All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ask Uncle Eyeball

Having received today this artful creation of eyemuscle muttonchops from Daughter in Chicago, I decided to test a format I have not attempted since writing for the Kerr Courier in 1964, an advice column. It is New Year's Eve and I am not entirely in possession of myself, so I don't know where these questions are coming from, but I shall in all my best respond.

Dear Uncle Eyeball,
I don't usually consider myself old but lately I have seen my grandfather's face in the mirror --if you know what I mean. What should I do? --Boomer

Dear Boomer,
No, I don't know what the hell you mean but my grampa was born in 1872 and I had the same problem. I kicked the old boy out of the bathroom and told him not to monopolize the mirror. If, however, you are speaking figuratively and your mirror makes you feel old, just move it farther away until it conforms to your youthful self-image. I have done this repeatedly and successfully. My bathroom mirror is now located somewhere in Japan.

Dear Uncle Eyeball,
We are thinking of buying our first home. Please advise!--Normal Guy

Dear Normal,
If you really are normal, you should watch out for things realtors never tell you --like hardly anybody in any neighborhood they move you into is anything close to normal. In fact, current sociological studies show that every fourth house on Earth is full of creeps. In densely populated tracts you'll have neighbors borrowing  tools to permanently remove mufflers from their cars and motorcycles. This initiates tingo, an Easter Island word defined as borrowing things until nothing is left. You may wish to save up until you can buy two properties on either side of you, or move out of town. Even in the peaceful panorama of the bucolic countryside, the statistic holds, there's just more room. I opted for the latter and you can see how happy I am.

Dear Uncle Eyeball,
What is New Year's really? --Janus

Dear Janus,
I thought you had this settled long ago. New Year's is an heroic annual attempt made by the Cosmos to bridge the awful gap between you, me and fabulous wealth. Each year brings promise and hope, hope for peace, prosperity, tolerance and understanding --but mainly for compassion and love. These may sound like magical qualities with little chance of success and proliferation, but I assure you it is at least more than what every fourth person in the world wants. Perhaps you could get with the other gods and narrow that down.

And so to business. Let's all treat each other decently and have a Happy New Year!
Best wishes,
              Uncle Eyeball

Friday, December 20, 2013

Lesser-known Christmas Stories, Part three: Ave Maria, Iterum

"Hello, Mary."

"Olá menino. What are you doing?"

"I am meditating upon the pure present. What are you doing?"

"Pulling a plow around in the early 1950s. What does that tell you?"

"That my technique needs work, that I'm not following instructions very well. I'm supposed to ignore the past and future, concentrate on the moment."

"Ah, mau menino! You think the field needs no care, even here, so long ago?"

"I'm not a 'bad baby', Mary. I'm 64 years old!"

"A place to start, followed by another place to start and another."

"Mary, is this true?"

"If the premise is sound, so is the proposal, Geo."

"I'm confused, Mary. Anything you can tell me will be helpful."

"Pobre menino, can one live in the moment when one is a composite of an entire life, a history and future? Consider Isaiah 63:13:  "Who led them through the depths? Like a horse in the desert, they did not stumble." We did not stumble because we were bred to have huge hooves."

"Like yours, Mary. Like a work horse. It began there?"

"Yes, we saw a star, full of bioelectric patterns in a state of flux, indicating a being who was not native to our continuum. We were laden with gifts and diapers and ridden across the sand."

"Horses are Christians?"

"Nothing so grandiose, Geo., we are sensitive but never exaggerate ourselves. No we only like to smell babies' heads, just like everybody else."

"Can you advise me, Mary? How do I proceed?"

" I can only give one piece of advice. I know you have trouble with spelling in every language you've studied, but you must --above all errors-- avoid confusing flamenco with flamingo...
....especially when ordering tights!"

At this juncture, the last of my three-part series, I'd like to wish everyone prosperity and peace in this and all seasons. We have a busy Yuletide ahead and mustn't buy too many gadgets. To suddenly transform a society with technology can be harmful and destructive, especially if your forget to buy the proper batteries. I have gone repeatedly back out to stores to correct this oversight. Go thou and do likewise. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Lesser-Known Christmas Tales, Part Two

[My thanks to Laoch of Chicago for, "Did you ever notice that just by changing the order of the letters that Santa becomes Satan?" Also thanks to Willie in Sonoma for a hilarious phone discussion on Faust this evening.]

It began when Dr. Faustus, student of all knowledge, went to the department store to see Santa. The mezzanine sign was composed of distracting colors and idle hands. He got confused and veered right,  became separated from his mother and headed down the wrong stairs of Marlowe's Emporium!  He hopped up on Satan's knee and told him what he wanted for Christmas.

"I want 'us' off my name. Faustus Faustus --the other doctors tease me-- 'Faustus with the leastest', big laughs, big stupid laughs! It makes me tired."

"Ok," said jolly Satan. "Anything else?"

"Yeah, I don't wanna be no old doctor no more. Just Faust. No stinkin' responsibilities. No stinkin' old. Just Faust, young Faust!"

"Would you mind being a tenor?"

"No, fine with me!"

"Ah, then let's skip up 200 years. You want Gounod."

"Yeah, yeah, lots of gonads!"

"Sort of, it's an opera. Behold: the lovely Marguerite; Siebel who wins all hearts with his 'Flower Song' and whose life you make intolerable; Valentine, who outsings you to the bitter end; the family you hector into desolation!"

"Sounds great to me!"

"Only if they don't do the ballet in act 4. That's where you and I get disgraced."

"What else you got?"

"Well, we could skip sideways and try Goethe."

"How d'you spell that?"


"That's 'ghost' while holding your tongue-tip out. Other doctors tricked me into saying 'my father works in a shipyard' doing that. No goeth for me!"

"That's Goethe, pronounced 'Gay-tee'. You get to hook up with Helen Of Troy --a great beauty of the Mycenaean Age."

"When was that?"

"Oh, four or five thousand years ago."

"Mommy! Mommy!" Cried Doctor Faustus. "Santa wants to give me to some really old lady!" He leaped up and ran off in search of his mother. Satan picked up the intercom handset.

"Hello Santa? Satan. I think you got a problem-kid on the way. I'll have my helpers lend your helpers some pitchforks and, if that doesn't work, just mention Helen Of Troy.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lesser-Known Christmas Stories, Part One

Once upon a time there was a boy named Alexander The Great. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. The Great, decided it would be a good idea to move to Macedonia.  Young Alexander would have to go to a new school. He was worried. His parents assured him he would make new friends if he was polite and exchanged names with other kids right away. Alexander was afraid his surname would complicate these introductions but he tried.

"Hey, new kid," he was asked. "Who do you think you are?"


They crowded closer. "Alexander what?"

"Alexander...uh...The Great." He replied, and was promptly beaten up.

Alexander went home and asked his mother how long it was until Christmas break. Since the year was 350 BC, she told him it'd be quite a while, but she'd take him to see the still-Pagan Santa when they went shopping in December. So he endured the beatings and dirty looks from his peers for some months.

Finally, Mrs. The Great went holiday shopping and placed little Alexander on the department store Santa's knee. Santa said: "Ho ho ho! What do you want under the tree this year?"

"I want an army. A big army!!!"

Since Alexander had been a good boy all year, his return to school was well-rewarded. Bullies converged upon him and taunted him. He warned them to stop or he'd beat them up.

"Oh yeah, Alexander The Great NOT , you'n what army?"

"That one." Said Alexander as  the thunderous clatter of arms and hooves built up behind him. The rest is history. History carried the surname: Antiochus The Great; Pompey The great; Ashoka The Great; Catherine The Great; Peter The Great.

It was not until 1925 that the family name was legally changed to Gatsby.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday Sermon: Entropy?

In physics, we learn entropy is the degree of disorder in a closed system, and it is always accompanied by heat. This is how we get TIME and why we have to pull off the road when the temperature gauge says our car engine has got too hot and, if we continue, will be broken. But this Sunday evening sermon deals with a conflicting definition, one that Norma brought to my attention this morning. Here is her alarming photograph of our garden sundial:
It is covered with frost! Its gnomon casts no shadow! There is only one explanation: the rotation of our planet has frozen to a standstill. There is disorder afoot, but no heat. Is it entropy?

I repaired to the bathroom for further experiment. I brushed my hair and heard a snapping sound and something fell onto the floor. Either my old brush handle had broken or my head had snapped off. Sudden hearing-loss is a symptom of decapitation, so I tried talking to myself to see if I could hear what I was saying. I said, "It is a far far better thing I do than I have ever done," and thought immediately of Ronald Colman. Yes, like every highschooler of my vintage, I read A Tale Of Two Cities as a sophomore but couldn't recall an important particular: did Sydney Carton deliver that line before or after he was decapitated? I came out here and looked it up:
The result was inconclusive.

I reached for my pen to take notes but it flew from my fingers, skittered energetically across the kitchen floor then out the door and down the road. Some vigorous sort of disorder was at work but what? I did my best to puzzle it out. My first step was to repair the seal on our stove door.

