Friday, June 29, 2007

Of Cats and Kids and Scientists Who Aren't, part 3

6. Hegelian Kids. Thesis: Earle trained as a chemist. He became a manager and wrote speechs as well as technical and business articles. Antithesis: I trained in theatre. I became a manager and wrote speeches, technical, craft and advertising features and catalogs in addition to plays, a book or two and a blog. Synthesis: MAL is training as a teacher of science for elementary age kids. She also writes books.

7. Dogs are from Kling. Mal wanted a dog. But we have cats, I offered. I want a dog too, said she. So we borrowed the dog of friends to go for walks. The dog was too well behaved to put the Kidtm off. So we asked Marie, the local animal control officer, if she could find us a medium size dog like Chips, our friend's border collie - terrier mix. A week or two later Marie called to ask if we were still interested. We *ulp* were. So Marie arrived with a bit of black fluff about the size of a large turkey and a hard luck story that wouldn't quit. Her pink tongue lolled happily as the only non-black feature except for her large, soulful, deep brown eyes. The Kidtm was entranced. Diana, who was least interested in a dog, reached to pet the puppy's head. I suckered. Though there was a small voice nattering within: Look at the paws on that galumph! They are already as big as tennis balls. In a PUP-P-E-E!!
Marie, an excellent saleswoman, slipped me the leash, wished us luck and was gone.
Come along, Blackie, said the Kidtm trying to relief me of the leash.
Her name, quoth Diana who sometimes is quite oracular, is Peggy (after the second mate of the Amazons in "Swallows and Amazons" by Arthur Ransome).
Peggy did not become enormous. She was no where near the size of one of John's pet Mammoths. We just thought she was. Peggy grew into a largish dog of the black lab mixed variety with an alpha plus personality who thought discipline and training were for people, not dogs. She proved her point with us. The only way I was able to get her attention at all was after I got down on all fours and bit her ear. After that she regarded me as slightly crazed but mostly harmless. Or, to put it another way: Thereafter she gave me slightly more attention than Mr. Cheney gives to -- whozits, down the hall.
Her great spirits and high jinx were no end frustrating to us all as Peggy seemed always to want to do something we didn't want her to do.
We were besotted by her.
Too soon she came to die. The vet, a very good one, couldn't satisfy himself as to the cause of her weight loss. At one point he suggested we try Pepto Bismaltm. Poor Peggy hurled it which turned the screen door that bright bubble-gum pink.
I took her to the vet. She was in the back seat. Just a block away she turned her head to the heavens and howled just as the Klingons of STNG do to announce the imminent arrival of a Klingon warrior in heaven.
The Vet asked to do an autopsy so he could determine the cause of death. The result was a cancerous tumor in the esophagus just beneath the larynx. It was behind the sternum so that it didn't show up in the x-rays.
Peggy was a wonderful dog, but Diana and I are in full agreement: no more dogs.
The Kidtm says: I want a dog.
Just as soon as.

8. My First Computer. In the late fifties my brothers acquired a used pin ball machine for ten or so dollars. It lived in the basement with the work shop and the root/preserve cellar. After a year or so of its dust gathering Earle took stock of the great number of relays in the box. Earle asked Leonard if he could take it apart for two projects he had in mind. Leonard agreed. One project was to construct a working semaphore system for my O gauge model railroad. It worked beautifully with any train following too close to another stopping in a dead section of the track, seemingly in deference to the changing twinkling lights on the towers, until the predecessor was safely past.
The other was to build the Tic-Tack-Toe player in a recent issue of Scientific American ("Ticktacktoe" by Martin Gardner in Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1959 -- I think) Which also needed a bunch of relays to work through the "nk ≤ (n+2) k possible wining moves to find the most appropriate.
After several months of work at odd moments, Earle completed a three inch tall, pine box a generous foot square topped with a Masonite board containing a number of lights and switches to mark and select the moves where you could see them and jammed with scads of relays, wires and gizmos inside. I played against it for hours until I finally learned how to win the game if I went first (put your 'X' in the middle) and the more complicated strategy to force a draw if you played naughts.

Whew! I elaborated this rather more than it strictly required I guess. That gives me pause when it comes to nailing another eight to carry on. The altruistic function of these memes is to point traffic to anther, less well known, blog. Despite my invisibility, there is no lack of company in the obscurity where Dum Luk's labors to amuse. But I think it will be best to make this open source. If you feel like answering this meme, take this as your invite to do so and leave your url in comments when you've posted.
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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Of Cats and Kids and Scientists Who Aren't, cont.

The meme of 8 continues relentless onwards.
3. I once had a carpeted nail factory. I found out why they don't carpet nail factories. Nail makers are a ton or so of cast iron and machined steel which gobble wire from a reel, slam the end into a head, pull the wire forward to length, and pinch the nail off forming a point and two bits of scrap which fall onto a chute to slide into a box. It has more than the average number of pieces and moving parts. All of them are greased. Copiously. 'Fred', as I called my machine in a spirit of impure animism, arrived at my door all but invisible. Rather I appeared to have a couple of barrels of grease -- without the barrels. Two and a half hours under a steam cleaner revealed the iron, painted a dove or Navy grey, and plain steel.
After some months a Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman called to offer a demo of the Kirby's rug shampooing abilities. I jumped at the chance. The salesman jumped away from the offer just as soon as I showed him Fred's carpet.

4. I have traveled. I have lived and worked in Japan and many states and at least set foot in all but three of them: Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii.

5. Dylan the Dirty Dog. A housemate was Dylan's first person. She named him for Dylan Thomas, of course. If she wanted to name him after Bob Dylan she would have called him Bob. She took him with her to NYC to a job. Being a young tough, Dylan promptly forgot his gentle Southwestern Ohio upbringing, acquired a Bronx cabby's thick mode of speech and an invisible Taxi cab. Unable to stand his howling and spraying -- this was summer in the city -- Ellen would open the window to allow his escape. Days later Dylan would return looking worse than this:Ellen would grab a can of spray Bactine, point it in his direction, turn her head and close her eyes and spray.
Back in Ohio Dylan adopted Diana and I when Ellen had to move where cats couldn't go. We moved him to Connecticut and then to Washington State. We drove across country in a black VW Squareback called Beulah Witch after the Burr Tillstrom character. Dylan and the other cats were penned into the very back and would howl ceaselessly from the moment we started until about fifteen minutes before we stopped for the day. We camped in Shoshone National Forest. When Beulah Witch's back hatch was opened to let the cats out for dinner Dylan, like a flight from a long bow, shot straight and true deep into the woods. We were horrified that we had lost him. About twenty minutes later he traversed the reverse trajectory at almost the same speed. We thought he had met his match. But the next day as we passed through Yellowstone National Park his plan for our entertainment bore fruit. Traffic slowed to a stop - crawl - stop - crawl. Finally we turned a corner to see the obstruction: a seven or eight foot brown bear panhandling from car to car. Ha-ha, very funny, I told Dylan as I furiously cranked the window closed. The bear looked in, briefly, as if to say cheapskates!, and we all moved on.
Arrived in Spokane, Dylan quickly established his dominance where ever we went. Still there were times when his opponent poisoned the scratch leading to an abscess, or 'puff'. When these required a trip to the vet, Dylan would return with a shaved paw as if stripped to his tee shirt.
Dylan mellowed. A bit. His favorite bit of wisdom to pass on to the kits was: "With all the unhappiness there is in the world, why can't everyone be a brick... Like me!" Bruce Beal of the Art Department at Eastern Washington State documented Dylan's visage and bon mots thusly in a limited edition print I commissioned for Diana's birthday one year:
Dylan was one of the early cats to succumb to the newly discovered feline leukemia. At that time cat's blood had yet to be typed. We tried a transfusion from Dylan's son. It was not a match. Just afterwards I held Dylan in my arms at the vet's office when I suddenly became aware that the room was very bright, very noisy, and my heart seemed to beat very fast. I covered Dylan's eyes to moderate the brightness which made the vet notice that all was not well. Dylan died. I believe that in his penultimate moment Dylan and I achieved an empathy, rare in this world, that allowed me to get an inkling of his experience of the world.

more to come ...
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Of Cats and Kids and Scientists Who Aren't

Aren't What?
Greenman Tim has tagged me with a meme of eight. Not quite so spendable as a piece of eight. But ...

