Mariner became a Grandfather today

Her name is Nova. It is a celebration by the family, definitely a high point of the year. Many acts of recognition and admiration will occur this year and many years to come.

Mariner has mixed feelings about the term ‘grandfather.’ In Japan there is a practice wherein old, wise men – elderly judges, politicians, heroes and the like – are recognized, indeed revered for their wisdom and leadership. With great ceremony they are elevated to special stature where their wisdom can be available to the society when needed. Trouble is, no one ever asks them anything. In reality, they are removed from participation in daily life. Perhaps too much wisdom spoils the pot…

The US has a term ‘grandfathered in’ originally used to exempt poor voters from new restrictions on voting during Reconstruction (still occurring). The term is used when something is out of date but because it is difficult to ignore or dismiss, it is included with a newer topic that really is about something else. So it is that mariner has been grandfathered in.

Readers are familiar with the sport equivalent called the Hall of Fame. Very much like the Japanese version, outstanding athletes are given a high court send-off to revered photograph galleries – implying if not actually saying, “You can’t play well anymore but we remember when you could.” No one ever drafts these sport heroes for a current game.

One conjures that in earlier civilizations where an extended family of several generations constituted a tribe or band, the older wiser men were revered and central to the function of the organization. Alas, this is not the case. Note this quote from the Behavioral Sciences Department, Palomar College:

“… Band leaders generally have temporary political power at best, and they do not have any significant authority relative to other adults. They can give advice and propose action, but they do not have the formal authority to require others to accept their decisions.”

So mariner is a grandfather. He needs to find an acceptable photograph for the family Hall of Fame.

That is as it should be. The most important item is Nova – the new generation, the new hope, the new future participant in human society – Nova, mariner’s new granddaughter.

Mariner advises his son – one day he will be a grandfather.

Ancient Mariner

A Better Reality

It is important to keep the mind flexible – especially as one grows older. The best way to keep the mind flexible is to have an interest that provides continuous learning and insights. It has been said all along that being fluent in more than one language freshens one’s perspective about life and keeps the brain working with a bit more empathy than would otherwise be the case. One has a different opinion of folks like Bush 43 and other public figures when they can converse comfortably in another language. “What experiences have they had that aren’t part of everyday American?” one may ponder.

Mariner spent some time in Taiwan. The language was Mandarin with a heavy draw – similar to the Deep South, New England, and the ‘Valley’ in California. While he was there, he learned to order a meal awkwardly and perform simple protocols. A year afterward the words had disappeared. For this reason, that is, the difficulty of learning a language and sustaining a lexicon and grammar, mariner suggests immersing oneself in a different culture. Our brains aren’t the same brains that learned language as a two and three year old.

There are as many cultures as there are nations (195). Many have similar cultures influenced by larger nations and surrounding geography. Here are two or three that definitely have preeminent cultures that will never run out of insights, surprises, and intriguing behaviors:

China – a totally different cultural history. One will learn tidbits (China had the first movable type printing press in 1040 during the Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127) and cultural differences (public urinals next to sidewalks in remote regions; China and India are competing with one another over who has the most flush toilets – a sign of modernity).

India – again a different culture – perhaps even more intriguing than China. Did you know that the North Eastern Region (NER 101,248 square miles), did not have a government until it was incorporated into India’s central government in sections from 1947 through 1972? What was daily life like without a government? We can only dream… India has six distinct religions (Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism). Imagine the daily conflicts between protocol and belief and the hierarchy of animals some of whom may be your relatives! The US can’t handle one of the six.

Most have heard of Mayans, Aztecs and Incas. All are early civilizations in Central and South America. But what about Caral-Supe? Caral-Supe is the earliest civilization in the region existing from 3000-2500BC. There are many more before the Maya and the Inca. The Aztecs, at their peak when the Spaniards came, weren’t around until 1430-1521AD.

