MAXIMS FOR LIFE

We are herd animals. We live in groups and depend on each other for survival, food, defense against hostile forces, and the elements. We believe that we are in an orderly Universe, that the future is predictable, and we can be assured the sun will rise tomorrow. But our day-to-day existence is governed by chance and accidental events, over which we have little to no control, more than we care to admit.

We are entering the third year in which our lives have been ruled by trying to avoid a 3 micron particle of Ribose Nucleic Acid wrapped in a fatty envelope, that likely was enhanced in a laboratory in Wuhan, China. Whatever they say as to why they were helping that little bundle of proto life become more robust is of little importance now. The front window of a vehicle is bigger than the back window because what is in front is where we are going. Looking forward is more important.  It is here now, and it has killed 5,000,000 of us. It keeps us confined. It makes us wear masks to filter the air we breathe, although not all that efficiently. And it mandates that we get injected with fragments of it so that our immune system can develop complex molecules to destroy it if we are invaded by it. However, that has also turned out to be only a partial and temporary protection at this point. Science is not the whole truth. However, science is our only hope to find all of the truth eventually. Science does not lie. When new evidence comes along, we swap out the more recent version for the obsolete version.

Much of our life revolves around controlling our environment to make it safe, habitable, and provide a pleasant, abundant, and enjoyable life. We learn an occupation that will provide some of those amenities. We build a shelter to protect us from heat, cold, wind, rain, etc. Some of us spend the majority of our waking hours in that pursuit. One person that has imbibed too much C2H5OH (alcohol) can wipe that out in milliseconds of incoordination on the I-5, and those kinds of accidents kill about 40,000 of us every year.

Forty percent of us will eventually contract cancer, a disease of the DNA that makes our cells multiply for no apparent reason, destroying other cells essential to existence. About half of us eventually succumb to that process. How do you get cancer? We still don’t know, but it has something to do with DNA getting the wrong message and making useless cells that overwhelm the good cells. We learn to avoid things like radiation, certain chemicals, and certain viruses, but we haven’t got the foggiest in most cases. Life is a crapshoot! Some of us are lucky, and others are not.

So how do we deal with all of this? I have learned a few Universal Maxims that I believe will help us.  GOOD IS BETTER THAN EVIL. You must do the right thing and avoid the wrong. Admittedly there are times when it is difficult to tell the two apart, but most of the time, we know. And with that goes, TRUTH IS BETTER THAN FALSEHOODS. Telling them apart is easier said than done. We have evolved eyes, ears, and a brain. We must use them to differentiate truth from lies by using our senses and our sense. We must rely on ourselves and not take others’ judgment to be correct. At a minimum, we must evaluate all others’ opinions before accepting them.

Every morning when we wake up, we have a choice, we can look at all the evil and all the bad, or we can look at what we can do to improve it. We have a choice to be sad or happy. HAPPY IS BETTER, and it is in our power to decide which it will be.

If an activity is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Good enough is not good enough! EVERY TASK WE TAKE ON SHOULD BE WORTH DOING WELL. And if a job you did has issues, you need to accept that this was your job, your responsibility, good or bad. Pointing fingers is what the weak use to avoid responsibility.  

Life forms adapt to the environment. That is what life is all about. If there is a virus that is killed by specific antibodies we can’t make, we have invented vaccines to give us those antibodies.

Adaptation is a characteristic of all life. My mother’s favorite words to me were, “You must learn to adjust!” Humans have adapted in order to survive. Survival beats the opposite!

HOT DOG

Not only is eating hot dogs unhealthy to the point of shaving years off your life, but it is also unconstitutional and very well may be racist also. Think about it, we do not know how they are made, and none of you know what is in them. One of the biggest secrets is how sausage, especially hot dogs, are made. Just the name should arouse suspicion – HOT DOGS – they tell you right up front you are consuming DOGS. Are fetal cells involved in any way?  Do they magnetize you, or do they have embedded microchips that from then on track you the rest of your life and give your exact position to the “Deep State”? The nutritional value of hot dogs has never been proven and has been questioned by many nutritional authorities. The research is clearly inadequate and they have not been studied long enough. In fact, amongst others, one well-known physician and cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Steven Gundry, thinks they are poison. You should be aware of what you put in your body and reject this assault on it. Don’t fall for the false advertisement about hot dogs. As certain as the sun rises and sets hot dogs will kill you.  Do your own research, talk to your personal physician, and you shall find out the truth. Your choice, your body, your freedom. Open your eyes and stop being a sheep!

                  Herd Immunity

Herd immunity is when the percentage of the population has reached a level of immunity where the virus does not have enough of a population pool to infect and therefore can not spread nor mutate. Different diseases have different goalposts when that happens. The more infectious a virus, the smaller the pool of susceptible people needs to continue the uncontrolled spread of the disease. Measles is very contagious, so it takes 95% of the population to be immune to reach herd immunity, while Polio attains that level of immunity at 80%.

Few diseases have reached the level of immunity that prevents spontaneous spread. Smallpox and Polio are prime examples. Herd immunity has NEVER been acquired by the population going that level through having natural immunity, which is when immunity is conferred by having the disease. It has ONLY been through reaching that level by natural disease plus an aggressive vaccination program. It has taken smallpox a couple of hundred years to get there and Polio about 50 years. There are still two countries in which Polio is not eliminated, Pakistan and Nigeria. In Pakistan, it is the Taliban and Al-Queda, while in Nigeria, it is Boko haram who are the anti-vaxxers that prevent those countries from reaching immunity. Some diseases have acquired herd immunity only to lose it because of vaccine resistance, such as measles.

