Another Mystery -- Cuban Orange, Sour Orange



There is a citrus tree growing in the yard at the office. The fruits are oranges, but very weird oranges -- they never get orange. They stay green and when over-ripe turn brown, with a very brittle skin. When they are ripe, the skin is hard and thick but not dried brittle when you leave them too long on the tree.

I was perplexed by these things. We had a crop of them in December, and now we have a new bunch. All of the fruit disappeared after the Haitian house painters went through the yard. I actually peeled and ate one. The fruit was seedy and kind of dry, but it had more pucker power than sour candy sucked through a straw. The aftertaste of citrus acid lingered for a long time. It was an acquired taste, and I could see myself eating more, but the painters beat me to it.

When the new crop appeared on the tree, I eagerly picked one. It was green, or should I say unripe, and tough to peel. I had to use my teeth to crack the peel, and the spurt of acid caused a coughing jag that wouldn't quit and my eyes were burning. When unripe it is both a chemical and lethal weapon. The acid actually burned my mouth.

I tried to Google this variety of citrus but was unsuccessful. The woman who knew the history of this place came by and told me that the tree was once a sweet orange tree grafted onto a sour or Cuban orange root. Eventually the sweet orange graft died after many many years, and a new shoot appeared out of the root, reverting back to sour or Cuban oranges. It is perhaps fitting that the Cuban orange is a sour one.

The Office Bird

This the a bird that lives on the grounds of my office. It is here every day. It hangs around the flower beds and "stalks" things. I am not sure if it is stalking bugs or the little lizards, or ants or termites or whatever.

It is quite tame, but when you do scare it off, it flies like a dinousaur, and it makes a raspy "GROK" noise when disturbed.

I have looked at bird lists and pictures. I have gone through Birds of the Caribbean, birds of Florida, etc, and I haven't come across a similar pic. For now, I call it the Office Bird.

The TommyKnockers

The TommyKnockers are here in paradise. The Urban dictionary defines TommyKnockers as miners who have been trapped in cave-ins and pound on the rocks for rescue. It is believed that the ghosts of these miners go on knocking in the mine shafts long after the victims have died. The horror novelist Stephen King took the concept a step further. TommyKnockers were aliens trapped in the earth, and could be heard tapping by going into the old mine.

The TommyKnockers that we have are aliens as well, but not from another planet. They live in our dining room table. The Lovely One and I sat down one night last week, and we both felt tickling on our arms. We were eating a wonderful candlelit dinner at our dining room table, have a nice conversation when it started. First it was me. I started scratching my arm because of a tickle, and eventually so did the Lovely One. The problem grew by leaps and bounds. I turned on the chandelier and we were horrified to discover tiny little beetles scurrying over the table. And horror of horrors, among closer examination, the table was pitted with holes where the little buggers emerged. See the above close-ups in the pic. In an ironic twist, the dining room table was dinner for these pests.

We grabbed our plates, and finished the meal at the coffee table. I Googled 'bugs that eat furniture' and found out that the TommyKnockers were in fact Powderpost beetles.
I quote from a website: Powderpost beetles are so called because in high numbers they are able to turn the inside of a piece of wood into nothing more than a mass of fine powder. These wood destroying beetles are small (1/8 inch) and the adult beetles are seldom seen. Most of the life cycle is spent in the grub or larvae stage eating wood. Damage is done by the larvae as they create narrow, meandering tunnels in wood as they feed. This stage can last between 1-10 years.

People do not realize that the wood is infested until the adult beetles emerge from within the wood. Newly emerged adults mate and lay eggs on or below the surface of the wood. The eggs hatch into tiny larvae which bore into the wood, emerging as adults 1-10 years later. The adults are short-lived and are active mainly at night.

What a bummer -- literally having the furniture disappear from inside out. At least we are thankful that we don't have the deathwatch beetles. They are another species of wood borers in furniture that you can actually hear tapping -- real TommyKnockers. The males tap to attract mates. They get their name because their tapping was heard when folks would gather silently for a deathwatch.

In a way, there was a deathwatch here. The little buggers all died when the Lovely One wreaked her vengeance on them with a massive flood of Clorox bleach. In 10 years the newly hatched TommyKnockers will reminisce about the chlorine flood attacks of the old days.

Kiteboarding

I have found my new passion. We were taking our visitor around the island on a rainy rainy Sunday and I came across the ultimate in exciting -- kiteboarding. It is essentially a small surfboard with footstraps, and a harness that ties you to a kite. The kite is inflated with air struts to keep it open. You catch the wind, and zoom around the waves in an exhilerating ride. If you play it right, you can get airborn for quite a stretch. I saw the kiters reach twenty five feet above the waves.

I met a private banker named Mateo who introduced me to the sport. I watched them traverse the waves at will. Mateo moved to this tropical island from the Isle of Guernsey, which is also an offshore bank haven, but much colder than here.

Essentially, kiteboarding is easier to do than windsurfing, and much more exciting. The rig costs about $1,000, but used ones are freely available. Lessons are recommended, and I am trying to contact the instructor. I wanna fly.

There is only one wind condition where you cannot kiteboard -- that is when the wind is coming from the land. There is a chance that you may never be seen again. There is an emergency system to ditch the kite, but it costs $1,000 in the kite every time you pull the ripcord to cut the lines. I would rather take the trip and see where I end up.

Message for Beebok


One of the big negatives of moving to a tropical paradise, is that you have to leave people that you love behind in the cold north land. Today there is no profound cosmological cabbage, but rather a message to Beebok who couldn't come to this paradise, but is finding her promised land in far away climes. This is for you, with very much love.

The Mathematics of Co-inkydink


The buses, or jitneys as they are called on this island paradise, are in a chaotic state. They are individually owned, driven by proxy drivers, based on an inexact cash system with bus stops that are ignored, and are driven in a free-for-all on the narrow streets of the island. With all of this chaos, you would think that there would be a pretty even distribution of when buses arrive at a certain spot.

And yet, it always turns out the same -- they arrive in three's at any given place. And ironically, this is also true of the buses that ran a regular route in the big city up north with precise schedules, and rigorously enforced bus stops. That got me to thinking about coincidence and the Mathematics of Coincidences. This was especially true after I met Bob again.

I was walking at the end of 'my' beach with fishing rod in hand to get some supper from the ocean. A man beckoned me over to the tidal pool, to look at a shark. It was a small dogfish shark stranded in the tidal pool. As we got talking we both discovered that we went to the same high school together. It was Bob. He was a couple of years older than me, but I remembered him well, and actually have an old picture of him that I took during those halcyon years. We were now both working in this island paradise. Now that is a coincidence. Of the small number of people on this island, and the small number of people that attended this small, private high school, and all of possibilities of ending up anywhere, what are the chances of the two of us meeting up here. One in a million?

If you ask anyone what a coincidence is, they will say that it is a one-in-a-million event. Littlewood (1953) considered an event which occurs one in a million times to be "surprising." Taking this definition, close to 100000 surprising events are "expected" each year in the United States alone and, in the world at large, "we can be absolutely sure that we will see incredibly remarkable events" (Diaconis and Mosteller 1989).

A coincidence is a surprising concurrence of events, perceived as meaningfully related, with no apparent causal connection (Diaconis and Mosteller 1989). Given a large number of events, extremely unlikely coincidences are possible--and perhaps even common. To quote Sherlock Holmes from "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," "Amid the action and reaction of so dense a swarm of humanity, every possible combination of events may be expected to take place, and many a little problem will be presented which may be striking and bizarre..." (Conan Doyle 1892, p. 245). The two above paragraphs were taken from Mathworld.Wolfram.com.

So rather than coincidences being just something to look at and amuse yourself with -- like a turtle with two heads, we put the mathematics of coincidence to good use. You can easily use it to make a million buck. Here's how.

Start a stock market prediction newsletter. Send out 64,000 newsletters saying how good your computerized prediction system is, and how good your analysis tools are. In 32,000 of the newsletters, predict a rise in the stock market. In the other 32,000, predict a decline. Whatever happens a month later, send a follow-up, but only to the half to whom that you sent a correct prediction. To 16,000 of those, send another newsletter predicting a rise, and to the rest predict a decline.

Whatever happens, you now have the situation where you now have 16,000 people who have received a correct prediction from you. You keep doing this. Eventually you wind up with a thousand people who have received six miraculous predictions in a row. For those people to get the next "amazingly accurate and never wrong" newsletter, they have to pay $1,000 a year subscription, which is a million bucks in your pocket.

I would put this into effect right away, however there is one thing stopping me. I am sure that with my luck, I would have two or three months of coincidences where the stock market essentially remained flat and didn't move at all. I don't care what the mathematical odds of that happening is, but for me it would be a foregone conclusion.

Ch- ch- Changes - Corporeal Mechanics of Psychology


The above picture metaphorically outlines everything about this tropical paradise. Out in front of the pack is a slow horse drawn carriage. You have a taxi veering off. Another waits. In the background, you have a cruise ship disgorging thousands of passengers in one shot, with really no place to go except a small downtown core offering luxury goods, fake luxury goods, and cheap souvenirs made in China.

How does that relate metaphorically to the tropical paradise? Well the slow horse drawn carriage that leaves crap all over, is the government. It is hogging the narrow street, which is the only way to get from A to B. The taxi veering off is trying to do an end run around the government. The taxi that waits is waiting and hasn't decided whether to do an end run around, or just simply wait. And the gaggle of cruise ship disgorgees, redolent with the fumes of sweat, cheap perfume, illicit Cuban cigars and diesel fumes from the ship, do not give a hoot about what goes on in the streets.

So what provoked today's musings? The Central Bank refused our business licence for another venture, because we had the word "Payment" in the name, and we do not have a banking license. We were not applying to be a bank. We own a money transfer company headquartered in the Cayman Islands, and we have licenses for that from the Central Bank, but that is only peripherally related to our core business. We are developing a payment system by cell phone and I am the technical architect of that system. We are buying a Swiss offshore bank, but that is a different story for a different day.

The trouble with this tropical paradise, is that the government over-regulates things that it shouldn't and ignores areas that it should. I have never met a cadre of government and business officials who are so resistant to change.

Scientists tell us that change causes us to use our pre-frontal cortex in our brains rather than the auto-pilot features that we are used to using for routine in the basal ganglia. And that is unpleasant for us. Heavens to Murgatroyd, we are forced to use our brains instead of cruising through without thinking. There is a wonderful phrase to describe all of this. It is called the corporeal mechanics of psychology.

But the problem in this island paradise is deeper than slackness in the Corporeal Mechanics of Pyschology. The whole culture is developmentally resistant. This place is classed as a third world country. It is in the Western Hemisphere, and yet it is backward. Why?

The savant who researched this is Lawrence E. Harrison. He is an academic that writes about culture and development. In his research on how culture influences economic / political progress, he found that there are generally two types of cultures: development-prone and development-resistant for which there are four broad determinants:
1) Degree of identification with others in society – radius of trust or sense of community
2) Rigor of the ethical system
3) Attitudes about work, innovation, saving and profit
4) The way authority is exercised within the society.

The people of this island paradise trust no one. That is because they have been exploited over and over again. And the rigors of the ethical system are non-existent. Politicians who have admitted to wrongdoing are re-elected. There is a very poor work ethic, the population by and large is poor, and authority is exercised by who you know, rather than by a codified law. I have gotten through petty immigration hassles many a time without being checked, by saying that I worked for the Prime Minister (I was actually consulting to his office, but it worked).

I was recently talking to a board member of our company, who is a very prominent person in this country. I was waxing eloquent on how the technology of our company would change society. I told him that society would be changed for the better and I could see a day, when the country as a whole would mature, and eliminate pettiness, gossip, turf battles, politics, back-biting slackness, inefficiency and corruption.

His only comment was "Well, there goes four hundred years of culture."

Everybody Has Their Day


The pic is of Brenda. She is one of the disenfranchised. Today is her day. Her story is a lesson for me, because no matter how down and out you are, no matter how low a station in life one holds, there is beauty and strength in dignity. And she deserves recognition even though it is in a medium (the internet) of which she does not know exists, and if she does, she has no means of accessing.

The Lovely One is quite a photographer. I presented her with an SLR digital camera before we came out to this island paradise. She is constructing an incredible portfolio. On her way to my office one day, The Lovely One came across Brenda by the quayside. She asked Brenda what she was doing. Brenda said that she was cleaning her broom.

Brenda has no teeth in her mouth. It is obvious that she has impaired mental skills. It is also obvious that she was once a beautiful woman. The Lovely One asked Brenda if she could take her picture. Brenda immediately struck a variety of poses and The Lovely One snapped away. To me, this is the best pose. It is a mix of sassy, sensual and yet vaguely disturbing.

The Lovely One promised Brenda that she would return with the picture. As she was leaving, another woman nearby called Brenda's name. The Lovely One asked her if she knew her. The woman replied that she was a lifelong friend of Brenda's and they went to school together as children. Brenda fell into a bad relationship and drug abuse. Prior to that, she was beautiful, her mind was sharp, and she was a force to be reckoned with. Today she was a wreck. The woman lamented that she was unable to stop Brenda's slide into oblivion.

After two days of profiling celebrities, I thought that I would give due to the other end of the spectrum. As physicist Richard Feynman was wont to say, there is plenty of room at the bottom, and no one pays attention to the bottom of the barrel until you get to it.

It is fitting that I mentioned Richard Feynman, because he won the Nobel Prize for the theory that in which every possible path from one state to the next is considered, the final path is a sum over the possibilities, also referred to as Sum-over-paths or Sum over histories. Brenda's life path had all of the possibilities from movie star to the disenfranchised, and a combination of factors including luck, choices and virtually anything and everything brought her to this state. It could have gone the other way. Brenda, this day is for you.

The Science of Beautiful -- A DNA Lottery



After caddying for Boris Kodjoe last weekend, I got to thinking about how he was introduced to the crowd. The announcer said that Boris was "a male super model, a star of the small screen and the large screen", and his online bio of course says that he is one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world. And on top of it all, he has just raised a $100 million dollars to launch his line of clothing. So if you take away his height, his good looks, his six pack abs, his toned body, and his money, what do you have? Well, actually you have me! But I do have the autographed caddy bib that I wore and he signed it for me.

I decided to see if anyone had researched the science of beauty,and sure enough,it had been researched, ironically in Boris' homeland, the University of Regensburg in Germany. What they did, was to show people a series of photos and to categorize the photos as attractive or unattractive.

Then taking the attractive photos, they used morphing software to make a 'super attractive and sexy' male face and an unattractive face. You can see the results in the photo above. Boris is obviously the dude without the shirt.

The study of the University of Regensburg came up with the following list of what makes a man attractive.

Characteristics of the male "Sexy face" in the comparison to the "unsexy face":
  • Browner skin

  • Narrower facial shape

  • Less fat

  • Fuller and more symmetrical lips

  • Darker eye brows

  • More and darker lashes

  • Upper half of the face broader in relation to the lower

  • Higher cheek bones

  • Prominent lower jaw

  • More prominent chin

  • No receding brows

  • Thinner lids

  • No wrinkles between nose and corner of the mouth


This list is apparently the list of everything that I don't have. For you women out there, this list is what does it for you:


Characteristic features of the female "sexy face" in comparison to the "unsexy face":


  • Suntanned skin

  • Narrower facial shape

  • Less fat

  • Fuller lips

  • Slightly bigger distance of eyes

  • Darker, narrower eye brows

  • More, longer and darker lashes

  • Higher cheek bones

  • Narrower nose

  • No eye rings

  • Thinner lids


Now that we have the science down pat, I've come to the conclusion that there is little that I can do, unless I want to end up looking like Michael Jackson. The ironic part is that Boris Kodjoe, as an actor, has starred in Nip/Tuck, the plastic surgery drama. I would need something more industrial strength than Nip/Tuck, more like Snip/Truck.

If inquiring minds have to know, Boris Kodjoe is a good golfer, and a real nice guy. He is a bit hard to get to know and I really didn't break the ice with him until the second day. And he is a generous tipper. He speaks highly of his wife. And he doesn't have a roving eye. He was adjusting his shirt tail and undid his shorts in front of a female staffer. She remarked that Boris made her day. It didn't faze him at all.


However, I have seen something of Boris Kodjoe's anatomy that most people, including his wife have never seen. He is 6'3" tall, and I have seen the top of his head. When he squatted down to read the putts, I stood directly over him. It's getting quite thin up there. I have a full head of hair. Unfortunately for me, women consider a balding man sexy as well. Some people just cannot win the DNA lottery.

Me and The Kid



The celebrity Pro-Am golf tournament took place in our back yard, so to speak. I have never personally seen so many celebrities in one place. The one that stands out is Kid Rock.

Once again, the Lovely One, who does not follow American Pop Culture, did not know who Kid Rock was. However when I played the song "Picture" with Cheryl Crow, she knew of the song. In an earlier episode, when I sat beside Shakira on a flight, The Lovely One had never heard of Shakira either.

Kid Rock endeared himself to me. Essentially the man has no impulse control. He played golf in his bare feet. When for a few brief moments, he was on the leader board, he staged a "Jumping off the leaderboard photo opportunity" with his entourage, to prove that he was good enough to be on the leaderboard in the first place. He smoked a stogie throughout the whole affair -- from the smell of it, it was a good cuban cigar. His name on the celebrity placard read "Kid Skank". He modified it himself.

He asked me to caddy for him for the purely celebrity part of the tournament. I gladly acquiesced. I was going to buy a Kid Rock straw hat, and caddy for him barefoot. He told me that all he wanted to use, was a #5 wood, and a putter. I was to fill the rest of the golf bag with Jim Beam.

Of course there was one proviso to me caddying for him. If he didn't have a bedtime on Friday, he would not show up on Saturday. He was a night person.

I showed up the golf course early. There was no Kid Rock. Apparently he was at a nightclub till it closed at dawn. I instead caddied for Boris Kodjoe, who was named one of the "50 Most Beautiful People in the World" by People Magazine in 2002. He is a fairly good looking man, but as for beautiful people, I think that the Lovely One has him beat hands down.

Undertow



Blumont Capital is a hedge fund operator based out of Toronto. Shelburne GC is a golf course north of Toronto Canada in Shelburne Ontario. S&C is an electrical company based in Chicago Illinois. Showtime is a pay per view cable channel based in the USA. What do they all have in common? Executives of those companies are all crappy golfers, and their lost golf balls almost killed me yesterday.

The celebrity Pro-Am golf course in literally in our back yard. A couple of holes border the ocean. I snorkel in the reef off the golf course, and I collect the errant balls that go in the ocean.
Yesterday was a strange sort of day. The winds were easterly, and as the tide came in, the waves got big. They were breaking and crashing over the reef. I was snorkelling in that mess. Right between two reefs was the motherlode of golf balls. There were five in one spot on the ocean bottom, rolling back and forth.

The golf balls were in relatively deep water, way over my head, and just about the limit of my ability to get to the bottom and stay there without weights. I made the dive, and holding my breath, I scooped the balls up one by one and tucked them into my bathing suit. Make your own joke about the balls in my bathing suit.

As I ran out of air, I pushed myself to the surface. I hit the back of my head on an overhanging coral shelf. The intense pain ran through me, and the snorkel came out of my mouth. I still was not at the surface. I pushed myself toward the surface, away from the ledge. Unbeknownst to me, there was a wicked undertow between the two reefs.

I popped to the surface, and took huge deep draughts of air. I was beat, so I thought that a few easy strokes would get me to the reef shelf where I could stand. I swam the few strokes and looked down, and I was in the same spot. I did it again, but a little harder. I was in the same spot. I panicked and did a full out swim for the reef. When I couldn't feel it below me, I looked down, and I was further out than before. I then realized that I could be in a spot of trouble.

I relaxed my furious breathing and lay on my back, bobbing in the waves. All was well, until I realized that I was floating out to sea. Panic struck again. However, I forced myself to think. I stuck my hand up, and watched the wave strike it. That gave me an idea of the direction of the wave. Instead of trying to swim with or against the waves, I swam parallel and was relieved to make progress. As I was wondering how far I had to swim, a huge wave knocked me on the reef and I could stand up. I walked up to the beach, shaken and stirred.