I thought of other things too. Was the Phoenix rising from ashes a Greek myth of rebirth or caution about smoking in bed? Does the universe think because time and thought are inseparable or is it the other way around? Does Genesis mention God taking his finger off the clay? Nothing! I could not think! Surely this indicated calamity but there was no heat involved --only cold. Norma said "Brrrrrrr!"

Second step is to get some logs glowing in there and use the poker to knock a blaze out of them.
I shall keep this up until bedtime which should restart entropy, time and thought in the universe, but if morning arrives and the planet is not yet rotating I must call upon all able-bodied Earthlings to get out and push.

Go in peace.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Prophesy And A Minor Miracle Examined

We are entering a season famous for its hierophanies. These are sacred showings that cannot be explained by normal thought. Fortunately, I am unencumbered by this disadvantage and have made some progress toward understanding enigmas. A survey of mental spasms by which I achieved this insight must begin in a nearby town. Twenty or thirty years ago, the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce conducted a contest in hopes of getting a town slogan.

Results were confusing. Unlike other towns like Brandon, South Dakota ("Building A Better Life") or  Burlington, Iowa ("The Loader-Backhoe Capital Of The World"), Elk Grove's new slogan was neither energetically optimistic nor industrially enthusiastic. I don't know that Elk Grove even has any industry or, reckoning by other evidence, overmuch optimism. The winning entry: "Home To A Happy And Contented Herd", got onto a couple rural signs but, since there are no elk in Elk Grove and its cattle ranches became housing tracts, nobody knew what sort of herd was under discussion and the slogan lost civic momentum. A new sign off the interstate reads:
It is a fine sign, historically and geographically accurate, but lacking the panache (except for panache meaning antlers in The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2000 edition) of prophesy --which my own entry contained. It was improvidently passed over by the judges. However, had it been accepted, the sign would now read:
There is some scriptural mention mention (N.T. Luke 13:57) regarding this omission, identifying the gift of prophesy as an inconsistent honor, which brings us to the Bible. I was photographed today while moving a potted olive tree and holding a rope.

This reminded me of something I heard as a kid. Another kid told me the Bible said Abraham tied his ass to a tree and walked into Jerusalem. I opined it must have been a very small tree. Kid went away disappointed. He was joking, but also in search of a minor miracle. He was not alone. Over the years, I've heard this feat attributed to Jesus, Saul, Jacob, Balaam, even Moses --who didn't quite get to Jerusalem City-- but never ran across any mention of it in the Bible.

I tied the pot to my handtruck so the tree wouldn't bounce off and walked it to another part of our garden. This seemed simple, effective and dignified. I am not in the miracle business, especially this long after the scriptural press deadline, but was pleased to have solved this one, at least, in principle.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Rainy Day Thoughts And Questions

1. Les Miserables:

When you take a clay impression off a manhole cover, the lettering is always reversed. It means we are inquiring backwards in time.

                                                         [Hanging ceramic plaque made by Daughter}
What if Jean Valjean wasn't in such good shape?

When he carried poor injured Marius to safety through the sewers of Paris, it advanced the plot of the story and defined Valjean as a hero who could love unselfishly, but what if he was only strong enough to carry Marius halfway through the sewer? It would just clog things up.

2. Vegetarians:

Here is the tripartite motto of France stamped on a coin:  Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

I think  Fraternité  was added after the revolution. It means getting along with each other, which is much easier to do after a revolution than while one is going on.  Liberté, means freedom, and is symbolized by Americans and French people alike as Lady Liberty.
However, in France, Lady Liberty is known as Marianne. They are on a first name basis with Liberty and we are not. There are other differences. Here is an American platinum bullion coin showing Marianne playing pin-the-scale-on-the-eagle:
The observant reader may identify the bird above as an American Bald Eagle. The bird on the French gold piece is, of course, a barnyard rooster. This brings us to the problem of  Egalité , which means "equality" and is practiced by Egalitarians. It is, among meat-eaters, acceptable to eat a rooster.
Vegetarians eat vegetables. I am afraid to imagine what Egalitarians eat but I think it is why the French put a rooster on their coin.

