Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Dalai Lama and the Brain Scientists

An interesting book: Consciousness at the Crossroads, edited by Zara Houshmand, Robert B. Livingston, and B. Allan Wallace. We got it because Brigitte chanced across an essay by Zara Houshmand a while back which very much impressed us. The book contains the discussion of a conference between the Dalai Lama and leading brain scientists. The interesting aspects of the book is the Dalai Lama’s own presentation of various differing Buddhist cosmologies—and the quite evident tension between the physicalist monism of the scientists and the subtle but very real dualism of Buddhism, never mind which branch is involved. Were it not for the Dalai Lama's own unquestioned world fame, even this attempt to “find commonalities” between the so-called Western and the Asian systems of belief would never have taken place. What we have here is a polite exchange. The radical split between these two views, however, is what makes reading the presentations fascinating.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Knick in the Bokkers

We’ve been watching The Knick on disks, a series that features what had once been the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York City. This is an HBO production. What it is, above all, is an illustration of how the past is distorted by modern entertainment media. True: the main character of the piece, John Thackery, played by Clive Owen, is modeled on a actual pioneering surgeon, William Steward Halstead. Halstead was also, like Thackery, a cocaine and morphium addict—but his chief activity was at the Johns Hopkins in Maryland, not the Knickerbocker, located in Harlem, NY. The Knick features—alongside some bloody operations—a cigarette-smoking nun who doubles as an abortionist, a black surgeon to whom one of Halstead's innovations is ascribed, opium dens and naked Asian females on whom, incidentally almost (and at an hourly compensation) Thackery tries out some of his inventions. There is ample violence, graft, and slews of Irishmen presented, almost exclusively, as grafters and members of mobs. As one review had it—something for everyone. The amusing theological content (something for everyone, remember) suggests that the abortion-performing nun will get to heaven for at least some of her abortions—those where the women were pregnant on account of rape by the boss in a factory…. All this had me contrasting fondly remembered historical dramas by Granada Television. HBO, alas, is all Now! even in an historical recreation.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Albert the 1st

In a day and age in which science can even transplant a uterus, one can permit oneself to dream! My dream is that our next NASA venture will be to move the Planet Earth just enough closer to the Sun so that a year will be exactly 364 days—to the minute, nay, to the second and the nanosecond. With that we shall have made the year to last precisely 52 weeks (rather than a pesky 52.14285714). Leap years will have been abolished. The difficult we should do immediately; the impossible—getting rid of Friday the 13th—will take a little longer—unless we hit upon a genuinely creative fix and simply banish Sunday ever falling on the first of any month! No Sunday the 1st—no Friday the 13th. Logical, isn’t it. When Sunday would, under the old dispensation, falls on the 1st of the month, we would substitute Albert for it and simply shove Sunday to the 2nd of the month. Albert is for you-know-who.

The neat solution above has a little problem. It comes from the fact that when a common year (one with 365 days in our benighted times) begins on a Sunday, it also ends on a Sunday. And, surprising people like me, whom calendars generally baffle, a year beginning on Monday also ends on a Monday, and so on for all the days of the week. But if January 1 falls on Albert, what do we do with the last day of the year? Problems. Problems.

In the case of leap years, of course, a January 1st falling on Sunday, the year ends on a Monday what with that pesky February 29th pushing everything out by one. Similarly with all the other possible leap year starting days. 2015 started on a Thursday. Therefore 2016, which also happens to be is a leap year, will start on Friday.

Every common year starting on Thursday has three Fridays the 13th—in February, March, and November. Because, of course, those months start on Sunday. They ought to start on Albert. To help others carry on the future labors of getting rid of Friday the 13th, I herewith present a table for starters. We’ve got to get this whole business simplified. I think you’ll all agree.

Note please that in common years no Friday the 13th falls into July. The Leap year is also finicky: it features no Fridays the 13th in August. And also note, lest my entry title be forgotten, that in all the months shown for Friday the 13th, the first day of the month would be an Albert in my new calendar.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The New Energy

Seemingly intensifying troubles all over the globe—and just yesterday at the University of Missouri—produced the almost random thought this morning: global energy is rising—and it’s been going on for a while.

