Saturday, July 31, 2010

Saturday Summary #11

Some people think flowers are sensate beings and believe picking them is murder. Hmmm... Horticulturists have found that the Easter lily bulb can move in the dirt if it is planted too shallowly. It has contractile roots that actually work to pull the bulb deeper into the earth. They know it has something to do with light -- that's all they know.

Rice plants come in different colors which has made Inakadate, Japan a tourist site since the local people began planting their paddies with different kinds of rice plants in such as way as to make pictures or spell words. The village was losing its young people to the city but now has become prosperous thanks to the visitors they attract.
The game of horseshoes is not widely played today but was played by the men in my family when I was growing up. Today Alan Francis of Defiance, Ohio is the undisputed world horsehoe champion; winner of the world title 15 times. His record is 90% ringers of all his pitches.

Thinking of diminishing populations in small villages: in 1800 the only city with one million people was London. Today 326 cities have over a million including 180 which are in developing countries. 16 megalopolises have over 10 million. The percentage of people living in large cities has doubled since 1950.

Another change since the 1950s: today the last month of life often costs more than all the previous medical expenses of that person. Dying used to be very different: George Washington developed a sore throat Dec. 13 and died the next evening, John Q. Adams, Andrew Jackson and Millard Filmore had strokes and died three days later, Rutherford Hayes had a heart attack and died in four days. People used to die quickly of pneumonia, in childbirth and infected wounds. All those things are treated today; often people go on for years of life, but too often they never get out of the ICU and run up bills of staggering size. More and more medical thinkers are grappling with the meaning of these facts and just what can be done and shouldn't be done for the dying and how to act both more responsibly and more humanely. Dying is going to happen to all of us and to everyone we love, we ought to be brave enough to give it some thought.

As a society we are expert at the old head in the sand position on hard questions.
No one seems to be grappling with the following facts: The Library of Congress plans to acquire and store all public Twitter posts since 2006. Meanwhile top secret organizations hidden from public view and lacking significant oversight number 1271 government organization and 1931 private companies all related to outer terrorism intelligence and homeland security. They employ approximately 854,000 people who have top secret clearance, [half the population of Washington D.C.]. This doesn't include the people who don't have that clearance. These people work in some 30 complexes in various locations in the US. These are mostly new buildings with extensive technology inside -- they were called "government bling". To say there is much redundancy is redundant. These organizations intercept 2 BILLION emails, telephone calls and other communications of private citizens every day. They produce so many reports that many are simply shelved and never read. ... Is this the meaning of homeland security or the government's technological version of Collier Brothers-like neuroses?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reading Blogs

I'm not sure why other people read blogs, nor am I sure why some people react to blogs as anathema. I have a certain amount of self-discipline about how I spend my time. So I don't get into a sort of labyrinth of links and rarely act randomly. There are several blogs that I read for a variety of reasons but it all boils down, I think, to two or three reasons: the person is interesting and so is his or her blog; the subject written about is interesting [this is the majority of blogs I follow] and I learn something -- oh, not all the time, but often enough, and the person writes so well I love to see what he or she has come up with. The latter I envy greatly; they have their blog voices which I suspect is their writing voice whatever they're writing. It is graceful, imaginative and insightful. Some blogs I read have fascinating lists of blogs they read and I usually look through them to see if something interesting has been said and click to read that blog. It's a bit lazy of me, especially as I don't keep up my own blog list which seems impolite of me. I'm just technophobe enough to resist making the effort.

A bonus is when someone writes something that rings a bell -- when I get an insight into my own peculiarities. I read such a thought, which was only an incidental part of a longer blog, yesterday -- about biographers and their subjects. I have been chewing on the thought all day. For me reading blogs is like auditing a number of workshops or classes on a large number of subjects, sampling or grazing on other people's intellects. I think of it a bit like taking my 1-a-day vitamins; the recommended daily dose of this and that subject. Plus sometimes I discover something so pleasing it's like being handed a wonderful piece of chocolate. If I want to go deep, I read a book -- and I read a lot of books -- but life is too short to go deeply into all that is interesting. Thanks to all the blogger I read [most of whom don't read my blog, as far as I know.]

