About Me

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Deep South, United States
Consultant, inventor, mentor, chess coach,. Current projects involve No Till Farming and staving off blindness due to cataracts among other projects. I also do confidential ghost writing (without taking any published credit. My current blindness makes me put this on hold for a while. I should have one eye working again in about four months. Fact, fiction, all subjects considered. I have heard My daughter Jennifer is alive. I would love it if she were to contact me here. I understand she would like to know me. I have sent a message by circuitous route. I can only hope. My posted Email works as well. We have four decades to catch up on.

This blog has been up for more than a year. The intent was to generate dialogues about serious problems and ideas. It has been almost exclusively a monologue. I have not been looking for large numbers of participants.

I would be quite happy with a few dozen imaginative, creative, thoughtful and inventive people who wish to address serious problems and issues. If anyone has any ideas about how to attract such a talented group I will certainly pay attention. I am not as computer conversant as I would wish. Anyone who could help in this regard would find me receptive to sharing my skills in other areas.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Apathy and Genocide

When I brought this subject up on Skin Cell Forum, the only input I received was negative. It was during the Christmas season and it was just not in the spirit of the holidays to bring up such an unpleasant subject. Shortly thereafter, the thread, which had already been sequestered in a closet which can only be seen by registered members, was locked by the owner of the forum. This was no service to humanity.

Now, here, my remarks cannot be censored. But the apathy continues. Not a single comment or constructive idea has been posted in response. Such apathy is an encouragement to the murderers to continue. Perhaps the Armenian Genocide and the monumental slaughter of the Jews by the Nazi's are thought to be too far back in history to be relevant. And we have been hearing of the situation in the Sudan (Darfur) for years now. It too seems to many just to be old news now.

Another hot spot which receives virtually no public attention is the Congo, in which the systematic rape of tens of thousands of women and girls of all ages continues without any effective impediment at all. These victims are then ostracized by their own husbands and neighbors.

Here in the U.S. we are involved in an epic political campaign in which a great deal of rhetoric is generated, but little is actually said. At the moment, the buzzword is "change." All the candidates have embraced this word as if it were their own, and as if it really meant something.

I have watched most of the debates and listened to many of the interviews of virtually all the candidates. It seems they have all concluded that this is a non-starter with the electorate. In other words, they will not get votes by addressing the issue. A sad commentary on the politicians, and on the electorate as well.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Genocide Continues

Anybody up for some patter on the Armenian Genocide? Or if nobody remembers because it was so long ago, and nobody paid any attention at the time, maybe Darfur? People will continue to be murdered there day after day, week in week out, month after month, perhaps many additional years into the future.

No one did anything in Rwanda recently while millions were slaughtered. Will we be looking back on Darfur, which has already been going on for years, and saying "Isn't there something we could have done if we had really wanted to?"

And isn't this particular genocide really relevant to us in one respect? This is not just a civil war between tribes we do not recognize and could not easily differentiate from each other. It is the systematic and continuous murder of blacks by the ISLAMIC power elite. Why wouldn't we be doing something about that? I mean, isn't it sort of... TERRORISM? Isn't that what we are all supposed to be fighting right now? Any Imam's or Mullah's out there who could explain the rationale for mass murder to me? I still can't quite get it. I promise not to crack wise about Allah, his name be blessed.

So refreshing to be on a subject in which we might be able to do some good, while we can still do it.

Hitler, insane though he was, made one valid observation. Or perhaps it was Stalin. I don't remember which. Actually maybe both. They were like two peas in a pod. But the observation was with relation to genocide, and it was, "Who remembers the Armenians?"

The meaning of course is clear. There was a lack of outcry in a remarkable and recent previous large scale obliteration of a people. It was pretty totally ignored by the world at large. And these two dictators were not the only ones who noticed this widespread apathy. They took it to be a license for mass murder.

There are a few dozen other hot spots of racial or ethnic cleansing that come to mind in current events. Bear in mind, the Armenian Massacre was a current event for Hitler, not many years before his rise to power. Today's Republic of Turkey is as revisionist as they can be. It wasn't us, they say. It was the Ottoman Empire.

And it wasn't a million and a half people slaughtered they say. It might have been only 900.000 or even less. And there was nothing systematic about it. It was just sort of... spontaneous. A fluke. No one is responsible. And it is just an unfair exaggeration to imply that they were all murdered. Some of those deaths were purely natural causes, during deportation of Armenian terrorists who were collaborating with the Russian Empire. They weren't exterminated. Some of them just "expired" during the lengthy deportation process.

And the deportees were not very cooperative. They often refused to watch until forced, their children being slaughtered, or their wives, mothers. grandmothers, sisters, daughters being gang raped and murdered before their eyes. Terroristic babies impaled on bayonets or their little heads bashed on the rocks.

The truth is that the Turkey of today is comparatively speaking, within the region, quite a forward looking and moderate regime trying to cope with some really serious complexities in their geopolitical situation. So it is a little hard to understand why they would expend so much energy on the denial of history. There could be a consistency of sorts in the long run though. If they succeed in their denial, then a future "solution" of the Kurdish "problem" becomes... more feasible.

The aftermath of the Rwandan tragedy showed everybody who is interested in genocide as an instrument of policy, much more recently, that it is still possible to kill millions of people at a rate of perhaps 10,000 per day for many months, with hardly a ripple of practical response from the world at large. Apparently it was just an outpouring of Rwandan national spirit.

And after it was over, because there had to be some healing, almost none of the actual participants were actually tried or punished. It was more important to "put it all behind us." It doesn't appear to be all behind us. I think there will be a lot more ahead of us. I think it's going to keep going on continuously.

Currently, genocidal incidents are going on in so many different places in the world it is hard to accurately enumerate them. And here I am, a bit like an Ottoman Empire soldier, saying "No, you can't close your eyes. You have to see this! Open your eyes!"

But history is not entirely cyclic. If we start paying attention, we really do often learn from our mistakes. One of the ways history is not repeating itself is in the information explosion. There have been many slaughters in the world throughout history. We know of a fraction of them.

But at the same time, many more of us do know of them, and we have available many more of the real details of what went on, with something approaching forensic precision. It is just so appalling that one can hardly contain it.

But we must face it. and we must continue to be vigilant for the signs that the horrors will again erupt, and may well do so in our own towns and villages.We all tend to look at the governments, as somehow quite central either in fomenting genocides, or in tacitly allowing them by inaction.

But each citizen bears some responsibility. That is where to start. It needs to be socially acceptable to deal with the subject. And each culture needs to realize that the roots of the problem are not far beneath their own social soil.

Regardless of history suggesting that we are powerless to stop these sorts of things, rather than be pessimistic, we need to search for the solutions, not only privately in our hearts and private prejudices, but with one another.

There is no one beyond the reach of a purge. No one. That is the razors edge of reality. First we must really pay attention, to the best of our ability. We must ask the right questions. We need to try to find ways of identifying the various social pressures which build up to the point where one group feels justified to exterminate another.

There is no one cut-and-dried answer. The number of social crises and their severity are increasing, not decreasing, and each has unique characteristics. Even so, we should be looking for the principles. For the things all genocidal hatreds have in common. If we do this we will find the clues which will help us succeed in prevention. If there are no evident pat answers, let us look harder. And let us look within ourselves as well. It is not just "those others" who are doing it. Everyone who ignores it is complicit.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Roadkill and Me

This seems to be my year for roadkill. A few months ago someone rammed a doe out in front of my place in the middle of the night. I went out when I heard the car leave, took the opportunity to remove the eyes because of my current interest in eye anatomy, and later in the morning, took the doe to a meat packer to cut up and wrap for the freezer. (Graphic details of the eye dissections in the archives.)

Last night, as I was driving home from the group chess lessons I teach, a young prong buck challenged my van for right of way. Although I did my best to defer to the buck, and probably avoided a thousand dollar collision, I nipped him on a hind quarter.

I got out, saw that the buck was conscious and had no apparent broken legs but he was unable to run very well and had little prospect for survival. I was in my tux and had only my hunting knife on my hip. Not a very humane way to do the buck in, and likely to splatter blood all over me. So I went the half mile to my home, shucked the tux for other clothing, grabbed a wrench and went back. Meanwhile the police had gotten a call on a hit and run and were speedily blue lighting as I was headed back. They were of course, looking for me. I proceeded back to the point of impact, parked, tracked the injured buck and nudged it into the hereafter with the wrench. The police logged the kill and hit the road as soon as they realized I was going to harvest the buck myself.

The temperature was just in the high thirties, nice weather for chilling the meat down. I dragged the dead deer onto the back of my wife's truck, took it home and bled it off into a big shallow pan. (Nice treat for the dogs and the cat colony. I try to waste nothing if I can help it.) Later in the morning I would take the deer to my meat packer and get it cut up for $70.

Well it didn't work out that way. The meat packer was closed until the 14th to go hunting. I went thirty miles to another packer. They were closed too. Everyone was off hunting deer. I don't know why everyone thinks they have to hunt early in the season when the most hunters are out. We haven't had a really hard freeze yet that I have noticed, so the deer were not really in rut to the extent that they get crazy stupid.

Anyway, now I have a hundred plus pound carcass. The local idiot butcher would not touch it. Even though I bled it within twenty minutes of its' demise, the abdominal cavity was in good shape and I saw no reason to gut it in the middle of the night, cold as it was.

But from the butcher's perspective, "If you don't gut it in the first two hours, the meat will sour!" What nonsense. He said he could lose his license if he was caught. He might have been right about that. It is very hard to fight arbitrary rules put in place for public safety.

So what would you do?

I'm really starting to grit my teeth now. I had other stuff on my agenda. Skinning a rabbit or a squirrel or a rattlesnake for dinner, or getting a chicken ready to roast takes twenty minutes or so. Chopping up a buck under field conditions, doing it nicely, and packaging it well for the freezer, is going to take all day. I was in no mood for this, but I was not going to throw away at least thirty pounds of good meat.

My wife also was in no mood to have the carcass in the kitchen. So here I am, a relatively sedentary sixty-seven year old man, preparing for an all day, reasonably strenuous job out in the cold. I gathered my wits about me, got the frame mattress support from a child's bed from the barn, and flopped the carcass on it. This would keep it elevated about five inches off the lawn and allow me to flip the carcass over with ease without getting any meat on the ground after skinning.

Then I went and gathered miscellaneous tools for the job and an old hassock to sit on so I would not be hunkering down on my heels for hours. I had my hunting knife, a keyhole saw, some tin snips and kitchen shears, a number 22 scalpel, and a Chinese claw hammer.

It was nice and windy and cold. Good for the carcass but less good for my hands and joints. I would have to take a break every half hour or so just to rewarm my knuckles.

Now ask yourself again, what would you do? What would be your order of procedure? Your methods? Just bleeding was easy. Even without stringing up the animal by its' hindquarters (I didn't have a rope). I just slanted the head down off the back of the truck, using the spare tire and a bungee cord to keep the animal from falling off. It was just a matter of punching the hunting knife in below the ear, right behind the jaw bone and pulling the knife out, letting the blood fan out into the pan. Of course, it goes without saying, you do this with the down side first. That way, while you are doing the top side the first side isn't bleeding all over you while you work to spring a leak in the second juggler vein.

Now, in my large outdoor colony of cats, I have a pair of very aggressive Siamese kittens named Powder and Puff who always get underfoot anytime anything smelling edible is around. They immediately came and started drinking the blood. Very funny in a way. They were trying to lap and growling at each other at the same time, as if there were not enough blood to go around. Lap, lap, lap, growl....

Pip, my Blue Heeler\Rottweiler bitch is barking nonstop about this unfairness. But over a pint of blood will go a long way. There will be plenty left. When the kittens were tight as a drum and could not lap another lap, I put the pan between the dogs to finish up. Then I went to bed.

Now, after my failure to find someone to do the work in the morning, I backed the truck over to the bed springs I had found. and flopped the deer onto it.

What would you do next? Hint: My dogs had long since finished up the blood and hadn't had anything to eat for many hours. Unlike the kittens, they are not full. They are voluble in making their wishes known. It is going to take me a while to skin the animal. Do I want to have all this noise? Of course not. So I remove the head and give it to the dogs, allowing each to grab an ear for a bit of a tug of war. Hard to bark with a mouth full of deer ear, Then I removed a foreleg right below the meaty part, tossing it to Cloud, who immediately let go of the ear he was tugging on, sending Pip tumbling triumphantly with the whole head to herself. Now, with both dogs happy, I can proceed with just the wind whistling in my ears.

Now I wanted to skin it out efficiently leaving little meat on the pelt so it will cure without much scraping and not get to smelling. It will make a nice cat bed for the colony. Our winter nights sometimes get down to the teens. The whole key here is to get it started right. I chose to start at the esophagus where there is virtually no meat under the leather. The tin snips worked best. My hunting knife was not at its' sharpest and I couldn't find my sharpening stone. In a few minutes, I had liberated about eight inches of esophagus, which I chopped off and threw to the dogs, who were now entirely silent and content.

