All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pirates, Pleiades And Poppy



"It's me, it's Poppy. Is this a bad time?"

"Depends on when it is. When is it, Poppy?"

"Well, it's the year 3025 and it's, uh, kind of 1630 too. But I meant, can I ask you...?"

"For assistance in 2013? Sure. I'm just gardening. Where are you and what are you doing?"

"I'm interviewing crew applicants for a shipping firm. They sent me to Tortuga --lots of sailors used to long journeys in the 1600s."

"Which firm?"

"The Pleiades-Bombay Navigation Company. You've never heard of it."

"Hmmm. Interstellar. Do they build the hulls of their ships by solar-lens refraction super-heating spinning iron asteroids just outside the orbit of Mercury --like clay on a potter's wheel-- then magnetically move them into the planet's shadow to cool?"

" could you know?"

"Lucky guess. What's your applicant like?"

"He's really young, Geo. Clean. Too clean. Says he's a pirate but the scarf on his head says "BSA". He claims it means 'Buccaneer Ship Associaton'."

"Fleur de lis?"

"Uh huh."

"'Boy Scouts of America', Poppy. Is he wearing tennis shoes?"

"Don't know."

"Pretend to drop your pen, pick it up and look under the table. What do you see?"

"Gosh! Tennis shoes! They didn't have tennis shoes in 1630, did they?"

"No, Poppy, nor should they in 3025 --not with him in them. You must not recruit him."

"Another time traveler?"

"I can't comment on that, but be kind. Tell him to take the Einstein-Rosen Bridge home. There's a life waiting for him there that he really shouldn't miss."


Friday, August 23, 2013

Congenital Jet Lag

Here is a Normaphoto of vegetables from her garden. They are in a bowl made long ago in China. Norma uses China instead of Portuguese ceramics because she is not related to bowls handed down from my side of the family. That's ok, I guess. Heirloom tomatoes are best displayed in one's own heirlooms. I believe there is a law about it in France or Portugal. But we are here to discuss my Great Grampa. I write my second story:

In the 1840s, Great Grampa had to go see his school counselor:

"Olá Chico, do you know why I have called you in?"

"Yes, Senhor Conselheiro. It's about my career-aptitude test result, isn't it?"

"Smart fella! Yes, it's in this folder. I have seen its content and cannot explain it."

"But sir, there are only three careers in Portugal, convict, farmer and sailor. What else could there be?

"Look for yourself, Chico. Probably a computer glitch."

"But it's the 1840s. Computers are over a century away!

"That's a glitch."

"Sir, it says I am to be a sailor AND a America! It also says, 'Watch out for jet lag.' What is jet lag?"

"Bate o inferno fora de mim. But consider the compass: it points north on land and sea or any direction in an iron cage. Good luck, Chico. Your future awaits!"

So, being a gentle sort, Great Grampa signed onto a whaling ship that supplied pets to people with really big fishbowls. It was a fad that never quite caught on, and created an emergency at sea --a financial one. The captain ordered that all hands abandon ship and go join the Gold Rush. It looked like this:
Great Grampa had never seen gold and couldn't imagine what color it might be, so he was reluctant to test his ability to prospect it. He headed up the delta into the valley to raise vegetables for the booming populace of miners booming in boomtowns, and was by all  accounts happy about it. Then his hearing went funny. Great Grampa thought maybe all the booming hurt his ears and he should get help.  Otologists were rarer than computers back then, so he got married and asked his wife what was wrong with him. She got out the globe:

"Look," she said. "Here you are in the old country."

"Yes, an upstanding young man."

"Of course, Chico, but then you came to America. Notice anything?"

"Meu Deus! I am standing sideways!"

"That's right. It has affected your inner ear, made you lazy and uncoordinated. Stand sideways long enough and your body hasn't the least idea what time it is or what it ought to be doing!"

"What does one call this calamity?"

"Jet lag."

"I have heard of this! There is no cure?"

"Not yet. Like computers, jets are far in the future and generations will come and go before the problem is identified, even longer 'til remedies are found."

