Paper Clowns

April 20, 2019

When I was in my mid-20s I was not an ambitious person.  I happened to be looking through the want ads 1 day and I thought I had found what was an ideal job.  A company would send me the material to construct paper clowns, and I would send them back, and they would pay me $5 for each clown I constructed.  I thought I could also save money by not having to drive to work everyday.  Better yet, it sounded like a job I could manage while high on pot.  I eagerly told my mother about this opportunity, but she was not enthused.  Instead, she gently insisted I get a real job with insurance benefits and paid vacations.  I did go out and get a real job and went on to meet my wife indirectly through work.  My mom was rewarded with a granddaughter, and I avoided the ignominy of being the kind of adult who lives in their parents’ basement and never really grows up.  There are many ways my mom influenced my life, but this incident always comes to mind when I think about them.

This is my mom with my father, my younger sisters, and me in 1967.

My mother, Audrey Gelbart, was born on  August 5th, 1939, in Cleveland, Ohio.  She was the product of a mixed marriage–her mother was a Yankee from New York and her father was a southerner from Georgia.  She grew up in Willoughby, Ohio with 2 brothers and a sister.  After graduating from high school she worked as a secretary in an hospital where she met my father who was a resident doctor there.  They married in 1961 and by 1966 they had 3 children.  She raised us while my father was busy working, and she always kept her house ultra clean.  She was a patient, sweet-tempered mother and grandmother, and a devoted wife.  She took good care of my father, especially during his many health crises, until his death in 2014.  My mom passed away on April 19th 2019.  We will miss her.

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Flemish Carbonnade and Parsnip Pie

April 15, 2019

A good beef stew generally beats any fancy decorated plate constructed by 4 star chefs.  I like a beef stew recipe from Belgium known as a Flemish carbonnade because it gives me an excuse to buy beer.  It is a simple dish to make.  Cut about 1.5 pounds of a bottom round beef roast into 1-2 inch squares, season with salt, and brown in butter.  Put them in a crock pot and brown 2 diced onions in the pan the beef was browned in.  Sprinkle a little salt on this and when the onions are translucent, add them to the beef in the crockpot.  Cover the beef and onions with 1 bottle of good dark beer–I prefer Guinness with this recipe but any dark stout beer is good.  Add a good tablespoon of mustard and stir.  Then set the crockpot on low for 4-5 hours.  You can serve it on mashed potatoes, but I usually add the potatoes directly into the stew to thicken after the stew is finished.  Chopped parsley is nice on this, if you happen to have it.  Beef, mustard, beer, and onions really go together.

Carbonnade

I was looking for a parsnip in Kroger 1 day, but all they had were 2 1 pound bags wrapped together and cheaply priced.  They were probably trying to get rid of them because parsnips are not particularly popular, especially in the south.  They were formerly a common vegetable grown in northern Europe, but following the introduction of the potato from the Americas, they’ve declined in importance.  The parsnip is related to the carrot, and they have a sweet aromatic flavor. I suppose people prefer the bland starchy taste of potatoes that can absorb flavors of what they are served with.  Parsnips are the 2nd most important ingredient in a good Jewish chicken soup–they contribute a nice sweet flavor to the broth.

I bought the whole bag and I didn’t want to waste the rest of the parsnips, so I invented a recipe for parsnips.  I decided to try making it like a sweet potato pie.  Other recipes for parsnip pie that I found on the internet were savory, but mine is a dessert.  First, I boiled 1.5 cups of diced parsnips until they were soft.  I mashed them in a bowl and added 2 beaten eggs, 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, 1/3rd cup of brown sugar, along with nutmeg, cinnamon, and ground ginger.  I mixed this well and put it in a pie shell.  Then I baked it in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  I served the pieces with whipped cream.  Everybody liked it.