Odd facts about oneself. There's concern in blogtopia that all the odd facts, the plain facts, the elaborate facts and the disputable facts are available through Dog Pile or Google or something. Being at least as vain as the next one I often Google my name. Before I started the blog I found out a lot about the Norwegian and Danish branches of the family. They might be descendent's of the elder brother of the vikings who settled in Groningen, Netherlands, prior to 1600 something.But they are listed for academic papers, or Swimming feats. Once I discovered my sister-in-law, Frederika Langeland, had published a cookbook and her daughter, Dierdre Langeland, a children's book. Soon after the blog began, that changed somewhat. Poor Martin Langeland, a third engineer, (Scroll down to find the poor chap) late of the Norwegian whaling fleet, was captured in 1941 and may have been repatriated by working his way across on the Star XIV. Still he keeps a toe hold on the first screen at number ten. The rest refer to mine self somewhat gloriously or goryously as may be. But why not add the odd bit to the hopper on the principal of befuddling them with bull shit? Dazzling the slowest witted with brilliance has long eluded me.
1. I come by it by training: At about ten years I and my father observed the July night sky from the big dock. Earle asked me how far I could see? I guessed maybe a mile because I knew I could see across the lake. Earle said he could see much farther. "I can see about 93 million miles in the daytime and further at night." Huh? I queried? "The Sun," he said, "Is 93 million miles from Earth. The stars are further.
2. Get high and it all fits: My Father worked at a plant beside Wolf Lake in Northwestern Indiana. We summered at the ancestral cottage on Mona Lake near Muskegon, Michigan. On Wolf Lake Sandy kept a Piper seaplane at a dock on the plant's property. One summer weekend Sandy flew Earle and a business associate from Wolf Lake to Mona Lake. Mona Lake is three or four miles long and feeds into the 'big lake' (Lake Michigan). About a quarter mile from the big dock, a concrete float bridge crossed the lake. This was a favorite haunt of the local fisherman who reeled in perch and bass and sunfish. Sandy didn't know about this. He saw a long lake spanned by a high bridge: Set down on one side and glide under the bridge to the big dock. So he did. As he passed underneath the prop acquired several fishing lines from both sides of the bridge.
The next day I increased my vocabulary as I watched him pulling the filaments from the prop shaft.
When all was ship shape, Sandy took me and my brothers and sister for a spin. Being the youngest, I got the 'best' seat, in the middle in the back. I still was able to see a bit as the land dropped away. As Sandy turned the piper to head North to Muskegon I saw the cottage among the trees and the dock and the roads to the big lake and to town and how the lake went to meet the little bridge over the channel that joined Mona Lake to Lake Michigan. All of it was laid before me like -- like a map!
Regrettably Sandy disappeared later that year or early the next as he flew some people across Lake Michigan. The plane went down somewhere in the middle to join the myriad hulks that litter the lake's bottom, and was never located. What a great gift he gave me, not only my first airplane ride, but also the sense of maps.

More to come tomorrow...
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Dumb Puns

Frequently -- but not always -- my favorite sort of humor.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Stove, or Cooker, or Range, part II

