Alphagen-M1

(SciFi story treatment, 1150 words)

Many aeons ago, an advanced alien civilization began a vast and ambitious program to seed intelligent life across the universe. This noble project saw much success in the distant regions of the heavens, and had some setbacks here and there as well.

The program featured a two-prong approach to the seeding process. On lifeless planets that met the basic requirements, they initiated the new life forms with a protoplasm matrix called Betagen. In locales which featured animal life that met the much more stringent requirements, they inoculated the animals themselves with the matrix Alphagen. The two protogens were basically the same structurally, but each with a different establishing interface. Alphagen was rarely used, as the appropriate life form vessels were quite rare themselves, and the delivery system had to be custom designed for each species. Its overall design was accordingly much less well tested.

At some point, program scouts discovered a small, vibrant, blue-green planet they called M1 which featured a fairly advance animal form that much excited the engineers who oversaw the project. Among the vast variety of types, the planet featured some bipedal mammals with budding brain forms that very much fit the bill. The creatures were rather fragile and vulnerable to the many predators they shared the surface with, but they were bright and clever and were holding their own. Projections showed potential domination of the environment in a scant few hundred thousand solar cycles.

Continue reading “Alphagen-M1”

Craig’s List

So I recently listed an item on Craig’s List out of a desire to sell that item and within a day I got a response from someone who asked, and I quote, “what is the is the least you would be willing to sell this item for?”

I thought about this for a minute and realized I had not even considered what that figure might be. With this, all my anticipated haggling moves were thrown to the mat in one deft judo move. This put me on high alert. I’m dealing with a pro here, I must tread carefully.

It reminded me of that time I was playing Texas Hold’em and was considering going all in, but was doubtful about what the other players were holding and asked, “so what’s everybody got, because I have pocket kings and think this might be the moment I’ve been waiting for.”

Those who even bothered to respond denied holding anything. Well, sure. Poker is a game where liars go to hone their skills. And Craig’s List is a body of water so polluted with scammers that when you do hook a prospect, it is with the sinking realization that the envelope is destined to be light.

We met in a public place and she examined the ukulele, verbally producing a comprehensive list of its defects, many I myself had failed to note. The amount settled upon was 60% of my asking price, and I felt by that time lucky to get it. I was right about one thing. She was good.

As she drove off I noticed that her car was nicer than mine. A lot nicer. But that’s okay. I once raked a fat pot bluffing pocket kings. Win some, lose some.

OMG Shoes!

Money is to the celebration of life what bilge pumps are to leaky boats. Staying afloat is a calculation made in the abstract, dollars being nothing more than IOUs that get passed around from one climber to another in the strange belief that debts are actually being paid.

I’m working on my 2020 taxes and find a weird sense of satisfaction at having earned little in a year that was the proverbial drawing board where I had to tape down the schematics and rework my life. Circumstance maneuvered me into an early and underfunded retirement, a kind of rug yank that left me and a certain global pandemic both finding our footings at the same time. Now I’m a pensioner with a paltry monthly allowance, like some punk being taught a sense of responsibility by well-meaning parents.

Good luck with that, let’s get some shoes!

Nutmeg Mannikin (Spice Finch)

Nutmeg Mannikin

First bird outing of the year was not bad at all. Encountered a small flock of these little seed-eaters at White Oak Bayou and was confounded as to what they were. Similar looking to female Indigo Bunting, but the bill size and shape eliminated that, plus there’s these scale-patterned black and white feathers popping out on the breast. Turns out to be the last featured bird in Sibley 2nd, the Nutmeg Mannikin or Spice Finch, another Houston area import/escapee from Asia. These are immature, as the adults have a scaled breast.

Nutmeg Mannikin

You can see on the right-hand specimen the lack of wing bar markings, good tell that these are not one of our grosbeaks. Without these photos to study I’d have never figured it out, I think. Always a thrill to find a bird that sends you into research mode.

American Robin

Also seen there, a large flock of American Robin, a strikingly beautiful bird seen up close in detail.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

And the Red-bellied Woodpecker, same time and place. A fast moving flock of Cedar Waxwing also came through. Only the second time I’d seen these, and the experience was the same: good sized flock appears out of nowhere, and disappears soon thereafter. Later at Buffalo Bayou I spend some time with a pair of Blue-headed Vireo and was unable to claim a satisfying photo.

Least Grebe

Moving on later that morning to the Houston Arboretum I saw only a single Eastern Phoebe and a Yellow-rumped Warbler, then headed to the Eastern Glades at Memorial Park to acquire another life-bird, the Least Grebe shown above. These range down through Central America with parts of Texas being the north-most boundary of its range.

