Posts Tagged With: nature

GENETIC PREDISPOSITIONS: PART II

When I was young, (yes, electricity had already been discovered and was in general use) there was term often used by newspapers and other media to disparage or otherwise shame certain members of society. That term was “being on the dole” and it came to signify those unfortunates that were having a tough time financially and required governmental assistance to get thru the transactions of day-to-day living. That phrase originated in England in 1917 and was in reference to benefits being “doled” out by the government to generally poor souls that couldn’t otherwise provide for themselves. Since the U.S. at the time, had a hard-core, laissez-faire, capitalistic type of thinking ingrained into most people’s psyches, having to receive government assistance was considered especially shameful. The mark of a slacker, one too lazy or otherwise too indolent to provide for themselves. Indeed, according to newspapers that were published in those days, no criminal’s deeds were as heinous as that of someone “being on the dole.”

With the advent of FDR’s New Deal, however, the use of that term began to lose it’s luster. It turned out that with the creation of Social Security and Medicare legislation, virtually all seniors were eventually “on the dole,” so to speak. More social programs regarding veterans benefits, student loans, housing and other government assistance came into being, so it seemed almost everyone “was on the dole” at some point in their lives, and that inglorious phrase was eventually tossed into the dustbin of history. It was to some degree revived in a new form during the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s. The term “welfare queens” suddenly came into existence as racist code to denote single black mothers who were supposedly having babies out of wedlock in order to receive larger government welfare checks. When it was pointed out that the preponderance of welfare payments were being made to white people, that derogatory phrase also faded from the public forum. But the on-going efforts of the fortunate to stigmatize the unfortunate in some shape or manner continues on unabated.

This is kind of a long way around to come to the main point of how genetics is often the determining factor in the way our lives will unfold and the destinies in store for all of us. Some time back I wrote a piece called “Genetic Predispositions” which still receives “views” years later, and I thought I would update the original with additional insights. In the original, I cited some extreme examples of how one’s genes are often the determining factor of the life being led. How, due to genetic malfunction, some fetus brains are bathed in an overdose of serotonin while in the womb. Hence, when these individuals grow into adulthood, they cannot derive pleasure or comfort from those activities that normally satisfy most of us, and thus, are often likely to turn out to be brutish rapists or serial killers to satisfy their lusts. Even when the brain develops normally, genetic make-up is usually the name of the game.

Those whose DNA is formed with a talent for fiscal matters often do the best in our capitalistic society. Bankers, Wall Street brokers, hedge fund managers, entrepreneurs etc. often accomplish the most financially, and are able to lead the most luxurious materialistic lives. Not that such bountiful materialism necessarily translates into lifelong happiness and serenity. Just ask those who knew Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston for starters. All four of whom had not only acquired immense riches, but, also millions of adoring fans and worldwide fame; but still managed to kill themselves at a fairly young age. On the the other hand, those whose DNA thrusts them into the artistic side of human performance usually receive the short end of the stick from a capitalistic oriented society. Very few writers, artists, musicians, etc. receive just compensation for their efforts and often live in poverty throughout their lives. This could also result in early demise. Think Vincent Van Gogh or Edgar Allen Poe, neither of whom caught a break as far as public recognition of their talents while they were still alive, and who also died at an early age

Most of the rest of us are somewhere in the middle, living anywhere from relatively lower middle class, to reasonably comfortable lifestyles, depending on the talent programmed into our DNA. But what I didn’t mention last time are the environmental factors that one grows up with, that also have a huge influence on our future lives, and must be considered along with genes as one of life’s determining forces. An Irish poet put it best when he wrote that “They fuck you up your Mum and Dad; they fuck you up real good.” Those coming from abusive or dysfunctional homes where parents might be alcoholics, druggies, or child molesters, hardly have a chance in life, no matter how strong their genes may be. Some hearty, brave souls do manage to escape an horrendous upbringing, however, and go on to thrive in life.

It the end it virtually all comes down to a matter of genetic inheritance and environmental upbringing. I think, though, that genes are more of the determinant factor. As for me, at this stage of my life, I’m quite content to be “on the dole” and receive my government benefits.

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Categories: A malfunctioning psche, Economics, Health Care, Obamacare, human affairs, politics, Ronald Reagan, the Depression | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM JOEY THE CAT

My wife and I have been married for a very long time; but, no, it’s not true, that our wedding took place right after Lincoln’s second inauguration. Anyway, the key to making  a relationship last as long as ours has, is compromise. Each partner has to be willing to give a little when there are differences of opinion in approaching or handling various situations. Compromise is the key to a successful relationship. For example, some years back my wife wanted to get a cat. I didn’t want a cat, mainly because of my allergies. So we compromised…….and got a cat.