When will we in the USA reach herd immunity with Covid-19? Unfortunately, we still have 30% of our adult population who share the bright bulb thinking of the Taliban, Al-Queda, and Boko haram and refuse vaccination, with no likely end in sight for convincing them that vaccination is safe and necessary to conquer this disease.

You would think that when an ex-president and the current president (who are at the opposite ends of the political spectrum) both have been vaccinated and boosted and strongly encourage vaccination, along with the CDC composed of more than 50,000 scientists, physicians, epidemiologists, lawyers, administrators, etc., at least half of the anti-vaxxers ought to be convincible to get the shot because with 85% of the population vaccinated we would have a shot at herd immunity.   96% of US doctors, 88% of nurses, 92% of pharmacists, 99.5% of Congress, and all Governors, regardless of party affiliation,  are fully vaccinated. Other professions with high vaccination numbers are police officers at 94.4% along with primary education teachers, and government employees. Numerous professional organizations, including the College of Physicians, the Academy of Family Physicians, Pediatricians, Obstetricians, Surgeons and Associations of Hospitals, Nurses, Pharmacists, County and City Health Officials, and many more highly support vaccination. The lower vaccination rates are seen in Packers, Fitness Instructors, Cleaners,  Construction Workers, Food Servers, Chefs, and Taxi Drivers, which ought to make you think twice about going out to eat or joining a gym.

In previous essays, I argue that pattern recognition is a significant contributor to intelligence. When 1453 people die daily in the US from Covid, and 90% of those are unvaccinated, a pattern begins to show itself clearly. It does not take being a rocket scientist to figure it out. If you still cannot recognize that we are dealing with a lethal pandemic that has killed 5,500,000 to date worldwide, you must NOT be noticing the pattern! One hundred years ago, we had a pandemic, but that one killed at least ten times that number of humans. That is one record for which I don’t think we should aim. I understand that you should be able to control what goes into your body, but when you already accept that in dozens of other vaccines and when you take a variety of medicines orally, rectally, or by injection, some of them are potentially lethal. I am pretty sure that you don’t check the constitutionality of all those others. I don’t believe that you know the safety or even how most of them are made. And you do not do your own research either. You don’t even know what is in Chicken McNuggets or hot dogs, yet you eat them. Tylenol and many others have used some of the same tests using fetal cells that are now such a major controversy of religious freedom. You are on very tenuous ground to refuse the most potent weapon we have to fight a lethal pandemic. The risk of death from the vaccine is 0.0019%. You are 526 times more likely to get killed in a car accident and 1000 times more likely to die of Covid if you get it, now even more likely with a more infectious virus. If we continue our ostrich sticking our head in the sand stupidity, we might just catch up to the worldwide record for the Spanish Flu. If you can’t understand that 90% of the unvaccinated die and only 10% of the vaccinated die, you obviously cannot comprehend patterns. Mark Twain said that God created the idiots first. Please do not join them! Get your shot!

                   Intelligence

Why are some people smart and others not? Why do some smart people do dumb things? What is intelligence? These are some of the questions that have been haunting me most of my thinking life.

Intelligence is the ability to figure things out. We figured out how to make tools. Probably the first tool was made by Australopithecus afarensis. It was likely made of sticks and did not survive the 3.5 million years. It was Homo habilis (handy man) that made tools that lasted. The first permanent tools were called the Oldovan Tool Kit, barely recognizable as a tool. It was just a rock that had several chips flaked off by a technique called knapping. Tools became more sophisticated, and Obsidian was used to make knives that were sharper than the surgical knife that we have today.

How did we get from making stone tools to traveling to Mars? We kept figuring things out through geometry, physics, mathematics, philosophy, biology, and so on. But Homo sapiens, despite their name (wise people), are not all that receptive to new ideas. In fact, they are fairly resistant. Just look at the worldwide rejection of life-saving vaccines.

We used to burn people alive who did not go along with the popular perception for ideas just 300 years ago, even if they were absolutely wrong, like the sun revolving around the earth.  It seems obvious that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. We still use those terms to describe it. Three thousand years ago, the Greeks decided that Apollo rode his fiery chariot across the sky every day. It was not until Nicholas Copernicus who recognized that idea was a mistake! There are still people, the “Flat Earthers,” that don’t buy that explanation. It was Galileo Galilei who observed the transit of Jupiter’s moons across the face of Jupiter that gave him the idea that small things circle large things, and it was Earth that circled the Sun, not the other way around.

When you look at modern IQ tests, all of them investigate how well you recognize patterns. Pattern recognition is clearly a large part of intelligence. Recognizing the pattern of Jupiter’s moons was the key to proving heliocentrism. You learn that 2 follows 1 every time.

In a closed system, heat always becomes cold (the second law of thermodynamics). If it goes up, it must come down (Newton’s third law of motion), and so on. And things become more complicated! Energy and matter are interchangeable in General Relativity (E=mc2). Space and time are inseparably related, as Einstein described in Special Relativity.

If you don’t recognize patterns, you risk not surviving. The rattling in the grass spells death if you ignore it. It does not matter what the pattern is, the transit of Jupiter’s moons across Jupiter or that Red means Stop and Green means Go. It all depends on “G” general intelligence. If you fail to recognize one pattern, you won’t recognize a second, and perhaps a more important one either. Survival of the fittest has pushed us in the direction of intelligence. But there are people that are not easily pushed. In our current culture, we excuse those people. They need more time, they need special education, they just have different opinions, which we must tolerate and accept. We celebrate diversity! To a certain point, that is of benefit, but there is that red line beyond which it starts to interfere with the survival of the fittest. It becomes obvious where that line is when existence becomes the issue. Can we tolerate people who burn down our businesses? Who rob our stores? Who don’t do their share, be that work or pay taxes? Who ignore the rules of society, be that driving erratically, spewing a lethal virus, or carrying loaded weapons in public. There comes the point where society must step in and say, “enough is enough.” Freedom is great. It is why my family came to the USA, but when freedom threatens existence, survival takes precedence.

