Land Waster

Tomorrow will be the 951 anniversary of the death of one of my heroes. Hero? Hmm, that might be a little strong. I did admire him but I’m not sure he was a good man.

His very name is translated as “hard ruler”, and he was also known as “Land Waster”, after his famous raven banner.

I’m referring to the historical Norwegian, King Harald who died on September 25, 1066. Yep, the very same year that William the Conqueror fought at Hastings.

Harald Hardradi won the first battle in front of York, and with the help of a lone Viking on Stamford Bridge, he almost won the second battle, until he took an arrow in the throat.

Point of fact, King Harold Godwinson of England beat King Harald of Norway and then ten days later King Harold tried to defend against William at Hastings. Despite losing more than half of his best men fighting the Norwegians, King Harold almost beat William the Bastard, but took an arrow in the eye and died. Death by arrow seems to be common.

William then prevailed, and changed his name to the William the Conqueror. I don’t know that he thanked Harald Hardradi, but he should have.

So history was still changed by Harald’s existence, just not in the way that he thought. This is probably true for every person that steps on the world stage. Famous for consequences initially unknown.

There are many very good articles on the exploits of Harald Hardradi, well worth researching for future reading.

My personal connection to Harald is trifold. I descend from Norwegians, I love history, and I am a fan of Conan the Barbarian. Not the movie, (although I did like that as well), but the book series written by Robert E. Howard. (Conan is loosely based on Harald Hardradi).

Howard is probably the Father of Sword & Sorcery in fiction, his other characters of Kull and Solomon Kane are also famous. In Conan though, his talents are remarkable. Very few fictional characters are bigger than life, and beetle-browed Conan certainly fits that image.

So September 25 is remembered, for Stamford Bridge, the lone nameless Berserker Viking, the death of Harald Hardradi, and maybe even the fictional life of Conan the Barbarian.

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The Flag, the Anthem

Why does the country have symbols? They are simply shortcuts, representing much larger concepts. Like logos that represent companies, the flag represents the country. The Anthem connects to the flag, and again, is a symbol of our country, and concepts of patriotism.

If you are very lucky the flag represents the best part of the country’s goals and ideals. It doesn’t represent the failures and missteps. Well, again, if your lucky.

The flag of the Third Reich now represents the evil that existed, so it disappeared, except as a symbol of social misfits.

Interestingly the flag of the Rising Sun (the other Axis Power) is still flying proudly over Japan’s Maritime Defense Forces.

Why is this issue of athletes and kneeling during the Anthem national news?

If there are important national issues that are ignored it is a real concern. We eventually lose the values that we cherish in our symbols. Attacking the symbols is one tactic that has worked to bring about discussion and positive action.

But this comes at a price. Reminding everyone that our symbols are tarnished removes an idea of “the ideal”. The city shining on the hill is just another cold community filled with trash and garbage.

Some will say that this is good, it is at least, a taste of reality. Some say it removes hopefulness or a goal we strive to attain. There is evidence on both sides.

I like my symbols, I like that they are mostly hidden, and therefore cannot be attacked. But I must admit the flag is a concern to me, too much apart of my history.

I understand what is going on, and I grieve that it is so.

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So Things Are Changing

There is a very old Greek myth concerning the goddess of the Dawn, Eos. Apparently, one morning (dawn) she spied two extremely handsome young men from the house of Troy some years before the famous War. She caught them both up to be her lovers in Olympus. She was a goddess so I guess she could do this. The young men’s names were Ganymede and Tithonus.

Well, it would have been a very temporary pleasant affair considering that Eos was immortal. So Eos went to Zeus to ask him to bestow immortality on the young men. Zeus was so taken with Ganymede that he gave him immortality, eternal youth, and immediately made him his cupbearer. Not bad for a young Trojan lad. I remember this part of the myth, but I forgot about what happened to Tithonus.

This is where it gets a little weird. Eos did ask for immortality, which was given, but forgot to ask for eternal youth. Eos didn’t seem to care at first. They lived together, they apparently had two children, and life went on. Of course, aging went on as well, but no dying. Tithonus got bent over, leathered skin, covered with liver spots, wispy beard and hair… he just got painfully old. In classic fashion, Eos simply got tired of him, so shut him in a closet and forgot about him. Apparent she had her Dawn duties so Tithonus is still up in Olympus, in his closet, a weathered mummy, but still alive.

Clearly the smarter thing to do was to ask for eternal youth. Immortality would be automatic. So, the key would be biological immortality. A quick trip to Google produces several articles. Apparently it exists. It just doesn’t exist for humans.

The article mentions several creatures that apparently do not age. They can die, but their organs and tissues do not deteriorate. There is a belief that lobsters are also immortal. This is somewhat true, they get older and bigger, but they outgrow their shells. Moulting takes great energy and many lobsters die from exhaustion. Some older lobsters stop moulting, but then the shell breaks down, falls apart, and the lobster dies from disease and infection.

Studies of lobsters seem to point out that telomerase, an enzyme, is a factor in anti-aging. Telomerase seems to repair the DNA chain when it breaks down.

Okay then, let’s get some telomerase enzymes for us humans! The good news is that we appear to have this enzyme. The only problem is that it is very good at encouraging tumors to grow. So, DNA can be repaired with telomerase, but you die from cancer tumors. Somehow humans can’t get it right. The following is just a partial list of biological immortals. The ages are approximate for disease and accidents, not because of tissue degeneration.

* Saltwater Crocodile – 150 years

* Red sea urchin – 200 years

* Greenland Shark – 400 years

* Bowhead Whale – 450 years

* Ocean quahog clam – 507 years

And of course the plant world has a few examples.

* Great Basin bristlecone pine – 4,713 years

* Fungus Armillaria ostoyae – 8,500 years

The fungus I just mentioned is an old friend, I’ve written about him in another blog. He (she?) lives up in Oregon, and he is about 2,300 acres big. So that means it is the largest and oldest living thing on the planet. Take me to your leader.

So, can humans ever tweak stem cells or telomerase to work?

“In 2015, Elizabeth Parrish, CEO of BioViva, treated herself using gene therapy, with the goal of not just halting, but reversing aging.[27] She has since reported feeling more energetic, but long-term study of the treatment is ongoing…
In early 2017, Harvard scientists headed by biologist David Sinclair announced they have tested a compound called NAD+ on mice and have successfully reversed the cellular aging process and can protect the DNA from future damage.[34] “The old mouse and young mouse cells are indistinguishable”, David was quoted. Human trials are to begin shortly in what the team expect is 6 months at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston.” Source: Wikipedia article on Biological Immortality.

Mythology is becoming reality.

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Cowboy Dreams

How often do you wake up to thoughts of Hopalong Cassidy? It’s happened to me twice! Twice this month!! Twice this morning!!!

It is possible (because I’m old enough to have seen the television series) that my younger self had dreams of Hoppy, but I certainly do not remember this.

So I woke up thinking about Hoppy, then I fell asleep and woke up again thinking about Hoppy. This seems significant but I’m not sure how. My first waking thought this morning was how absolutely strange that Hopalong would be considered a name for a cowboy hero. His actual first name must have been hideous. 

My phone was nearby, so I quickly googled Hopalong Cassidy to find out that he was a character in several books written by Clarence Mulford. However, he had red hair, loved fist fights, drank hard whiskey with beer chasers, and was a general rough dude. And he had a wooden leg. Haha!! A wooden leg!! I get it, Hop-along! Hah!

So it appears that I would like the book better than the movies. And boy, were there movies, 66 of them, all starring William Boyd, who had white hair, wore a black hat, and whose character did not swear, or drink alcohol. He preferred sarsaparilla! A true cowboy hero.

So this is where I fell asleep to wake up a second time thinking about Hopalong. I was dreaming about a lunchbox with Hoppy’s picture on it. I’m pretty sure I had one, and it was the first lunchbox that was used as a marketing tool. And I was dreaming that lunchboxes were no longer popular.

So for the second time I went to Google. 

After 66 movies and averaging $100,000 a year, William Boyd was nearly broke. He used the little money that he had saved to buy the rights of the character from Mulford, and in addition he bought the rights for the movies. Now he was truly broke!

He next move was to pitch a television program. He actually just edited down several movies and the television audience went crazy. A production studio jumped at the chance and the series took off. The series only ran for two years but adding the merchandise made Boyd millions. 

What stands out to me is the the merchandising was amazing and the roadmap for hundreds of movies and television shows ever since. I think I remember my nephew had a Daisy Duke lunchbox. 

The Hopalong Cassidy show ended in 1954, and William Boyd died in 1972

Boyd’s character was certainly different from the book, but it was perfect for young America. And according to Boyd, his name Hopalong came about because a bad man once shot him in the leg. Still makes sense. Kinda weird, but logical. 

I still wonder about his real first name. 

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Tangential Thoughts

Thinking about those protozoas. I’m pretty sure they are not thinking about me. Or are they? So far there are over 50,000 identified protozoan creatures. We know a little about the ones that demand attention, because they cause illness, like malaria. But if they appear not to have an effect, we probably ignore them.

Ha, what about Toxoplasma gondii, it may create cat ladies and possibly cause men to take risky challenges. So, another possibility is that there thousands of potential parasites that are programming our brains in accordance to their desires. The Zombie Apocalypse is real… possibly.

Let’s see, what actions are difficult to excuse, meaning that they are not logical? Fear of spiders and tiny insects. I mean look at the size ratio. Are there protozoas that fear the insects, so they make us act crazy? Are we just the hired assassin? What about Road Rage?

I am whelmed by the possibility of my thoughts not being my own. Little one celled whisperers, sneaking into my brain. Bad enough that I have radio waves playing rap music piercing my DNA. Yes, I frequently worry about that. I started being concerned about the long term effects of CB radio. Who knows about Wifi, short wave, FM, and AM talk shows?

I truly am overwhelmed!

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Cat Brain

Some days it is more apparent than others that we never know what thoughts will be generated from day to day.

I started with an early morning coffee with a friend. Our meetings run the gamut. Talks of dreams, ramifications, and spiritual meanings often season the salad of our conversation. It is always a pleasure, and I left the meeting, per usual, filled with the possibilities of tangential thoughts.

Before heading home I stopped at a local Starbucks to bring my wife a latte. I thought that I might run into an old friend, a retired biology professor, and sure enough he was there. We hadn’t seen each for awhile so we had a standing meeting to tell each other how good we looked. Jokingly, I remarked that we were both alive. I offered my recent perception on the scientific search for the definition of life, and that in this one definition it mentioned that one qualifier for life was death. We both laughed, then the biology professer came to life and said “Protozoas don’t die, they just keep splitting, technically DNA doesn’t die, it just keeps replicating.”

I was floored. Protozoas are eternal? Surely they can be killed, but undisturbed they don’t die? This can’t be right. This has the potential of shifting some basic understandings. Just splitting forever?

Then the new thought, is DNA alive? I dunno! Never thought about it. The only connective thought comes to me from genealogy. The fact that not one of my direct ancestors died as a child. They may have died young, but all of them survived long enough to become parents, however briefly. So technically, my DNA is immortal, so far. I’ll have to think about that some more.

Naturally I need to research this protozoan thing. I took basic biology, so I have a rough idea of one cell life. Protozoans are definitely alive, but are they immortal? No, they are not, they can be killed aggressively. And apparently there are studies of natural protozoan “die off.” So…in some cases they die, but in others they just keep splitting? There is much to study in this area, and I am motivated to find more clarity.

So the morning went well, lots of new thoughts to ponder, then the last web page research hit me. It was titled, “Protozoa Could Be Controlling Your Brain”. What? They are possibly immortal, and now they can control my brain? They are designed to control my brain? Please explain this to me.

Toxoplasma gondii, one of the most widespread of all parasitic protozoa, can alter brain chemistry to change the behavior of the host in order to complete their “cycle of life”. Studies have shown that this protozoa is created in cat’s feces. Mice that are infected with this parasite protozoa lose their fear of cats. The cats eat the infected mice and the cycle of life for the protozoa is complete. What????

And yes, the protozoan parasite can infect humans by having contact with cats. I have a cat. I have written before that I have certain knowledge that my cat would eat me. I can see it in her eyes, not all the time, but now and then, I am aware that it is only my size that deters her from a meal of me.

Is that when the parasite protozoa is taking control of her brain? What about the “cat ladies” that start collecting cats, so many cats that sheer numbers could overwhelm her. Yes, apparently science has shown that cat ladies have an abundant supply of Toxoplasma gondii.

The protozoa causes the brain to make unsafe choices. Good grief, another thing to ponder.

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Birdhouses of Lafayette

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