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dramatic Sky

The hottest summer of the Northern Hemisphere since records have been kept, I was told. I suspect it's one of Cape Cod's hottest summers. I'm enjoying it except for the times when there is high humidity. But so far the humidity has not equaled some days in NYC when I actually broke a sweat from the exertion of brushing my teeth in the morning.

I saw this dramatic tree top lighting at sunset the other day when the sun was low enough to shine from under the clouds. Later that evening the clouds thinned enough for a full moon to shine haloed, or ringed which is supposed to mean rain and, indeed, there was a brief thunderstorm. After some 14 months away from the Big Apple I still watch the natural world as if it's all new to me. In fact, it's a rediscovery. Except for the ocean, which, indeed is new to me still. I see people jogging, often with their IPods playing in their ears, and know they are seeing almost nothing. They're young, they'll have time to see. But will they be in the habit of not seeing?

When Leslie was here we had three rather long walks beside the sea, really strolls, looking carefully at the variety of shells and seaweed, the colors, the graceful shapes. She is near the Pacific but her seashores are very different, they even small different says she. It is a pleasure to be with someone who can see the small things like the crab shell, empty of all the gulls at, but with the tiny eyes still attached like headlights.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saturday Summary #10

First a quote from Winston Churchill: "dogs look up to man, cats look down to man, pigs look us straight in the eye and see an equal." For the most part, pigs get a bad rap. They are as smarter than chimps in experiments using computers {and they don't even have hands for using a keyboard} they have a homing sense of direction that rivals that of dogs, they've been known to make good "watch dogs". And the little pot-bellied pigs are said to be excellent pets.

But on to our species: we tend to think our genetic evolution all took places millions of years ago Not so. Chinese geneticists have found that only about 10,000 years ago the people inhabiting the Tibetan plateau developed genes that allow them to use available oxygen more efficiently than other people so that they can thrive at altitudes of 10,000 to 15,000 feet or more.

Medical science keeps advancing. Former VP Dick Cheney has a hear implant about the size of a D battery that takes over the job of keeping the blood flowing. It flows steadily as water flows through a tap, it does not pulse as hearts normally do. So, in fact, he, like the few others with the device, does not have a pulse. If he should be found unconscious, a medic would think he was dead.

Are hardcover books dying? has been selling hardcover books for 15 years; they have been selling Kindles for 35 months. In the last three months sales of downloads of hardcover books have surpassed sales of the real thing. There were no statistics about sales of paperbacks. I saw a man reading a Kindle at the beach yesterday; he looked more intellectual than people reading paperback murder mysteries, although he might have been reading something equally inane. One can't tell. If you're concerned about making a certain kind of impression, I guess the Kindle is helpful.

Speaking of negative impressions. There are companies (two in the US and one in India, one in the Philippines were mentioned) that hire people to look at downloaded videos for social networking sites on the internet to find seriously offensive material, like child pornography, sadistic animal abuse, and such, and make sure it is no posted. I don't know how they do this technically, nor how the individuals watching it manage to eat and sleep like normal people.

More technology: Chinese-American pianist, Lang Lang, at recent NY Philharmonic concert asked the audience to vote on their choice of encore piece by texting on their cell phones, choosing between a Chopin etude and a traditional Chinese melody. They chose the Chinese piece. I suspect they were not surprised the next day when they received an offer from Lang Lang's record company to purchase his latest CD set at a discount and inviting them to follow him on Facebook.

Finally a bit of geography -- I always like learning new things about places: Venice is not an island as many people think, but an archipelago of 180 island tied together by approximately 400 bridges. The Grand Canal, the widest flowing more or less through the middle of the city, is lined with some 100 grand Renaissance and Baroque style palaces built by the wealthy merchants who flourished during the 500 years or so that Venice ruled the Adriatic Sea and eventually the Mediterranean which they did until land transport of goods became more efficient than sea transport in the 1700s.
As most of us know, the whole city is in serious danger of sinking into the sea and has already had several crises with flooding. Most of us who have been there feel profoundly sad to imagine the loss of such a charming and historic place.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Apparel Diet and other austerities

While I agree with the comments on my previous blog that beauty comes from within, few of us live as if we believe it, It IS hard to believe in our society which puts so much emphasis on appearances. We not only assess our physical attributes and especially our weight almost constantly, most of us stuff our closets and drawers with far more clothe than we need and many times with lots of clothes we don't even wear.