The wonder of the Internet is that it is an endless encyclopedia. Using search engines like Google and Bing among many, name a subject, it’s on the Internet – especially in Wikipedia. Even richer resources are on web sites supported by nations, universities, governments and retailers of books, artifacts, furniture, clothes, jewelry, video and anything else that may expand one’s awareness of a different culture. The peak experience is taking a vacation trip to the culture of choice.

Studying a different culture will open the mind to the fact that not everything has to do with Donald or his id, the Mooche. Not everything has to do with the United States – in its own right a distinct culture.

The trick is to immerse one’s awareness completely into the chosen culture. Mariner is intrigued by a simple reality that doors are too short for modern folks when historic homes are visited in England. What other idiosyncrasies will broaden our reality?

Ancient Mariner

Dry Rot

Do you know what dry rot is? Have you ever seen old wood that looks like wood but is hollow because there is no pith left? Have you ever lifted what seemed to be a piece of cloth but it crumbled into a dry powder in your hands? Have you ever found an old box of cards exposed to dampness and when you tried to read them they would fall apart in fragile disarray? It is a condition of decay. It looks okay until one tries to use it in a useful way. Suffering from dry rot, it is not up to the task. It is a ghost, an ash of its creation.

Humans are susceptible to the same decay.

We work from day to day surviving the constant pressure that wears us down until one day we are in dry rot. We look human; we look functional; we feel we are the substance of our birth. But we are a ghost who breathes, eats, pontificates, and pretends to be valuable. We are just dry rot. Called to task, we crumble into uselessness.

This is too bad. Just as in material things, there are defenses to prevent dry rot in ourselves. Just as we seek to prevent rust in our tools; just as we maintain our houses; just as we maintain functionality in our vehicles; just as we maintain static rituals that keep order in our lives – we can introduce defenses that keep our lives rich and full and pliable against the vagaries of living. We can avoid dry rot to our last day.

One way is to keep the mind flexible. Deliberately pursue new ideas that test your opinions. Deliberately allow yourself to be confronted by social progress. Deliberately investigate the value of lifelong beliefs. Deliberately pursue new physical experiences and challenges. Dry rot cannot accumulate in the presence of newness.

Another avenue is to pursue new information as literally as you pursue physical fitness. The precursor to intellectual flabbiness is lack of intellectual exercise. The best avenue is reading. Television will draw you away; Internet will draw you away; weariness will draw you away. Where can you find new nutrients to prevent the emptiness of dry rot?

The answer is both far reaching and personal. As a simple example of maintaining flexibility in our contemporary lives, the mariner and his wife scramble for first read of the Atlantic magazine. We have observed that the Atlantic, along with the New Yorker magazine, Scientific American and an array of Internet websites, provide us with a constant barrage of new ideas, new reports on a rapidly changing culture, new interpretations of old, dare we say sacrosanct rituals, and new views of the future that emerge beneath our feet.

Using the technology of broadcasting, deliberately check in on other news channels besides NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox. One would be surprised at the perspectives of news channels sponsored by China, Great Britain, Arabic broadcasting and European news networks. Even Canada has a different slant on the importance of news.

Certain channels like Bloomberg offer educational programs that broaden one’s understanding of the world. Exploring newness is the best defense against dry rot – even new physical experiences.

The mariner can attest that age is an ally of dry rot. It makes the challenge of being a purposeful human being in the world even greater. One must overcome frailties; one must garner strength from task to task. But one should never allow retreat from an active life about which to take control.

At the other end of the spectrum, the young have no perspective on the amount of energy wasted on frivolousness. The young must discipline themselves to ask what the future holds and how they will play a role. They, too, will be challenged by the willingness to recede into dry rot.

Ancient Mariner



Do we at least still love our mothers?

In one way or another, the past three posts deal with H. sapiens’ relationship with the physical world. Other post series deal with H. sapiens’ treatment of fellow humans and some deal with how H. sapiens has allowed the machine ethic to take over theology, government, economic priority over life, and morality.