The Hunter-gatherer life presents a daily problem: Where is the next mouthful to come from?
This frivolous question tended to blot out all thoughts about matters of import such as the nature of God, or why did the sun shine, or why did some colors go together while others gave you the absolute hab-dabs. These sorts of inquiries were left for postprandial discussion groups. Where they belonged.[Lest anyone think this is too silly, consider that this pretty is 35,000 years old]
If it happened that a large animal was caught, any part of it not eaten right then would call in the scavengers and other competition. If they were beaten off then the carcass promptly rotted. That was okay up to a point because the wise knew where to find the herbs that covered the taste. But after a point there was no keeping the meat down.
There were a couple of things you might do. Pull the meat apart into thin strings and hang them in the sun, or over a slow fire (if you happened to have one) until they turned dark and dry and brittle. This made for interesting chewing.
A better trick was to pound it to crumbs and mix with almost as much fat and add in fruit and nuts. This made pemmican and kept quite satisfactorily. With a few greens the nutrition was good too.
Another option was to salt the meat. With a lot of salt. That meant spending time at the sea shore drying water to claim the salt. Inland there were natural salt outcroppings, as well.
A third possibility involved stewing the meat in its own juice and storing it in skin bags well coated, particularly at the seams, with fat. With a layer of fat at the top to complete the seal, damaging air was kept out. Salt was still useful, but a lot less.
But one sees that the real problem is fire. Fire is not readily portable. Alchemists might acclaim it a near universal solvent if they looked in it's direction.
Our intrepid neolithic chemists were discovering the relationship of air (oxygen) and both animal meat and fire. Too much destroyed. Only a little preserved. (For more on cooking with fire see A Proper Fire.)
The major hurdle was starting a fire. Take away the fuel or let it be consumed and the fire would stop. To keep one going meant almost constant attention. How did you either preserve or start a fire while on the move? How did you start the fires at home if every fire in the village was out? Rubbing sticks together? Flint and steel? Oops -- no steel for a long time yet. How about stone on stone? (Ever try these boy scout tricks? They are not easy. They are not easy even if you have the 'modern' wherewithal of the eighteenth century. See Flint and Steel and Flint and Steel Fire Lighting Tips for an authoritative discussion of the problems and solution.)
These hunter-gatherer daily dilemmas were transmuted with settlement and adoption of a grain based diet. Villages soon developed the rudimentary concepts of Vestal Virgins to tend the flame that acted as the central repository for all home fires.
Meat could be eaten raw. Grain must be cooked to provide any nutrition for humans at all. So fire became a near neighbor. Moving in with fire was not done by any with a survival instinct. But a fire in the yard was acceptable. A large, smooth rock could make a griddle to fry some flour and water paste to make crackers, or matzos.
Here I am at a major subject branch. Let us leave the natural history of wild yeast for another post, and attempt to resume the present topic. You hadn't noticed there was one? Pay closer attention then. Strewth.
The major innovation at this point was the enclosure of fire within a stone or brick shell which concentrated the heat. The result was usually a beehive oven in the yard. With variations, as in Sumer about 2900 BCE:
Bread (Sumerian, ninda; Akkadian, akalu) must have been made, at least in some cases, from leavened dough. There are no direct descriptions, but allusions to its bulky size and to leaving the dough overnight to rest seem to be indications of fermentation. One may assume, however, that in most cases the bread was made from unleavened dough shaped into flat, round loaves, similar to the present-day Near Eastern khubuz. This bread was baked in a peculiar, ubiquitous type of oven called an öurin (Sumerian) or tinûru (Akkadian). It was a clay implement of cylindrical shape, tapering to a conical form in its upper part and with a side opening at its base. The whole was between 3 and 4 feet high. Once the oven was sufficiently heated, the flat, unleavened loaves were plastered to the side for baking. Salaries of the workers were often paid in bread. Roasted barley was sold in the streets and at the marketplace.
In the middle East there wasn't much push to bring the oven inside. On the wind swept loess of ancient China it was more interesting to have the heat inside the house. Particularly in winter when the well to do built ovens under the sleeping platform , called a 'kang', which made Morpheus so cozy.

Ancient Chinese earthenware tomb model of a stove, from the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 - 220 AD), Freer Gallery of Art.
Already from the Chinese Qin Dynasty (221 BC206/207 BC), clay stoves that enclosed the fire completely are known, and a similar design known as kamado (かまど) appeared in the Kofun period (3rd6th century) in Japan. These stoves were fired by wood or charcoal through a hole in the front. In both designs, pots were placed over or hung into holes at the top of the knee-high construction. Raised kamados were developed in Japan during the Edo period (16031867).
So here is the stove: a box in the room which contains fire and surfaces or compartments which may be cooked in or on.
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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fables of Fallacies

Elaine, my botanist friend, sends me a NYT article by M. P. Dunleavey (author of “Money Can Buy Happiness”, Broadway Books, 2007) and a query:

Do you or don't you agree with this one? Note that there are two conclusions, those of the study (be a grasshopper) and what to do if you're a grasshopper through and through. hmm.
The article begins:
REMEMBER the fable about the ant and the grasshopper? The ant works hard all summer, socking away provisions for the winter; the grasshopper frolics away each day. The ant warns the grasshopper that he’s being hedonistic and short-sighted. The grasshopper ignores the ant, and continues on his merry way — only to perish when winter sets in.
It then describes two studies. The first compared 200 adults who had chosen to live a life of "voluntary simplicity" to 200 adults who were matched in most particulars except this inclination to an ascetic life. Their conclusion was that the non-consumers were "much happier and more satisfied with their lives." hence it is better to forsake lucre and embrace a life of material denial.

The article does not mention the definitions of these terms, nor how they were determined.

Christopher K. Hsee, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business...points out that when people use their purchases as a semaphore of status, there is “no natural stopping point;” there will always be a bigger house, a fancier car, a more expensive watch to go after.