Today's NYTimes had a long article about two groups of people trying a new approach. One group has been "dieting" since last September. Approximately 150 women and a couple of men, agreed to go on an "Apparel Diet" and not purchase any new shoes or underwear for a year. I could easily go on that diet. I used to purchase new underwear any time I saw a good price, not because I have an underwear "thing" but because I didn't want to be forced to do laundry just because I ran out of underwear. So I have a drawer well stuffed with underwear and always have other reasons to do laundry before the drawer is empty. Also I have plenty of shoes. But I admit to giving thought to the end of the summer sales as my black sandals are badly scrufed and need to be replaced. This seems a reason for probable purchase.

Another group called Six Items or Less [ -- if you want to join or read their statements] have decided to wear only six items which are already in their wardrobe [not counting shoes and underwear] for an entire month, no matter what kind of events they attend. They are discovering that, although occasionally they might feel inappropriately attired, no one really notices or seems to care what they're wearing. I think this is true. We go on and on about "nothing to wear" when, of course, we have plenty to wear we just want something that will make us feel beautiful or at least invitingly attractive for wherever we're going. As these people reported, it really doesn't matter. Try it, you'll see for yourself.

So we're back to the comments about my previous post -- the beauty isn't on the outside whether it's the body itself or the clothes covering it. We've been fed a tall tale by the apparel industry and we've displaced our feelings of emotional neediness to closet neediness.

But, gee, I do enjoy fabrics of many sorts, designs of many sorts, textures, styles, cuts, embellishment -- mostly I know very well they don't make ME more appealing or attractive but I like them for their own sake. I've convert a part of my love of fabric, pattern, color, texture to quilting. Still I adore clothes -- I have some that are 20 years old and may way them only a time or two a year but can't part with them. No justifications except the sensual pleasure they give me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Full Length Picture or I'm Not a French Woman

Living without a full length mirror for a year has its advantages, which I've discovered. But last night my son-in-law, who is a glass artisan, brought over a full length mirror and attached it to the wall. Oh-oh-oh. Enlightenment sometimes come like a flash of lightening.

To make matters more complex, I read last weekend yet another article about why French women don't get fat. The former American reason was "they smoke" -- and we righteous nonsmoking Americans eat. It's all hokum anyway. Those thin French women, like Coco Chanel in the picture above, exist in Paris and look magnificent with their fine grooming and couture clothes. The same is true of women of the same social status in New York City [we can add other French and American cities] where maintaining the slender body, perfect skin and hair and wearing ridiculously expensive clothes is their lifestyle. This is hardly possible the majority of French or American women. Most of us are too busy to spend hours a day caring for our appearance and, frankly, my dear, we don't give that much of a damn. We are not first or trophy wives of men who think they need such an attachment.

Oh, I know, some of those socialites do charity work that is important and raise much money for good causes. But they aren't on their knees at 8:00 in the morning scrubbing the ring from the bathtub or pulling weeds from the garden. The article I read says actress Leslie Caron remains the sylph she was 50 years ago by eating minuscule portions of food. Well most of us aren't ex-movie stars either and we tend to enjoy our food. We know that if we ate a third as many calories a day we too would be slimmer. But we'd spend the day thinking about food and not about the people in our lives or the work we are doing. Thinking about your hunger pangs several hours a day is a horrible state of mind -- many of us know that because we've tried this or that diet and lived [usually briefly] with that agony.
The fashion magazines and little-read sections of the Sunday paper need these elegant women as some kind of standard, just as Buckingham Palace needs their unsmiling guards. But this has nothing to do with real life as we know it. I recently saw Catherine Deneuvre in a cameo in a movie where she looked honestly mature [see picture] -- the personification of French female beauty is still beautiful but has come a long way from the Belle de Jour days.

