Thursday, November 28, 2019

tusk hunters unearth "dogor"

Doggone it! How an 18,000-year-old puppy could change everything we know about dogs

Dogor was two months old when he died and has been well preserved in the Siberian ice. But is he an early modern wolf – or one of the world’s very oldest domesticated dogs?

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

gene-edited babies?

Glad to think someone -- in this case The Guardian?/Associated Press, I guess, is keeping an eye this one 
Chinese scientist He Jiankui shocked the world by claiming he had helped make the first gene-edited babies. One year later, mystery surrounds his fate as well as theirs.
He has not been seen publicly since January, his work has not been published and nothing is known about the health of the babies.
“That’s the story — it’s all cloaked in secrecy, which is not productive for the advance of understanding,” said Stanford bioethicist Dr. William Hurlbut.
He talked with Hurlbut many times before He revealed at a Hong Kong science conference that he had used a tool called CRISPR to alter a gene in embryos to try to help them resist infection with the AIDS virus. The work, which He discussed in exclusive interviews with The Associated Press, was denounced as medically unnecessary and unethical because of possible harm to other genes and because the DNA changes can pass to future generations.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

new stuff

My daughter and her husband are adopting a dog... Sugar ... a beagle... hales from Arkansas and is thus pronounced without the 'r' I gather ... "shuga." They plan to pick up the dog Friday next in Maine.

My older son is settling down with his live-with into a newish used house in Marietta, Ga.

My younger son keeps a stony silence about his interview upcoming with the UMass police department. Waiting is always 90% of the battle.

On the porch, my wife discovered a birds nest in the making and shooed it away. I see no reason not to share the porch with the birds, but my wife finds it invasive.

I want to apologize to the birds, but it's too late now.

On the TV, a tale teller made a distinction between telling tales and joining the political fray to re-arrange or reform the tale. I like the distinction. Tale telling is not the same as the need to do something about the content of that tale.

As for example the incomplete tale of Catafalque Rambassoon, whose body was found a presumed day or two after his death. His layout was as neat as he had planned it. Catafalque lay smooth in bed. Sheets, coverlet ... everything neat. He knew he was on the lip of something new and had instructed Ermina, the woman who came Tuesdays to clean: If anything was out of alignment, would she please rearrange it so as to make the least possible splash in death. Ermina, a woman who was not afraid of death, followed his wishes and tucked in Catafalque's left foot under the covers from which it peeked. Catafalque was a man of neatness, both on the bed and off. A so his body was found, smooth as warmed honey, lying supine where he lay.

Likewise the pocket detritus on the bedstand table -- a pocket watch, a silver quarter, a .32 caliber live round whose copper and brass were scratched here and there to the brilliance of raw metal
... and the rest was dulled from riding so long in his pocket. Catafalque -- who chose his first name when he was 10, wanted the bed-stand to tell a tale or two, though which tale, precisely, he was never entirely precise.

Good to her word, Ermina tucked the errant foot under the coverlet, smoothed the sheets, smiled at the corpse, and called the authorities. The authorities came, pronounced Catafalque dead, which struck Ermina as slightly silly, and leveraged the body into an ambulance that was currently not being used.

At 10, Catafalque had taken his father at his word and chosen a given name that seemed to gambol with the family moniker. At 10, the choice boiled down to a flip of the quarter ... heads for "Fontainebleau" and tails for "Catafalque."

One thing was for sure, he wasn't going to stick with the name on his birth certificate, "Chauncey." And so, for 70+ or minus years ... he had become Catafalque, a nice enough man who preferred the poetry and roll of names. A smooth man who had died, to all appearances and with Ermina's help, smoothly.

Rambassoon, a name out of the deep Pacific Ocean, far from "far away." "Ulyanov" was a name toyed with but carried too much baggage. So, "Fontainebleau" or "Catfalque" and the quarter chose "Catafalque." ... chosen at 10 years old. Smooth and oiled and quiet on the tracks of the announcement, "Catafalque Rambassoon."

And a single live round amid the various bits of lint.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

feeding frenzies on Atlantic shores

I have yet to find the news outlet that ignores U.S. gryrations on the presidential impeachment front in the same way the rest of the world appears to be. That on the one hand. And, across the pond, winkle out a news outlet that is not chasing its tail on the on-again-off-again exit of Britain from the European Union. (Brexit)

Where is the rest of the news. I can't keep up with the impeachment players.
I can't keep up with the Brexit players.
The feeding frenzy on both sides of the Atlantic suggests to me that Turkey and Israel have open season on their lesser opponents. China, of course, keeps its head down and keeps on keepin' on.

Imagine that: Bibi Netanyahu and Donald Trump swept back into office. Plausible deniability. The oligarchs get what they want and the rest of us get ....

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

people given a taste of hibernation

Humans put into suspended animation for first time
Groundbreaking trial in US rapidly cools trauma victims with catastrophic injury to buy more time for surgery.....
Nasa considers that full-on hibernation for interstellar travel is still a distant prospect. The US space agency is instead investigating ways of putting astronauts into a torpor, so reducing their metabolism for extended periods.