Parsnip pie

Pleistocene Microfauna Inherited the Earth

April 8, 2019

The biblical passage “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” always makes me think of the late Pleistocene megafauna extinctions.  The passage is part of Jesus’s sermon on the mount and is found in Matthew 5:5, though for some reason Luke omits it.  Most biblical scholars believe the word meek in this passage means powerless, and it represents the slaves and the small powerless Christian sect within the Roman Empire.  A large segment of the Roman Empire’s population consisted of slaves, and the Christian religion appealed to them because of the concept that their miserable lives might be rewarded in the afterlife, if they believed in Jesus.  Ironically, after the Roman Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the empire centuries later, Christians no longer acted meek–they oppressed all other religions. The late Pleistocene extinctions make me think of this passage because so many powerful animals such as giant lions, saber-tooths, short-faced bears, dire wolves, mastodons, mammoths, ground sloths, and giant bison all disappeared from the face of the earth; but small animals continued to live and were just as common as they’d always been.  Among them are 2 of the smallest mammals on earth–the southern short-tailed shrew (Blarina carolinensis) and the eastern pipistrelle (Pipistrellus subflavus).

Photo of a short-tailed shrew my cats killed last week.

The southern short-tailed shrew weighs between .5-1 ounce.  They hunt in burrows near the surface but also scurry though more permanent burrows located up to 2 feet underground.  They eat half their own weight in food everyday.  Their diet consists of worms, spiders, centipedes, insects, snails, amphibians, and mice.  During winter they can subsist on fruit, acorns, and fungi.   They are smaller than mice but can subdue them with a venomous bite.  Southern short-tailed shrew specimens have been recorded from at least 23 Pleistocene-aged fossil sites, including the Isle of Hope in southeast Georgia.

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Eastern pipistrelle.

The eastern pipistrelle weighs between .1-.3 ounce and is about the size of a large moth.  Their wingspan reaches a width of only about 2 inches.  They feed upon flying insects.  Both eastern pipistrelles and short-tailed shrews navigate in the dark by using echolocation.  Fossil specimens of this species have been found from at least 19 Pleistocene-aged fossil sites including Ladds in north Georgia.

Of course, not all species that inherited the earth are meek.  Man is a notable exception.

 

New Species of Mastodon (Mammut pacificus) Recognized

April 1, 2019

I didn’t have to search for this science news.  A link to the complete scientific paper appeared on my facebook page last week, and I knew right away this important new study was blog worthy.  Some pundits complain about the way social media intrudes on privacy, but I love how information relevant to my interests is directed to me.  If people are worried about their privacy, they should not go on the internet.

For almost 100 years paleontologists thought just 1 species of mastodon occurred in North America during the Pleistocene.  They believed the American mastodon (Mammut americanum) ranged from coast-to-coast and from the Rio Grande to Alaska.  However, 10 years ago some scientists noticed mastodon skeletal material from the Rancho Labrea Tar Pits in California differed from mastodon bones found elsewhere in North America.  Mastodon bones are relatively uncommon from Rancho Labrea where they are greatly outnumbered by mammoth (Mammuthus colombi) specimens.  Open dry environments prevailed around this site during the Pleistocene–an habitat favored by grass-eating mammoths.  Mastodons were semi-aquatic browsers, preferring to feed upon leaves, twigs, fruit, and wetland vegetation.  Within the last 10 years scientists discovered 700 mastodon bones during construction of the Diamond Lake Reservoir in Riverside County California.  This was enough material for scientists to anatomically compare California mastodons with American mastodons, and they concluded they were indeed 2 different species.

Map showing distribution of 2 mastodon species is from the below referenced paper.  Click to enlarge.  The red dots represent M. pacificus; the blue dots represent M. americanus.  Scientists aren’t sure which species ranged into Oregon.  It’s not a comprehensive distribution map for M. americanus.  I’m aware of 5 additional locations where mastodons were found in Georgia but not represented on this map.  American mastodons were more abundant in eastern North America than western.