3. Marianne:

The name, Marianne, means "like Marius", beloved. Both names are rooted in "Mars", the god of war. Yet both characterizations are dedicated to peace, justice and the end of confusion about roosters

4. Jean Valjean:

Jean Valjean translates literally as "John, here's John". Why give him the same name twice? We can only guess. But I suspect naming him Jean x2 was instrumental in getting him twice halfway through the sewer.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Great Hiatus

There are few literary enigmas so intriguing as the missing particulars of Conan Doyle's detective between "The Final Problem" and "The Adventure of The Empty House".  Certainly there are clues, like this one:

"I travelled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhassa and spending some days with the head Llama. You may have read of the remarkable explorations of a Norwegian named Sigerson, but I am sure that it never occurred to you that you were receiving news of your friend." --The Adventure Of The Empty House, pub: 1903; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

In the vaults of the bank at Cox and Co., at Charing Cross, there is a travel-worn, battered tin dispatch-box containing all of John H. Watson's case-notes. It periodically leaves the safe and materializes in the the possession of  investigators and writers of pastiches and parodies. It appeared here for a moment this morning and displaced the content of my usual Sunday sermon. In this extracanonical  vignette, I shall address the problem presented by the excerpt above. Why did the author spell "Llama" with two L's?
                         [Sigerson in conferrence with the Head Llama]

Head Llama:  Mr. Sigerson, antar jeg - eller Mr. Holmes.
Sigerson: You presume correctly. But you are not, I take it, the Tibetan Pope.

Llama:  No, his title is spelled with only one L, but we often get our luggage mixed up at airports.

Sigerson: Then please excuse this intrusion. Though, by what mystery it occurred,  I confess myself baffled.

Llama:  Oh, no excuses needed, and no mystery is involved. This meeting is the mischief of our creators.

Sigerson: Beyond the obvious fact that you are a domesticated South American camelid, well-suited to Andean high altitude, therefore comfortable in the Himalayas, I can deduce nothing. How did you become Head Llama in Tibet?

Llama:  Elementary, I am the only llama in Tibet.

Sigerson: But surely you mean creator in singular and not its plural form. 

Llama:  I am here by a caprice of fiction, a simple misspelling on the part of Conan Doyle, who said: "Sometimes a writer must be masterful, and not nervous about details." Conan Doyle is my creator, my sole creator. You, however, were a joint effort.

Sigerson: You cannot mean my chronicler, Doctor Watson. He and I were created by the same author!

Llama:  No, I refer to your physical appearance, and the illustrator for the Strand Magazine, Sidney Paget, who made your face recognizable worldwide. He took advantage of a model that was available at a moment's notice and whose reliability was unimpeachable. Here, permit me to lay the evidence before you. First, consult the hand-mirror you keep in the pocket opposite your magnifying glass.

Sigerson: Yes, there I am.

Llama: Now consider this photograph of Sidney Paget:

                                [Sidney Paget, British illustrator of Victorian era. photo, pub. domain]

Sigerson: Good heavens! I am seldom surprised, even less often astonished, but you have succeeded in inducing both reactions in me. Two creators indeed! 

Llama:  Your investigation is completed then?

Sigerson:  Yes, thank you, there is nothing more to be learned here, and I have a long journey ahead.

Llama:  Go in peace.                                       

Saturday, November 9, 2013

True Meditation #2

The photo here is explained in part by a previous essay, True Meditation . I recommend we click on that before proceeding because I don't know if #2 is going to mesh with it too well. This is because I haven't written #2 yet. As my fellow philosophers and gardeners are fond of saying, lookie!

I had hoped to illustrate this sermon with time-traveling Gypsy wagons and horses instead of bicycles but couldn't seem to draw either today. I like horses very much. One of my favorite movies is "Seabiscuit", which stars Tobey Maguire as a jockey. I don't remember who played Seabiscuit --some excellent character actor-- possibly William Devane, but with the right makeup and vocal inflection he was was very convincing.

So we begin with a graphic depiction that captures only the top half of the word, FRANCE. This means it represents northern France. It shows a lesser known bicycle race to, from, over and around a bright white light that flickers in and out of existence.

There is a black dot in the middle of the light which, if we look very closely, proves not to be a dot at all but a simple algebraic formula:
It says infinity divided by itself equals one. There are accomplished mathematicians who pronounce the equation invalid because infinity is an undefined mathematical value that does not qualify as a rational number. There is a philosophically correct term for proponents of this objection: Crybabies. Although the universe is finite, the emptiness toward which it expands, and does not exist until it gets there, is quite infinite. All possibilities are assembled in it, even mutually exclusive possibilities like my equation and its detractors. That is why we need so much space. Same reason there are more things far away from you than there are right up close. More room out there.

If we grab the universe on the other end, the little end, we observe subatomic building blocks of reality. These are irreducible quanta that become particles or waves depending on what sort of behavior is needed. You get them winking in and out of existence in this continuum as a routine thing. Since, by definition, quanta cannot be further reduced, it follows they are indivisible. They propagate as waves and participate as solids, but how?

Answer must lie with the nature of the universe at large and its mechanical relationship with infinity. That is, infinity functions in constant division of itself, by itself, and all that exists, reality, you, me and some cryptids like the Loch Ness Monster are the quotient --one.

Go in peace.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fabulous Beasts #8: Loch Ness Enigma SOLVED!

I am happy to announce some progress in the case of the Loch Ness Monster. This journal has dealt with many mysteries. We are no strangers to enigma. It is often stubborn and will not permit examination. Like love, it proves too intense for analysis, or like the DMV, resists rational penetration to any useful depth. But there are some few puzzles that respond well to doodling. Over a recent poem posting, I doodled this:

If it was art, and I was an artist, I'd have left it alone --but one cannot look at a beat-up copper kettle without feeling it is somehow out of balance and suggestive of further forms. One dabs at it, fiddles with its gleams and tarnishes. One adds a tail and labels it "figure A", but one is not an artist.

One does not stop there. For good or ill, the inquiry must be pursued at least to "figure B":

And the Loch Ness Monster finds its history and composition isolated, its mystery solved.

Consider, the average number of children per family today is two. One needs a small tea kettle. Fifty years ago, couples had four children and needed something larger. One hundred years ago, families of eight children were not unusual --and one needed to heat bathwater in the kettle too. So we have household offspring backwardly quadrupling in numbers every hundred years, with each generation requiring a larger kettle than the ones that followed it.

The first written mention of the Loch Ness Monster is in The Life Of Saint Columbia, in the year 565. By the aforementioned calculus, 100^8 (100 years to the eighth power) the average family of 1500 years ago included a nearly infinite number of children and needed a kettle somewhat larger than the universe.

Little wonder that some more enlightened backyard mechanics --who often choose to live near ravines, lakes and other discreet geological receptacles-- departed tradition and, as they inherited huge family kettles from their exhausted parents, promptly launched and scuttled them. Sometimes, however, as can be seen in Dr. Kenneth Wilson's 1934 photograph, they resurface.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Scary Halloween Story!!!

Best way to make a long distance call to the past is get an old telephone, like the Western Electric candlestick in the photo, and wire it into something that exploits quantum coherence --a rare Antarctic Albino Pumpkin will do. As we established in a previous post, cats also work but get annoyed with leads and soldering and won't stay put. Then you place your call:

"Hello Poppy! It's Geo. What are you doing in Antarctica?"

"I'm not doing anything there. I'm in Iceland."

"Close enough. How are things?"

"Not too good. I got sent here to interview Skallagrim, son of  Kveldulf Bjalfason,  historical berserker of the 9th century who figures in the Icelandic sagas as a werewolf. We walked and talked about his dad. Skallagrim just seemed like a nice young, prematurely balding farmer, then the full moon came up. I'm really glad you called."

"Kveldulf is Old Norse for "evening wolf" so you thought..."

"I thought he was a wolfman, but he wasn't. He was just very troubled."

"His son, however..."

"Yes! Oh Geo., Skallagrim and I were talking and he was bald and then I thought he was getting asthma or growling and then I looked and he suddenly had this huge hairy head. He shook it at me!"

"So how's it going, Poppy?

"I'm running through the forest because he's chasing me!"

"Ok, slow down. He can't outrun you. He was not growling."

"You mean?"

"That's right, I've researched him. That's why I'm using a pumpkin (have you any idea what land-lines charge for long-distance to the 9th century?).  He's as asthmatic as I am. Just look around you. What's on the ground?"


"Pick one up."

"Big one, right?"

"Certainly not! Somebody could get hurt. Find a small one that hardly weighs anything. Has he caught up yet?"

"Uh huh. I'm scared, Geo.!"

"Poppy, calm down and follow my instructions carefully. First, give Skallagrim a few moments to catch his wind, then throw the stick back toward the farm."

"Ok, what next?"

"Yell 'FETCH!'"

"Oh wow! He's chasing it. He's bringing it back!"

"Great. Keep doing that 'til the moon goes down."

"Won't it aggravate his asthma?"

"No Poppy, in defiance of all philosophical parameters, the wolfman is only immortal for a few hours every 28 days."

"But immortality is forever. Doesn't that mean always? Moon's full just once a month."

"Beats me. All I know is, when I was a teenager, he deejayed a radio show in Chula Vista. Sounded asthmatic to me."

"Takes one to know one, I guess."

"G'night Poppy."

"Happy Halloween, Geo!"

Monday, October 21, 2013

Teenagers, Us and Classical Physics

Since the previous post concerned quantum mechanics, I thought it apposite to do one on classical physics. It's not complicated. Strictly speaking there are several branches of physics: Newton's laws of motion, Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formalism, Maxwell's electrodynamics, thermodynamics and relativity etc. But once you get to thinking about quanta --to which size, distance and time are nearly meaningless-- everything outside of it is classical. Like classical music, it is not always easy to dance to but is less distracting and helps even me to think in our big everyday world.
This entry is hard for me to write because it's not inherently silly. I like being silly. I was raised by the silly and the silly prize love over all things. So when I reached the age of sentiment and fell in love, I kept notes. Consider this nearly 50-year-old  poem:

E Equals
Over treetops,
In the sky, we
See ourselves
By computation
In moonlit leaves
We are the
Square root
Of light.

I posted it in 2009 and friend Willie commented, "I like the rest of your poem after the title so much better than the traditional completion that Al gave us, mc squared."

By "Al", He was referring to Albert Einstein, who expressed his imagination in mathematics. I shall do so here: E= mc^2. E is for energy. "m" is for mass. "c" is for constant, which in this case is not a thing or idea but a velocity, the speed of light. "^", when used in mathematics on a limited keyboard like mine, is called a caret and indicates the next symbol is not a multiplier but an exponent-- in this case squared, ^2.

Every 14 year-old algebra student has probably tried to solve for m (because we are m). I did and it left me with a strange realization. Divide each side of the equation by c^2 and you get the last three lines of my old poem. Upshot is, if you want to define light, you have to use a velocity, and if you want to go the speed of light you have to be light. Light is made of photons.

We receive no information about the universe smaller than a photon.

Plants synthesize light. We eat plants. Animals eat plants and each other. We eat them. By a process of measured combustion, we grow and thrive, live our lives on energy from the stars. We weigh something in a gravitational field. We have mass, are mass. We are on both sides of the equation, and have the brains to know it. But do we know what we really need? Entrenched in a food and life cycle of devouring everything that doesn't devour us, burning with desire for love and acceptance, do we know? If we don't want this chaos of exploitation, nutrition and cognitive distortion, then what the heck do we want?

Danged if I know. Haven't really thought about it since I was a teenager. You?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Introduction To Quantum Mechanics (1st of an occasional series)

It is time to discuss quantum mechanics, a branch of physics discovered in 1962 by my brother, Frankie. He came home from school one day and mentioned it with great enthusiasm as we enjoyed our daily afternoon recreation, which was squatting outdoors scratching out the secrets of the universe in the dirt with sticks. He drew a cloud of virtual photons that could be made actual by adding an electric charge. These irreducible units of energy would propagate and be received as a quantum wave function by photoelectric cells (or electric eyes as we called them then) or by antennas on radios. I scratched up a cartoon head with a brain in it and that isolated the enigma. Could an electrochemical device (brain) in living things respond to magnetic waves?

Could brain also, on its own, exploit some form of quantum coherence? Here is a more sophisticated, modern-day experiment and illustration:
What you see here are two nearly identical shapes. On the left is a barncat named Schrodinger. On the right is a rare albino pumpkin --captured at great cost by safari into darkest Antarctica where its protective coloring renders it invisible to lions, sabre-toothed penguins, fossil-eating troglodytes and other predators. They are the same shape because they receive the same quantum wave function and respond to it. How is this possible?

One might as easily ask how we get our names. Barncat has hunting rights in our barn and is a cat. Pumpkin could not take any other form and still be seriously named Pumpkin. Geo. is my name --a voiced velar fricative followed by a diphthong-- and indicates thought, but yes, the brain of Geo.! Barncat has a brain too, and does this:

He wakes up and thinks. He thinks: I shall pour myself off this bench and go where Norma won't disturb me with her camera. The pumpkin, on the other hand, does a very peculiar thing. Pumpkin does nothing, and that is peculiar. Pumpkin, as friend Delores might say, is too full of pumpkin mush to have room for brains.But from where do these instructions come? I believe Frankie and I solved that enigma in 1962.

There has been much scientific inquiry in the past 40+ years that substantiates our theory that all of human consciousness was heavily influenced by a borderblaster A.M. radio tower near Chula Vista, California, operating in excess of 100,000 Watts and heard over this planet's entire western hemisphere. We used to wear headphones in bed and listen to THE WOLFMAN, late at night (if you draw a blank here, I suggest Geo. Lucas's film, American Graffiti). Although my brother and I both have autonomous brains, Wolfman is probably the reason neither of us can endure morning sun until late afternoon.  

Monday, October 14, 2013

News From The Woody End

This past week or so has been devoted to seeing Summer out. We have, according to California's Chamber of  Commerce, "Summers of joyous warmth".  Indeed, the warmth was so joyous in our yard two big trees died of it. I've been cutting them down and bucking them into firewood but it's slow going. Hoodle is still out there --Hoodle is the hawk that got born back in February-- and watches me sternly from a fenceline treetop.

