Watchtower

An iconic tower about a mile down the beach from us. Made of steel, it was probably constructed circa 1915. Each night it was filled with water to support the needs of the salmon processors the next day. Some twenty years earlier this was the site of the largest salmon cannery in the world. Today, the tower makes a fine perch for raptors to spy prey from.

We’ve lived here just over a year now. OK, and? And…well, I dunno, it doesn’t seem like it’s been a whole year, that’s all. It seems to me like well short of a year. Time flies when you’re having fun they say. Yet time is invariant. So whether I’m an hour in the dentist’s chair experiencing a root canal, or in a five star hotel on a king-sized bed fitted with eight-hundred thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, enjoying an hour of languorous sex, shouldn’t matter in terms of the passage of time. An hour? Lmao! Go ahead and snicker all you want, but a root canal really can take an hour or more.

Connections

A few topics I’ve been reading/listening about lately. They seem connected somehow: Polyamory, alarming low birthrates across the world, the evolution of mate preference in ducks (it’s not what you may think), the emasculation of modern boys, and parents who regret having children.

Polyamory is a fancy word that refers to a lifestyle where the participants embrace the belief that more is merrier. My take is that polyamory is like sword swallowing, a demonstration you might ogle in disbelief, but not one you’d want to try for yourself. And when polyamorists aren’t having sex they’re talking about it, ceaselessly, according to one participant. You should not assume all polyamorists are pro-natalists. Pro what? Pro more babies. There seems to be a species of Groupthink that has formed into an advocacy promoting the idea that having more babies who will grow up to be super smart, and start up their own tech companies in San Francisco – and as adults make even more babies – is going to save the world. Because apparently Paul Erlich’s 1968 tocsin, The Population Bomb, turned out to be less of an explosion and more like a dud. Unless you exist in the largest slums in India, or certain places in sub-Saharan Africa. Then maybe Paul was right. But if you’re a tech-bro (or tech-sis) in San Francisco, to pay forward your genetic gift of brilliance, it behooves you to get those world-saving genes inside you, into as many new copies of yourself as possible. Be careful though. There is disquieting evidence that in developed countries as many as one in ten parents regret having children. Maybe these parents did not possess the “genetic gift” to pass on to their children that many new pro-natalists believe they have? 🤷🏼‍♂️

There is another, older species of Groupthink morally opposed to the goals of pro-natalism called – unsurprisingly – anti-natalism. Adherents of this worldview believe all humans should resist the urge to procreate; they claim that the fewer humans there are to experience the misery of this world, the better. Supposedly, the philosopher Schoepenhauer was an anti-natalist. In our modern era, certain gene determinists, people who believe that the constitution of your genome mostly determines the quality of human being you’ll become, argue that being child-free by choice represents the victory of mind over the imperative of its creator. To me, this is an illogical counter-argument they make which exposes a glaring contradiction. Namely, that the genes that make a human brain, a brain that concludes it doesn’t want children, were selected by evolution for reproductive success! If that contradiction isn’t as obvious to you as it is to me, email me, I’ll do my best to unpack it for you.

Speaking of reproduction – guess what species has the largest penis? The horse? Not even close. Simple physics explains how corkscrews work to extract a wine cork. Yet nobody – I mean nobody – knows how the Lake Duck’s corkscrew cock came to be so…well, huge and out of proportion to its body size. It’s a mystery, a marvel of biology. In the book I’m reading, the author floats the hypothesis that the serpentine vagina of the female admits only compatibly spiraled penises, so the two likely co-evolved as a means for the female to choose specific males to mate with. Drakes without a suitably spiraled penis would not be able to penetrate the female far enough to deliver his seed where it needs to be to successfully fertilize her. Think lock and key. The author hypothesizes that this is the girls’ way of avoiding forced copulation with drakes she’s just not into. Forced copulation being a less inflammatory synonym that biologists use for gang rape. Because sorry to have to break it to you, but red-in-tooth-and-claw gang rape near the pond is, unfortunately for the female duck, usual

In the end, all creatures great and small, us included, are marionettes in a large circus we call life. There are real world inputs, and a creature’s experience of them. That’s it. Which circus tent you land in is not of your choosing, and has less to do with the constitution of your genome and more to do with the values of your lifelong sensory inputs, aka experiences.