Paleontologists named this new species M. pacificus because all specimens of this species have been found within 620 miles of the Pacific Ocean.  Apparently, this species occurred in California, southern Idaho, and possibly Oregon.  Mastodon material found in Oregon is not diagnostic, meaning there is not enough to make a species identification.  All mastodon material north of Oregon (from Washington, the Yukon, and Alaska) belongs to M. americanum, the species found throughout most of North America north of the Rio Grande.

The Pacific mastodon differs from the American mastodon in several ways.  Their molars are smaller and more narrow.  They also tend to have more sacral fused vertebrae. Pacific mastodons had 6, whereas American mastodons usually had 4 or 5 (but sometimes 6).  Pacific mastodons had thicker femurs in proportion to the length of their legs, but their tusks were smaller in diameter.

Geographical barriers likely caused the divergence of these 2 species.  Habitat favorable for mastodons was more scarce in western North America.  High mountain ranges frequently covered by glaciers during Ice Ages, and large deserts separated these 2 species.  Over time the isolated California population evolved into a different species of mastodon.

Reference:

Dooley, A.; et. al.

“Mammut pacificus sp. nov., a Newly Recognized Species of Mastodon from the Pleistocene of Western North America”

Peer J March 2019

Joe Valachi, the Man Who Revealed the Existence of the Mafia

March 26, 2019

Until 1962 law enforcement officials considered rumors of the existence of a mysterious organization known as the mafia to be a myth or exaggeration.  Then a low level mafia soldier, fearing for his life while inside prison, began telling narcotics agents and the FBI everything he knew in exchange for protective custody.  Joe Valachi is the man who revealed the existence of the mafia.

Joe Valachi was born in 1904 in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City when it was mostly Italian.  His father worked as a vegetable vendor, then later earned his living as a garbageman.  The Valachi family lived in an apartment with no running water and a coal furnace that kept everything inside covered in soot.  Valachi’s father was a brutal alcoholic, and his mother frequently walked around with black eyes.  Not surprisingly considering his upbringing, at the age of 11 Joe Valachi threw a rock and hit his teacher in the face, and he was sent to a Catholic reform school where many of the priests regularly molested children.  (Valachi mentioned this in The Valachi Papers 30 years before the Catholic pedophilia scandal broke into the national news.)  After he was released from reform school he returned to public school but dropped out at the age of 15.  He worked as a  garbage man with his father but was forced to give his entire paycheck to his dad.  For his own spending money he started a career in burglary.  He organized a 4 team gang, known as the minutemen because they could totally loot a store in a minute.  He stayed behind the wheel of a getaway car, while 1 guy smashed into a store front window with a trash can and took the loot stolen by a 3rd accomplice.  The 4th stood as a lookout.  They would then sell the loot to a fence.  They were successful for a while, but eventually Joe was busted and sent to Sing Sing Prison.

Joe served a short stint in prison.  His old gang had hired a new getaway driver, so Joe started a new burglary gang that included some Irish and Jewish gangsters.  They were so successful Joe bought a nice new car under a phony name.  The car was faster than any police vehicle.  But once again police caught him in the act.  The gang fled, and a policeman shot Joe in the head.  His friends carried him around the corner and fired shots in the air, hoping an ambulance would pick him up after they left the scene.  They came back 6 hours later and found Joe still alive, undiscovered by the police, so they took him to a doctor on the take.  During his recovery Joe, still foggy from the gun shot wound to his head, let his friends retrieve his car which was still on the scene of the aborted burglary.  The police had the car staked out, followed it back to Joe’s apartment, and arrested him.  He served a 2nd stint in prison.

