Skip to content

Trenz Pruca’s Observations: Rumination on the Long Generation.

IMG_0937

If when I was five years old and shook the hand and listened to the stories of someone who was the age that I am now, he would have been born during the Civil War. If he in turn, when he was five, shook the hand of another old man and listened to his stories, he might have learned that that man when he was young had shaken the hand of someone who knew Shakespeare at the height of his theatrical career. Two handshakes by old men represent a chain of history from Donald Trump to William Shakespeare.

Hmm——This may evidence that, as a species, we may have been devolving faster than we realize.

Recently, my partner told me that when she was young her Grandmother told her that when she was young and growing up near Balmoral Castle in Scotland, she used to see Queen Victoria and Prince Albert traveling in their carriage to the local church to attend Sunday services.

This is a long generation.

 

John le Carre writes About Donald Trump.

images-1

The well-known writer of spy novels John le Carre in his most recent novel Agent Running in the Field has his characters comment on several contemporary world leaders.  In the novel, his main character Nat after 25 years of running agents in Eastern Europe,  is about to be retired. In his final efforts in the service, he discovers secret plans by two world powers to break up Europe. One of those two world powers is led by Vladimir Putin, and the other by Donald Trump. Although most of the characters Nat meets up with have a few redeeming characteristics,  two have none, Putin and Trump. At one point Nat sees Trump and Putin in Helsinki on television. le Carre writes:

“Trump, speaking as if to order, is disowning the findings of his own intelligence services, which have come up with the inconvenient truth that Russia interfered in the 2016 American presidential election. Putin smiles his proud jailer’s smile.”

 

Later, Nat engages in the following dialogue:

You know what Trump is?”

“Tell me.”

“He’s Putin’s shithouse cleaner. He does everything for little Vladi that little Vladi can’t do for himself: pisses on European unity, pisses on human rights, pisses on NATO. Assures us that Crimea and Ukraine belong to the Holy Russian Empire, the Middle East belongs to the Jews and the Saudis, and to hell with the world order. And you Brits, what do you do? You suck his dick and invite him to tea with your Queen.”
le Carré, John. Agent Running in the Field (p. 141). Penguin Publishing Group.

 

True it is the characters in the novel who are expressing the opinions, nevertheless, le Carre in a 2017 interview with the NY Times stated:

“For Putin, it’s a kind of little piece of background music to keep things going. The smoking gun might or might not be the documents exchanged about the Trump Tower in Moscow [which Trump is said to have been planning to build]. Then there’s the really seedy stuff in the Caucasus. There are bits of scandal which, if added up, might suggest he went to Russia for money. And that would then fit in with the fact that he isn’t half as, a tenth as rich as he pretends to be.”

 

In a recent interview with the BBC, le Carre said,

“It would be impossible to write at the moment without speaking from within the state of the nation — we’re part of it, I’m part of it. … I’m depressed by it. I’m ashamed of it and that, I think, communicates itself in the book.”

Tuckahoe Joe’s Blog of the Week: Logarithmic History — Darwin’s Birthday and St. Valentines Day.

sex-explained-still01

 

It is always a pleasure to drop into the blog Logarithmic History. Using a logarithmic scale mapped onto the course of one year the blog traces the history of the universe from the Big Bang to the present day. In case you are unfamiliar with logarithms and how they are applied here the author Doug Jones explains:

Other folks have proposed putting the history of the universe on a logarithmic scale; here I map that scale onto the course of one year. If you’re a bit hazy about logarithms, all you have to know is that each day of the year covers a shorter period in the history of the universe than the preceding day (5.46% shorter). January 1 begins with the Big Bang and covers a full 754 million years. January 2 covers the next 712 million years, and so on. Succeeding days cover shorter and shorter succeeding intervals in the history of the universe. At this rate, a given calendar date covers only a tenth as much time as a date 41 days earlier.

On this logarithmic scale, Earth is formed on January 20, trilobites arise toward the end of February, and dinosaurs meet their doom on April 6. The middle of the year finds Homo erectus giving way to early versions of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens. October begins with King David and ends with Columbus. By December 7, we reach the year of the Beatles’ first LP (1963). December 31 covers just one year, 2017; calendar time and the history-of-the-universe time finally coincide at midnight.

So, here is his entry for February. The history of the universe has progressed from the creation of the galaxies to the birth of the solar system to the early stirrings of life on earth.

(https://logarithmichistory.wordpress.com/2019/02/13/between-darwin-and-saint-valentines-day/)

Between Darwin and Saint Valentine’s day

Yesterday was Darwin’s birthday (and Lincoln’s). Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Here’s a post appropriate for either day.

 

You’ve been feeling bad lately, getting sick a lot. You’re not at your best. You find someone who seems to be in better shape. One thing leads to another and you wind up acquiring body fluids from the other party — and picking up some new genes from them. The new genes help a lot in fighting off infection. You’re feeling better now.

Reproduction? That’s another matter, nothing directly to do with sex. When you reproduce, your offspring will carry all the genes you happen to have at the moment.

Also, I forgot to mention that you’re neither male or female — the gene exchange could have gone in the other direction if you’d both been in the mood. And your partner in the adventure above might not even have been the same species as you. (Just what counts as a species here isn’t well-defined.)

This is more or less how bacteria work out sex. (Joshua Lederberg got the Nobel Prize for figuring this out.) Eukaryotes (you’re one of them) mostly do it differently, combining sex and reproduction. It’s the story you learned in high school about passing on half your genes to a gamete (sex cell), which joins with another gamete to make a new organism.

Most eukaryotes also have two sexes. The best theory we have about why that got started goes like this: Most of the DNA in a eukaryote cell is in the nucleus. But a small fraction is in the mitochondria, little powerhouses outside the nucleus that started out as bacteria and got domesticated. Imagine that two gametes join together, and combine two sets of mitochondria. There’s a potential conflict here. Suppose your mitochondria have a mutation that lets them clobber your partner’s mitochondria. This is good (evolutionarily speaking) for the winning mitochondria, but very likely to be bad for the cell as a whole. Better for the cell as a whole is if one gamete, acting on instructions from the nucleus, preemptively clobbers all their own mitochondria, so that all the mitochondria come from just the other gamete. This is the beginning of what will eventually lead to a distinction between sperm and eggs, pollen and ovules, male and female. Which means you got all your mitochondrial DNA from your mom, something that will turn out to be important when we look later in the year at geneticists unraveling human prehistory. This is also an example of how selection at one level (within cells) can conflict with selection at another level (between cells). We’ll see such multilevel selection again and again, for example in the evolution of complex human societies.

Sex has to be highly advantageous, although we’re not sure exactly what the advantage is. The general answer is probably that an asexually reproducing organism almost never produces any offspring who have fewer harmful mutations than she has. But a sexually reproducing organism, passing on a random half of her genes to each of her offspring, can have some offspring with fewer harmful mutations, at the cost of having other offspring with more. There are various reasons (Muller’s ratchet, Kondrashov’s hatchet) why this could be evolutionarily advantageous.

In other words, with sexually reproduction, at least some of mum and dad’s kids can be less messed up than their parents; it’s asexually reproducing organisms that really embody Larkin’s dour verse …

Man hands on misery to man,

It deepens like a coastal shelf

Get out as early as you can,

And don’t have any kids yourself.

… insofar as, when eukaryote species give up sex, they don’t seem to last long. Dandelions reproduce asexually: based on what we see in other organisms, they probably won’t be around for long, evolutionarily speaking. There’s one mysterious exception, tiny animals called bdelloid rotifers which have been reproducing asexually for tens of millions of years. For readers who are not bdelloid rotifers: Happy Valentine’s Day tomorrow! We’ll have an appropriate evolutionary post up tomorrow.

