Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 17: Four Notes

1. Seasonal Images

Crain flies – Like giant mosquitoes – They look scary but they are big harmless detritus eaters –they live as adults only long enough to mate and lay eggs… I catch them carefully when they get into the house and release them outdoors.

Crain flies
See the small knobbed structures (Halteres) under the wings? they control flight balance...

Mocking birds – Singing incessantly this time of year- flying from one high point to another around their territory – defending their “turf” – very high strung birds!

Great White Herons graceful as their stand silently hunting in shallow water or flying overhead with their long neck pulled back

Wild oats– gleaming golden on the hillside - morning light!

Cactus blossoms – A surprise each morning: yellow – white – deep red…

Cactus Flowers: Many last just one day

One grandfather bullfrog sounding deep and resonant in his calls. Listen here:

The drying of the soil is not a crisis for native plants. They have adapted to survive the long dry season – some die and survive in their seeds, others have developed long deep roots, others have developed viscous sap that can draw water from apparently dry soil. The on-going process of natural selection over many generations results in only the best adapted surviving to pass on their traits. That's what evolution is all about.

Summer hill top - Garin Park

2. I am currently enjoying the book: Incognito The Secret Lives of the Brain– by David Eagleman – Our brains are one of the last real frontiers of human understanding in science.

Young Tanzanian student

When I see something I compare it with my memory bank of stored images. When I see a butterfly, I say “Oh that’s a Monarch Butterfly” – and I fail to “see” the amazing form and detail of this particular butterfly before me… I see my brain-stored generalized image not this specific butterfly. It is incredible to consider how many stored visual images I have in my memory bank! … Faces - buildings – trees – word images – clouds… a myriad of details. Of course it is more efficient to look out at the world and interpret what we see in terms of our stored generalized memories – We would never get anything done if we saw everything in total detail each time.

Tanzanian students - recess break!

And in addition there are memory banks of sounds and smells and tactile sensations. Add in all of the other critical functions of the brain – detecting motion as a smooth sequence of images – reasoning –judgments – emotions – all this tucked into a mass of cells the size of a grapefruit…

Judy and our three pups: Willy, Roxy, and the new dog Rusty

The human brain is the most complex arrangement of atoms known to man … What a sad loss of potential that we humans don’t recognize that each human being – rich and poor – all racial and ethnic groups - male and female... all share the same basic miraculous brain structure and functions. We allow a little thing like "beliefs" to make us think that we are different... that one is superior to another...that its OK to use aggression to control another.

Czech school students and friend

3. Summer reading that I highly recommend:

Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversations - Bill Moyers… A large collection of short interviews with notable Americans in all aspects of modern American culture. Bill Moyers is able to ask the profound questions that bring each person to the heart of their beliefs and positions. Readable and interesting.

***I have been on a historical novel kick lately – here are three of my recent favorites:

Ross Poldark”– Winston Graham…The first in a series of historical novels placed between the end of the American War of Independence and the Napoleonic Era. Carefully researched to include historical details of the time, the story of a young man during the copper and tin mining days of Cornwall. A real "page turner" - captivating!

Night Soldiers” - Alan Furst… Historical novel describing the early period of the Second World War in Eastern Europe and Russia… Describes the delicate process of espionage rather than focusing on the details of war itself.

Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett… placed in 13th century England during the construction of the first great Gothic cathedrals – Fascinating description of the life of a master stone mason.

Our neighborhood Tibetan monestery/school: Giant status of the goddess of mercy

4. Links of Significance this week:

Fact It is once again the season of political debates - and I urge you to put a book mark in this site: It is a non partisan site than in turn examines all assertions made by various politicians. It is invaluable when you are attempting to sort out truth from fiction.

Please take 2 minutes and 15 seconds for this one: