Department Of Yet Another Reason To Listen To As Many Science And Nature-Themed Podcasts As You Can
Reason 349: because you have the chance, at 7 am while out for a walk, to hear gems such as the following:
“It’s the first report of tool-assisted masturbation in wild animals…” 
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Department Of Calling All Scientists And Entrepreneurs: Save The World
Dateline: Saturday am; morning; listening to the People I (Mostly) Admire podcast with guest Ken Burns. As is customary in PIMA podcast’s format, midway in the interview the host, Steven Levitt,  takes a break from the interview and, with producer Morgan Levey, reads and discuss a letter from a PIMA listener. In this episode the letter was from a listener who wrote to Levitt about a petition called “Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends.” Levitt, who has said that “Putting a price on carbon is the single most efficient, effective, implementable way to fight climate,” has been a proponent of the carbon tax for years; however, he’d not heard of the petition, which has been signed by over 3,500 of his fellow economists. 
LEVEY: “So, I don’t mean to be a pessimist, but this statement signed by all these very notable and highly respected economists has been out for three years and we are no closer to a carbon tax now than we were three years ago.”
LEVITT: “Oh, if anything we’re farther away. I think there was some glimmer of hope that we would have a carbon tax, but I think that really faded with the new Inflation Reduction Act that was passed, the big spending bill. Which devotes an enormous amount of resources towards fighting climate change, but on a different path. It focuses on subsidizing particular industries and technologies. It’s not the way economists would’ve done it, but in the end, public policy isn’t really about economics, it’s about politics. And… there’s a lot more support for giving subsidies to solar energy than there is for a carbon tax.”
Levey & Levitt talked about the carbon tax and other methods to mitigate global warming, and about how ultimately it was more comfortable for people to, say, subsidize solar energy. Moiself thought about the downside people point out about solar energy: on cloudy or rainy days there’s much less UV light (for the photovoltaic cells on solar panels to convert to energy) – and there’s none at night.
Only clean/renewable energy is going to get us out of this mess. So, the major players in that category are solar, wind, and hydro (we arguably could have avoided this climate mess had we embraced nuclear, but that seems stalled  ). Now, I don’t know if this term exists or if moiself just made it up, but what about *percussive energy?* What about a way, akin to solar panels, to harness the energy of raindrops hitting some kind of energy producing/capturing device?
For many years Intel, the world’s largest semiconductor producer, sponsored a yearly science fair for students (my emphases): 
“The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the world’s largest international pre-college science competition. Through a global network of local, regional and national science fairs, millions of students are encouraged to explore their passion for developing innovations that improve the way we work and live. Each May, a group of these students is selected as finalists and offered the opportunity to compete for approximately US $5 million in awards and scholarships. Guided by the belief that advances in science and engineering are key to solving global challenges, Society for Science & the Public has organized and produced the competition since it was founded….” ( intel.com/ISEF factsheet )
The fair has been reborn/renamed, as the Regeneron ISEF. ISEF awards are given to projects in four categories: Global Health; Agriculture and Food Security; Climate and Environmental Protection; Working in Crisis and Conflict.
Moiself found a picture of some of the award winners from 2021:
In the faces of these young scientists I see another kind of renewable energy: Hope.
Calling all ISEF participants: whatever your category was, switch to Climate and Environmental protections. Without that, we will have no use for awards in those other categories. Without a habitable habitat there will be no global health or food security (except for the proverbial toast that we will all be). 
Yo, Catherine, Daniel, Michelle, Franklin, Jon, Atya, Neha: please, will you and your like-minded friends get to work on percussive energy, and more? Your adults have failed you; we have failed us all.
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Department Of Holding A Thought For Religious Believers Who’ve Experienced The Trauma Of Recent Natural Disasters (aka, “acts of god”)
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Punz For The Day Natural Disaster Edition
What song title do you get if you cross a card game with a hurricane? Bridge Over Troubled Water.
I went into the kitchen and saw a hurricane making a pot of tea. “Hmm,” I thought, “there’s a storm brewing.”