During our younger years we had dogs for pets; but as we we aged, cats appeared to be the wiser choice. After all, cats didn’t need to be walked at 10 or 11 at night, especially in the freezing winters with snow and ice, that we experienced when living back East in our younger days. So as we grew older, we acquired a kitten while still living on the East Coast, and moved her with us, when we relocated to Las Vegas. This little kitten grew into a healthy, mature cat,  and gave us great pleasure and enjoyment for 18 and a quarter years until she died. We were naturally devastated at her loss, as if a member of the immediate family had died. (As a side note, any pet owner has to know ahead of time that when they decide to acquire that cute puppy or kitten, it’s all going to end badly. At some point, you will likely outlive your pet and experience a broken heart when it dies.) And so it was with us. We then went 3 years with no little furry creature running around the house; until my wife, one day decided that she could no longer take it- not having a pet in our household.

She had read in the local paper that Best Friends Animal Society was giving away free kittens at a local pet store, and that’s where we needed to proceed to. Immediately.  (As it turned out, these free cats were at best, semi-free, since we had to pay various fees associated with the cat’s inoculations, spaying, etc.) But this is where we found a 12-week-old, white and grey kitten with big blue eyes, that we decided to adopt. They told us that the kitten was a boy, and we were too oblivious to check further, so we named him Joey. Several days after bringing “him” home it finally dawned on us to more closely examine the cat’s gender. It was then that we became aware that “he” was really a girl; but we figured that the name Joey could also be considered female. So Joey it was. They had put the kitten in a small shoe box with handles and air vents, gave us a small bag of toys, and wished us good luck as we rode home with our new pet.

Right from the beginning, Joey made her presence known. I don’t think our previous cat had uttered more than half a dozen meows in the 18 plus years she lived with us. But this new cat started meowing, (or “kvetching” as my wife put it) right from the get-go.  The first morning after we brought her home, she wandered through the house crying her little head off. I finally figured out why. For all of her 12 weeks of existence, she had been surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds, of stray cats in the animal shelter where she lived. These included her mother and her siblings. Now, suddenly, there were no cats-only these 2 big,  strange, looming figures.  What had happened to all her little friends and family?But the thing about cats (and dogs too) is that they adjust very quickly to new circumstances. In no time, it seemed, she became very comfortable with us. Cats have been bred over many thousands of years to be simpatico with humans and it shows in their behavior. Since there are no other cats around it became incumbent upon us to be her playmates, such as chasing around the house, or throwing toy mice for her to run after. Sometimes I engage in roughhousing with her and she will take my fingers in her mouth as if to bite down in retaliation. But it’s only pretend and she never can bring herself to actually bite.

I have learned that if you treat these little animals with affection, they will unabashedly give you their hearts. The older I get, the more I seem to appreciate the company of animals and less of people. With people, and especially with guys, it’s all about appearances and pretenses. No matter how much turmoil, or despair, or anguish a guy might be suffering through, he will almost always put on this front that says-“Oh yeah, I’m swinging, man. If life was any better, my body couldn’t take it.” It’s always about facades and pretenses to present to the rest of the world. But with animals, what you get is what you see. Their very innocence precludes them from any sort of affectation.

Joey is 7 years old now, middle-age for cats. She never hesitates to kvetch about some displeasure, like forgetting to give her treats, or not taking her out for playtime. She is so attached to us, that it’s painful to leave her the few times a year we travel, even though we hire a cat-sitter. I think if I had it to do all over again, I would engage my life’s energies in working with animals. I have great admiration for those people who work to save endangered species,  especially from the butchery caused by the greed and selfishness of those that would kill elephants, for example, to obtain the ivory in their tusks. I also admire those whose daily job is simply to care for abused and homeless animals. ( I would hope that the ninth circle of Hell, as described in “Dante’s Inferno”, is reserved for animal abusers.) I believe there is great personal reward in devoting one’s life toward these ends.