Just to highlight each subject:

Humans have started the sixth major extinction of life in the history of the planet.

Humans have destroyed the orderliness of the planet’s biosphere to the point humans will join other creatures in unnecessarily becoming extinct with them.

Humans have chemically altered the chemistry of the planet sufficiently to receive their own geologic epoch – the Anthropocene Epoch; Geologic epochs usually last two or three million years but humans ended the Holocene Epoch after just 11,500 years.

Economics continually grows more abusive to the planet population as international scope and computerization focus on an intense gathering of wealth for the few and in addition, without conscience increase the hardship on the quality of life for the rest.

Similarly, governments support corporate interests and refuse to openly and fairly care for all their citizens equally.

The measure of human worth and virtue is measured in dollars.

In sociology, a machine is any entity that is used to more easily achieve a goal. Machines can be a hammer, sunglasses, nuclear weapons, governments, organizations and prejudices. Humans have replaced religion with machines. Life according to a higher plane of existence and transcendent ethos is disappearing very rapidly. Today, it’s the machines that dictate morality.

Mariner believes this is overwhelming evidence that religion has been obliterated in the West; the East is catching up quickly. People today have lost faith in themselves which is what religion is all about. People chase the machines. It is a plastic world with no ethos, no reward for life, and no intrinsic value for achievement.

Consequently, the mariner will offer a generic religion starter kit for those who feel the absence of spiritual happiness.



First, you need a god. How you envision god is very, very important. Many of you are aware that several practicing religions forbid any image of god – not even writing a name for god. There are two reasons for this: first, god has no shape; god is not a thing. God is a state of perfect being. Second, you can’t worship images, not even presumptions of images. The Jews call this Baal worship. The Christian Bible cites god in several places saying “you will have no other gods before me.” That includes pictures and words of god; they truly don’t look like god at all[1]. God is a singularity. This will have meaning in a moment.

Many religions have the same creation story where god creates a perfect world in a special location. God puts a male and most often a female at the location and they do something they aren’t supposed to do. This creation story is very important to the manner in which we utilize god in our lives. The story establishes something called ‘duality.’

Duality is a condition of existence. Everything – everything – has two or more sides or values. Examples: start and stop; top and bottom; light and dark; far and near; man and woman; good and evil, and so on. Do not try to find an exception. There is only one exception: god. In perfection, god cannot have more than one state of being. God by definition is a singularity.

Duality is our opportunity to sense more than one value for something. To move through life, we are constantly bombarded with things which require us to judge the correct value. In the area of religion, this judgment is about good or evil values; whether something is right or wrong in merit. There is an affinity between singularity and good judgments; there is a rejection of singularity when judgments are bad.

Now you must add an item to the starter kit: faith that a state of perfect being exists. You should seek feelings of perfection and what that does to your feelings of self. A hint about what perfection feels like is a transcendent sensation that lifts you above duality and is very, very peaceful. It isn’t so important that you imagine some literal moment; remember god isn’t a thing; god is a state of perfection. Further, your human desires likely do not reflect perfection – you exist in a dualistic reality. Speaking anthropomorphically, god draws you to be like god – to exist in a state of singularity. But first you need a god.

In the starter kit is a set of measuring devices which you use to measure the amount of perfection in an event, thought or motive in your life. These measuring tools are sort of like handy decision aids like a pregnancy stick or a ruler to measure legal fish or the air pressure in your tires. The scale on each of these tools has words to help with measuring:

Is this event, thought or motive good duality or bad duality? How much of god’s singularity is present? How much beauty? How much love? How much order? How much truth? How much empathy? How much compassion? This set of words determines the quality of an event that is created by humans. It is not advised that you invent your own sticks. Usually they measure bad duality. For example, common measuring sticks of bad duality are opportunism, prejudice, pride, greed and avarice. When you think about it, a state of perfection doesn’t have much that can be measured. However, all of dual reality can be measured for compliance with a state of perfection.