I’m writing a book on hurricanes and tornadoes. It’s only a draft at the moment.
What do a tornado, a hurricane, and a redneck divorce have in common? Somebody’s gonna lose their trailer.
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May we encourage young/future scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to save the planet; May our economists do more than sign petitions about carbon tax; May we be treated to WTF?! podcast facts; …and may the hijinks ensue.
I had my second Covid booster vaccination yesterday, at the same clinic where I had my first booster. My first two Covid vax (over a year ago, at the height of the campaign to get everyone vaxed) were given at a local school gym, in a group setting run by that same clinic. After you’d had your shot, you sat along with others (all masked and seated at least 6 feet apart) who’d been vaccinated, with a post-it sticker on your shirt noting your time of vax. You waited until the Person Watching You ® let you know that your 15m was up and you could leave. As y’all probably know, it is standard vax practice to wait at a vaccination site for 15m after receiving a vax to make sure you do not have a severe allergic reaction to the shot (which is very rare). 
My first COVID booster shot was administered to me at the clinic itself, in an exam room, by a nurse practitioner. After the NP gave me my shot he said I should stay in the exam room and he’d be back in 15 minutes to release me. I got in some e-book reading time…but after I left the clinic I thought, even though I’d never had an immediate/allergic reaction to any kind of vaccination, there could always be a first time, and what if moiself passed out (or worse, began to have an anaphylactic reaction) and I were alone in the exam room? I decided that this time, if the clinic did the same logistics, I would speak up about that. They did, and so did I.
A quite genial nurse nurse gave me booster #2. She told me that although she “didn’t carry a pair of handcuffs” to enforce the protocol she highly recommended I stay put for 15 minutes, in case of a reaction. I told her that during my previous booster, the NP told me I had to stay in the exam room. And the hijinks this exchange ensued:
Moiself: How’s about if I return to the waiting area, where there are other people and the receptionists? The point of waiting 15 minutes after having the vaccination is to make sure that I don’t have an immediate or allergic reaction to it, right?
Nurse: Yes. Like I said about the handcuffs, I can’t force you to stay, but we highly recommend it. You can stay in the room if you like.
Moiself: Yes, I could…but then, how would you know if I’ve had a reaction, if I’m left alone in the exam room? Are the rooms wired – will the sound of my body hitting the floor let the staff know I’ve had a bad reaction?
Nurse: It’s a small clinic. We’d *probably* hear the thump.
Moiself opted for the waiting area.
Just don’t thump too loudly; it’s my turn to calibrate the rectal thermometers and I need to concentrate.
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Department Of Yet Another Lie My Teachers Told Me
This particular lie, like most lies I was taught, was not conveyed on purpose. My teachers were lied to as well…perhaps, misinformed would be the more accurate term. Think back to your elementary, junior high, high school, and even a few college classes. Very few of our teachers were doing original or first source document research; they taught what they themselves had been taught.
Yeah, well, that’s what they told me me, so suck it up.
The specific lie to which moiself refers is the idea that a so-called agricultural revolution brought about a better society – that the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers and ranchers brought nothing but positives, and was responsible for what we now call Civilization ® .
“The agricultural revolution is the name given to a number of cultural transformations that initially allowed humans to change from a hunting and gathering subsistence to one of agriculture and animal domestications.” ( The Agricultural Revolutions, sciencedirect.com )
In a recent People I (Mostly) Admire podcast, “Yuval Noah Harari Thinks Life Is Meaningless and Amazing,” guest Harari  and podcast host Steve Levitt discuss some of the ideas and observations Harari addresses in his latest book, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.  One of the ideas that struck me the most was that the agricultural revolution was ultimately better for germs than it was for people. Moiself has read other versions of this hypothesis, but Harari presented the most entertainingly succinct one I’ve come across (my emphases). The entire interview is thoughtful and thought-provoking; moiself hopes this excerpt piques your interest.
