Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How Many Angels Can Dance On The Head Of A Pin?

SN1987 A

More than the number of stars in the Milky Way!

Sudbury Neutrino Detector located 2000
meters underground.  Note the men. 

Back in February of 1987 a large blue super giant star died in the region of space known as the Large Magellanic Cloud.  The visible evidence of this event, known as a super nova explosion, was first discerned by an observatory in Chile.  However, three hours before the super nova was visible, an increase in the neutrino flux was detected in several neutrino detectors around the world, twenty five neutrinos altogether for about 13 seconds.

Vanishing small, with almost zero mass, moving along at almost the speed of light, neutrinos are extremely hard to detect. X number of neutrinos can pass through Y number of light years of solid lead without any interaction.  Twenty seven point six bazzillion are flying though your body right now.    So why did I use variables instead of numbers, well there seems to be a variety of opinions on that question, and right now I would prefer to count dancing angels only on one pin head.

Artist's conception of a neutrino
 passing through 1 light year of
 lead.  Note! Not drawn to scale.  

Anyhow the point of all this is that you can use increases in neutrino flux to warn astronomers to get the optical telescopes fired up and get the coffee brewing in the may be a long night.  The theory is that before the supernova goes bang, the dense stellar core collapses and wham neutrinos fly off like rats leaving a sinking ship.  So many neutrinos that detectors on Earth seen 25 extra ones for an event that occurred 168,000 light years away. The supernova was named SN1987 A and you can read about it and neutrinos at Wikipedia:

Wikipedia, SN 1987 A

Wikipedia, Neutrino

Here is another interesting article on neutrinos and supernovas:

The Astrophysics Spectator, Neutrinos and Supernova 1987A

So what does this have to do with counting angels dancing on the head of a pin?    Well nothing really, but it was today's fascinating fact to keep an un-gainfully retired old man off the streets.  It also sort of modeled something that I observed with my blog, and that is what I am really writing about.

I use an Internet application called StatCounter to monitor the activity on my blog.  I only do this because its free, and it serves to give me a daily dose of humility.  What StatCounter tells me for the most part is about 30 to 50 people a day come to have a look at the "pichers" and damn few read anything.  Yet I mindlessly continue to droll out inane drivel and think it high art--but like I say, it serves to keep an old man out of the streets or bars, so what the hell.

On July third I basically plagiarized (with due credit) an article out Scientific American on the physical limits of further brain evolution.

Navigating The Finite, July 3, 2011, The Future of Human Intelligence

In that article I quoted several passages from David Eagleman's book Incognito:

"The cells are connected to one another in a network of such staggering complexity that it bankrupts human language and necessitates new strains of mathematics. A typical neuron makes about ten thousand connections to neighboring neurons. Given the billions of neurons, this means there are as many connections in a single cubic centimeter of brain tissue as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy." *

He gets a bit more specific later:
"In a single cubic millimeter of brain tissue, there are some one hundred million synaptic connections between neurons."**

Unwittingly with this post coupled with StatCounter, I created an "Ooops" detector.  Ooopses are massless bodies that travel at the speed of human conversation.  So I, again unwittingly, set up my detectors on July 3.  For about two weeks I got the usual amount of hits on the post, normal background, a couple hits every other day or so, always on an image search, with a visit length generally less than 20 seconds.  People are lookin' at the "pichers".  Nobody is reading anything--they seldom ever do. Really I should delete all this and just post pictures every now and again.

Then, about a week ago, I noticed this post was getting hits on Google text searches, always with some combination of the words "one cubic millimeter has more ___________ than stars in the Milky Way."   Fill in the blank with connections, synapses, cells, or neurons.  So the first alarm of the "ooops" detector went off...hits on this post doubled or tripled, text searches, and always the same phrase with the wrong volume unit.  In the book it is a cubic centimeter not cubic millimeter.  Being retired with nothing else to do, I got curious, what the hell is going on?  This lasted for a couple of days.  Something isn't right.  I did a couple of Google searches and found nothing out of the ordinary, although I didn't go real deep.  The hits dropped off a bit but were still going strong so I posed the question on  Someone replied that Eagleman was going on a book tour.  But that didn't seem to account for the specificity of these Google text searches.  It just seemed to me that something was up.

This morning I got up and checked Quora, nothing new.  So then I did another Google search, BINGO!  We have a visual on those "ooops", and it is a something of a "SuperOoops."

The Astronomist: A Cubic Millimeter Of Your Brain

Appearing on controversial television shows is always a good way to get noticed.  Well my good friend (yeah...he is another friend that doesn't realize that he is my friend...but I like the guy none the less) David Eagleman appeared on the Colbert Report on July 21, 2011...about three hours before the first "ooops" registered on StatCounter. Oh dear!

Colbert Report: David Eagleman

The above video is 5:44 minutes long.  And it clearly shows the metaphorical core collapsing right out of Eagleman's mouth.

