All aboard. People I very much appreciate:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Estivation is the summer equivalent of hibernation, a period of torpor during hot weather practiced by animals that have any sense at all. When you wake on a summer morning and your eyes look like this,

                                                   it's time to estivate. Ok, my illustration is really a photo of the moon I took through a telescope and framed in a big knothole --but it's close. How close?

That question brings us to the next photo, the pumphouse thermometer out back. This is how it's looked for a week:
The moon keeps about 240,000 miles from our planet, and has done so for 4 billion years. The sun, however, is not satisfied with that and varies its distance. I'm too hot to pore through my astronomy book for exact data, but I guess I know a thing or two about thermometers. The good ones are graduated in both Fahrenheit and Celsius so we can calculate our solar remove.

Here's how: 1st, divide the Fahrenheit scale by the Celsius scale; 2nd, label the quotient in miles. That's it. Pumphouse thermometer reads about 112F and 45C. Therefore the sun is only about two and a half miles away right now.

You don't want the sun too close. Life there is hard. There's a kind of fish --made of titanium and asbestos-- that glows red and transparent in the sun's  heat and swims over oceans of fire, but less adaptable creatures must content themselves with family generations that only span 1 billionth of a second.

If there are any errors in my calculations, I shall correct them in autumn --hopefully before winter hibernation.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Happy Feathers Day!

Let's begin with reference to a recent post (from  the 8th, I think) about a mysterious couple of newcomers who spoke like little sleigh-bells. You are invited to click here and see how they were identified in the comments section.  Now we know enough to go on with. Here's the nest on the 11th:
And again on the 15th:
Mrs. Otherspecimen, our longtime friend, had earlier cautioned us these might be Cowbirds, but upon seeing this photo, opined it was a little old man with huge sunglasses --a notion we considered seriously because Norma is married to one.
This theory was lent some credence because the little subject seemed clumsy and disorganized. Then, that afternoon...
...there was another one, which brings us to yesterday...
...and today:
All their eggs have hatched. Here are  their full-fledged parents:
I don't know Towhees well enough to determine which is male or female, but they both tend the nest equally and I will use that precedent of parental parity to wish everyone a
Happy Feathers Day!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Von Neumann Probes and the Assembly of Remote possibilities

Seven years ago I was thinking about von Neumann probes (click here for background). Here is an excerpt meant as preamble to my recent expedition in hopes of  finding out if this theoretical construct really exists:

VON NEUMANN PROBES: An electric field is a cloud of virtual photons. Energy propagation depends on virtual photons passing between charges --chicken or egg. Photons become real when shaken or stirred. This creates an imbalance, a little violation of energy-conservation law, which is tolerated only briefly if the kick is strong or, if the kick is weak, quite a long time. This is why the energy level of info coming to us from distant sources is always very low. What we learn from it depends on our ability to perceive and reason in new ways.

So I have a problem with von Neumann probes. Despite the wonderful idea of probes that can set up anywhere and reproduce, they still couldn't detect anything outside their original programming. This serves only to compound the unknown of unknown regions. Also, after they take their million years to explore our one little galaxy, it would consume at least that time to complete their reports --and again that long for us to receive them.

Our expansion into distance is unlikely to depend on a big gas-fired gadgets shouting imbecilities from deep space. We need to evolve, to do more with less and weaker, subtler, forms of information. When we see light, we detect massless particles, events that aren't actually things --particles that don't exist in the way we define our own existence. That's got to change before we can explore much beyond our solar system.

Further thoughts 7 years later: Because the probes' survey of even one galaxy would consume at least 1/2 million years of travel and reproduction, they would have to be equipped with debriefing transmitters that exploited some sort of quantum coherence --a process to which the speed of light (and all electromagnetic wavelength) is irrelevant, or they would have to possess sufficient artificial intelligence to process their own data. Consciousness.  Happily, Norma was able to photograph  one such probe, von Neumann's theory is still defensible:

                      (Normaphoto: von Neumann probe --likes trainrides and beer!)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Heading In

Back still strong --but jeans sagging because worked ass off years ago-- and I still hate these sandals, but this isn't about that. Our specimen is heading in. His progress is halfway between south fence and back door. He is thinking about stuff. Bird stuff. 

