I came across this in Orson Scott Card’s, Shadow of the
Giant: “Life is full of grief, to exactly that degree we
allow ourselves to love other people.”
I got to thinking
about this, wondering about how true it is. We have all
experienced loss. In love affairs when the person we love
moves on, we often swear “Never again!” Never again will we
love anybody as deeply or completely, never again will we allow
ourselves to be hurt in such a way. When a beloved pet dies, we
swear that never again will we get another one. Never again do
we want to open ourselves to such hurt.
The more we love, the more we feel, the greater the
grief we experience when it ends. Should we then try to
insulate ourselves from caring? Should we erect barriers behind
which we hide to keep ourselves free of emotional attachment?
It is easy to say that we should never do this, that we should
never withdraw from life, should never shy away from love, but
sometimes this withdrawal is necessary.
Sometimes the hurt, the despair, the agony is so intense
that we must withdraw in order to simply survive. And here is
where people react differently. Some feel the need to talk
about their emotions. They must find somebody to pour out their
feelings, to go over the minutiae of all the events leading to
the emotional crisis.
Others are different; they seem to ascribe to the adage:
“The deeper the hurt the less voice it has.” They withdraw and
silently contemplate their agony, their minds traveling down
each and every aspect of the situation, exploring, digging
through the tumulus and detritus, the tortuous byways until a
balence is reached. Only then can they give voice to the hurt,
only then can they talk without succumbing to the emotional
storm that swept over them.
As for myself, I have loved deeply and I have grieved
deeply. Is the agony worth it? Of course it is! And it ain’t
over yet…hopefully I still have a way to go!
I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat
But always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Living might mean taking chances
But they’re worth taking
Lovin’ might be a mistake
But it’s worth making
Don’t let some hell bent heart
Leave you bitter
When you come close to selling out
Give the heavens above
More than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
(Time is a real and constant motion always)
I hope you dance
(Rolling us along)
I hope you dance
(Tell me who)
I hope you dance
(Wants to look back on their youth and wonder)
(Where those years have gone)
I hope you still feel small
When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
As the sun begins to slip below the western
horizon, the cicadas, which have been shrilling during the heat
of the day, gradually slow down. A discordant clanking arises
for a moment as the Green Tree Frogs (Hylacinerea), impatient for the
night, start up and then dies down. The high pitched trilling
of the Narrow Mouth Toads (Gastrophyrneolivacea) began earlier in the
afternoon. They don’t seem to mind calling during the heat of
the afternoon and can be heard not only from the aquatic plants
floating at the lake’s margin but also in the shallow pools of
water left in the woods by the rains.
As the sun
sinks lower, the cicadas begin to stop one by one until just one
lone individual is left and then gradually it too stops.There is a short moment of silence, then almost as at a
signal, the tree frogs start up their clanking again, joined by
the clicking of the Cricket Frogs (Acriscrepitans) who have sang
half-heartedly during the day, but now swell in full chorus.
The sun sinks below the horizon but the pink of the clouds are
reflected in the water of the lake.
I sit on
the dock watching the changing light and listening.Tree crickets soon begin calling and after a while the
katydids begin their loud, almost deafening, calls from the
trees. I sit patiently listening to the cacophony around me
watching the darkening sky. It isn’t too long before I see a
black flickering shadow overhead, wheeling and darting, a piece
of night torn from a darker cloth.It is soon
joined by others and soon the pink reflection of the clouds on
the water is shattered and broken by the drinking bats. Off in
the woods a Barred Owl begins calling before it begins its night
of hunting and is soon answered by another in the trees across
Finally the mosquitoes become too much,
and I make my way across the wooden bridge that my father built,
weathered grey by the years. A Bullfrog (Ranacatesbeiana) decides to join in
with its deep call, and the sounds of the creatures continue to
grow to almost a frenzy as the
darkness becomes complete, and I reach the screen door to my
father’s house outlined by the golden light from within.
another wonderful contemplative day at my father’s lake house.I flew down last Sunday, welcomed by my sister and father
who picked me up at the airport and who took me back to my
sister’s house where I spent the night, glad to see my sister’s
husband and beautiful children. The next morning my father and
I visited my precious mother and spent some time with her before
driving out towards the lake, visiting my brother and his wife
and daughter and their lovely granddaughter on the way.
brother and his wife took me and our father to a really nice
Mexican Restaurant in Lakewood near the intersection of Abrams
and Gaston.My sister-in-law wanted us to try the
delicious chicken friend steak there which they knew was my
favorite dish. It truly lived up to her praises, requiring no
knife to cut, and we ate slowly there just before a huge wall
mural which depicted many
Hollywood icons and well-known
Dallas people dressed in western attire. In the center was this
remarkable portrait of this Mexican man, who I assumed was the
owner, dressed in western garb and wrapped in the
Monday and in the past three days, I have gradually cleaned up
the mess in my house left by the latest burglary.
At first I was greatly upset because I thought that these old
family photos in antique frames which had been in our family
over a hundred years had been stolen, but I found them where I
had put them the last time that I had painted the room. The
only thing that I know was stolen was a nice microscope that I
had acquired in 1974…oh and the wall air conditioner which my
family bought back in 1956 and which had served faithfully all
these fifty years.
Today I put up a ceiling fan with lights which we got at
Lowe’s yesterday to replace the malfunctioning fluorescent light
fixture which had hung there in the living room since 1971 when
my grandfather and his identical twin brother had built the
house. As always in any project that I start, the holdup is
usually in the simplest things.In this instance I
found it extraordinarily difficult to attach the ceiling bracket
to the large beam that runs the length of the cathedral ceiling
in the living room. I had to climb a tall ladder and getting
the screws correctly aligned with the bracket, and then screwing
them in proved to be the most time consuming part of the entire
process.After that the electrical connections and
the actually hanging and securing the fan with its lights was
relatively simple. I also attached a remote control device to
the fan which is handy since the fan is so high up.It works perfectly and also provides lots of light.
rested my aching shoulders by finishing Ernest Hemingway’s A
Movable Feast, reading the same book that I had bought and
read back in 1967. I have an entire library of books at my lake
house, and I always take great delight in taking down these old
friends and rereading them.For some reason I had
always had the impression that Hemingway always pared his
writing down to the bone, but today I was struck by some of his
long descriptive sentences. Some of his sentences were over
half a page long!He kept referring to his
elimination of adjectives, but his writing belied these claims.
my father and I are going back to town to visit my beloved
mother, before setting out for the panhandle of
Florida. We are going along the
Coast through areas which I have never been but have always
wanted to visit.
In this area of Washington there are many native americans
and many still retain a vestige of their land. I pass through
some of this land almost every day, and every time that I do am
faced with a dissonance…something that rankles, something that
is an apparent contradiction.
Many of us are familiar
with the “noble savage” concept of the American Indian, the idea
that the aboriginal people of America, have an innate dignity
and way of life that tends to ennoble them, but there is also
another conception of the American Indian that is also
widespread–the idea that they have a natural respect for “Mother
Earth” and that they show this respect in the way that they have
lived in harmony with the environment.
I think of this when I travel through a section of Fife
and Milton, Washington that is owned by a local
of native Americans. There are zoning laws in Washington that
ban large billboards except on the reservations. The highway in
this stretch of Indian land is lined with huge billboards
advertising the usual products. Some of them are so tall that
they loom above some of the tallest trees which have been topped
so the passing motorists can see them better. There are also
large billboards with flashing displays and moving pictures
similar to large tv screens. These are placed along the highway
and at night the flashing of the lights can be quite dazzling.
These apparently are placed here to make money for the local
tribe despite the state environmental laws.
The aboriginal people of American have been mistreated
so long, that I do not begrudge them the income from the
numerous gambling establishments that they have established in
the same area. I say more power to them! I also do not
begrudge them the tobacco shops where they sell tobacco products
that are cheaper because the tax burden is less. However
looking at what has happened on some of their lands I have to
say that I wish that they had made some different decisions.
This involves not only the billboards but the commercialization
of this strip of Interstate five (see earlier posting: Fife,
Washington, the city that sold its soul to the devil).
Seeing this apparent contradiction to the
image of the ecologically responsible red man, made me wonder if
the image wasn’t just another romantic notion made up by our
media, that perhaps the American Indians were just people like
everybody else, and who possibly have adopted the media’s
version of themselves in order to find some sort of way to
establish a cultural identify, one that differentiates itself
from current American society, or possibly for some other
A. It is a well known fact that the Pleistocene extinctions
of North Amercian Megafauna coincided with the appearance of man
in the New World. The same thing happened in Europe and
Australia, New Zealand, Polynesia, Madagascar, and many other
areas. It seems very likely that early man in North America
were at least
partly involved in these
extinctions. Note: this perfectly reasonable hypothesis has
aroused absolute storms of controversy…the more politically
correct investigators vehemently claiming that it was climate
only not ancient man that caused the extinctions.
B. The early aboriginals often set fires to improve hunting,
to use against trespassers, and for various other reasons. Some
of these fires according to early settlers got out of control.
C. Some indian groups stampeded hundreds or thousands of
buffalo over cliffs and were only able to utilize a small amount
of the meat. The Cree called these sites “deep blood kettles”
where 200-300 people lived for weeks near 200,000 kgs. of meat
slowly rotting in the sun.
D. Some of the religious beliefs of the Cree and Piegan
thought that if any buffalo escaped from these hunts they would
warn the other buffalo, so it was necessary to kill any
E. Krech also talks about how some tribes over hunted
white-tailed deer and beaver in some areas.
F. He also says that overall the preColumbian indian
population was too small and primitive technologcally to do
widespread damage to the environment and that’s why when
European man arrived the area appeared relatively pristine.
For a refutation to this viewpoint see
This site quotes many indians (before the modern
environmental movement) who express a deep and abiding love for
I remember reading of the Lewis and Clarke expedition
and the statement that in one area which was in contention
between two tribes, the game was extremely plentiful because it
was rarely hunted by the indians, in contrast to more heavily
hunted areas where game was scarce.
I think there is no doubt that preColumbian indians
impacted the environment, perhaps triggering the Pleistocene
megafauna extinction, but their numbers and technology were
never that great to cause other severe disruptions. I also
would think that even if these early indians weren’t ecological
paragons, that because of their lifestyle and their dependence
upon the natural world, they would tend to have a greater
empathy for the environment than western Europeans.
I’m getting into my trip mode now. I leave Sunday for
Texas (a reverent pause) for a 26 day visit that I make every
summer. I’ve been making this pilgrimage every summer since
1980 come hale or high water. I get to see my father, mother,
brother and sister and all their numerous family members. It’s
hard to be so close to one’s family and yet live so far away.
For some reason I usually get a bit stressed out before
leaving. There are always last minute things to do, and so I
make a list and check it off. I always catch the shuttle,
buying a round trip ticket and catching it at a nearby hotel.
The problem this time I’ll be getting home at 2 am and the
shuttle leaves at 4 am. The plane leaves at 6 am. I don’t like
cutting it that close, but I had no choice this time. If
traffic is light I should reach the airport about 5 am which
should give me enough time to go through security. I usually
get there way too early and end up sitting around a long time.
In fact that is usually my habit for all appointments–get there
in plenty of time.
After I check in, I usually become less tense. The
stress comes from just getting there, and the flight is always a
breeze. I have decided to never check luggage any more, which
makes things much more convenient and faster. Of course it also
involves taking only a small carry-on piece. This time I have a
small duffel bag and a small pack.
Usually my cameras are what take up the most room, but I
am keeping the camera equipment to a minimum also. I always
try to get a window seat and keep my nose plastered up against
the window, watching every detail of the passing landscape
below. I simply can’t imagine how people travel and have no
desire to look out the window. I see them sitting by the window
reading or sleeping, paying no attention to the amazing view.
Even traveling in a bus or car, I must be staring out the window
taking it all in. Sometimes when I leave at odd hours I can
hardly keep my eyes open, but I force myself to do so. However,
when it’s cloudy and I can’t see the ground, I welcome the
chance to grab a bit of shut-eye.
There is one thing about flying that really, really
irritates me. Most companies have in-flight movies, which is ok
with me, although I never spend the five bucks or so to see them
(i.e. rent the earphones to listen to them since nobody has a
choice about seeing them since the screens drop down in
front of everybody). What really galls me is when the
stewardesses (wait, some are male, what is the male
term-steward?) come by and tell me to lower the window shade. I
always indignantly refuse to do this since flying along in
semi-darkness looking at soundless movies doesn’t appeal to me,
and their assumption that I would like to do this strikes me as
I always want to know where I am when flying. Usually
I can look outside and tell about where we are; sometimes I can
tell exactly by certain landmarks. The flight into Dallas
parallels Hwy 287 and passes over my father’s birthplace, my
birthplace, the towns where my father and mother lived while
growing up, and the towns where my grandparents lived, and where
I visited them numerous times. There have been many times when
I could look down and tell which towns are which even to the
point of finding a swimming pool in this one town that I went
to as a kid. Certain landmarks are always easy to find in the
other states also, and I always look for them.
Once on a return flight which tends to swing further
west and south after take off, we passed over an area of Texas
that I absolutely could not recognize. It was like a different
part of the world. I was totally disoriented and confused, and
to this day I have no idea where we were.
A surfer riding a wave finds the best position in order to
most efficiently move along with the wave knowing there is a
fine line here between success and failure. In thinking of
various human activities, I think there is often an area where
two conflicting endeavors come together to create an area of
tension, where one must position oneself in order to most
effectively deal with the situation.
There are many
variations of this “edge effect.” Often in sports there is a
zone of tension, the edge, where one can venture, pushing until
the absolute edge of safety is reached, then drawing back, often
repeating this over and over.
We also often encounter the phenomenon in dealng with
people. At first there is a back and forth interplay between
two people when they meet until each becomes familiar with the
boundaries of the other person. We learn where we can venture
and where we can’t. We learn where we need to tread lightly and
where there is no need to do so. When we find ourselves in
this position, we can simply take things easy and keep away from
those boundary areas where the tension is greatest, or we may
deliberately skirt near these areas, knowing that possible
trouble might result, but somehow taking satisfaction in riding
One can encounter this edge effect or zone in many human
endeavors. For example, in cooking, some cooks tend to
experiment and push the taste possibilities, learning the
boundaries of taste sensation, and often adding or subtracting
ingredients to enhance this edge. Ecologists are aware of this
edge effect, realizing that in this ecotone is often found the
greatest species diversity.
