Thursday, November 22, 2012

As We Celebrate Thanksgiving...

I’m no historian and this is not intended to be humorous but I do cheer for underdogs and I respect the will to survive, but most of all, I admire those who are willing to forgive the wrongdoings of others and share their precious experience, strength and hope.

Tisquantum was born a Patuxet Indian in the late 1500’s and known as Squanto. When he was a young man, he was kidnapped by Thomas Hunt, one of John Smith’s lieutenants, and sold to Spain along with other slaves (20 pounds a piece) along with fish and corn.

Local friars discovered them and took the natives in order to teach them the Christian faith. Squanto studied hard and then convinced the friars to let him try to get home. He did reach London but his plans fell through and he was made part of an Indian Exhibit on a London stage. He worked as a servant and then for a shipbuilder and learned the English language along the way.

By the time he located a ship captain who would agree to take him home, twelve years had passed. The captain was John Smith. When he returned home, there was no trace of his family or friends. They had all been struck with a great sickness, most likely smallpox or leptospirosis. Native Americans had no natural immunity to European infectious diseases.  Everyone he knew and loved had died. He was the last one remaining of his tribe.

Squanto finally settled with Pilgrims at the site of his former village, which the English named Plymouth. He showed the Pilgrims how to build warm houses. Then, taught them when and where to plant. He showed them how to plant and use fish for fertilizer to grow corn faster. He taught the women how to cook the corn. He acted as an interpreter, guide, and gave advice on bargaining with the natives. Without him, the pilgrims would never have survived another season. In fact, half of them had already died in the harsh winter weather.

Squanto was captured by Wampanoag natives and it was feared he had been killed. Myles Standish led a ten-man team of settlers to avenge him. Squanto was found alive and well. Welcomed back by the Pilgrims at Plymouth, he continued his vital role as assistant to the colony.

Although he worked at alliances, Squanto ended up being distrusted by both the English and the Wampanoag. The Wampanoag’s assigned, Hobamok (his name meant mischievous) to watch over Squanto and act as a second representative.

On his way back from a meeting to repair damaged relations between Wampanoag and Pilgrims, Squanto fell sick. Fever ravaged him and he began bleeding from the nose. Some historians have speculated that he had been poisoned. Squanto was buried in an unmarked grave.

On a lighter note, peace between the two groups lasted for another fifty years.

So as we sit today, over filling our bellies with food that doesn’t even resemble a feast nibbled on by the settlers, we give thanks to those who persevered, withstood unending hardships and endured to give us what we have today. Thank you, Squanto. Amen.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Everything I needed to Know I learned in Farmville

Dr. Weakly, my psychologist, has been studying my mind diligently for several years, and has decided that it may be interesting enough to write about. He says if I am willing to participate there is a good possibility that he will be nominated for the Distinguished Scientist award. The annual conference will be held at Minneapolis City Center Marriott. I agreed to participate immediately, if only to visit an exotic location like, Minneapolis, and I hear the Marriott’s are fantastic.

This week, our study was narrowed down to researching insight as the product of internal processes. Doctor Weakly is determined to find out if some of my bright ideas are inspired by cultural artifacts, external objects or perhaps secretly implanted by aliens while I am sleeping.  

 I told him that the alien theory is not possible since, for the last ten years, I have been sleeping with a thought screening helmet that I fashioned from a 1920’s flapper hat and lined it with Velostat. I found instructions on an Internet website that provided potential abductees sorely needed defense against telepathic wars being waged by evil doing aliens. I agreed to bring my helmet to our next session so he could examine it.

Dr Weakly also asked me to sit in a darkened room, actually I think it was his broom closet, for an hour, which was the length of an entire session. I sat in the straight-back wooden chair and stared into a 60 watt light bulb hanging  at eye level. Dr. Weakly explained that the light bulb is an external object that is imbued with meaning. He gave me a pad of paper and asked me to attempt to answer an unsolved mathematical question, do odd perfect numbers exist?

I stared into the light bulb for a full fifty-eight minutes before writing this sentence; Since it is people who have determined that numbers are even or odd, all numbers are perfect. We must not allow other people’s opinions to color our self image. Numbers needn’t feel as if they are odd just because they have been labeled as such. They are not odd. They are just numbers.

My confident smile disappeared when Dr. Weakly’s eyebrows flew up after reading my answer.  He glared at me and explained that the mathematical  question he gave me involved positive integers, restricted divisor function and proper divisors. 

“The first few perfect numbers are, six, twenty-eight, four hundred ninety-six and eight thousand one hundred twenty-eight,” he said. “Anyone with half a brain knows that.”   

I willed myself to stop crying once he had finished his twenty minute lecture on comprehending the English language.  At least he was kind enough to drive me home. It took a full three days for my retinas to recover from the experience. Thankfully, the blob I was seeing has gone from forest green to cyan and I have assurance from my Ophthalmologist that my color blindness will correct itself in time.

I woke up early this morning and was excited about an insight I had received during my REM cycle. It wasn’t alien in nature, and it seemed to agree with Dr. Weakly’s theory about cultural artifacts acting as a catalyst for insight. I realized that everything of value that I have learned is due to playing FarmVille!

FarmVille has taught me that you can’t put two bulls in one dairy farm. Helping your neighbor often brings gifts.  Never plow and plant at the same time, it takes too long. With experience come large tanks of gas. Just because I never heard of Patty pan Squash doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.  Manuel harvesting can lead to index finger cramping from clicking the mouse.  If you don’t set your livestock to ‘stay’, they will run away. Too bad there isn’t a real setting for children and husbands. You can mute the farm noises if they make you crazy. Again, wouldn’t this be a nice feature to use on the neighbor’s barking dogs and annoying people? Make the most use of the size farm that you have, parcel constraints must be considered.  It doesn’t matter how many houses you own, you will still be standing in the middle of your crops when you return to the game.  It’s much easier to plow, plant and harvest if you use the proper equipment. Putting all your chickens in one coop will save you loads of time when collecting eggs. Stabilizing your horses is a good idea. Dairy farms bring in big ‘Moola’. Pea crops are the most lucrative. Peas on earth is the lesson here. Holidays in FarmVille last much longer than one day. Something we should all practice. Always honor a neighbor’s request. You can find just as much fertilizer on your Facebook home page as you will find in FarmVille.

And last, but not least, I have found a wonderful secret for leveling up faster. Sorry, I will keep that one to myself. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Art of Animal Twaining

Recently, The Associated Press, reported a donkey who was jailed for acting like an ass. It seems that, Blacky, was incarcerated for three days for biting and kicking two men near a ranch in Mexico. There was no mention of how far he had kicked them. The men said all of a sudden, the donkey was on top of them like it was rabid. What the story neglected to say was what the men did to provoke the poor Equus Asinus. Really, what would anger a donkey to the point of needing a half-dozen men to control him? Maybe Blacky is just in need of some training. Obviously, the men were ignorant of the importance of treats in training.
I grew up in a farm atmosphere, not in the mid-west, but  in the San Fernando Valley. When people ask me if I was raised in a barn, I can proudly say…yes. We had a goat that would dash into the house when  someone opened the back door. He would race to the living room and jump on the couch. My mother would scream,“get that goat off my couch!” I don't know why she got so upset.
I had a pet chicken named, Pee Wee. She snuck in the house whenever she had the chance too. Although they were not house-trained, heh, they were like family and I took pride in my training techniques. I was quite proficient in the reward technique and was an expert in handling excitable livestock.
Not once, were any of our animals jailed although we did have a dog who loved to kill chickens. My father had a fail-proof training technique for AJ (short for alligator jaws), even though some people might think it inhumane. He tied one of the dead chickens to the AJ’s neck and left it to rot for a few days. Sad to say, AJ just ended up being a stinky chicken killer. Then came that sad day when AJ was taken to live at a chicken-free residence a few blocks away.
I used to walk the long way to school just to visit him. I would pet his short black fur through a chain link fence and he always seemed so happy to see me. For months I would take him a few doggy biscuits and tell him how sorry I was that he couldn’t live with us anymore. That is, until the day I was horrified to see the dead mailman tied to his neck.