The Fungus Amongus

An Ignorant Comment On An Impossible Premise

Once again I hear someone asking me: What if you could go back in time and have the chance to get to visit the Hitler family, and you find yourself alone with Baby Adolf? Knowing what you know, would you kill the baby?

The whole premise seems contrived, time travel still having so many bumps to be ironed out and all, but if you say – Wait a minute, I’ve never killed a baby in my life, why would I start now? – you are almost by definition a wimp.

Perhaps we should look at it another way. If something had happened to Baby Adolf way back then, would everything after that have been just swell? Remember, Germany was a complete and total mess – economically, socially, politically. If Adolf hadn’t been around to step in and tell his particular brand of lies, there were many other men at that time that might have taken his place. In fact, there were some very awful people that we know Adolf caused to be murdered along his own path to prominence.

And here’s the reason that the premise seems to me to be a weak one – those other guys might have done even worse things. The world never seems to have a shortage of diabolicals.

For instance, Hitler was so unbalanced that he trusted no one’s judgement but his own. If he had listened to some of his military advisers, especially before he made that small mistake and invaded Russia, the war could have gone very differently. If a smarter but just as evil man had come to power, a man who didn’t have Hitler’s paranoia, Nazi Germany might right now be running Europe and the rest of the world would be the worse for it. So to answer the question, the idea of killing Child Adolf to improve the world is based on a too-shaky premise to turn us all into potential infanticides.

(Personally, I hope that time travel never becomes a reality. Can you imagine the mischief that we humans might cause? Our species is not advanced enough to be trusted with such an opportunity.)

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Reading the New York Times has many benefits. You get an authoritative (if occasionally imperfect) voice on the news, some excellent cooking advice, and introduction to interesting people you might never have heard of otherwise. Today’s person I never might have heard otherwise of is Randy Rainbow (his real name). The Times reports that he is a YouTube star from making videos like this one.

All I can say is Thank you New York Times, and bless you Randy Rainbow.

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The first viewing point you come to when you enter the Black Canyon National Park is Tomichi Point. It offers a spectacular view of the amazing geology you will find at the other viewing points along the canyon route. Ordinarily it looks like this.

But on Sunday when I set out to do a hike up at the park, I found the sunny 56 degree climate in the valley was transformed into one with 34 degrees and a light snowfall where the flakes weren’t flakes at all, but the tiniest of snow pellets, almost like a fog. I happen to find fogs very interesting, and they offer unique photographic opportunities if you are fortunate to come across one in a place like this, where it sets each ridge apart the others in its own special way.

Here is what Tomichi Point looked like on Sunday afternoon. Both shots reveal the geologic drama that is the Canyon. What the snow/fog adds (for me) is a sense of the mysterious. See what you think.

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The Times of New York ran an article on Tuesday in the Science section about morel mushrooms and the success that some people have begun to have in growing them in the laboratory. You hardly know what to root for here. On the one hand, if they are eventually commercially successful, there will be more morels around to eat, and perhaps they won’t be as expensive as they are today.

But it would throw the world of morel-gathering into chaos. Up to the present day, if you would happen to come across a few morels in the Spring, you gathered them, brought them home for cooking, and never, never, ever revealed to anyone where you found them.

When I lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan I was taught what I know about mushroom collecting by a talented woman whose day job was as a nurse, but whose passion was fungi. She shared everything she knew about them with me except for where to find morels. I learned from her how to identify them and cook them, but it was up to me to find where they were. Which I never did.

Sheepishly I have to admit that in the matter of my eating morels so far, I have always been dependent upon the kindness of strangers.

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I never tire of watching films of the murmurations of starlings. One of the truly awesome spectacles of our planet, I think. Personally I have seen a handful of way smaller and much less majestic flocks when I was living in South Dakota, but even those required of me that I pull my car to the edge of the road, step out into the open air, and stand there amazed.

There is a certain irony here, for me. I am able to share in what others have photographed in Nature all over the world. Their talents and the extraordinary machinery that is a modern camera has made this possible. But I watch these events indoors where the sun and the rain and the wind cannot get to me. I really ought to take my computer outside on a blustery and cold evening, turn up my collar and watch the video until my fingers become numb and I can no longer trust them on the keyboard. In this way I could better approximate the true flavor of a murmuration.

Birds, by Neil Young

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