You cannot continue to ignore that the sun does not revolve around the earth. You cannot ignore that when you cough, sneeze, or just breath, you could be spreading a deadly germ onto me and others.      You can not ignore that you, too, must stop doing things that could potentially kill me. And if you don’t have a certified lab, you are not capable or qualified to do your own research. Looking on Google does not count. Intelligence requires us to recognize and accept patterns. When 1600 people die in the US every day due to a viral illness, there is a pattern we need to realize that requires corrective action. And that, my friends, may be the ultimate IQ test. It is time to recognize that we have an obligation to act like Homo sapiens–wise people.

 

Stille Nacht (Silent Night)

I published this essay on December 12, 2020. It is the story of the most famous Christmas song. The story is a good one and anything that is worth saying once is worth saying twice. So exactly one year later, I am republishing this article. I would strongly recommend for you to listen to the U-Tube version of the Vienna Boys Choir (see link below) which I think is the best rendition and likely very much like the first version played in Oberndorf Christmas Eve 1818 with guitar accompaniment as the organ had been damaged by a flood. In these times of turmoil and uncertainty, it is soothing to think of a simpler time, a time when there was calm and certainty. “Silent Night” is probably the most famous Christmas song of all time, radiating calm and certainty. The song hails from Oberndorf, Austria.  The town is on the Salzach river, just ten miles north of Salzburg, the home town of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and sixty miles west of my hometown of Hinterstoder.  I remember performing my duties as an altar boy in the Hinterstoder church that was built in 1787, which was to bring the sensor to the priest. It is the iron container filled with incense producing the “holy smoke” that I enjoyed wafting about, something I was not supposed to do. It was a church in Oberndorf, of the same vintage as the one in my hometown, where Father Joseph Mohr had come to be the village priest.  He had brought the lyrics to “Stille Nacht” with him, that he had written the year before he got to Oberndorf.  Mohr had in mind a Christmas program on Christmas Eve, which is the traditional time to celebrate that holy event in Austria, with the first lighting of the (real) candles on a real evergreen tree and the arrival of presents from the “Christkindel” (Christ child).  Father Joseph asked the schoolmaster and organist from the neighboring town, Amsdorf, Franz Gruber, to compose the melody for his lyrics.  The church organ had been damaged by flooding from the Salzach River, and Gruber had to use another instrument to compose the melody.  He chose the guitar.  Thus, the first performance at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf was sung by Mohr and Gruber,  and likely just a few boys and girls of the parish choir accompanied by the guitar. Gruber was always associated with the song, but Mohr’s name faded into the fog of history, and people assumed that the actual composer was someone like Mozart, who lived in Salzburg, just ten miles south of Oberndorf fifty years before.  It was not until 1995 that a manuscript in Mohr’s handwriting was found that accurately dated the work to 1816 for the lyrics and gave credit to Gruber as the composer in 1818. Karl Mauracher, an organ builder who repaired the damaged Oberndorf organ, became enchanted by the lyrics and melody and took it to his village in Tyrol, where a troop of folk singers, the Strasser sisters, picked up this piece of music and performed it throughout Austria.  The crowned heads of Europe, including the Emperor of Austria, the Czar of Russia, and the King of Prussia, were treated to it just a few years later.  The Reiner family from the same area in Tyrol brought it to the USA in 1839, singing it outside Trinity Church in New York. Now, of course, it is sung in all languages around the world and has been sung by almost every famous singer, including Elvis and Pavarotti, and by some that are not so famous, like me in my altar boy days.

  Mohr’s Manuscript of “Stille Nacht” in his handwriting

I recommend this U-tube version sung by the Vienna Boy’s choir ( The Wiener Sängerknaben)                                                                         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vKvKMgR8H7k It is probably closer to what the original version sounded like when first performed by a small group with guitar accompaniment. The Wiener Sängerknaben is an organization that was founded in 1498. They count many famous musicians in their numbers as actual singers, such as Joseph and younger brother Michael Hayden as well as Franz Schubert when they were just young boys, and also famous world-class conductors from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Antonio Salieri, Herber von Karajan, to Anton Bruckner and Zubin Mehta to name just a few. One of the directors of the Vienna Boys Choir for many years was a childhood friend of mine, Wolfdieter Maurer.  “Silent Night” brings back many memories of Austria. See my essay on Wien (Vienna) on this website: gusiwasiuk.com/2020/08/13/wien-vienna/

Why Islam and Western Ideology is Like Mixing Oil and Water

Allah

First, I must explain that I am not racist. I am not anti-Muslim nor anti-Christian. I see myself as an impartial observer of the events of our times. These are what I interpret to be the fundamentals of the controversy so that you can comprehend that we have quite a aways to go. This is a religious war!

Islam is about 600 years younger than Christianity. Christ was born in the year 0, more or less. Muhammad was born in 570 CE. Christianity has gone through some very violent times.  The first few Centuries were blood-soaked with martyrs, crucifixions,  and executions mostly directed at Christians.  Galerius, a Roman Emperor stopped the persecutions that were finalized by the Edict of Milan of Constantine that liberated all religions. But it was Theodosian another Roman Emperor, who made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. That did not end the bloodshed, however. Paganism was outlawed, and it was the pagans’ turn to be massacred. Christianity turned the tables and now became the aggressor. The Crusades and then the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, as well as the various Catholic and Protestant conflicts, continued unabated, killing millions of people. The treaty of Westphalia in 1648 ended the 30 and 80-year war that finally made it so a Protestant could pass a Catholic in the street without the two engaging in mortal combat.   It took one and one half of a millennium (1500 years) to reach that stalemate! 