Eagleman: "... that one cubic millimeter of brain tissue has as many connections as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy."

Colbert: "Bullshit!"

Eagleman: "Its true."

Colbert: "Really?  Really one cubic millimeter?"

Eagleman: "Yes!"

All shit, Dave!  Damn it!  So wham, in goes the metaphorical stellar core with one frigging word--shit not even a word, more of a prefix really, and out fly the ooopses that started to register on on my StatCounter "ooops detector."

Shit!  I knew something was up but I never suspected that Eagleman misquoted himself.  What the hell are you going to do?  It's out there now.  I went back on to and answered my own question.  I wrote Eagleman's personal assistant an email stating what I had found, and then wrote a comment on the Astronomist's post stating that Eagleman misquoted himself, and gave the correct quotes shown above.

I don't find the fact that Eagleman made a mistake all that terribly fascinating or horrific.  He is only human and he simply misquoted himself.  I don't believe in my heart that there was any intention to bullshit people or make fantastic claims, I just think the mind went one way and the tongue another, and let's face it, it is just one of those gee whiz factoids put out for slobs like me, not the basis of some theory or vast calculation. What is fascinating to me is that I detected this situation on my shit ass, back water, simple minded blog.  People must have heard this claim and thought like Colbert, "bullshit" and then started to Google it.  I have had blog posts up on Eagleman since May 4th and hardly a peep other than image searches.  But let him appear on the Colbert Report and boom an "ooops" turns into a "SuperOoops."  

Two things strike me about this whole episode.  1) How very connected the world is getting.  2) The almost absurd  influence that television shows such as the Colbert Report can exert on a society.  In some respects it is rather frightening.

Edit 7-29-11:  David Eagleman wrote the following note at the Astronomist's post  noted above:
This is David Eagleman. First, thank you for your blog post and careful analysis. Indeed, I (embarrassingly) misspoke my units on national TV -- immediately after it came out of my mouth I wanted to make the correction, but as you can imagine, things move pretty quickly on Colbert. As the above reader correctly noted, I meant to say cubic centimeter (not millimeter), which contains ~10^11 connections. As you can verify, I have the units correct in the book. I'm hoping to retrospectively clean up my verbal error online. Thanks for your help in doing so.

Bravo!  David, bravo indeed!

Image Credits:

 SN 1987A:   Wikipedia, SN 1987 A

Sudbury Neutrino Detector:  
Wikipedia: Neutrino detector

Neutrino Interacting With Lead:  Me.  


*Eagleman, David (2011). Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (pp. 1-2). Pantheon. Kindle Edition.

**Eagleman, David (2011). Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain (p. 173). Pantheon. Kindle Edition.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Low Water At The Hulton Bridge

We borrowed a little of the Busman's cobalt Manitoba skies today.  So I stopped and got some photos of low water at the Hulton Bridge today.  Shall we compare them to the photos from April 30, 2011.  Click this link for High Water At the Hulton Bridge.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Note! Click on images to view full size.

Downstream, Bank at Riverview Park, 4/30/11

Downstream, Bank at Riverview Park, 7/27/11

Steps at Riverview Park, 4/30/11

Steps At Riverview Park,  7/27/11

Looking Downstream Mid Channel, 4/30/11

Looking Downstream, Mid Channel, 7/27/11

Looking Upstream, Nine Mile Island, 4/30/11

Looking Upstream, Nine Mile Island, 7/27/11

Red Nun Navigation Buoy, 4/30/11

Red Nun Navigation Buoy, 7/27/11

Hulton Bridge, 4/30/11

Hulton Bridge, 7/27/11

Passing Boat, Note Water Line on Bridge Pier, 7/27/11

Approaching Boat, 7/27/11

Wake, 7/27/11

Image Credits:  

Photos Abovel: me

Photos Below: Pittsburgh Post Gazette various web pages.

Map: US Army Corps of Engineers, Pittsburgh District

Corp of Engineers Logo: Wikipedia, US Army Corps of Engineers

US Army Corps of Engineers

Edit 7-29-11:  In response to Busman's comment, here is a crappy map of the Pittsburgh District Flood Control Dams. The dams are the red triangles. The Allegheny River & watershed is the river system north and east of Pittsburgh. This is the water that would flow at the Hulton Bridge. The project pool level is controlled by 9 dams, Loyalhanna in the south east  to the Union City and Kinzua in the north.  The Kinzua is the largest dam in the Pittsburgh district.

The Monongahela River & watershed is directly south of Pittsburgh flowing north toward the city.  It is protected by the Stonewall Jackson, Tygart and Youghiogheny Dams.

The Ohio River, formed by the Allegheny and Monongahela flows west away from Pittsburgh.  The Corps has 4 dams on the Shenango, Mahoning, & Beaver River watersheds.