This area of tension is where we seem to be most alive,
most aware of our existence. Somehow at this knife’s edge,
life can seem sweeter as our perceptions step into overdrive;
everything is more real, enhanced with the realization that all
can be lost or all can be gained right here, right now.
People vary in their reaction to this edge. Some find
it frightening, and stay far back in the safe zone, sticking to
the tried and true, whereas others tend to push the boundaries,
skating on the edge, reveling in the excitement that is
intimately intertwined with the tension. I often see women who
always seem to choose the most inappropriate abusive partners,
snubbing the “nice guys” for some inexplicable reason. I
suspect they tend to be excitement junkies, preferring the
dangerous edge for the safer middle ground.
Personally I always like to hold back as long as
possible before the denouement, slowly reading a good book,
unwilling to reach the end, or eating a delicious meal slowly,
savoring the taste as long as possible.
A dog will gobble his food down immediately, and then
look around for more, licking his chops, whereas a cat tends to
eat slower and more fastidiously. I think that I tend to
identify with the cat more than the dog in this sort of
situation. I like to take it slow and easy, savoring each
moment until the crest is reached and then…riding the edge.
Have you ever read something about a subject and found it
hard to follow? There are some papers and articles that leave
me totally confused and somewhat chastened. When it is about a
subject that I know nothing about I assume that my confusion is
simply due to ignorance, but when the article is about something
that I am familiar with, I realize that my confusion is usually
due to bad writing. This has happened often enough to make me
suspect that my inability to follow some articles is not due to
ignorance of the subject but due to the author’s inability to
These articles are often unnecessarily
filled with jargon and convoluted syntax. It is as if the
author thinks that obfuscation is a direct reflection of his
erudition, forgetting that the purpose of writing is to
communicate and not to preen. I have even heard people accuse
one another of being mentally deficient because they are unable
to comprehend the meaning of some obscure and pedantic piece of
When this type of writing is inadvertent, I can
sympathise with the author who apparently is unable to present
his ideas in a coherent and easily understood manner. However,
I suspect that often such writers have bought into the idea that
obscurity somehow reflects the depth of their thinking.
The ability to write in an obfuscatory and confusing
manner is not difficult. On the contrary, it is much easier to
sprinkle one’s diction with obscure references and oddly
specialized bits of jargon, trying to impress people with one’s
profundity, than it is to write spare, concise prose which
presents even difficult subjects in a clear, understandable
Personally, I find it extraordinarily difficult to
write in a clear and precise manner. Almost inadvertently I
find that I tend to throw in tortuous ways of saying something
that with a little bit of effort, a modicum of attention, can
avoid the serpentine, almost labyrinthine, style, reminiscent of
bald-pated academics, squatting in their towers of ivory, poring
over ancient, crumbling tomes of some bygone age with
liver-spotted hands, absorbed in the rapt contemplation of their
I just saw a study claiming that the common perception of women
talking more than men is false. The study said they talk about
the same amount. I simply don’t believe this. Although I have
known a few garrulous men in my time, when I think about the
talkers that I have known they have always been women. In this
case I believe that the stereotype is basically true.
my family I know this is true, especially on my father’s side.
My father’s father almost never spoke. I remember visiting my
grandparents as a child in the small town of Odell, Texas. It
had this wonderful creek that ran near the outskirts of town,
and as soon as we reached their house, I always wanted to
immediately run down to the creek and start fishing. However,
my parents always said that to run off like that without
visiting a bit would be rude. So I would sit in the living room
with my grandparents and my parents to put in my mandatory
My grandfather usually didn’t say a word, and neither
did my father. My mother would talk a bit, but the conversation
was almost solely carried on by my grandmother. I loved my
grandmother dearly, but how she did talk! Over the years I
noticed that at the breakfast table or anywhere else, she did
99.9% of the talking, whereas my grandfather would very rarely
say a word…and when he did talk it was usually just that, a
word, maybe two.
So we would be sitting in the living room, my
grandmother would talk and soon my grandfather would nod off.
To give him credit he worked hard all day as the foreman of a
Santa Fe railroad track crew, and I’m sure the drowsy atmosphere
and the talking of my grandmother, would simply lull him to
sleep. After a while my grandmother would gradually wind down
and the next thing you knew, she was asleep.
So there we would sit, me, still a small boy with lots
of nervous energy, raring at the bit to run down to the creek to
go fishing, and my mother and dad, and my sleeping
grandparents…all sitting without a word in the living room. I
remember it was almost all I could bear.
This interlude usually didn’t last too long before my
grandmother would wake with a start and begin talkng where she
left off. In later years I don’t remember my grandparents
dozing off, but the same scenario always held, my grandfather
sitting quietly, saying not a word and my grandmother doing all
It wasn’t just my grandfather that didn’t say anything,
none of his brothers talked either. I never saw his oldest
brother, so I can’t really say much about him, but if he was
like his other brothers, then he too was a non-talker. I saw
three of my grandfather’s brothers, and I never heard two of
them say a single word. This was at my grandparent’s fiftyeth
wedding anniversary though, and perhaps there wasn’t much for
them to say. I also saw my grandfather’s sister there for the
occasion, and yes, she said nothing the entire time. I did see
two of his brothers on other occasions, however. Uncle Wes
seemed to talk more than the others, but Uncle Lloyd…well, let’s
say that Uncle Lloyd was unusual. He stayed with my
grandparents a while (they often had a relative living with
them), and I would see him when I visited. He actually stayed
in the adjoining bunkhouse, but would come over for meals and
would sit a while in the living room where the water cooler made
it so nice. I would be in there, reading a book or something,
and he would come in, sit down, put his head on his hand, and
would sit there until supper time never saying a word.
At breakfast I remember that he mixed his jelly up
thoroughly with the butter before applying it to his biscuits.
I was fascinated by that and thought it was a great idea.
However he never spoke at mealtimes. In fact the entire two
weeks that I was there, he spoke not a word. I never heard him
Now my father wasn’t that silent. He did speak a bit
more, however as a child I thought that he was a mite quiet, and
I remember my mother talking about how quiet he was. However,
now he seems quiet loquacious and is very easy to talk to.
I was always quiet also, but I think that the expression
of the “gene of silence” has been diluted in me, and I tend to
be the most talkative. However, there are many times in
company, where I don’t seem to feel much of a need to say
anything, and so I sit there, silent…but hardly inscrutable.
For a long time I have been wanting to start some sort of
water garden in two half whisky barrels that I have.
Unfortunately the water always fills up with mosquito larvae.
In fact it’s almost impossible to go outside in the evening at
my home for any length of time because of the clouds of
mosquitoes. This has always been the case here even before I
got the whisky barrels. I have gotten more concerned with the
problem because West Nile Virus has been reported in the state.
I have emptied all the various buckets and jars, etc. that I
have found and now have only the barrels to contend with.
Back in Texas the mosquito fish,
Gambusia affinis, is ideal for controlling mosquitoes
and can often be seen just under the surface of the water in
almost all bodies of fresh water. They have a particular
distinctive curl to the tail and a silvery triangle on their
head (brain?) when view from above. I see these fish swimming
around unconcernedly at the lake where my father lives, and they
seem to not be bothered by the various predator fish (sunfish,
bass, crappie, etc). I’m sure this impression can’t be accurate
since I can’t think of anything that would give the fish any
sort of immunity to this sort of predation. They are live
bearers and can live in extremely brackish water. I remember
doing a project study on them in a Comparative Physology class
and found they could tolerate an extremely
medium. Unfortunately the species has been introduced worldwide
in a mistaken attempt to
control mosquitoes when the native fish are perfectly capable of
Since there are no Gambusia in this area, I
have been trying to figure out what is best to put into the
barrels for mosquito control. I was going to try some guppies
since they resemble Gambusia very much, but I balked at
their price ($4 apiece). I finally settled on some feeder
goldfish ($.35). When I introduced the fish to the barrels last
week, the barrels were full of mosquito larvae–now there are
none. Not a single solitary one.
It looks as if I shall get no sleep tonight. I won’t get
home until four am, and I have to go to the airport at 5 am.
I’ll try for a few hours in the late morning perhaps.
Some teachers stand out above the rest. I’ve already written of
my geology professor, Dr. L. F. Brown, but there was one other
teacher that had a lasting effect upon my life. I have to give
credit to my second grade teacher, Mrs. Baird, for the
A lifelong interest in Conservation.
A through knowledge of the Old Testatment.
An abiding hatred of baseball.
I remember the indomitable Mrs. Baird as being one of
the oldest teachers that I ever had. Of course to a second
grader at Dean Highland Elementary School in Waco, Texas, old
was almost certainly extremely subjective. I mean almost
everybody was older than me, but it seemed that Mrs. Baird was
really old. She had grey hair and spectacles, but she
seemed to have a backbone of titanium steel.
Perhaps it is a testimony to my sensitivity to some
things back then, when you consider how I reacted to her
stories about trees. She talked eloquently of how America was
covered with tall beautiful trees when the first settlers
arrived. And then she would recount sorrowfully how these same
settlers would cut the trees down, pile them in stacks and then
burn them! Her voice would become grave when she talked
about this, and I could just imagine vast tracks of trees being
cut down and burned. Of course being in central Texas we didn’t
have large forests. We did have trees but nothing like those
that she described. It wasn’t until many years later that I
saw miles of clear cut forest in the northwest with trailing
plumes of smoke from the burning slash; I immediately thought of
Mrs. Baird when I saw these horrors.
She went on to recount the story about a farmer that
she knew who had these two huge beautiful oak trees at the
entrance to his drive way. They shaded the place in the hot
summers and provided homes for the birds, and food for the
squirrels in the fall and winter. One spring she went by the
farmer’s house and noticed that the two beautiful trees were
gone except for the stumps. She asked the farmer what had
happened, and he said that he had cut them for firewood. When
she asked him why he didn’t cut the other dead trees on his
property, he said that it was cold and he didn’t want to go that
far. Her voice then dropped to an indignant whisper when she
recounted the story to us, “He cut those beautiful trees because
he was too lazy to go out onto his acreage and cut the already
dead trees.” Her eyes flashed fire, and her voice was full of
disgust. This and other stories that she told made a lasting
impression on me, and always since then I have been an ardent
Mrs. Baird also did something that today would get her
ridden out of town on a rail, but back then nobody thought
anything of it. She read to us from Hurlbert’s Stories of the
Bible! Perhaps in deference to the one jewish boy in the class
she only read from the stories of the Old Testament. I was
given this book when I was in the second grade, possibly because
of her reading these stories. I still have the book and keep it
in the section of my book case where I put my most valued books.
She read one story each morning until she had progressed
through all the stories on the Old Testament, and I remember
being enthralled with the bloodthirsty nature of the Jews of
this time. I thought it was full of adventure with great
stories. I learned more from her readings than I ever did later
in Sunday School.
Mrs. Baird also taught the boys baseball. We didn’t
have any bats or baseballs but we had these big red rubber balls
that we used for baseballs and used our arms and fists for
bats. I hated the screaming and arguing that ensued amongst the
little boys. It seemed that they would argue and fight over
every little thing about the game, and I developed an intense
hatred for it which lasted me into adulthood. The rules seemed
absolutely incomprehensible. I was the designated pitcher since
I could get the ball over the plate at the right height better
than anybody else, and I remember getting the ball and stepping
on third base to put a fellow out, which caused Mrs. Baird to
grab her grey hair and scream “Nooooo!” I still don’t know what
I did wrong…
I wondered later if Mrs. Baird had had any military
training because she would get the entire class out on the play
ground and run us through an exhausting regimen of
calisthenics. The worst that I remember was having to duckwalk
the length of the playground.
There were other stories about Mrs. Baird that I could
recount, like the time she almost quarantined me because she
thought I might have had Scarlet Fever, and the time she held me
after school in my cub scout uniform and lectured me until I
felt knee high to a mushroom because I had talked during the
I must have learned my academic lessons also, but the
lessons that I remember learning from Mrs. Baird was never
gotten from any textbook.
Talking about Iron Pyrite in yesterday’s post got me
interested in its origins. I came across this interesting
Astrobiology Magazine that said that some forms of iron
pyrite may have acted as a template that led to reactions that
led to the formation of amino acids, proteins and other
ingredients of life.
When pyrite absorbs sunlight, a weak
electrical current is generated which would have been enhanced
in the early Earth’s anaerobic environment. Matthew Edwards of
the University of Calgary said that this photoelectric quality
could have led to carbon and nitrogen fixation which could have
led to a primitive metabolism at these fixation sites.
It is suggested that a biofilm could have formed on the
surface of the iron pyrite. The surface of iron pyrite would
have protected the organic molecules from not only wave action,
but also against the harmful effects of ultraviolet light. If
the organic molecules were to form further than ten
nanometers from the surface of the iron pyrite, then the
molecules would tear themselves apart when excited by the UV,
but if they were within ten nanometers of the surface then the
iron pyrite would absorb the energy and then release it as heat
Tributsch also suggested that chlorophyll may have
originated within this ten nanometer area on the surface of
pyrite and may have supplied energy to primitive cells. The
first life forms appeared at least 3.8 billion years ago, and it
appears that photosynthesis may have appeared by 3.7 billion
I’m not sure how it all came on…this feeling of loss. I was
thinking how as a child, my friends and I would hike across a
grassy prairie to Jim Miller Woods in Pleasant Grove, now a
suburb of Dallas, Texas. This land on the prairie was the
thick, black gumbo typical of this part of Texas, rich and deep,
ideal for cotton and any other crop you cared to grow. From our
houses the prairie stretched for several miles to the
intersection of Bruton and Jim Miller, where the Austin Chalk
erupted from the dark soil to support a wide diversity of trees
on a bluff overlooking the White Rock Creek Bottoms and the
skyline of downtown Dallas. Many of my fondest memories
involve roaming these woodlands, digging nodules of iron pyrite
from the limestone rocks and watching the gradual encroachment
of bulldozers and developers until most of it was turned into a
residential area. Fortunately the developers had enough sense
to preserve most of the trees.
On the praire that we crossed, the appearance of
building stakes were an unwelcome sight. Then with the naivete
of youth we would pull up the stakes and hurl them across the
grasslands, enraged that anybody would dare to build on our
territory. It was merely tilting at windmills, however, and we
knew it at the time. Now on the once empty prairie are old
residential areas with large trees in the yards of the brick
homes, and I doubt if anybody remembers back to when that entire
area was open grasslands.
With this on my mind I happened across a website talking
about the Pleasant Grove First Baptist Church, established over
a hundred years ago, being closed and sold. This was the church
that my family attended faithfully for over forty years. I was
baptised in this church along with my father and my brother and
my sister. I was married in the church. I passed it everyday
on the way to and from school as a child and watched it grow.