Islam is not there yet.  Six hundred-plus 1,500 makes it 2,100 years. We have at least another 80 years to go!  Islam is still in its violent era fighting each other and us, busy with beheadings and emulations of humans in cages. Muhammad was a General with a large army that subjugated the Arabian Peninsula when he marched into Mecca with 10,000 men. The Quran was revealed to Muhammad over a 23 year period by the Archangel Gabriel, by listening to the Angel’s words and transmitting them to his scribes, as he was illiterate, much of it happening in a cave north of Mecca. This is not debatable because, after all, this is the actual word of God! There are, however,  subsequent holy writings after the death of Muhammad that also dictate the law of the religion, especially the Hadith, which, unlike the Quran, the direct revelation, expounds on what Muhammad said and did.  Some groups add not only what Muhammad said but what his companions said.  Although the Quran is the principal source of Islamic law, the Sharia, many of the controversial interpretations come from the Hadith, which is not Quranic.  Islam is not one united block. There is considerable conflict among their own. There are two main factions, the Sunni (1.3 billion) and the Shi’a (200 million).  But there are at least three more that have a significant following: Ahmadiyya (15million), Ibadi (3million), Sufism (exact numbers are not known).  Some adhere to a more strict interpretation of the holy writings, while others adhere less to the actual writings and are more interpretive.  Afghanistan has almost 40 million people. Less than 10% are over 50 years of age. This is the second “go-at-it” for the Taliban. They ran the country from 1996 to 2001.   In the last 20 years we, the West, have made a significant impact on Afghanistan in culture, politics, economy, liberty, women’s rights, education, etc.  It will be interesting to see how 70,000 hillbilly-like, mostly young men, with only religious indoctrination from the Madrassas (which essentially means memorizing passages from the Quran) with no other education and no understanding of a worldview will be affected by mixing into a sophisticated society. Who will have the greater effect on whom? I would be surprised if the next 9/11 would not come out of Afghanistan with the able help of the Taliban, which have already shown themselves to be ideologically 1000 years back in the dark ages.

So where are all the water and oil issues between Western thought and Islamic thought? Much of it involves sex and women.  First, women are not equal to men.  It says so right in the Quran 4.34 (as it does in the Bible, but Muslims believe it much more than Christians, and Christianity has had the benefit of a few more years of exposure to enlightenment): “Men stand superior to women in that God hath preferred some of them over others…” From that flows a whole host of bristling dictates. Sharia Law allows wives to be beaten. Pre-pubescent marriages are permitted. And necrophilia is acceptable … really! Furthermore, art may not depict the human figure, especially not that of Muhammad, that is why the Paris newspaper’s 17 employees of Charlie Hebdo were wiped out by terrorists, and Lars Vilks, the artist that drew cartoons of Muhammad, was shot to death in Copenhagen. It makes it difficult to deal with behavior that is rooted in the first millennium. The radicals have a thing for esthetics, especially graphic art depicting living things like humans. Music is also haram (forbidden) because it could lead to sin, drinking alcohol, and illicit sex. The Taliban would have an orgastic experience with the paintings of the Louvre or the concert halls of Vienna and Prague.  One of their first victims in Afghanistan was a popular folksinger, Fawad Andarabi. A couple of days after the bright bulbs (claiming new enlightenment) of the Taliban insurgency announced that music was forbidden, they stormed the home of Fawad, dragged him out, and in front of his family shot him in the head. It will be a while before you will hear the strummings of Elvis, or the harmony of the Eagles played in Islamic circles.

A more subtle issue is religious pluralism.  Ever since our Revolutionary War and the writing of the Bill of Rights, the right to religious freedom is part of our fabric, which is, however, not acceptable to radical Islam. “There is but one God, and he is Allah!” By the way, that is just Islam’s name for Jehova. That leaves out all the Hindi gods, Buddha, the deity of the Sikhs, and of course, all those that have no God.  That would be a major confrontational issue with the rest of the world, including Asia, Africa, India, Europe, North and South America.  How the radical Islamists deal with homosexuality is a side issue that has religious overtones as they stone gays and lesbians or bury them alive, a horrific and uncivilized thing by our standards! It also denotes a serious provincial, un-worldly manner that puts Islamists in opposition to the majority of the rest of world opinion, which creates a significant obstacle for the newly reformed Taliban to join the family of nations.

It will take more to reform Islam than we think.  These kinds of fanatic aberrations will not clear up overnight. I hope I am wrong, but I am afraid that we are in for another few decades of medieval thinking and behavior. It took Christianity a while to stop burning people alive for the sin of claiming the earth revolved around the sun. That was just 300 years ago and almost killed the greatest mind of our times, Galileo Galilei, before he recanted his heresy. Although his predecessor, Bruno Giordano, at the University of Padua,  was not so lucky. He was burned alive at the stake in 1600 at the Campo de’ Fiori in Rome for multiple heretical views, including heliocentrism, despite the fact that great mathematicians and thinkers like Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, and Tycho Brahe had convincing supporting evidence already published, but ignored by the wise theologians. Sort of what the Mullahs and Imams do now.