Why we have these dams:

Down Town Pittsburgh, 1936 St Patricks Day Flood, Before The Dams 

Down Town Pittsburgh 1936 Flood

Down Town Pittsburgh, June 1972, Hurricane Agnes, After The Dams Were Built

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Female Chauvinist Pigs Verses One Very Smart Cookie

Eleven days ago I finished an interesting and entertaining book, Female Chauvinist Pigs, by Ariel Levy.  I enjoyed the book.  Levy is an excellent writer and I thought she brought up some good points.  But I found Levy’s pessimistic assessment of the state of modern feminism to be rather heartbreaking. 

Then I read an article in the New Yorker about Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, and I found an element of optimism from a woman who I consider to be one very smart cookie. You can read the article on Sandberg here on The New Yorker’s open website: 

The New Yorker, July 11, 2011. A Woman’s Place, Ken Auletta.

 Frankly, I am confused.  For the past week or so this book and article have been flying around in my mind.  My fingers are itching to write a post.  They want to fly effortlessly over the keyboard while my mind expounds one profound thought after another—pull away the veil and record a glorious truth on this issue.  This is the way it is!   But the task evades me.  I have tried to sit down several times and write a sensible post.  I am blocked.  Part is fear...writing about feminism is not for the feint hearted especially when you are a male.  Some of it is the feeling that I am totally removed from what the rest of humanity believes…if men are from Mars and women from Venus...I must be from Neptune because my beliefs don’t seem to fit into the cacophony of screeching about truths that I have read recently.  Some of it is because I am a blue collar slob who does not have a fancy liberal education.  But most of it is just plain confusion.  What is a reasonable stand on feminism today?  This question is at the heart of this swirling maelstrom of ideas, facts, and truths that are flying around in my head. 

So let’s take a quick look at what Ariel Levy finds troubling with modern feminism.  Levy became concerned that modern women are embracing what she calls an excessive “raunch culture”.  Women today are often enamored with facets of western culture that were at one time considered sexist: strippers, porn stars, Playboy culture, excessively revealing clothing, and the jiggling T&A culture of television.  She also expresses dismay that so many women are involved in the promotion of this “raunch culture”.   So what exactly is a Female Chauvinist Pig?  Well according to Levy:

"What was almost more surprising than the change itself were the responses I got when I started interviewing the men and — often — women who edit magazines like Maxim and make programs like The Man Show and Girls Gone Wild. This new raunch culture didn’t mark the death of feminism, they told me; it was evidence that the feminist project had already been achieved. We’d earned the right to look at Playboy; we were empowered enough to get Brazilian bikini waxes. Women had come so far, I learned, we no longer needed to worry about objectification or misogyny. Instead, it was time for us to join the frat party of pop culture, where men had been enjoying themselves all along. If Male Chauvinist Pigs were men who regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chauvinist Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves."
 Levy, Ariel (2005). Female Chauvinist Pigs (pp. 3-4). Free Press. Kindle Edition.
Levy travels with the filming crew of Girls Gone Wild and watches main stream college girls bare it all for essentially a baseball cap. She interviews various women who are involved with the promotion of the raunch culture.  She explores the “bois” lesbian culture.  She mentions the one way oral sex craze.  She mentions that breast augmentations increased by 700% from 1992 to 2004.  She mentions cosmetic vaginoplasty. She also provides a short history of feminism since the mid 60s.   There were a number of fascinating subjects in the book but here are a few that resonated with me. 

Levy has a chat with Erica Jong, the grand dame of the "zipless f---"

I had occasion to talk to Erica Jong, one of the most famous sex-positive feminists — “one of the most interviewed people in the world,” as she’s put it — on the thirtieth anniversary of her novel Fear of Flying. “I was standing in the shower the other day, picking up my shampoo,” she said. “It’s called ‘Dumb Blonde.’ I thought, Thirty years ago you could not have sold this. I think we have lost consciousness of the way our culture demeans women.” She was quick to tell me that she “wouldn’t pass a law against the product or call the PC police.” But, she said, “let’s not kid ourselves that this is liberation. The women who buy the idea that flaunting your breasts in sequins is power — I mean, I’m for all that stuff — but let’s not get so into the tits and ass that we don’t notice how far we haven’t come. Let’s not confuse that with real power. I don’t like to see women fooled.”
Levy, Ariel (2005). Female Chauvinist Pigs (pp. 75-76). Free Press. Kindle Edition. 

In her history of feminism she speaks of Susan Brownmiller’s book Against Our Will, Men, Women and Rape.