He is thinking about Bellbirds. Something has been tintinabulating around the yard. Mrs. Specimen calls them Bellbirds. She took a Normaphoto: 
Specimen says Bellbirds are in Australia, not California. Mrs. Specimen asks her friend, Mrs. Otherspecimen, who says, "It's a Cowbird! Terrible creatures that lay eggs in other birds' nests and hatch out fast-growing gluttons that leave the other birds to starve!" Here is a picture of the nest:
As you can see, one of these eggs is not like the others. Although I really like the bell-like chirp of the strange bird, I'm inclined to believe it's a Cowbird --a feathered family that used to follow bison and leave their young to others. Their calls are similar, but I have not heard of Bellbirds in California.

Two days later, the little egg was gone from the nest. My guess is the owner of the nest pushed it out. I couldn't find it on the ground. Whatever is on the ground and has a shell is defined as food for other creatures. Earnest squirrel has kept his distance. The enigma is unsolved. 

All I know is, this bird, this specimen joined me in my inspection --and I cannot conflate the loss of one specimen's ass with the loss of another's egg.  We all work hard as best we can.  However, I would appreciate any and all suggestions about what sorts of birds are dealt with here.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Sermon And Hoots

Let's begin with a clip of Hoots reciting his poem 3 years ago, "Hoots on Dogs & Humans":

Hoots (origin clickable here) was built by me, and was named in reincarnation of a beloved childhood hand puppet. Problem with hand puppets is they begin to wonder about their own anatomy at some point and begin looking under their clothes. Inevitably, they find they are little different from gloves,  their primordial ancestors, and their naked bodies are human hands.

Poor hand-puppet-Hoots began to worry about self-determination, especially after following my arm from his hem to me. Disillusioned, he started to fall apart and finally was no more. I didn't think too much about him until high school graduation when my whole class dressed in gowns. We all looked like hand puppets and I was afraid to look down --there might be an arm!

Years later, I got married and had children for whom I didn't buy hand puppets. We got a dog instead, a happy Shepherd-Labrador to romp with the kids and, if necessary, bite unwanted intruders. She is long-buried out back, under a concrete slab that reads "Protected and Had Fun".  The children grew up and found other rompers, we never replaced our dog --but lately, I've thought about it because I'm tired of dashing out and biting intruders myself.

Your regular pastor will be back next week or whenever the veterinarian gives him clearance. What's that? No, your regular pastor was vaccinated for Parvo --it's not that. Go thou and do likewise. 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Because I was unable to get a Normaphoto of Deep Space (that is Outer Space beyond our solar system), I settled for two pictures of me walking up the lane from our front gate. The first accompanied a poem posted three years ago. The second was taken a couple days ago.

What Bucket List?

Why I am laughing:
My hearing's gone,
My nerves are shot,
My bucket is empty
And I hate these sandals.
There are worse definitions
Of happiness.

Next is an excerpt from an e-mail exchange between life-long friend Willie and me in 2010:

You may recall some years back when Israeli physicist, Moti Milgrom , successfully explained why old probes in deep space were slowing down where there should be no resistance. He dismissed gravitational effects of dark matter by using a 4-d constant: roughly the speed of light divided by the age of the universe --elastic space.

If space is elastic, so is time. It's yanking subatomic particles to participate in reactions elsewhere, elsewhen. It's reacting to tickled toes. It's irritable. When you collect the other 4 requirements which I forget from high school biology, you can only conclude it's alive. --Geo.

