Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Seven, there were seven .... waiting for eight

Horace Smith and Daniel Wesson are gaining in influence in my world, a locale generally dominated by John Browning and Samuel Colt. These men were gun makers / inventors, for the edification of the uninitiated. The seven revolvers here are Smith & Wesson -- each and every one. They are waiting for the eighth to make its appearance and fill the rack to its capacity. The eighth is en route at this very moment, making its way from New York state to Minnesota. Upon its arrival, the rack will be full and complete, and another cycle will begin.

This is a strange, weird, odd post, so it deserves strange, weird, odd music. Who better, what better than Warren Zevon (rhetorical remark, no question, no answer necessary .... but, first ....)

Sic semper tyrannis

It is ironically fitting (perhaps, poetically, too) that Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz would leave the earth in November -- the same month John Fitzgerald Kennedy departed fifty-seven years earlier. Kennedy left on November 22, 1963 -- Castro on November 25, 2016. It would have been absolutely spooky had their deaths been the same date of the month since their lives were very much intertwined through economic, military and, some claim, personal warfare.

If the words within that paragraph form a mystery to you and you are curious, do a bit of research. History is fascinating. Whatever .... good bye and good riddance, El Caballo ....

Hmmmm .... interesting, for we doubters ....

From a conservative viewpoint, many of Donald Trump's Cabinet and White House selections are looking good. Obviously, dedicated liberals / progressives will not agree, but I am beginning to think there is method to the madness of our "potty mouth" president-elect:

Mike Pompeo, congressman from Kansas to head the CIA. West Point graduate, first in his class with military experience in Europe .... good .... hard core right politically .... wish he had some "spook" experience, but all-in-all a good choice

Mike Flynn, retired Army lieutenant general to be Trump's national security adviser, formerly headed the Defense Intelligence Agency .... great variety of intelligence and special military operations experience .... registered Democrat, but military hawk .... great choice

KT McFarland, former national security analyst, to be deputy national security adviser to the president .... brilliant strategist and analyst and negotiator, who can lay on the charm as a counterbalance to Flynn's hard core, in-your-face style .... she is a super choice, and probably will replace Flynn in a few years after he has figuratively cut too many people off at the knees ....

Jeff Sessions, senator since 1996 from Alabama, to be attorney general, strong conservative record on judiciary, immigration, military .... good to potentially great choice

There are others I sort of think of as fine choices, but who puzzle me a bit in some instances, and of whom I have no real opinion .... in short, some I really am not enthused about and it is a wait-and-see game with them: Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina as ambassador to the United Nations (this role really puzzles me since she has no relevant background); Betsy DeVos, businesswoman and philanthropist as education secretary; Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee as White House chief of staff .... all right, there have been more, but we will stop with those for now ....

As a fascinating footnote, to me, anyway, DeVos has a brother, Erik Prince, who is a former Navy SEAL officer and the founder of Blackwater, the (now defunct) private military / security firm which had thousands of civilian "contractors" paid by the United States government doing adjunct military work in places like Iraq. Again, a bit of history worth researching for those interested in the depth of federal government duplicity and intrigue at home and abroad.

The end of November -- or one, long paragraph

Usually, I am pleased when November passes because I am one month closer to spring. This year, though, I have a nostalgic sense about November -- maybe because the weather has been mild (better rain than snow); maybe because it is one of those years when I sense my life changing and going in a new direction; maybe because it is the month of the end of World War I and Veterans Day .... of an afternoon in a park in Minneapolis I was never in before and never have been since with a girl named Sandy Daniels when we both were sort of young .... of John Kennedy and his death .... of Thanksgiving .... of the last day of my last deer hunt in Michigan woodlands along the rocky shore of Lake Superior, with wind howling in tree tops and five-foot snow drifts encircling tree trunks, then finally walking out along a logging trail as gathering dusk melted into absolute darkness; maybe because it is the month when the northern world was in its death throes just before being reborn again and again during epochs before Christmas ever was dreamt of in the minds of mortal men. Oh, well, maybe you understand the swirling drifts encircling me, maybe not, but you can see behind my eyes if you look closely .... November = metamorphosis, it would seem, this year .... there is no substitute for having been around the block once or twice .... hang in there, baby ....

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

How different might the world be today?