Upon his release Joe started looking for a new crooked scheme because police were installing radios in their cars, making his old style of burglary too risky.  The mafia recruited him and many other gangsters and crooks during 1930 when there was a major war between Joe Messeria and Salvatore Manzanaro. Each side was looking for additional soldiers to beef up their strength.  Manzanaro won the war because Lucky Luciano and Dutch Shultz switched sides and figuratively stabbed Messaria in the back.  Manzanaro organized the mafia into a structure that lasted for decades–there were bosses, underbosses, lieutenants, and soldiers.  Manazanaro appointed himself “boss of all bosses.”  Valachi never rose above the rank of soldier, but he became 1 of Manzanaro’s drivers and bodyguards.  Unfortunately for Valachi, Lucky Luciano stabbed Manzanaro in the back a few months later and became the new boss of all bosses, though he never officially accepted the title.  Valachi went into hiding because as Manazanaro’s personal bodyguard, he rightly believed this made him a marked man.  But his low ranking saved him (he wasn’t important enough to purge), and he ended up working for Tony Bender, a lieutenant under Vito Genovese, Lucky Luciano’s underboss.

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Vito Genovese, 1 of the most feared mobsters of all time.  He unfairly accused Valachi of being a rat, while they were both in prison.  This forced Valachi to flip.

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Joe Valachi, testifying before Congress.  The testimony was kind of a fiasco.  Goofy politicians asked him stupid questions.  For example a Senator from Nebraska asked him if there was organized crime in Omaha.  Valachi had no idea where Omaha was located.

Lucky Luciano let Valachi and a partner have 20 slot machines located in various bars and candy stores, and this was lucrative for him for awhile, but Mayor Lagaurdia cracked down on this vice, so Valachi got into the numbers racquet.  The numbers are a kind of illegal lottery–the winning numbers then were based on the unpredictable pay-off results of the first 3 horse races at a local track.  During the 1930s this was Valachi’s main source of income, but he also made money as a loan shark.  Debts acquired from loan sharking allowed him to become part-owner of a restaurant and dress factory, and financially he was doing really well.  He owned race horses too.  The late 1930s were successful for Valachi.  Lucky Luciano went to prison, Vito Genovese fled to Italy to avoid a murder charge, and the smarter, more business-oriented Frank Costello took over.

The advent of World War II and the end of the depression ruined Valachi’s main businesses.  Everybody had good jobs, and they didn’t need to borrow money or play an illegal lottery.  So Valachi began selling stolen war ration gas stamps, and this tided him over until the end of the war when his numbers and loan-sharking rackets picked up again.  However, Genovese was arrested by American troops in Italy and returned to the U.S. to face murder charges.  He beat the rap by having a corroborating witness poisoned, and he was able to force Frank Costello to retire.  Genovese ordered many hits, and Valachi arranged some of them.  He wasn’t paid to arrange these hits…it was just part of his job duties as a soldier working for Genovese.  Valachi didn’t like having to share his money-making schemes with the higher-ups and he didn’t like having to arrange murders, but he had no alternative.

Valachi suffered business reverses during the late 1950s.  The Narcotics Bureau pressured local authorities to revoke the alcohol license for Valachi’s restaurant, effectively killing it, then his dress factory partner died.  He couldn’t find another partner because his previous partner hadn’t been paying employee tax withholding, and the government seized the factory equipment.  Valachi was forced to turn to narcotics dealing and had to share in the profits with Tony Bender and Genovese.  The feds busted Valachi, and in a separate case nailed Genovese.  They both ended up in a federal penitentiary in Atlanta.  Genovese wrongly thought Valachi had ratted him out, so he ordered a hit on him in prison.  A man who looked similar to 1 of Genovese’s men walked past Valachi in a prison yard, and Valachi hit him over the head with a pipe, killing him.  The man was just a white collar criminal with no mafia connections.  The authorities put Valachi on death row, so to save his own life, he started telling the Bureau of Narcotics, and the FBI agents everything he knew about the mafia.  The federal agents realized his story corroborated evidence they had, and they put him in protective custody.  Valachi even testified before Congress about the activities of organized crime.  Valachi died of an heart attack in 1971, 2 years after Genovese died of the same thing.