Interestingly, it was also Cardinal Bellarmine who prosecuted Galileo 30 years later. So we can’t pretend that we are so much more civilized.  We went through a similar violent phase. They are just a few hundred years behind us in their evolution out of the darkness. Christianity clawed its way out of the insanity and bloody encounters.  Islam has the ethical, logical, and intellectual basis to do the same.

The Quran, unlike the second most venerated book, the Hadith, is more philosophical.  The moderate Muslims need to focus on that point! That should be the emphasis of the potential reformers of Islam. But my burning question is, “Where are the moderate Muslims?” There is a deafening silence from them.

What We Know. What We Don’t know. And the Things That We Don’t Know, We Don’t Know.

 

Since the Neolithic times, we have dramatically increased our knowledge. Buckminster Fuller, the creator of the geodesic dome, kicked out of Harvard twice, came up with the doubling time curve of knowledge. We now double our known facts each year, and that rate is growing exponentially.  Despite that, we really don’t see a fraction of what needs to be understood. We cannot predict what will happen, but we can predict the odds of what will happen, although the “experts” are often wrong.  Seventeen Nobel Laureates in Economics have expected that our inflationary economy will be short-lived. But it continues to live and so far is far from short. Over the past 12 months, inflation has been accelerating every month. Overall prices are higher by 6.2% on average for all consumer items, but gasoline has gone up nearly 50%, and world food prices have gone up 30%.

Covid-19 has been said to be defeated several times, yet just like the monster in the movies when we thought it had been killed, it rears its ugly head over and over. After all, it is a virus’s job to mutate.  Darwin laid down the rules of evolution in his book On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, 162 years ago. A living organism constantly changes its DNA (mutates) through various mechanisms, natural copying errors, environmental factors that can alter the genetic code by changing the DNA sequence through a multitude of chemical actions, or radiation. Once a change occurs, it is then passed on to the next generation. Most mutations wind up on the trash heap of useless junk mutations. Occasionally a mutation will kill its host organism, like cancer, one of the more common mutations, but sometimes it makes the organism stronger (gain of function). That mutation replicates repeatedly until it replaces all the organisms from then on to the new and better version. In humans, it takes a long time to go from Neanderthal to Homo sapiens, hundreds of thousands of years. In viruses that happens rather quickly, days to weeks, and voilà, you have a better virus, the Omicron virus, for example. It could be able to latch on to our lung cells quicker. It could be resistant to our vaccines. It could be better at killing us off, etc. That, of course, would eventually lead to the virus itself losing strength as it eliminates its reservoir of victims.  That factor played a part in the eventual weakening of the 1918 Flu, the Spanish Flu. It just took killing 100,000,000 of us! In a perverted way, the anti-vaxxers might be doing us a favor.  The fewer chances the virus has to replicate, the less likely it is to mutate.

SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, was set up by NASA in 1982 by the efforts of Carl Sagan. He convinced Congress of its value. There are an estimated 400 billion galaxies in the Universe, and each galaxy has 100 billion stars. That makes 40 to the 21st power or 40 sextillions.  We now know that many, if not most, stars have planets. Just our galaxy is thought to have 60 billion planets that could support life. The odds are relatively high that some world somewhere in the universe has life on it.  Steven Hawkins was not too enthusiastic about finding that planet. He thought that the likelihood of their being superior to us was overwhelming.  If they came to earth, they would treat us like we treat all the animal life on earth, i.e., we would become alien food. How do canned Homo sapiens sound?

We have two forms of government, Capitalism based on individual ingenuity and effort to create wealth, and Communism based on communal efforts to work together to create the worker’s paradise. There are permutations and combinations of those two forms that modulate more of one or the other ingredient to create multiple styles of government. With democracy, it is easy to govern when 90% want this, and 10% want that. It becomes problematic when it is 50/50, as so many issues are now. The tyranny of 50% plus .001% makes it challenging. Our biggest problems now include vaccination, abortion, elections, prosecution of crime, race, and more.  Marcus Aurelius was the philosopher-king in Rome who ruled justly with wisdom. Unfortunately, he is no longer with us, and no one has yet been found to replace him. Others who have tried have failed miserably, one too many concentration camps and gulags, thousands of extrajudicial killings.  Communism’s fatal flaw takes away the individual’s incentive for being better. On the other hand, it has no problems enforcing what the “Central Committee” has decided what is best for us.  But as Winston Churchill so eloquently said, “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others!” As bad as rule by the many is, it is still better than all those others, which have been proven over and over as so many countries have abandoned the rule of one or even rule by the “Central Committee.” 

We still have not hit on the perfect system that is the answer to all problems. Also, there is a set of issues that have a lot of controversies, such as global warming, for example. Listening to arguments on both sides, I walk away often more confused than I was before I heard “all” the evidence from the experts, with no convincing explanation that is comprehensible, especially when it emanates from individuals who are not authorities on the subjects such as defrocked former Vice Presidents who predicted the disappearances of arctic ice by 2016, the melting of many glaciers including M. Kilamanjaro by 2014 and rise of oceans by 20 feet washing away our coastal cities that are still there or ex-bartenders tuned congresspeople from Brooklyn who gives us just another 8 years of survival before we are doomed.

There is a vast body of knowledge where we don’t even know the names of the issues that we have and not even the faintest idea of what they are, the biological mysteries of life, of space, of cancer, of the mind, of brain function, of artificial intelligence, of quantum physics,  why life exists at all, and more. These worry me the most… the things we don’t know that we don’t know.


 

 [GI1]

MY FAVORITE IDIOMS, WHAT THEY MEAN AND WHAT IS THE STORY BEHIND THEM

Idioms have always fascinated me. What do they mean and what is the story behind them?  I have compiled a list of a few of my favorite ones that you might find interesting as well.