When you have this much of the kit assembled, it is time to practice your religion. Always carry your measuring sticks with you; your measurements will help you focus on god’s singularity and to live a happier and more satisfying life. The remaining parts of the starter kit require some seasoning on your part before you can assemble them.

Ancient Mariner


[1] Religion is about answering ‘why’ we exist and ‘what’ provides goodness in our lives. The mariner references old religions to help with understanding; the starter kit is quite transparent when it comes to sanctification, ritual, interpretation of goodness and what a transcendent being looks like or how it is identified. The generic identification of god is up to you. Joseph Campbell suggested that the term ‘myth’ always gets in trouble because people place their faith in the myth rather than in what the myth represents (Baal worship). Campbell said, “A myth is a metaphor for things we cannot easily explain or articulate.” So it is with the term ‘god.’ A common metaphor is “Goodness is godliness.”

It’s all about Washing too many Clothes.

During 2016, the year of politics, the main concern of American citizens often was laced with words like freedom, fairness, loyalty, ethic, social justice, virtue, ethos, and other words that focus on how Americans treat one another and the spirit that binds them or separates them as fellow US citizens. It seems, as a closely experienced moment in history, not to have been orderly. The American psyche behaves as though it were in a clothes washer. As a people, we are tossed about by economic unfairness; we are tossed about by clashes in philosophy of government; we are tossed about by a blatant intrusion of technology without time for adaptation and understanding; we are threatened by the loss of our planet.

But in a quick glance, we see only the tip of the iceberg. When we studied history in school, we were able to identify different periods of history tied to wars or inventions or shifts in culture. For example, The Enlightenment, or The Protestant Reformation, or The Elizabethan era, or The Boer Wars, or The Nuclear age. What is our era? What can we call the years from the end of the Viet Nam war (April 30, 1975) to 2016? Perhaps there are subdivisions: The Reagan Government; The Millennial Years; Beginning of the Electronic Age; The Middle East Wars; The Emerging age of Corporatism. Mariner suggests these time periods are too short. Are there more influential years that we may not think of at the moment?

Maybe the sixth Great Extinction suggested by Elizabeth Kolbert; maybe the newly named Anthropocene Epoch (Human use of fossil fuel since 1850 literally has changed the chemistry of the planet); maybe “The Age of Sinking Megacities.” Mariner does not suggest these titles to be cynical. They are too real and quite too serious to be castigations. It’s just so hard to focus. So many wonderful things about modernity are pushed aside because we have the froth of the clothes washer in our eyes.

Ancient Mariner

Earth the Artist

Regularly, Amos holds forth lamenting the failures of the human species. It is his wont. But there are places on Planet Earth where the planet can still display its own beauty, timelessness and independent reality untarnished by humans. For those traveling the North American Southwest, many earthen displays are available.

The mariner traveled through the Southwest on his way to Los Angeles to attend his daughter’s wedding. Having experienced horrendous traffic, indescribable waste of Earth buried beneath 12-lane highways and interchanges large enough to be cattle ranches, and slowly dying roadside trees and other vegetation from fossil fuel waste, the mariner was sensitized to those moments when Earth’s timeless beauty was on display – beauty undisturbed for eons because there are scant resources for human consumption or destruction.

The first moment with Earth’s museum of art is the Glenwood Canyon in western Colorado on I-70. When highway contractors planned to bulldoze their way through this magnificent canyon, the public rose up in protest led by many environmental organizations and championed by John Denver. The highway planners were forced to redesign I-70 in such a way that the splendor of Glenwood Canyon was preserved as much as possible and wildlife was not disrupted in its natural behaviors. Granted, the canyon would be even more inspirational without the accoutrement of automobiles but still one can view the majesty that only Earth can produce.