Reference:

Maas, Peter

The Valachi Papers

Bantam Books 1968

 

Don’t Ever Pray for Me

March 18, 2019

Years ago, I heard a memorable line from a war movie (I think it was Steel Helmet) that goes something like this, “There are only 2 kinds of men who have ever lived on earth: those who have died and those who are going to die.”  An officer was trying to inspire his men to attack with an attitude of we’re all going to die anyway.  I like to believe I’m going to live forever, but I suppose I’m no different from all the other people on earth, and someday I will die.  After I die I want to be buried in a cheap pine box, so future paleontologists can study my bones, if they haven’t decayed to nothing.  I do not want anyone, especially a shithead rabbi or minister to pray for me.  I believe in science, and I have always believed in science ever since I could reason as a small boy.  I consider prayer to be unscientific wishful thinking, and when I see other people offering to pray for something I just feel annoyed at how mindlessly brainwashed people can be.  At best prayer is superficially comforting and at worst it can be detrimental.

TheSteelHelmet.jpg

Steel Helmet was a critically acclaimed and commercially successful movie about the Korean War made by Sam Fuller and released in 1951.  It was made on a shoestring budget, using carboard tanks.

A comprehensive study of prayer determined heart surgery patients had worse outcomes when they knew people were praying for them.  The study looked at 1800 heart bypass surgery patients over a 10 year period.  The researchers divided them into 3 groups–patients who were anonymously prayed for but didn’t know it, patients who were not prayed for, and patients who were prayed for and knew it.  Patients who knew they were being prayed for suffered the most complications.  Scientists think this is because the knowledge they were being prayed for caused anxiety and stress.  The patients feared they were dying when they knew people were praying for them and thus had worse outcomes.  I remember when my father lay comatose and dying 5 years ago, and some idiotic doctor loudly prayed while standing over him in the Emergency Room.  What a jerk.  The doctor was supposed to be a man of science, yet he’s reciting some mumbo jumbo.  It didn’t help, and if my dad could understand anything, it probably caused anxiety.  I’m still pissed off about this incident.

My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer last month.  Her friends have been following her case on Facebook, and they keep praying for her, and their prayers keep failing.  First, when her mammogram presented a suspicious result, they prayed the follow up mammogram would clear her.  It didn’t, and she had to have a needle biopsy, so they prayed for a benign result.  The lab result showed it was an invasive carcinoma.  After an MRI she was scheduled for a lumpectomy 2 weeks ago, and her friends prayed that would turn out ok.  A panel of doctors reviewed her case and determined she needed another needle biopsy, and her friends prayed for that.  After these results the doctors determined she needed a mastectomy.  Her friends keep praying for her, and she keeps getting worse results.  I wish they would stop praying for her before her results spiral any further into the negative.  Maybe her luck would start changing.  Maybe they should start praying to the flying spaghetti monster instead of Jesus.  I know I don’t want any of these people to ever pray for me because their prayers have proven not to work.

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Maybe my wife’s friends should start praying to the flying spaghetti monster. They might get better results.

My wife needs to see a plastic surgeon before her mastectomy, but he keeps postponing her appointment.  (The plastic surgeon inserts an expander during the mastectomy, so it can later be filled with a saline implant.)  I’m rooting for the Dolly Parton implant, though I’m sure my wife and the plastic surgeon will choose symmetry.  But what if I prayed for a Dolly Parton insert?  Maybe that’s the 1 prayer destined to be answered.

Reference:

Benson, H.; et. al.

“Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in Cardiac Bypass Patients: A Multicenter Randomized Trial of Uncertainty and Certainty of Receiving Intercessory Prayer”

American Heart Journal April 2006

 

Woody Allen is Probably Innocent

March 11, 2019

Self-righteous Hollywood celebrities and political talking heads who condemn Woody Allen for an alleged incident of child molestation unfairly ignore the facts of this case.  The hysteria of the #metoo movement threatens to sweep up many innocent men into an automatic public assumption of guilt, and Woody Allen is 1 of them.  I studied the facts of this case, and I don’t see how any fair minded person can assume Woody Allen was guilty.  The facts strongly suggest he was completely innocent, and the alleged incident was the invention of a jilted lover in the middle of a custody battle.