Friday, November 15, 2019

dumb is preferable?

Worth observing?

A question I don't know how to state clearly ... but something like this:

In a comedy movie, perhaps, a rap-happy black person comes head to head with a well-educated white person. The comedy rests on the fact that the well-educated (wo)man struggles to bring his or her lingo in sych with the black person's rap. The flubs are endless.

I can think of zero instances in which the rat-a-tat-tat rapper attempts to bring his or her linguistic abilities to align with the educated (wo)man's capacities.

This needs to be stated more clearly and I can't seem to do it. The dumber version invariably wins out. The smarter version is left to languish. Why is the one acceptable and even funny, while the other is not?

This needs to be brushed off and clarified. I feel inadequate to the task and yet think it is an interesting social question. Why is dumber better or more acceptable or whatever?

Why is "nucular" acceptable when the word is "nuclear," for a small side-light example. Why is "ast" OK when the word is "ask?"

There's a question in here somewhere ....

I'll come back to it, perhaps.

journalistic dream team

It's the second day of "impeachment" hearings in Washington. They're rioting in South America. Hong Kong awaits the iron fist of China. It's all important, but I have a hell of a time detemining what, exactly, "it" is.

Jeepers, creepers.

Since fantasy football is acceptable these days, I thought I would start compiling a fantasy news team -- a grouping of people who remain somehow top-drawer in my ill-informed book.

1. Mark Shields -- a reporter's reporter.
2. Rachel Maddow -- a woman who seems never to run out of ways to ask the question without ever stating it: "Are you shitting me?!"

The rest of the reportorial prairie seems to be peopled by well-made-up and well-paid players who have good dentists. I guess there are others that belong on my list, and perhaps I will add to it, but these two strike me as remaining true to some form of journalistic quality... and a willingness to smile or even laugh.

Connect the dots, and do it in mouth-sized portions.

I don't really understand: Don't I get to understand what the fuck is going on?

Is it possible that a latter-day version of the "Valentine's Day Massacre" is needed ... just take 'em out behind the barn and shoot 'em.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

details, details.....

Ever notice ? --

1. Horses ridden in western adventure movies are uniformly spic and span, whereas anyone who has ever curried a horse knows it gathers caked-on shit on its flanks and some portion of the belly before it is dutifully scrubbed. Tack, though harder to see, is also spiffy with much care and little use.

2. The underside of human shoes in TV movies are almost always a brand-new-leather color between the heel and where the toe-portion of the sole hits the ground.

3. Autos out of the 1930's 1940's and 1950's(and earlier/later) in retro movies almost never show a spot of mud or slush .... always in spanking-new, perfectly-waxed condition.

I'd like to get paid as much as the worker who gets a paycheck and yet overlooks such details or cannot get the changes past cost-conscious executives.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Trump for sale?

Of note of late:

1. The piece of apple pie my neighbor Joe gave me the other day was THE BEST PIECE OF APPLE PIE I HAVE EVER EATEN. The pie was so good that plans to share it evaporated as I inhaled it. To run into "the best" anything at the age of 69 is rare as hen's teeth.

2. I can no longer watch the news. Specificially, I cannot keep up with the impeachment players and more than that, everyone on the news shows seems to talk too fast. Literally, I cannot keep up. Literally, I am confused. Literally, it's no longer worth the price of admission. It all seems important and my brain cannot absorb and process that seriousness. I feel better when I stop trying to keep up and I like feeling better.

3. I am sick of being confused.

This passed-along satire (why is it satire?) eased the gaff a bit:

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report)—The former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg upended the 2020 Presidential race on Friday by offering Donald J. Trump ten billion dollars to leave the White House by the end of the day.
“I will deposit ten billion dollars into your account in Moscow, Riyadh, or wherever you do your banking these days,” Bloomberg announced. “All you have to do is go.”
In addition to the ten-billion-dollar offer, Bloomberg told Trump that he would cover the moving expenses of Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Kellyanne Conway, and any other associates “that you haven’t already gotten rid of.”
On Capitol Hill, congressional Democrats expressed sadness that Bloomberg’s offer, if successful, would eliminate the need for impeachment, which many of them had been looking forward to.
But Representative Adam Schiff of California struck a more philosophical note. “If ten billion dollars gets rid of Donald Trump, that’s a quid pro quo I’m okay with,” he said.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

ice eggs in Finland

A rare collection of “ice eggs” has been spotted in Finland, a phenomenon experts say only occurs in highly particular conditions.
Risto Mattila, who photographed the eggs, said he and his wife were walking along Marjaniemi beach on Hailuoto island on Sunday when they came across the icy balls covering a 30-metre (98ft) expanse of shoreline.

N.Z. climate change

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

real apple pie

Gift from the gods....

Joe, my neighbor across the street, brought me a piece of apple pie he had made from apples on land he owns in Canada. Spies apples among the mixture. Deeeeeee-licious. Real apple pie. Gawd! When you eat store-bought drivel long enough, real apple pie is a blessing and a half.