Beached

Agile jeep-man plunged into the water and parked on a sandbar in the pre-dawn.

I set out early Saturday morning to camp on the beach at Bolivar Peninsula’s west end. I have converted the RAV4 into a micro-camper and wanted to give the new fixings another test run. I spent the morning in Galveston and took the ferry to Bolivar around noon.

The jeep photo was not desaturated or converted to B&W and the sky above that cloud bank was a bright grayish peach.

Sunrise on the gulf just East of the entrance to the Houston ship channel.

Black-bellied Plover
Snowy Plover
Western Sandpiper or Semi-palmated Sandpiper, I am never sure with these.

The tip of the peninsula is cordoned off for the bird sanctuary, east of this the beach is lined with camping rigs of various sorts and sizes. Ten dollar parking pass gets you a year of beach camping here, so it’s a fairly popular spot for RVs. Lots of birdlife with many wintering species staying here for the season without the burden of a ten dollar pass.

A vast winter sky holds no position in particular, but binds all within it to an inter-connectivity which teaches all things how to be.

Found this birder at the ship channel on the Galveston side before taking the ferry to Bolivar. Those are (mostly) Black Skimmers on the sandbar, wintering here by the hundreds every season.

One of the legendary Bolivar Mosquitoes. I photographed this one on the window glass after having had its fill of my bodily fluids and wishing then to escape. You’re welcome. A steady gulf breeze tends to keep them inland but that dies down at night and they will find you if you’re up and about early like I always am.

I intend to do some traveling next year, so expect more travelogue type stuff here. I will write another poem when one occurs to me and not before.

Happy Holidays

If there’s one thing Indiana Jones can’t stand it’s nazi sympathizing archeologists who leave their Christmas shopping to the last minute. I think we should all buy each other worthless trinkets (from a vendor in the street—no big box stores!) then bury them in the sand for a thousand years: voila! Priceless relics for everyone!

But seriously, may the blessings of all the wisdom traditions of gods and humans bring the enduring conditions for peace and calm abiding within the mind-streams of all the sentient beings, past, present and future. Svaha. Om.

Paul Gauguin with this, my favorite rendering of the Crèche.
Because it looks Christmasy, a still from Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven
Sorry, peace has been identified as a form of Socialism. [ D E N I E D ]
In space, no on can hear the store’s PA playing Little Drummer Boy.
Why must the birth of the Messiah be attended by so much utter nonsense?
Happy birthday, Jesus!

Peace out, my friends.

Fungi Amongi

Merlin Sheldrake talks about the amazing world of fungi. Warning: your basic ideas of what life is and how it all works may experience dizziness. He is a biologist with a PhD and a mesmerizing speaker.

2020: My Year in Birds

Bird photographs from this year. (27 photos). I wanted to do a 2020 retrospective about something besides all the things that nobody ever wants to think about ever again, ever. And I think you know what I’m talking about.

On January 1st each year I reset my Year List and start counting bird sightings all over again. I went out that day and made a life-bird with this Couch’s Kingbird, seen at Corps Woods in Galveston. The photo here is from March, but I logged this bird repeatedly for over 3 months at this location. All photos Nikon Coolpix P900, in the Houston/Galveston area, Texas, US. Order is generally but not strictly chronological.

Couch’s Kingbird, Corps Woods, Galveston.
White-eyed Vireo, East End residential neighborhood, Galveston.
Savannah Sparrow, Seawall Blvd., Galveston.
Cattle Egret, Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston.
Carolina Wren, Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston.
Roseate Spoonbill and Neotropic Cormorant, 8 Mile Road, Galveston.
Red-shouldered Hawk, Kempner Park, Galveston
Osprey, Bolivar Lighthouse, Bolivar Peninsula.
Eastern Meadowlark, Apffel Park, Galveston
Snowy Egrets, 8 Mile Road, Galveston
White-tailed Kite, Settegast Rd. Galveston.
American Wigeon, Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston.
Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston.
Eastern Kingbird, Artist Boat, Galveston.
Green-winged Teal, Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston.
Indigo Bunting, Corps Woods, Galveston.
Reddish Egret, East Beach, Galveston.
Spotted Sandpiper, White Oak Bayou, Houston.
Red-vented Bulbul, The Heights, Houston.
Great Blue Heron, Brays Bayou, Houston.
Brown Thrasher, Houston Arboretum
Wood Duck, Bray’s Bayou, Houston
American Goldfinch, Buffalo Bayou, Houston