They dropped me like “a hot potato.” This is an idiom that can refer to a person, a thing, or a thought.  I recently  had an attractive job offer which I really wanted, but because I had made some comments at a public meeting that did not fit the prevailing opinion, they dropped me like a “hot potato.”  The story of that idiom goes back to the 1800s.  You may have noticed that when a baked potato comes out of the oven, it is quite hot, probably because it sat at 400 ˚ F for an hour. The average potato is 80% water and is covered with a thick peel, therefore, retaining heat very well.   Children of the 1800s did not have a lot of toys, so they played with what was available.  The object is to toss a hot potato to the next person as quickly as possible while music was playing. Once the music stopped you can’t throw it anymore and may well have to drop it because it was too hot.

When you have a hurtful experience, whether physical or emotional pain and someone belittles you for that, it is called “adding insult to injury.”  That goes back to the Roman writer Phaedrus who expounded on an Aesop fable of a bald man who tried to swat a fly that bit him on the head but missed.  The fly laughed and commented, “You want to avenge a little insect’s sting with death?  What will you do to yourself who has added insult to injury?”

The line got more traction in 1947 when US newspapers commented on football knee injuries. They said that nature needs to get back  to the drawing board, “The human knee is nothing to look at but also a piece of bum engineering.”

It was also used for the title of an episode in the “Get Smart” TV series and has been used as the title for several books.  The one that I must definitely read is, If at First You Don’t Succeed go Back to the Drawing Board with Wine.

 “Don’t cross the bridge ‘till you come to it, is an old proverb and of excellent wit.”  This was first seen as a direct quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s long poem, The Golden Legend that he wrote in 1851, and applies to all situations where you don’t need to concern yourself with a problem, decision, or issue in the present moment as it may never come up.  When you face it is time to decide how to respond, not before.

“Drastic times call for drastic measures,” is  Hippocrates paraphrased who said, “for extreme disease extreme methods of cure are most suitable. This is still true.  The only cure for cancer is still by surgical excision, pretty drastic!

Geoffrey Chaucer of Canterbury Tales originated the line, “T’is nought good a slepyng hound to wake,” Written in Troilus and Criseyde around 1380. Given that then, as well as now, dogs startled from sleep are unpredictable.  But metaphorically, the meaning has given rise to other related idioms, “leave well enough alone” or “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The latter reminds me of my father-in-law, whose life long guiding motto was, “if it’s broke, fix it, if you can’t fix it, force it, if you can’t force it, break it!” But it also reminds me of me, “If it ain’t Baroque, it ain’t worth listening to.” But better yet if it ain’t Baroque, don’t fix it!

The phrase “to make a long story short” is often employed to get to the point, to leave out all extraneous details and bring the story to an end.  The words are credited to Henry David Thoreau who cleverly toyed with it in a letter in 1857, “Not that the story needs to be long, but it will take a long time to make it short.”

There is a method to my madness.” It is right out of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to explain one’s strange behavior as not as crazy as it would appear.

I am going to play the “devil’s advocate” and argue against your belief that cold weather causes colds.  In fact, cold weather does not cause colds, it is viruses that do.  Although cold weather drives us indoors and gives the virus a better chance to spread through close contact. You will be surprised to learn that the Vatican actually had a devil’s advocate position, advocatus diaboli whose job was to argue against the canonization of a candidate to uncover misrepresentation or flaws that favored an individual.  The office was established in 1587 but rescinded by Pope John Paul II in 1983, which dramatically increased the number of Saints canonized from 330 in the previous 390 years (0.85 saints per year), to 483 new Saints from 1978 to 2005 (17.89 saints per year), including Mother Theresa.  It was a good thing for Saint candidates not to have a devil’s advocate in those years.

“Cutting corners” is an idiom that implies using the economy to decrease costs, save time, or get fast results.  This is done by using cheap materials, sacrificing safety, or not checking details. The term comes from driving.  If you come to a sharp corner and cut across diagonally to save time you risk hitting an unseen oncoming vehicle.  It could also be applied to tailoring, cutting corners would save on material, being cheap, and not concerned about quality or details.

“Take everything with a grain of salt” had a different meaning in ancient times as it has now. In older times, salt was considered an antidote to poison.  Pliny the Elder recommended taking “a grain of salt” to make things go down easier. The Roman general Pompey believed he would make himself immune to poison if he took a small amount of it.  To help him swallow it, he took it with a grain of salt. The Latin word “sal” means both “salt” and “wit” or “awareness.” The phrase “cum grano salis” then can be interpreted as “with a grain of caution.” This is the modern interpretation: Have a healthy level of skepticism before you accept anything.

“Deadline” was a term during the Civil War that was much more literal than now.  Prisoners were kept in pens surrounded by a line drawn on the ground that if the prisoner crossed it, he would be shot dead. 

“Spilling the beans” goes back to ancient Greece.  The first democracy voted by placing beans in a container, white for “yes” black for “no.”  If someone spilled the beans, they revealed the result of the vote before the appointed time to do so.

“Dyed in the wool,” describes a person who is unchangeable, uncompromising, and unwavering.  This derived from wool that was dyed before being made into cloth would hold its color better right after being sheared. 

“At the End of the Day” is the appropriate idiom to end this essay.   It was first used by biologist Thomas Huxley, also known as “Darwin’s bulldog,” to sum up, his life’s work at the end of the day have I earned my wages or not?  In this essay, “When all is said and done,” have I piqued your interest in idioms?