It comes to mind that the canyon is one of the planet’s cathedrals. Glenwood Canyon is narrow with vertical cliffs rising far above the Colorado River. The mind senses an upward thrust to the heavens and beyond; the cliffs frame a portal to the Universe. As with all Earth’s displays, the human experience is one that makes us aware that we are not in charge as much as we think we are. 5,972,000,000,000,000,000,000 metric tons is in charge.

Traveling on toward Las Vegas, there is a relatively short canyon that will be missed unless one is looking for earthen inspiration. The Virgin Canyon displays the massive power of Earth. While Glenwood Canyon displays unity with the Universe, Virgin Canyon displays the no-nonsense nature of Planet Earth. The rock formations are huge, suggesting immovable strength. The formations suggest that we are not as strong as the planet by a long shot; the mariner was impressed in the same manner a muscle builder may impress – overwhelming flexes of strength and potential energy.

Driving through the Mohave Desert/Red Rock Canyon, Earth offers continuous entertainment as only large deserts can. If you like colors, Red Rock and the Painted Desert east on the way to Albuquerque are phenomenal; it is obvious the planet was in its bright color phase when these colorful, vast canvases were painted.

Returning from Los Angeles, the mariner and his wife did not stop at the Grand Canyon. The canyon is impossible to absorb all at once. There are the displays of color; observers remark they must be painted by humans but not so. Earth is the origin of all colors and will use whatever color fits its purpose. Further, the vast cut into the canyon by Earth’s own history – a history before time and with no assistance by H sapiens, makes one become aware that the Earth has been around a lot longer than humans; one is reminded that a shallow sea once covered the canyon long before it became a canyon.

There are other artworks in Earth’s museum that are not rock formations. The mariner is in awe of the planet’s oceans. Sitting still on silent rolling swells makes one aware that oceans will do what they will regardless of human intent. The oceans surrounding the planet speak of Earth’s independence and they cavort only with the Sun and Moon to create tides.

When we look at the Milky Way and the Solar system, Earth shares with us its own family of inanimate siblings, cousins and stars. If nothing else, viewing Earth’s family shrinks our species to its proper importance. In times gone by, we borrowed the Zodiac from space as an attempt to explain Earth’s place in human understanding. We continue to this day pondering the existence of gravity and the cause of dark matter. Earth already knows.

Ancient Mariner


This and That

The Midwest, between parallels N35° and N43°, has suffered temperatures in the high nineties with humidity above 70% for a good while. It isn’t pleasant. If you work outside, dehydration, sunburn and heat stroke lurk nearby. Still, plants and seeds cannot delay their required attention. The garden experience has transitioned from digging, hoeing, planting seeds, little pots and large pots, to an activity more akin to reconstructing frames for cucumbers and string beans, laying brick walks, processing compost, layering mulch in the gardens and weeding, weeding, weeding. As the mariner tells his town friends, “Anymore it takes me eight hours to work a four-hour day.”

In August, there are wedding bells in the mariner’s family. The wedding is in Los Angeles with many show business neophytes in attendance.

Every August mariner also hosts a neighborhood fete called “The Turkey Fry.” Mariner provides two large turkeys – one for roasting and serving sliced in gravy, the other dipped in dangerously hot and open cooking oil which could easily spill onto the propane burner under the pot. This year mariner planted sweet corn timed to be ready for picking for the Turkey Fry. About thirty neighbors attend. He assumes a fortress of electrified wire around the12x12 foot corn crop using a 13-acre AC charger will deter raccoons.

The mariner has a tip for tomato growers who invest time, money and frustration with tomato cages: don’t use them! The mariner’s model is to grow each plant about eight inches apart in a square configuration. The tomato plants prop each other just fine. It is still possible to tread carefully among the plants when harvesting. Another benefit is the plants help suppress weeds among the plants.

In a manner of days, hordes of in-laws arrive at a park down the road for their quinquennial, weeklong gathering. It has occurred every five years since 1981. They look old now but one can easily tell the new ones are continuing the tradition.

