All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Word List 4, Concepts

Airport Security:
It has been suggested to me that, as an alternative to undergoing a TSA --U.S Transportation Security Administration Dept.-- full-body scan or intrusive pat-down crotch searches, young people should find other ways of sending affection home besides flying themselves there. As a parent of adults --some even middle-aged-- I wholeheartedly agree with the idea. A note, call, gift, card etc. means a lot to us on holidays, or any day. Much as I love to see my kids, I don't want them to risk flying here over a dead --or in light of my poor cooking skills, badly injured-- turkey. If they do visit, I prefer they take trains, which, unlike airlines, accept a notarized xerox of your ass in lieu of a full-body scan. I should include Greyhound in transportation services that do not require full body scans. There IS a guy outside our local Greyhound Bus terminal with a cardboard sign that says "lick you all over for a quarter", and I suppose he would report explosives. I don't know if any of his earnings go to TSA but wouldn't be surprised.

E.T. Invasion:
Just got back from trip to pharmacy --which I do whenever asthma makes me sound like Dylan's "Blond On Blond". Something strange happened. There's an unofficial contest going on at the automated blood pressure machine there. These appliances have a "clear" button to erase readings but few use it. It's too fun to sit down to the last user's results and see if you can beat them. Yes, to my morbid shame, I am competitive blood pressure player. I usually test under 120/70, which compares favorably with other geezers sauntering away from the machine thinking they're hot stuff, but today was different. Today I read the last user's results and just sat there stunned: 65/35! I took a deep breath, composed myself and started my test --117/65. The machine was functional. I am not much acquainted with bp's of non-human creatures, but speculated 65/35 could not come from a human well enough to drag itself onto the machine. This had to be a large fish, amphibian, coelenterate or, because the drugstore staff exhibited no trauma, a convincing humanoid containing cold-blooded, godless jellyfish parts. We've been casting our gaze upward for e.t.'s, but the question is, could they be coming in at ground level?

The crackle of fire in the grate takes some time to reach me, not so much as light from the laptop screen; both consume a fraction of a second for me to notice. And it takes 13 billion years for some Hubble Telescope targets to enter my present. It's astonishing that we receive no information less than 4.22 years old (Proxima Centauri) about stars outside our sun. It's also possible we'll get a percentage of positrons sent backwards in time from tremendous operations at the end of our universe. Finally, it takes a moment for nerves to relay what confronts us, so our brains are always a little or a lot arrears of surrounding events. Imagine that and our sense of the present seems about as substantial as smoke. It's entirely possible we're getting subtle info about the past and future all the time, but it's preempted by local things more immediate to animal survival like predators, mates and beer.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Word List 3, Questions

[Somehow, my wife's impromptu garden assemblage, "Veggie Face", seemed appropriate here.]


When did I begin to dread August? The infernal heat, destructive grip on cars, appliances, pumps and human health caused irritation pretty early on. August is punishment, delay, a time to brood on what must be done but can't because of heat from a weatherless sky. I associate it with blacktopping, roof repair, broken cars and other entropic manifestations that threaten not only to run overlong but to become a way of life. August is an awful month valuable only to teach us entropy is always accompanied by heat. Why were so many lovely people born in it?


In Doyle's "Silver Blaze", Gregson remarks the dog did nothing in the nighttime, to which the detective replies, "That is the curious incident." We're using negative information here and its usefulness depends upon brain size. Where humans have brains, treefrogs have empty space. This allows treefrogs to colonize my air-conditioning fan box every year and have horrible accidents in there. They never learn. They are useful, gentle creatures who deserve better. They do no wrong, yet they are punished. Is it fair that creatures directed by peaceful, empty cranial space suffer more than those brainy enough to commit crime?

Natural Law:

The United States Of America was founded on the principles of Natural Law, specifically that its citizens are autonomously equal under it. But some people always abandon it for some deception that seems to elevate them. Is freedom impossible while we are still dishonest, or only good loans?


Recently I have read several articles in which archaeologists opine that beer served to unify prehistoric savages into cohesive, diplomatic, social and political groups. The collection, cultivation and preparation of grains purely for food may not have been the entire object. Brewing and fermentation resulted in great parties at which intra-and-inter-tribal friendships were forged. Civilization followed.

Reverse could be equally valid. When humans discovered brewing and fermenting they needed the social stability in which to do it properly without having to move their crocks and vats around with every nomadic episode. Savagery is very aerobic and one's things are jostled. Getting civilized was the obvious solution.

We can imagine a typical prehistoric domestic exchange:

She: I'm having some neighbors over this evening for pot-luck.
He: Good! Oh wait, you haven't invited the Savages, have you?
She: You always ask that but you always compliment what they bring over.
He: Well, yes, I like roast enemy as much as any fellow but enough's enough!
She: Then you'll be pleased to hear the Savages have got civilized.
He: Great! They can help with the beer then.

So the question is: does the eons-long, astonishingly arduous ascent of humankind into civilization owe its success to the fact that guys will do anything, even become civilized, for a beer?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Country Seat

I have been communing with nature. Never one to neglect exercise I went outside an hour ago to sit on a bench and vigorously absorb vitamin D. I also took my New York Times crossword puzzle. Opposite of nocturnal. Yes, well, Twain said we are not quite sane at night, but it was daytime and the mind races from whatever night did to it. Then nature arrived.

An orange tomcat slunk under the gate. I didn't know him. He didn't know me. He looked freaked, wide-eyed and wary. He cowered, then sat. He was showing himself, trying to make friends. It is, after all, suddenly November and even California gets chilly at night. This cat was a creature of nature saying he'd decided against nightlife. Opposite of nocturnal. We shared a quest.

"Hello kitty," I said. "You seem troubled. Perhaps I can help."

"Help?" He replied,"What can you know about it? You're human, a silly bag of thoughts enslaved by the products of its own reasoning!"

"Well, that's quite an accusation. Is that what nature really thinks?"

"Cat's don't think, we arrive at that estimate instinctively. But yes, it reflects natural consensus."

"Nature hates us?"

"Nature is indifferent, but we cats hate you like anything..."

"I'm getting a beer. Would you like some cream?"

"Cats love you."

I went in to the kitchen and returned with a bottle of stout and bowl of cream. The cat was asleep on the bench but woke at my approach.

"Humans are noisy." He said.

"I know. And you hate and love us."

"Really? Why would I do that?"

"You don't remember our conversation before the cream."

"No need. Understand, you humans live incredibly long needy lives that are full of consequences. For us cats, life is short and full of hairballs. We may have had memory once but we're well now."

"You chose amnesia? That's insane!"

"I'm not the one talking with a cat."

He had me there. I decided to return to the crossword.

"Seven letters." I said.

"What's seven?"

"A mathematical term for the amount of letters in the opposite of nocturnal."

"Mathematics, like memories, are unneccessary. Can mathematics tell you how to vault something twenty times your height and land uninjured?"

"No, but it informs our vocabulary by allowing us to calculate what time it is. That's how we identify nocturnal animals."

"Some are nocturnal," he said. "Some are not. Scientifically speaking, it depends on when they get up."

He finished his cream in silence, and I my beer. I had hoped nature would communicate some more useful truths than those contained in this cat, so I waited. When he rose, I spoke.

"I've enjoyed our drink together, and our conversation. Did you?"

"I forget," said the cat as he slunk toward the gate. "But, just for winter, I've decided to become diurnal."

"Diurnal?" I cried, "That's it! Damned ugly word though."

"Now you're catching on, silly thoughtbag," he said, and was gone.