Wednesday, December 27, 2023

How Can You Tell When An Israeli Is Lying?

I saw Michael Hertzog, Israeli Ambassador to the United States interviewed on the PBS Newshour tonight.

His lips were moving.




Tuesday, December 26, 2023

I Have Also Had The Wolf

Back in 2014 my wife and I spent a few days in Paris, in our favorite hotel, in our favorite cartier. 

We had train tickets to Florence and were using the few days before departure to just wander the streets of Paris - a practice that I had, by then, turned into a full-time job.

My wife doesn't love Paris as much as I do, so I had spent a lot more time there than she had by 2014 - about two years since the year 2000; as a result, I had found a lot of things and places that I hadn't been able to share with her up to that date.

One of those places was Parc Monceau.

So one day we walked there.

And around there.

And across there.

What a great parc; the only one I like better is Montsouris, on the bottom of the City.

But we were wandering Monceau.

Up toward the top of the city.

And we got hungry there.

She had heard of a restaurant near there that sounded good.

So we went there.

To that restaurant.

And it was good.

So good.

The picture is my plate; that's what I had.

With a coupe de champagne.

They call it "bar" in the Atlantic; that means bass.

They call it "loupe" in the Mediterranean; that means wolf.

Since we were on the Atlantic part of France, I had bass.

So good.

It was at restaurant Guido de Luca.

The propriétaire was charming.


Monday, December 11, 2023

And now we have donnie.

 American Democracy is a lot like the story of - as best we can guess - how life formed on earth.

Like life, it was a cosmically unlikely event, a once in time event and a game changing event.

It started randomly with a random spate of disparate human ingredients (we're on American Democracy here, not life; but life also started with a random spate of disparate ingredients) coming to the "New World" from different places at different times.

It seems that the majority, although from different specific locales, were all from one sort of place that was beginning to be identified in those olden times as a "country, or nation"; they were mostly from England.

And, unlike the French explorers and trappers or the Spanish military, England sent - or lost, depending upon one's point of view - families.

They were families escaping persecution for their nonstandard religion.

They were families who had heard that there was farmland for free.

 They were families that just wanted not to be ground down any more by the social system of England.

And that families came from England was a significant difference between English emigrants to the New World and other nations' emigrants to the New World: families either die off or survive, and if there are survivors, some prosper; that was what happened with the English families that came to the New World.

The French explored, and the Spanish destroyed civilizations, and, in either case, they were unaccompanied individuals from their respective cultures; and their respective cultures had not sent families in tandem, so there was no affinitive breeding stock for those individuals to find and with which to blend; whatever progeny they may have begotten was of a hybrid variety, damned from the get-go by the mores of the invaders, so nothing much but misery came from and to those descendants.  

The English families, on the other hand, either died off or survived as Englishmen and Englishwomen, and some prospered.

There were also individuals from England, mostly, I guess, men, but there were also women individuals.

Those individuals all came for the same reasons as the families, but they brought also a different characteristic: belief in their own individual ability to survive and prosper in a world where the slate of old had been wiped clean.

With that belief they were in the New World to Stay.

Just like the families.

And the fact that some of the English-speaking families had survived and prospered created an English-speaking human infrastructure from which the English-speaking individuals who survived could select mates and take a try at families of their own. 

All of that started in the early 17th Century.

By late in the 18th Century there were a lot of descendants of that random spate of disparate human ingredients.

And a lot of them by then had prospered.

And a lot of them by then had become deeply educated.

They had become deeply educated in and had become believers in The Enlightenment.

And they were becoming enlightened enough, and prosperous enough to question why they, having taken huge risks, having left England on tiny boats to a totally unknown destination, having lived and died in conditions of health and safety that had never been endured by Europeans, and having prevailed in spite, were being drawn under the heel of the royal boot; they were, after all, by then a free people and they were chary to relinquish that freedom.

Part of being drawn under the heel of the royal boot included the fact that they had no vote.

They were free, English-speaking people but Parliament was denied them.

We all have a general, Hollywood idea of how that turned out.

But most of us don't know, or don't care, what was so similar about the emergence of life on planet earth and about the creation of democracy in America.

Or how preciously unique - like life itself - that creation of Democracy has turned out to be.

