Monday, August 1, 2011

More Odds and Ends

I've said it before and I'll say it again: my neighbors are wonderful.

They watered my plants while I was away, even in 100 degree heat. They have therefore earned their respective crowns in heaven, in my opinion.

My garden, as a result, is a wonderful jungle. Even my neighbor commented, "I've never seen plum tomato plants grow so tall!"

Monsanto be damned!

And here are my beautiful begonias: 

All together now, everyone... OOOOOOhhhh....pretty....

Symbolically, begonias mean "beware!"  Not sure how they're getting that, but maybe the jagged little petals look threatening to the easily intimidated.

And for those of you who just can't get enough, here are my nasturtiums:

 
"Nasturtium" means "nose-tweaker."  It's associated with victory in battle or conquest.

Take that!!!

I have too much fun on this darn blog, I really do.

I'm reading a collection of essays by Robert Sapolsky called The Trouble with Testosterone.

I know what you're thinking: "I already know what the trouble with testosterone is," but this is actually a really interesting collection of essays.

I'm a fan of Sapolsky's research and his writing: his book, Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers is an interesting discussion of the physiological and psychological impact of stress and another collection of his essays, Monkeyluv, is also quite good.

I always learn something new when I read Sapolsky's work.  For instance, did you know that, in the mid-nineteenth century, firing squads typically consisted of one man who actually fired a blank, not a real bullet?

I totally did not know this.

The person firing never knew whether he had the real bullet or the blank and as a result, "Each man could go home that night with the certainty that he could never be accused, for sure, of having played a role in the killing" ("Measures of Life, pg. 66).

Apparently, the 20% chance that, as a member of a five-man firing squad, you might not have actually shot your victim at all, was enough to assuage a conscience that might otherwise be distraught at acknowledging the 80% chance that you had.

Sapolsky also comments on the fact that voyeurism and gossip operate in the primate world much as they do in the human one.  In "Primate Peekaboo," he describes an adolescent male baboon who discovers the opposite sex.

"Absalom" isn't having any luck gettin' any, though, so he takes to watchin' and, we presume, hopin'.  "Any sexual consortship in the troop, and he would be lurking around in the bushes nearby, trying to catch sight of the good stuff, craning for a view of the action, holding his tail throughout" (39).

At one point, having crawled out onto a branch to observe a pair of baboons engaged in the primate-equivalent of foreplay,  Absalom suffers the ultimate in voyeuristic indignity: the branch breaks under his weight and he crashes down on top of the amorous couple.

Oops.  No way to make that look like an accident.

In more serious reading, I'm working on Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns.  Wilkerson follows the stories of three African-Americans who participate in what has been called "The Great Migration"--the mass exodus of African-Americans from the South to cities in the North and West from 1915-1970.

It's a beautifully written book, and extremely interesting.  I'm only a little ways into it, so... more later.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "Life is short, but there is always time for courtesy."