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LIVING ON ANOTHER PLANET

Know what the most precious commodity on this planet is? I’ll give you a hint-it’s not platinum or diamonds; nor is it gold or silver. The most precious resource on Earth is water, or at least the drinking kind. While 70 percent of our planet is covered by water, less than one percent of that is fit for human or animal consumption. It’s one of the reasons we have periodic famines throughout large chunks of Africa and parts of Asia. Lack of rains or periodic droughts seem to occur with increasing frequency in various parts of the world. Here in Las Vegas, which is one of the driest places on Earth, and where about 2 million people live in the LV Valley, we’ve been experiencing a severe drought for more than a dozen years. Las Vegas obtains its water from Lake Mead, which, in turn, receives its water from the Colorado River. Or to be more precise, the Colorado Streamlet, at this point in time. Our local newspaper recently ran an article about how Lake Mead is at its lowest level in history, and if drastic action isn’t taken by 2014, the area will simply run out of water. Although it didn’t specify what kind of drastic action options are available. Maybe the hotel/casino bosses can import kegs of drinking water into LV, the way they imported bootleg booze during the 1920s.

Here’s another fact you may want to consider. From the dawn of history through the year 1913, Earth’s population grew to a modest 1.8 billion people. That’s over a period of millions of years. In the last 100 years, however, our planet’s population has skyrocketed to over 7.1 billion. By 2025 it’s estimated to be around 9.5 billion. This, of course, not only adds huge amounts of stress and demand to available drinking water, but to all other precious resources such as coal, oil, gas, metals, etc.  Add to this, the fact that huge medical and technological  advances have considerably extended human life spans, which will put additional strains on food and water supplies as well as precious resources, and you have a situation where going to live on another planet looks more attractive by the day. Not that such an option is available at this point in time.

Perhaps the most brilliant mind in the world today, British astro-physicist Stephen Hawking, has recommended such a course of action. Single planet specious don’t survive, said Hawking in a recent interview. He further stated that the human race should not have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. He went on to say that should shrinking resources, nuclear proliferation, a growing population, or climate change threaten humankind on Earth, “a colony on Mars could serve as a lifeboat to keep the species going.” (Of course, one can debate whether our species deserves to be kept going, after the mess we’ve made on this planet.) He ended the interview by saying that technology being what it is today, he doesn’t foresee that kind of space travel in the next 100 years. (Where’s that “warp speed” technology they had on the Star Trek series, when you need it.)

Nevertheless, there is interest in a manned space trip to Mars. Since almost all large governments are broke these days, the technology would have to be developed by private industry. Mars is about 34 million miles from Earth, and astro-engineers estimate that with today’s technology, it would take a manned space craft about 8 months to make the trip. Provisions for the return trip back to Earth would have to sent to Mars on a second space craft, and be waiting there for the space travelers when they arrive. A Dutch organization called Mars One wants to start colonizing Mars within a decade. Its already received 78,000 applications from would-be colonizers willing to relocate. Which says a lot about how wonderful life has become on this planet.

Besides water, food and other resource shortages and overpopulation, you might want to consider certain other factors. Like ecological degradation.  Like the systematic erosion of our rain forests or ocean phytoplankton which capture huge amounts of carbon dioxide while emitting enormous quantities of oxygen. The final destruction of either will make life no longer sustainable on Earth. Or how about world-wide soil erosion which has caused the Earth to lose one-fifth of its arable land, just in the last decade. Perhaps global-warming ( whose existence is vehemently denied by all the Rush Limbaugh-types, and other assorted looney-tuners) is one of your hit-parade favorites. Let us also not leave out nuclear waste hazards as well as massive amounts of other toxic waste. As well as spreading holes in the ozone layer (which prevents from becoming as crispy as french fries) because of the existence of long-lasting chlorofluorocarbon gasses. And, to say nothing of the massive extinction of animal species due to all of the above, as well as man’s inherent greed and selfishness.  We are probably among the last generations to have the good fortune to co-inhabit this planet with large animals such as elephants, rhinos, hippos, the great apes, and major cat species-lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, etc. Within a hundred years it’s doubtful that they’ll exist even in zoos.

Old guys like me can probably make it through to the end of our lives without drastic global consequences. But young people might start to experience the effects of ecological degradation within their lifetimes. For example, global warming might finally result in the rise of ocean levels with the resulting flooding of word-wide coastal areas, which would displace hundreds of millions of people, and bury a large portion of the world’s primary agricultural lands. And none of what I’ve written takes into effect the craziness of many of the world’s leaders and governments. Anyone of whom could set off a nuclear holocaust at virtually any time.

So how about it. Anyone care to sign up to be one of the first voyagers to Mars?