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I think Mia Farrow is a crazy, jealous actress who was furious that her adopted adult daughter won Woody’s heart.  She used false accusations of child molestation to win a custody battle against him.

Woody and Soon-Yi, together for 27 years.  They adopted children.  Adoption agencies don’t normally award custody to people they think are child molesters.  Hint: the adoption agencies also investigated the accusation and believe it to be false.

Woody Allen began having an affair with Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, in 1991 when she was between the ages of 19-21 (her real age is unknown–she grew up in an orphanage after being found in the streets of Korea).  Contrary to popular belief, Woody was not Soon-Yi’s father, and he took no part in raising her.  Mia Farrow discovered the affair, but she still continued seeing Woody Allen for almost a year.  However, during this time she began accusing Woody Allen of being a child molester.  Note, this is before the alleged incident took place.  Woody and Mia had 2 adopted children together including Dylan in addition to 1 biological child.  The alleged incident occurred in 1992 during Dylan’s 7th birthday party when supposedly Woody took Dylan up in an attic where he allegedly molested her.  However, there were 7 other people at that birthday party, and nobody saw them go into the attic.  Later, the babysitter claimed she saw Woody put his face in Dylan’s lap, and this seems to be the origin of the accusation.

Instead of reporting the incident to the police, Mia filmed Dylan, describing what had happened.  There are numerous starts and stops in the film which took 2 days to complete–obviously Mia was coaching her.  The pediatrician who examined Dylan found no evidence of molestation.  Connecticut state authorities then investigated the incident.  They concluded Dylan had not been molested, and they determined she was either mentally disturbed, coached, or a combination of the two.  When these investigators interviewed Dylan, the child seemed to be uninterested in the details, and merely expressed sympathy for her mother because Woody had cheated on her with Soon-Yi.  New York state authorities also investigated the incident, and they too concluded Dylan had not been molested.  A clinical psychologist reviewed the case and testified in a custody hearing that Dylan had not been molested.  A nanny who was in attendance at the birthday party testified at the custody hearing that Mia had pressured her to claim she saw Woody molesting Dylan–more strong evidence that Mia had fabricated the entire incident.  In recent years, Moses, 1 of Dylan’s brothers, admitted Mia coached the children into believing Woody was a child molester.  So there we have it:  Woody was exonerated by 2 state authorities, a pediatrician, and a clinical psychologist.  Furthermore, the nanny and Dylan’s brother exposed Mia’s vindictive conspiracy.

People who believe Woody is guilty bring up the judge’s ruling when he awarded custody of the children to Mia. The judge stated he saw no evidence Dylan had been coached, though he was not 1 of the experts who actually interviewed her.  That judge was an asshole unfairly prejudiced by a prosecuting attorney who claimed he had enough probable cause to arrest Woody but didn’t because he was afraid it would traumatize Dylan.  That prosecutor was later reprimanded for prejudicing this case.  I think many people, especially women,  are condemning Woody because he has had a successful relationship with a woman who is 30 years younger than he is, not because of the alleged child molestation.

I never heard of a child molester who was accused of molesting just 1 victim. Most child molesters are serial predators with a long list of victims, but  Woody has never been accused of molesting any other child.  Usually, 1 accusation of a public celebrity is followed by many others as they gain courage when they learn about fellow victims.  That nobody else has come out of the woodwork to accuse Woody is more strong evidence he is innocent.  In fact he married Soon-Yi in 1997 and they are still together.  This must really rankle Mia and Dylan.  I think Mia is simply a vindictive jilted lover who brainwashed her daughter.  Now, whenever Woody is up for an award, Dylan makes public statements condemning Woody for something that very likely never happened.  I think she is a brainwashed psycho.  Nevertheless, more and more actors and actresses ignorantly believe this nonsense and announce they will no longer work with Woody.  How unfair.

