Bronowski: "Civilisation can never grow up on the move."

"It is not possible in the nomad life to make things that will not be needed for several weeks. They could not be carried. And in fact the Bakhtiari to not know how to make them. ... The Bakhtiari life is too narrow to have time or skill for specialisation. There is no room for innovation, because there is not time, on the move, between evening and morning, coming and going all their lives, to develop a new device or a new thought - not even a new tune. The only habits that survive are the old habits."
J. Bronowski - 'The Ascent of Man', Chapter 2

This is from Jacob Bronowski's famous work on the history of science and civilization. I was re-reading this chapter, and re-watching the corresponding episode on YouTube, this morning. (The series was produced in the early 1970s and I remember watching it as a kid - I must have been about 9 or 10 - when it originally aired on PBS. I still own the old copy of the hardback edition that I inherited from my parents.)

Bronowski's theme here is that the development of agriculture (which came about after the last ice age, with the emergence of certain mutations in wild wheat, accompanied by technological innovations by man) broke the cycle of nomadic life and allowed man to settle in villages, build a surplus of food and other resources, and develop civilization. The domestication of draught animals - the ox and the ass - assisted the process; but the domestication of the horse proved a two-edged sword because it also brought the development of organized warfare. Mounted nomads had the ability to terrorize settled peoples and steal their wealth: "[Warfare] is a highly planned and co-operative form of theft."

The Afghans playing Buz Kashi (after 31:00 in the video) live a very different life from the horseless Bakhtiari (beginning at 4:20).

Bronowski - who was born to a Jewish family in Poland in 1908, and lived in England from 1920 on - also draws parallels throughout this chapter with the Hebrew Bible, noting that "We have an anthropological record of the struggle of conscience of a people who make this decision [to adopt the settled life]: the record is the Bible, the Old Testament. I believe that civilisation rests on that decision." He later concludes that

"The Bible is their story: the history of a people who had to stop being nomad and pastoral and had to become an agricultural tribe."

(I'm particularly interested in this angle because it relates to another book I'm currently reading.)

This is one of the books on my reading list, and I'm enjoying it thoroughly.

Retrospective: 12 years.

Twelve years ago, I was visiting my native Connecticut for my 25th high school reunion. A couple of chance encounters prompted me to write this entry:
'On the Sunday of the Thanksgiving weekend, I was sitting in the Victoria Street Cafe when a man about my age went up to the counter and ordered a coffee. He made conversation with the young woman behind the counter, and I overheard a few words. "Excuse me," I said, "did you say you were in town for your twenty-fifth high school reunion?"

"That's right."

I told him I was in Connecticut for the exact same reason. His school was one of the ones in the local area - northeastern Connecticut - and I went to school in the Manchester area. He introduced himself as Ben. We compared notes about high school. "You know," I said, "it was good to go to my reunion. I had a really hard time in high school, and some of the kids picked on me pretty bad. But I made it through okay, and it was good to see my old friends again. You know, people change - we all grow up."

He nodded agreement. "Did you have a similar experience in high school?" I asked.

He grinned sheepishly and shook his head. "No - I had a 1.37 grade point average. I was one of the assholes. ...'

The whole story, along with the reflections of another high-school outcast, can be found at the link.

And it was also in that same month, in fact over the Thanksgiving weekend, that I re-connected with Georgianne.

How the years pass.

Pi series.

I'm working on getting my C++ skills out of mothballs, and I wrote up this program to approximate the value of Pi/4 based on the series 1 - 1/3 + 1/5 ... etc.

When I created the filename as a single word, it came out "piseries", and it occurred to me I had just coined a new word; it might describe a condition such as a bladder infection or a kidney stone.

Hope you have a great weekend, free of piseries and other uncomfortable ailments.

Draft the old men.

For starters, researchers say 18year-olds think about sex every 10 seconds.

Old guys only think about sex a couple of times a day, leaving us more than 28,000 additional seconds per day to concentrate on the enemy.

Young guys haven't lived long enough to be cranky, and a cranky soldier is a dangerous soldier. 'My back hurts! I can't sleep, I'm tired and hungry.'

We are impatient and maybe letting us kill some a**hole that desperately deserves it will
make us feel better and shut us up for awhile..

An 18-year-old doesn't even like to get up before 10am.
Old guys always get up early to pee, so what the hell?

Besides, like I said, I'm tired and can't sleep and since I'm already up, I may as well be up killing some fanatical son-of-a-*****.

If captured we couldn't spill the beans because we'd forget where we put them. In fact, name, rank, and serial number would be a real brainteaser.

Boot camp would be easier for old guys..We're used to getting screamed and yelled at and we're used to soft food. We've also developed an appreciation for guns. We've been using them for years as an excuse to get out of the house, away from the screaming and yelling.

They could lighten up on the obstacle course however... I've been in combat and never saw a single 20-foot wall with rope hanging over the side, nor did I ever do any pushups after completing basic training.

Actually, the running part is kind of a waste of energy, too... I've never seen anyone outrun a bullet.

An 18-year-old has the whole world ahead of him. He's still learning to shave, to start a conversation with a pretty girl. He still hasn't figured out that a baseball cap has a brim to shade his eyes, not the back of his head.

These are all great reasons to keep our kids at home to learn a little more about life before sending them off into harm's way.

Let us old guys track down those dirty rotten coward terrorists. The last thing an enemy would want to see is a couple million pissed off old farts with attitudes and automatic weapons, who know that their best years are already behind them.

Sunday night: Outa there!

Packing up the remainder of my stuff from The Undisclosed Location took longer than I expected, but I still managed to get it done by the end of the day. I'd figured it would be one or possibly two car loads, and it turned out to be two very full loads, the first of which I drove to my storage unit in Portland, and brought the second load home to Hillsboro. I turned in the keys to one of the grandkids who was visiting and drove off with a hearty good riddance to my former bosses and landlords.

Anyway, I'm hot and sweaty and tired and generally beat, but it's done, and now I can focus on moving forward with the next phase of my life. Back to work tomorrow morning!

Forty bankers boxes ...

... were what I hauled away from The Undisclosed Location to my storage place, with the help of my L., my buddy from the old job and a very fine woman.

Sunday I gotta go back to the old place one last time, to get the rest of my junk out of there (it's mostly odds and ends at this point) and to clean the place. Then I turn over the keys to Boss Man and bid farewell to The Undisclosed Location and The High Castle for good.

In the spirit.

Last night at Fred Meyer I stood in the checkout line behind a young couple. He was sporting the most awesome jewfro I'd ever seen, and I couldn't help thinking of Bob Ross. She had a bag of groceries that included a felt hat in the form of a smiling Christmas tree.

"A bit early for this, isn't it?" the checker inquired.

The woman smiled. "Nope. He's going to be Bob Ross - and I'm going to be the Happy Little Tree!"