DAILY FACTOID: SET — WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

principal-egyptian-gods-9-638
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

I include this simply as an aide-memoire: there are more meanings for this innocent-looking trinity of letters than there are for any other word in the English language—fully 62 columns’ worth in the complete Oxford English Dictionary, and which naturally include such obvious examples as the condition of what the sun does each evening; a major part of a game of tennis; what one does if one embarks on a journey; what one does if one puts something down on a table; a collection of a number of items of a particular kind; and a further score, or more, of other disparate and unconnected things and actions. Set is a term in bowling; it is what a dog (especially a setter, of course) does when he is dealing with game; it is a grudge; what cement does when it dries; what Jell-O does when it doesn’t dry; a form of power used by shipwrights; what a young woman does when she wants to secure a man’s affections; the direction of a current at sea; the build of a person; a kind of underdeveloped fruit; the stake that is put down at dice … need I go on? In the search for a synonym it is worth pointing out, and only half in jest, that it is quite possible that one or other meanings for set might fit the bill, exactly, and will have you all set, semantically, and quite neatly, without nearly as much effort as you supposed.
Simon Winchester

 

 

Also, Set is an Egyptian God.

 

Set, also known as Seth and Suetekh, was the Egyptian god of war, chaos, and storms, brother of Osiris, Isis, and Horus the Elder, uncle to Horus the Younger, and brother-husband to Nephthys. His other consort was the goddess Tawaret, a hippo-headed deity who presided over fertility and childbirth. He is one of the first five gods created by the union of Geb (earth) and Nut (sky) after the creation of the world. His name is usually translated as “instigator of confusion” and “destroyer” and he was associated with disorder, foreign lands and people, and the color red. He is sometimes depicted as a red-haired beast with a forked tail and cloven hooves or a shaggy red dog-like animal. His symbols were the griffin, hippopotamus, crocodile, and tortoise, but he was mainly associated with the serpent. Epithets for Set include “Lord of the Desert” and “Ruler of the South” as he was originally a god of Upper Egypt (the south) and the barren lands beyond Egypt’s borders.

So, let us all set ourselves down and set to praising the great god SET.

DAILY FACTOIDS: 1939-2019

th-2th-3
While sitting around, paying bills and watching CNN pundits travel opining on the upcoming Democratic primary in New Hampshire, I grew bored and my mind wandered to contemplate those things that had changed in the US in the 80 years between 1939 when I was born and now. So, I fiddled a bit on the internet and reviewed an old birthday card. I discovered the following:

The average cost of a new home had increased 100 times from $3800 to $380,000.
Average income from $1800 to $46,000, 25 times.
A new car from $700 to about 32,000, about 45 times.
Gasoline from $.10 per gallon to $2.50 and 25 fold increase.

As far as I can tell from these few statistics, our parents had better relative income and prices for major purchases, but not technologically or health-wise. Since I am mostly technologically illiterate and my health is shot, I guess I get the burnt ends of either year.

Batman is 80 years old, having been introduced to us all in 1939.

If Batman is 80 and his mind is like mine, I wonder if he knows he is Batman or does he just wonder why he is wearing tights and jumping off buildings in the dark. For that matter, I wonder if he knows he is actually in a fictional Chicago.

Three Little Fishes, Beer Barrel Polka, Jeepers Creepers and Scatterbrain were some of the favorite tunes of 1939.

In 2019, according to some, Cheap Thrills and This Is What You Came For (neither of which I have ever listened to) seems to be the fan favorites. While I cannot opine which songs are better, but I bet, if forced to choose. I would go with a 1939 fan-favorite like Three Little Fishes.

Italy invaded Albania in 1939.

In 2019, the USA and Russia seem to be bent on their continued invasions of a whole bunch of places.

England and France declared war on Germany.

In 2019, neither Russia nor the USA declared war on anyone but their troops maintained a physical presence in and occupying much of the world.