LEVITT (quoting from Harari’s book, Sapiens): “ ‘The agricultural revolution was history’s biggest fraud.’ My hunch is that listeners, when they hear that sentence, they’d probably find it jarring because we’re taught to celebrate the agricultural revolution, not to think of it as being a fraud.”
HARARI: “But if you look at it from the viewpoint of middle-class people in the West today, then agriculture is wonderful. We have all these apples and bread and pasta and steaks and eggs and whatever. And if you look at it from the viewpoint of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh or a Chinese emperor, wonderful. I have this huge palace and all these servants and whatever. But if you look at it from the viewpoint of the ordinary peasant in ancient Egypt or ancient China, their life was actually much worse than the life of the average hunter-gatherer before the agricultural revolution.
First of all, they had to work much harder. Our body and our mind evolved for millions of years to do things like climbing trees to pick fruits and going in the forest to sniff around for mushrooms and hunting rabbits and whatever. And suddenly you find yourself working in the field all day, just digging irrigation ditch, hour after hour, day after day, or taking out weeds or whatever, it’s much more difficult to the body. We see it in the skeletons, all the problems and ailments that these ancient farmers suffered from. It’s also far more boring.
And then the farmers didn’t get a better diet in return. Pharaoh or the Chinese emperor, they got the reward. The ordinary peasant, they actually ate a far worse diet than hunter-gatherers. It was a much more limited diet. Hunter-gatherers, they ate dozens, hundreds of different species of fruits and vegetables and nuts and animals and fish and whatever. Most ancient farmers, if you live in Egypt, you eat wheat and wheat. If you live in China, you eat rice and rice.”
LEVITT: “If you’re lucky. If the crop doesn’t fail, yeah.”
HARARI: “If you’re lucky. If you have enough. And then, because this is monoculture, most fields are just rice. If suddenly there is a drought, there is a flood, there is a new plant disease, you have famine.
Farmers were actually more in danger of famine than hunter-gatherers because they relied on a much more narrow economic base. If you’re a hunter-gatherer, and there is a disease that kills all the rabbits, it’s not such a big deal. You can fish more. You can gather more nuts. But if you’re a herder, and your goat herd has been decimated by some plague, that’s the end of you and your family.
… in addition to that, you have many more diseases. In the days of Covid, it’s good to remember the fact that most infectious diseases started with the agricultural revolution because they came from domesticated animals, and they spread in large, permanent settlements. As a hunter-gatherer, you wander around the land with 50 people or so. You don’t have cows and chickens that live with you. So your chances of getting a virus from some wild chicken is much smaller. And even if you get it, you can infect only a few other people, and you move around all the time. So hygienic conditions are ideal.
Now, if you live in an ancient village or town, you’re in very close proximity to a lot of animals, so you get more diseases. And if you get a virus, you infect the whole town and the neighboring towns and villages through the trade networks, and you all live together in this permanent settlement with your sewage, with your garbage. People in the agricultural revolution, they tried to create paradise for humans. They actually created paradise for germs.”
Swine flu stew tonight! Invite the neighbors!
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Department Of Celebrity Mythos
Moiself recently watched the first two episodes of The Last Movie Stars, an HBO six part documentary which, as per its website description, aims to chronicle
“…Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s iconic careers and decades-long partnership. Director Ethan Hawke brings life and color to this definitive history of their dedication to their art, philanthropy, and each other.”
Newman’s and Woodward’s 50-year marriage is generally regarded as one of the most successful and truly happy show biz unions, and Newman was known for his devotion to his wife and family. Over the years many reporters asked Newman about the temptations of show business for a handsome actor such as himself (read: Why do you remain faithful/stay with your wife when you’re surrounded by all the babes, in Hollywood and in fandom, who’d love to throw themselves at you?). On one such occasion, when Newman was queried about his reputation for fidelity to Woodward, Newman famously quipped, “Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?”
I’d heard this quote many times before the HBO documentary brought it up, but this time, watching The Last Movie Stars, I couldn’t help but think about how Newman‘s “devotion to his wife and family” – meaning Woodward and their three children – happened after he dumped his first wife Jackie Witte (and their three children), to marry Woodward, with whom Newman had been having an adulterous affair.
