Braindust

Each day I turn to my laptop to tell me the temp outside, the projected weather for the day, what time it is, and what day of the week it might be. On the morning of October 23, when I was told by my machine that it was Saturday, I felt that sense of relief that used to come when a workweek actually meant something. Monday through Friday were days for sweating and straining, but Saturday was the beginning of 48 hours of … whatever I wanted. A whole different set of emotions and possibilities were now open.

So when I recently learned that it was a Saturday morning, I felt a little pop of joy, which is not logical at all. It’s a vestigial element left over from my days in the mines. A meaningless fragment of a former existence. But hey, a guy can always use a pop of joy, n’est-ce pas? There is no such thing as too many of those.

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Observations on this Covid vaccine insanity that we are going through. The resisters, the non-vaccinators, have been behaving abominably, and fully deserve whatever guilt they might feel. That is, those among them who are capable of feeling guilty. Because tens (perhaps hundreds) of thousands of American citizens have died as a result of their non-benign form of stupidity. Their deliberate ignorance and laziness of thought have been infuriating to observe.

However, if they would tomorrow line up and do the right thing, to finally get their immunizations, I would probably eventually stop thinking about the harm that they have done, and life would go on. But I couldn’t forgive them because it’s not up to me to do that. It’s up to the tens of thousands of survivors of those who have died unnecessarily to do that. The empty chairs that will be at Thanksgiving tables all over this land speak volumes about what logic and citizenship and common sense have asked of us, things which those people have so far disregarded.

Any one of that very large contingent could, if they wished, stop their part of this madness tomorrow. They could step up and be counted and loosen one more of the hooks that Covid has in all of us. And they could do it by rolling up their sleeves and helping themselves in the bargain.

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In the past year I have had two interesting (at least to me) events which were brain things. First there was that stroke a year ago which was fixed by some marvelous people within an hour after it started, and then earlier this fall I saw double for a day, which fixed itself. Later this week I am returning to see my favorite neurologist to talk about these things. I imagine the conversation might go something like this:

So, what can I do for you, Jon? You are still walking and talking, and for someone your age, that’s pretty good. What more could you ask for? What questions might you have?

I am interested in comparing the results of the two MRIs that I’ve had this past year. Do you see anything there that is alarming?

Not really, pretty much everyday stuff. Blockages there, atrophy here … nope, nothing remarkable.

Atrophy?

Why, yes, with age the brain gets smaller and fluid takes up the space left behind.

Holy shrinkage, Dr. Belk. Could you clarify that a bit?

Well let me put it this way. Forty years age you had mostly brain up top, with maybe a juice-glassful of fluid. Now at eighty-two you’ve got a brain the size of an avocado and enough liquid to fill a Camelback.

That’s certainly not welcome news. Is there anything I can do about it?

My advice would be to always wear something with your address printed on it. Or better yet, have it tattooed someplace … somewhere there’s a nice broad uncluttered area … on your behind, perhaps.

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Drosophila melanogaster – the fruit fly

I must be getting jaded. This morning I read an article in the Times Science section about one of my favorite creatures (I bet it’s one of yours as well) – Drosophila melanogaster. On top of that, the article introduced me to a branch of science that I had never even heard about. Does the word connectomics mean anything to you? It didn’t to me.

But I read the entire piece, put the laptop down, and went to the kitchen to make a second cup of coffee. I noticed that there was no increased spring in my step and that the world seemed much the same as it had when I got out of bed. In other words, I had not been moved by what I had just learned. I had mentally filed the information away for possible future reference (or for possibly completely forgetting I had ever read it) and that was that.

It’s unlikely that I will find the opportunity to talk about connectomics with any of my acquaintances in the days to come, we just don’t go there as often as we did in former days. Now when I encounter one of those people on the street, and after we have exchanged opinions about the weather, we’re pretty much done with our conversation. Everything but Drosophila stories seems to have become controversial, and should I inadvertently stumble into a hot topic that to me hadn’t even seemed lukewarm, I may find the front of my shirt covered in angry bits of spittle as the person in front of me delivers their diatribe.

I never seem to get it. To sense the location of those minefields before I step into them. It might not change my behavior if I did, but at least I wouldn’t be so surprised when they come up, and that could be a helpful thing. For instance, I could take a step back to protect my clothing. Or I could deliver what I knew was going to be an inflammatory statement with something approaching panache instead of just plopping it out there. I like that idea a lot.

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[Joe Dator is now my favorite cartoonist. He is not quite right in the head, as my grandmother
used to say, and I am totally in synch with where his head has gone.]

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Tuesday was moist from start to finish. It started lightly but steadily raining before dawn and this pattern continued all day. After lunch we decided to take a drive in the countryside and headed out for Silver Jack reservoir. This lake is a gem situated in a mountain valley and well worth the 90 minutes of driving that it takes to get there. We never did … get there, that is.

The reason is that about three miles short of our goal it was snowing hard and the road was becoming slipperier and slipperier and I flat chickened out. The tracks ahead of us showed that only a single car had traveled that way since the snow began falling. I could see getting myself sideways in that stuff, and who would bail us out? Both of my passengers were nursing injuries and asking them to push was out of the question. And when you are down to the point where the only person who is certified to push the car out of a ditch is in his 80s you are in trouble, friends.

Therefore instead of Silver Jack we accepted where we were as our destination, and that was at Big Cimmaron, a small campground situated right on the Cimarron River. It was beautiful there, with the clear dark rushing water, the total absence of any human activity but us, and the snow falling. Robin and I made a note to return and camp there some day when the weather allowed, but it would never be prettier than it was on this Tuesday.

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