Thursday, August 11, 2005 5:51:18 PM One of Bijan's lessons is "Everyone wishes to contribute to me." Catherine Ponder and Imelda Shanklin tell us, "There is no numbering of the avenues through which supply may come to you." Margaret says, "Albertsons loves to give me money." Every time we go to Albertsons, there is some money lying around. Sometimes it is on the floor near the cash registers, sometimes it is on the floor near the public change counting machine, and sometimes it is in the parking spaces. Once it was on the sidewalk among the cafe tables. Margaret always sees it. Today I went to Albertsons after Margaret had left for her class, and I recalled that Margaret asserts that "Albertsons loves to give me money." I thought, that might work only for Margaret, but I will have a look on her behalf. So I took a quick tour of the premises, and sure enough I found some change on the floor. So as it is true for Margaret, it is also true for me. Albertsons loves to give me money! And So It Is.
Sunday, August 07, 2005 1:37:11 AM The latest issue of Archaeology includes an account of a recent conference in New York on the Neandertal. The magazine includes a reconstruction of a complete Neandertal skeleton, made from finds in Germany and Israel. The description strikes me as special on several accounts. First, the reconstruction is shown next to a model of homo sapiens for comparison. Although the article points out some differences, I am unable to distinguish one skeleton from the other. I am reminded of the scene in Hotel Rwanda, where a journalist talks with a couple of local women about the differences between the Tutsis and the Hutus. His host comments that the Belgians made a lot of scientific study documenting the differences as well. When the journalist tries to clarify the issue, he finds that he can't tell them apart at all! This impression is emphasized in later scenes, when the belligerents insist that suspects give their names. It's like the Campbells vs. the MacDonalds. And that reminds me of the Irish guard I met at the Residenz in Munich, who reminded me that the English and the Irish were different races entirely. And of the diary of a 19th-Century American, Mr. Kendrick, which was displayed at the Gleeson Library of the University of San Francisco. Its pages were open to a trip in Africa, where he observed the different human species that lived there. What is a race? What is a species? I find it remarkable that scientists from all over the world and in various disciplines would meet to seriously discuss the Neandertal, its differences from "modern humans," i.e. homo sapiens, and possible causes for its extinction. I find much more variation in a single species, canis familiaris, with its breeds from chihuahua to mastiff. It seems ludicrous that the model was made from specimens so geographically dispersed. There is ample evidence that groups of Neandertal had widely different cultural patterns, and that those called Neandertal had among themselves significant variation. I am reminded of the brontosaurus, the favorite dinosaur of the 20th Century, which turned out to be a misconstruction of two different skeletons found in the same quarry. I am challenged to find a good interpretation of this conference. Perhaps it is that the world is willing to support so many scientists in their study, which seems to me to be based on some very far-fetched speculation. From this I could be assured that any enterprise I might undertake would also be supported, regardless of its apparent reason or unreason in the eyes of others. By the way, when I was taught to spell, it was Neanderthal. But I was also taught there were three races, called Caucasian, Negroid, and Mongolian. Political correctness shifts with fashion, and I am not sure what students today are taught about race. La Raza does not seem to have a place in the Encyclopedia Britannica, but it seems to have a real place on the City streets. There have times when the word covered minute variations, and times when the whole species was included, as in "the human race." Perhaps the message here is to look beyond the length of a femur, the shape of a coccyx, or the width of a nose, and to take a good look at the intelligence and the glory of expression. I believe that the Neandertal never died, and also that maybe it never existed in the first place.