Apparently Newman also couldn’t help but think of that irony. He reportedly agonized for years re the guilt he felt over ‘his shortcomings as a parent’ to the children from his failed first marriage, and he blamed that guilt in part for the drug overdose death of his son, Scott. 
I’ve only watched the first two of six episodes of the HBO series, and thus don’t know how much the series deals with Newman’s first marriage. Hey, I’m glad Newman and Woodward had a happy alliance, despite their relationship’s less-than-honorable origins. But whenever I hear that legendary quote from Newman – the quote so admired and applauded by many people as an exemplar of witty romanticism – I wonder what Jackie Witte felt when she first heard it?
“Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?”
I can imagine it felt like a sledgehammer in the gut. So, Witte was the (original) hamburger Newman left in order to be with the steak?
BTW, re the hamburger-steak comparison: as a plant-based eater, I find no hierarchy in that metaphor. They’re both just dead meat to me.
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Department Of Thar She Blows
Two weekends ago MH and I, along with son K, visited daughter Belle in Tacoma. Belle had arranged for the four of us to go on a whale-watching trip in the Puget Sound. It was delightful afternoon, and not just because we spent the afternoon on a boat in the Sound during a heat wave. Even the veteran crew of the boat got excited when we spotted and the transient orca pod T37, which approached our boat and (unintentionally) put on quite the show for us.  We got to observe hunting and feeding behavior of the majestic orcas, as the pod chased and caught a very unfortunate harbor seal who’d ventured too far from shore. I heard another boat passenger make some comment about how fortunate we were to get to see “killer whales making a kill,” and I wanted to smack him upside his head with the pectoral fins I don’t have.
Moiself objects to the use of the term killer whale when it is applied to orcas. First of all, orcas are not actually whales; rather, they are the largest member of the dolphin family. They, like Flipper and other dolphins, are carnivores. Other animal’s names are not tied to such a pejorative suffix – lions and tigers and bears and weasels and eagles are not referred to as “Killer” lions/tigers/bears/weasels/eagles, despite the fact that, as carnivores, they must kill and eat other animals to survive.
“Paul Spong, a researcher who runs OrcaLab from Hanson Island in B.C., says he finds the name killer whale ‘rather unfair to a creature that deserves and lives a peaceful lifestyle. Killer whales has that flavour that they’re somehow vicious animals that are a danger to humans,” he said. ‘I just happen to think that using a more neutral term is better.’. Despite what the 1977 sea-monster film Orca: The Killer Whale might show, there have been no documented cases of orcas killing humans in the wild…. and they are highly social creatures that show almost human-like emotions, such as when southern resident J35 carried its dead calf for 17 days before finally letting go.
( “Why are orcas called killer whales? They’re the apex predators of the sea, but many feel their long-used common name demonizes them.” cba.ca )
Yeah, yeah, it’s word cop time. Of course and ultimately, work for the orcas’ preservation and protection before arguing what nomenclature to use…. Still, words carry and impart meaning, and perhaps more people might be convinced to care about orcas and their vital role in their habitat – and their right to continue to exist – if the fear/revulsion-inducing *killer whale* moniker fell out of favor.
Once again, I digress.
We saw other wildlife as well on our whale– orca-watching trip, including harbor and elephant seals, herons and tufted puffins and bald eagles, on the shores of Protection Island Wildlife Refuge. As our boat passed that island, I saw for the first time something I could only vaguely recall having heard about: a leucistic bald eagle.  “Lucy,” as I thought of her, had a very light, mottled pigmentation which made her blend in with the driftwood log upon which she’d perched, next to the standard issue bald eagle I was watching through binoculars. Moiself didn’t even notice Lucy until a part of the log suddenly took wing. The boat photographer and staff and several avid birders aboard realized what they were seeing, and lost their proverbial shit. 