“Brownmiller argued that rape was not just an isolated crime like robbery or murder, but a systematic process of demoralization. Of course, we now accept as fact that rape is a grim tactic used in war, or by repressive regimes bent on breaking and subjugating their own people. But Brownmiller went much further. As always, she was working from an emphatic, unwavering conviction: Rape was “nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.” Rapists were merely the “front-line masculine shock troops” in the war against women, the “terrorist guerrillas in the longest sustained battle the world has ever known.” And pornography was the “undiluted essence of anti-female propaganda” that fed them. “
 Levy, Ariel (2005). Female Chauvinist Pigs (pp. 61-62). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

This is a rather unfortunate assessment that I believe is half true. Women fear rape, and rightfully so. But to suggest that rape is a “conscious process” by which half of humanity intimidates the other half I believe is demeaning to our species. Yeah that’s right our species—our humanity both men and women. Women and men are the same species, we are not from Venus and Mars. We are all from Earth.  If men are nothing than a vast collection of rapists, then women are knowingly mating with and raising rapists. Perhaps some kind alien super intelligence should wipe us out for our own good. I am sorry, but I don’t believe that statements like this have served feminism well.

An interesting topic to me because I have never heard of it was the “bois” lesbian culture.  Apparently there is a segment of lesbians which embrace the sexual tastes and methods of predatory young men.  Screw em and leave em.  The bois talk and handle themselves like cads who regard women as simply a plaything to be used for your momentary pleasure and then discarded for the next conquest.  In another instance of what seems to me to be an unhealthy acceptance of scalpels, some of these bois are getting double mastectomies to enhance their maleness!  They believe themselves to be transgendered. 

I believe that there are a small percentage of people who genuinely are born with the wrong body, a man trapped in woman’s body, or vice versa.  But, I believe this to be a small percentage, and I believe that such people have been aware of this situation since they were very small children.  I have read that some women are extremely fluid in their sexual preference over different periods of their life.  They can flow from being predominately heterosexual to bi-sexuality to lesbian and back.  Being a genuine transgender is not something that one is going to pick up hanging around a lesbian bar for a couple of years.  Yet some of these bois seem hell bent on surgically removing their breasts.  I can’t help but wonder what happens in five years when one decides that they are tired of the bois scene and the pendulum of sexual preference swings back to where this individual may want to express herself as woman.  I find this disregard for one's natural body to be incredible.

Another thing that I found interesting was the notion of sexual preference within lesbianism.  The bois are “heterosexual lesbians.”  They are male like and pursue feminine women called fems.  Some lesbians are like gay males, dykes preferring dykes, and some are fems that pursue fems.  I wonder if there are similar demarcations in gay males? You can find out more about the bois culture in an article that Levi wrote for New York magazine. This article is very similar to the chapter on bois culture:

I think the aspect of Female Chauvinist Pigs that I found discouraging and heartbreaking is that many of these women want to work like man and screw like a man, rather than embracing an ethic that promotes true feminine power.  Levy also found that many of the women who embraced the bimbo chic did so for acceptance, not because the genuinely felt way.  Many women seem to believe that they only way they can be beautiful is to look and behave like a porn star.  I find this to be heart breaking.  To me a naturally proportioned woman is very beautiful and quite enticing without any help from breast augmentations, vaginoplasties, or skanky clothes.  Sorry but I like women to look like women, not huge busted cartoons...then again, remember I am from Neptune.

So what of the article in The New Yorker, The New Yorker, July 11, 2011. A Woman’s Place, Ken Auletta.
Sheryl Sandburg

What did I find a cause for optimism? 

The article is a profile of Sheryl Sandberg’s rise through government, then Google, and then on to Facebook.  There is nothing incredibly unusual about Sandberg’s success.  She is obviously talented and a very competent manager.  But what I find encouraging about her is that she accomplished her career as a woman, not as a woman playing a man’s role with men's rules.  She also has a burning desire to see other women to succeed as women. 

The article does present some criticisms of Sandberg.  She is not on Facebook’s board of directors and does not seem to demand that she been given a place.  She has been criticized for underestimating the power of the power of the good old boys network, that she believes that corporate America is more of a meritocracy than is actually the case. The article also brings up a disturbing facet that I have not thought about.  Sandberg was very fortunate to have been sponsored.  Sponsoring is where a senior executive takes an interest in a person, takes them under their wing, mentors them, and then opens doors and whispers in the ears of the leaders “here is a mover and a shaker”.  The article points out that two thirds of the male senior executives and one half of the junior women feel uncomfortable with a male senior executive sponsoring a female junior executive. 

“Sponsorship, which often involves an older, married male spending one-on-one time, often off site and after hours, with a younger, unmarried female, can look like an affair; and the greater the power disparity between the male and the female, the more intense the speculation becomes that the relationship is more than professional. If the woman is subsequently promoted, her achievement will be undermined by office gossip that she earned it illicitly."

What a terribly unfair situation, and yet when you think about it,  how very predictable and understandable the situation is.  How many times have you heard the phrase "Well she slept her way to the top."         