There was a huge bump on the top of my head where I hit the coral shelf coming up from the bottom. The irony of it was that I hit my head on a huge outcrop of brain coral.

Sex on the Beach



The above pic is a scene from 'home' in December. That is over four feet of snow. It required shovelling (from the roof) because the roof was straining with the load. Hours were spent shoveling it off the roof.

This got me to thinking of how many hours per winter that people in Northern climes shovel snow. I looked it up, and shoveling snow burns about 640 calories per hour. That's a lot of energy.
As a young man, I read that if you added up all of the energy spent by people having sex, you could go to the moon and back. I looked up the energy used by having sex, and the figure isn't that big. The sex act consumes about 41 calories per 15 minutes.

I really don't know of anyone who has sex longer than 15 minutes, and most people take only a fifth of that, if truth be known. So if the sum of all sex energy gets you to the moon, I'll bet that the sum of all the snow shovelling energy would get you out of the Milky Way Galaxy.

Now, I live in the tropics where folks don't shovel snow. I believe that humans are pretty much the same all over the earth. So with that premise, they must burn the same amount of calories that the northern folks do. But since there is no snow, they must burn the energy by having more sex. At least that is what I tell The Lovely One. When in Rome ...

Bird Racism



A few years ago, Wired Magazine published a feature about designing things with computers programmed with genetic algorithms and how they are useful in the modern world.

The whole idea behind genetic algorithm design is that computers are extremely fast and can generate things quickly. So if you wanted to design something, you would put in some parameters, let the computer generate a random design, test the new design to see if it was any good, and then if it wasn't, mutate some of the parameters randomly and try again. It was like the random mutation of genes in living things. Once it found something a little bit better, it would keep making random changes by mutating parameters, until things got a little better again. You keep running the program for as long as it takes where no more changes for the better take place.

One of the first things that this was tried on, was in the animation field. Some producers had no idea of what the walk or gait of computer generated dinosaurs would ultimately look like. They let the computer make random mutations to a basic animated gait of the dinosaur, and watched each result. When they liked what they saw, they kept the result, and let the computer try to improve upon it. Eventually after many tries, it would make something better.

Another thing that this process was used for was to design the perfect antenna on a satellite that would work when the satellite was spinning, or upside down in relation to the earth, or in any orientation. They programmed in the rules for the antenna and let the computer go nuts. It came up with a Rube Golberg contraption of a nest of wires all joined together at odd angles. The thing worked perfectly, but looked very strange.

There are many things on my to-do list. One of those items, is to generate the perfect tire tread using these principles described above. When I do, I will be able to 're-tire' and live in some tropical paradise. Wait a minute, I'm living in a tropical paradise now!

One could only imagine that Mother Nature uses the genetic algorithm principles as well. Otherwise there is no other explanation for the tropical bird that one sees here (pictured above). It must be a rejected design. The only other possible explanation is that someone with a sense of humor or strung out on acid, designed the bird. And the poor bird is destined by be taunted all of its days by the normal looking birds.

Flamingo Robots



When I first saw the flamingo, the first thing that I thought of was the Neck Bone Soup that my mother used to make. It was a hearty soup filled with neck bones, sauerkraut, and various other groceries bits. It was a lot of work to de-meat the bones, and there wasn't a lot of reward for the effort. However, I suppose that it was an economical meal to make.

The flamingo must have a jillion neck bones. The necks go on forever and ever. There didn't appear to be much meat on them, and considering the diet of the flamingo, they probably wouldn't taste very well either. The flamingo filters little shrimp thingies out of the muck, and it gets it red color from ingesting billions of these tiny red krillie things.
Then I saw flamingos do amazing things with their necks. They were doing stuff that a giraffe couldn't do. The neck can articulate in any direction, fold back on itself, do a corkscrew with a compound bend as well.

I got to thinking that the flamingo neck would make a perfect articulated robot arm. It was amazing, and I made a mental note to myself to someday check out the neck anatomy and the musculature of flamingo neck. Emulating biological systems seems the way to improve robotics, and I will race you to the patent office with this idea.

In spite of the robotics epiphany, I still couldn't dislodge the idea of neck soup and what flamingo would taste like. And it brought to mind the old story of a guy who was caught by a game warden with a whooping crane on a spit over the fire, and he was happily eating the drumstick of the crane. When he was hauled up in front of the judge for killing an endangered species, the judge asked the man to explain himself.

"Your Honor," the man said, "I was lost in the woods, hungry and I needed a meal, so I shot the whooping crane."

The judge replied "Well, since it was a matter of survival, I will dismiss the case. However, I am a bit curious as to what the whooping crane tasted like."

The man replied "A little like a spotted owl!".

To Kill A Mockingbird



Mockingbirds have a unique Darwinian adaptation -- they imitate other birds. They are also adept at dive-bombing feral cats. There is one that visits us regularly to play Russian roulette with his life.

This spunky bird will land on top of the fence and sneak towards the catfood bowl. Immediately all of the cats in the yard go to level RED high alert. The cats freeze and assume the attack position. The mockingbird makes a racket up and down the length of the fence. The cats creep closer for the final denouement of feathers, beaks, claws and a mockingbird feast. Once the cats have been strategically lured away from the bowl, he swoops in, makes a sortie behind enemy lines and emerges with a catfood kibble.