Readers are advised of these events to warn them of other gaps in post writing. The mariner will do his best to be regular.

A piece about Muhammad Ali is in the Reference Section. What set Muhammad apart was his statesmanship. He wasn’t just another boxer among boxers; he had class, empathy and intelligence. True, he played a buffoon as part of the show but he had a quick and caring mind. His feelings about the wellbeing of others were the basis for his conversion to Islam – an act that was spiritual and was distant from more rebellious sects.


Muhammad Ali was a gentleman in the boxing community. He had an extra sense of grace that translated from his pugilist profession to one of awareness, care for the common man and a sharper mind than most in his profession. Oh, that more statesmen could be in politics! Muhammad had the courage to defy the draft and serve his punishment; the courts plucked him from that fate but still he would lose three years of income, age and prestige before the military was behind him.

His extra sense of grace allowed him to quote poetry about himself more succinctly with entertaining braggadocio. Note this one before the “Rumble in the Jungle” against Joe Frazier:

Last night I had a dream

Last night I had a dream. When I got to Africa,

I had one hell of a rumble.

I had to beat Tarzan’s behind first,

For claiming to be King of the Jungle.

For this fight, I’ve wrestled with alligators,

I’ve tussled with a whale.

I done handcuffed lightning

And throw thunder in jail.

You know I’m bad.

Just last week, I murdered a rock,

Injured a stone, Hospitalized a brick.

I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.

I’m so fast, man,

I can run through a hurricane and don’t get wet.

When George Foreman meets me,

He’ll pay his debt.

I can drown a drink of water, and kill a dead tree.

Wait till you see Muhammad Ali.

–      –   –   –

Add another one to the list of extinctions occurring during the Holocene, the period in which humans trashed the biosphere: Melomys rubicola — Bramble Cay Melomys, a species of mouse that remained in existence only on an island in the Torres Straight near Queensland Australia. The rodent, also called the mosaic-tailed rat, was only known to live on Bramble Cay, a small coral cay, just 340m long and 150m wide off the north coast of Queensland, Australia, which sits at most 3m above sea level.


–  –   –   –

Mariner stopped by the Forbes Magazine to review an article. The first screen had a display that said:

Quote of the Day

“You will never own the future if you care what other people think.“

Cindy Gallop

Each of us could write three of four counterpoints to Cindy’s comment – which is  required to be a capitalist. Assets do not normally flow up hill; they deliberately must be acquired. Capitalism unbridled by compassion will make few rich, most poor, and the capitalist, protected by layers of wealth, will be indifferent to environment, fairness, contribution to the point of meaningful sharing and a twisted sense of self-worth.

“Only when the last tree has died, the last river been poisoned, and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”

                        – A  Cree Indian Saying

Ancient Mariner

The House that Tom Built – 2

After removing several hellish stumps and after pouring a massive concrete pad and waiting a good while until it dried, Tom began putting together columns, beams and trusses. This is not a standard frame; columns are six by six inches with a few eight by eights; columns are bolted to iron brackets buried in the foundation wall (see Fig. 1). Figure 1 steel posts that will be buried in concrete to receive weight from posts. Note the bolt hole that assures the posts will never move even in a tornado!

Beams and tr0004AA Support for exterior postsusses are six by eight or ten depending on the load. An intricate truss structure strong enough to support two homes will rise into place with the help of a giant crane.

When the house is completed, this massive truss and beam will come to life as a work of art. One can watch stress and load move across this superstructure as though it were flowing water – a poetic edifice that induces wonderment.


The entire house is encased in wood: ceilings, walls, nooks and crannies, and floors except for the main open space. The mariner counted at least eight kinds of tree lumber in the house – including a hackberry wall in one of the baths. One doesn’t use hackberry very often because its markings tend not to be stable. Tom pulls it off, however, in a striking pattern.

Anyone who has built a house from scratch knows it is not a one step forward experience. There are one or two steps backward as well.


Tom had just raised the trusses over the kitchen and bedroom on the first floor when a severe Arkansas storm leveled the superstructure – 6×8 inch beams and all. Further, as anyone knows who has taken on a similar project, there are those days… A few photographs to show backward steps:





Finally, one can see the end in sight, er, not 4 or five years – more like 11 and counting. Being a guest in the home is a breathtaking experience mariner is unable to represent in this post. It is a piece of art in the Arkansas backcountry.

batts on boards

Ancient Mariner

The House that Tom Built

Think first of someone with the talent of an artist: that intuitive awareness that most of us can appreciate but never emulate; think da vinci; think the Statue of Liberty by Bartholdi and Eiffel; think Eiffel Tower by Eiffel; think the Vietnam memorial by Maya Linn; think Frank Lloyd Wright. These artists have intuitive creativity enriched by a requirement for function – Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol need not apply. Now you understand the intuitive genius of Tom.

Tom is not famous; his artwork is not easily reproduced nor, perhaps, not widely wanted in an age when upscale homes must flaunt expensive materials, artificial elegance, Pier One decor, and look-alike neighborhoods. Tom never considered himself an artist. That awareness probably would have restrained his creative eye and certainly would have affected his enjoyment. Tom’s career as a PhD in soil microbiology and working for large agricultural chemical manufacturers similar to PPG and Uniroyal also was creative when he was presented with a new biological chemical to analyze or sent to a golf course or a farm or park because someone had to identify an unknown cause for poor plant performance. It was Tom who sent mariner a bottle of “stuff” to keep his Poinsettias from growing lanky after Christmas.

Tom had a dream. Long before he retired, Tom began drawing his dream house. Drawings that eventually had detail like how many square-nut half inch bolts he would need. He kept his drawings on laptop software to retain measurements and scale and how many two-by fours are needed – as if Tom knew what a 2×4 was. If he needed one, he would cut down a tree, cut the tree into large planks, dry the wood for a year in a specially heated school bus AKA wood drying kiln, run the plank through a planer and jointer, and then cut 2×4-inch pieces (real 2x4s, not 1 5/8 by 3 5/8).

Tom has a loving and extremely forgiving wife. She asked, as Tom finally retired and committed himself to building the house, “How long?” “Oh, about 4-5 years,” he said. Tom didn’t mention that first they would have to build and live in a small house and giant workshop. Tom quickly gained a reputation for identifying a project – which, one discovered, required another project before that one, and another before that one, and another before that one. The reader and mariner will go to a lumber yard on Saturday to buy some materials. When Tom said he was ready to start framing, that meant he had to build a sawmill, buy a school bus, retool the front-end loader so it could function like a fork lift, cut down and square 20 acres of trees, dry the bulk lumber for a year, cut the rough wood into framing pieces, and make massive steel plates to hold trusses together.

Tom is a skilled welder. By welding this and welding that, he has created, resurrected or modified tools from broken angle iron to major equipment like forklifts, front-end loaders and jeeps – redesigned to achieve unique tasks. The home handyman envies Tom’s collection of used and restored heavy duty saws, planers, jointers, sanders, routers, endless jigs and drills. Mariner wanders Tom’s workshop in awe of the nameless tools and devices made to accomplish unique tasks on a grand scale. For example, to turn the bus into a kiln, he welded steel drop down covers for the bus windows. These allow regulation of temperature; he installed a large heater – some would say a small furnace – to achieve the high temperatures needed.

Tom also is a perpetual visitor to auctions, sellouts of closing stores, lumber yards, farms and private sales of lumber, steel, plumbing supplies (Tom could start a museum about plumbing and heating), and, as his wife, the reader, and the mariner might consider – junk. One must admit that it is junk but Tom sees in it an artful reuse for a future project. Artful, indeed, as his artist’s eye will transform it into a tasteful creation or a needed function.

1-Sharp Tailed Grouse with skink for breakfast; Serengeti in background.

 Tom is blessed that he owns 120 acres as his share among his siblings. The house site sits on a high hill overlooking a large field that once had grazing cattle but now has an idyllic Serengeti appeal. Wildlife abounds in this remote region of Arkansas. Deer families roam the ‘Serengeti’ as if they were Thompson’s Gazelles. An unexpected visitor for those not familiar with this part of Arkansas is the domestic but feral hog; not the razorback or the peccary – but a relative of Wilbur. They are destructive as hogs tend to be and willingly tear up gardens much worse than Iowa rabbits. Tom converted his father’s cattle trailer – made from cattle fence and metal posts – into a hog trap that catches them alive. Tom and his wife make sublime smoked pork!

The project began in earnest around 2003-2004 when Tom laid spray paint lines on the location. (More in another post.)


  • Stephen Hawking is doing a series for BBC wherein he says the human race will disappear sometime between 100 and 10,000 years but not to worry: the human seed will live on in space – if we make it through the next 100 years! Buy your ticket now. See:

  • The reader may be aware that for years US News magazine has ranked US colleges and Universities using an elaborate set of conditions; the effort has drawn general praise by readers and education pundits. Now US News has applied its research model to nations ranked from the best country to live in to the worst country to live in. It ranked 60 nations. The US came in fourth behind Germany, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The website is interactive so the reader can drill down into a country’s stats and history. See:
  • Fareed Zakaria has a Sunday show on CNN (Global Public Square aka GPS). Mariner has recommended GPS in the past. This past week (1/17), he focused on radicalism and how social media is the hotbed of radicalization. Zakaria points to a recent personal experience where atrocious lies about him were posted and went viral (called trolling). See Fareed on CNN or read about his recent attack from social media in his column in the Washington Post.

Ancient Mariner

A Day in the Sonora Desert

The primary event today is to visit the renowned Phoenix Botanic Gardens – a first in every travel guide. Mariner has waited a long time to explore a desert biome. While not out in the wilderness, it is a rich accumulation of cactus and succulent of every variety. Watching carefully, one can glimpse the roadrunner of cartoon fame (Geococcyx), Gambels Quail, (Callipepla gambelii), and the Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura). Needless to say, mariner purchased many small samples of desert plants to start his own Sonora Desert.

It was promised that there would be an update of the ‘morning line,’ that is, today’s list of betting odds for the next President.


Two Weeks Ago 1-09-2016
Hillary Clinton 8/11 72% 8/11 72%
Marco Rubio 11/2 18% 11/2 18%
Donald Trump 8/1 12½% 6/1 16%
Ted Cruz 10/1 10% 10/1 10%
Bernie Sanders 20/1 5% 18/1 5½%
Jeb Bush 22/1 4½% 22/1 4½%
Chris Christie 33/1 3% 28/1 3½%
Ben Carson 200/1 ½% 200/1 ½%
John Kasich 250/1 2/5% 250/1 2/5%
Martin O’Malley 250/1 2/5% 250/1 2/5%
Mike Huckabee 500/1 1/5% 500/1 1/5%
Carley Fiorina 500/1 1/5% 500/1 1/5%
Rand Paul 200/1 ½% 999/1 1/100%

Everyone has held their position except Rand Paul, who fell to the bottom. Otherwise, bettors have seen nothing that would require hedging their bets.

Some readers asked the meaning of “hold the lay line.” There are times when sailing a line (direction) there is close clearance. The helmsman must assure that the boat does not fall to the close side. If that happens, the helmsman will be forced to tack away to be on the open side of the line. See diagram.


Mariner uses this term to represent driving. The driver must be sure to be in the correct lane, take the correct exit, hold speed, and stay in a direction that will provide successful arrival.

Tomorrow has a trip to a special zoo displaying desert wildlife.

Ancient Mariner