All of this is a way of admitting that I am no Belle de Jour either and haven't been for some time. I'm not happy with looking quite as grandmotherly as I do and that mirror may keep telling me I don't need a snack and I should go for a walk ... which is good advice. I'm happy to have the mirror but one does develop mental blank spots so that only occasionally does the whole truth register all at once. The longer the mirror hangs there the more time I have to see as much as I want to see and ignore some of the other aspects.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Saturday Summary

[Computer is in the shop so I'm using my daughter's. Shorter than usual bit because I couldn't read all the things I usually do.]

One day the paper was chock full of bad news about big corporations: No surprise that BP has been covering up its blunders for years. Then there's Glaxo-SmithKlein pharmaceuticals that knew for some years that Avandia, the diabetes drug, kicked up the normally high risk for heart attacks. And the Catholic church's cover up and slow response to sexual abuse by priests seems to bother them less than the possibility of allowing women into the clergy. Some days it just gets piled on like the heat and humidity of these summer days.

The Lacross team or the Iroquois Nation got stuck in the airport and did not make it to the world lacross games because they were traveling on passports, legally issued, of the Iroquois Nation, not the USA. They weren't allowed out because there was a strong possibility they would not be allowed back in. These are NATIVE Americans ... of course the States doesn't have a sterling record in the treatment of their people.

Starlings which number about 200,000 birds, mostly in the Eastern US are not native. 100 starlings were introduced to Central Park at the time of the construction of the Shakespeare Garden, near the Delacourt Theatre where free Shakespeare in the Park is presented. The garden contains only flowers and herbs and trees that are mentioned by Shakespeare. Someone wanted to have the birds the Bard talked about also.

And speaking of flying creatures, a certain species of firefly in the Smokey Mountains has worked out synchronicity of light shows -- the males band together by the thousands and blink in unison to attract females who might not notice a long individual somewhere in the woods sending his signals. This doesn't happen with other groups of fireflies as far as is known.

But we humans love sparkle too. Singer Kathy Perry has dressed in some odd outfits but for a recent red carpet even, she was demure and tasteful in a pink chiffon dress -- that is until she flicked a switch hidden in the bodice and set to blinking some 3200 LED lights sewn in strips just beneath the chiffon.

Stay cool, all. Remember the snows of winter.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

America's First Yogi?

Since I've been writing about yoga, I will mention that I've just begun reading Stefanie Syman's new book, The Subtle Body, which is a thick, much researched, apparently very inclusive book about the history of yoga in America. Ordinarily I would not write about it until I've finished it which will be some time as it's the sort of book I read along with at least two others -- since it's dense [but not difficult] and I want to read it slowly enough to retain her facts, conjectures and ideas. But I think I may have several things to say about the book as I go through it.

The first interesting idea I've come across is her contention that Henry David Thoreau was America's firs yogi. She not only makes a very good case -- he read extensively in Emerson's library of books on Indian religions and translations of Sanskrit texts, but he tried to live a yogic life in his little cabin those couple of years and he reports that he was able to meditate all morning long and be refreshed afterwards. Syman even found a quote in which he called himself a "yogee."
Syman understands yoga in its broadest meaning, as many writers do not. I'm enjoying the book although as I page through, I see she has given enormous amounts of space to movie stars and other celebrities -- no doubt making her agent and publishers happy. To me it's mainly a yawn that Gloria Swanson and Greta Garbo practiced yoga, along with many, many others.

I regret that I bought the book last week; for the simple reason that this week Borders has issued a 40% off coupon that I could have used and when a book costs $28, that's a very nice saving. Ah well ... I already recommend the book to those interested in how yoga infested America almost as unexpected as the Zebra mussel infested the Great Lake -- which, incidentally are about to be infested with the apparently devastating Asian carp. This is a non sequitor aside but comes to mind because it emphasizes that we are one world whether thinking of animals or ideas. While the carp and mussels devastate indigenous species, yoga, as Americans have adapted it is a very positive addition to our physical fitness routines. The Buddhism that sometimes seems to go along with yoga [although it existed before Buddha's time and is Hindu in origin] actually is quite a different phenomenon that doesn't warrant discussion today.