  LANGUAGE

 

           HYOID -Henry Gray  Anatomy of the Human Body

I have been fascinated by language most of my life. That, I think, is why I like to write. I hardly knew any English when I came to the US.  I sat in my 5th-grade class in silence for three months and then, like a miracle, started to talk, just like all the other kids. But math is another story. Sixty-seven years later, I still need to revert to my primary language, German, to do my multiplication tables. Why is that?
I now speak without an accent.  I have been told that if one learns a new language before age 16, there is no accent; if one learns after that age, they remain with their accent all their life.  Why is that, and why can’t my wife, or JFK, say: “Ich bin ein Berliner” without struggling with the “CH” in “Ich”? It comes out like a mucous plug gurgling in the back of the tongue instead of a cat hissing.
As an adult, I experienced another quirk of language.  In my early doctor days, I realized that I needed to learn how to look into people’s stomachs to deal with illnesses in that organ.  The gastroscope was coming into common usage, but I could not learn how to use it unless I went to Japan to learn that skill for complex medical-political reasons, which will require another essay to explain. Suffice it to say, I went to Tokyo in 1974 to learn that skill.  I was fortunate to be taught by a famous Japanese professor for several weeks.  It took me the first week to understand him.  He kept talking about the “mucous rake” in the stomach. I finally figured it out.  He was talking about a puddle of mucous in the stomach – the “mucous lake.”  The adult Japanese cannot pronounce the “L,” and substitutes an “R” for it.  That issue popped up years later when I got evicted from first-class in an Asian airliner. I had bought a first-class seat for my wife, but I stayed in steerage. When it became dark, I snuck up to first-class and took the empty seat next to her.  In the morning, the stewardess discovered me and exclaimed, “You not first-crass, you must reave!” Embarrassed, I reft!
How did a tribe of tree monkeys learn to talk anyway? I have thought about this a lot and for a long time.  I concluded that what made us talk was that we started wandering the African savannahs when we came down from the trees several million years ago. We found it easier to walk on two extremities rather than four, which we needed up in the trees to keep from falling. 3.6 million years ago, in what is now Tanzania, a group of Australopithecus afarensis walked through wet volcanic ash that then petrified. It showed a modern gate with a heel strike first, and then the toes push off at the end of the step. The feet looked much like ours. With our bipedal gait, the head had to move directly over the shoulders. Otherwise, we would be looking at the ground all the time. Once we didn’t need our upper extremities to get around, we remembered the old biblical proverb, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” So, we looked for activities to do with them.  It took another million years for Homo habilis, which translates to handy man, to make the first recognizable tools. A tool to cut, an ax, was probably the first thing we made with our hands. Pointy things, that could be tied to a stick could be used to hunt rabbits or other small creatures. But then we realized that larger animals had more meat on them.  To hunt them required us to work in groups because a rhinoceros took a lot of cooperation to bring down, and was quite a dangerous undertaking. Making noises and gestures was a start, but not adequate for organizing several Neanderthals to surround and kill a Mammoth.  We needed language to do that.  “You come from behind, and I will come from the side and that guy from the other side, etc.” 
We had short necks when we lived in trees, but now that we had to talk, we needed better voice boxes and more articulate tongues and lips to make all those sounds that others could understand. The voice box moved lower in the neck, and probably in Homo heidelberensis, the structure of the most crucial bone for language evolved in the neck to attach the muscles that moved the tongue, the Hyoid bone.   Try to say an “L”  without using your tongue or a “P” without your lips – you can’t.  Making the vowel sounds requires more resonant spaces like the nose and sinuses, which we also developed.
With better communication, hunting became much more successful and gave us an upgrade in our diet to more proteins. Our brains got bigger from 640cc to our current size of 1350cc. And that is why we can no longer end sentences with a preposition, notwithstanding.

                                                             CLIMATE CHANGE 2.0

It used to be called “Global Cooling” in the 1970s when we were cooling.  The prediction was that the next ice age was upon us.  We are still in the last ice age, the Pleistocene.  Two major polar ice caps still dominate the earth. There is some debate about whether we are in an interglacial period, the Holocene, or is that just warming within our last glacial period, also called the Quaternary glaciation. Regardless, real interglacials should not have any ice on the planet. 80% of the time, the earth has been free of ice, called a Greenhouse Period.”Climate Change” replaced “Global Warming,” which was not intuitive or accepted by the general population despite Al Gore and AOC. 

