Monday, August 31, 2009

Professor Falk has kindly replied to my comments in the previous post, concerning making slings and whatnot. Apparently, Bickerton was writing with considerable poetic license, because when Falk says "early hominids," she means really really early—in other words, before there were any tools at all (so the time span would be ~7.0-2.5 mya). Her remarks in Bickerton's book were a bit out of context.

Nonetheless, unrepentant, I still feel it very possible that tying and weaving could have been among the very earliest human technologies. Maybe intelligent really really early hominids with no tools to hack through the underbrush got snarled in vines often enough that the light bulb went off, and they thought, Hey, I can snarl other things with these vines, like my baby.

Okay, maybe not a light bulb three or four million years ago, but you get the idea. If you don't, I'll point you off into the jungle without a knife and you'll very quickly see what I mean.

And if you're not back in a couple weeks, I'll go looking for you. If I remember.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Anthropologists have long guessed that slings and carrying apparatus were among the earliest human technologies. I think this is highly probable. When you see vines tying each other, you get snarled in plant fibers, and tendrils hinder your movement, it seems apparent that an ancestor intelligent enough to invent speech and use tools should certainly have been intelligent to have gotten the idea of wrapping things together with vines, and eventually inventing knots.

But that requires you get outdoors, maybe even off the path. Professor Dean Falk, now at Florida State U, "pours scorn on the notion that baby slings were an early invention; she says if you believe that, go into any woodland and try making one out of natural materials." (quote: Bickerton, Adam's Tongue).

There are about a hundred steps from my gate down to the road. After I read Professor Falk's statement, I walked down the steps and counted five materials I could easily use to make a baby sling with nothing more than my fingers, teeth, and maybe two hours' time. If you allow me a hacking blade, more time, and a range of five minutes' walk from my house, there are at least a dozen materials I could make into baby slings without too much fuss.

Arthur C Clarke's First Law: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong." People today are so used to buying things that they have forgotten how to make them.

Exploring the Australian desert in 1861, Burke and Wills starved to death in a land where the Aborigines ate comfortably. When someone accustomed to buying ready-made products does not see available natural materials, that does not mean those materials do not exist.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Friday, August 21, 2009

Seen on a tee shirt:
Because I am dangerous
Please do not approach

Thursday, August 20, 2009



Monday, August 17, 2009

This is bizarre. 90% of paper money in the US has traces of cocaine on it. ::Click here:::

Could this be taken as a sign that far too many Americans are trying to run away from themselves?

Friday, August 14, 2009




Thursday, August 13, 2009

In my last post I discussed the American love of gadgets. If Americans love gadgets, Japanese have a positive obsession for organizing, categorizing, ranking, and stultifying. Anything the Japanese get their hands on, they have to set up rigid standards for it until they are sure it is devoid of the last shred of spontaneity.

Tea. Chinese tea is a relaxed but focused effort to enjoy the best possible brew you can make out of the tea leaves. The Japanese have formalized the tea ceremony to the point that they don't even know what swill they are drinking ~ before you write me nasty letters about that, taste Japanese tea, and then Chinese tea.

For Japanese, codification is everything. A friend who went to college in Japan said that the rival tea clubs in his university used to erupt into fisticuffs, and over what? The length of one of the tea implements, the hook to pull old tealeaves out of the pot if I remember correctly. I forget just which implement they were shedding blood over, but one faction said the handle should be two centimeters longer than the other faction's approved length, and this caused vicious brawls.

I could care less how long the implement is, just so the tea tastes good! But taste is not a consideration in 御茶道 ocha-do, the Japanese tea ceremony.

I started grade school in Illinois. We used to look forward to winter snow, so we could have snowball fights. If you grew up where it snows, you probably have similar good memories.

A good snowball fight is a lot of fun, and I can't recall anybody ever getting hurt.

The problem is, our snowball fights were spontaneous, unorganized, totally lacking rhyme or reason, and loads of fun. That is what the Japanese cannot tolerate.

The Japanese cannot tolerate spontaneity. Each winter in Hokkaido thousands of snowball teams compete in the Showa Shinzan Yukigassen, or Snowball Tournament, a carefully regulated event with rules, by-laws, and regulations up the bazootie. Seven member teams compete in three minute fights. They don't just pack the snow and fling like we used to. Their snowballs are machine made, and have to be between 6.5 and 7 centimeters in diameter. They wear specially designed snowball uniforms, including specially designed helmets with integrated face shields. Before the tournament, they analyze videos of rival teams, practice with polyethylene balls, and study strategy.

Of course there are winners and losers, and thus rankings, which is what, I suspect, is a primary motive for the contest. How can you possibly just go out and pack snow and hurl? You have to have carefully studied and rehearsed moves, machine packed snowballs, and most important, a hierarchy: rank!!

Before long, they will probably start Yukigassen-do, and have long-winded lectures about the zen of snowballs. If so, I hope I don't hear about it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Americans love gadgets. If it is in any way possible to manufacture and sell a totally unnecessary gadget that performs some entirely superfluous function, something that you don't need any equipment for at all, Americans will do it, and other Americans will very happily shell out their hard-earned money and enthusiastically swear that the gadget is going to change their lives. For three or four days, that is, or until the next gadget appears on the market.

What could be simpler than doing a pushup? You just fall down on your face, and push yourself back up. That's so simple that even a football player can remember the sequence, right?

Well, I beg your pardon, ignoramus, that is not The American Way. The American Way, you cough up US$39.95 for a starter kit at Perfect Pushup and you get these scientifically designed handles that you place on the floor while you do a pushup so that you can be strong and be ready.

If you don't believe me, click here:::

In utter seriousness their ad informs us that the new, improved pushup device has reinforced construction and improved functionality, with 30% more ball bearings, reinforced internal workings, padded, slightly grooved, solid feel, and new off-road tire inspired tread which provides better ground connection and non-slip feature.

My dog, anybody who uses 'functionality' must be an expert!

When I said 'utter seriousness,' I was taking them on trust. Maybe they laugh their heads off every time anybody orders one.

Their motto says, "Be Strong. Be Ready."
Ready for what? You mean we're supposed to lug these stupid handles around everywhere so we can whip out a pushup or two at any moment? Come on, each handle weighs over a kilo!

Me, I hate pushups. When I want exercise, I can find better ways to build up a sweat than imitating a lizard on a rock.

If I had any brains, I would figure out some way to cash in on this. Let's see. What’s the simplest thing you can do? Okay, sleep. What can be simpler than sleep? Any possible way to invent a totally unnecessary gadget for sleep?

I'm afraid somebody already beat me to it. There's an electronic device called a Zeo Personal Sleep Coach that you strap onto your forehead before you hit the sack, I kid you not. How can you possibly sleep with that stupid electronic thing strapped onto your forehead?
(I suspect Zeo is short for Zero, the IQ of suckers who buy these things.)

But mark my words, this may catch on, and all patriotic Americans will shun anybody who commits the faux pas of trying to sleep without strapping on his/her Personal Sleep Coach.

Come on, try it yourself. If you can say "personal sleep coach" without cracking a smile, I think you may already中毒已深 be beyond hope. If so, say "bah, bah, bah" like a good sheep and get your credit card ready.

PS: The Zeo Personal Sleep Coach costs US$399.00!! Give me US$380 and I'll sing you a lullaby.

Monday, August 10, 2009

0942 AM
Originally uploaded by Yugan Dali
Let's not be superstitious, but at the same time, let's not be so incredulous that we deny the voice of experience.

Our ancestors did not think scientifically, so it is illogical to expect that they should have expressed themselves scientifically. If you want to understand what they were expressing, you have to try to understand what they were thinking.

Recently everybody enjoyed a good sneer at the superstitious folk of yore who were afraid of eclipses. Why of course in our enlightened times we know that an eclipses is simply a matter of the orbits of the earth and the moon around the sun.

No sooner had all right-thinking people sneered at the superstition when typhoon Morakot hit, roughly over the path of the eclipse two weeks earlier. This was not a big typhoon, only middle size, but what it lacked in wind it made up for in rain. About three meters in three days in the mountains down south, washing villages away and killing many people (how many is still unknown.) 22 died in the Philippines. In mainland China 1.5 million people were evacuated, 10,000 homes were destroyed, and over 400,000 hectares (1 million acres) of cropland were flooded, directly causing losses of about US$1.4billion.

浙江溫州Wenzhou in Chekiang/Zhejiang was particularly hard hit; some might remember that Wenzhou was smack in the middle of the total solar eclipse two weeks earlier, one of the best places on earth to view it, sorry it rained.

Is it possible that our ancestors were not as stupid as we think? Maybe over the years they noticed that after an eclipse, heaven and earth were out of kilter and strange things happened. Maybe disaster follows eclipses.

Consider the gravity of the situation, pun intended. The gravity of the sun and moon are strong enough to cause ocean tides and atmospheric tides, and to lift the surface of the earth closest to the moon 15 centimeters as it circles us. Everybody knows that tides are strongest at full moon and new moon. These are powerful forces.

Maybe these forces are powerful enough that, when aligned as an eclipse, they nudge the balance on earth just enough so that monstrous events follow.

As for me, come next eclipse, I'm going to be out there banging a drum and clanging the gong. Can't hurt to play safe.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

As I related in last Monday's post (July 27, 2009), the Search function on Blogger blogs does not function, and in my attempt to seek help, I discovered that there is no way to email Blogger or Google. Accordingly I wrote them a nice letter informing them of the malfunction, printed it out, placed it in an envelope, addressed it, put a stamp on it, and deposited it in a mail box. I am still waiting for a reply.

Things may improve in the future, though. I very kindly offered to apply for a gmail box for the Google company, assuring them that email is very convenient, and they would find it useful. Keep tuned for further developments.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009






I am a human being, not a wild beast with jagged teeth and short intestines, so of course I am a su (Buddhist) vegetarian. Dessert excepted, I eat very little processed food, very little that comes in plastic, very little that comes with a barcode. Dessert excepted, of course. I'm not an ascetic.

My wife and I donate blood regularly. As we donate platelets, each time our blood is drawn and examined. Yesterday, to my great surprise, the nurse told me, "Today your blood is a bit oily." How could that be possible? I was still safely within the limits, but she showed me two test tubes, my blood and my wife's. Mine very clearly had a thick layer of oil floating on top.

Chao and I eat the same food, day after day. We discussed this, and realized that after lunch, she had eaten one Oreo cookie, and I had eaten four. (I was going to eat only three, but to fit the remaining pack into a vacuum jar, I had no choice but to eat a fourth.) (Honestly!)

Think about that. Only a few Oreos, eaten four hours before my blood was drawn. Think about what you feed into your face, day in and day out. What is it doing to your health? And some day, it'll all come back at you.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Mhway su kwari!
A typhoon may be forming. Brisk winds this morning, scudding clouds, spots of sunlight and silhouettes of clouds. I watched an eagle towering on an updraft across the valley, above Aqiq, over a kilometer away in a straight line. I thought: in all the time I have spent watching eagles soar, I have never seen one swoop down on prey. I have seen eagles with their talons full: a snake, a rodent, a squirrel. But I have never seen an eagle swoop.

I ruminated. Just then, the eagle dived on a steep swoop. I lost it against the background of the mountain about a hundred meters down, but I was satisfied. Hurrah! Many thanks to such an obliging eagle.