When my father had to work, my mother would take us children and
we would walk the long distance to the church in order to not
miss a single Sunday. I intimately knew and went to school with
many of the members. We all literally grew up in the church.
My mother taught in the Sunday School for many years, was
president of the WMU and was active in many other capacities.
This church whose steps I have not darkened for many years, was,
I found to my intense sadness, an intimate and integral part of
what I was. I was overwhelmed with memories of that long ago
time and was surprised at the depth of feeling I had on learning
that it was due to be sold and destroyed. I saw a later
newspaper article that said that an arsonist had caused major
damage to it.
To top all this off, I came across a cemetery record
of a dearly beloved person from that era of my life when I
teetered on the brink between childhood and manhood, and then
saw the photo and a podcast interview with another beloved one
from the past. Listening to her voice brought back an absolute
avalanche of memories.
It was as if so many ties and roots from long ago had
been severed and I felt liked a drifting raft that had lost
“So lonely am I
My body is a floating weed
Severed at the roots…”
Not too many years ago, a French company after comparing
satellite images said that Washington state had cut relatively
more forest than had been cleared in the Amazonian rain forest.
This came at a time when alarms were being spread around the
world concerning the rate at which the rainforests of that
area were disappearing.
Weyerhaeuser (”the tree growing
company”) responded indignantly by saying that most of these
clear cut areas had been replanted with trees whereas the
Amazonian rain forest clearcuts had not been replanted. I’m
sure that some people were reassured by learning that this
company, the largest private owner of softwood forests in the
world, was diligently replanting the denuded forest land which
they had cut.
There are at least a couple of questions a person might
Are these replanting efforts by timber companies
effective in re-establishing the same type of forest that was
removed by clearcutting? Are these “tree farms” ecologically
equivalent to those that were cut?
Is Weyerhaeuser only cutting trees from their
“tree farms?” Are their replanting effforts enough to enable
the company to conserve their old growth forests?
To compare these replanted tree farms to a mature
natural forest would be tantamount to comparing a wheat or
corn field to a natural grass prairie. When the first settlers
came to the great grass prairies of the midwestern United
States, they found an extremely diverse community of plants and
animals comprised of many species which had evolved together to
form the tall and short grass ecosystems of the area. When the
settlers first plowed these virgin prairies and planted their
crops, often wheat or corn, they supplanted this diverse, well
balenced community with a monoculture.
Monocultures in this context refers to a single crop
species that is grown in an area. The increase of large areas
planted in a single crop reached its zenith with the advent of
corporate farms, and has both pros and cons.
It is more efficient in the SHORT run.
The grower can use machines that are specifically
designed for a particular crop.
The grower can apply the same fertilizers and
The harvesting, processing and marketing can be
streamlined with a corresponding savings. And that of course
is the bottom line–money.
Pests that feed upon the crop often explode in numbers
as they react to the huge new food supply.
The use of chemical pesticides are often applied in
greater quantities to keep up with the burgeoning pest
population (e.g. the boll weevil and the drenching of the
South with DDT).
The large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides don’t
just stay on the applied areas but spread throughout the
ecosystem, often with dire results.
The soil condition often is neglected in these large
fertilizer-dependent monocultures which eventually results in
the application of more fertilizer than was initially needed
as the soil becomes depleted.
In addition to various animal pests, disease organisms
often become established.
Since the monoculture crop is often genetically
similar, they usually have the same genetic susceptibility to
diseases (and other pests). In a genetically diverse crop
some individuals by chance would have a genetic resistance to
Many species are eliminated.
Healthy ecosystems have a tremendous amount of genetic
diversity. This usually means not only a large number of
species, but a large amount of genetic variation within
the species–various geographic races, etc. As the genetic
diversity is reduced for any reason, the ecosystem becomes more
unstable. On these tree farms, usually a single species of tree
is planted (e.g. Douglas Fir), and often it is a particular
variant of a species that is planted. For example in some
areas the trees have been selected for their rapid growth or
some other desirable trait, and entire forests of this same
particular variation may be planted in rows.
Some of the
forests in the northwestern U.S. are thousands of years old
with a corresponding huge amount of genetic diversity in the
form of thousands of species, not only plant species, but
mammals and birds, insects, spiders, and soil organisms. The
claim of Weyerhaeuser that their monoculture tree farms
are equivalent to the mature forests in the area can be viewed
in several ways in my opinion:
They could have made an honest mistake. This is
doubtful since they employ thousands of employees, many who
have advanced degrees in the science of forestry. Of course
forestry majors may not have the same perspective as forest
They may have simply suggested that the forests
they plant are equivalent to the mature forests of the area.
They may have deliberately lied in a despicable
attempt to cover up the fact that they are currently denuding
the mature forests in over eighteen countries, including the
United States, Canada, Uruguay, Australia, New Zealand, China,
Mexico, Ireland and France, and causing irreparable harm to
the ecosystems and species of the area.
This site may help answer that question.
Which brings up the second question listed above. Are
these timber companies simply “harvesting” second or third
growth trees on the tree farms that they have planted? Are they
managing to leave the mature forests alone? They are
approaching this goal in Washington and a few other places
but see the above link and this
quote from the Seattle Times which tries to answer that
question. The Seattle Times article also talks about
Weyerhaeuser’s history and presence in Canada.
But it’s in Canada, where trees take 40 to 100 years to
reach a size worth felling, that Weyerhaeuser
is logging hard. Despite decades of cutting, there are not
enough mature, second-generation trees to maintain the
industry at its present production levels. So
Weyerhaeuser and other companies are targeting an
ever-widening arc of first-growth forests, which may have been
singed by fire or infested with beetles but have never before
Here is another
quote concerning Weyerhaeuser in British Colombia:
“Vancouver Island, British Columbia,
was once graced with one of the most magnificent forested
ecosystems on Earth.
After 150 years of industrial
logging, more than 80 per cent of the primeval forests have
now been destroyed. 85 of a total of 91 watersheds have been
roaded and gutted in the most thoughtless and brutal manner,
and what is left is being cut down at the fastest rate ever.
It took 120 years to cut the first half of the island’s
forests, and it’s taken 30 years to clear the remainder. 20
per cent of Vancouver Island is logged without any
regulation at all as ‘private land,’ - much of which is
‘owned’ by Weyerhaeuser.
Last year , Weyerhaeuser
destroyed a 50 hectare stand of single aged 1000 year old
western red cedar in the Walbran Valley, not three hours
away from Victoria, British Columbia, from where I write to
you. This magnificent ancient forest is now a mass of stumps
on average about four meters in diameter.
Weyerhaeuser is now invading East
Creek, one of the last of five intact and unprotected
primeval watersheds on Vancouver Island. The company
wantonly mows down the forests even as First Nations
struggle in Kafkaesque negotiations to get back their
territories which have never been ceded. I have directly
seen the horrors that Weyerhaeuser has inflicted on our
forests, and I understand how this giant American
corporation is enabled to continue on with the invasion.
There was an article in the paper a few days ago talking
about how the common birds of Washington State are diminishing
drastically in numbers. Today they took the American Bald Eagle
off the endangered species list, but unfortunately many of these
common birds don’t have the glamour nor do they occupy public
awareness as does the magnificent Bald Eagle.
to annual bird counts and an analysis of breedng records, in the
past forty years birds such as the Evening Grosbeak and the
Bonapart’s Gull have dropped 97%! The Purple Finch populations
have dropped 87%; the Yellow-Headed Blackbird 72%, and the
Western Meadow Lark 60%. See this and related articles
here. The reason most
likely is destruction of habitat. For example as the prairies
and open areas are built up the Meadow Lark has no place to
live. Destruction of forests (see post of two days ago) and
other habitats are also responsible.
For example, not only the the forests and prairies are
disappearing, in Eastern Washington the shrub steppe prairies,
wetlands and grasslands are also rapidly disappearing along with
the species that depend upon them.
Of course the factors involved can be quite complex.
Pollution and global warming no doubt is having an effect. As
species such as the herring and crustacean populations of Puget
Sound plumet it has an inevitable effect on the species on the
uppper part of the food chain, such as the Bonaparte’s Gull.
The delicate web of life is being torn and shredded with
One of the shocking things is that these are not the
already endangered or rare species, but once common species that
we see at our bird feeders. The disappearance of common species
will have a much larger effect upon our ecosystems than if the
problem involved only rare species.
Audubon lists some things that everybody can do to
Everybody is familiar with the pervasive bigotry and racism
that has so long run like a dark strain of feculence through so
many societies. Today, in our society at least, most of us
join together in condemning these destructive attitudes that
have caused so much pain, suffering and death. We do this
despite the fact that such terms often tend to be thrown loosely
about and are often overused.
However, I believe that this
tendency of people to discriminate and look down on other races
or cultures reflects a basic intolerance that is pervasive
throughout our psyche. People have a tendency to set themselves
up on a particular cultural prominence, and then sneeringly look
down on all those that don’t share their particular “elevated”
It might be instructive to look at some definitions:
Intolerance: an unwillingness to share or
grant social, political, or professional rights. I would extend
this unwillingness to all aspects of human endeavor.
Bigot: One who treats or regards the members
of a group (as a racial or ethinic group) with hatred and
Snob: A. one who tends to rebuff, avoid, or
ignore those regarded as inferior B. one who has an
offensive air of superiority in matters of knowledge or taste.
There seems to be a sort of
commonality here, especially when comparing bigots and snobs.
Bigots seem to be the more extreme with their attention more
directed at ethinic and racial groups. Snobs seem to me to be
part and parcel of the same disease that we all have–a tendency
to smugly regard anybody outside our little group (whatever the
group is) as somehow inferior. I tend to use the two terms
synonymously since I believe they are basically the same.
This tendency occurs in almost all areas of human
endeavor, not only the well known intolerance towards other
racial and ethnic groups, but also in politics, religion, sexual
preference, music, art, etc. When carried to the extreme, it
tends almost in some cases to lead to a sort of prim Puritanism
with the advocates recoiling in horror at those that transgress
their narrow rules of behavior.
For example, I have often seen this in the area of food.
Now I myself, sympathize with some of these positions, but I try
to draw the line once the positions lead into the slippery areas
of intolerance. For example, organic food advocates sometimes
become extreme in their denunciation of the food and chemical
industry and their attempts to “poison” our bodies (I have done
this myself!). Vegetarians are another example of food bigots.
Some “vegans” tend to get on their soap box and rant at the
barbarians that continue to kill, yes actually kill innocent
animals in order to eat their flesh.
Music is another area that brings out the basic intolerance
that courses through all of our veins. Not only do we often
denigrate particular types of music, but we
ascribe unsavory characteristics to the people that like these
types. Sometimes we think of them as being of a lower order of
humans, unwashed, uneducated and unreachable.
We have also what I call the provincial bigots.
These people sneeringly put down entire peoples based on where
they live. It’s like an automatic reflex with some of these
snobs/bigots. For example think of people from the southern
United States. What immediately comes to mind? Where did you
get this impression of this large area of the U.S.? What about
Texas? New York? San Francisco? Each area often automatically
elicits certain preconceived ideas about the people there, their
sexuality, their religion, their reading habits, their politics,
Stereotypes are an important aspect of this
intolerance, I think. Stereotypes can be a lazy way of
immediately categorizing complex subjects. Often stereotypes
do have a basis in fact. It often summarizes and
typifies large masses of information, but…it panders to racism,
bigotry and snobbery and should be avoided whenever possible.
This intolerance can be found in almost any realm of
endeavor. Take fishing for example. Yes, fishing…how can
anybody be snobbish about their fishing? I have found that
there are various levels of intolerance amongst
certain categories of fishing.
Below are the categories ranked in order of increasing
a. Dry Fly Fishing
b. Wet Fly Fishing
c. Fishing with artificial lures
d. Fishing with bait (live or dead)
The dry fly purists tend to turn their noses
up at wet fly fishermen, and so on down the line. Probably
the lowest of the low would be the stink bait fishermen (which
is one of my favorites).
So…are you familiar with a skill, a
profession, a realm of endeavor that has these levels of
hierarchies? And at the top of the hierarchies, are there the
elite, the cognoscenti, the true “in” group? I tend to be
reminded of the dominance hierarchies in social primates.
Perhaps these are just other ways of establishing our
dominance in our complex societies.
For many years I have admired this incredible stand of
Redcedar beside the road that I travel. Almost daily
I rested my eyes upon the lush beauty of this thick growth of
evergreens which appeared to form an impenetrable wall along the
road. It was dark beneath the trees in the few places that I
could see an opening, and I could almost imagine that they were
part of a great forest that extended for miles and miles. I
would fantasize about hiking through this forest, smelling its
sweet incense and listening to the wind soughing in their
branches. In the winter they presented an indescribable scene,
with their thick boughs weighed almost to the ground, their tops
bent over with great masses of snow. As the years passed, I
grew fearful for their safety living as they did in a city
dominated by Weyerhaeuser (”the tree growing company”) and which
seems to have no zoning, allowing developers to strip vast
swathes of forests to the bare earth, removing every bush, every
hint of vegetation, in order to put in new housing editions,
shopping centers and storage units. I assumed they were spared
because I knew that this magnificent tree loves having its roots
wet, and I thought that perhaps these trees were growing in a
boggy area. I also had the naive thought that they were part of
a local watershed that was being protected.
I just drove past
where my old friends have been growing since time out of mind.
The trees are gone. Only stumps remain along with “slash,”
the broken branches and detritus left over from the logging
operations. A pile of these giants lie stacked awaiting the
logging trucks. A great bleeding wound is left on the earth.
It’s not the first time that I’ve shed tears over such.
I am left handed, my mother was left handed, and
her mother was left handed; beyond that I am unsure. Lefties
have always been not only passively discriminated against but
also actively. My grandmother was forced to only use her right
hand in school and ever after did so when she wrote. A friend
of mine had his hand slapped repeatedly with a ruler by nuns in
the Catholic school he attended because he persisted in using
his left hand.
In English the etymology of left is ‘lyft’ which
means worthless. The word sinister came from the Latin for
left. Witches always proceed widdershins or counterclockwise
(left) in their practices. Some say that part of this bias may
proceed from the fact that the sun in the northern hemisphere
rises and proceeds to one’s right in it’s course across the sky.
In primitive societies to go against the sun would not be wise.
Other terms like “gauche,” and “droit” reveal the bias against
the left. One could
and on in this vein, for example our guardian angels stand
to our right and the devil to the left.