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THE SUMMER SUN

Huddie William Ledbetter was a black musician in the early part of the 20th century. He came to be known as Leadbelly, and he wrote gospel, blues, folk songs, and other types of music, all of which have a haunting and distinct style. But Leadbelly was perhaps best known for his chain-gang songs, since he often displayed an angry temper which frequently landed him in trouble with the law. As a result he did some serious jail time in Southern prisons during which he usually had to work on chain-gangs throughout the year. Talk about cruel and unusual punishment which is supposedly banned by the 8th amendment to the Constitution. In any event his experiences in doing hard labor led to some great folk music. The opening lines of perhaps his best chain-gang song goes as follows: “Look over yonder, hot sun turning over. Look over yonder, hot sun turning over. And it won’t go down, Lord, it won’t go down.” Which is kind of a long way around of getting to the point of discussion, namely the hot sun during the summer months here in Las Vegas.

For 9 months out of the year Las Vegas weather is usually mild and pleasant. But from about mid-June thru mid-September, the temperatures sizzle, the sun blazes down with unyielding intensity, and if you have to spend any considerable amount of time out-doors, especially in the afternoons, you’ll like feel a lot like Leadbelly working on the chain-gang. Because it’s a dry heat, when temperatures are still in the low 90s, one can usually get by without using air-conditioning. But once temperatures reach the upper 90s and then plunge directly into the 100s, the a/c is cranking away for the rest of the summer. July and August heat usually settles in at temperatures of between 105-110degrees, but can, and often does, reach heights of 112-115 degrees, sometimes for extended periods. Very unhealthy levels. If you go to the store or a restaurant during the day, and have to leave your car parked in the sun, you’ll be entering an oven once you get back in the car. Over the years, there’s been more than a few cases where parents have forgotten that they left their infants in the car when going shopping, only to return and find the most tragic of consequences. Other acts of stupidity resulted when people brought their pets with them, and left them in the car, broiling in the sun, with the same deadly results.

Those on the right are continually demonizing illegal aliens. But here in Las Vegas, where almost everyone that owns a house, especially seniors, has a gardner that monthly tends to their landscaping, who do they think is trimming their bushes and blowing the leaves out of their yards. Certainly not native citizens who would rather go on welfare then get out in the sun in 108 degree weather. It’s virtually always illegals, as  all of us know by the fact that they often can’t speak English. In our community, besides individual homeowners having their private gardening service, there’s a landscaper the the development hires to take care of the common areas, and who has people out there working almost every day of the year. The workers are all illegals. Who would do this work if we suddenly shipped 12 million undocumented workers back to Mexico. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the word “hypocrisy” is not in the vocabulary of the denizens of Right-Wing Looney-Tunesville.

When we first moved to Las Vegas, many a-moon ago, we would sometimes get relief from the heat through afternoon or evening thunder storms. At times there would be a heavy deluge, where more than 3 inches of rain would come pouring down in less than an hour. Las Vegas at that time didn’t have a sewer system capable of handling such deluges, so lakes would form at major intersections, bringing traffic to a grinding halt. Waves would form in these lakes, and one could literally go surfing. When more than one motorist drowned during these episodes, the city got serious and went on an expensive binge to build an adequate sewer system. Just about the time that they finally finished, the entrenched drought that we’ve been experiencing clawed its way into our year-round climate. Now there isn’t even the hint of a thunderstorm. Each day  sees clear, blue, cloudless skies with a burning sun and no relief. I literally cannot remember the last time we had a decent rain. It’s as if, once we built the required drainage, the universe decided to give us the middle-finger.

Because of the lack of water, the ground here is like solid rock. I think that one could more easily dig through an 8-inch concrete block, than dig a hole in the yard to plant a bush. Yet, somehow, certain shrubs and trees seem to thrive in this rocky soil. Desert plants they call them. Like the sumac trees we have in our backyard that were shorter than me when planted, but now tower over our roof as well as the roofs of adjoining houses. Olive trees also do extremely well as do cactus shrubs. I don’t know how the roots can spread in such hard soil, but somehow they do. There is also a thriving wildlife, at least in our development. We have a wide variety of avian life such as quail, ducks and geese that like to hang out in the small lakes we have on the golf course or in the common areas. We also have a large contingent of rabbits as well as tiny bunnies that bounce around the development like tennis balls, after the rabbits give birth. And because of that we have our share of predators. Besides snakes there are coyotes and bobcats that feed on the rabbits. With water from the lakes, and plenty of available bunnies to eat, what’s not to like.