Food Stamps begin in1939 under the Roosevelt administration.

Food Stamps, in 2019, face the beginning of the end under the administration of DJT.

The New York Yankees won the 1939 World Series fair and square.

 

In 2019, the Huston Astros cheated their way to World Series victory.

The Vice President of the US in 1939 was John Garner.

In 2019, it was Mike Pence. No-one cared in either case.

In 2019 Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President, one of our greatest Presidents. He changed our Nation and ushered in what was perhaps the greatest Golden Age in human history.

In 2019 we have a President who was elected with substantially fewer votes than his rival, doesn’t read, cannot write, is the most corrupt President in our history and who we have not yet even mentioned the really the evil things he is capable of and has done. He may well be ushering in the end times.

TODAY’S PHOTOGRAPH: Roger Smith’s portrait of Jerry Brown, California’s recent governor.

img_7706
Roger Smith’s portrait of Jerry Brown, California’s recent governor.

Roget would like to bring it to Jerry’s attention. If anyone has any idea how he can do this, please let me know.

Roger also is the artist who produced the painting behind the bar in Oakland’s Jack London Square’s “ Fat Lady Restaurant.” The Restaurant’s brochure explains the genesis of the name and the painting:

“Why the Fat Lady? People always ask, “How did the Fat Lady get its name?” Well, there are two stories. Fact and legend. Fact has it that when Louis Shaterian owned the original Overland House, a superior court judge told him about a nude painting his son had painted of a pleasingly plump lady.
This aroused Lou’s curiosity. He was taken to view the painting and upon seeing it, he decided it was definitely unique but he wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. The judge suggested it should hang in the new restaurant Lou and his wife, Patricia, were about to open and thus became the namesake of the Fat Lady Bar and Restaurant. Now maybe this story is too mundane so we’ve created a legend. Factual history has it that the Fat Lady building (built in 1884) was once a house of ill repute and who could have been its madame? Our very own Fat Lady, of course! Rumors also say that Jack London slept here. Considering he lived within walking distance, maybe . . . just maybe he did know the infamous Fat Lady. We’ll let you decide.”

Roger also painted the portrait of the Yeti that hangs in The Yeti restaurant in Davis.

Roger is an accomplished artist, set designer, and opera singer. Now, because he suffers from macular degeneration, he can no longer paint. Recently I visited him at his home in Lakeport.  He showed me a number of paintings that he had previously done. They ranged in style from photorealism to modern impressionism. Of the latter, he favored Cezanne-like muted hues with a strong dash of red or another vibrant color.

img_7708

His set design pieces were quite dramatic and fascinating. Here is one that he painted for the opera Aida performed in Sacramento.

img_7715

Can Convicting Trump help Republicans to hold on to the Presidency and the Senate and Save the Republican Party?

th-1

There may be several ways to argue that if the Republicans in the Senate were to join with the Democrats to remove Trump from office, it may benefit the Republican party. It may also assist them in holding on to the Presidency and the Senate Majority.

For example, if after hearing from witnesses and reviewing whatever documents are produced, 20 or so Republicans join with the Democrats and vote to remove him from office, what happens next?

Pence becomes President and perhaps installs a somewhat more competent and arguably less controversial administration. He and his administration urge us, the nation, to come together again and reject the partisan political warfare that has so divided us. They then can go on to continue the pro-business, anti-immigrant and other policies of the current administration but with a more humane face. They could, for example, in order to show their good intentions, dial back on some of the more inhuman policies imposed on those seeking asylum on our Southern Border, and/or reverse the rhetoric regarding climate change, probably without taking effective action.

The at-risk Republican Senators can be buffered somewhat by voting against removal or by some other strategy. There would be plenty of time to repair the damage between the trial and the election.