And then there are the medical claims about left
handers (90% of women and 86% of men are right handed) that have
been made: they don’t live as long; it’s the result of brain
damage; the immune system of lefties is lower; disorders such as
dyslexia, attention deficit disorders, learning disabilities,
mental retardation, Alzheimers, and bed wetting. Much of this
was claimed by Geschwind, Behan, and Galaburta (GBG Theory) in
the eighties and much of since then has been discounted or
Since the left hander tends to be right
brained dominant, it would follow that lefties might show a
predominance in fields utilizing the superior visual-spatial
abilities of this side of the brain which would include math,
music, architecture, etc. Other studies claimed links to
homosexuality, which could never be conclusively demonstrated.
Another study suggested that lefties had an advantage in hand to
hand combat which would be selected for in more primitive
times. They point to the prevalence of left handers in some
sports. In my fencing class I was able to consistently beat the
rest of the class possibly in part of my left handed fencing
Evidence has also accumulated refuting the early
deaths of lefties…in fact much of the claims listed above have
either been shown to be disproven or doubtful. Obviously
further studies are needed to conclusively prove any of these
One of my favorite quotes is as follows by
In general, you will find
that those children who have spiritual tendencies can write
with either the left or right hand without trouble, but those
children with materialistic tendencies will become addled if
they are allowed to write with both hands.
Sometimes in an effort to understand something, I’ll read about
it and make an outline for myself which helps me to grasp the
main ideas. I’ve been reading about the Y chromosome, and about
some of the implications of recent research about this gender
You may already know that sex in
humans is determined by the Y chromosome. Females have two of
the X sex chromosomes, whereas males have XY. These two
chromosomes, although probably very similiar originally,
diverged more and more after the male determining gene became
ensconced on the Y chromosome probably over 300 million years
ago. Below is an outline based on information presented by a
paper by Willard in Nature and a medley of other sources.
human sex chromosomes, X and Y, originated about 300 hundred
million years ago from the same ancestral autosome — a non-sex
chromosome — during the evolution of sex determination”
diverged in their base sequence.
At either end of
the Y chromosome, however, there are still regions that are
similar to the X chromosome with crossing over occurring
between these areas.
95% of the Y
chromosome is specific to this chromosome (about 23 million
base pairs) which is referred to as the Male Specific Region
of the Y, or MSY and involves no crossing over with the X
chromosome. This includes the gene that determines maleness (SRY)
and any other genes beneficial to males.
10-15% of the MSY
include sequences (the X transposed) that moved from the X
chromosome only in the past few million years, and are still
99% identical to the corresponding sections on the X
Another 20% of the
MSY consists of a class of base sequences that appear to be
more distantly related to the X chromosome and probably are
pieces of ancient autosomes from which both the X and Y
chromosomes evolved. These are the X-degenerate sequences. The
rest of the bases are specific to the Y chromosome, and tend
to be repetitive palindromes—reading the same on both DNA
strands (the ampliconic sequences).
Insights have been
made into the evolutionary strategies that the Y chromosome
has made in order to survive.
sequences on the ends, the MSY section of the Y chromosome
does not exchange segments with the X chromosome.This can be seen to be necessary to prevent
complications. If it did occur, then males would be missing
both essential Y chromosomal genes and X chromosomal genes,
and females could have extra genes on their X chromosomes
which were obtained from the Y chromosome. Females could
also end up missing essential X chromosomal genes.
to have occurred on the testis specific genes that may
Most of these
genes occur in the palindromes mentioned above.
crossing over between the Y and X chromosomes ceased, the
danger of accumulating mutations that would inactivate the Y
chromosome genes would tend to increase.
no longer eliminated through recombination, would eventually
cause the demise of the entire chromosome.
prevent this from happening, the sequence on one arm of the
palindrome can alter or convert the sequence on the other
arm—crossing over (recombination) between the two DNA
strands. Apparently this has been happening in the larger
primates at least since the line leading to humans branched
off (five million plus years).
It was calculated
that as many as 600 base pairs in each new born male must be
converted in this way.
This led to the
conclusion that this gene conversion may be more common in
other areas of the genome, especially in palindromic and other
This supports a
dynamic view of genome change in which not only do mutations
occur (as much as 100-200 base pairs per person), but that
thousands of gene conversions occur also. Skeletsky et al.
sequenced the Y chromosome.
the Y chromosome was eventually reduced down to just the gene
causing maleness (SRY), then the gene could attach to either
an X chromosome or another non-sex chromosome (autosome) which
would create a new Y chromosome.Another
possibility could involve a piece of an autosome attaching
itself to the sex chromosomes. Both these things have happened
in other organisms.
Out of curiosity I
took a test on
There were several tests on the subject, and I took the one
dealing with gender bias in the sciences. My results were:
“Slight association of males with science and females with
liberal arts compared to females with science and males with
liberal arts.” In my opinion the way the test was given
automatically predisposes the results towards this sort of bias.
wonder why some organisms occur on all or almost all the
southern continents? Paleontologists noticed that a certain
plant fossil, Glossopteris, was found in rock deposits
(Permian-Triassic) of Africa, South America, Anarctica,
Australia and India. This led some to believe that there was
once a large southern land mass that was eventually named
Gonwana after the district in India where this plant was found.
Quite a few species show this southern distribution pattern
including the Ratites.
are the large flightless birds of the southern continents,
characterized by the absence of a keel on their sternum (breast
bone). Sternal keels act as attachments for muscle in birds
that fly. Since the ratites are flightless, they have no need
for such a structure (ratite: from latin ratis for
raft). These Paleognath (old jaw) birds are grouped together
based upon their unique
palate, and are all
flightless, although fossil forms show a keel on their sternum
which indicates that the living forms evolved from early
Cenozoic ancestors that could fly. The flightless habit has
arisen independently and many other flightless birds such as
penguins and rails belong to the NEOgnathae along with most of
the flying birds.
nothing better to do, I just took the
nerd test. I
mean, I thought that perhaps I was slightly nerdy…maybe…ya
know? Like in a kool sort of way. Imagine to my surprise when
I scored 91% which ranks me as…well look what the results said:
does this mean? Your nerdiness is:Supreme
Nerd. Apply for a professorship at MIT now!!!.
This (June 16) is one of my long days beginning just after 6 am
and ending in a couple more hours around 2 am.
I’m trying an
experiment by not putting a heading for this entry yet.
Yesterday I tried to add to a previous entry that had a heading
and got error messages about the heading when I published it. I
ended up losing the original entry. So I will publish this entry
and will try again later in the day, adding a heading, and will
see what happens.
I just took a personality test (Meyers-Brigg typology test) here,
and found out that I’m classified as an INTJ or a mastermind
rational, also see
This is 18 hours later. I had a nice afternoon eating lunch
with Jessica and her fiance. It was a nice Father’s Day and I
appreciated being invited very much. I also talked with my
father. From last summer throughout the fall and early winter,
it was very dry in that part of Texas and the lake had already
retreated far out from the normal shoreline when I was there
last summer. However, they have been having lots of rain now
and the lake is full to overflowing, and it keeps on raining.
Nobody, of course, wants to complain about the rain since it’s
alway on the verge of being too dry there.
Last summer we walked down the dry lake bed that extended up
to where his house was and found the dry bed littered with dead
freshwater mussels. There are at least 18 species of mussel in
this area and about 52 species in Texas as compared to almost
300 species in the entire United States and only 12 species in
here for a photographic collection of these critters that
are found in the Dallas area.
The life cycle of these molluscs are interesting. The female
has to suck in spermatozoa from males which release their sperm
into the water. They enter through the siphon and fertilize the
females. The young are released as larvae (glochidia) which
must temporarily parasitize fish for a while before dropping off
to complete their development in the bottom of the river or
Some mussel species mimic small fish or other food items like
worms or insects in order to attract fish. When the fish is
sensed by the mussel the larvae are released and thus have a
better chance of finding a temporary fish home without which
they would perish.
In many places of course mussels are endangered and
efforts are sometimes late in trying to perserve them. Besides
having interesting sex lives and of great interest to biologists
and people interested in nature, they are often indicators of
water quality, and a flourishing population indicates a healthy
Perhaps it is because of it’s remarkable owner, Claudio, who
will bend over backwards to help you in any way possible; perhaps
it was the clean and simple establishment that
started back in the nineties when, as he said, he was looking
for a place to put his boat and do some fishing. I know that
much of its appeal is the restaurant set over the water, where I
would come down at 6 am and help myself to the
free coffee from a large silver urn. I would then sit at the
second table from the left (looking at the rear from the
perspective of the photo) and drink my coffee from the china cup
as I watched the sun rise.There was always a
cool, mild breeze and sometimes the tide flow would make little
noises against the pilings. I would look over the side of the
railing and watch colorful tropical fish feed on tiny
delectables that the tide brought.After a while
my Dad would come down, and we would both drink our coffee and
watch the panorama on the water. Soon dugouts would be passing
by along with motorized boats of all descriptions.
The light on the water would continue to vary as the light
changed, and soon it would be breakfast time.
The free breakfasts were
delicious and the people that worked there were always
exquisitely polite and helpful.All the meals that
we ate there were delicious without fail and were very
reasonable. For about $15 you could take day-long boat
expeditions to the surrounding archipelago.This
was an incredible bargain since private agencies would charge
almost twice as much for the same trips. We went to Coral Cay
where we ate a delicious fish lunch at a restaurant set on
pilings over the blue water.As we waited I went
snorkeling in the clear waters among the schools of tropical
fish. There were dolphins in Dolphin Bay feeding on schools of
fish, their backs grey against the blue water as they sounded.
On the way back we dropped by RedFrog Beach with it’s bright red
poison arrow frogs sounding like chirping birds in the
surrounding vegetation. Other trips included a boat ride to
Bird Island, a small rocky island, where
Red-Billed Tropic birds (Phaethon aethereus)wheeled
and soared, their white bodies with their two long tail feathers
distinct against the green vegetation of the island. This is
the only Caribbean location where they can be found. Starfish
beach, Boca del Drago, a cave full of bats and the incredible
rainforest with it’s luxuriant bromeliads were also visited.
We went to
other places in Panama, but when I think of the visit there, I
think most often of Hotel Angela. Don’t go there if you like
luxury or fancy, but if you like a clean, simple hotel with
excellent food and employees, internet access, and an owner who
is simply charming and wonderful, set in a beach combers
paradise, then you should seriously
consider this marvelous place.
I haven’t been idle…really. Joomla has just put out a second
Beta prior to coming out with a new release candidate.
Supposedly the new version is much better than the old. I was
faced with the prospect of using the older version or waiting
until the bugs had been worked out with the 1.5 Beta 2. This
new Beta version was “primarily for the developers and
designers” which I decidedly am not. Also the more I read
about such things, the more I realized that I really needed to
know HTML, not to mention PHP, etc. Otherwise, I would just be
blindly following directions with little knowledge of the
So I have decided to learn HTML, CSS, PHP, and whatever; I am
terrible at understanding acronyms. I have been reading a book
on HTML and have just begun reading about CSS (Cascading Style
Sheets), and have been surprised at how uncomplicated it
looks. I hesitate to use the word simple, because it isn’t,
but it really does not seem that difficult to understand. Of
course, I haven’t gotten past the basics, so I should keep my
astonishment to myself, because I’m sure I shall have to eat
these words later. After I have learned my basics, perhaps
then the new version of Joomla will be out, and I will be able
to make a better decision as to the best way to proceed.
I opened up Joomla the other free open source web maker that
comes highly rated, and have been looking at the EXTREMELY well
written directions! Thus far, it seems light years ahead of
Drupal in the way that it is explained and the way that it
operates. Everything is so logical and so incredibly well
presented. I haven’t finished going through the directions yet
and have yet to make my trial web site, but I’m already many
days ahead of my pace studying Drupal.
Drupal is “said” to be the most powerful and the most
flexible, and where I am at right now I certainly can NOT see
this. Joomla’s user manual
is so well organized and so clear in its presentation, that it
seems to be inspired. The Drupal instructions seem to be so
diffuse and disorganized that it makes the entire learning
process a slow and laborous process–more than the content
So, I am sure that I shall be commenting further on the two
programs in the future.
The weather here has been sunshine interspersed with
rain–mostly rain all day today in fact. The wind is blowing the
little paper-like cups that cover the growing tips of the
Douglas Fir all over the place. As the twig tips grow, the
little brown cups fall off. Many flowers, too numerous to
mention now, but soon I would like to post some photos.
I think that I have been wasting my time trying to figure out
the basics of the web building program,
Drupal. I have no idea why I
attempted this time consuming project. My current website,
texified.com, is run by a very easy and intuitive program.
Supposedly Drupal is able to be expanded more and has an active
community of people who are continually modifying and developing
So far though I have seen nothing impressive about it, and I
think that I might try Joomla next.
After over a week of
effort I have finally been able to construct a very basic site
(not put onto the web yet–if ever!), but so far it seems
cumbersome and non-intuitive. Now I am speaking as a complete
novice as far as my knowledge about such things goes. I
sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time trying to figure
out the directions which assume a modicum of prior knowledge at
I feel sorta like the non-mechanical fella who is trying to
put some oil in in his car. The directions say to find the oil
cap, remove and add the oil. The poor guy looks all over the car
trying to find the right place before finally realizing that the
the directions have failed to say to open the hood! There have
been a couple of incidents like this for me in following the
Charles Darwin was riding a train coach and noticed a lady
staring impassively out the window. Suddenly with no warning her
face crumpled into an intense expression of grief, perhaps at a
thought of something sad in her life, he speculated. I think of
this sometimes, how we pass each other on the street, eat beside
other in restaurants, go about our lives, only seeing the
exterior that we present to the world.
Of course our literature is full of comment about how we are all
separated from each other, unable to effectively communicate the
panaroma within us all. I think that our opportunities to really
get to know one another are limited, and that when we are able
to communicate in ways beyond the superficial, we are often
surprised at what we find in each other.
We more often than
not find that there is gold within us all. When we dig down and
get to really get to know somebody, we often find that
underneath that outside mask is a warm, loving individual, full
of doubts and fears, pain and hope…we find a person with whom we
can forge empathetic bonds, a person whom we can grow to like
and to even love.
I read a story once about a man facing the final judgment
after his life was over. He was facing a group of judges who
were once men and who had lived on earth before passing over
that great divide. God was present, but only as an advocate for
the accused. The final judgment as to the man’s fate rested
solely upon the judges. All the man’s past sins were brought
forth before the judges. It was shown how from an early age the
man had lied and cheated. He grew into a thief and a murder. He
became a despicable person full of sin and all sorts of vice of
the lowest sort.
God told the judges about how he knew the motivations that drove
the man. He talked about how he was born a sweet baby, full of
the special goodness that all children have. He talked about how
he was beaten by a drunken father, how he stole food in order to
feed his mother and his many brothers and sisters. He told the
judges how the man’s environment had twisted and changed him
into what he was. He told all the man’s inner feelings and how
at heart he was still good and true.
The judges took all that into account in their judgement, but in
the end they condemned the man to Hell. They said that all men
have their own peculiar motivations–both good and bad, but not
all men act upon them. This man acted upon whatever it was that
formed and made him, and that is what made the difference. This
man had acted, and they were judging the man for his actions
not his motivations. Hitler, I assume, was once a sweet
child, full of dreams and aspirations as all children are. What
were the factors in his environment, what were his motivations
that turned him into a monster? To human judges that is all
irrelevant. History judges him on his actions.
And so that I suppose is what we do in our lives. We usually
have, unlike God, no idea as to a persons motivations, and so we
usually are reduced to forming judgements and opinions
concerning someone on their actions. When I see a
person acting offensively, I form a reaction based on his
actions without regard to what made him act in such a manner.
That is all I can do with somebody whom I don’t know. I can make
a mental note to be more understanding, but that understanding
doesn’t always go very far when a person acts in such a way.
But what about a person whom you DO know very well…or think
you do? What happens when such a person treats you with
contempt, hurts you in mean sorts of ways, and in general seems
to loathe the very ground you walk upon? How should you react
when this happens?
The past two days here have been very warm actually getting up
to 73 degrees yesterday. I actually heard people complaining
about the heat, and of course, many people are wearing their
skimpy summer clothes. People here really can’t take any kind of
The vegetable seeds that I planted are germinating and poking
their heads up. I can tell that I’m going to have to thin them
out, which is always difficult for me because I don’t like doing
that. If I don’t do it though then the plants will be stunted. I
think that I will replant the thinned seedlings…somehow that
makes me feel better about it all.
The wind picked up in the
afternoon, and when I left the house the porch and driveway was
covered with the tiny dried up corpses of male Douglas Fir
cones…yes the ones that spewed out so much pollen a while back.
I can always tell the time of year just by looking at my
driveway. The plants go through their annual cycles and shed
their various structures just like clockwork. There were a few
yellow Madrone Leaves on the driveway also, foretelling the
month of June when they shed all their old leaves.
My new project is to learn all about the program,
Drupal, which I want to learn
in order to be more flexible in posting my web site. I’m not
quite sure about it yet, and I can tell that it will be a time
That’s right, the crazy robin is back again this year! Two years
ago I was awakened at sunrise by a series of loud taps on my
bedroom window. I dismissed the noise at first and drifted off
to sleep only to be awakened again by more loud taps on the
glass. I discovered upon raising my shade that it was a robin
who was valiantly fighting it’s reflection on my second story
bedroom window. “Why couldn’t it have picked a down stairs
window,” I wondered blearily. I opened the window and shooed it
away, went back to bed and once again was awakened after I had
gone to sleep. After a moment’s thought, I went into the next
bedroom and retrieved my daughter’s large Raggedy Anne doll and
placed it on the window sill so that it stared sightlessly out
with it’s large eyes. I had no more problems with the robin.
That is I had no more problems with THAT window. The robin then
proceeded over the next few weeks to attack every single window
on the east side of the house. It didn’t merely give the windows
a few dusultory pecks. No, it acted as if its territory (my
front yard) had been invaded by an army of other robins, and it
spent every waking moment fiercely attacking its reflection—over
and over and over. At the end of this campaign, all my windows
had been smeared almost completely with what I could only
The material on the windows appeared to be some type of oily
substance which was very difficult to wash off. I assume it was
the oil that the bird rubbed on its feathers which it got by
rubbing it’s head on it’s pygidium, sometimes indelicately
called the “Pope’s Nose,” which forms that little stub which
most people call a tail.
Last year I only heard a few pecks from the robin. I assumed
that the original robin had possibly moved on to that worm farm
in the sky and breathed a sigh of relief. But now it’s back,
back with a vengeance. At the moment it is only attacking the
top three panes of my large front living room window…just those
three. And sure enough, I see the tell-tale smears of robin
grease. I watched it today as it sat in a bush outside the
window. It would sit there impassively, staring with it’s crazed
beady eyes at my window for a few moments, and then with no
discernable change in it’s demeanor it would launch itself like
a rocket at the window.
I’m taking no chances; I’m looking high and low for the
Raggedy Anne Doll.
A while back I wrote something about crossroads that we all
encounter in our lives–certain events whose significance at the
time we often are unawares. There are events, however, whose
significance is well realized at the time. Events which shake us
and leave us changed.
I had a teacher once whose words spoken
with a quiet intensity changed my life forever. It was on a
limestone hillside in Texas many years ago. It was spring and
the Bluebonnets and Indian Blankets covered the land in the warm
sunshine, and the song of Meadowlarks filled the air. Students
in my Historical Geology class were every where over the
hillside, but I only had eyes and ears for Dr. L. Frank Brown
who was my teacher.
I had just caught a young snake whose identify I didn’t know,
and I was a bit disappointed that Dr. Brown, a geologist, said
he didn’t know what kind of snake it was when I asked him. The
snake must have been a guide, leading me to my teacher, for Dr.
Brown motioned to me and another student as he knelt down and
picked up the fossil of a clam from the limestone outcrop that
we stood upon.
“Look at this!” he said, holding the fossil out in his hand,
his voice intense and directed right at me. “This area is filled
with these broken clam shells. Look…you can see where the shell
was broken after death, and you can see that the broken edges of
the shell are smooth and worn. These shells of these clams were
washed back and forth by wave action to form this ripple mark
made of clam shells which was on the floor of a shallow
Cretaceous sea. If you could find an adjoining ripple bed, you
could calculate the depth of water that these shells were in by
the distance between the ripple marks. These clams were probably
just offshore, their shells worn smooth by the wave action.
Listen! Smell! Can’t you just hear that ancient sea and smell
the tidal flats these clams lived in?”
And so, in an instant was my life changed forever. That
moment was inscribed on my being never to be erased. I can
remember it exactly. The sun warm on my neck and bare arms, the
snake wriggling in my hands totally forgotten, the buzz of
grasshoppers, the smell of that good Texas country…engraved
forever along with those simple intense words spoken with a
fervor that spoke excitedly of momentous secrets being revealed.
I simply felt doors swing open in my mind and through them I had
a far off glimpse of lands never before dreamed of. The idea
that from a few simple observations the ecology of a land gone
to dust over sixty five million years ago could be deduced was
something absolutely inconceivable to me. And it was far more
than that…it was an introduction into a way of looking at things
that I had never experienced.
I finished the course with an “A,” and received in the mail a
copy of Loren Eisley’s The Immense Journey with an inscription
on the front page by Dr. Brown congratulating me on my
achievement of making the highest grade in the class. In the
future I took additional courses from Dr. L. Frank Brown—two
semesters of Invertebrate Paleontology and a course in
Sedimentology/Stratigraphy. All of these courses involved weekly
field trips with some of them extending all week end. The
Stratigraphy course also involved one on one trips with Dr.
Brown who dedicated all his weekends during that semester to his
students. I often wondered how his wife tolerated his being gone
In all of these courses, Dr. Brown taught with an intensity and
enthusiasm which captured and riveted the attention of his
students. His dedication and single-minded pursuit of teaching
excellence has remained with me all my life. It was quite simply
impossible to be around him without catching the fire that he
gave off—a fire that made one want to know more about the
secrets of the universe that he imparted with such ease and
When he had to leave our school at the end of my senior year,
all the students were devastated and appalled. He burned so
brightly that he showed most of the other faculty in the Baylor
Geology department to be dim and dusty cinders. He had to move
on. This was my first glimpse of what envy on such a level could
do to the best and brightest.
I never saw Dr. Brown again. However, because of his
incredible influence I went on to finish my Bachelors, then my
Masters and eventually my Doctorate. I have taught many hundreds
of students since those days, and every day that I do so, I
think of Dr. Brown and wonder just how he would explain a
particularly difficult concept, or how he would try and enthuse
students in the subject that he loved so much. What a role model
And just before he left I had intended to write him and tell him
how much he had influenced and changed my life, but…I never did,
he left before I wrote the letter. And all these years I have
regretted not writing that letter…until now. I recently to my
astonishment found him online and wrote him at his email address
repeating much of what I have just written. I can’t begin to say
how pleased I am to tell him how much he changed my life.
I don’t think it would be an invasion of his privacy to provide
link to his profile. You can go here and see how he has
progressed since he left the narrow strictures of Baylor
It’s been rain mixed with sun today. The sword fern are sending
forth new growth and their fiddle heads are in the process of
Also the lilacs are at their height. I have two
bushes, one on the front corner of the house and the other by
the porch and driveway. I especially like the latter since it
curls over the porch steps which gives me an opportunity for a
wonderful sniff of lilac every time that I go by. Also, however,
they act like sponges which dumps water on me if I brush against
them after a rain!
I tried to ignore the tons of rock which seemed poised to drop
onto me as I squeezed through the narrow crevice, covering
myself with the wet clay of the cave. I had never known any
symptoms of claustrophobia before I had entered this small cave
in search of some elusive Collembola. It was mid-January in
Northeastern Iowa and the snow was deep and the temperature was
in the single digits outside the cave. Inside the cave it was
cool and damp with puddles of water upon which one could find
these new types of Springtails which so excited my guide. All I
could see of him at the moment was his feet ahead of me as he
scrambled unconcernedly through the narrow passages and
Finally we reached a wider place in the passage
which contained a small pool of water. We were on our bellies
with the ceiling pressing into our backs and my claustrophobia
“Here!” he shouted excitedly and took out a small brush and a
vial of alcohol.
Looking closer in the weak yellow beam of his flashlight I could
see extremely small hopping insects on the surface film of the
water. This is what we were after–new species of
commonly called Springtails. Back in those simple days of 1974
these curious creatures were considered insects, but now with
sophisticated means of genetic analysis, we are able to divide
and subdivide, clump and unclump taxa based upon DNA esoterica
which has provided taxonomic “splitters” with a dream tool. They
now (for the moment) appear to be put into a class of their own
along with other apparently unrelated Arthropods that have
internal mouth parts (Entognatha).
As he gently caught the creatures on the tip of his camel hair
brush and dipped them into their final bath of alcohol, I could
see his hands shake, his breath puffing forth in dense clouds of
vapor in the cool air. He was almost beside himself with
excitement. He had found and described these creatures which
through isolation and eons had differentiated into distinct
species. Since this was in one of those “islands” which had not
been covered by the lastest glaciation (Wisconsin), they may
have been isolated longer than we realized. Even though he was
just an undergraduate at nearby Luther College, he had already
accomplished much. Caught up by his excitement, I forgot the
pressure on my back, the chill and the wet and became absorbed
in these tiny creatures that lived in the utter darkness of this
Sometimes I think back on this young man with his incredible
enthusiasm for a small insignificant group of animals. Most
people had never heard of these creatures, and if they did, they
probably would be amazed that anybody would pay any attention to
them. However, in the dim chill of that wet cave, with the sense
of imminent doom from the rock pressing on my back, I caught a
part of his fire and felt myself becoming excited in turn. I
carry a part of this fire still. And this is the lesson that I
learned from him:
Life should be full of such enthusiasms. We should search out
and cultivate these passions! We should open ourself to this
incredible universe and catch something of the mysterious fire
that lies at its root. I love and admire anybody with
overpowering passion and enthusiasms which fill them with a holy
fire which can illuminate and fill all those who come in contact
with them. And it can be anything! Springtails or painting,
music or archery…can you feel it?
A while back, I became interested in the idea of what it would
mean to lead a simple life. I found this one religion/philosophy
which seems to embrace this idea. Some of it’s major tenets are:
1. The universe is comprised of a basic unity–a mysterious
force which is unknowable and which is the origin of all
things. It is impossible to know absolute good and evil.
2. Life is the greatest of all possessions. To attain the
richest sort of life, a person must somehow attune himself to
3. Live in primitive simplicity and let all things take their
natural course. We should place our will in harmony with the
natural universe which works harmoniously in its own way. When
we try to impose our will it disrupts that harmony.
4. Kindness, humility and sincerity should be cultivated.
5. The highest goodness is like water which seeks the lowest
level drawing nearer to the unity of all things.
And how can such a life be lived today in the midst of all our
modern wonders and the complexity of our civilization?
We are responsible for how we live our lives. Cultivate
simplicity, get rid of unnecessary “things.” Try to attune to
nature and the changing seasons. Try to not be so judgmental.
Accept and try to understand other people. Cultivate
compassion and kindness. Encourage others to abandon their
rampant consumerism. Development spontaneity in your life and
try to look upon your life as a child does–full of awe and
I was just thinking about the varied circumstances that have led
to me being right here, leading the life that I am leading.
Everybody, I am sure has done this, thinking back to a
particular event that seems to be a major turning point in one’s
life. If we had made a different decision at a critical juncture
then our lives would have turned out totally different.
are many small decisions that we make throughout the day that
affect our lives, but there seem to be a few pivotal events I
can think of which would have led to major changes in my life if
I had made a slightly different decision. It is usually only
with hindsight that we can spot these pivotal episodes. I am
sure that there are many choices that we make throughout the day
that have the potential to be one of these nexus points, but
because of the choices that we make, we never realize that we
have passed one of these probability points. Most choices lead
to a continuation of our daily routine, but if we make slightly
different decisions then major changes can occur.
I can remember one cold wintery night back in January, 1974
in Decorah, Iowa. I was enjoying a drowsy evening listening to
classical music, reading and drinking tea, when there was a
sudden knock at the door. I was somewhat irritated at being
disturbed and I was loathe to get up and open the door to the
frigid cold. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was one
of those critical nexus points. If I had decided to ignore the
knock, I would have gone on down the life path that I was on at
that time, and I would never have realized that I had been
brushed by the dark wings of change. However, I got up
reluctantly, opened the door…and my life was sucked into a
hurricane of change and turmoil which led me down a dark
divergent path far from my loved ones and all that I had known
before. I stand here where I am today because of that long ago
This is just one fork in my life that I remember, but when I
ponder this, I realize that my life was full of such
episodes–arguably an infinite number of nexus possibilities. And
not just my life, but the lives of those around me, the lives of
my parents, the decisions that they made each moment of their
lives which led to the present reality…and so on, the decisions
of their parents, etc, etc. back to the beginning. When
pondering this I realize that the probability of ANY event
occurring is infinitesimal. NOTHING is really possible when the
infinite probabilities are considered for any one event. And
yet, of course, things do happen, improbable as these events
are! The arrow does move!