There are two opposing opinions. #1 Man-made CO2 is warming the planet, and if we do not do something soon, we shall perish.  It may already be too late.  #2 The Climate is constantly changing and has been for millions of years.  We may be contributing to this, but the warming and cooling cycles are caused by numerous factors: the sun’s heat output, the earth’s axis wobble and orbital eccentricity (Milankovitch cycles), and greenhouse gases of which water vapor is the most powerful. Additionally, Ocean currents, among others, also affect the earth’s temperature. The “Warmers,” True Believers, and Activists hang on one factor, greenhouse gases, of which CO2 is in their mantra the most important. In contrast, the “Skeptics” and Deniers claim a multiplicity of factors that cause climate. I kind of like the title “Skeptics” because it connotes individuals who are not sheeple. The term “Deniers” is a pejorative derived from the “Holocaust Deniers,” a rather backward group denying the obvious. 
Climate science is a new field of study, perhaps 30-40 years old. Physics, geology, meteorology, atmospheric chemistry, oceanography, carbon cycling, astronomy, soil science, and many others deal with climatology. Believe it or not, many of those touch on biology and the study of human physiology. More significantly, I am by nature, a skeptic. In my over 50 years of dealing with a branch of science, I have found that most things are not simple. I have a hard time buying into the single causation of anything.
The other major obstacle to my accepting the single theory of Global Warming is the various attempts at deception that have been uncovered on their side, not the least of which is the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), a branch of the United Nations. They are a closed and underhanded group.  If you don’t believe in their mantra, you are ousted.  It was formed by 195 countries that each appoint members.  Not only scientists, but also environmentalists, activists, and politicians appointed by each country have input into their reports.  This creates an incestuous unanimity as they see anyone who disagrees with them as not a valid climate scientist which many of them are not either. In one report they produced, they stated, “Most of the observed increase in global average temperature is very likely due to observed increase in human-caused greenhouse gas concentration.”
Papers that are not along party lines are not reviewed. In fact, getting a paper that does not agree with the man-made causality of increased global temperature will likely not even be accepted by most journals, much less getting any government grants. The media usually does not report on the skeptic’s point of view or on the frauds that have been perpetrated.  The most infamous of which is the “Hockey Stick” temperature rise that depicts a recent rapidly rising global temperature, leaving out the Medieval Warming and the “Little Ice Age.”  The e-mails that originated from the English University of East Anglia appeared to show efforts to hide or alter data to falsely show Global Warming, with a reluctance to share data. Was the second batch of e-mails recently released also taken out of context? Or the claims that the Polar-bears are dying off, a very debatable point of view, and the data from tree rings of Bristlecone Pines that produce misleading data regarding Global Warming, which was more likely related to changes in precipitation and/or in life-giving  CO2 (which CO2 is known to do). I am aware of all the arguments: taken out of context, some of the warming was only in the northern hemisphere, cherry-picking words like “use tricks to hide temperature decline” is difficult to interpret in any other way, but refusing to share data, which they unquestionably did, is very suspicious. It is not how scientists should behave. Joseph Goebbels, Propaganda Minister of the 3rd Reich, hit it on the head, “People will eventually believe you if you keep repeating the same lie.”
There have been several warming periods without the evil CO2  factor. The Minoan Warming may have helped create the Greek civilization about 3500 years ago, then the Roman Warming about 2000 years ago when all Alpine glaciers melted and allowed Hannibal, with his elephants, to cross them. Also, the Medieval Warming was about 1000 years ago when the Vikings really discovered America and settled Greenland (which was indeed green) long before 1492 when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. All correlate with human achievements, likely because it was warmer. It was warmer than in our current anomaly in all three previous climate anomalies, while CO2  hovered dangerously below 200ppm. At 150ppm, all plant life starts to die. Hothouse farmers like to keep their CO2 levels between 1000 to 1300ppm. And no one has yet died in those hothouses. What if we have it all wrong and the cause and effect are reversed. It gets warm, and because it gets warm COppm rises. There are other causes for the earth’s temperature to go up. The sun’s temperature output is not constant. The earth gets closer to the sun because of axis tilt and orbital eccentricity. At times there is more heat than others.  The last three warming anomalies did not have CO2 associated with them. In fact, our current climate anomaly starting in 1850 at the end of the “Little Ice Age” goes against the theory.

Most graphs show the beginning of rising temperatures before the Industrial Age started.  Then in 1940, a surprising drop in temperature lasting to 1975 happened despite CO2rising another 30ppm (17% of the total). It actually brought fears of a new ice age, another contradictory episode in the CO2 saga.

Another flaw in the theory of fossil fuel causation of the COstory is that almost half of the CO2   rise was before the Industrial Age prior to 1850 from 180ppm to 280ppm. Where did that CO2   come from? It could have been from vulcanos, but even Krakatoa in 1883 barely moved the needle, and it is unlikely that life forms made that much  CO2. If you have ever noticed, cold beer has a lot of “fizz,” but warm beer doesn’t. That is because more CO is dissolved in a cold fluid than in a warm liquid. The end of the “LIA” marked the beginning of a new warming period for various reasons; of course, the ocean water was also warming. When it got warmer, it released CO2, and as you can see in the graph above, COstarted to rise before the first Model-T rolled off Ford’s production line. That happened in 1908. There is a lot of CO2 stored in the oceans.  There is a significant risk that despite decreasing our fossil fuel use, the global temperature may still rise, just like it did in all the other warming periods of the past despite low CO2. We got a slight hint of that with the recent Covid CO2  dip but still a continued rise in temperature. The argument that temperature rise precedes CO2 rise, as it did in 1850, is awkward. As as far as I know, cause precedes effect pretty much every time, even if it happened in the 19th Century.
There is a vast body of scientists who do not join the 97% consensus that Al Gore talks about. I need to hear more from the 3% that don’t agree. This would not be the first time in history that the minority report is right. There are trillions of dollars at stake. In 2009 a group of 31,000 scientists (I presume some of the three percenters) led by Fred Singer*, an Austrian physicist and student of a long list of renowned scientists, including his Ph.D. adviser, Professor John Wheeler, collaborator of Niels Bohr, the father of quantum mechanics, signed a document that made the statement, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the earth’s climate.” You must admit 31,000 signatures would make you think twice about anything if you were a thinking person. And you would think CNN would have made mention of such a startling statement. Even Roger Revelle, Al Gore’s “beloved mentor” changed his mind on Global Warming which prompted Gore to call him “an old fool.”
I am also disturbed by the latest activist attack that the newest cause of Global Warming is Capitalism. Who knew that the Capitalists were fueling Global Warming? China must have turned Capitalist when I was not looking. They are, after all, the most significant contributors to greenhouse gases.




* Many of you have read Al Gore’s books, but I’ll bet that none of you have read an actual climate scientist, Fred Singer’s book, “Hot Talk, Cold Science” ©2021