Behind that thought was the commonplace observation that uncontrolled, un-channeled energy almost always causes huge amounts of damage—as we know from tornadoes, earthquakes, and the like. Therefore what I’m observing across the world—be it in the middle-east, in Africa, and the Americas, not least a drum-beat of shootings, killings, and upheavals here—must be the consequence of extra energy.

But when I look at that, I noted that we’re in the gradual process of consuming what little is left  now of global hydrocarbon energy. By all accounts we should see the Age of Oil end by the end of this century. So where does this new energy come from?

Next it occurred to me that this New Energy is not of the fossil kind—or the candidates to replace it. Rather that it is new human energy chaotically “doing work,” and mostly destructive work, outside the old-fashioned institutional systems of family, markets, education, and government. Can we actually see it? Yes. We see its tooling almost everywhere except in the pools of swimming pools. That tooling is the cell phone. People use it taking the dog for a walk, driving, waiting for the doctor, while shopping, just before falling asleep and first thing after waking and on the toilet.

The cell phone, to be sure, is but the most visible icon of very rapid communication between individuals; it rests on digital technology and systems developed for its exploitation, most centrally the many different kinds of social media enabling people to form ad-hoc group that, when moved by some strong emotion of idea, take on the character of an institution of the old-fashioned, regular kind like a government or an army.

The difference between what I’ve been calling “old-fashioned” institutions and these new ad-hoc groups is that institutions require major investment, employees, work space, routine missions, and central administration. The ad-hoc groups have no office buildings, payrolls, or, often, recognizable leaders; but, often, they can actually function almost without titular leadership altogether. Rapid communication can gel into consensus; action then follows quite spontaneously.

The various emotions or ideas that move these groups may be quite innocent—like entertainment; but when the emotions are rebellion or opposition, they can and do become quite effectively aggressive and take over (often violently, as is the case with ISIS) all traditional institutions and come to dominate entire regions. The earliest of these groups were called flash mobs and date to the early 2000s.

The energy comes from the concerting of individual actions—individuals whom, before the cyber revolution, it would have taken monumental efforts to recruit to coordinate if they were physically close. Such efforts once took significant time to accomplish and could be relatively easily disrupted. The cyber revolution annihilates both space and time—space by being able to coordinate people at great distances and time by doing it in hours or days rather than months or years.  Open communications—on an unimaginable scale—make it almost impossible even to detect the formation and intensification of these groups until they have begun to act. There is also that first amendment guarantee of free speech and assembly to make action countering their destructive efforts difficult. At present this new energy looks like a permanent feature of modern life putting all sorts of institutions at risk. But stable institutions are necessary for order. It is order that has begun to yield—and will fill our media with chaos until a new order, after all kinds of transformations, once more takes hold.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

War on Drugs Revisited

A story in the New York Times this morning, “White Families Seek a Gentler War on Heroin,” reminded us again of a lot older war, the First Opium War (1839-1842). The background to that war was this: Great Britain was growing opium in Bengal to sell to China—opium being one product for which the Chinese were willing to pay silver; they were, in other economic ways, essentially self-sufficient. The British venture produced an exodus of silver from China and a rise in Chinese opium addicts. The emperor decided to eradicate the traffic—adopting much the same general method we’ve adopted in conducting our own war on drugs. Britain resisted this imperial strategy. Hence by military power, Hong Kong became British and Great Britain also extorted rights to trade freely at five other ports, among them Shanghai.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime maintains statistics, if somewhat dated, on opium and heroin consumption world-wide. A graphic produced by UNODC, which I found here, is shown below:

If we take data for 2008 on opiate user in the United States, we get an estimate of 1.335 million users in that year or, expressed as a percent of the total U.S. population, 0.44 percent. Compared to that percentage (less than half of 1 percent), the problem appears minute—unless the addict is your child.

Virtually all heroin used ultimately traces back to Afghanistan—the country where 92 percent of all opium poppies were grown in 2008. Afghanistan’s share has dropped since then to around 83-84 percent. Curiously, as the following chart, taken from Wikipedia (link) shows, the only time when poppy production was seriously challenged in the last two decades was in 2001—when the Taliban were briefly in charge…

We’re looking here are the disconcerting effects on the mind of scale—tiny numbers and vast expenditures on wars (of all kinds)—at tiny places that produce global problems, and at the persistence of problems ultimately rooted in vast cultural movements which produce, wealth, crowding, stress…and substances that help some people cope—the wrong way.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Great Inca Road

The National Museum of the American Indian (part of the Smithsonian) has opened an exhibit, The Greak Inka Road: Engineering an Empire; it will be open until June 2018 (per WSJ, 10-20-2015).

