Saturday, January 28, 2023

Tightening up with our dogs during the pandemic

I recall vaguely that some people in the far north, perhaps Eskimos, described the coldness of the night in terms of dogs.  If it was a three or four dog night; that meant it was really cold.  Getting by with one or two dogs was more tolerable.  It has been cold outside here, below freezing most mornings, but up in my study it is warm enough, sleeping in my lounge chair, covered by whatever blankets I feel comfortable with.  But Jessica, my Irish Terrier, has her own opinion about that.  Perhaps it has some relationship to the coldness outside, but she has been determined to sleep on top of me at night.  She was getting me trained in that respect in the recent past, but when I hurt my shoulder, it was not tolerable for me, and she had to leave me alone.

But my shoulder is a lot better.  Last night was typical.  My term for telling her I intended to get to sleep is “nap.”  “I’m going to take a nap, now Jessica; so, don’t get in my lounge chair.”  She warned me she had a plan by ignoring my words and getting in my lounge chair anyway.  When I was ready to go to sleep, I tipped the lounge chair up gently and slid her out onto the floor.  She watched me settle in and then pawed my arm indicating she wanted to get into my lap.  I said, “okay,” and reached for her, but she wanted to play hard to get, moving away when I reached for her.  At last, I said in annoyance, “Go away, I’m going to sleep”, but just as I began to doze off, she raked my right arm with her nails.  “Go away,” I said again, and tried to get back to sleep.  After a few iterations of this, I was no longer sleepy; so, I turned the light on and read on my Kindle for a while, Ignoring Jessica’s unhappiness with me.  

As soon as I was sleepy again, I put my Kindle away and the next time she messed with me, I jackknifed forward, grabbed her forward legs up close to her chest and pulled her up on top of my stomach; which was her goal all along; so, at last she was ready to go to sleep for the night.  This isn’t to say there wasn’t a lot of shifting about on both our parts.  My ribcage in the area most associated with my left shoulder, while not as sore as it has been, will complain if Jessica is lying on it for too long.  Also, Jessica prefers spending a lot of time parallel to my left leg with her head toward my feet, which is okay because it is my right leg that has the damaged knee cap.  And so, we sleep.

Waking up this morning, some of my joints and other structure felt a bit uncomfortable, but after loosening up with some dumbbells I felt okay.  I don’t have the usual morning headache and in retrospect I enjoyed Jessica sleeping on top of me.  When she was young and squirmy, she didn’t like being a lapdog, but now, when she’s in the mood (or perhaps shortly after she’s been trimmed and its cold outside) she does.  So perhaps it is a coincidence, but when the temperature drops down near freezing outside, I am having one-dog nights.

But as our sleeping arrangements are getting sorted, I wondered about the introduction of a Ben-like Ridgeback.  What would he be wanting to do while Jessica was annoying me by playing hard to get when all I want to do is sleep, with or without her sleeping on me?   And, if he got to close would Jessica wake me up with a growl or a bark?  Of course, he would get used to that eventually, and steer-clear if he could, but he would have to walk by the lounge chair to get to the water dishes.  

In the past this was less of a problem inasmuch as I spent most nights sleeping on the floor, but I’m creakier than I used to be and wouldn’t be able to sleep on my left shoulder at all.  The lounge chair is fine.  My shoulder and I have gotten used to it.

Now, with this hiding out because of the pandemic, not being able to get back into hiking quite yet because of medication changes and weather, Jessica, Duffy, my Schnoodle, and I have been living in a closer relationship than in the past.  I thought they might feel a bit of cabin fever being restricted to the house and yard most days, but not so.  They like it fine.  I have been more attentive to what they want and need, and they like that more than fine.   

So, what would happen if we added a Ridgeback to our mix?  I looked over at Jessica just now and she is lying on a blanket in morning sunlight watching me.  I wouldn’t be the only person to look at (Duffy does a lot of sleeping, and Jessica ignores him most of the time) if we had a Ridgeback.  

And no matter how fixed our situation is now, it would be just as fixed, albeit arranged differently if Ben, our last Ridgeback, were still alive.  Ben was easier to live with than Jessica has been.  Then too, if the weather stays cool at night, and my shoulder heals a bit more, perhaps I can sleep on the floor again, from time to time, and if there were a Ridgeback to keep us company, I could have a three-dog night if I needed one.


Monday, January 2, 2023

On those given to much reading

From time to time, I watch videos by Michael Vaughan on his Booktuber channel.  He recently committed, along with some other booktubers to avoid buying any more books until he read 500 of his own books, presumably most of which will be unread although rereading is permissible.  I wondered how fast he could read and, in another video, learned that he counted the books he read in 2022 and the number was 60.  It doesn’t seem possible that he will meet his 500-book commitment. 

I wondered how many books I read in 2022.  For pure enjoyment and with no literary interests, I’ve been reading mostly detective/thriller novels and I’ve made note of which one’s I’ve read in a little yellow field book.  I counted and discovered that I read 82 in 2022.  I also read books that didn’t fall into that category, some in my own quest to read books that won awards and some for other reasons.  I commented upon those in a journal.  I found 24.  So, 106 in 2022, and while I did read some I’d already read on Kindle, I bought a lot of new ones as well.

Michael Vaughan has some sort of job.  He takes time to make his weekly videos; so, he may never do much better than 60 a year.  [However, in subsequent videos he reports finding a few more.  He is up above 71 now, and because he feels disorganized in keeping track of his reading, despite having a reading channel, he resolved in 2023 to become more organized 😉].  

Michael Vaughan in his last video of 2022 reported the last book he read in 2022, Deathworld by Harry Harrison.  Per Wikipedia, Harry Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey) was an American science fiction author best known for his character The Stainless Steel Rat and the novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966), the basis for the film Soylent Green (1973).  Vaughan had read other Harrison novels, but not yet Deathworld.  He said it was a lot of fun to read.  Looking for something a lot of fun to read at the moment, I downloaded it into my Kindle.  It was written in 1960.  (Harrison died in 2012 at age 87.)  

Always on the lookout for anthropological and evolutionary implications and theories, I was struck by one in Deathworld.  The main character, Jason, a talented gambler, has just arrived on the very hostile planet Pyrrus: “Jason’s eyes opened wider as he realized she was very beautiful – with the kind of beauty never found in the civilized galaxy.  The women he had known all ran to pale skin, hollow shoulders, gray faces covered with tinges and dyes.  They were the product of centuries of breeding weaknesses back into the race, as the advance of medicine kept alive more and more non-survival types.”  [I subsequently read Deathworld.  It was okay, a light-hearted read despite a lot of death, but I'm not tempted to read Deathworld ii, and subs.]

One thinks of H. G. Wells The Time Machine written in 1895 in which he envisioned evolution turning humans into beings with large heads and weak bodies (the Eloi) as well as the more beast-like Morlocks.  The Eloi were apparently descended from Britain’s upper class and the Morlocks from the lower.  When I first read that book, probably in my teens I took it as an incentive to work-out with weights and pass my strength and Marine Corps inclinations along to my descendants, alas. :-)

As to Harrison’s 1960 prediction, yes, we are attempting to keep alive our hitherto non-survivable kin, but the work being done in genetics may be able to eliminate the passing along of the genes that made them “non-survivable.”  So perhaps they would not be doing damage to subsequent generations.

We as a species are moving awfully quickly.  If the Gaia hypothesis, conceived by the British chemist James Lovelock in the early 1970s has any validity" our world may know of an impending invasion by an alien species and be rapidly getting our species ready for it.  And if Gaia is true, perhaps it will, being in its best interest, end California's drought (where Michael Vaughan and I both live).  So good, so far, this season.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Rousseau and Lord of the Flies


In my reading I try to keep up with the anthropological discoveries that pertain to our species evolutionary history.  And in doing so I can’t help cringing at the political positions that maintain theories that our anthropology doesn’t support.  For example, the political influence of Jean Jacques Rousseau which can hardly be overestimated.  He threw out the idea that men were born evil and needed the church and forgiveness to lead legitimate and wholesome lives.  He proposed instead that men were born good and subsequently became evil because of faulty education.  Such teachings as “spare the rod and spoil the child” were subsequently considered barbaric.  

Evolutionary anthropology gives no support to the idea that men were born good.  They were born animals that became more and more potent until in the last 300,000 years ago they became the apex predator here on earth.  In very recent times, the last 15,000 years or so, men have adhered by force and teaching to religious and common legal practices.  When other species (aside from viruses and harmful bacteria) were no longer a serious threat to our existence, we had to learn to get along with each other, at least within towns and later in cities and nations.  We have not yet extended that practice to the world.

But that we are in keeping with Rousseau’s teachings all born good and only become evil through poor teaching there is no support that I can see.  Think of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.  We as a species are capable of entertaining the anthropology of Golding’s novels while at the same time supporting modern educational practices consistent with Rousseau’s teachings.  And regardless of evolutionary discoveries, in practice any parent or teacher will today be on thin ice if he or she attempts to use harsh discipline to curb the bad behavior of a recalcitrant child.  We retain in stead, the Romantic views of Rousseau.  

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Vikings and Anglo-Saxons

 I’m 39/324 through Cat Jansen’s River Kings and enjoying it.   References to the “Great Army” of the Vikings who after wintering in and around Repton, and then decided to stay, were hitherto described by traditional researchers as exaggerations.  Excavations didn’t give evidence of a very large number.  But more recently, better DNA analyses have shown that the Viking DNA could not be distinguished from that of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes the preceded the Vikings settling in Britain. 

“Both the terms ‘Viking’ and ‘Anglo-Saxon’ can arguably be seen as purely modern inventions: they are unlikely to have made sense to someone living in the ninth century. Here, the term ‘Viking’ is used to describe in a very broad sense the people and cultural traits that emerged and spread from Scandinavia during the Viking Age. The term ‘Anglo-Saxon’, while subject to a long history of misuse by racists and extremists, remains a widely understood frame of reference for the communities and kingdoms of England between the fifth and early eleventh centuries. Neither this nor Viking is used to imply ethnicity; they are, simply, the most useful, if inaccurate, terms we have available today.”

Friday, August 12, 2022

Viking-raid expressions

  In Cat Jarman’s River Kings, A New History of the Vikings from Scandinavia to the Silk Roads, page 4, is the following sentence.

Repton was no different – the accepted interpretation of the bones that I’d been working on seemed to fit neatly into the traditional Viking Age narrative: that of the Norsemen and Danes who travelled west in the late eighth century, launching a savage attack on unsuspecting monks at Lindisfarne in 793 and kick-starting the Viking Age in the process; and that of the hit-and-run raids of the succeeding decades that eventually, in the ninth century, led to ambitions of political conquest and settlement.

Comment: A couple of expressions caught my attention The first is “kick-starting the Viking Age . . .”  I had two motorcycles that required “kick-starting” as opposed to electrical push-button starting.   In order to start a motorcycle with a kick-starter, one pulled out the pedal of the kick-starter, put one’s boot on it, jump in the air a short distance and put one’s right-legged boot on it; then one raised up and then kicked down with one’s boot one or two times until the motorcycle started.  If one’s motorcycle is in good running order, the motor will then start.

Is there another meaning of “kick-starting”?  Perhaps it is also applied to certain older automobiles or farm equipment, I don’t know.  But in the above passage, in what sense did Jarman mean it?  Perhaps Jarman never gave a thought to motorcycles.  Perhaps it is such a common expression today that she didn’t need to associate it with motorcycles or farm equipment:  The Viking attack upon Lindisfarne in 793 “kick-started” the Viking age.  

But I got the impression that she meant something a little different from the motorcycle original.  She seems to imply a violent as opposed to a peaceful beginning which is appropriate to a Viking as opposed to a motorcycle start.  

The second expression is “hit and run” raids.  “Hit and run” is a baseball expression, and nothing else as far as I know.  It applies especially in the case of moving a runner from second to third base.  The batter hits the ball into the outfield.  The runner waits until the outfielder catches it and then runs to third and gets there, hopefully, before the ball does.  One can appreciate how well “hit and run” fits what the Vikings did: violently raid Lindisfarne and then sail away before an opposition force could be raised to attack them.  

But what expressions were used to fit Jarman’s narrative before motorcycles and baseball, I wonder.  And perhaps the above such expressions are accepted, today, in scholarly writings without comment, except perhaps by the occasional octogenarian with little else to do and therefore without merit.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Further on The Werewolf Principle (with spoiler)

  I thought an unhappy ending was inevitable, but not so.  As Blake in a perfect spaceship is sailing out alone (as far as he knows) to search the universe for the intelligence behind it, he is surprised to learn that he has a stowaway: Elaine, the senator’s daughter, whom he was a bit in love with when he met her.  What’s this?  Is this the real Elaine?  Yes, it is, but as she explains, she is the other android.  The Senator’s real daughter committed suicide.  It would have been devastating to the Senator’s career if that were to come out.   Just then, the female android returned to earth, and she looked somewhat like the Senator’s daughter; so, the Space organization gave her to him.  She didn’t realize (somehow) that she wasn’t his real daughter until much later.  After what happened with Blake, she knew that when everyone found out she was an android, Earth would be impossible for her as well.  Space and the Senator intended these two perfect and immortal individuals to be Earth’s best and brightest representatives to whomever they will find out there.  

I do wonder, however, who Elaine’s Questor is.  I assume she wasn’t sent to the same planet Blake was so it wouldn’t be a wolf – I would hope.  

The Werewolf Principle

  After reading Clifford D. Simak’s Way Station, the logical next novel to read was The City, but it is about, so I’ve read, the aftermath of World War Two – or written in the aftermath of World War Two.  I decided instead to read The Werewolf Principle, and am at present 61% through it:

Mankind is at a point in the future where it has the means to colonize planets in our galaxy.  It is not to be done as independent investments, as I have surmised, but as world-government enterprises.  The predominate view is that the new planets be terra-formed, which is something I have assumed.  But another group thought it cheaper to change our settlers rather than the planets: change them into beings that could live in the existing environment of a given planet.  Studies in biodiversity had progressed to a point where such a thing was possible.

But it turns out that this was actually accomplished 200 years prior to the events in the novel.  Two androids were loaded with human brains from storage and modified in such a way that they were the equivalent of humans on non-human-friendly planet.  After the androids had been there for a while and had accumulated sufficient data, they returned to the spaceship, dumped their data and were restored to the condition of having just a human brain.  However, it turned out that the alien-nature acquired on the planet could not be utterly erased.  Thus, apparently (from as far as I have read), the androids, at least one of them, Blake, was “frozen” and stored in a capsule, while the main ship or ships traveled on for further investigations, experiments and adventures.

In the novel Blake is unfrozen and seems a normal human to the doctors checking him out, but he starts having blackouts, and there are reports of people seeing a wolf.  Blake is slowly reacquainting himself with who he really is, three personalities.  Blake, the Changer, Quester who became a wolf-like creature from a planet under investigation, and Thinker who is something like a biological computer with human quality understanding (not fully explained by Simak in my view).  The three elements can change from one to the other if they mutually agree which they always do. Things get out of hand when Quester as a sort-of wolf is threatened and fights his way through mobs of people killing many.  And so as one might expect, the humans chase after it, when it is in the wolf-like form, with the twenty-fourth century, or whenever, equivalent of pitchforks.  Good doctors will be trying to save Blake, but at this point that is not assured.  Elaine, the daughter of the Senator who opposed the biodiversity approach to inhabiting new planets, helps Blake escape.

In my currently befuddled state, I rather Identified with Blake.  I haven’t exactly turned into a Wolf but disgusted with the medical decisions and advice I’ve been receiving I undertook a strenuous workout program, day after day, so much work that everything ached, but inasmuch (I learned) as aspirin conflicts with the blood pressure medication (losartan) which is scheduled to be prescribed whenever I have my first meeting with my new doctor, I didn’t take any aspirin or any other pain medication.  I just ached, day after day.  But inasmuch as I have (tomorrow) an appointment with an optometrist in order to get new glasses (although he may try to send me to a specialist) I stopped my exercising two days prior to the appointment – in order to be able to think and speak coherently. 

The wolf is full of explosive energy which I have been, but he doesn’t think too clearly and needs Quester and Blake to figure things out.  That’s the way I have been.  I’ve just today begun thinking clearly.  Quester can enable Changer to change into any sort of creature.  There are little dwarf-like creatures (who came to visit earth from another planet, liked it here and decided to stay – living peacefully here and there in our forests).  I’m expecting Changer to be changed into one of those, but Blake no doubt would not like to remain one of these dwarfs – he’s a bit in love with the Senator’s daughter.

In Philip K Dick’s Do Androids dream of electric sheep, the beautiful android woman is raised not knowing she’s an android, much as Blake doesn’t know he is one.  Humans being in love with androids, and vice versa has been explored in the past.  Clifford D. Simak published The Werewolf Principle in 1967.  Philip K. Dick published his book a year later.  

In the meantime, I am working to determine my best configuration and have sought the pain of workouts in order to escape the hounding medical professionals and their pitchforks.  Looking back over my shoulder I have been at it intensely much as Quester and Changer worked together, but with the diminishment of this work preparatory to the optometrist and on the following day, the dentist, I shall attempt an appropriate disguise and hope to get back to my exercising as soon as possible.  There is still my first meeting with my new primary physician to arrange and another meeting with my oral surgeon, which I shall try to delay, but there are so many – their pitchforks are so very sharp, and Quester cannot figure out a path to something that can escape them, something that doesn’t have a crippled leg.