And so the summer heat and the broiling sun are upon us once again. For relief, we can always go to restaurants and casinos, where air-conditioning is blasting away at sub-artic levels. This often necessitates taking heavy sweaters with us, especially for the seniors set, to put on when coming from the outside heat into in the in-door frigidity. Don’t think the irony of that goes unnoticed.

 

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ANIMAL INSTINCTS

The way people treat animals on this planet, both large and small, is a strong indicator of the character and humanity of mankind, and thus far the record has been pretty poor, if not disastrous. Man’s relationship to animals should be one of protector and benefactor, but instead it is often one of predator and greedy attacker. As the population of this planet now exceeds 7 billion people, native habitats especially for large animals are significantly shrinking. At the the same time, man still sees profit in killing certain large animals such as elephants for their ivory, seals for their fur, or sharks for their supposed health benefits. And let us not forget the large number of people that still see hunting as a “sport” and will go out and slaughter defenseless animals, just for the the hell of it. The footage taken of Sarah Palin shooting defenseless moose or wolves in Alaska from a helicopter, I think perfectly symbolizes the mindset of these so-called hunters.

In any event, between the disappearing animal habitats due to expanding populations moving into lands that had been set aside for these animals, and due to continued predatory hunting, the populations of large wildlife has been decreasing at an alarming rate. Over the past 50 years, there has been huge decreases in populations of the great apes in both Africa and Asia, as well as elephants, especially in Africa, where much of the lands that elephants lived on is now becoming farming communities. Not only does the room for elephants to roam shrink, but when they wander onto these new farms in search of food they are often shot. Decreasing numbers are also noted among other large mammals such as rhinos and hippos, as well as the large cats. Lions, tigers leopards, cheetah and other cats have experienced such huge losses that they are now considered endangered species. There also has been big losses in marine wildlife, among sharks and whales. We may be among the last generations that can live alongside large animals still in the wild.

There are some groups that are trying mightily to stem the tide of animal extinction in the wild, but thus far they have, at best, achieved a slowing down of the rate of loss. It’s too bad that people don’t have the same concern for wild animals as they do for domestic pets. There is no decrease in the dog and cat populations in this country or elsewhere, as most people do love their pets. And why not? Treat dogs or cats with affection and they will give you back total, unreserved love. Even the most benevolent pet owner can never give back what these small animals give to us. Even if you have had the worst day, if your boss or your spouse yelled at you non-stop, if your investments went south and the stock market plummeted, no matter what the situation, you’re still a hero in your pet’s eyes. They will look at you you with unreserved love and innocence whatever event transpired.

Although there is a big difference in the way dogs and cats respond, such as the old joke that people are masters to their dogs, but servants to their cats, I believe that both undergo a special bonding with their owners. In our younger years we used to own dogs because there was no question that dogs far more openly display affection for their owners. But unless you’re fortunate enough to have a large, fenced-in yard, owning a dog can have its own problems. Like walking a dog on cold, rainy winter days at 6 in the morning or late at night. So as we we got older we switched our pet choices to cats largely because they use litter boxes and thus require no walking. Cats are affectionate too, but in their own unique way and at their own pace. One cat we owned lived for over 18 years and was always a constant joy. But as George Carlin, the comedian once said: “When you decide to acquire a pet, you know it’s going to end badly.”  When our cat died, it was was almost like losing a child. Both my wife and I bawled like babies.

We’ve had our current cat for over 5 years, and like the previous one, she also gives us continued pleasure. She’s grayish-white, with large blue eyes that reflect the epitome of innocence. I often think, however, that it’s extremely sad that people exist in this world that horribly abuse these small creatures. Hence, the existence of the Humane Society, the ASPCA, and countless other animal organizations that seek to to shelter and heal abused animals. Knowing there is no such thing as Hell, I still would like to see the ninth circle of Hell, as described in Dante’s Inferno, reserved for people that abuse defenseless animals. It takes a special kind of evil for that to happen. But as I’ve written before regarding serial killers, evil in some people is like a bottomless pit.

In any event, at least our small domestic pets are not on the endangered species list. However, the same cannot be said for especially the large animals that roam the wilderness areas. I think it’s incumbent on all of us to make what ever effort we can to protect these endangered animals. Even if that effort is merely contributing to the groups that attempt to reverse declining animal populations. Because being a benefactor to wild and domesticated animals makes us more humane as human beings.

 

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