Now I simply worked my fingers between the membrane and the pelt, slowly liberating it. Occasionally I used the scalpel to free up a section which was holding too tenaciously for my fingers. I took it slow and went in for a cup of coffee and to get my hands warm again. With this break, it took maybe an hour to skin it out.

While I was warming my hands, my son called to chat from California. Now he is quite an innovative and bright fellow. So it was odd to me when he suggested I get on the internet to get some directions on how to carve up a deer. Certainly this could provide me with some guidance and might cut my labor in some ways. But would I not just be following directions? And how likely is it anyway that I will find good directions on how to do it with a hunting knife, a keyhole saw, shears, tin snips and a Chinese claw hammer?

There is something to be said for discovery; the process of learning by doing. It is usually much more valuable than cooking by some recipe or getting the "how to" directions. Not only that, in following the directions of others, you may, uncritically, do silly things, just because this is the way everyone else is currently doing it.

Let me give you an example: the idiot butcher was absolutely convinced that under all circumstances, if a deer was not gutted within two hours, that deer was irreparably tainted and should simply be thrown away. The meat was "soured" as he put it. What nonsense.

Someone else, having gone to see him under exactly the same circumstances that I did, very probably would have been convinced just to throw away the carcass. There are no experts, folks. Just people who think they know more about something than most of those around them. And sometimes thinking he knows more than everyone, results in the "expert" whether he be a butcher or a doctor, knowing less and less. I will be saying much more about the "culture" of expertise in the future. I would call it a cult, but cults are all in the extreme minority. As soon as a cult attains sufficient numbers, it becomes an established faith.

The people who believe in the experts with little or no critical thought are certainly in the great majority and it is certainly a worldwide phenomenon. It does not bode well for our future. And I submit that expert nonsense is far more dangerous than amateur nonsense.

When I skinned the deer, the abdominal cavity stayed quite intact. I saw no evidence of internal rupture of the organs. I even made a little slit letting the bladder extrude a bit, but not puncturing anything. No bad smells. I stuck my hand in. and felt around the organs. No big clots. Nothing ruptured. everything pretty much where it was expected to be. I pull my hand back out. It smells just fine. So I am just going to go on with the harvesting of the meat without gutting the animal first.

As far as I know, no one ever does it this way. And maybe, as a general rule, there is good reason for this. After all, whether it is road kill or an animal which has been shot down, more often than not, there has been some damage to the internal visceral organs. And in warm weather, spoilage could start fairly quickly.

But that butcher had not really reasoned anything out. He did things the way he was taught, by rote. That was the only way to do it as far as he was concerned. And frankly, that is the way most "experts" learn their trade as well. They have not learned. They have been conditioned to be comfortable in their indoctrination. I would rather know two people who can think for themselves, and do it clearly, than a hundred experts who mindlessly adhere to the prevailing perspectives of their field.

Now as to the tools I used. It was just what was on hand. The hammer was Chinese as I mentioned. in breaking joints like the neck and the legs, both of the claws of the hammer got broken. I was left with nothing but the hammer head. It was closer to pig metal than steel. Another sad commentary in a bad year for Chinese products.

But getting back to the road kill. In this case, the gutting of the animal will be the last thing I do. In an abundance of caution, I will not harvest the liver and heart for my table. I will feed them to the dogs and cats. (Actually, if it smells good, I may still eat the heart. I like heart a lot.)

Anyway, by dark, I had removed and sliced and packaged about twenty five pounds of meat. It was really getting bitingly cold and the wind was picking up, so I wrapped the remainder of the carcass in a green tarp and went in to eat some venison Slum Gullion.

A Slum Gullion is like a Hobo Jungle coffee-can stew. A one pot meal with everything you can find, scrounge, borrow or otherwise hustle. Those who are to partake who have nothing to add need to have a few coins in their pocket for the chef, or need to be able to sing or tell a compelling story for their meal. When I was a youth on the move, I always carried a Bull Durham tobacco sack full of mixed herbs, coarse salt and cracked pepper. I learned very young, if you don't eat well, you can't live well.

But this particular Slum Gullion was not exactly Spartan fare. Venison, onions, carrots, celery, jasmati rice, wild rice, Shitaake mushrooms, a dollop of chili, half a chicken, some left over home fries, cracked pepper, various herbs, a dash of coarse salt, some potassium chloride for balance, a glug of Cabernet and a plop of steak sauce. Serve with a garnish of bone-dry cranberries and crusty multi-grain bread.

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