I now remember the requirements for life-forms were irritability, movement, metabolism, adaptation and reproduction, but there are doubtless more qualities added in the past 50+ years --like saying "I'll think of something" and actually doing it. Which brings us to our second Normaphoto:
It is three years later. I am not laughing, nor am I carrying a bucket. I have thought of something:

If Moti was right, and his calculation truly cosmological in its simplicity --accurate where math involving dark matter was only approximate-- then time itself is elastic, time within time. This would make the relativistic constant, the speed of light, into a variable.  That's huge. It leaves only one true fixed feature in the entire universe --I Still Hate These Sandals!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

1968 A True Story Of The Infinite Negative

You came by. Troubled. It was 1968 and I lived with 3 other guys at Palomar Apartments. There was a party going on .  I suggested we repair to the little kitchen and sit at the table. We sat across from one another. You admired the tablecloth.

"It's Indian," I said. "Got it at Pier 1."


Of course it was cheap. None of us had much money in 1968. The name of it got me spending more than I should have: Floral Kavita.

"What's Kavita?
"Hindi for 'poem'."

"Where is the poem?"

At this point people staggered and barged into the kitchen, looking for libations and smelling of  cannabis. I suggested we clear the table.

"Then what?" She asked.

"Then we drape the tablecloth over our heads and go outside to find the poem."

We did so, felt a sudden privacy under the fabric, left by the kitchen back door and found a lawn that gave onto 14th Avenue. I led us to a bench. We sat.

"Tell me what's on your mind." I said. We could see the lights of cars and porches, but no details through the cotton. We heard only each other.

"I've been thinking about Harry. He wants to get married."

"Congratulations.  How do you feel about that?"

"Like an ornament."

"We need a poem, eh? No? What then?"

"All I can think of is an old song, Geo."


"We couldn't carry Harry to the ferry.
 We couldn't carry Harry to the shore.
 Reason that we couldn't carry Harry
 Is we couldn't carry Harry anymore."

I was charmed and astonished. "Where did you learn that song?"

"From my parents when I was little. They would sing it and laugh."

"It goes beyond syntactic double negatives into the grammatically infinite. I'll try to remember." We then did a synchronized somersault off the bench and the table-cloth stayed with us.

5 years later, I was working downtown and encountered her and her sister in the alley where my shop was. They were on their way back to the legal office they worked. We were happy to see each other. I was emboldened and asked, "Did you ever marry Harry?"

They both rolled their eyes and said, "Nooooo!"

Through peripheral sources, I've learned she became an elementary school teacher and married someone she is truly happy  with. Happy retirement, dear friend, wherever you are.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dragons And Details, What Dots Can Be

Let's begin with a couple of Normaphotos, as I often love to do. In the first, she heads out into the peripheral garden and notices something overhead --a herd of clouds  moving east into the Sierras.
They will pile up against mountains and rain  to refill our reservoirs. She had to get closer.
Yes, I believe she levitated. Norma has never let me watch her do that but I can't think of another explanation. If we allow our childhood imaginations to examine the central-to-right image, we see a version of Lisa's Dragon  , unretouched, breathing cool mist ahead, but there are --to the keenest-eyed observers-- a pair of dots in the upper left exhalation. Let's close in.
There appears a magpie and, further off, a heron flying east in parallel on business of their own.

No further enlargements are possible. We have learned all we can here. They all go into the mountains. It defies complication: When we learn how simple some things can be, it's surprising there's  even as many as one way of looking at them.

Sincere thanks to Lisa, yet again, for her "Oak Dragon" (please click) .

Friday, May 12, 2017

Garden Interview And Shakespeare

"Gosh, what're you?"
"I'm the same Carpenter Bee Normaphotoed  in your previous post."

"Yes, I remember...

                                        ...but you're all yellow up top now."

"True. Weather's heating up, Geo. What you see is sunscreen."

"You use pollen for sunscreen?"

"We use pollen for everything,  like in Shakespeare."

"Hamlet? 'To bee or not to bee?'(act3,scene1)"

"Don't get silly, Geo. It's 'to thine own self bee true' --Pollenius's line (act1,scene3)."

"I believe that's 'Polonius'. "

"Well don't tell anybody or the whole ecology could crash. Go and visit the other leaf and petal workers instead. I'm sure you'll see the need for discretion."

"'Most humbly (not bumblebee) do I take my leave, my lord.(act1, scene3)'"

"That's better, Geo. Now go see how your other friends are getting along. Go see Ladybug on the roses."
"Ah, there she is. Hello!"