My own interest in great highways is linked with my interest in civilizations; civilizations build road networks as a by-product of administering large areas; and these highways are usually the longest-lasting residues of such cultures; all of us Europeans have trod or driven on what once were Roman roads. A post of mine on South American empires is here. The Incas originated as a culture around 900 A.D. Their empire extended from 1438 to 1533—and would have lasted a great deal longer had it not been for those conquistadors. Most of the Great Inca Road was built during the period of the Inca Empire although parts of it predate Inca dominion.

The map I show is from Wikipedia (link). The system, a roughly parallel formation, has a coastal main highway (in brown) and a mountain route (in blue). The light-brown roads connecting these and branching from them were part of the system—with those crossing the mountains the most spectacular. The broken lines are today’s state borders.

Pondering this vast structure—and looking at many great pictures easily accessible by entering “Inca Road System” into Google Images—I wonder what some counterpart of mine, studying civilizations and their roads, will think of the remains of The Great American Road System two thousand years from now. Will he imagine that they were built by slaves? Such is the reflex belief we bring to the subject—although we know that most Roman roads were built by soldiers and, as best as we can determine, Inca road-building itself was based on something akin to military levies. Such levies are well known to us from medieval times—never mind the still vividly remembered draft….

Monday, October 19, 2015

An Odd Dilemma

The definition of dilemma, literally “two propositions,” takes its negative meaning from the fact that both propositions (or situations) must be unfavorable to deserve the name dilemma—yet we must choose one. Fine. But my use of the word is a little different here. Of the two propositions I have in mind, I view the first rather with approval; not the second; yet the second is the cause of the first.

The first is that since the end of the Great Recession (let’s assume that it lasted for two years, all of 2008 and 2009) has had a dreary aftermath that, so far, has lasted nearly six years. By dreary I mean that the economy, while it has grown, has grown from 2010 to 2015 at an annual rate of 1.4 percent whereas it grew from 2002 to 2007 at a rate of 2.9 percent. The measured item here is Gross Domestic Product expressed in constant dollars. The low GDP growth rate since the recession actually pleases me: 1.4 percent is much closer to the population growth rate, which is under 1 percent annually—yet it is higher than the population growth rate; we are growing, a little, but are avoiding what Alan Greenspan once labeled “irrational exuberance.”

The second proposition is that the reason for our supposedly sluggish growth is not only domestic but also international conflict. Conflict has caused the erosion of public confidence and manifests in countless ways—and this despite low gasoline prices and gradually increasing employment—if only in the lower-paid segments of the economy. The adaptive growth pattern is pleasing; its cause, vast demoralization, is not. Therefore the dilemma.

In a way this situation illustrates the nature of real change—which is almost never by design but always by default. Just as drought produces those ugly cracks in dried out ground so social conflict produces adaptive attempts to form new, smaller, and more viable social entities. Unfortunately, to make the smaller, one has to tear the greater apart. Hence we have these nearly annual cliff hangers about public debt and government closings, cracks within and between parties, insane shootings at public events that are beginning to be almost casual—and, to be sure, hesitance by people to spend money on anything but the necessary stuff. Meanwhile, looking beyond our borders, much, much the same everywhere. If this goes on, yet more changes will appear in society. Some of them I will actually appreciate and value (as I do low-growth-GDP), even if their causes are rather sordid.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Red and the Green

The subject today is neither an English-Irish conflict (Iris Murdoch’s novel of the same title) nor yet the clash between carnivorous and vegetarian diets (Le Vert et Le Rouge, a novel by Armand Chauvel). Rather it is about an annual event in this household, analogous to the autumnal equinox but always coming later—namely the day when The Plants Come In. This event is caused by early frosts; we’ve got good documentation of when that has happened since 2011. In that year the plants came in on November 11—the latest date in the entire series. Thus 2012: October 28; 2013: November 7; 2014: October 18; and now, 2015: October 16.

These dates always mark the first day of the move—and the effort usually takes several days to accomplish. Some plants are easily grouped together. We cover them with sheets held in place with clothes pins; they can easily survive a few hours of frost and then stay outside for several days yet until the cold sets in seriously or we grow tired of draping them each evening.

Above a couple of photos of the Red and the Green which, this year, got left out to fend for themselves: carnations and all but one, the biggest, of our jade plants. They’re enjoying the quite real warmth of the sun this morning.

The autumnal event, of course, is matched by a vernal counterpart—which also comes later, indeed usually two months, and counting, later: the day when The Plants Go Out. That day has been pretty much centered around May 5. That process also takes two days—because we’ve got a lot of plants to move. The heaviest go out first. We know: you get the hardest job done before you tidy things up with the little stuff…

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Waiting for Coffee on Mars

Now we know that briny brooks flow down the mountain-sides on Mars. The news came yesterday in a paper in Nature Geoscience (link). The immediate speculation turned to the possible presence of Life on the red planet—not presently, presumably, because the water is way to salty to allow that—but a ways back in time. Good stuff for the science fiction writer, myself one such, only we’ve already been there. We’ve done it by imagination—and quite old knowledge that Mars has water; the planet has an ice cap on its northern pole. The NASA team used satellite-based instruments to discover the flowing brine. What strikes me as interesting, here, is our strong faith in our own theories of how life begins and then develops. All one needs is water, some heat, minerals, and lots and lots of time. Given these minima, Life’s sure to begin. Now as for intelligence, that’s a little bit more difficult. But I am sure that science, in its dogged determination, will one of these days discover the presence of coffee on Mars. That’s when I’ll get excited—knowing, as I do, that without coffee in the morning, my own intelligence is almost non-existent.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Shadow Moon

The earth would throw its reddish shade
Over that Mayan heroine
“Blood Maid”—whom we call “Supermoon”
These days (a new term for Luna
At her perigees)—when streaky
Clouds began to spread dense veils leaving
Unwelcome snaky dark-grey trails.

Then came a call from Pat next door
To say that clouds had now at last
Begun to fray. The Supermoon
Was in the sky again. Its diamond
Shine had now begun to wane as
Pac Man Earth’s dark shadow took the
First bite it would now swallow.

We sat in a deep pool of black
Between the house, garage, and the
Dark green of grass, the gazebo’s
Shapely silhouette—marked by faint
Solar beads of lights—ahead and
On high a mirage—a gaining
Moon its dark parts faint maroon.

It took a while until real light
Had fled leaving behind a shade
Of glowing red. Here was “Blood Moon”
Named so, they say, by our prophets
Predicting the Last Days. We read
The message, agreeing with the
Sky, and hoped that Light would yet
Return, if only by-and-bye.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Minding the Nones of July

We’re frequently reminded that an exercised mind retards the onset of senility. Minds aged eighty or thereabouts and higher tend to notice stories like that; the ballpoint marks the article for closer reading. Keeping the mind sharp is our excuse, hereabouts, for working crossword puzzles, as in “you learn something new every day,” e.g. that OREO is an almost indispensably useful word in crossword puzzles. Well, the other day, we had the following clue: July 7, e.g. Brigitte and I always do puzzles together; and what with our respective backgrounds, we fill in our respective gaps of knowledge and never fail to solve a puzzle. This time, again, we found the answer to that clue—but only by finding the other words that intersected with it. The answer was NONES. But what does that mean?

Nones, of course, vaguely hinted at the ninth canonical hour, but the clue was July 7. So how do we get from 9 to 7. To get an answer to that illustrates what might be called the useful activity of “extended crossword puzzle solving.” One has to research the subject. Well, Brigitte and I are both quite familiar with the Ides of March; assassinations of important people have a way of lingering in racial memory. We also knew that it was the 15th of the month. Oddly enough, as we discovered, counting backward from 15, with 15 being 1, the 9th day turns out to be the 7th. So if you count back from the Ides of July by nine, including that day in your count, the ninth (nonae in Latin) day will be the 7th.  Nones is always the 9th day of the month in the Julian calendar—but it falls on the 7th of the month only in March, May, July, and October—because the Ides falls on the 15th. In all other months, the Ides fall on the 13th and hence Nones is on the 5th of the month!