Newest Nibbe

Meet Chloe

She slept comfortably through the night, not a single whimper. Roughly two years old. Forty-eight pounds. We adopted her from the county humane society shelter, where she’d been for over thirty days. She’d been picked up as a stray, and though she was chipped, there was no reply to any of several attempts by the shelter staff to contact the putative owners. Not a lick of aggression in this dog; she’s friendly, independent, curious, and warming up to us nicely. We’re pleased to have her in our company. The folks at the shelter were happy Chloe found her forever home, although they were a bit sad as well to see her go. She was evidently the “calming influence” among dogs in the play yard where volunteers help the dogs overcome shelter-related anxiety. She’s got a good spirit. We really like her.

Worst behavior so far: She pulled the cheesecake serving utensil off the counter. I tiptoed into the kitchen and spotted her licking it clean. 🤗

Madonna Fakes

What’s this? A news report that the Vatican is set to “overhaul” its process for discerning Virgin Mary fakes. You know, for the purpose of distinguishing authentic supernatural expressions of the Virgin Mary from hoaxes. The article ends with a statement from a practitioner of Marian theology (I didn’t know Marian Theology was a thing, did you?):

“What is positive in the new document is the recognition that the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Mother are present and active in human history,” he said. “We must appreciate these supernatural interventions but realize that they must be discerned properly.”

He cited the biblical phrase that best applies: “Test everything, retain what is good.″

You know, some days it’s hard for me to believe it’s been over two hundred years since the end of the Age of Enlightenment.

I keep saying it isn’t AI deep fakes on the Internet we should be most concerned about. It’s rather the continued good ol’ fashioned quackery foisted on us by BIs (Biological Intelligence) that should concern us most.

Quack

How do you like me now

The Present Is Its Past

It was nine years after Alaska became a state that the means for it to sustain itself was discovered. It happened inside that shack on March 12, 1968, roughly a mile and a half from the shore of the Arctic Ocean. Seventeen years later, nearly to the day, I was recruited to go work for one of the two companies responsible for the discovery. (The other company interviewed me but didn’t offer me a job). About four years later the company relocated me to work in its Alaska office, located in Anchorage. All of this might never have happened. Prior to drilling the discovery well, more than a dozen others had been drilled – dry holes every one of them. Finally, a last ditch decision was made to drill one more. It was always so.

All of our experiences are completely shaped by events that preceded us. Even though it seems to each of us, at least in part, that we are the cause of our own outcome. As if the present and future are a mystery until we choose to reveal them. But you know what, the more I think about that, I don’t think it’s true.

Springtime

Behold: The tulips of Skagit Valley. And they’re just getting started! This was a short drive from the Homestead. We stopped to take photos on our way to catch the ferry in Anacortes, which shuttled us to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island where we celebrated HW’s birthday.

The view from our room, with another ferry arriving. The room was great, no complaints, although it featured an extra large, Jacuzzi-style tub in the shape of the mathematical symbol for infinity. Smack dab in the middle of the room. Get yer romance on? I don’t think so. Neither of us likes bathtubs. The very idea of soaking in our own lukewarm slop for an hour, bubbly in hand or not, holds no appeal for us. We dislike tubs so much we decided to remodel our primary bathroom at the Homestead. We demoed the traditional tub ‘n shower configuration and transformed it into a walk-in, spa-like shower. Similar to what we did in our Anchorage home. I gave the contractor a house key before we left and said, “Keep us posted on your progress.”

HW on her birthday, in our room ready to go to dinner. After all these years I still pinch myself to make sure this good fortune is real.

Beauty for Beauty’s Sake

Ardea herodias (aka Great Blue Heron)

We spotted this one hunting near the marina by our house. I’m guessing a boy given the longer ornamental plumage? These birds are everywhere around here, especially this time of year but we’ve spotted them in winter too. Truly a beautiful bird. I’m reading a book titled The Evolution of Beauty by Richard Prum, wherein he makes the argument that the aesthetic features in males (physical traits and behaviors) have co-evolved with the female’s preference for them, independent of any survival or reproductive advantage of the features. In other words, beauty for beauty’s sake. His thesis draws on over thirty years observing the reproductive behaviors of Manakins and certain species of Pheasants found in jungles around the world. It set me to wonder if the aesthetic beauty of the Great Blue Heron may have evolved in a similar way.