    John Fitzgerald Kennedy
           Thirty-fifth president of the United States of America
                                     Born: May 29, 1917
                             Murdered: November 22, 1963
                             Age 46 -- president 1036 days

 A few lines from the musical
by Alan Lerner & Frederick Loewe

King Arthur:
Each evening, from December to December,
Before you drift to sleep upon your cot,
Think back on all the tales that you remember
Of Camelot.
Ask ev'ry person if he's heard the story,
And tell it strong and clear if he has not,
That once there was a fleeting wisp of glory
Called Camelot.
Camelot! Camelot!
Now say it out with pride and joy!

Camelot! Camelot!

King Arthur:
Yes, Camelot, my boy!
Where once it never rained till after sundown,
By eight a.m. the morning fog had flown ....
Don't let it be forgot
That once there was a spot
For one brief shining moment that was known
As Camelot.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The world always is upside down for someone

It appears many think the world, once again and for the umpteenth time since the British band of General Charles Cornwallis played the tune after the American victory at Yorktown in 1781, has been turned upside down. This time the event was the election of Donald "potty mouth" Trump to become the forty-fifth president of the United States. My dog, Buddy, sort of goes along with that assessment and has adjusted his position for viewing the world accordingly. My own view is that the world has been turned upside down throughout the last eight years under the mostly absentee leadership of Barack Obama, especially notably on the international front in which hundreds of thousands have been murdered in places like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan while the United Nations, the United States and Western Europe have done what ?? Absolutely nothing of consequence to prevent it.

Anyway, now we shall see what the next four years bring -- hopefully, in the least, the death of political correctness and the end of appeasement to terrorists and their sponsor nations.

In the meanwhile, Buddy and I will calmly watch the world go by while drinking our Benedictine; reading our Fyodor Dostoyevsky, our Norman Mailer, our Carl Jung, our Jean-Paul Sartre, our Will Durant and a few "supplemental bums" -- dharma and otherwise; collecting ourselves a gun here and there (by the way, add still another Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum to the number as of last Saturday); and, maybe, smoking our Cuban cigars –- I am thinking about taking them up again .... a guy has to have a vice or two and, god, I miss the taste of a cigar (along with a few other tastes) and you only live once .... unless you take literally Ian Fleming novels.

Ah, yes .... the music. It is here for two reasons: Obviously, because it is exquisitely beautiful. Perhaps obvious also to a few who have been coming here since the beginning, because when I look at the young lady in the quartet whose hair is worn up it is like I am seeing another young lady from the not-too-distant past. Sometimes the past keeps finding its way back, at least in your mind if not into your actuality. Whatever .... since I have written less, there is room this evening for more photographs and more music.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Speaking of "in their own image"

Recognize these guys? They are what remains of a couple of Neanderthals .... they might be among your ancestors. That might explain a lot of things, might it not ?? ..... yep, it might .... but, you probably never will know for certain because their names definitely will not turn up on any genealogical website.

Do you ever wonder
what it was like
to have been one of them ??

(Editor's Note: I did not write either of these "segments." I am unabashedly reprinting them without proper credits, but with hopes no one will care or that I will be immune from any blame or fault, à la the Hillary syndrome: Who, me ?? Whatever .... sorry to keep harping about this sort of study -- this very real genetic link from hominoid and even before to we who walk the Earth today -- but, I think it is fascinating and I believe predestination might be more relevant than ever imagined by religious "entrepreneurs" such as John Calvin: Turn loose the genie .... whoops, I mean the gene.)

Segment No. 1: The first draft of the sequence of the Neanderthal genome was published in 2010, and one might think that it would tell us everything we need to know about the genetic differences between modern humans and our closest evolutionary cousins -- Neanderthals.

But, it turns out the raw genetic code is only half the story. Just as important is epigenetics -- features of the genome that determine which genes are active and which are inactive, factors that can in turn have a dramatic effect on one's traits.

Now, researchers from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, where the original sequencing took place, have found an ingenious way to investigate Neanderthal epigenetics. Their findings have provided tantalizing clues to how the bodies and brains of modern humans have evolved since splitting from Neanderthals several hundred thousand years ago.

The usual methods for determining whether genes are active or inactive are highly destructive and cannot be used on scarce Neanderthal genetic material. Instead, the researchers managed to detect telltale epigenetic signs in the Neanderthal genome based on the insight that certain portions of ancient DNA tend to be misread in a distinctive way by DNA sequencers.