A long, long time ago, some of the chemicals that were floating around in the vast seas of Earth found some sort of affinity for one another, and they combined in such a manner that they moved and absorbed other chemicals as nutrients to sustain their continued floating around as absorbers.  The absorbing sustained them, but the only way there became more of them was when whatever conditions created the first of them continued to, occasionally, occur.

There were a fair number of variations of those chemical combinations, but none of them could replicate themselves.

That went on until about two billion years ago.

Somewhere, sometime, some number of those dissimilar chemical combinations collided and combined, and that collision created a new thing that could replicate itself. 

Life had occurred.

So far, to date, the vastly distant relatives - all of us - of that collision have not been able to find anything like us anywhere that we are able to know about.

We don't find life anywhere but here.

And then something happened.

Not only could the new thing replicate itself, it went into hyperdrive creating variations of itself.

And the magical palette of life that we know on Earth had become and continues to be a moveable feast on account of that happenstantial collision two billion years ago.

And it has never happened again here, so given two billion years for it to have happened at all, it can be thought of with accuracy to be an uncommon occurrence. 

So what has that got to do with those English families and those English individuals?

It has to do with a cosmic analogy.

Those English families and their associated individual fellows were in the political world a great deal like those first chemical aggregations that occurred and floated for eons until one of them collided with another, not identical, but similar, one of them.

Those people were unlike anything that had been known prior to their existence.

They were self-sustaining doers of deeds, singers of songs and proprietors of businesses.

At the local level they were self-governing through town meetings and various similar contrivances.

They had a king, but the king only wanted their taxes; he didn't want to know what they thought, needed, wanted, or aspired to.

He certainly didn't want them in Parliament.

He had enough trouble with the Island born Members of Parliament.

He didn't need another faction yapping at his gold clad heels.

So, those now several generations of  English families and English individuals, floating free of relations to the king, pretty much calling their own shots - ocean mileage being what it is - floating around in the vast New World, and they, being aware of kindred spirits spread across and about the land, found some sort of affinity for one another, and they combined in such a manner that they moved and absorbed other ideas and other politics as nutrients to sustain their continued floating around as absorbers of all of that.

And then there was the collision.

As it was two billion years into the current era, with chemical soup, this time earth had some socio-political proto-particles floating around: literate, relatively prosperous English speakers; a king across the ocean who only wanted to milk the emerging prosperity of those literate, relatively prosperous English speakers, but not relinquish an iota of political power in recompense for the taxes thus milked; a plethora of, by that time, written and easily accessible political opinion, theory and newly emerging socio-political beliefs based on those theories and opinions; and most important of all, the power, individuality and self confidence that prosperity had, after numerous decades engendered. 

"When in the course of human affairs ..."

At the four-billion-year mark of the current era, give or take a few, it had happened again.

Some apparently aimlessly floating particles collided and morphed inexplicably into something heretofore unseen, something new, something unique.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident ... "

And for two hundred and fifty years the creation that resulted from that has been dividing, multiplying, adjusting and improving and, perhaps most important, surviving - some might say prevailing.

In that two hundred and fifty years most of the rest of the world has adopted a form of government that, if one were to take at face value the words describing those adoptions, is pretty similar to what came out of nowhere from a collision of particles in North America.

But with few exceptions, those adopted forms are less than propaganda-deep.

They are rigged from the outset, and the mother's milk of the form - free and fair elections, and peaceful transfer of power, either don't exist, or are charades.

A few European nations mean what their constitutions say, but those nations are few.

For two hundred and fifty years the United States - that chance in a quintillion collision of socio-political particles - has stood as the blueprint for free and fair elections and pro-forma ("of course, you won") peaceful transfer of power.

And now we have donnie.

And now we have a huge minority who are either so stupid, or so evil, that they support donnie.

How sad, sad, sad, sad, sad.


 




Saturday, December 9, 2023

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Using Tools

 


Using tools is supposed to be a major difference between humans and all the rest.

Over the years we have found that quite a few of the rest use tools. 

Here is one of the rest using a tool: a paved road.

Oh, and also using gravity.  

Pretty sophisticated way to eat a clam.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Rock Star; I Asked Bing How The Album Is Selling

Dolly Parton’s new album, Rockstar, is selling very well. It debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Album Sales chart with 118,500 copies sold in the first week. It also made history as her highest charting album ever on the Billboard 200, reaching No. 23. It is her third top 10 hit on that chart. Are you a fan of Dolly Parton?