"Oh, I have condemned our descendents to great suffering."

"No, they'll just be night-owls who can't really think until noon."

"Will they hate me for this?"

"No Chico, they'll be thankful you didn't jump ship in China." 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Genetics And Personal Safety

Are you accident-prone?

Try this simple test. Stretch your arms out. Make a fist with each hand and bring them quickly together. If your head got in the way, you are accident-prone. No, don't try it again, stop it. We are going to discuss safety. I said stop it! Look at figure 1.

Figure 1 is a specimen of Modern Man. Norma found it in our yard. She took a picture of it. She made it carry out a little bag of garbage. There is an old banana in there, some bones, paper --organic things-- in a plastic bag. Plastics are organic polymers derived from oil. Oil comes from geologically compressed zooplankton and algae. If anything was to cause something to fall off of (or out of) the bag or out of the Modern Man in figure 1, a close examination would reveal this:
Of course, you'll need a really good microscope with lots of brass knobs like mine:
And what does this tell us? Man shares 40% to 70% of genetic code with the banana --the same old flaccid banana that fell --accidentally?-- young and yellow off a tree and got shipped here to obscurity, forgotten behind Tupperware (with which we share 55% of  DNA). It could not have happened on purpose. Paper? More organic matter, more DNA --born to be scribbled on or pressed into currency of uncertain fungibility. Bones? I won't even get into that. Point is, none of these relatives of Man could have intended to end up the way they did, in the garbage. Nor could primordial plankton and algae calculate their participation in the ubiquity of automobiles.

This brings us to thoroughfares.  Our specimen of Modern Man must cross a lane to throw garbage in a can. This is asking for trouble. Lanes, freeways, doesn't matter --they are all roads. We have seen what happens to skunks when they try to cross roads. Modern Man shares 99% of DNA with Mephitidae and that constitutes certainty in all rational disciplines. If skunks can't reliably cross roads, free from accident, neither can Man. Barring genetic engineering away from accident-proneness, there is only one solution. We must redesign our environment so that everything --workplaces, residences, churches, tallow works, skyscrapers, farms, markets, missile silos and liquor stores-- everything we need in life, is on one side of the road --all roads, all over the world.

I can't imagine what would be on the other side of the road then, can you?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Epidemic Anosognosia. Run!

It's a familiar old story. You go to your familiar old doctor and get told....but I precede myself, we want background here. So I have appended a Normaphoto of the human brain. Its resemblance to a Normaphoto of a hornet's nest in our eaves is purely coincidental. One sees one's doctor and the following exchange ensues:

Doctor: I believe you are suffering from anosognosia.

Patient: Am NOT!

I should mention here, anosognosia is a malady first named by neurologist, Joseph Babinski, in 1914. It is a disability that renders its sufferers unaware of their disability. People with anosognosia do not  know they have it, because they cannot. Therefore, the consultation above is a conclusive test for the problem and the result is always positive.

The condition has little to do with age or collateral caducity. I use myself as example. Although not a young man, I have undertaken the study of a foreign language, Canadian, and am doing well. My mind is facile. Nor do I eschew alternative medicine: I am considering chiropractic to have my eyebrows realigned. Likewise, when troubled by The Jumps, I make an appointment to get that fixed too. But if I should suffer from something that prevents me knowing I suffer it, whom do I turn to?

In the study of human folly, I have witnessed whole populations enthralled by misconception and prejudice, huge factions marginalized, human beings wasted by arbitrary discrimination, useless wars undermining economies, greed devouring government by discussion...suffice it to say, when I reflect upon global and  domestic political psychology and the strange enthusiasms it generates, I wonder if anosognosia is not epidemic. Brain has indeed run through that run-on sentence again and again.

Still, brain buzzes and builds, year after year, up there under the eaves, functional, hopeful --under construction, tattered. But Norma's scan of it has left me somewhat wary of anosognosia. Poor brain, I find little else in my experience to explain the state of its remains.