[Brief, I hope, hiatus in posts as my MacBook is taking a respite back home in California for some fixes.]

Monday, July 12, 2010

Act You're Grandkid's Age -II

The article I was discussing goes on to say that current pop media tells the over-70s that they must be proactive to "stay young". As a comment on yesterday's blog said, there are practitioners of yoga in their 80s and 90 who are healthy and very active. I'm a strong believer in the benefits of yoga, a flexible body leads to a flexible mind and gives energy most older people don't have. But the article wasn't talking about that -- the few who do yoga late in life are an exception. Most aging people are urged to stay very busy, "volunteer!" and play golf and tennis, walk, have a busy social life. I agree that all those things are good and I feel that social life ought to extend beyond your family -- by the 70s family see you through blinders of familiarity and habit including both good and bad past experiences. So being involved with an organization in your community whose purpose you believe in whether church or culture or service of some sort is valuable. This is the line we all read in magazines from AARP's to the women's service mags to newspaper articles.

But as Ms. Zernike also points out, this emphasis on doing things leaves out the opportunity for contemplation that leads to preparation for the inevitable end. Those who are too busy, or simply unwilling to face their own mortality will be unprepared for decisions and emotions that will come unless they get that day dream so many have, of lying down one night, having a quiet heart attack and dying without waking up. That sounds very nice to a lot of people -- especially those who have a way of avoiding responsibility for their on lives, and their numbers are legion. That nice neat death is extremely rare.

Even the yoga practitioners should be thinking about an end. One of the ancient purposes of hatha yoga was to prepare the body for a transition from life to death, even to gain the control to choose the time of death. There are stories of yogis who were able to make such a choice. This is usually not a part of American practice of yoga.

I've observed people I've known who lived "normal" lives, that as the physical body deteriorated they began to think more about religion. My highly skeptical mother became much more religions after a major heart attack and surgery. Others I've known have also. And certainly it seems better to do so before dementia sets in -- which is not inevitable but which is mostly unpredictable.

I'm glad the Times chose to publish this particular article in the much read Week in Review section. In the magazine yesterday they also had an article about cryogenics -- the idea of having your body and/or brain frozen in the hope that in the future technology will allow resurrection. That is quite a different subject. We won't go there, not just now but probably never.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

"Turn 70. Act Your Grandchild's Age"

The name of this blog is the headline for a major article in today's NYTimes, the Week in Review section. The writer is a little hung up on the fact that Ringo Starr just turned 70 and will be playing at Radio City Music Hall soon and that other big music stars like Dylan and even Mick Jagger are in the Big 7-0 range. Is this, asks the writer, Kate Zernile, what it means to be in your 8th decade? Yes, Ms. Zernike, if you're a major rock star that seems to be what it's about -- if the drugs, booze and crazy living haven't done you in yet. And, as you might notice in the Times Magazine today there's an interview with Hugh Heffner who is proud of his role in the sexual revolution and who claims [at 84 and looking fit] to have sex about twice a week, with a little help from Viagra -- well, hey, why not? They don't kill endangered great animals [like tigers] to make Viagra.
The "act your grandchild's age" mentioned sky diving -- no mention of George H. Bush who celebrates birthdays by jumping out of airplanes. Well, most of us aren't ex-presidents and don't have young whippersnapper ex-presidential sons to impress, but many of us are able to do some of the things our grandchildren can do -- run marathons, participate in walkathons, bikeathons and we are likely to wear tee shirts and jeans and even baseball caps and some of us have the bad taste to load our conversation with four lettered words.

However, Ms. Zernike has done some research that I appreciate. She says that in the mid-1800s Americans first experienced what is called "the legitimazation" of longevity." That was at a time when most people did not live much beyond 45. But they began to realize that living to as much as 85 might be a possibility. Which indeed is increasingly a possibility for Americans. In fact, some years ago the country was ripening so many centarians that morning show newsman, Willard Scott, had to stop annoucing all the 'Happy birthdays" to newly turned 100 year olds.