Saturday, December 2, 2023

A Chatte Chat With Bing

Recently, I have been pretty consistently entertained in any engagement I have had with Bing since the addition of its large language model brain.

This is a conversation that has just occurred because I have been wondering if one of the great cats can choose to live like Alfie.

Here is that exchange. I have tried to see and delete all references that Bing invokes - the Arabic numerals - because I think they louse up the flow of the dialogue.  I may not have gotten all of them.

Me:

Can cheetahs be domesticated?

Bing:

Cheetahs are not domesticated animals, meaning they have not been selectively bred and genetically modified by humans for specific traits. They have been kept as pets by some people throughout history, but they have many challenges and risks as pets. They are wild animals that need a lot of space, exercise, and specialized care. They are also endangered and threatened by habitat loss and poaching. Therefore, it is not advisable or ethical to keep cheetahs as pets.

Me:

I am asking because I saw two that were pets of the Empress in the movie Quo Vadis. And I recently saw a PBS feature that had two cheetahs that had been adopted by a human when they were only five weeks old.  They seemed to be like large house cats.

Bing:

I understand your curiosity. However, movies and documentaries may not show the full picture of what it means to own a cheetah as a pet. Cheetahs are not like large house cats, they have very different needs and behaviors. They may bond with their human caretakers, but they are still unpredictable and potentially dangerous. They also face many threats in the wild, and keeping them as pets may contribute to their decline. It is better to appreciate them from a distance and support conservation efforts to protect them and their habitat.

Me:

I appreciate your defense of leaving wild things wild, a belief that you and I share.  I have only been interested in theory, if a cheetah, taken early enough in life could bond with a human as does a domestic cat.  Domestic cats are still wild animals; they have merely made a bargain that they deem superior to being wild animals.

Bing:

I’m glad to hear that you share my belief. In theory, a cheetah may bond with a human if taken early enough in life, but that does not mean it is domesticated. Domestication is a long and complex process that involves genetic changes and adaptation to human environments. Domestic cats are not wild animals, they are a distinct subspecies of the wildcat that has evolved over thousands of years of coexistence with humans. They have different physical and behavioral traits than their wild ancestors. Cheetahs have not undergone such changes, and they retain their wild instincts and needs. Therefore, they are not suitable as pets, even if they may form some attachment to their human owners.

Me:

There is a book: "The Lion in the Living Room" that seems to differ with your view of "domestic" cats.  The author says that there is a minor difference in brain size, but, unlike the wholesale changes that are evident in dogs - relatives to the grey wolf - the slightly different brain is the only difference between the cat sitting on a stool next to me as I key this, and his ancestor from thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia.

Bing:

Searching for: The Lion in the Living Room book summary

Generating answers for you…

I have not read that book, but from the summaries I found online, it seems that the author argues that cats are not fully domesticated, but rather semi-domesticated or self-domesticated. That means they have some adaptations to living with humans, but they also retain a lot of their wild traits and behaviors. However, that does not mean that there is no difference between domestic cats and their wild ancestors. The book also mentions that domestic cats have different coat colors, patterns, sizes, shapes, and personalities than wildcats. These are the result of genetic changes and human selection over time. Therefore, domestic cats are not identical to wildcats, even if they share some similarities. They are a distinct subspecies that has evolved in a different environment than their wild relatives.

Me:

You have twice used the term "wildcat".  When I hear that term I think of a distinctly North American (maybe also northern European) relative to the Lynx.  "Domestic" cats are totally different from that sort of feline.  Domestic cats originated in the Middle East.

Bing:

The term “wildcat” can have different meanings depending on the context. In general, it can refer to any of various small or medium-sized cats that are not domesticated, such as the lynx or the ocelot. However, in a more specific sense, it can refer to an Old World cat that is native to Europe, Africa and Asia, and is usually considered to be one of the ancestors of the domestic cat. The wildcat is divided into several subspecies, such as the European wildcat, the African wildcat, and the Asiatic wildcat. The African wildcat is the most likely ancestor of the domestic cat, as it was the first to be tamed by humans in the Middle East. Therefore, when I say “wildcat”, I mean the Old-World cat, not the North American or northern European relative of the lynx. I hope this clarifies my usage of the term.

Friday, December 1, 2023

Deux Cynges

 


I was on the river flying;

I saw her on the way.

And then we flew together.

à jamais, je supposerais