Once, one of the trapped feral cats had the ovoid reproductive bits of his anatomy snipped and the recovery room was a huge dog crate lined with newspapers on our patio. The crate was covered with a sheet, and inside was a wet catfood meal fit for a king. The meal was sort of a "condolence card for losing your balls" type of thing. The feline patient was more interested in freedom rather than cleaning up the bits and bites of catfood, and the mockingbird sensed a repast fit for a king. There were no cats around, so it went into the crate to eat the food.

I was inside with the bedroom window open, and all of a sudden I heard what sounded like a woman screaming bloody murder. It was a high pitched "AAaahhh, aaahhhhh, aaahhhhh" repeated over and over. Apparently a scouting platoon of a couple of roving cats came into the yard and discovered the mockingbird in a cage and were creeping in for the kill. The mockingbird was crying "help", "murder", "rape" and/or anything else that it thought would save it.

As I stood up to look to see what was happening, I momentarily distracted the cats, and the mockingbird escaped. Twenty minutes later, it was running its shell game with the usual crew of feral cats, as if nothing had happened earlier. The cats were still out to kill a mockingbird. Evidentally, they haven't read the book.

Fishmonger



Fishmongers have a bad name. In Shakespeare's Hamlet, some say that the word fishmonger was a euphemism for a pimp. In the English translation of the Asterix cartoon series, the village fishmonger is called Unhygienix. In this island paradise, they can be called swingers. In the local vernacular, when you get swing, it means that you have been taken, cheated, gypped or scammed. And The Lovely One and I get swing from the fishmonger.

It was a beautiful Sunday. We went down to where the fishing boats came in. There were winds from the North and the boats hadn't been out to the fishing grounds for a couple of days. The Lovely One and I were complete newbies when it came to dealing with the fishmongers.

What we didn't know was that the fishmonger is a middleman. The Lovely One was approached by a fellow with an open bottle of beer. She asked about grouper. The fishmonger said that there was no grouper to be had, because the fleet was shorebound. We had seen a large grouper just minutes before at a Haitian vessel and told him so. The fishmonger offered to come and verify that it was a grouper. As it turns out, it was a large grouper worth about $100 and it was being carved up as we came back. It was sold.

The fishmonger offered to get us some fish. We asked for snapper, and he said that a small bag of about six fish was worth $20. He went to a boat owner, muttered somethings under his breath and came back with six snapper. I told The Lovely One that he was a shyster. The fishmonger cleaned them in front of us. As he was cleaning them, The Lovely One intimated to me that there was no way that he was a crook.

While he was cleaning them, we decided that we wanted a big-boned fish that wouldn't have the tiny little annoying bones. I told him that the most that I was willing to spend was $10. He came back with a small hogfish (a member of the wrasse family) after more muttering with the boat owner. He cleaned the hogfish.

Then he asked for $30. The Lovely One handed over a fifty note, and he came back with two $10 bills. He then asked for a tip for cleaning the fish. I gave him a $5 and the cheat started raising a ruckus. The Lovely One hates confrontations and gave him a $10 note.

When I looked at the amount of fish that we got for $40, we knew that we had been rooked. I told him that we got swing from him, and he raised his hands and started intoning the name of Jesus to strike him dead if he was lying. The Lovely One grabbed my hand and we left.
The whole episode left a bad taste in our mouth in more ways than one. The hogfish was delicious, but I overdid it a little bit on the lime marinade, and it wasn't quite to the taste of The Lovely One. Shakespeare was right -- fishmongers are pimps. From now on, it is either the fish store, or my fishing rod and not the modern day pirates of the Caribbean.

Seawater



I am learning new rules all of the time in the tropics. Several of them involve seawater. I told someone that I fish regularly, and they told me to watch out for Ciguatera Poisoning.

Apparently fish that are on top of the food chain accumulate bio-toxins that are caused by algae. Plant-eating fish eat the toxins. Bigger fish eat the plant-eating fish, and the bio-toxins build up in the predator fish. Eating barracuda is particularly risky, and yet the islanders eat it all of the time. I see online forum entries saying "Mama cook barracuda and I ain't dead yet'.

So what happens when you get ciguatera? All sorts of nasty things come your way. You suffer from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea followed by headaches, muscle aches, skin-prickling, numbness, gross incoordination of muscle movements, and hallucinations. Sometimes a condition called dyspareunia happens which is intense pain during sex. The symptoms can last from weeks to years and in some cases can last as long as 20 years (source: Wikipedia).

Apparently, the condition gets it's name from an Englishman in Cuba in the 1800's who got the condition from eating a barracuda. When he was asked what was wrong, he said that he got sick from eating the fish from seawater. Ciguatera is the Spanish transliteral spelling of the the English word "seawater". Ciguatera is pronounced "sea-water-a".

I am not going to eat any barracuda that I catch for sure. I want to have sex for a long time. And we have plenty of barracuda. The Lovely One and I were walking along our beach, and I was pitching rocks into the ocean. There was a very large school of these small, transparent one-inch fish. When I would pitch a rock, the fish would come flying out of the water like raindrops. When The Lovely One came near, I pitched a rock to show her. A barracuda jumped out of the water.