"Hello yourself, human. Stop staring at my butt."

"Then, turn around. I can't get into the roses for another angle."

"Too busy eating aphids --who are you anyway?"

"I'm Geo. I write a blog.

"Geo.? I've heard of you. You're the clumsy idiot who stepped on his college counselor in 1970.  Get out of here."

"Well, that was an accident. I notice you have no wing-markings, does that mean...?"

"I am a Ladybug of spotless reputation. Now please move on so I can eat these blameless  screaming aphids. I believe an old friend of yours is sitting on a sage leaf. Goodbye! "

"'I shall in all my best obey you, Madam.(act1,scene2).'...Darwin? Darwin Doorbooger? is it really you? "
"But yes, it is I. Hello old friend! You look the same,Geo., but --alas!-- I am turning all sorts of impossible colors."

"Yes, that happened to me after a pacemaker change-out. Are you all right?"

"I feel ok, but am concerned about all this talk of Hamlet."

"You are turning a lovely green, Darwin. How would Shakespeare trouble you?"

"He also wrote Two Gentlemen Of Verona, Geo. What if I should turn black and be mistaken for a castanet?"

"You could be clicked to rhythmic ruin in a Tarantella!"

"Exactly! Can you help?"

"Don't worry, Darwin, I know where we can get yellow sunscreen and unwanted wing-spots that will prevent such calamity. Hop into my palm, there's a bee and a ladybug I'd like you to meet.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Wordlist #18 (or thereabouts)

My powers are under a cloud. It is Monday and the weekend has made an imbecile of me. When this happens, I resort to wordlists (samples clickable here) because thoughts sometimes lose adhesion to one another --in fact, this suggests the first entry:

1. Efeitos-colaterais: This a Portuguese phrase that means Side-effects. A change in medicine has caused me to utter things like this: This weekend's topographical studies have convinced me it is possible to travel from Spain to Portugal by zipline --which leads to word #2.

2. Cacoethes: This is an English (but yes, really) word defined as a sudden urge to do something inadvisable. Clearly, international travel by cable and gravity is inadvisable, yet, among a world population of 7 billion and a law of averages that produces remarkable events, someone is doubtless planning to do it. This calamity might be averted by safety-minded Spanish philologists who hear the phrase, "Sostenga mi cerveza", or "hold my beer", and intervene.

A more pleasant example (and exception) is here:
Norma got within inches of a California Carpenter Bee the other day to get his picture. I wouldn't have thought it advisable but I was in the house being an imbecile. This constitutes the exception to cacoethes. If one is innocently photographing sweet-pea petals and the law of averages inserts a great big bee into the picture, neither photographer nor indoor imbecile can be held responsible. Besides, I am better now and calculating to see if a zipline from the Marin Headlands to the Presidio might relieve morning traffic into San Francisco.

Wish me luck, wheeeeeeee!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Is Everything We Thought We Knew About Bridges Also About Dragonflies?

Over this essay is the longest title I've ever used. Titles here are usually short, but lately readership has fallen off and I thought maybe a long title...well, silly really, but the need to DO something about it is compelling --sometimes even I need a false sense of security. Enough said, let's proceed. The other day, Norma came in with a Normaphoto of a dragonfly. As elsewhere mentioned, wild creatures allow her within inches of themselves --she has no telephoto equipment, only an Ipad. She is a quiet, gentle girl who has no harm in her and wild things sense it. Here:
I was struck by the structural integrity of its wings. You see it at the top margin of each of its four transparent spans. I have seen such lateral bracing before, not on insects but on bridges that span the rivers that flow through this valley. We mostly have Bailey Bridges and Lift Bridges like these:

Lateral bracing is used to support forces of compression and tension. But one bridge leapt to the forefront of concern. I drew a doodle of the Jibboom Street Bridge, my favorite bridge at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers:
This isn't the whole bridge, just the part that makes it unique. The support you see mid-span contains a trunnion bearing, on which the balanced  truss can be turned 90 degrees to let tall vessels come through. So I asked her, "Could you get in closer?"