I will come back to more of this article tomorrow. On a personal note I just spent the afternoon with two women I consider much senior to me. One is 85 and the other 90; they are in full possession of their faculties, physically active, attractive and good company. And the 85 year old is a very good driver. I just read of a woman in the Russian state of Georgia who claims to be 130, which would make her the oldest woman in the world -- except revolutions and wars in Russia have destroyed public records that go back into the 1800s so she can't prove how old she is. ... more on this subject probably tomorrow.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Saturday Summary #8

No, Mark Twain [Samuel Clemens] was not, as some have said,"Col. Sanders without the chicken." From age 70 until he died at 74, he dictated to a stenographer a half-million word autobiography. Between half and a third of it has not yet been published but will be starting with volume 1 of 3 this year. Said he "...all sound and sane expressions must be let out." meaning his opinions about many topics from soldiers who he called "uniformed assassins" to Wall Street bankers and much in between. It's been 100 years and many will still be appalled at his opinions.

Deserving Twain-like invective: illegal trafficking in protected animals and their body parts worldwide is a $5 billion business. One little noticed example: Central Asian falcons are being captured and sold to Arabic sheiks who love fox hunting with them. And then there are all those Chinese, and other Asian men so concerned about their sexual potency, they pay well for medicines made of body parts of tigers, bears and other endangered animals. Another example are the chiru, the Tibetan antelope killed by the thousands by poachers in a huge nature reserve. These are the animals with the finest wool in the world from whose belly hair shahtoosh shawls are woven for very rich women, so light and fine a shawl 3x10 yards in size, can be passed through a normal finger ring. They sell for thousands of dollars and have been a status symbol far beyond pashmina.
While many hunt and kill animals, humans continue to love them, even in robotic form. "Paro" is a robotic baby harp seal used in nursing homes to soothe upset patients. He has soft white fur and big eyes that open and close. His many micro sensors make him paddle and purr when he is stroked gently, and chirp in indignation when he is handled roughly or upside down or dropped.

Another soothing activity that is actually good for your health is called by the Japanese "Shinrin-yoku" which means "woods bathing" -- or to us, a stroll in the wood. Not surprisingly, it lower blood pressure and increases immune function. Try it; you'll like it.

Try not to think, when you're walking in the woods, walking down a street or at a crowded event about the fact that many people are getting permits to carry concealed hand guns. The State of Utah will issue such permits to anyone, anywhere in the US whether or not they live [or ever have even been in] in Utah, after they pass a gun safety program and can show the certificate. [Believe me, I have often ridden the NY subway and looked at groups of rowdy young men and wondered if any had concealed -- illegal -- guns. Not a happy state of mind.]

We HAVE advanced a bit from our savage past. 800,000 years ago early humans made flint tools to help them tear meat from carcasses partly eaten by hyenas who, in turn often had scavanged the same carcasses from saber toothed tigers. Ponder the food chain ... now there are secretive restaurants in some cities that will prepare almost any endangered animal for those willing to pay the price.

But let's be a little less drear and frightful. The movie The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, is written, in the U.S., as I just did, with the apostrophe between the T and S. Which in my eyes means there is one hornet in the nest which is very unlikely and not very dangerous. In Great Britain they are a little more careful with the English language [if they aren't who will be?] and write it "Hornets' Nest". God save the Queen's English!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy Birthday

Today is the Dalai Lama's 75th birthday! I hope he will have many, many more. The world needs this beacon of compassion, good will, cheerfulness, and responsibility coupled with intense erudition and political awareness. I don't believe any other individual has ever combined all those traits and been a public figure with the kind of burdens, traumas, and surely deep, deep sorrow and concern for his endangered people. Like hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people, I am comforted to see that a human being can live a public lifNe with so much goodness and continue to sparkle like one of the brightest stars in the sky. Namaste.

Monday, July 5, 2010


I don't DO holidays. All are grossly commercial and most are grossly sentimental. Yesterday, and the day before, the town was grossly crowded. I think 50% of Boston had come to Cape Cod for the holiday. It took my next door neighbor half an hour to make the five minute drive home from church yesterday because of traffic. I was unable to park in my usual little lot to go walking at 8:00 in the morning for two days - today was back to almost normal. More people on the beach early, sure, it's July, we're having a heat wave, of course a few others are early morning people like I am.