Seawater has caused me some discomfort. I use a deordorant that is popular with testerone-fuelled, pubescent teenagers. The Lovely One likes the smell on me. However when I have a fresh slathering of it, and I go swimming in seawater, it reacts with seawater and makes my armpits burn. It takes hours for the burning sensation to go away. However I suffer through it, because it pays dividends with The Lovely One. And it sure beats the other seawater affliction -- dyspareunia, which is really the pits, and not just the burning ones.

Avogadro's Ants



Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro, Count of Quaregna and Cerreto (August 9, 1776–July 9, 1856) was an Italian savant. He is most noted for his contributions to the theory of molarity and molecular weight.

Chemical substances are measured in moles. It the measure of an amount of a substance not by weight but rather by number of molecules. Why measure in moles instead of mass or volume? In say a chemical reaction, molecules of various substances react with each other on a one-to-one basis. A mole of hydrogen weighs less than a mole of carbon. One must know the quantity of individual molecules in a standardized measure. This is known as molarity.

The concept of molarity was calculated by Johann Josef Loschmidt and named in honour of Avogadro. Avogadro's number is the standarized amount of substance and is roughly 602,214,199,000,000,000,000,000 molecules. As an example, a mole of carbon has an Avogadro's number of atoms, and weighs 12 grams, while the same amount of hydrogen atoms weighs only one gram.

I was thinking about molarity, because I was bitten by an ant. There are more ants in this island paradise than you can shake a stick at. I had read that if you added up all of the weights of every single human being, and did the same for ants, the total weight of all of the ants would surpass the weight of all of the humans. This was amazing. I had to figure out what this meant.
There are roughly 6,602,224,175 people on this planet. Using an average value, the average human weighs 176.5 pounds. People are getting fatter so lets work with that figure. That means that the weight of all of the humans on the planet is 1,165,292,566,888 or 1.1 trillion pounds.

Since the average ant weighs 0.0000088 pounds,that means that there are 132,419,609,873,579,545 or 132,420 trillion ants out there. How does molarity fit in?
Because the ants have been causing me such trouble, I want to eliminate ants. I want each human being on earth to stomp ants. Since we require each human to stomp one ant at a time, the total number of human beings can be considered a mole. If you divide a mole of humans (6,602,224,175 people) into the ant population, you get 20,056,818 ants per human. Each human needs to stomp 20 million ants to eradicate this scourge on earth.

If every single person on earth stopped what we are doing, and stomped one ant per second for an eight hour day, for five days a week, it would only take us 2.67 years to eradicate all of the ants. I say that we do it. We have spent more time shovelling snow in the northern climes. And ... grasshoppers and locusts are next.

Caught




Well things are truly caught. First and foremost, the people trapping the feral cats that we feed caught "Sarah". She was spitting vinegar and not at all pleased that she was trapped. The cat folks came by early this morning and took her down to the vet. They anethesized her, and shaved her in preparation for removing her ability to reproduce. The sharp-eyed vet tech noticed the scars, and they realised that Sarah had already had the snip. This means that someone released her on the island as an unwanted pet -- already spayed. Generally feral cats that have been spayed or neutered as feral cats, have an ear clip to denote the operation.

And then we "caught" the customer. We convinced the government of this island nation to change some legislation so that we can implement a cashless technology system. We demonstrated the technology, impressed the civil service mandarins to the point of them offering to change the legislation today. We hit a home run.

And then to relax in the evening, I took my fishing rod to the beach and fished off the reef. I have been doing this every day for a week. I have been using red and white Daredevle spoons, and yellow jigs. No luck all week. Today I switched to a heavy silver spoon and caught my first saltwater fish. It was exciting.

As I was fighting the fish, the local jetski operators pulled up to watch the fight. They recognized the fish immediately. It was a jack mackeral. One of the operators asked me if he could have it for his supper. I acquiesced and he proudly took it home, but first showing it off to all of the other jetski operators. This was a real treat for him, knowing the price of fish in this country.

The interesting bit, is that the jetski operator was amazed that I used a bare lure without any bait. He didn't think that it was possible to fish without bait on a lure. He ask me how much it cost. I thought that he was talking about the lure and I held up four fingers. He asked if I meant four hundred dollars. He thought that my wonderful rod ($20 dollar folding backpack rod) cost $4oo dollars.

Today, I caught something else as well -- the concept of a "mole" of ants. I am formulating my treatise on Avagadro's Ants, which should appear shortly. Does anyone know how much an ant weighs? It would help my theory and article.

Cat Food Conundrum




The Lovely One and I feed the feral cats on our tropical paradise. There are between 5 and eight of them that visit us in our island home. Some of the kinder souls, trap the feral cats, spay and neuter them, and then if they cannot be placed, they are put back into the wild where they were found.

We inherited the cats. The Lovely One and I are not cat people. We are dog people. The difference between dog and cats is illustrated by the following: "A dog sees that people feed him, shelter him and take care of him and thinks that humans must be gods. A cat sees that people feed him, shelter him and takes care of him, and thinks that he is a god."