Having discovered this, we learned that Roman naming of the days was rather awkward. The Romans only had three “named” days, Kalends (the first day of the month), Nones (5th or 7th depending on the month), and Ides (15th or 13th, again depending on the months). All other days were defined with reference to these three. The following table shows the naming conventions, which seem very hard to remember for us, for the month of July:

Kalends (of July)
Day 15 before Kalends
Day 5 before Nones
Day 14 before Kalends
Day 4 before Nones
Day 13 before Kalends
Day 3 before Nones
Day 12 before Kalends
Day 2 before Nones
Day 11 before Kalends
Day before Nones
Day 10 before Kalends
Day 9 before Kalends
Day 7 before Ides
Day 8 before Kalends
Day 6 before Ides
Day 7 before Kalends
Day 5 before Ides
Day 6 before Kalends
Day 4 before Ides
Day 5 before Kalends
Day 3 before Ides
Day 4 before Kalends
Day 2 before Ides
Day 3 before Kalends
Day before Ides
Day 2 before Kalends
Day before Kalends
Day 16 before Kalends
Kalends (of August)

The Romans used a standard annotation to name a day. Lets take the 13th of July here. They would write that as “a.d. II Id. Iul.” Spelled out: “ante diem II, Ides, Iulius.” Ante diem  stands for “day before”; it amuses me, however, that A.D. was used in calendars once—and still is, but with a different meaning. Iulius, is, of course, our July. The phrasing on the day immediately before the named days (e.g. July 14) was “prid. Id. Iul.”; the prid. is pridie and means “the day before.”

Keeping track of the days, particularly in the second half of each month, was rather a chore, it seems, best left to scribes who had desks with appropriate writing instruments on which to record time's passage.

Now, knowing that it takes such exercises to ward off the onrush of senility makes you kind of wonder just how bad senility really might be…

Thursday, July 9, 2015

It's a Gamble

What with Donald Trump suddenly so very visible in the Media, Brigitte got to wondering just where gambling is classified in the U.S. economy and, furthermore, just how big it actually is. An earlier post here, measuring the advertising industry as percentage of Gross Domestic Product was in the background of this question. How does the gaming “industry” compare to advertising? No doubt, to be sure, matters of chance were on her mind too—in view of the rather awkward fact that she managed to break an arm when, accidentally, slipping as she got out of the shower…

Well, gambling is part of Amusement, Gambling, and Recreation Industries (NAICS 713), specifically NAICS 7132, Gambling Industries. As best as I can determine, the industry’s revenues in 2013 were a shade over $33 billion, amounting to 0.2 percent of GDP in that year. Advertising, by contrast, was around 1.03 percent. Advertising is barely visible—and gambling is too small to see.

But if you go to Atlantic City and stand before the Trump Taj Mahal, especially when it’s lit up for the night, you get an altogether wrong impression of gambling’s importance—or Donald Trump’s as a presidential candidate. To be sure, if Trump triumphs, in both of his ventures—to get nominated or to rescue the Taj Mahal from bankruptcy— it will at least prove that our times are reaching the highest improbabilities even for a truly crazy state of the world. As for Brigitte, she’s got a few more  days before the present (sea-foam-green?) cast gives way to the (oyster-beige?) last one and the process of relearning to write with her right hand can be taken up in earnest…

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Neglected Typographical Symbol

In my handwritten diary the other day, I wanted to refer to a section of a book using the Section symbol. The attempt turned out to be something of a mess. I was doing it from memory, and my memory produced an image as of a 8 but with a little head on top. The symbol I was trying for in shown on the left, indicating that my memory was on the right track but now quite there. It is known as a double-S; indeed one person, known as Quora User, suggests that in handwriting one should try first writing an S and then another overlaying the first starting at about the mid-point of the one already written..

The double-S designation is also supported by its Latin designation, signmum sectiones—which, happily, provides the right sound as well. The mark is quite heavily used in legal documents but is otherwise essentially notable by absence in all other kinds of writings—unless one’s reading a nineteenth century work.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Very Fine Distinction

Word-lovers will, I think, appreciate what I stumbled across last night. I was reading Volume II of Phantasms of the Living, a classic in parapsychology by Edward Gurney et al, the real focus of which, broadly speaking, is telepathy; in detail it is filled with reports of people seeing apparitions, usually associated with the death of the person seen. Phantasms was the result of the first effort to conduct research by the Society for Psychical Research after its founding in 1882. In every meaningful regard, it is a classic and laid the groundwork for all future research in paranormal studies, not least its very rigorous reliance on statistical analysis of findings.