Mia Farrow demonstrates incredible hypocrisy.  Despite probably orchestrating a false slander campaign against Woody, she publicly defends real convicted child molesters.  She has issued statements supporting her brother and Roman Polanski.  Her brother is currently in prison for molesting 2 boys, and Roman Polanski admitted drugging and raping a 13 year old girl.  How ironic.

The Senility Episode of Supernatural

March 7, 2019

My wife and I watch every episode of the television series, Supernatural.  The heroes of the show are 2 brothers who travel around the U.S. to hunt monsters.  It is a successful formula because the show is currently on its 14th season.  The brothers battle ghosts and ghouls, vampires and werewolves, changelings and evil genies, witches and warlocks; and nefarious organizations that occasionally masquerade as allies in the brother’s war on monsters.  The brothers often confront demons and overzealous avenging angels; and both have died, gone to hell, and been brought back to life. Grim reapers are recurring characters on the show, and even God and the devil guest star on some episodes.

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Sam and Dean Winchester played by Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki.

The premises of some episodes are remarkably inventive.  My favorite was when the brothers discovered their adventures had been chronicled by a writer in a series of obscure books with a cult fan following…but he had published the books before the events occurred and he narrated their exact thoughts.  The writer turned out to be a prophet of God.  In another episode the brothers were transported into the real world where they were just actors in the fictional tv series, Supernatural.  Perhaps the most original episode was when the brothers got stuck in a Scooby Doo cartoon.

Season 12 episode 11 dealt with senility.  The episode entitled “Regarding Dean” superficially was about a witch’s spell that caused 1 of the brothers to gradually lose his memory.  The other brother panics when he realizes the memory loss kept getting worse.  Really, this episode was about Alzheimer’s disease and how the victim and their loved ones suffer the consequences of dementia.  Eventually, Sam figures out how to reverse the witch’s curse, and Dean regains his memories.  But in real life there is no cure for the 2 leading causes of dementia–Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

My mom suffers from dementia and her decline has been shocking and rapid.  Within about a year’s time she went from being a little off on little things to being unable to walk and incapable of consistently communicating.  She primarily shows symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but she also shows signs of Alzheimer’s, and it is not uncommon for people to suffer mixed dementia.  Symptoms of Parkinson’s include tremors, muscle rigidity, slowness in movement, change in posture, freezing when walking (leading to frequent falls), weakness in facial muscles, insomnia and falling out of bed, and constipation.  People with Alzheimer’s suffer from memory loss–they misplace objects, get lost in familiar places, and can’t remember family members.  Parkinson’s is caused by low dopamine levels in the brain; Alzheimer’s is the result of brain cell death.

Last time I visited my mom she made very few coherent statements.  When we entered her room she said, “hello Mark and Daphne.”  After that she mostly repeated words over and over or spoke long strings of nonsensical syllables and vowels, much like a baby babbles.  She would fall asleep between babbling.  The only other coherent statement I remember her making during our visit was “lamp, lamp, lamp, lamp, lamp, I don’t think I’ll ever be really well again.”  The nurse’s aid who takes care of her made an encouraging statement.  She said “sure, you will.”  It’s sad my mom is aware enough to understand her situation.  I understood the symbolism of her repeating lamp over and over.  It meant the light bulb in her head clicked, and she remembered how to tell us what she probably had been trying to say for most of our visit.  I can’t stand seeing my mom in this condition, but I can’t do anything about it.

Parkinson’s disease is an inheritable condition that runs in my family.  My great-grandfather had it.  My grandfather had it.  And my uncle has it. I don’t want to ever be like this…so senile that I can’t remember how to chew and swallow my food.  Some scientific studies suggest drinking wine may help prevent dementia.  The polyphenols in grapes may stop the environmental wear and tear on the brain.  I’ve long thought white wine was the antidote to dementia, but red wine has 8 times more polyphenols.  Red grape juice would probably work as well as wine, but it is not as fun to drink.  So I am going to keep drinking lots of wine.