So what is it that I find optimistic about Sandberg?  I believe that she has a clear eyed understanding of what it takes for women to rise to the top of the corporate world and she is doing something about it. She is concerned with the women that report to her.  She runs mentoring groups in her home for Facebook executives.  She give speeches that encourage women to succeed.  You can hear her TED speech and the 2011 Barnard College commencement speech at the links below. 

In those speeches, Sandburg recommends to women to “sit at the table” and to “lean in” to their careers.  Do not hang back and let others dictate the progression of one's career.  She tells women to take credit for their accomplishments.  Men consider their success attributal to the fact that they are awesome..  Women too often attribute their success to lucky breaks, or considerable help from others, or that they worked real hard.  Sandberg advises women to consider themselves equally awesome.  Another Sandberg saying is "to not leave before you leave".  She states that many women put a damper on their own careers by worrying about having children long before the event.  Sandberg recommends keeping one’s foot on the gas until you leave not before.  Take the promotions, the added responsibility, do what you can do to advance your career.  Don't hold back because you may have a child one day.  When you leave to have a child then consider whether you want to return to work or not.   She also advised women to choose carefully their life partner.  Women should choose a person who will share both the home responsibilities and the work responsibilities.   To often the burden of child care and house work falls exclusively on the woman and it makes pursuing a career more difficult. 

Being a man I found the world of feminism that Levy described to be very confusing...feminism, post feminism, sex positive feminism.  So what would I want for my daughter?

I would very much want my daughter to inherit a world where women matter.  Where their minds are more valuable than their bodies but they can accept their bodies as they are, revel in their natural beauty and not have to pursue the physical attributes of a bimbo.  In short,  I would much rather that my daughter listen to Sheryl Sandberg’s version of feminism than Paris Hilton’s.  

Here are videos of Sheryl Sandbergs, speeches.  Both are similar in content.  The Barnard speech is about 20 minutes long, and the TED speech is about 15 minute long.  Both speeches are nothing short of excellent in my opinion.    

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

All About The Human Body By Bernard Glemser

Here is another book review from Goodreads.  Don't bother looking for this book, it is long out of print.  Well that's not entirely true, you can buy it used from Amazon's secondary vendors, see below.  This review is really another one of my stories involving the birds and bees in the 50s.  I did read the book, but I don't remember much from 52 years ago, but I do remember the last chapter.

All About the Human BodyAll About the Human Body by Bernard Glemser
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow I can't believe this book is listed here.  I got this book when I was in fourth grade in 1959.  Like many elementary school kids I had big ideas about what I was going to do when I grew up, and the rather unrealistic idea I had was that I was going to be a doctor.  I found this book in a mail order catalog of scholastic titles given out by the school.  I asked my mother to get it for me and she ordered it. After an eternity the book came in the mail.

"Ma, Ma, Look my book come." I yelled as I opened the package. I barely got it in my hands.

"Let me see that." my mother said.  I handed over the book.  She opened it and went directly to the table of contents. Having dealt with my mother for nine years, I was an expert in reading her face.  As she scaned down the page, I saw her face darken.  A storm cloud moved over her brow.  Suddenly she paged to the back of the book.  Her eyebrows arched upward and her eyes widened. Oh Oh...something is wrong. She turned on the stern don't mess with me young man face.

"You can't have this book. You are too young.  I'll keep it for you when you get older."

"Ahhh Ma. Why not?  I have been waiting for this book. C'mon let me have it."

"No you are too young."

This went back & forth for a couple of days.  I had to carefully navigate the waters of wheedling.  Too much and she would get mad.  I kept using the educational angle and how am I going to be a doctor but only if you let me read that book.  How can I be a doctor, if I don't know anything?  I could tell she was torn.  She wanted me to have it, but then again not.  I used the "flop yourself on the couch and feign boredom" technique.  You had to be careful with that one.  It could backfire and you could get hitched up to chores.  Carefully I paved a road of reason.  This is educational, this is science, it will help my grades in school. Finally she relented.

"You can read it, except for the last chapter." and she handed me the book.  What? That doesn't make any sense, I thought to myself, far too artful to question her.  Take the damn book and skeedattle, before she changes her mind.

Well I'll leave it up to you to figure out what chapter I read first. Holy schmolie! The tales are true!  You know the ones about the game that big people play with no clothes on.  Not only is it true, but that's where babies come from!

This chapter had all kinds of information.  Stuff I never heard of before sperm cells, eggs (chickens laid those) chromosomes (the wrong number if I remember correctly), uterus, ovaries, testicles, corpus luteums, hormones...holy mackerel! I never knew any of this stuff.   There were  simple line drawings, but only of the internal parts, and to be honest I had a hell of a time determining what was what. But as complex as the chapter was, the long and short of it was that the sperm from the father met with the egg from the mother and fertilized it.  Like what Dad does to the plants in the garden with the Milorganite?  Well it did not matter, details, but voila a pregnancy and 9 months later a baby is born.  Oh boy is this cool or what?  Wait till I tell all the kids.