I admit to liking fireworks displays but I have always avoided the crowds and traffic to go see them. Last evening I was settled happily reading when, a little before 9:00, I heard booms! I looked out and saw fireworks from a northerly direction that made no sense. They were pretty and rather brief. I don't know where they were shot from since there is nothing but residential area and the mall and airport are in that direction. They had just subsided when noises from farther 30 degrees south and I realized the town's major fireworks display had begun over the harbor [about a mile and a half away] The displays blossomed above the trees, and the lesser ones somewhat behind the trees. I was able to watch for most of an hour from my little patio -- not crowd, no traffic, just me and the bursting displays of light in the sky. That is a holiday celebration to enjoy!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Saturday Summary #7

Hot and dry: The Sahara [the word means dessert, so to say "the Sahara desert" is redundant just as it is to say "ATM Machine"] is 35 million square miles which is a big as the 48 United States. The Saler de Uyumi [Salt Dessert] of Bolivia is the highest dessert in the world at over 13,000 feet. In far western China is the Takla Maklan desert, the name means "you go in, you don't come out."

I'd rather "arise now and go to Innisfree" -- an Irish blogger says that the "lake isle of Innisfree written about by Yeats is not the little island tourists are taken to which is too rocky to even have a "bee loud glen" but rather a large and more difficult to reach island in the same lake called Church Island. Being a poet of exquisite sensitivity, three syllable Innisfree sounded far better than flat olf one syllable Church.

As for bees: 7 of Germany's airports keep bees on their grounds and regularly test the honey for toxins in order to monitor air pollution. They give the honey away.

The Chinese have developed a taste for American almonds as a snack food which their ads say "impart a healthy and radiant life". They also like our pecans and walnuts and actually import over $737 million worth of nuts a year. And we thought they only exported to us.

Financially speaking, Matt Taibbit writing in Rolling Stone Magazine described Goldman Sachs thus: "A great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly sucking its blood from anything that smells like money."

I'd like his take on this bit of nastiness: Trailers that FEMA provided for survivors of Katrina were found to have so much formaldehyde in their materials that a federal judge declared them unfit for long term human habitation. Those trailer are now appearing all along the Gulf coast as housing for BP spill clean up volunteers. And about clean up volunteers, of the many who went to Valdez to help with that clean up in 1989, almost all are dead today.

On a lighter note, interesting words most of us will never need to use referring to the phases hair follicles go through during growth: anagen is the phase of growth, catagen is a regressive phase, telegen is a resting phase and exogen means pushing the hair out during catagen. These aren't usually found on the "new word a day" calendars.

Happy 4th of July all -- if you go somewhere, drive carefully and don't let the kids play with the fireworks.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Tribe of Neanderthals?

I felt this morning as if I had come upon evidence of a tribe of Neanderthals, right here on quaint Cape Cod. And that is not a slur, really. This week I read that an anthropologist studying caves in Portugal had found evidence that Neanderthals painted seashells and wore them as jewelry, a habit known to be fully human [no animal wears handmade jewelry] So Neanderthals, says this man, probably were just as smart, rational, emotional, etc. as home sapiens and the bad rap they've had really seems to be the usual arrogance of the conquerors who always call the vanquished beasts and less than human so they can justify their murderous invasions and taking over of territory.

Back to my morning walk. Yesterday I noticed that the cairn of last summer was partially rebuilt and and now included a carefully balance tower of stones. I had no camera yesterday. Today I immediately saw that it now has two towers. It's quite impressive, as you can see.
This is not a single effort. All around on the rounded headland there are other constructions [besides the ring of stones shown two days ago] Another ring of stones has been begun, there is a heart of the juvenile AB + CD type that get carved in tree trunks and school desks, and then there was the heart shaped construction, with it's stem [as if it were really an apple] but here, ah-ha! is a clue to the identity of these neo-Neanderthals. Those seem obviously to me to be Greek letters in the heart. A fraternity!