She said, "I did."
This is not a photographic enlargement; Norma really got within an inch of the creature --close enough to see its works before it flew away. We can see a system of braces and supports converging upon ten bearings that permit its machineries of flight to run smoothly. Solid and sturdy as these trusses appear, I believe they also, by curious corbeling, allow air to flow efficiently along wingspans. Before seeing these Normaphotos I had only ever imagined transparent inefficiencies--
--but now I see there is much to be learned from dragonfly wings. They are in advance of us and our big brains. Good thing too. If our bridges copied them too closely, they would fly away! But, with artistic and architectural restraint --knowing where to draw the line-- we can consider them enigmatic wonders of identical construction.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Ampliative Induction

One of my favorite poets is Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902). Here is a doodle of him in my current journal:
This poem, translated by San Francisco Poet, Kenneth Rexroth, with guidance from Morita Yasuyo and Kodama Sanhide, was included in the 1976 book, One Hundred More Poems From The Japanese:
A little over 10 years later, we had a big winter and the Sierra snowline dropped to about 1600 feet above sea-level. We built two little sleds and the kids painted them blue.  We packed them into the VW Bus and drove to the lower slopes. After sledding, we hiked into the trees and there it was. I took a photo and wish I could find it, but can't. It was a maple leaf embedded in the snow. I composed a poem in my mind and included it in a group of submissions to a magazine --it was not among those selected. I post it here:
Yes, I felt a jostle over a span of 100 years!
What is this all leading up to? I'm not sure, but along the way --entering the century's closing decade, we had two more cold winters --both of which caused creeks to freeze in this valley. I opened another journal and found this:
For those, like me, who have trouble deciphering my script, I will describe it as an ice-bound rock. The poem, as I recall, was an  effort to use the tremendous operations of nature --the language of the universe-- as a metaphor. William Blake opined, "To see a World in a Grain of Sand. And a Heaven in a Wild Flower." You see? Ampliative induction: A glimpse of immensity from a detail. He was a poet. So was Masaoka Shiki.

I am a gardener, but still I try. April is National Poetry Month.

You try too.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

How The Weather Is

Among the most perplexing enigmas is how the weather is. In this valley, gardeners, ranchers, farmers and city departments of public works have been plagued by drought, not 3 or 4 years of drought as California has conservatively complained to the world --in fear of inciting panic-- but 8 or 9 years. I don't know why we did that.

I don't know so many things.

But I do know the drought is over. In evidence, here is a photo Norma took yesterday on our way home from the market --a distance of four miles from our house on a road nobody much knew about 10 years ago. The tall grass was typical of springtime back then, and contained all sorts of little grazing animals one couldn't see until they ate their ways out --mice, bunnies, cattle, giraffes, dinosaurs. It has returned, but the animals have moved on.
Will they return? Perhaps not. Another mile brings us to a new sign.
This is the survival bellow of the California range. Pastures are being sold for housing tracts and industrial parks. Understandable after protracted drought, even if the grass is green again, the damage has been done. Party balloons have, for 9 years, had to be trucked pre-inflated from factories, and sky-divers were flown out-of-state to jump where there was enough air to open a parachute. But I have seen encouraging signs of reconstruction along with  zoning changes. Tomorrow, I shall take Norma to photo a gardeners' supply that sells decoys to lure the prairie animals back to this region. It's only a few miles away and quite promising.

Now it is tomorrow, and we set off our quest:
Our search led through several new housing tracts, then into fields again. We emerged onto a main road and found the place, got out and approached a well-secured fence, heard heavy footfalls running toward us from within. I was not entirely surprised.
"Help me with the gate," said T.Rex. "We can't seem to manage it alone. But jump back into your car or I might eat you. No offense."

"I understand, Instinct and all problem. Here, I think that's got it."
"Yay! Thanks so much! Now, if you'll give me some help with directions, I'll lead the other animals home."

"Of course, follow the realtors' signs and arrows on the fence and look both ways before crossing the road."