He tells me it is I who am slow-going, not the work, and I should leave his tree alone. How Hoodle can articulate all that in his only word --"hoodle!"-- is a great enigma. He is right though. It has been over a week and I'm barely half-done. But I am of an age where visits slow me. We had house guests and they stayed in rooms off Norma's end of the back porch. Her porch-end is not like mine. There's no washing machine or philosophical instruments in it, just a chair hung with rolled yoga mats and a view of morning sun, or an atomic bomb blast --both look alike to me.
Also, she dusts it. It is unfortunate I was outdoors instead of in there because I needed dusting badly this week.

So I have taken a break from lumberjacking this morning. I am in Norma's porch having coffee and collecting thoughts for future essays. One thought is about my adventures in the Woody End, cabling 60-foot trees to ratcheted come-along levers so they fall right, then running in sheer terror anyway when they do. I also collected some ideas about thought and quantum mechanics, which is another essay --one I shall discuss with Hoodle and get to after I have got dusted.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Truth And The Future Of Spray Cheese

This blog deals with enigmas. Umberto Eco believes the whole world is an enigma, "a harmless enigma made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth." Professore Eco's area of expertise is semiotics.

Semiotics is a branch of philosophy concerned with the study of signs, metaphor, the processes and mechanics of symbolism. My own studies have led me to close examination of the mind, the psychic construct composed of ego, super-ego and id. With special emphasis on the latter apparatus, the id, I have entered the field of idiotics. However, sometimes, what with mowing, plowing, harrowing and tantrums to be done, I just enter the field and do that.

This is one of those points at which Professore Eco's semiotic theories and my idiotic ones diverge. I believe he is fundamentally correct, but has neglected to consider cheese. Cheese began as bulky solid bricks and, by and by, was made slice-able, then  gelatinous and spreadable. Then came aerosol cheese which shoots out as a viscous liquid accompanied by yellow mist. It has transcended the three states of matter on a commercial level, but it wants to be further rarefied and there remains only one possibility --pure energy.

The energy-signature of cheese, its wavelength, has yet to be determined. Researchers in semiotics and idiotics alike have left the infinite frequency-possibilities of wave propagation undisputed.  What does it mean?
It means that soon, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday and for the rest of our lives, cheese will be transmitted to cell phones all over the world --maybe all over the universe, the final frontier! If that doesn't qualify cheese as an "underlying truth" then I give up.

I like cheese, and when I got up this Sunday morning and typed in the title of my sermon, I had no idea the subject would clear the early blur and undergo clarifying installments throughout the day.

I went out and did  other things, but something always called me back to this table to complete the projection. It is a strong indication of a further aspect of the subject, the cosmic spirit of cheese, which semioticist and idioticist are both happy to leave to the theologians.

Go in peace.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Report On The New Bay Bridge!

I began September's posts with a visit to San Francisco while the Bay Bridge was closed. It was closed for five of the two days we spent there so the new span could be aimed properly. We took the old Golden Gate Bridge instead, because it was built between 1933 and 1937, before modern bridge problems were invented, but this past weekend we decided to try the new one. We didn't know what the new bridge looked like exactly so we kept alert for the most futuristic sort of construction. We found it in Vallejo.

We figured it was just the sort of architecture we were after, rising and falling and looping as it did in the general direction of the sea. I am pleased to report there were many brightly uniformed young people (probably Starfleet Academy cadets from Fort Point/Presidio, although why their vests read, "Six Flags Discovery Kingdom", is a great enigma) waving and capering and welcoming us to the entrance. I couldn't quite hear the encouragements they screamed but appreciated them nonetheless. I took a determined grip on the steering wheel, confident I could press enough buttons on the steering column to be equal to the ascent, even though I haven't read the owners' manual yet.
We performed a series of convolutions based on unfamiliar 8-dimensional physical principles. I pressed all the buttons finding, among other wonders, the "inertial dampener activator" and "shield integrity reinforcer". If you are not in a new car, I suggest you reroute all emergency power to the main deflector dish --a trick I learned from former Sacramentan, Geordi LaForge. This was roughly our trajectory after negotiating two loop-de-loops and several progressively more vigorous launch-ramps in Vallejo:

The flight over San Pablo Bay, Crockett, Rodeo, Berkeley and Mount Sutro consumed .02 seconds at warp one. Braking thrusters engaged automatically and we touched down near Daly City, sometime in the early 21st century.

 We backtracked to Ocean Beach and were just in time for our youngest boy's 34th birthday party, which included friends and family...
...and an inferno-capped cake, of which we were all frightened except for one brave man!

I gave him a field promotion to Captain. Norma hugged everybody.

And, next morning, with sensors on visual --because no fog at all-- ...