If I ever start to show symptoms of dementia, I’ve thought about stepping in front of a bus.  But I might survive, and the driver might suffer from guilt.  An alternative might be to have some heavy women sit on my face and smother me to death while she holds my erection.  (If I could choose my death, this would be it.  What a way to go.)  But again, that might cause her to suffer from guilt, not to mention possible jail time.  The only solution then will be to drink myself to death.  Any 1 of these 3 options beats dying of dementia.

Sweetwater Wetlands Park in Gainesville, Florida

March 3, 2019

A few months ago, I went to Payne’s Prairie State Park and saw about 6 species of birds in over 2 hours, but last week when I went to Sweetwater Wetlands Park I saw 15 species of birds plus a large alligator in less than 30 minutes.  The preserve was established to replace parts of Payne’s Prairie that had been drained and to restore water flow into the prairie.  It is manmade.  The list of species I saw included coots, common gallinules, a mallard duck, turkey vultures, great egrets, a snowy egret, a cattle egret, great blue herons, green herons, a white ibis, a glossy ibis, cormorants, anhingas, an unidentified species of sparrow, boat-tailed grackles, and red-winged blackbirds.   On this trip to Florida I saw 2 species of birds I had never seen before–glossy ibis and ground doves.  I was unable to get a photo of the former.  For the first time I was also able to take some nice photos of sandhill cranes.  I have seen them before, but I was driving on the road and couldn’t stop to take a photo.

Green heron

Boat-tailed grackle.

Common gallinule.

Flock of coots.

Snowy egret and common gallinule.

I estimate this is an 8 foot long alligator.

Outside my mom’s nursing home in Bradenton, Florida we ran into a pair of sandhill cranes.  They were not afraid of us at all.

I think these are common ground doves and not mourning doves (which I also saw) perched on a roof in Bradenton, Florida.  This species does not range north of Florida, south Texas, and southern California.  It’s common in Mexico.

The Linger Lodge in Bradenton, Florida

February 25, 2019

The Linger Lodge opened in 1948 as a camp for hunters and fishermen when Manatee County, Florida was mostly wilderness.  Today, the Linger Lodge Restaurant is located next to an RV park and most of the wilderness has been converted into subdivisions.  Since 1968, the restaurant has decorated its walls with interesting taxidermic mounts of the local wildlife.  This restaurant has an interesting menu with uncommon items, including alligator chowder, frog legs (cooked 3 different ways), and smoked mullet.  I had the alligator chowder–it would’ve been an excellent dish, if they would’ve cut the salt by half.  My daughter had fried catfish, and I helped her finish it.  They were nice crispy filets.

Alligator chowder.  Someone needs to tell the chef to cut down on the salt.

Alligator bites served as an appetizer.  Alligator tastes like veal.  An occasional bite might taste gristly.  Alligator is lean, but a bite that has fat on it usually tastes a little fishy. We all liked them but then again everything tastes good when it is fried.

Most of the taxidermic mounts on this wall are diamondback rattlesnakes.  There is 1 adult cottonmouth.  I can’t identify the snake in the bottom right corner.  Maybe it’s a variety of garter snake, but I can’t find a match in my reptile guide book.

They have many mounts of bobcats.  This was a skinny long specimen.

The big turtle shell in the middle must be some species of sea turtle.  I think the rest are from river cooters.

Bear skin rug.  I doubt this bear weighed more than 150 pounds.

Fox squirrel, coyote, and raccoon.  On 1 of my future trips to Florida I hope to find a state park where fox squirrels are common.

I estimate this large mouthed bass weighed 7-9 pounds.  It was almost as big as a 10 pound bag of potatoes.

Look at the size of this diamondback rattlesnake.

This alligator was probably about 10 feet long.

Surprise.  At the bottom of this display case are the backbones of either/and mastodon or mammoth back bones.  Above it look like pieces of ribs.