This reading of Neanderthal epigenetics produced a number of novel results. Two genes involved in determining body shape turned out to be highly inactivated in Neanderthals and highly activated in humans. This could help explain why Neanderthals have thicker hands, wider knee and elbow joints, and shorter limbs.

"These genes are identical between us and Neanderthals," says Liran Carmel of Hebrew University. "So we are convinced we have found a region where only the epigenetics is different."

Many genes associated with diseases -- in particular psychiatric and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease, autism, and schizophrenia -- also appear to be activated in modern humans, but not Neanderthals.

Carmel says the activation of these genes may have produced an evolutionary catch-22: bestowing a benefit, perhaps by changing the wiring of our brains, but also introducing an increased risk of disease.

Segment No. 2: "Live Science" reports that evolutionary biologist Ivan Juric of the University of California, Davis, and his colleagues want to know why modern humans carry so few Neanderthal genes.

A large population of modern humans and a small Neanderthal population are thought to have interbred thousands of years ago, but very little Neanderthal DNA has survived in the modern human genome. It had been suggested that many of the offspring of Neanderthals and modern humans failed to thrive, or were infertile.

Juric's team developed a computer model to simulate the effects of natural selection on the distance between segments of Neanderthal DNA and modern human genes, since less Neanderthal DNA has been found in regions close to modern human genes than in the inactive areas between genes.

The results of the simulation suggest that Neanderthal gene variants are being slowly removed by natural selection. Now Juric wants to know which gene variants contributed by extinct human relatives have been deleted from the modern human genome.

"Once we know more about the genes involved, we can ask what those genes do and what traits they are involved with in modern humans," he said. "Then, we might be able to make some guesses about the traits of those early human-Neanderthal hybrids."

(Postscript: Once again, science makes more sense than does religion in terms of explaining what we are and who we are, which does not mean religion does not have the potential for even greater importance and relevance than science. Anyway .... I hope you read these few sentences .... they might help you toward a greater understanding of you .... yourself .... your actual self .... although nothing seems to answer the question of why you are -- why such a creature as yourself even exists .... and, if you are anything more than dust in the wind.)

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Too many want the world in their own image

My last post included a notation that the photograph appearing with it had not been intended, but, instead, a photograph of my latest acquisition in firearms had been planned. Well, here is that missing photograph, but with sort of a modification because during the brief interim of time from that post to this one, there already has been another acquisition. The smaller, blued revolver was purchased October 19 and is a Smith & Wesson Model 36 in .38 Special caliber. The larger, stainless steel revolver was just purchased October 28. It is a Ruger Bisley Super Blackhawk Lipsey Edition. The caliber is .454 Casull. Most film-goers are familiar with Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" character in which he utters the oft-quote words:

"But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"

While the .44 Remington Magnum is as popular as ever among revolver buffs, it no longer holds the distinction of "most powerful." Calibers like the .454 Casull and the .460 and the .500 Smith & Wesson have usurped that title.

So, we have three handgun purchases in thirty-nine days, two of them shown here, and I have my eye on a couple of others at the moment. I suppose it is time for me to admit I am hopelessly in love with guns .... fortunately, for me, I am not alone in this affliction .... I might add the Model 36 is thirty-nine years old and is as perfect as the day it was created, while the Bisley/Lipsey is a newborn .... what perfection, they even reflect the yellow of the leaves in the tree above them .... anyway and whatever, since my last post was rather lengthy, this one will be rather short .... and, and, and dwell only on guns and a touch of music ....
But, first, this, too ....
.... why not (??) a few words I wrote elsewhere earlier this evening which were never intended to be here. They might not make sense without additional explanation and they might seem out of context to the post, but, really, they fit right in if you think about it and who cares anyway? So, here they are:
My concept of masculinity (and femininity, too) is entirely uncomplicated and revolves around individuality: Be who you want to be, unworried about what others might think, as opposed to being intimidated into running in the midst of the politically correct crowd. There is room for everyone to be who they wish to be ....

I probably am an endangered species with that sentiment; there are too many who think they know what is best, not only for themselves, but for their neighbors, as well. There are times I think I see the flames lit by "Jack and his choir" burning on the horizon.

Something special ....