Well, I finished 95% of my chores–it was just a mite later than
my goal. Today was a beautiful day here, and I planted two types
of beans, in addition to lettuce, and turnips. I have three
small garden plots on the side of my yard; each one is a raised
bed in a sort of stair-step arrangement going down the slope.
Each plot is about 6 x 12 feet and varies as to the amount of
sunlight it gets. Sunlight is a premium in my yard since it is
surrounded by Douglas Fir, Western Cedar, Red Alder and Pacific
Madrone trees, in addition to a thick understory of Salal and
Huckleberry found under the trees. The sun at these latitudes,
as I have mentioned before, seems to always be low to the
horizon and only in summer does it peek above the trees. I have
laid boards down in the plots to demarcate the planting areas
and to provide something to walk on so I won’t tramp down the
soil. One half of one little plot and three quarters of another
one is overgrown with mint plants. I haven’t the heart to pull
it up since I love the smell so much and also love the taste in
my tea. There are also volunteer chard and potato plants coming
up which takes up another goodly percentage of the plots–not to
We are at the height of the Spring blooming time, with tulips,
rhodendrons and many other flowers and shrubs at their
loveliest. The wild Huckleberry is putting out new growth and
the tips of the new growth are an unsual orange which is
striking against the green foliage. The Salmon Berry bushes are
now beginning to set little green berries, but it will be a
while before it ripens.
I’ve been trying to do a lot of projects, and to help myself out
I have made a detailed list that fills almost an entire page. I
have listed the main items below that I want to accomplish by
A. Set up a new computer and connect it to my home network.
B. Clean out the closet and either throw out any junk or take
useful items to Goodwill.
C. Thoroughly clean my bedroom and computer room.
D. Put numerous photos into frames and hang them. This includes
some really old copies of photos of my family.
E. Clean out the garage and organize the junk…I mean things of
F. Cut pathways through the backyard salal and huckleberry
(bushes), rake and clean in general.
G. Cut the brush back on the margins of the clearing in which I
H. Take out all the old plants that I saved in the garage over
the winter and put on the deck.
I. Plant some azalea and camellia bushes.
J. Pot some new plants into some new containers and window
K. Take out some rotting landscape timbers around the raised
beds and replace with new.
L. Dig up and plant the garden.
M. Mow front and back yards and also the margins along the
street; cut back the weeds along the driveway; clean driveway
Those are the main headings of what I want to do.
Totally unrealistic I know, but if I can do all but “D” and “M.”
I shall be happy. Unfortunately I am working my days off this
week, and so will be short of free time to do all this.
I traveled to Seattle yesterday on the bus ($3.00) and returned
on the commuter train ($4.00). The trip on the train was new for
me and is by far the preferred method. It travels down the Green
River Valley through the countryside which is now bright green
with new Spring leaves. I haven’t been through some of these
small towns in many years, and although I had heard of the
train, I had never taken it. It was a delightful experience.
While in Seattle I walked down by the waterfront (windy and
chilly and looking a bit run-down),
and meandered my way through all the construction before
climbing the hill to Pike Place mark. As usual the market is a
place full of sights, sounds and smells that capture the senses.
The tulips are reaching their height and the flower stalls were
full of them.
I always like looking at the vegetable stands also. The
vegetables and fruits are always carefully arranged so that they
create a wonderful assemblage of color and texture. I am also
always amazed at their price!
And of course I have to visit the fish stands with their
incredible assortment of fish and other types of sea food.
Sometimes the fishmongers put on a show by tossing the fish
about for the benefit of the tourists,
but today they were fairly quiet, not even shouting out
wares. In fact the place was relatively quiet and uncrowded.
Relatively I say since it was still quite full of people and
noise. It is a great place to browse and see the sights, and
then to stop in some small eatery to eat lunch or breakfast. The
entire area has been converted into a series of shops, stalls
and restaurants of all types
and descriptions. I was thinking how nice it would be, if money
were no object, to live in a condo overlooking Puget Sound and
the ferries, and then to come down to shop in the market and eat
in the astounding number of restaurants. Maybe I should start
buying lottery tickets?
It’s a great place to walk also, going up and down the steep
streets, wandering from one end of the downtown area to the
other. The buses are free in the main city area, and you can get
on and off whenever you wish. The driver always announces the
last free stop, so you can leave before you have to pay!
It all sounds very wonderful, and it is–IF YOU LIKE DREARY,
CHILLY, RAINY WEATHER! And that’s the fly in the ointment of
living in the Northwest. You can go for weeks without seeing the
sun, and when you do it is a weak, watery thing, low on the
horizon giving forth slanting rays that always makes me think
that it is either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
The rain is legendary–not the hard pounding rain that one finds
in the rest of the world, but drizzle, ranging from a fine mist
to a steady rain that goes on and on and on… August and
September are, however, wonderful with perfect warm, sunny
weather and chilly nights. I suppose that it is a good thing for
the area that it has such lousy weather, otherwise everybody and
their dogs would flock here as they have to California. Actually
the weather seems to have little impact on the burgeoning
population which is rapidly filling the narrow corridor between
the mountains and the sea, clear cutting the forests, polluting
the water and the air, and in general befouling the pristine
eden that once was here. But what else is new, huh?
The enlightened state of Washington is about to pass a measure
outlawing the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. As a
local paper reported, the offense is punishable with a $101
fine, and would be a secondary traffic infraction which means
that the driver would have to be pulled over for something else.
I think this means that if a policeman observes a person driving
down the road with a cell phone up to his ear, the officer would
have to desperately look for another more serious infraction to
legally pull the miscreant over. Perhaps the laudable officers
of Fife, Washington could give the other police officers
pointers since they are so skilled at pulling drivers over for
trivial violations (See December post: Fife, the City that Sold
it’s Soul to the Devil).
As this paper says, this ban is long
overdue. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed
that drivers quadruple their chances of being in an
accident when they use their cell phones. The surprising thing
shown by this study is that this accident rate holds whether the
drivers HOLD their phones or use HANDS FREE DEVICES! The
legislature decided to only address hand-held phones because
police officers wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not the
person was using a hands-free phone.
I was filled with astonishment as I read this article!
SURELY, the officers could be able in some way to
detect that drivers were using a hands-free phone. I thought
that perhaps they could use binoculars to see if a person’s lips
were moving IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY PASSENGERS! Then another
thought occurred to me.
If the accident rate was the same for people talking on
hands-free phones as it was for phones that they had to hold,
then what exactly WAS the common factor that could be causing
the increase in accidents? It couldn’t be the fact that the
drivers were only using one hand on the steering wheel while
their other hand held the phone since the accident rate was the
same for hands-free phones. After a short period of cogitation
on this, I realized in a sudden flash of inspiration that it was
the ACT OF TALKING! The act of talking was causing a
fourfold increase in accidents. This leads me to urge our
prescient legislature to extend this ban! PROHIBIT ALL TALKING
Yesterday morning when I walked out on the porch, it was so
slippery that I thought for a moment that it had frosted during
the night. I then realized that there was a film of yellow
pollen over the porch and steps which acted as as a fine
lubricant. Wiping the railing, I found that my finger tips were
covered with the powder-like pollen. I had to hold on the
railing as I climbed down the steps for fear of slipping. My car
and the windshield were also covered with it. This happens every
year. This year it coincided with some warm weather that we had
for the past two days. I am almost certain that this pollen is
coming from the Douglas Fir trees that surround my house, but I
didn’t check the
male cones. When shaken they produce a great cloud of pollen
during this time of year. Luckily, I don’t seem to be allergic
to pollen from this species.
I am enclosing some more photos.
To the left is the fiddle head from my least favorite fern–the
aquilinum) that I have mentioned before. They are
coming up everywhere like weeds–which they are! They occur
worldwide and is such a pest in Britain that they initiated a
program to control their spread. People eat them like asparagus
as I said before, but this fern contains carcinogens, and in
areas where they are consumed regularly such as Japan, the
occurrence of stomach cancer is among the highest in the world.
I also found that the Horsetails (Equisetum)
are coming up in my yard. They used to be used as scouring pads
because of the large amount of silicon in their cell walls.
These are a primitive group of
Plants (containing tubes) that reproduce by spores instead
of seeds. The strobilus, shown here, is the spore producing body
which in this area comes up before the photosynthetic stems.
The photosynthetic vegetative stems can be quite attractive,
especially when they catch the light in shaded areas, but they
can be a nuisance because of their tendency to spread.
It is also that time of year for my old friend the Dandelion
sp.) to blossom forth in all its glory. I had very few
Dandelions until I disturbed my yard a few years ago in order to
empty the septic tank. This disturbance in the grassy lawn was
all it took for them to take hold with a vengeance. I just gave
in and learned to enjoy their beauty before they go to seed and
become all raggedy. The Dandelions in the Northwestern U.S. are
the most beautiful that I have ever seen. They seem to be larger
and deeper yellow than those I have observed elsewhere. The
birds are also singing their little heads off. Like clockwork on
April 1 in open areas, I heard the White Crowned Sparrow (Poor
little me, deep!). About my house, I hear the species that are
most common to the woods and boundary areas. The
the Robin, the
Varied Thrush along with the
Chestnut Backed Chickadee are all singing loudly.
The Spotted Towhee is just getting started and will remain
the most vocal bird in the area through July. Also, although I
have seen the
Song Sparrow , it has barely begun vocalizing. Soon it will
become, like the Towhee, one of the most heard bird around my
I recently had a chance to visit the Mandolin Cafe, a coffee
shop/eatery, in Tacoma. I had been hearing about it quite a bit
for the past year--how they had free internet access, good coffee
and a nice decor. It was actually more than I expected. It
occupies a large building which used to be an auto parts store I
think, and the decor is delightfully funky. It's warm and friendly
with a large number of places to sit. I really get irritated with
places that don't have enough seats for their patrons. Their
parking lot, however, is small and from what I hear it is
sometimes hard to find a place. They have their own large coffee
and a large supply of coffee beans in several gunny sacks.
Apparently they have music on every day but Monday. Nobody was
playing when I was there in the morning, and there wasn't a time
indicated. I also saw a wine bar which I assume opens later in the
Last Thursday I also met Jessica and her fiance at a Korean
restaurant on South Tacoma Way in Tacoma. I don't know the name of
the dish we ordered, but it consisted
large amounts of raw beef, pork, chicken and bacon which we
broiled on a broiler set into the middle of the table. There was
also the usual small dishes of various vegetables: rice, sprouts,
Kim Chee of various types, etc. The typical way to eat all this
was to place rice, meat, and any of the other dishes on a large
leaf of lettuce and then cram it into your mouth. You have to cram
it, because if you take small bites it falls apart. As usual it
was very tasty and I came away stuffed. The highlight of the
evening was when Jessica said that they had (finally!) set a date
for their wedding--next May!
Well, there are so many plants flowering forth that I
thought I'd put on some more photos. I am in the process
of learning what some of these plants are, so bear with
me. The shrub with the red berries are shown to the right
is yet to be identified. I thought for a moment that it
was the hips of the small wild rose that blooms here, but
the stem and leaves are totally different. It is growing
in the brushy area between my driveway and the street that
runs by my house. Another red berried bush that grows here
is the red huckleberry, but this isn't it. Further
research on my part needs to be done...
Below right is a view of my street in front of my house.
As you can see it is strewn with the male Red Alder
catkins that I mentioned in the earlier post. I believe
this to be the culprit responsible for my annual bout with
hayfever. Actually thus far it has been a minor problem
with only mild attacks, and I haven't had any problem with
it in over a week now.
Also just in front of my house by the front street are
clumps of Salmonberries (Rubus
spectabilis). They are stickery bushes that are
extremely common in damp areas of the
NorthWest. There are places down the street where
these plants cover large areas. As you can see, the
blossoms are small but have a pleasing dark pink color.
The berries range from a light orange to a deep red color.
The taste is rather bland I am afraid, but I make sure
that I don't eat them until they are good and ripe,
because they can be quite bitter otherwise. Once I was
eagerly gobbling some of these very ripe berries by the
Green River in Flaming Geyser park. These Salmonberries
were very ripe and had begun to separate from their base.
Unbeknownst to me large numbers of
(Dermaptera) had collected between the berries and their
cuplike base, and I discovered too late that I had been
happily munching on them!
is extremely common here (Not a plant, I know). It grows
especially well on branches and the bark of trees such as
the Red Alder and the Big Leaf Maple. Here is a photo I
took of a dead branch covered with lichens that had blown
down during a recent windstorm. You can see there are four
or five different forms. Since I have no taxonomic
knowledge of lichens, I can't begin to identify them. I
hope to remedy this ignorance since it irritates me not to
know what I am looking at. I just know that they are
roughly classified by shape--crustose, foliose, fruticose,
etc). Lichens are comprised of an algae (aquatic,
plant-like organism, usually green algae or cynanobacteria)
and a fungus (usually an Ascomycete) in a mutualistic
relationship where both partners help out the other. The
fungus, unable to make its own food protects the "photobiont"
and supplies water and minerals, and the algae in turn
produces food for the fungus through photosynthesis. Some
claim that the relationship is parasitic since the algae
can do very well without the fungus, but this seems to
ignore the fact that the fungus can protect the algae from
dessication, allowing both to live in extreme conditions
where the algae couldn't possibly live. Apparently this
habit of "lichenism" has
evolved many times and often the partners have a
variety of ancestors. In addition to being an example of
an interesting case of cooperation between two very
different organisms, lichen are important
fixers, taking free nitrogen from the air and making
it available to other plants. Thus the web of
interelationships gets quite complex.
Almost three hours ago, the sun passed over the equator heading
North...thus the Spring or Vernal equinox, when day and night is almost of
equal length. Of course we would not have seasons if it wasn't
for the axial tilt of the Earth (23.4 degrees). Well, there would be
some annual differences I suppose as the Earth cycled through it's
elliptical orbit about the Sun. Easter falls on the first Sunday after
the first full moon that falls on or after the Vernal Equinox.
