might be tempted to vote for Wallace. Might sound tricky for you Milhous, but how about Law and Order." Nixon went for it, and the rest is now history which we seem to be reliving, sound bights and all.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Sourcing Vitamin C

Snap Peas, rich in Vitamin C, have achieved a bountifulness that warms a gardener's heart. Mind you a person in their right mind, and blessed by plenty, can really only eat so many of them before entering the slow process of finding fault with them. Then, on the internet radio, your hear the expression "Chef Crafted Food" which somehow or other was delivered to your door, where it can be kept in the cupboard so that you can impress your friends with your ability to open packaging and straightaway you know that we're all doomed as our President hides in his basement.

I could well sound like an old fart, but some of these newer fangled seed packets are almost impossible to open without scattering Carrot seeds in your garden path, which is very stony garden path and everyone should know that Carrots, which to the uninitiated cupboard openers are root vegetables, aren't happy in stony ground. Go ahead call me a Pompous Ass, but to my mind Chef Crafted Food would be Guinea Pigs roaming the kitchen floor enjoying the left over Snap Peas, the little creatures have been a protein source for us people in parts of South America for over 5000 years, and like us, Guinea Pigs also sometimes have a problem sourcing Vitamin C.