Remnants


Eye candy on the beach. Two by Mother Nature, one by modern man. Click or touch to embiggen!

Remember back in the 70s and 80s when government funding of the national space program was controversial? (And maybe it still is, I haven’t paid close attention lately). If I recall correctly, most arguments against funding NASA had to do with not enough money to go around, the government has more important spending priorities many people said. Yet in 1962, President Kennedy, apparently in need of a collective goal to focus the waning patriotic spirit of the American voter, announced that we (America) choose to go to the moon. I was two years old then, too young to appreciate the arguments of the naysayers, one of which was: why the hell should we spend all this money just to land on the moon? One reason was to get ahead of the Russians, who had one year prior to Kennedy’s speech successfully put a man in orbit to circle the globe. We can’t let them horrible communists win the space race! And so it happened in 1969 Apollo 11 landed on the moon. I was nine then, certainly I would have seen it reported on black ‘n white TV, but I have no memory of that spectacle if in fact I did. In the ensuing decades there were many justifications for continuing to fund NASA. One which held mass appeal centered on the prospect of technology transfer – all that R&D that NASA was engaged in getting us into space could be translated into whizzbang products to improve the lives of ordinary Americans. Turns out that claim wasn’t totally fatuous. I had no idea, for instance, that the invention of the Dustbuster was based on cordless motor technology, developed by Black & Decker for NASA, to power a drill to extract core samples on the moon. Take that naysayers! The Dustbuster certainly improved my life. I used one to clean the entire basement flat (aka The Bat Cave) where I lived while in grad school, circa 1983-84. Well, “clean” may be an exaggeration. But my point is, that Dustbuster kept me and my roommates from having to wade through ankle-deep dust bunnies. And, for that matter, our dates too. In fact, I found the chance of getting a date to accompany me back to The Bat Cave a second time was negatively correlated to dust bunny volume. You’ve heard the phrase I’m sure, “Chics Dig Dirt.” Well, they don’t, not really.

Come to find out all these years later the technology transfer argument for funding NASA still has merit. We purchased a King-sized mattress recently to replace a twenty-year old one, which anymore was about as supportive as a Twinkie left out in the hot sun. This new one uses memory foam technology, specifically the same type used to cover the chairs in rockets that astronauts travel to space in. Take that naysayers! Now, instead of waking up each morning to a constellation of aches and pains, we awake more or less pain free, as if all night long we’d been afloat among the moon and stars.

Tick Tock

A fine day at the north fork of the Nooksak River, near Glacier, WA. HW found a bunch of fossils here during our recent exploration of the area. Mount Baker looms in the distance. It’s one of the youngest volcanic peaks in the Cascade range. Unambiguous evidence dates the last eruption here at about 6,600 years ago. The entire watershed is a major source of fresh water for the state, and for the generation of hydroelectric power which accounts for about 65% of the state’s electrical output. The more famous Mt. St. Helens on the Pacific Ring of Fire is the only volcano in the Cascade Range with a more active thermal crater than Mt. Baker. When I was a student in the Geoscience program at Wisconsin (early ’80s), I traveled out West for a summer field course and was fortunate to visit Mt. St. Helens a year or more after it erupted in May, 1980. The explosion removed most of the north face of the mountain. I’d never before observed that scale of destruction by a natural force, truly jaw dropping. When we were in Portland recently with friends, the four of us drove north to spend a few hours at the St. Helens visitor center. Watching the time-lapse video of the eruption brought back a lot of memories of my first trip there. Measured in geologic time, though, it was like a blink-of-an-eye ago.

Will Mt. Baker erupt in the near future? Probably. In 1860, travelers aboard a steamboat headed to Victoria, BC reported seeing plumes of smoke rising from one of the craters on Mt. Baker, and there was a scare in 1975 and another in 2007. But none of those rumblings led to a full on eruption like was seen at Mt. St. Helens. But it’s probably just a matter of time. I’ll be thankful not to be standing this close the day it happens.