About a week ago, I began having the unmistakable symptoms (sneezing,
"itchy eyes") that were indicative of Spring. I have tried to identify
the plant culprit, but I can only guess that it is the Red Alder (Alnus
rubra) which is wind pollinated and begins blooming at that
time. The streets are strewn with the male catkins just now and I'm sure
that this must the plant whose pollen irritates me so much.
Lots of rain yesterday with high winds, but today it was partly sunny
with gusty winds.
This wonderful Big-Leafed Maple (Acer
macrophyllum) is one of my favorites on my walk to the beach.It is only about two hundred yards from my place, and I always
have to stop and admire its moss-covered branches which are festooned
with the lovely epiphytic
Fern (Polypodium glycyrrhiza; aka P. vulgare).The Licorice Fern is called such because of its licorice-flavored
rhizomes.I usually see it growing in the thick moss
on the Big-leafed Maple, where it can be instantly identified by its
distinctive pointed tips.The Indians of the area
often chewed the rhizomes for their flavor, and they were used as a
medicine for sore throats and colds.
These ferns are luxuriant during the rainy season,
and I have seen them growing in great abundance on the eaves of an old
shed.They shrivel up, however, during the dry
months. The generic name, Polypodium, means many
feet which apparently applies to the footlike appearance of their
rhizomes. Glycyrrhiza means "sweet root" which refers to the fact that
the rhizomes contain ostadin, a steroid, which is three thousand times
sweeter than table sugar! No wonder that the people in this area used it
as a sweetener also.
Read a detailed description
here with a mention how these ferns have been involved in forming
polyploid species. Instant speciation involving
is a topic for later I think!
All the early spring flowers are pretty much in
bloom now. Forsythia,
crab apple, and of course camellias are blooming. The
camellias in this
area are amazing with large bushes tall as the eaves of a house being
common in the older sections of town, where they usually begin blooming
about the middle of January. I am always disappointed in the camellias
that I see, however, because they all seem to be touched with what I
call the "brown blight" which causes the petals to turn brown and ugly.
This is especially evident in the white camellias. Apparently this is
caused by a fungus.
The Great Northwest is a fungus heaven! I hope to photograph the many
mushrooms this coming autumn.
Western Trilliums (Trillium ovatum),
the beautiful early Spring wildflowers, are now blooming in the nearby
woods. As you can see the white flowers (sometimes pinkish or purplish
as they age) are arranged above three offset leaves or giving the plant
a pleasing symmetry. This set of "threes" is reflected in their name,
latin for "threes." The arrangement of threes is also reflected not only
in their petals and leaves but also the flower parts--sepals, stamens
(6) and stigma. They often occur in moist, shaded woodlands in this
area. I first encountered Trilliums in Northeastern Kansas and have also
observed them in Northeastern Iowa, and Maryland. Another common name is
"Wake Robin" since they appear in early spring about the time that
Robins become more active.
Apparently, ants carry the seeds back to their nest, where they eat an
oil-rich appendage (elaiosome) that is on the seeds. They then discard
what's left of the seeds and thus disperse the seeds in the quiet forest
floor. Some believe that this structure produces a pheromone that
elicits a "dead
corpse response" in the ants. This interesting hypothesis states
that the fatty acids in the oils of the elaiosomes of certain plants
have undergone convergent evolution to resemble those of arthropods
resulting in them being more attractive to carnivorous and omnivorous
ants (Hughes et al. 1994) . Apparently this mutualistic relationship is
common in eastern north America where ants disperse (myrmecohory) as
30% of the spring flowering herbaceous plant seeds in the deciduous
forests. The more I learn about the ecology of ant seed dispersal the
more interesting it gets. This great
discusses the entire subject and talks about how certain stick insects
lay eggs that look like seeds and are taken back to the ant nest and
cared for. The hatchlings of some species of these stick insects even
look and behave like the ants!
Hansen's site for it's interesting descriptions of his plants of the
Northwest that he offers for sale.
I went out and cleaned out some more of the dead bracken fern from the
flower beds this morning. The bracken fern is one of those annual ferns
that is so very common here. I'll take some photos soon of the edible
fiddle heads that are just now beginning to emerge from their winter
dormancy. They are beautiful when they first emerge and in the fall when
they turn a golden yellow, but they quickly become leggy and take over
your gardens and flower beds if you let them. Also they die back in the
winter and leave their unsightly brown foliage which has to be cleared
I also encountered on one of my walks a dead tree covered with
woodpecker holes. The common Pileated Woodpecker appears to have made
most of the holes, judging by their large rectangular appearance. These
are the types of trees that foresters, working for the most part for the
large timber companies such as Weyhauser, want to eliminate. They talk
of the diseases that they carry and advocate cleansing the forests of
such "trash." In a tree farm this might be the thing to do, but in a
balanced forest ecosystem, such dead trees provide an invaluable source
of food and living places for numerous species of insects, fungi,
amphibians, birds, etc.
Hughes,L; Westoby,M; Jurado,E (1994):
Convergence of elaiosomes and insect prey: evidence from ant foraging
behaviour and fatty acid composition. Funct. Ecol. 8, 358-365.
I just got back from seeing
"300" which as probably everybody knows is about the Spartan defense
of Greece at Thermopylae. I am not sure if many people in the
general population were aware of this battle and if they did, I'm
not sure if they realized its significance. I was really looking
forward to seeing it. It was interesting...more of a surrealist
version of the battle than an historical account. For people used to
the special effects in the movies today, it might not seem so
outlandish. The king of Persia, Xerxes, was really, really something
else. I found his seven foot, shaven, bejeweled, pierced,
androgynous figure with its enhanced voice, most...well interesting.
I also was trying to place the accents on the actors, but never
could quiet place them. With all my reservations, I enjoyed it
greatly. I guess the thing that I was most disappointed with was
that the battle scenes showed less of the coordinated action of the
Spartan phalanx and more of individuals fighting separately. The
battle scenes themselves, however, were quite awesome, sometimes in
slow motion and resembling an intricate dance. I recommend it highly
and give it four stars (****).
I just got in the mail two books on Darwin. Actually one book, the
first in a two volume biography by Janet Brown, was about
Darwin, and the other was by Darwin. Or rather it was a
compendium of his books: From so Simple a beginning:
Voyage of the Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, and
The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals, with a forward
by that eminent biologist Edward O. Wilson. I have read Brown's
excellent second volume (got it on sale at Half-Priced Books) and
enjoyed it immensely. I look forward to pleasant hours ahead.
I made a mistake. Those early blooming shrubs that I mentioned a couple
of posts ago were NOT Hazelnuts. About an hour ago, I saw one of these
shrubs at the edge of the woods across the street from me. I saw
immediately upon examination that they were not the catkins typical of
Hazelnuts but were a dangling cluster of white flowers. I took a photo
and then immediately went back to see if I could
identify this bush. I have seen it for years since in early March it
is the very first plant in the forest understory to leaf forth and
Apparently it is the
Indian Plum (Oemieria cerasiformis)
which in the fall produces blue black fruits about a cm in diameter.
Small plum, huh? It is described as being one of the first plants to
flower in the Spring. The flowers are described as being similiar to
watermelon rind and cat urine in fragrance. The leaves smell like
cucumbers. Ok, hold on I'll be back.
I just went out and confirmed that the leaves and blossoms definitely
have a cucumber/watermelon rind smell and there is also an unpleasant
hint of musk. Ok, I guess this really is
Oemieria cerasiformis until I
find out differently. The Indians of the Northwestern U.S. used the bark
to make an astringent tea with purgative qualities. Tasting the twig I
find it quite bitter. Apparently the native people also chewed the twigs
and applied it to sore places. It seems that any plant that tastes
bitter or nasty is often used in some sort of medicinal way...strange.
Here is a very good article from a grower and seller of the plant
who says that the fruit might have cyanide in it! Interestingly he
always says that another name for it is Skunkbush. :)
No wait...we lost time (counting on
fingers). Daylight Savings Time came early...seems like this was decided
upon as a means to save energy. I think that I also heard that some
companys stood to make millions over this decision. I dunno... I set all my clocks ahead yesterday
afternoon so I wouldn't have to do it when I came home early this
morning. Then I woke up two hours earlier than I normally do and
couldn't go back to sleep.
The Pineapple Express still is
tearing through the area today...a steady good rain with wind about 25
mph from the Southwest. I enjoyed watching it as I sipped my hot coffee
this morning. The rain overflows from the eaves and falls on some metal
sheets that I put up to protect the shingles. This is right outside my
second floor bedroom window and provides a soothing splashing that lulls
me to sleep.
The leaf buds on my lilac bush began to swell over a month ago, and now
the hazelnuts are blooming in the forests with their long catkins
hanging down and the first hint of new green leaves. Crocuses are
emerging, but only open up in the sun. Flowering crabapple trees are
also beginning to bloom. Early daffodils have been blooming for a couple
of weeks now.
A few days ago we had the first warmish day, it got up to 58 here! Now
another of those Pineapple Express rain fronts is beginning to come
I got some interesting books the other day.
One was on the Permian extinction when as much as 95% of life
disappeared, possibly due to Global Warming. The others dealt with
Natural History themes which interest me, for example, the relationship
of surface area and volume with all its implications. I think I'll write
a paper on this topic.
I just heard somebody say that they didn't want to die with their song
unsung. I got to thinking about this, and wondered about how common this
phenomenon is, how many people really go through their lives and never
live their dreams...never really sing the song that is playing within.
We go through our lives making our living, working long hours perhaps,
putting off until "later" our dreams and our aspirations. Then we wake
up some day and realize that there is no more time, that we must put up
or shut up, and then we wonder just where all the time went and wish
that we had lived our dreams and sung our songs all along during our
life when we were busy making a living.
So...now, today, begin to sing your song; begin to live your life. Start
in small ways if you must. Take a moment, look around, examine your
senses, take a deep breath, see the beauty...the wonder of this
incredible universe. And then do something that you really want to do.
You don't know what you want to do? Make a plan for your life, write
down your goals and then write down how you can achieve them. Too old
you say? Never! Use the time you have, take your life and squeeze the
juices out...drink deep!
I'm at the end of another semester. Tomorrow is the final, and I just
recorded the grades on my grade sheets so that tomorrow all I have to do
is to record the final exam grade, let the computer do all the averaging
and then post them online. Then a couple of weeks between semesters to
refresh my batteries. And I actually will get two days off next week,
the first in a month!
There I was, sitting in the bright sunlight, reading my Darwin book at
Cutter's Point. I happened to look down and notice my hand which was
exposed to the sun. On my hand were innumerable bright points of light
that were going on and off. I looked closer at what appeared to be a
miniature Christmas light display. Apparently in the heat of the sun,
miniscule drops of perspiration were oozing out of my sweat glands and
then evaporating as soon as they emerged. I wiped my hand, feeling no
wetness and noticing none. The scintillating points disappeared only to
gradually reappear as they emerged from the pores.
For some reason I was entranced by this. Hey, I never said I wasn't
A pretty day today, after a week with no time off. I might get next
Thursday off, but none scheduled for the week after next. Another
birthday today, and I wonder how long the old bod will hold out.
I saw Jes yesterday and gave her my digital Mavica CD for her to take to
the coast this weekend with Craig. It is a great little camera,
recording on mini-cds which are very cheap, and it takes great photos. I
haven't used it that much since getting my Nikons last Spring, one for
the Panama trip and another SLR soon after.
Yes, I really should...but sometimes it is so hard! Sitting here in
Cutter's Point, I have been subjected to this unrelenting account by a
woman who went into excruciating detail about: her family and how they
are buying a new dog which is by far the best breed there is; her
daughter's dealings with the Girl Scouts and the problems that the
mother had with the behavior of the other girls and how their parents
refused to discipline them; the buying of her new house with detailed
descriptions of the walls, the floors, the kitchen and her criticisms of
her neighbor's taste in houses; her accounts of meeting her old high
school friends with criticisms of their life style and their clothes,
and...well, you get the idea. All this wouldn't be so bad if she didn't
talk in this whiney voice that you could hear all over the shop. She
wasn't talking loudly, but lord god almighty it was penetrating! I tried
to shut her out and tend to my business, but it was hard with her
sitting right beside me. I should have moved you say? Possibly, but I
was settled and wanted to finish editing some photographs and saving
them to disc, and I was right in the middle of it.
Maybe I just like to complain. Come to think about it, complaining is
one of my few pleasures in life. It gives me exquisite satisfaction
to...oh my god, the man's cell phone is ringing with this really, really
loud ring! I gotta go!
Do you ever have times when you become intensely aware of your
existence? When your senses seem to awaken, and you become aware of the
breaths that you draw, the feel of the clothes on your body, the small
subtle sensations, the tiny messages that your body sends you, telling
you where all the parts are, your feet here, your arms there? Sounds
become sharper, smells and then you think that there will come a time
when all this will cease--no more breaths, no more sensations, when we
all will return to...to what? Time then becomes precious. I want to
squeeze each golden moment, and I regret so much time squandered through
the years. But...the moment passes and life continues, this incredible
existence rushes along like a locomotive through dark shifting mist,
full of rushing sound and wind, hanging out the window, eyes streaming,
squinting, searching the track ahead in the dim light.
It's very difficult to live life in the now; we are always thinking back
to he past or forward to the future. Now takes care of itself,
unappreciated and ignored. Hopefully I can learn to live more in the
I'm reading a couple of interesting books (actually I have about 11
that I am currently reading): one about Synchronicity (Synchronicity:
Science, Myth, and the Trickster by Allan Combs and Mark Holland)
and one is a biography of Mark Twain. This is in itself a case of
synchronicity since Mark Twain wrote about incredible coincidences in
his own life. The idea of synchronicity is not simply the idea of
unlikely coincidences according to Jung, but it should be logically
meaningful to the person experiencing it and should express some
underlying pattern that is not apparent.