This book was a great discovery!  It disproved a number of theories--and sent the damned stork in a downward spiral to Earth.  To a 10 year old kid, it was like discovering the world is round, or the Earth orbits the sun, or perhaps general relativity, or quantum mechanics.  This was amazing stuff!  I couldn't believe it, and it was my great fortune to be the first kid on the street with evidence.  Scientific proof, written in book! Ha! Ha!  My book!    

What the book didn't tell me was how the sperm got to the egg, or that there was any fun involved in the delivery. But that was the part I already knew about from the wild stories and tall tales about the dirty games that adults played.  We didn't know the precise method and the details, there were a lot of theories--some of them involving flatulence, but we had heard rumors, and of course none of us believed it. The stork brought babies!  But now I had the proof!  It sort of put Mum and Dad in a somewhat different you guys must of took off your clothes and did the thing, played the dirty game, at least twice for me and my sister.  Hmmmm.  Just like all those covers on the paperback books with the naked ladies in the drugstore. Oh you never got to see anything but their backs, the top of their bums, and maybe a slight swell of  their kooties, but they were naked--you could tell that, and they always had a strange look on their faces--nothing at all like how our mothers looked.  The books were really cool to look at but someone would always yell at you. But now I knew why they were naked!

A reasonable question at this time would be, what are kooties?  Kooties was a term we used for a woman's breasts which oddly we had no other name. One kid claimed to have seen a picture of baby with its mouth on a woman's kootie in his mother's Redbook.  We laughed at him--liar!  He was always telling us some line of crap.  His dad had a Thompson machine gun from the war.  Warren Spahn was his uncle.  Nothing but BS... and the same for this picture.  He could never produce the magazine.  He was full of crap.  But Kooties were also something horrible that you could catch from girls.  If you were seen taking a romantic interest in a girl, you would catch kooties from her. "Ha Ha! Sextant  got kooties...Sextant got kooties".

The next day I told my best friend about my scientific endeavors of the previous night, how I was told not to read the last chapter by my mother, and how the chapter proved the wild stories we had heard.  He got mad at me and said that what I read was bullshit.

"My parents would never do something like that."  

"Yeah well I read it in the book."

"Well the book is wrong and so are you."

"Yeah but, if that is what it takes to have a baby, then they had to do it."

Well my friend was 2 years older than me and quite a bit bigger.  He threatened to kick my ass if I mentioned it again.  So I left it go. To tell you the truth, I don't know when he might of actually started to believe in sexual reproduction, but like Galileo before me, I gave up, an ass kicking or being burned at the stake was not worth being a purveyor of a scientific truth. "Yep, that's right, it was the stork."  But for the rest of the kids in the neighborhood, I became something of a Masters and Johnson explaining to wide eyed kids how their mothers and fathers took off all their clothes, played the game..."yeah, then your dad sticks his,,," (well, you know)  "and that's where you came from."  I would throw in some of the technical terms, sperm and chromosomes, to give my tale scientific authority, but for the plumbing I just used the street terms, although I didn't really know what the street term was for what girls had, or what it looked like, or how it really worked.  For that summer, I was something of a celebrity.  Kids wide and far would come to hear the truth about where babies came from. I was something of a wise oracle of genesis.

I did read the rest of the book, because I was interested in the body, how the lungs exchanged oxygen and carbon dioxide, how the chambers of heart worked, how the brain worked, and, yes! where babies came from. Alas, it didn't take long for me to figure out later in my school career that only smart, rich kids become doctors.  I was neither smart or rich, and as such, I never put Glemser's book to practical value.  I still have the book.  I should find it and read it again.

I realize that this is not much of a review for the book, but you must realize I read it 52 years ago when I was ten.  Five Stars!  It was the only formal sex education that I ever got.  If I had to rely on what my parents and school taught me, I could easily believe to this day that storks brought babies.      

View all my reviews

Image Credit,

The image to the right is the edition I have.  It is available as a used book from Amazon's secondary vendors., All About The Human Body

EDIT 4-25-2013:  We have, as a society, advanced.  The stork is no longer the source of babies except perhaps on Vlasic pickle jars.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

New Coastal Times By Donna Callea

I finished Donna Callea's second novel New Coastal Times. Here is my review at Goodreads:

New Coastal TimesNew Coastal Times by Donna Callea

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although post apocalypse is not my bag, and I had some doubts about a 99 cent indie book, I was more that pleasantly surprised once again with Ms. Callea's works. She provides a realistic scenario of what happens when it not only rains but really pours. This is not some sci fi work with mutants and laser pistols. It considers what would happen if there was a Katrina, followed by a season of Katrinas followed by the big one in California and throw in some terrorism all in short order.

Not long into this book I came to the realization that Callea is a real writer and she has a knack with character development and the use of first person narrative. My fears of a 99 cent indie were unfounded. Being an old romantic fool, I liked her take on love, the emotion--not sex. We tend to confuse the two these days. She handled sexuality in a balanced and intelligent manner, and the sexuality served the love in the book, not replaced it.

All in all Ms. Callea did an excellent job of describing a very realistic world gone awry from the very personal viewpoint of an ordinary albeit intelligent young woman. Highly recommended.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 15, 2011

What If Georgia was alive today?

Black Iris, Georgia O'keeffe, 1926

Note! Click on images to view full size. 

Georgia O’Keeffe is one of my favorite painters, and her Black Iris is my favorite O’Keeffe painting.  You can read about the Black Iris here:

And you can read about Georgia O’Keeffe at Wikipedia:

Like Georgia, I deny any Freudian interest in this painting.  It is simply a painting of a very lovely blossom.  But let’s use our imaginations and consider for a moment what if Georgia was alive today.  And again using our imaginations, let us suppose that she is just starting out and not that well known…

Georgia has just completed her lovely Black Iris and she takes it down to the Met to request entry in a upcoming show. 

The curator of modern pieces has heard favorable comments on her other works and agrees to consider her painting for this very important show.  Having a work in this show could really launch O'Keeffe's career and reputation.  He looks on with interest as O’Keeffe unveils her masterpiece.  At first sight he groans.
Georgia O'Keeffe, "Hands", by Alfred Steiglitz

“I am sorry Ms.O’Keeffe but your Black Iris will never do.” 

O’Keeffe shocked and puzzled, says “And why is that?”

“Well it does not suit modern tastes.” replied the curator. 

“But surely, sir, you have to agree that this is indeed what a Black Iris looks like.” O’Keeffe states. 

“Yes, perhaps in nature.  Ms O’Keefe if this was the 1920’s I would commend you on a beautiful Black Iris, but unfortunately tastes have changed.” 

“I don’t understand,” O’Keeffe exclaims.  “A black iris is a black iris, how can tastes change?" 

“I have a collection of photographs comparing the natural appearance with the modern aesthetic. Shall we have a look?” said the curator.

O’Keeffe begins leafing through a large album.  On the left leaf are photos of black iris in full bloom.  On the right are smooth formless spheroids.

O’keeffe says “The photos on the left are quite beautiful.  The blossoms are in full bloom.  The photos on the right are nothing more than immature buds.  Why are you showing me these photos?”

“Ms. O’Keeffe, please understand, tastes have changed.  People now think that the smooth look of the immature bud is how a black iris should look.  This look has evolved from exposure on the media and the Internet. It is the new aesthetic for a black iris.”

“But…but, that is simply not how a mature black iris looks.  People are fooling themselves.”  O’Keeffe replied.

“I am terribly sorry,  Ms. O’keeffe, but there is no way that I can display your black iris… well, unless…”


“Well, we could modify your Black Iris.  I have experts that can remove those unsightly inner petals and have your iris looking beautiful.  My experts are so precise that we think of it as surgery, aesthetic bloom surgery.”

“But an iris with no inner petals will not look natural.”

“And that Ms. O’keeffe is exactly the point!  We will improve your iris so that it meets a standard of beauty that is fashionable these days.  It will be beautiful, trust me,…and then we would be proud to display it in our show."

O’Keeffe, weighs the situation.  She loves her beautiful black iris yet her career really needs to make this show.  She then reluctantly agrees.

The next day the curator calls Georgia back to the museum.  Beaming at her, he unveils the black iris. 

(Pssst, this is Sextant.  Scroll down.)

Improved Aesthetic Black Iris

Georgia gasps and burst into tears.  “You have destroyed my Black Iris!”

“Are you crazy, look at it!  It is beautiful!” shouted the curator.

“No its not, it is asymmetrical and disfigured.  You have ruined it!  It doesn't even look like those young buds.  It will never be the same!”

“Well, Ms O’keeffe, please understand a mature black iris is asymmetrical to begin with.  Our experts can only work with what nature has provided.  The key point here is to realize that we have removed those horrid wrinkled and drooping flaps of inner petals.  It is so much more beautiful now.” replied the curator.

“The asymmetry of the full blossom was balanced by the unpredictable intricacy of all the petals.  It was balanced, wild and beautiful.  Now it is simple and the asymmetry is glaring.  It is terrible!  You have destroyed it!"

“Well we could schedule your iris for a revision surgery.”  replied the curator.

“Really, you can restore the missing petals?” asked O’Keeffe.

“Oh, absolutely not.  Those petals when removed are gone forever, but we can improve the symmetry by  further removal of the remaining inner petals.  Shall I schedule your iris for a revision?”


OK.  I’ll get off my soap box now.  Here are some more of O’keeffe’s paintings.  She had a good bit of variety in her repertoire.  Oh and if you search Google images, “Alfred Steiglitz photos of Georgia O’Keeffe”, you will find a few images of Georgia that caused something of a buzz at the time.  Apparently she and Steiglitz felt that nature was beautiful.  I whole heartedly agree. 