One of the so-called moderate and well-known Republicans like Romney could then become the nominee. I suspect, as a result, Democratic enthusiasm for activism generated by Trump’s behavior would abate with a resulting fall-off in Democratic voters at the polls. Meanwhile, the 10% or so of Republicans who have left the party may flock back to support the more respectable business-oriented moderate. The older Trumpites can be relied upon to continue to vote and vote Republican because they always do so. They are also easily frightened by  Socialism and open border Democratic candidates. The Trumpite radical activists, always a small percentage of the voting population, becomes the wild card. They would be somewhat like the more radical Democrats have been in several past Presidential elections.

I suspect there are other ways this can happen, but we should not assume there are not clever political operatives on the Republican already gaming options like this.

We should remember the 30 or so Senators not up for reelection in 2020 and at least 10 of those who are up for reelection have little fear of the blowback from Trump voters. Also, some of the 30 we know have Presidential aspirations. Removal of Trump may and probably is viewed by many of them as a positive.

Just ask yourself, if Trump is removed and a more “respectable” candidate replaces him, would you still vote for the Democratic candidate for President if the one we nominate is someone you abhor?   Would you vote for a third-party candidate or stay home from the polls? Will the independent voters who may be troubled by Trump’s behavior stay home or vote for the moderate candidate?

Like most politicians, Republicans seek by whatever means possible to preserve their power and position.  Neither courage nor martyrdom should be expected of our elected officials even though we may honor those few who do. Political calculations are rarely what they appear to be on the surface.

PETRILLO’S COMMENTARY: The Mold and I, a View from Space.

san-francisco-from-space-station-by-andrecc81-kuipers-portrait
San-Francisco-from-Space-Station-by-André-Kuipers-Portrait

The photograph above shows the San Francisco Bay Area taken from space. It demonstrates not only the beauty of this corner of the earth but a marvel of technology. When, however, I look at the photograph it only makes me sad.  I cannot help but notice the extensive grey-white areas surrounding the bay and snaking off into other areas of the photograph. They remind me of mold in a scientist’s petri dish devouring the agar until it is all consumed and everything dies.  Those grey areas in the photograph show the highly urbanized lands within the Bay Area where we humans have for the most part replaced much of the flora and fauna of the area with a built environment.  We have exhausted the resources in the area that could otherwise nourish us for ages.

Rather than cannibalize themselves like the mold in the Petri dish does after consuming all the agar, we humans developed a technological prowess allowing to seek out additional resources and energy so that we may convert them into substances of use (chemically and mechanically) ultimately producing waste and energy (usually in the form of heat.) Good for us. But, alas, with our good fortune comes hubris.

We, the organisms in the dead zone, now having not learned (or ignored) the fact that we lived in a mostly in a closed system and must use our technological prowess to better integrate ourselves into the cycle chemical and energy exchanges instead exhausted those resources and energy closest to us and now send out filaments (roads, railroads, electric transmission lines, etc.) to remote areas in order to transport resources and energy back into the dead zone so that the remaining organisms living there (we humans)  can continue to flourish for a while. Meanwhile, the resources and energy at the source are eventually used up.

Waste in the form of unusable garbage and waste energy builds-up everywhere in the grey urban areas as well as the less urbanized resource and energy producing places. Like with the mold in the petri dish, this can go on for a while until all the resources are exhausted. Before this occurs, however, the organisms ( us) slaughter one another in competition for the ever more scarce resources (or in the case of the mold devour one another). In our case (humanity) this may be a good thing if it reduces demand enough the resources have an opportunity to renew themselves but in a closed system like the petri dish or ultimately the earth, as long as we continue to produce more consumers, devour more resources and generate more waste we are bound to die.

A stable population, renewability, and technological advances that promote a reduction in per capita use of resources and energy is “good” technological advancement. Whether humanity, as it has evolved, is the organism that can recognize develop and implement the “good” technological advancement remains to be seen. If not, then, like the mold setting about to devour the last bit of agar in the Petri dish, it is time to be getting ready to begin chanting kaddish.

%d bloggers like this: