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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Illogical Defence of J. McCain

Supporters of J. McCain and, if they are not, others who think that his age should not be considered, use a statement like this as what they consider to be one of their most telling arguments. "McCain's age should not be held against him, any more than B. Obama's blackness should be taken as a strike against him.'

Such a statement, however, is not logical, and it also shows the prevailing bias of these and all other times so far. It is bigoted in two directions at once. It is based on the generally unspoken but still widely popular feeling that because McCain is something called "white" while Obama is only partly so, that gives McCain the nod right there, since most of the voters are thought to be also of that hue of the freshly fallen snow and definitely the more "natural" and "preferred" persuasion in this country.

Meanwhile, if B. Obama has any appeal at all, a sizable part of it rests in his being relatively young, because that blessed state is thought of as highly superior when compared to not so much rhe alternative as the later development.

But the problem is that all of us are the same color from the beginning to the end, while we progressively, or regressively according to the way one thinks, gradually slide out of being young and eventually become old.
Therefore ethnic derivation should never be equated with one's age. The one state is always fixed, while the other never is.

That's why, in the interest of thinking harmoniously and consistently, if people can never get out of their minds the fact of B.Obama's African heritage, then I similarly can never get J. McCain's European ancestry out of mine, before I start thinking about his age, though I will admit that the latter doesn't take long, because I think that at nearly 72 he's being extremely foolhardy just in taking on all this. It's a textbook case, if one ever was, of being a complete slave to the ego.

I admit, however, that I have a big advantage over most Americans there, because I find being so-called "black" to be no more unusual and unnatural than being so-called "white" is. And the same definitely goes for being old, and young. So it's best mainly just to listen to these two guys, to really listen, so as to try to determine how much they know what they're talking about.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Lineup of Sevens

Exactly 77 years ago today, on the 27th day of the 7th month, I emerged into a world gripped by 1931's settling in of the Great Depression, and into a scene that in many other ways as well was considerably different from the warm, floating security of my mother's body.

It happened on a Monday. The endlessly sweet receptionist/peripheral vision examiner at the eye doctor's made sure to tell me that, because her birthday happens to fall just a few days earlier.

Of course it's easy to find something significant about each of our latest birthdays, but of the many I've had, I was especially looking forward to this one because of that heavy lineup of the sevens, as I long ago had come to regard "7" as being the most elegant, attractive, noble, and mysterious of the numbers. Naturally it also helped that that number is so heavily a part of my personal information.

A few weeks ago the wood-fired pottery family across the road threw a party for K.'s apprentice lady, whose three years of working under his extremely able guidance were over. While sitting next to me at a picnic table, with several others listening, L., K.'s wife, won a bet with me by revealing that she did indeed know just when my next birthday would be and the age I would reach

In response I couldn't help launching my little rapture about that lineup of sevens.

But then L. informed me that her mother, who had just passed on, had been 77, and next a guy across the table said that his mother's health, after a lifetime of being perfect, suddenly dropped precipitately when one day, at age 77, while carrying too much luggage, she had a fall in an airport.

Behind that, suddenly it no longer seemed so cool to be 77, and of course, in the actual scheme of things, that number is really no more significant than any other.

But those misgivings didn't last long, and now that it has actually come to pass, I am happier than ever to have reached that particular confluence of numbers.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Japanese Beetle Mystery

It is with great joy that I report that, given their usual vast numbers around here this time of the summer, that terrible scourge of gardeners in so many places, the Japanese beetles, are essentially a no=show this year. They usually pop out of the ground and immediately start gorging themselves on a lot of the best stuff in June and don't start leaving till about the third week of Augest. Now it is almost August and if they still have plans, they had better start moving, yet I still see only one or two here and way over there, instead of the usual four or five happily chomping on almost every blossom.

But as happy as I am about that, I still feel a little frustrated because so far I have neither heard nor been able to concoct myself a reasonable reason why.

(Unfinished post. When it comes to those scoundrels, as with a similar political gang, I always have more to say!)

Honeybee Thumb Therapy

I now am wondering why I thought mentioning my arthritic left thumb to the doctor a few days ago was worth doing. Compared to the crises that other people are going through, just here in my weblog acquaintanceship, that "ailment" definitely rates a resounding zero, and the doctor said/didn't say as much. He made it sound as if it was just part of the aging process, and therefore, in that matter at least, since my thumb needs no x-ray, I'm strictly on my own.

But I have had deep appreciation for thumbs ever since I found out that they could be the chief reason why we are using computers and sending Rovers to Mars while the chimpanzees are still living clothesless in the African trees. Opposable digits! And I guess having a slightly less functional thumb represented a step backward on the evolutionary scale for me.

I am also wondering if it wasn't a clear signal for much worse to come -- for all 10 of my fingers to eventually become crippled. Now that would be really serious, not least because everything I do requires extensive use of my hands. And it can't be good that every morning I awaken with a certain stiffness through my whole collection of fingers.

So yesterday I got a friend and his son, who are making use of one of my former beeyards, the one here on my property, to grab two unsuspecting and unfortunate honeybees and put them right on my thumb, stinging it, so as to combat the adverse thing that is happening with the cartilage in the joint.

Actually this is something I've always wanted to do -- on purpose! In my past beekeeping career that ended 10 or more years ago, I certainly indulged in bee venom therapy extensively though not intentionally. I would easily end up getting the 200 stings minimum that every good beekeeper should endure per year, so as to keep his immunity in good shape, and as a result I never got sick during the winter, or usually at any other time.

And let's not forget -- unless it is something else that changed after I stopped looking -- honeybee venom therapy is a recognized method of treatment for arthritic joints in Europe, if not in the U.S.

So far I can't say it has helped my left thumb much as yet ...or even any. My wife thinks that, if it works, I'm supposed to get the bees to sacrifice their lives for this daily for a while, but I won't do that.

Now, among the myriad propositions that it has been my lot to test through the years, it looks as if the latest is to see whether it is still possible to stay evolved, with a straight thumb.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Forlorn and Forsaken J. McCain

The McCain people are screaming with outrage and well-feigned hurt. After the NY Times published a B. Obama op-ed piece outlining his Iraq ideas, McCain and his helpers, taking everything that happens to be part of one big debate, whipped up a piece of their own in which they found fault with just about everything that Obama had said. But the Times sent their scribble back, saying it needed a serious rewrite, especially in respect to this victory of which McCain is so fond of speaking but can't convincingly say how it might look. because in truth it's just not there. When you launch a totally unprovoked attack followed by a long and unappreciated occupation, where is the victory?

Aware that the Iraq issue is one of their numerous rotten spots that their boy Bush is leaving behind for them and that they just can't erase, the Republicans have been trying to turn it back on B. Obama every weak way that they can. Trying to build on his highly dubious achievement in having visited Iraq eight times, while Obama hadn't been there for two years, McCain offered to go there with him, so that he could show him around. But that merely showed McCain's true arrogant and highly patronizing colors.

Then the right wing mouthpiece, Fox News, attacked Obama for allegedly stating his Iraq policy before he had even been to the place. But he had been there two years ago, which is pretty recent for a mess that's been going on for over five years now, and the information on Iraq is so abundant and easily obtained by all but the willfully ignorant, that you really don't need to be there to say something reasonable about that situation, such as that going into it with guns barking when no Iraqi had so much as peed on a McDonald's in Wichita was a horrible idea from the start.

Now, with Obama sailing around overseas and getting all the attention, McCain has been bleating, "Wait a minute! Don't forget me!"

When actually that is one of the very best remedies for many of the ills that afflict the U.S. and the world nowadays. Forgetting J. McCain.

Remember, for instance, how catastrophic it was for an unusual number of planes that the U.S. Navy unwisely allowed him to pilot, when he was much younger and therefore presumably that much sharper than he is now. Yet there are some people who would like nothing better than to see him piloting the whole United States -- a guy almost as old as I am but even shakier because I wasn't in any plane mishaps or prison cells with unAmerican food to poison my brain cells.

Medical Update -- "Beaver Fever"

My visit to the doctor wasn't bad. The HBP (high blood pressure) measurements were good, and aside from my eye drops, two different pills for that are the only meds I'm taking right now.

--Except that now, for a short time anyway, I have to take a third pill, an anti-biotic, three times a day, for a possible new ailment (new to me) called "giardia." The doctor said that it was the best suspect for what I yesterday called the "unstable state of my elimination system."

Giardia results from some protozoans taking up residence in your small intestine, where they can put you into various stages of diarrhea, which in my case has lasted off and on through the last four months. The doctor said it's pretty common around here, and my wife tells me that one of our closest friends and neighbors had a severe bout with it not long ago. But I was also a little discombobulated when another neighbor, whose family I stopped by to visit on my way back home from the clinic, said, "Oh, that's what my puppies had!"

It seems that giardia is widespread throughout the planet, and. in addition to people, cats, dogs, and other animals can also be afflicted with it. The main source of these invaders is drinking, swimming, and other sorts of water. It can occur in the wild even in seemingly pristine mountain streams, and one of the common names for it is "beaver fever."

Though our water comes from a well that is only about 19 feet deep, I am sure the beavers are how I got it.

Six or seven years ago they colonized our creek bigtime, building a series of as many as ten small dams and lodges stretching far upstream, though I drew the line when they even tried to settle in right next to my garden. After they chopped down my nice new 30-dollar pink dogwood tree, and after one especially large fellow didn't move out of my way fast enough on the garden path once or twice toward evening, with a little sabotage I convinced them that they had no good reason to be there. A little later the worst drought I've seen so far around here hit, and most of the creek dried up. That was the end of the beavers, though not of the numerous gnawed trees, some of them huge, and the other works that they left behind.

Then, last fall, I felled a large oak that landed right across the creek where they had built two dams, and where in addition they seemed to have lived in a little cave in the creek bank. I know it's there because one of my neighbor's dogs got trapped in there one time, and it was eerie, to hear this dog yapping from underground.

When I cut up the tree, a lot of the logs fell into the water and in the mud that didn't have the best smell, as if a residue remained from the beaver days, and I had to handle all those logs if I wanted to get any use out of them in my heating stove.

But I didn't think much about it at the time, because if you spend any time outside your house, as I do every day of the year, you're subject, sooner or later, to everything that Nature has waiting for you on its mever sterile plate.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Doctor's Appointment

Early this morning I am supposed to go to the clinic for the yearly medical check-up.

Every time this happens I am reminded of, and irresistibly prompted to post here, a passage from the opening of one of my most often thumbed books, Margueite Yourcenar's "Hadrian's Memoirs."

Hadrian is also readying himself to see his doctor. He is a mere 60 years old but by the standards of his time he is already an old man and at the point of packing it all in, even though he is nothing less than the ruler of the entire Roman world. Not the whole world as even today many Euro-centric people like to think but at least the Roman part, which was still considerable enough.

Usually even if something is bothering me I downplay it whenever I visit the doctor, though I have known him personally for many years -- he is highly competent and he is also one of those rare physicians who is perfectly happy to pursue his career in the quietest of rural areas. But this time I will be unable to avoid mentioning a couple of complaints. For several months my elimination system has been in some sort of unstable state, and I think arthritis has gained a tight grip on my left thumb, which I am no longer able to bend without pain. And I have the impression that there are one or two other things, which, however, seem to have conspired to escape my mind, maybe because they could easily just be the results of my next birthday, which is looming just ahead.

Yet all in all I am highly grateful for my general physical state. I don't get much done from one day to the next but I feel okay most of the time and all my faculties are still in working order, even if slightly impaired here and there.

Anyway, here in Ms Yourcenar's (and her translator's) matchless languege is one of the "good" emperors:

Do not mistake me: I am not yet weak enough to yield to fearful imaginings, which are almost as fearful as illusions of hope, and certainly harder to bear. If I must deceive myself I should prefer to stay on the side of confidence, for I shall lose no more there and shall suffer less. This approaching end is not necessarily immediate: I still retire each night with hope to see the morning. Within those absolute limits of which I was just now speaking, I can defend my position step by step and even regain a few inches of lost ground. I have nevertheless reached the age where life for every man is accepted defeat.

Hmmm. Even though I am already nearly two decades older than he was at that point, I have absolutely no sense of "accepted defeat." Among other possible reasons, could that be because of my much greater good luck in having never experienced the numerous victories of an all-powerful emperor?


I think it is much better to risk and even to endure the ravages of terror than it is to bring into our population and then to encourage the growth of a class consisting of torturers, mercenary gun toters, and anybody and anything having to do with an excess number of prisons. For one thing, it is easier to avoid attracting the attentions of terrorists. I would never be so confident about all those other guys.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What to Believe?

With the U.S. government slowly staggering toward the end of its sorriest administration yet, and with the Republicans gearing up to do their utmost toward gaining the right to install more of the same exactly, it's no surprise that a sense of the swiftly approaching end of the world is so popular. Till now that particular area of expectation has been almost the exclusive territory of religious folk, but nowadays they have been neatly pushed aside in the enterprise by scientific and economic experts.

It's good for their business for scientists to be in that business, because the alerts they sound attract funding, and they have lots of possibilities to work with. A History Channel program called "Last Days on Earth" gave some of the headliners. Some would be human-caused, such as nuclear war, climate change, and creating machines that would eventually be smarter than us and would turn on us decisively. The others would be the work of the universe, like gamma rays from nearby dying stars, super volcanoes like the one that could come bursting out of Yellowstone Park any day now, since it is already thousands of years overdue, and roving black holes.

That last one shook even me, because till then I didn't know those things could move around. I always thought they stayed put where telescopes -- or good guesses and vivid imaginations and hopes -- found them, many, many light-years away. But we are told now that those rascals can MOVE AROUND! And one might not even notice itself destroying our entire solar system in one sweep, should it decide to check out the Milky Way.

Much closer to home, however, namely to all our wallets and pocketbooks, are the articles like this one called "Nationalism, Fiasco, US Dollar, Gold," with which the Downside World News is rife. These articles say that not just the U.S. but the entire world is already in the midst of a total economic breakdown, and nothing can be done about it, short of moving to a distant mountaintop, getting a composting toilet, and hoping for the best.

Yet daily perusals of the news reveal nothing of this imminent, miles high tidal wave of monetary disaster.

What does this mean? That the world is currently in a deep state of denial, and blissfully refusing to take its head out of the sand? Or that the alarmists are just that and nothing more?

What should we believe?

Friday, July 18, 2008

What Not to Kiss

The excellent History Channel program called "Meteors: Fire in the Sky" got me to thinking once more about one of my favorite objects of speculation, the highly venerated and constantly kissed object in Mecca called the Kaaba. This object appears to be a large meteorite, about which little is known and not just to me, as to its exact size and whether it is stone or metal or whether it is even a meteorite at all.

I used to think that the Mecca priests could at least release a tiny chip of the Kaaba to the Western scientists who would love to determine the stone's age, derivation, composition, and other features of interest, but so far they have had to absolutely forget about that. But I now think that the Kaaba should be allowed to continue to sit there as is, heavily wreathed in mystery. It is far more interesting that way. Besides I already know what it is and what happened.

Eons ago, before religions were invented, the Kaaba plopped down somewhere in Arabia with a huge thud and probably made a big impression on the creatures feeding in what were probably lush forests in those days. It is metallic rather than stone, and several daggers were chopped out of it before people in the theology game decided that the object was much more valuable for its heavenly evocations, and the rest is history.

So now,like far too many Moslem women, the Kaaba sits veiled inside a sqiarish and very solid-looking block of a building, around which, as shown by overhead shots, pilgrims circulate in a mass counter-clockwise movement that, for more than one reason, gives me the willies. And even inside this building only a few square inches of the Kaaba are exposed, through an extremely stout ring of what looks like solid stainless steel, and into its barely head-sized hole pilgrims get a few seconds each to poke their faces and kiss the object.

For the infinitesimally little that it's worth, I have no problem with the concept. If you're going to venerate something, it might as well be a meteorite or large, hewn blocks of stone as anything else -- though, as I've often said, for that purpose the Sun makes the most sense. But I do question the wisdom of kissing anything that has received and is still receiving the kisses of millions of others. But maybe I'm just peculiar that way. I tend to be particular about what I kiss, and I thought most people are that way, though the mental processes tend to shut down when it comes to faith. It's essential to take special care when you're talking about the one orifice through which all the food and drink that keep you alive and whistling enter your body. It's hard enough to stay aware of what is really edible and drinkable and what is not, let alone putting the edges of your intake port to some profligately kissed places.

For that reason I can't help wondering about the Kaaba and the Wailing Wall just a few miles away in Jerusalem. Isn't it interesting how the faithful of these two religions that are at such daggerpoints with each other should indulge in exactly the same custom. And even Christianity has not escaped, though not nearly to the same extent. But isn't there some sort of custom about kissing the ring of the Pope?

I could be wrong, but my guess is that only men are allowed to kiss the Kaaba. If so, though they would never admit it to their domineering menfolk, Muslim women must be relieved out of their skulls that the same is not expected of them. Because, with all the lip substances that are deposited daily on the meteorite and on the wall (if they are truly kissed), isn't a disease danger always a factor?

I guess that's all taken care of, however. They probably have a whole corps of individuals in place to keep things cleaned off and sanitary, and more than five times a day, too! Still I would heavily doubt that I'm the only one to harbor such unpopular reservations, regardless.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Eyes Only

In an hour or two I go to the eye doctor's to pick up my changed glasses. I had had the old ones for five years but hadn't gotten much use out of them. They were bifocals, and the reading area was so small that the specs were unusable. So I just used the glasses for driving, even though I could see almost as well at a distance without them. Even then their use was mainly in case I was stopped by the police, as the glasses are on my license.

I hope the new lenses, which I asked to be made "progressive" and to be set into the old frames, will improve both the near and the distant situations.

In addition to small cataracts in my right eye, which the doctor doesn't feel needs an operation yet, I have glaucoma, but it seems to be under good control. I have to take drops in my eyes for it twice a day.

The other day, while I was still struggling with the intense July glare from the drops the doctor had put in my eyes to examine them, my wife had a lady guest who spoke of having floaters. Predictably not having had much to say till then, I piped up cheerfully and said that I had them once, and that was when my glaucoma started.

I guess I never expect things to befall other people the same way that they do me, but she instantly turned edgy, and I apologized quickly for imparting that clearly unwanted info. Later my wife brushed it off by saying that her friend was unusually alert to all kinds of health threats, obviously much more so than I am..

Despite these difficulties I'm pretty happy with my vision. So far, 95 percent of the time I can make do without the use of glasses, though reading the computer is increasingly becoming a job, and I have to use the ctrl-shift-+ trick a lot.

Websites too often seem to be designed by young people who never expect anything to impair the 20-20 vision that they were born with but shouldn't expect to be able to take for granted forever.

Monday, July 14, 2008

So Far....

It occurs to me that I haven't posted anything here for more than two weeks. Yet nothing crucial has happened that prevented me from doing so.