Pondering the study, the observation, and "her own grasshopper nature" Dunleavey opines that: "Working hard and being practical are ideal skills to have in life, but if those aren’t your bag, investing in a happier way of life may offer the same financial dividend."

This fable has long intrigued me. I am a thorough going grasshopper (non- kung-fu type) who has never understood the appeal -- or mastered the knack -- of the tidy ant's life.

Since I have been meaning to write about this for some time -- this is Elaine's answer.

First let us consider the metaphors implied by this tale.

Search Google for "ant + social organization" and the first listing is for an article on Info Please. This informs us:

Colonies range in size from a few dozen to half a million or more individuals. Typically they include three castes: winged, fertile females, or queens; wingless, infertile females, or workers; and winged males. Those ordinarily seen are workers. In some colonies ants of the worker type may become soldiers or members of other specialized castes.
To my mind appears the Old Kingdom of Egypt with its few Pharaohs, priests and nobles at the top of a huge mass of peasants and slaves. The latter were virtually identical in the tenor of their lives.The article further describes:
Whenever a generation of queens and males matures it leaves on a mating flight; shortly afterward the males die, and each fecundated queen returns to earth to establish a new colony. The queen then bites off or scrapes off her wings, excavates a chamber, and proceeds to lay eggs for the rest of her life (up to 15 years), fertilizing most of them with stored sperm.
This solidifies the image of a power struggle in the executive suite of a major corporation. The board members and the senior executives dance intricate patterns of intrigue until the denouement. The contenders not selected go elsewhere -- dead to the company -- while the new CEO enters the corner office to live a life beyond workaholicism, expending his substance gained in all those adumbrative years in waiting among the lower ranks until he is spent.

A Google search on "grasshopper + social organization" yields no articles about the social organization of grasshoppers on the first page. Most hits refer to the Grasshopper Pueblo. The one University of Zürich reference tantalizes, but disappoints with its discussion of bats. Apparently the social organization of grasshoppers is of little interest to the world. Perhaps this is because the grasshopper is as solitary, feckless, anarchistic and irresponsible as painted.

But I can't accept this as the end of the inquiry. Both metaphors are too bleak -- too monochromatic -- to match the real, full light spectrum world.

To the extent I can claim any science training at all it had to do with ecology which (along with film making, peace, and folk music) achieved a brief notoriety as my generation passed through college before the discipline was co-opted into its present political form as environmentalism (the "-ism" is always a tipoff that science was left behind). The difference? Ecology is the study of natural systems. Environmentalism is a movement to achieve a political judgment of the desirable components of an eco-system. e.g.: We want more butterflies and fewer house flies.

So, let us consider the ecology of ant and grasshopper. By dint of their adaptation to a draconian master/slave society, ants fill a certain niche which allows them to store food for the winter. They have more than enough food for their basic needs, and they live longer than a year (7 to 15 years), so that storing of some of the surplus is required. They are hard working. They are industrious. And for all any of us knows their life may contain wonders, joys and sorrows we cannot apprehend.

Grasshoppers are geared to a much shorter life span, one that accords with the food supply offered by the niche they occupy. Their strategy to survive winter is for their eggs to go dormant in the cold ground until Spring's sun warms the soil enough to grow the green plants that are the grasshopper's diet.

Both creature's are 'hard working'. Both are accorded good times and bad.

Now turn to the 'ecology', if you will, of the metaphors.

The 'ant' works hard in a large organization which commands sufficient resources to care for each of its members most of the time. Disasters do happen.

The 'grasshopper' works hard on his own account and commands sufficient resources to care for himself most of the time. Disasters do happen.

Factory workers, office workers, miners moiling underground, lumbermen in the forests, university professors, soldiers and sailors are all busy being 'ant'-like members of highly organized outfits that seek to transmute effort into sustenance.

Artists, writers, farmers, actors, fishermen, inventors, and such like are all busy being 'grasshopper'-like solitary producers of their own sustenance.

But Nature is never less than prodigal even in times of dearth. So there is a surplus left over. For the ant it may be more food than the colony can use. For the grasshopper it may be the joyful noise of its chirrups and the liveliness of its hops as it tries to attract a mate. Be it tangible or impalpable, there is more then needed most of the time.

I think now we arrive at the nubbin that annoys about this fable. It is Thomas' fallacy: not to believe what cannot be touched.