However the kitties that visit us, add a new dimension to our lives. There is drama going on outside of our door all of the time. Party to the drama, is a mockingbird who dodges the cats to steal their kibbles. The cats are always on the alert to hunt down this interloper, but have never succeeded.

Feeding the cats has been far from mundane. I have made major discovers in physics while feeding the cats. Take a look at the above pic. I ripped open the industrial sized bag of cat food. The size of the opening of the bag is represented by the black orifice. The size of the average kitty kibble is shown in red. As one can see, the kibble (sort of X shaped)has plenty of room to pass out of the bag.

However, a bit of food comes out of the bag, and then the who thing stops up. It seems that a matrix is formed, and the kibbles bridge together to form a barrier, which stops up further flow from the bag. This happens every time. It is a nuisance to keep unplugging the hole.

When the bag opening is enlarged by a third, the food flows freely with no stoppages. To an enquiring mind, this would tend to suggest a relationship between the size of the hole, the size and shape of the kibble and its ability to flow. Has anyone studied solid flow dynamics? Is this a predictable phenomenon? After all, since the kibble is so much smaller than the hole, it should flow freely no matter what? Obviously a single kibble behaves differently than a kibble in a group. What causes this?

This got me to thinking. If this happens in the real world with solids with mass, is the same effect observable, say with data moving through the internet? If we nominally enlarged the pipe by one third, would it move faster? Is the same thing true with water? Clearly some experimentation is called for -- but not by me. There are various injunctions against me for high energy experiments, and The Lovely One forbids any kind of experiments due to numerous fiascos of experiments gone horribly wrong.

Obviously the cat food conundrum may have some practical applications. If I were allowed to investigate, it may yield solutions that would make me incredibly rich. That is something to ponder.

Name Dropping

The Sheik's Gateway




Yesterday was different. Far different from my past life in the far cold north, where nothing ever happened to me and I was languishing in the rat race.

Last night The Lovely One and I had dinner with the executive assistant for an Arabian sheik now living in this paradise.

Yesterday I met with one ex-Governor of the central bank, and I saw another one downtown the day before.

Yesterday, I was invited to participate as a volunteer in a celebrity pro-am golf tournament hosted by a major sports celebrity. They asked me if I could play golf. That means one of two things -- either they want me to caddy or they are short of amateur, non-celebrity players. I will learn more at the upcoming meeting.

And I was beachcombing with The Lovely One this morning. I saw the ultimate in oxymoronic. One of the tourists bought a brand new snorkel set including fins to see the wonders of the ocean. The fins come with plastic insert in the foot section. The knuckle-brained tourist threw the plastic inserts on the beach and left them there, littering the beach.

SLIC




The Lovely One and I were walking down the main promenade of our island. It is a genteel place and The Lovely One says that it is like living on a movie set, or in the Truman Show.

The evening was advancing and the street lights came on. Periodically as I would pass under one, it would turn off. Or if one were off, it would come on.

I explained to The Lovely One, that I suffered from a malady called "Street Lamp Interference Complex" or SLIC. Essentially whatever force that binds the few trillion atoms that decide to be me for awhile, seems to be able to interfere with streetlamps.

A few years ago, there was a syndicated newspaper columnist who wrote a column called "Ask Cecil" and someone asked him about their ability to turn streetlamps on and off by passing near them. Cecil called it SLIC, or Street Lamp Interference Complex. However, he asked a scientist to explain, who pooh-poohed it by saying that sodium vapour lamps sometimes come on and off by themselves. However to my way of thinking, there is two things wrong with this statement. The first is that when you look down a street, if this in fact happened, you should be able to see the street lamps blink on and off like Christmas lights. This doesn't happen. And the other point is that it only happens while I am passing near them.

The Lovely One thinks that I have a special energy or aura. I am a man of science and do not believe on whit's worth of special energies that you can't measure. But one thing is sure, and that is that I do indeed possess Street Lamp Interference Complex.

Tropical Paradise Musings




I have just moved to a tropical paradise island. Except that today it is not tropical, and usually, it is not a paradise. The not-tropical bit -- it is cold today -- less than 75 degrees. Maybe it will warm up. I haven't been able to swim in the ocean since New Year's Day.

I am just an ordinary schmoe, and two months ago I was part of the rat race. I was shovelling snow off the roof and worrying about hiring a backhoe to remove the build-up of snow. Today, I worry about how quickly I will become a millionaire, and whether me and my team will buy an offshore bank, or do a hostile takeover of the telephone company. Life has certainly changed drastically, and this blog will document the journey and be the expositor of my thoughts along the way. I invite you to become a spectator.

I also make discoveries almost every day. For example, when I get the time, I will tell you of my catfood bandwidth discovery. (OK, I am geekish, and you may even see software code posted here). I will tell you how I have discovered endemic corruption in this Caribbean island nation, and how the people do not want to save themselves and become a second world country. I may tell you of the mockingbird playing Russian roulette.

I may post drivel, stuff on cosmology, stuff on AI, or I may post your next million dollar idea, or I may post brain candy -- something completely different.

Thanks for joining this experiment and journey.