The story of the book itself, in a modern context, is amusing in its own way. I’m reading Volume II in the original, you might say: print-outs from a gigantic PDF produced by direct photocopying of the original. That task was then followed by digitization of the image, both tasks performed by Google. The actual reprint of the book, made from the digitization, turns out to be essentially unreadable.  The text has been reprinted—but without any attention paid to layout. Footnotes are reproduced as paragraphs wherever they fall—not at the bottom of pages—and without change in typography. New Chapters begin simply as new paragraphs in  the middle of pages. And so on. The photo images I’m reading, however, are clear, sharp, and laid out with the meticulous care applied in 1886.

Now to my little discovery. It comes from Chapter XIV, p. 58 of Volume II. It is yet another case (Number 239) of an apparition, written by one J. Merrill. In the commentary on the vision, Mr. Merrill says:

Moreover, I used the Scotch word ‘wraith’ instead of ‘ghost’ or ‘spirit,’ as I had an idea that the former word was applied to appearances before death.

The comment is added because the subject revolves around this issue: was the person whose apparition had been seen dead at the time—or still alive? Mr. Merrill thought it was best to assume that the answer was “still alive” hence the use of the word wraith. Well, I didn’t know that there was such a distinction expressible by choice of word.

Indeed, it turns out, there is. My 1961 unabridged Webster’s International provides the following as its first definition: “1a an apparition of a living person in his exact likeness seen usu. just before his death.” The word is further defined as a “ghost” in 1b—but the first definition agrees with Mr. Merrill’s sense expressed in 1885.

Webster’s does not indicate a Scottish origin, but Online Etymology Dictionary does; that source, however, says nothing of the fine distinction in J. Merrill’s mind.

Now for those who have little interest in obscure words, never mind phantasms and such, this post is presented, also, as perhaps of some future value. Ever wonder how people in their very late 70s and 80s spend the ample time and leisure they have from housekeeping, gardening, and shopping? Here you have an example. Words, particularly for those who’re almost-wraiths (there ought to be a word for that too) are a great source of amusement, indeed of merriment. Merriment, incidentally, finds its rooting in mirth.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Butterflies and the Bush-on-a-Tree

Sunday last we saw our favorite butterfly for the first time, the Black Swallowtail, feeding in all leisure off the blooms of a rather curious tree of ours. It is a Dwarf Lilac known to the botanists as Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’. I call it a curious tree because it is actually a combined form of a tree below and a bush above accomplished by grafting. The Korean Dwarf Lilac ordinarily has a very short stem of no more than 5 inches, so that the lilac hugs the ground. But look at these pictures:

The trunk of this “tree” measures 3.5 feet from the ground to the point where the branches articulate—thus way taller than the Korean Dwarf Lilac’s natural height. Our tree, therefore, is what they call a topgraft. The top part is a Dwarf Lilac and is called the scion; the trunk must be from a genetically related plant that grows quite high; it is called the interstem. With dwarf lilacs the two interstems normally used are Syringa villosa or the Japanese Lilac (Syringa reticulata). Our interstem is definitely a Villosa, commonly known as Lilac, Late; note, on the picture above, the green branches growing at the stem’s bottom; those leaves are the original leaves of the stem and helped me identify it. The Dwarf Lilac’s leaves are much smaller, darker in color, and of a different shape. But let me emphasize, again, that both the trunk and the top belong to the same genus; genetic similarity is a must for successful topgrafting.

The bloom of our little lily is shown on the left. It has a very faint odor now, but that odor will grow more and more pronounced as we enter the month of June.

Our Black Swallowtails arrived in pairs, one significantly larger than the other. They are very dark butterflies with a distinct yellow marking on the wings. They stood out splendidly against the lilac blossoms so that we could clearly make them out even from a distance; they were our own. Among other butterflies we’ve seen thus far are a Monarch (still alive, looks like), a Yellow Tiger Swallowtail, and a handful of Cabbage Whites. We feel quite comfortable with the butterflies. As for the Syringa meyeri, it will take some time before we get used to its curious duality.