Or anyway, I would eat it eight days a week.

fear of the perfect

Watching Public Television's "Frontline" take on artificial intelligence last night, I tried to sort out what it was that was scaring me bone-deep to death.

The best I could come up with was "perfection."

I am a lover of beauty and what is beautiful about human beings is their imperfection -- an imperfection that artificial intelligence is hell-bent on eradicating.

If everything becomes perfect, how perfectly imperfect is that? A world without beauty is a world minus any semblance of beauty. It may sound like gobbletygook, but it is no laughing matter for me.

Tyrants of all sorts are dipping their oars into such perfected waters. The rulers will rule. Things will be perfect. Is this the time to leap into the leaf shredder? Without imperfection, what room is there for humanity, for vision, for juiciness?

The perfect widget (car, computer part, whatever). The perfect mind. The perfect intelligence.

Oh well, someone will cope...

I hope.

Anyway, it scared the pants off me.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

blame the electorate

Another loser:

OK – you can feel the political stampede gathering strength – politicians hustling for the bolt holes that will exclude them from the lash of Donald Trump’s collapse. Republicans didn’t do it. Democrats didn’t do it. I know – let’s blame the electorate!

Well, as part of that electorate – and seeking to make some common cause with Joe Palermo’s (10/23/19) letter to the Gazette – I would like to remind Republicans and Democrats alike: I get it: You want the money Trump could generate … but not the blame. May I ask where you were when the heat was hottest? Sure, you are a principled person who never liked Trump – but did you speak out? Did you really speak out? I doubt it.

Yes, the MONEY, Money that could assure re-election. Money that would assure others could see you in a principled light. I’m sorry, but I choose not to bite down on that bit of bait.

Rather than a principled person who spoke up for ‘democracy’, I choose to remember the enablers who extended Mr. Trump’s tenure (through namby-pamby doubts or outright silences) and filled the re-election coffers. In this sense, politicians like Richard Neal (never knew an issue he couldn’t be silent about) is not that different from toe-the-mark Republicans.)

Democracy, as Palermo asserts, may be fragile, but who was it who contributed to that fragility most directly? Was it something as conveniently vague as “the electorate?” Bottom line: It’s the money, honey. As a member of the electorate, I decline to don the mantle of an enabler. Was I confused? Yes. Angry? You bet. Dismayed? Yes, and then some. All that and a lot more. But no one hired me into a role as an honest broker who might lead.

OK, you’ve got the money. Now shoulder the responsibility. Where were your principled stances when principled stances were most needed? If you’re such a good guy, I hesitate to think what a bad guy might look like.

Maybe we should re-elect Donald Trump?

viva the victims

Sent out but apparently not making the cut:

Is anyone else sick of “victims?” I am. It seems that not a day goes by without some new and improved victim to point out and parse.

Donald Trump is a victim.
A woman who had her behind grabbed 20 years ago is a victim.
Liberals are a victim.
Democracy is a victim.
Israelis, like Palestinians, are a victim.
Empathy is a victim.
Black lives matter … another victim.
Conservatives are a victim.
The economy and weather and ecology are a victim.
Choir boys and priests are a victim.
Those who live in the stratosphere of wealth and the perennial magma of red ink are victims.
Free speech like speech sequestered is a victim.
News outlets are a victim.

Pick your day.
Pick your victim.

Dawn breaks and I’m in no hurry to enter full consciousness, not least because I know it will entail bringing my attention to some newly-revised world of victim-hood. Whether it’s the moral cowardice of the White House or the black-face someone donned as a teenager in the distant past, I can feel it out there, waiting like a catamount: I am the victim. Sleep is preferable in those early hours. Victims await.

Well, I’m tired of it and offer a possible world of pushback for those who may likewise be sick of victims and victim-hood. It’s just a small exercise that declines the bait.

Take it slow. Take it a step at a time. Take a page from the Christian playbook. I have no special preference for or against Christians, but good advice is where you find it: On the seventh day, God rested. If God can rest, so can man and taking a break from victim-hood might be a good starting point. So….

Today, for just five minutes perhaps, practice imagining that no matter what happens, there is no victim. Hell, it’s just five minutes. Since nothing is going to change, you might as well go with the flow. This…is…it. Just five minutes. Or even one.

No victims need apply.

And when the minute or five is complete?

We now return you to your scheduled broadcast.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

top of the mediocre mountain

Most, when ascending the ladder of some new-found interest, look to their betters for instruction. For example, the newly-anointed tennis interest is oiled and honed on those whose edges are demonstrably sharper.

But it occurs to me that those of demonstrable skill would be put to the real test by playing against those of demonstrably lesser capacity. Can the real "pro" keep sharp in the face of such obvious mediocrity? Why not just relax into an obvious victory? Will the real "pro" release his or her grip and coast or will s/he play his or her best game ever?

It's no mean feat, I suspect.

fly away invitation

Day of the Dead Fest in Mexico City/ Reuters