I have no idea how my post about weather has run to setting the dinosaurs free, but we have the rest of the day ahead to consider it in the privacy of our thoughts and tomorrow is Easter. Your regular pastor will return after finding a pest control company equal to fortifying the manse against thunderous infestations. Hope everyone had a meaningful Good Friday and, so far, an equally meaningful Not Bad Saturday.  Go in peace.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Miss Dickinson And The Paper Chase

I have written and read poems, analyzed them, parsed them out for meter and meaning long enough to know when I am in one. Emily Dickinson was 16 years old in this tintype --I believe it is the only photo ever taken of her. In 1846, a photoportrait exposure consumed several minutes, yet, some measure of her mischief comes through.
This brings us to the paper chase. During her lifetime, Emily Dickinson wrote thousands of poems, many hundreds of which she sewed into booklets and tucked under her bed. If you wish to see how she really punctuated --mainly with dashes for stops combined with continuities and capitalizations suggesting topical allusions-- you must find a book like this one.
It is 770 pages long. 

That's a lot of paper. When I was 18, a couple years older than Miss Dickinson was in her tintype, I bought a record of two songs written by the admirable Jimmy Webb. Side A was a popular puzzle, sung by the incomparable Richard Harris, but it was side B that got me going on the enigma of Emily Dickinson. A paper chase is a game of hide and seek conducted with paper scraps left as markers  by the "fox" for the "hounds".  I learned that from a lovely friend from New Zealand that same year, 1968. Here is the song, sung and declaimed by a true dramatic artist: Harris,Paper Chase;
It begins and ends with an harpsichord, but the chase continues even now --all these years later. I hope, yes the thing with feathers, that this chase has no foreseeable end.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Backyard Evolution

Geo.: Well, hello. What have we here?
Voice from overhead: A field cat perfecting his skulk.

Geo.: Who said that, and how do you know?

Voice: Look up here in the plum tree. I am a dove and doves know everything.

Geo.:  Everything?

Dove.: Everything.
Geo.: What then, is the object of Fieldcat perfecting its skulk? What is the perfect skulk?

Dove: Invisibility, of course.  Other creatures pursue it by different disciplines. Take our friend, Shed-cat, for instance...

Geo.: Shedcat? Where?

Dove: Precisely:
Dove: Shed-cat renders himself invisible by falling perfectly asleep on top of the shed. He is a great artist and ranks among the least conspicuous things in the universe.

Geo.: But what of you, Dove? How do you compare with other birds?

Dove: Consider Bluejay in the crepe myrtle...
Dove: His colors, stance and voice are are assertive --he is conspicuous. We doves have muted voices, calm colors and very good posture. On those points alone, we cannot be compared --and, of course, unlike other birds, we doves know everything.

Geo.: And humans?

Dove: Oh, good point! You humans know everything else. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Enigma of Youth

Let's begin with the premise that youth, while definitely enigmatic, is not a puzzle to be solved but a mystery to be experienced. Norma has taken a photo of the graduating dandelion class of 2017. They are in their youth and have accomplished their curriculum --a few even have their heads still on. This reminds me of my own 12th grade commencement.

Winds blew hard in my youth and many of us, like dandelions, were left without any heads, but we were resilient --as youths should be-- and our heads mostly grew back.

In youth we are clumsy and limber. I wore glasses and once accidentally stepped on them while they were still on my head. Here is a typical youth:

As Norma's camera gets closer, you can see its thoughts. Here are the thoughts of youth:
These thoughts come loose easily and spread by anemochory. This happens because of wind. Wind arrives and all thoughts fly away. Youth's friends point and laugh.

"Wind!", they say. Youth must grow a whole new head.

During this process of routine recapitation, youths are not so much driven to adulthood as confused into it. They might shout things like this:
   "The only substitute for good manners is a large and ruthless military!"
   "How dare you imply my candidate's lies are not true!"
   "I'm going to sea and dive for luffas!"

Then the storm subsides by and by and they remark, "There are many enigmas, many unknowns, and something  really ought to be done about them."

That is when a cooler head prevails and she lists the contents of the coming garden.