All honor to those who struggle in stressful circumstances to bring home the money that buys the food and clothes the kids. But honor, as well, to those whose necessary labor to keep the home and feed its members is not acknowledged by a wage.

All glory to the Captain whose foresight and skills brought the company through. She earned her bonus. But also glory to the composer of the ditty the troops whistled to keep their spirits up though none knew the name.

We live in a closed system in which all may be useful and all are worthy of a life -- if we choose to make it so. Only by denial of our interrelationship can we justify our failure to provide each for the other to ensure that all have enough. Only by insisting that nothing has value that is not bought with cash can we force the other into poverty after they have given their all, whether noticed or not.

Do not ask an 'ant' to do the tasks of a 'grasshopper'. Do not scant a 'grasshopper' because he cannot be an 'ant'. Both increase the richness of the other.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mint Sauce

The garden's mint is taking over the neighboring town. They do not approve. Horror movies -- The Mint That Ate Burlington -- are for silver screens, not life in Pleasantville. So I pulled a dozen stalks up by their rhizomes. From this I plucked a cup and a half (or so) of prime leaves, washed them and chopped them fine.

In a suitable pot I set a quart of mild rice vinegar to heat. When it was just smiling -- 1900f. or so -- I added 2 cups of sugar and stirred. The resident taste tester rejected that mix, so I added a third cup to the brew. This was approved.

When the sugar was completely dissolved I added the mint leaves and let them steep. After twenty minutes or so it was ready to bottle. I used a couple of 750ml Malt bottles with nice cork tops. These live in the refrigerator, though there is so much acid they probably don't need to, to await the next dish of lamb the cook sallies forth.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

It is Too Larff!

Digby at Hullabaloo quotes Dennis Hartly on the Seattle Film Festival:

(Apparently, the French adore “comedies” steeped in discomfiture.)

Mais oui, mais amies, don't you?

Prat fall. Slap Stick. Juxtaposition.

What is comedy if not discomfiture?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Why I Stopped Reading the Economist

Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the former chief of staff to Dick Cheney, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for perjury and for obstructing an investigation into the naming of a CIA officer, whose husband had criticised the administration over Iraq. Mr Libby was convicted in March, but some conservative pundits and politicians are asking George Bush to use his powers to pardon him because, they say, he is just a scapegoat.

William Jefferson, a Democratic congressman from New Orleans, was indicted by federal authorities on 16 charges for allegedly accepting bribes. He resigned from his seat on the House of Representatives' small-business committee, but Republicans said the Democrats were moving too slowly to eject him from Congress.

A convicted Republican should be pardoned.
An indicted Democrat should be punished.
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Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Stove, or Cooker, or Range I

About ten to twelve thousand years ago the first major act of piracy occurred among the human species: The invention of agriculture.

Prior to that time we lived in small groups, no more than 50 individuals of mixed generations, by hunting and gathering.
The Wikipedia article on "Hunter-gatherer" describes one attendee's contribution to the 1966 "Man the Hunter" conference thusly:
Marshall Sahlins presented a paper entitled, "Notes on the Original Affluent Society," in which he challenged the popular view of hunter-gatherers living lives "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short," as Thomas Hobbes had put it in 1651. According to Sahlins, ethnographic data indicated that hunter-gatherers worked far fewer hours and enjoyed more leisure than typical members of industrial society, and they still ate well. Their "affluence" came from the idea that they are satisfied with very little in the material sense. This, he said, constituted a Zen economy.
Hunter-gathering requires a certain skill set which includes stone sculpture, zoology, physics, geometry and botany. It also requires a certain range: an area which provides sufficient plants and animals to feed the group. Equality is a requisite for the teamwork needed to compensate for the survival skills of the prey, and outwit the competition (lions, tigers and bears, et al.) It also enforces an economic outlook which confines the concept of property to that which one makes, and can carry. The notion of owning land is dismissed as the patent absurdity it is; a complete mismatch of time scales.
This way of life is no idyll. It takes knowledge and skills absent in most of us today. It is not an overly generous life style. So the weak and sickly do not last. And the total number of people per acre is so scant as to be risible in our age of the world. OTOH crowding might mean no more than another group barely in sight after a day's walk. Compare this life to a career working a blast furnace and it comes out on top for ease, pleasure and longevity. If you survived the first several years of life, when nature was most assiduous in pruning, you could look forward to most of your three score and ten -- barring accidents. I submit that a blast furnace is far more likely to provide some than a savanna or wood.
Few groups were so blessed (cursed?) as to find one range generous enough to permit settling. One such region was my own, the Pacific North West of North America in which a temperate climate combined with fertile forests by an ocean embayed, with many islands, to provide ample provender the year 'round. To illustrate the point the coastal trading language. contained a word which meant "He went East over the mountains to live on the desert." There was also a word that meant "He went crazy." It was the same word.