Reference post for my thinly veiled story:

Navigating The Finite, AVS or FGM

Ram's Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills, 1935

Radiator Building At Night  1927

Pink Dish and Green Leaves  1928

Image Credits:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Google Doodle, 450th Anniversary of St Basil's Cathedral

Today's Google Doodle is commemorating the 450th anniversary of St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow.  Wikipedia has an amazingly detailed article on the cathedral and its complex architecture and history:

Wikipedia, St Basil's Cathedral

It also has some good images, both photos and historic paintings of the cathedral.  The photo to the right just blew me away.  I copied only the preview image here because the full size image is running over 5MB.  Go to the link below and revel in the full size version of this photo, nothing short of magnificent (at least to a slob like me).

Wikipedia, St Basil's At Night

If you find, like I did, the Wikipedia article to be a bit much to chew, try the site below.  It has a much briefer description and history of the cathedral, and has more images to feast ones eyes upon.  I am amazed about the story of an architect named Baranovsky threatening to cut his throat when Stalin was going to destroy the building to allow his troops to march out of Red Square.  Stalin showed amazing restraint in this particular case.  Thank God for Baranovsky's courage.  It must have been divine intervention, because Stalin rarely let any one's throat interfere with his plans. 

Sacred Destinations, St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

This is another great Google Doodle, highlighting something that we have all seen, yet know very little about and to me demonstrates the value of Google Doodles to "edify and entertain."   

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy Anniversary To Me

Today is the first anniversary of my blog.  My first blog entry was dated July 5, 2010. It is now one year, 103 posts, 9,377 visitors, and  20,620 page views later. Sounds impressive, but most visitors look at an image and are gone in less than 20 seconds. And Google, once again, has failed to honor this important date with a Google doodle masthead.  Bastards! 

I am a different person now.  Different but not profoundly different.  Can old dogs become profoundly different? One year ago I was still working with no immediate plans for retirement.  That is a kind way of putting it.  I had a dread of retirement and had my head buried in the sand regarding it.  So this time last year, I was on vacation--well vacation from the plant sitting on porchville--not on vacation like sitting on a beach or ♥ing some place like the various state or province travel bureaus would have me do.  So a year ago, porchville was rather finite and measured in days.  Now porchville has something of an approaching infinity quality to it.  Not really of course, it will be measured in decades, I hope.  I am shooting for three with a few years tossed on, which would give me roughly 33% of my life left.  I used to have this self imposed actuarial date of 80, just used as a rough guideline for a time to checkout--no firm plans.   Well I am not sure I like the math: 

62 / 80 = .775 X 100 = 77.5%  life gone... 100% - 77.5% = 22.5% life remaining.

For planning purposes, I really like 90+ something better than 80. Ugghhhhh!  All this actuarial horseshit has such a finite air about it.  I think I prefer a diaphanous approaching of almost infinity.  Not infinite mind you, just vaguely approaching an almost state.       

I have looked back over the posts for the past year to see if I could find something really nostalgic.  Not really.  Provocative?  Not really?  Mind expanding?  No.  Entertaining and edifying?  I doubt it.  Navigating The Finite is pretty much a site where one can rapidly view Bernini's The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Avila and not get a virus.  The posts are way too long and usually about subjects that nobody gives a shit about...except me. 

In my first post I warned you that this was written for me, not the reader.  The warning stands.   All I can say is that the past year has more or less proved in stark terms that the warning was less of warning and more of a prediction.  So why do this?  Hardly anyone reads it.  Why do people keep journals?  Why do they keep scrapbooks?  Who looks at that stuff?  Well this is my journal, my scrapbook, my work of art.  It keeps me occupied, out of my wife's hair, off the streets, and out of the bars.  I do have a couple of readers, and they are as precious as gold to me.  If you find something of interest, learn something, find a moment of humor, or think "wow that is a really cool idea" then this has been a grand success.  If not, you can find Saint Teresa here:

Navigating The Finite, St Teresa of Avila   

"Happy anniversary, St Teresa."

"Happy anniversary, Sextant."

The Question Mark Butterfly

Oh I forgot, yesterday during a Fourth of July picnic at my mother-in-law's place, I got a very good look at a butterfly called the question mark, Polygonia interrogationis  I haven't seen one since I was a kid, not that they are all that rare, I just haven't been looking.  It sat for several hours on a low spruce branch and we had a very good look at it.  Of course, I did not bring my camera.   The photos here are from the web site linked on to the scientific name.  The butterfly gets it name from the small silver question mark located in the center of the bottom of the hind wing.  See bottom photo.

Note the silvery question mark in the center of the hind wing.
Image Credits:

Butterflies and Moths of North America