One of the boat staff, the official photographer, was armed with a bazooka like camera-lens set up. He took fantastic pictures of the whales, which he presented to the passengers in a slide show while our boat returned to port. His shots had included dozens of rapid-fire close-ups of the orcas hunting the doomed seal – oh, the eyes of the hapless pinniped, when it realized it was toast! That was painful to see, even as I acknowledged, hey, the seal is out in the water, hunting because it’s hungry, and so are the orcas.
The photographer offered to transfer his photos of the trip to a thumb drive, for $50 for anyone who was interested. Seeing as how the professional’s pix were so much better than our family’s cell phone snaps, MH asked me if he should go for it. I gave him the okay, although, when MH was chatting with the photographer as the thumb drive was downloading the trip’s pictures, I approached the photographer, thanked him for his skill and commentary during the trip  and said that while I was in awe of his photographs, when reviewing them later I would probably skip watching the “seal snuff film” sequence.
I cannot display the photographer’s copyrighted photos here.  Belle had several shots which good – they are like teasers as to the beauty of seeing the orcas in their natural environment. Here is one of my favorites of hers– featuring the T37 pod’s leader, the matriarch researchers have named “Volker.”
The day after our boat cruise, I went for an early morning walk. Moiself could hardly believe the timing of the Radiolab podcast I listened to as I trod the path which winds along the periphery of that salty-air scented Puget Sound estuary/harbor area in Tacoma known as Commencement Bay.
Despite its annoyingly sensationalist title, Radiolab’s “The humpback and the killer” was an excellent listen. It reports on the fascinating observations made by marine mammal biologists around the world – scientists who, in recent years, have documented astounding, classic-explanation-defying interactions between humpback whales and orcas. If after listening to descriptions of these interactions you (still) harbor doubts that species other than homo sapiens can feel and demonstrate emotions and motivations such as altruism, or even revenge…then I don’t know what to do with you.
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Punz For The Day Cetacean Edition
What do a pod of dolphins use to wash themselves?| A multi-porpoise cleaner.
What is the favorite constellation of star-gazing whales? The Big Flipper.
What is the best way to listen to the sounds a group of orcas makes? Tune in to their podcast.
Why do male humpbacks have little-to-no hair? They suffer from whale-pattern balding.
“It’s okay, honey, she told me she’d stop after four.”
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May you warily weigh the costs and benefits of history’s so-called revolutions; May you banish the term “killer whale” from your vocabulary; May you respect your longtime partner enough to never compare them to cuts of beef; …and may the hijinks ensue.
Thanks for stopping by. Au Vendredi!
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 And for 30m, if you’ve ever had a reaction to a vaccination.
Yuval Noah Harari is an Israeli historian, philosopher, author, lecturer, and professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
 “ ‘I’m guilty as hell – and I’ll carry it with me for ever.’ Paul Newman’s marriage secrets”: Shawn Levy, dailymail.com ; Newman felt personally responsible for (his troubled son’s) tragic drink and drugs death… The son Paul Newman lost to drugs – and the guilt he could never escape,” Shawn Levy, part 2 )
 Unintentional, as in, the orcas were just doing what they were doing, and we happened by.
 Leucism, a condition that partially prevents pigments from being deposited in a bird’s feathers, hair or skin, is rare, and is the result of a recessive gene which reduces the color-producing pigment melanin. It is related to but different from albinism
 I can see why these “blonde” bald eagle can confuse even veteran bird watchers, as they (usually) still have the bald eagle’s defined white head and tail, but the rest of the feathers are a much lighter hue than normal and are mottled, creating a “What the heck am I seeing? reaction – is it a bald eagle or some other strange species?
 He gave a running commentary of the history of the T37 pod we saw. One look through his lens and he could identify the different members of the pod by, among other features, the distinctive markings of their dorsal fins.
 He offered them for our own personal/home viewing, not to post on any social media platforms.
Active, reliable, sarcastic, affectionate, bipedal, cynical optimist, writer, freethinker, parent, spouse and friend, I am generous with my handy supply of ADA-approved spearmint gum and sometimes refrain from humming in public.