...we took the Golden Gate home.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


It began with this. Suze, at Subliminal Coffee, asked for a handwriting sample and I wrote:

Suze's sister has a remarkable skill. I was given the following analysis:

"Next, we have Geo., whose single-word contribution my sister said was a lot of fun to analyze. From that one word, she guesses that he:

  • is just and adept at seeing all sides of an issue
  • is a lover of fine art
  • believes in a higher power but remains in 'search mode'
  • holds a deep respect for all humankind...he nurtures the capacity to take everyone and what they have to offer seriously
  • loyal
  • reverent
  • she also said she sees, 'a lot of happiness' in this person."
I don't know how she came up with these compliments, but I appreciate them. However, "loyal" and "reverent" immediately took me back to Boy Scout Law. Although I have not been a Scout for 49 years, I still remember those laws on page 404 of the Handbook, which means I have retained at least some of the virtues listed there. But why Ignatz?

An enigma!

I have a distant memory of  friend Lee Santos telling me, in 1969, "You and Norma should come by the club tonight --I got Roland Kirk." Roland Kirk could play sax and flute with his mouth while playing recorder with his nose. I thought the hommage de nez was to Ignatz Topolino, but now believe Roland came up with it on his own.

 So, the only direct-route to "Ignatz" I can think of is on this U.S postage stamp:

When I was a kid, I  really liked Krazy Kat and delved into his history, but was ambivalent about his co-star, Ignatz, the mean little mouse. Every episode turned upon Ignatz throwing a brick into the back of Krazy's head, which Krazy took as a sign of affection. Krazy loved Ignatz, and was never less than kind and considerate to the mouse. Ignatz was cute but inarticulate. I only felt sorry for him once. That's when Ignatz had no way of expressing himself  because the brickyard closed down.

It was a strange century to grow up in, kids.

There was great music, A Katnip Kantata in the Key of K.(Herriman, George -1991- Turtle Island/Eclipse Books), Rahsaan Roland Kirk of course, also the Fugs --who announced their songs sung "in the key of metaphysical distress"-- and Roy Orbison, whose dramatic lyrics described a sanity that does not exist anymore. But, except for the guy with the harmonica in his nose, none were Ignatz.

There was only one Ignatz, and he is still an enigma...

...still a mystery. Wherefore Ignatz? As Suze's sister has ably demonstrated, the accomplished graphologist can solve many questions of personality and character. But what is written (or expressed by brick) is more elusive. From tenure in another century, I learned the universe never disposes of a mystery, so it is in our best interest to remain one. Scout's honor!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

How Tall Should I Be?

The picture above is titled, "Figures Discoursing Among Roman Ruins". It was painted by Giovanni Paolo Panini in the 1730s. According to scholars, there are two features common to Roman ruins in general. They are all in bad need of repair and their owners have trouble keeping them insured. But we will address a scholarly question instead: What with insurers being so particular and Spackle being hard to come by before it was invented in the 1940s, why build ruins in the first place?

The answer is in a detail of Panini's painting.

 Just in front and to the right of a statue meant to demonstrate the evils of slouching --it makes one's arms fall off-- is a stone lion. On its base, we see the words, "O, CLAUDI !"  Claudi translates from Latin into "lame" or "shut up" and, like many Latin words of multiple meanings, was often used by Romans who didn't much care if anybody knew what they were talking about. This inscription strongly suggests the ruin was used by a lesser-known religious sect called The Church Of Oh Shut up. This furnishes a valuable clue about what the "Figures" are "Discoursing" in Panini's painting.
For this purpose, I have provided a personal translation of the church's traditional litany:

"Leader (central figure): Yea, though I am tallest among you, maybe five-eleven, I cannot poke my head out the head-holes in the ceiling. Are we condemned to worship the heavens through some holes in the roof?

Congregation: Oh shut up!

Leader: No, you shut up! And some of you are slouching! You're afraid of being tallest. Look at my arms, which I hold out gracefully like a dancer. That's why your arms'll fall off. What think you of my reasoning?

Congregation: Oh lame!

Leader: Look thou, beloved congregants! Guy over there's actually kneeling, kneeling AND slouching. What's the deal --you think the tallest among us must fix the roof? You think I won't? You think (hold my beer)...Ok, someday, when we invent ladders and they're cheap enough for everybody, I'll make you guys climb up there and nail new stone on the doth the faithful nail stone anyway?
Congregation: Oh shut up!"

I suppose the impetus for this essay comes from the rain, glorious and long-awaited rain, we've enjoyed in this valley today. I've mainly stayed in but often take outdoor frolic-breaks. Hope everybody is enjoying a similarly happy end-day of summer.