"Synchronicity explains "meaningful
coincidences," such as a beetle flying into his room while a patient
was describing a dream about a scarab. The scarab is an Egyptian
symbol of rebirth, he noted [Jung]. Therefore, the propitious moment
of the flying beetle indicated that the transcendental meaning of both
the scarab in the dream and the insect in the room was that the
patient needed to be liberated from her excessive rationalism. His
notion of synchronicity is that there is an acausal principle that
links events having a similar meaning by their coincidence in time
rather than sequentially. He claimed that there is a synchrony between
the mind and the phenomenal world of perception. "
"Let us recall that according to
Jung, synchronicity is a coincidence charged with a sense (meaning)
between the interior psychic state of a person and an event of the
objective exterior universe." (Moisset)
Of course the occurrence of unlikely coincidences is usually
attributed to the laws of probability, and since it is not testable
then it certainly is not scientific. Personally I have experienced
such events, and although I have had training in various sciences, I
still find it hard to attribute all of these happenings to mere
chance. For now however, these phemenona don't appear to be readily
amenable to the scientific method although the quantum physicists
Pauli provided a theoretical framework upon which one might base
these occurrences. This is a huge area of interest which I intend to
Mark Twain has been one of my favorite authors since I was the age of
six when my mother read Tom Sawyer to me. I was to set the pattern for
the rest of my life with books that I l ike by reading and rereading
this book until I could quote passages from it by the age of ten. In
addition to his having had various synchronistic events in his life,
he also once had a vivid dream about his brother's death which came
true in all its particulars. His mother always said he was psychic
from an early age. I used to be totally skeptical about such things
until I and some members of my family experienced a few of these
unusual happenings. The trouble with this field is that there have
been so many credulous and superstituous people making some
preposterous claims. There should be more scientific inquiry into the
I am looking at a small leafless Japanese Maple in a large planter
outside the window where I am sitting and drinking coffee. It appears to
be covered in tiny sparkling jewels, shimmering drops of water from the
heavy fog that shrouds everything. As I walked to my car last night,
sheets of mist fell slowly, reminding me of a time long ago when I
delivered papers early in the morning. Then a light mist was falling and
each time a tiny droplet hit my eye, the street lights, the entire
universe suddenly and briefly went out of focus. It was a momentary
blurring before my vision cleared...and then the next droplet and
The other night was a full moon and fog. The moonlight lit the fog up
and made everything appear to be floating in a bright, numinous void.
Black silhouettes of trees, the glowing shifting fog...and off in the
distance the mournful lowing of a fog horn.
I like to take photographs in mist...like the above: "Looking Towards
Since it was a beautiful sunny day today (after the fog burned off),
and since it was Sunday with less traffic on the bridge, and since the
last two spans of the new Puget Sound Narrows Bridge are poised to be
put in place, I thought I would walk out onto it and take some photos.
I began taking photos of this new addition to the existing bridge back
several years ago before the construction had actually begun and have
continued ever since. This new bridge parallels the existing bridge
and is being added at great expense (to be paid by tolls!) and great
effort to relief the traffic that has resulted from the cancerous
population growth that has occurred in the region.
The last two spans are about to be placed. Each span is about as large
as an apartment building and have been brought into position under the
bridge by two different ships. Specialized cranes then lift the bridge
sections into position where they are bolted together to create the
mile plus span that is needed to reach across the "narrows" of Puget
Sound. Instead of trying to fit the last two sections into the space
that is left (about 8 millimeters of clearance), the workers will pull
the entire existing span to one side to allow more room to put the new
sections in. Since this will be done any day now, I wanted to
photograph the last two spaces with the spans hanging just below ready
to be moved in.
I was shooed away by a security guard when I attempted to walk down
what was once a pedestrian walk on the north side but which now has
been covered with plastic and sandbags. I was told to walk a couple of
hundred yards away to enter the new pedestrian walk way which was set
off by a series of rubber boots on the new highway. I did this,
passing past piles of equipment and earth moving machines that was
stored on the new highway leading to the new bridge. Most of this
highway has been completed, with the finishing touches now being
applied. I walked out onto the old bridge, which I really don't like
to do because the only thing separating me on the narrow walk from the
traffic whizzing by four feet away is a raised curb or pipe about ten
inches high. The buffeting wind from the traffic also tends to blow my
hat off, and I have to always hold tight to it.
Coming back after I had taken numerous photos (I will soon put them on
my website, texified.com), I was eyeing my car which was parked near
the top of the old walkway above and to the side of the new highway,
and was thinking that I could make a quick dash up the slope (since I
didn't see the guard) and save myself a longer walk (as if I don't
need it). Just when I was about to make the dash, I saw the guard's
pickup approaching the top of the old walkway. He got out and began
putting warning tape across the entrance. I continued nonchantly on my
way to the "approved" entrance and passed a family who had driven
their car past the barriers and was proceeding down to the entrance to
the bridge where all the equipment was stored. "Oh," I muttered to
myself, "you are going to be sahree!" Sure enough as I finally made my
way back to the road and had turned back toward my car, I saw the
guard hurriedly jump into his truck and speed off around the block to
the entrance to confront the intruders. Meanwhile the family had
parked amongst the piles of equipment stored at the north entrance to
the new bridge and numerous children, dogs and grownups piled out and
began cavorting about. Children runnng amongst the equipment, dogs
barking and chasing them...everybody having a grand old time. I
wondered how the party intended to go out onto the bridge as I had
done with all the running kids and dogs. It took a while for the guard
to drive around the block to the entrance, and by the time he had sped
hurriedly down to the hapless family, they all were making their way
to the pedestrian walk on the old bridge. I could only imagine the
conversation that ensued, but I saw the apparent father of the brood
tale off chasing the children with the dogs barking at his heels as I
got into my car and drove off.
I mean it! I'm tired of meeting people and all they talk about is the
weather. I am ready for the weather to fall once again into the realm
of the ho-hum. Last Wednesday we had a big weather system come in and
dump about 5-7 inches of snow. It immediately cleared and then became
very cold. The ice and cold continued slowly melting until yesterday
morning when another 3 inches fell on top of the existing ice. It
wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for my driveway. It's long and steep
and almost impassable when covered in ice. Fortunately my little Ford
Escape with its four wheel drive makes it with little problem (until
last night when I almost slid off the driveway and down the slope;
also the other day when I was coming down the driveway, I began to
slide and saw my neighbor's car parked at the bottom. Knowing I
couldn't stop, I began to honk wildly...fortunately she pulled forward
just before I hit her). It also does very well with the icy roads. In
fact I would have little difficulty in getting around if it wasn't for
the other drivers. Some creep along at 6 miles per hour and drive me
to distraction and others blaze along throwing slush everywhere,
acting as if their four wheel drives renders them immune to the laws
of Physics. It seems to be finally getting above freezing now though
and melting seems to have set in.
Have you noticed that it is actually a special time just after or
during a snow? It is very quiet, the birds are silent and everything
is covered with all this beautiful snow...sometimes all you can hear
is the soundless sound of snowflakes or the plop of snow falling from
a tree branch.
I'm afraid that I haven't made any New Year's resolutions. After years
of breaking them, I tend to not make any, although it is a good time
to turn over some new leaves. I did determine that I would go out very
early this morning and take some photographs--if it wasn't cloudy and
rainy, which of course it was. Up here if you wait until you have good
weather before attempting anything, you may have to wait quite a
I DID clean up my room and begin taking down Christmas decorations,
however. I have accumulated quite a number of picture frames, now it
is time to begin putting photographs in them and hanging them. I think
that tomorrow I shall dig out some of my old slides (Kodachrome 64)
that survived the fire and see if I can scan them. They are the only
remnants from my extensive collection of photographs and negatives.
All the negatives were destroyed and I only have these slides from
that era of my life.
I watched some television yesterday--something that I rarely do. I
watched some of President Ford's funeral and a bit of news, including
the hanging of Saddam Hussein. I was surprised at the unprofessional
atmosphere of his hanging. People yelling slogans, accusations, Saddam
himself answering them in a calm sort of way. I'm afraid he came off
much better than his executioners in the way that he conducted
himself...chastizing them for acting in such a way. Afterwards the
scenes of people dancing in the streets brought home to me just how
different our cultures are.
Today it is very sunny with blue skies and a mild breeze. The Narrows
Bridge is having its final bridge decks raised, including the ones
that go between the uprights. This has to be done very carefully since
there is only a quarter of an inch clearance between the bridge deck
and the upright towers. See my web site (texified.com)
for photographs of the bridge and bridge decks that are being raised
from the ships below.
This is the last day of 2006. I remember long ago that the idea of
actually living into the 2000's seemed something so unlikely that it
seemed like science fiction. Now I am typing this on an instrument
that I couldn't even imagine back then, much less the idea of an
I am interrupting my vacation by working my days off, and by working
my holiday, New Years Day. This way I can use up my vacation time (use
it or lose it!) and make a bit of change in the process.
day after a storm yesterday, and I picked small branches off my car
and driveway. I took the opportunity offered by the good weather to
clean my car out. It was full of books and coats mainly. I emptied it
out and vacuumed it. It's amazing what such a change can make in how
the car drives :). I also drove
out to Fife (the city that sold its soul to the Devil) and visited
Brown and Haleys the makers of Almond Roca, et al. I bought lots of
variations on their Almond Roca. Their candy is amazing. I have to
stay away from it though and bought this mainly for gifts. I say that Fife
is the city that sold it's soul to the Devil because it actually is.
It was a nice community when I came out here in 1980. Large poplars
lined its streets and many farms took advantage of the rich alluvial
soil of the Puyallup River which flows milky with glacial melt from
Mount Rainier to Puget Sound. The flat river bottoms proved to be
ideal places for factories and industries of all kinds. The entire place
has turned into an industrial park, interspersed with an almost
continual row of car and rv dealerships lining I-5. The poplars are
gone (old and dangerous the city elders said) and the apartments which
have sprung up amongst the car dealerships are revealed in all their
starkness. The city has the highest income of any other city its size
in the state of Washington from...traffic tickets. Nobody I know
willingly drives through this benighted berg after dark because of the
danger of being pulled over by the local gendarme for...dim license
plate lights among other excuses (I was stopped for my license plate
light being out)--any excuse will do for them to pull you over while
they do a computer search in the hopes that they can stick you for
something more serious. I used to take
a short cut through Fife on the way to work and passed homes with
these fantastic western cedars growing in their yard. I recently
passed that way only to see that the homes were gone and so were the
great cedars--except for their stumps. Another industrial plant was
going up. I couldn't understand why the trees had to go though since
they were on the margin of the property. I guess the beautiful trees
weren't part of the image the company was trying to project. Part of the
city is on an Indian Reservation. Because of this they are able to
have gambling casinos with their large lighted signs. They are able to
skirt the laws regulating billboards and I-5 which passes through Fife
is lined with huge billboards lit up like Christmas trees, flashing
their message to passerbys. At night this presents a definite safety
hazard with the large animated signs dazzling one's eyes. It seems
incongrous that Native Americans, so often protrayed as "keeper's of
mother earth," would flaunt the environmental regulations in such a
I had the best Christmas present that I could
ever ask for...Jessica, my daughter, is officially engaged. She made the
announcement and showed me the ring Christmas day. I mean it's not as if
they weren't planning on getting married, but now it's official :).
Also she made straight A's on the courses she is
taking! Wow...that really made my day. Steve also came over and we all
had an enjoyable Christmas day. Even the weather was cooperating with
sunshine and blue skies. It is raining again today of course, and this
afternoon the Choi's came over for a nice supper.
It is nice to relax for a bit since I haven't had
any days off this month. Last week I worked 37 hrs of overtime and 28.5
hrs the previous week making a total of 66.5 hrs of overtime for the
past two weeks. It would have been over seventy if it hadn't been for
the power failure during the windstorm Thursday before last (70 mph).
Sunday, November 19, 2006
about 7 am, in between the storms, I happened to see this view of Mount
Rainier. The Narrows Bridge is currently being added to with a
second parallel bridge. See
here for more pics of
the deck raising.
For over two weeks there has been an almost unrelenting wave of rain storms sweeping in from the Southwest. I have awakened innumerable times to things hitting the roof, blown off from the surrounding trees, and then hearing the sound of whatever it was rolling down the roof. Probably mostly Douglas Fir cones since they are the few things that will roll, but lots of twigs, small branches have also been blown helter skelter over the roof and yard. But now I sit here, bathed in sunlight at Cutter's Point, drinking hot coffee and enjoying the warmth. In fact it is so warm here that I had to take off my sweat shirt. I got up just after 7 am to blow off the driveway, deck and street. The accumulation of fir needles, leaves, twigs and cones had reached such a depth that it was embarassing especially when my next door neighbor, with his powerful leaf blower, continually blows not only his driveway off and the street in front of the house, but he also blows the street in front of my house! It took just over an hour and used up one tank of gas in my puny leaf blower. Much of the driveway was still wet and the fir needles were almost impossible to blow off. On my deck it was so wet that it was
impossible to get it all. I don't even try to use the blower on the
needles until it dries off somewhat
Ok, now the democrats have a chance to show everybody how they will
handle all the pressing problems. Funny thing is that I never heard very
much about their plans before
the recent election during which they won control of congress, so I am
doubtful that anything workable will be presented. Politics as usual...
Lessee...oh yes, there was one and a half days of nonrain this week. Now
it's back to normal (looking out at the television-monitor grey sky and
the drizzle, the windshield wipers, the dimples of rain in the puddles).
Yesterday, going into the library, I heard a hoarse croak and looked up
to see what appeared to be a Raven in the top of a Douglas Fir. Wanting
to make sure, since I rarely seem them in the lowlands here, I rushed
back to my car and took out the binoculars to take a look. As I did
another one joined the first. Yep, there was no doubt as I looked at the
thick beak and the raggedy appearance of its neck feathers as it bent
over to give some more croaks. I have never seen them in this immediate
area until about a year ago. I see them in the mountains fairly commonly
though. The crows, which they resemble, seem to have a built in
antipathy toward the ravens and often mob them as they do owls, hawks
and eagles. Perhaps the Raven prey upon their young.
I am working straight through this week with no days off, and I have to
whine a bit. Sniff...too bad I can't resist the money.
Last night I checked out Hotel Angela in Bocas del Toro, Panama. That
was my favorite place during my visit to Panama last Spring. It showed
that the weather was in the eighties with rain expected every day this
week. How fondly I remember sitting out on the covered deck/dining room
over the waters of the Carribean, drinking hot coffee, watching the sun
rise, and checking out the reef fish feeding in the pilings by my table.
I must go back if only for that.
continued all day until about 3:30 pm, when the sky cleared and the
sun came out. The rivers are still high and running over their
banks, but for two days or so the rain should let up before another
rain storm moves in.
I was trying to get my home network set up with Network
Magic which coordinates all the computers on a person's home net. It
seemed to be working fine until I tried to adjust it so that all the
computers could share the common printer. The program would freeze
up each time I tried it.
Everybody knows the reputation that
the northwest has for rain, but this is ridiculous. It has been
raining steadily since last Friday (this is Wednesday!). The
news agencies, paragons of understatement, shout that this is a
record breaking storm (storm? It's just rain with a little
breeze!), which may dump as much as ten inches. It does get a
mite damp, however, and I find myself yearning for a bit of sun
and it's only November.