After settling a curious result followed: equality gave way to hierarchy. Loose notions of property tightened until acquisition became more important that use. This was viewed with spiritual alarm. The Potlatch, in which the point of the party was to gift the attendees with all one's possessions, freed one's spirit to re-experience the purity of the nomadic hunter-gatherer. This state was fleeting. It was never long before a neighbor felt the need for a spiritual cleansing and issued his invitations. It was a carousel of aggressive generosity.

One such experience may have corrupted a farmer into the first great Pirate. Some how he acquired enough means to support a modest crew of bully boy ruffian-wannabes. These he grandly called his "Army". He spent a fair effort talking up 'the present danger' which he assured everyone his army would protect them from. Of course he wouldn't object to a little help. Donations of food were useful. Of course it would make the army's job easier if everybody stayed put.
See we could pile rocks and mud up to make barriers -- call them 'walls -- we can all hide behind them if another army comes by looking for trouble. Or we can go out looking for trouble. Won't that be fun? Of course, we'd need a bigger army, which would need more food, which means we have to do something about finding new things to eat. How about that grass? Isn't it great? Good exercise for the teeth and jaws! Slimming, too. That's quite a roll of antelope fat you have there. Well, don't get tetchy! Of course you can live on grain. Lets see, maybe if we smash it up with these stones it won't take so long to chew. I soak mine in water. Overnight usually. (It tastes funny if you leave it more than a week. Kinda fun, though.) Well, try heating it up. With a hot rock of course. Just drop it in 'til it boils. Ya'know, it smokes and bubbles. No, it's not magic; I don't think; is it magic? Fiddlesticks (whatever they are) the rock is hot, you touch, you get hot. Same-same. The water and grain gets hot. No magic.
Down the road a bit was another tribe making a go of it. they had a mess of pretty crystals they'd bring to batter with. Some times a blue stone was worth a basket of grain and sometimes it took two.Other times they was that pinched they'd give two for a half basket.
Then the First Act of Piracy was committed. The Boss Man's nephew, the one who went around explaining the rules, called out a proclamation. Henceforth the Boss Man was King. That meant he owned everything as far as he could see. That's why you paid taxes, so's he wouldn't off you for ingratitude.
It was the first use of the concept: "Stand and deliver!"
Before one knew where the old time religion had gone the pirate chief was strutting around with a copper band around his head to keep his mighty brains contained. The army Bristled around him making everybody bow to him and call him "King". His brother was very prompt to point out all the ways the King was perfect in God's sight while almost everyone else -- especially the one's who didn't tithe to the King's Brother's Church -- stank to God, His Holy Nostrils, and generally Pissed Him Off -- which would account for why everybody's life was such a misery.

The new food supply, besides being indigestible, took a lot more work than hunter-gathering. The first weeds were discovered and the long battle with crabgrass and dandelions among the wheat stalks began. If it wasn't for all the new possessions -- split level hovels and such -- the young folk would take off into tho veldt. If it wasn't for all the new possessions and upholding the family's honor.
With the new hierarchy of King, Priest and Army came artisans and craftsman who made the specialized tools of fawning, worshiping, arming and farming. At bottom were the peasants doing the plowing, the seeding, the tilling, the weeding, the guarding, the mending, the gathering, the threshing, the gleaning, the rendering (of tithes and rents and bills), the storing and the manuring.
The women, when not required to work in the fields, got to tend the household chores. The kitchen garden plot. The gathering of herbs and fruits and nuts. The cooking of meals. The weaving of the baskets tight enough to hold water to boil the grain they ground into a porridge, thin or thick, or gruel depending on the state of the larder which they had to maintain and keep vermin free.
Of course a basket is not exactly indestructible. Hell it's not even all that durable. So, with a splendid burst of creativity, pottery sprang upon an expectant world.
But this is all back story.
to be continued...
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