I let the hair grow out, and today it was time for another haircut. The reason for the haircut, was that I was going to a funeral this afternoon. It was the father of a business colleague that had died. The newspapers called him a "giant" of a man.
I hurried out of the office, hoping to make my hair appointment across town in time. However, when I looked at my watch, I thought that it was 11:15. Instead it was 10:15. I arrived exactly one hour early for my haircut.
I sat in my car, and my camera was at my side. I looked around, and next to the car, was a bush. Under the bush, was a bag of seashells, carefully gathered by a tourist, and then discarded under the bush. I wondered what the story was. Why had someone taken the trouble to collect these, and then throw them away?
Later this afternoon, the Lovely One and I attended the funeral. The Prime Minister was there, as well as the leader of the opposition, and all of the luminaries of this island society. They were there to honour a decent man. The urn containing his ashes was at the front of the church. One of the eulogists said that he was already dust again. The finality of that statement struck me.
And then it struck me that this bag of discarded shells was similar to situation. At one point each and every one of these shells was alive and beautiful, and now they were useless -- cast under tree -- in furrows plowed by Mother Nature, no longer wanted by anyone.
Ashes to ashes -- dust to dust. Man, life is so tenuous, and then it is gone. I have to make every day count.
As the ferry was winging its way back to our home port, I caught the setting sun saying goodbye to another day. It was a glorious end to another good one in the days of our lives. It reminded me of one of by favorite reggae songs by Bedouin SoundClash
I'm on the rocky road,
Another day is done,
Hey hey hey (hey!)
When the night feels my song
Into the yonder grove,
When the night feels my song,
In his book, he solve the hypothetical problem of calculating the idealized breeding rate of rabbits. You start with 1 + 1 =2. Then they breed and you get 3 -- another female. Then each of the two females has a rabbit and you now have 5. The series then advances to 8. Essentially the series is calculated by adding the last two elements of the series to get the new one. 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,56 etc.
This turns out to be a significant number in the architecture of nature and the universe. The Fibonacci series converges on the Golden Ratio or the Golden Mean. This is the ratio that results in the spiral of a nautilus shell. The Golden Ratio is also pleasing to the eye, and even the ancient Greeks knew this and used it in building the Parthenon.
Fibonacci series and the Golden mean are rife in nature. The double spiral of sunflower seeds in the flower is a consecutive Fibonacci number. Fibonacci numbers are seen in the branching of trees, the fruitlets of a pineapple, the uncurling of a fern and the arrangement of a pine cone.
So when I saw the straw market baskets spiral, I immediately thought that here was another application of the Fibonnaci series -- basketweaving.
I decided to test out the theory by chopping the photos and measuring the average pixel size of the basket curve. Then I would take the resultant series and see if it were a Fibonacci series. My series actually went like this: 66, 116, 200, 272, 278, 344, 409. The Golden Ratio settles in around 1.618 ....
Over the centuries, they have adapted to the tropical heat. Their hair has gotten shorter. They all have evolved to a yellow dog color. They have big barrel chests to extract the most oxygen with the least effort in the hot sun. They take 12 hour power naps, going into a tropical torpor so deep, that everytime that I see one in that state, I think that the dog is dead.
This particular dog is one of the wild ones that has been sort of domesticated. He lives at the National Gallery and can be found on the wrap-around porch at any time.
I was fascinated with the range of his colors in the sun. I sampled the colors in photoshop, and what you see in the pic, is just a few of the many, many colors of this dog.
I think that I have seen a banana flower. It reminds me of a bird of paradise flower. But I have yet to see any bananas anywhere. It has become an obsession with me. I have become Mr. Tallyman looking to tally the bananas that I have seen, and there are none to be seen.
Is it because the plants are grown for shrubbery? Is it because the bananas disappear as soon as they appear? Is it because they are out of season?
I had envisioned this island as full of trees and plants bearing tropical fruit, and I have been sorely disappointed. The only fruit that I have seen is of the inedible variety, or the very sparse variety. Even the tropical fruit in the supermarket is a disappointment. Up in the cold north it is less expensive and of a better quality. So every time that I seen a banana leaf, my hopes go up in seeing a six foot, seven foot, eight foot bunch. But there is nothing, and it makes me wanna go home. Day-O.
The pods were full and ripe. They were growing on a bush that was about waist high, but it had fallen over with the load of peas. I am willing to bet that they are edible, but I do not have the guts to try them. If I got sick from them, The Lovely One would let me writhe in pain to teach me a lesson about eating possibly venomous things that I know nothing about. And in this tropical paradise, Mother Nature seems prone to creating a lot of venomous things. I get a skin rash or pustules almost daily from touching things that look "neat".
So after photographing the giant killer peas, I threw them over the patio fence into the vacant lot next door. I wake up every morning, expecting to see a giant beanstalk ascending to heavens. You can bet your sweety bippy that I would climb it. Everyone knows that at the top of the beanstalk (peastalk) there lives a goose that lays golden eggs.
The second is the subtractive process where you start with Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. Cyan is the complement of red, meaning that cyan acts like a filter that absorbs red. The amount of cyan applied to a paper will control how much red will show. Magenta is the complement of green, and yellow the complement of blue. Combinations of different amounts of the three inks can produce a wide range of colors. This mixture of cyan, magenta, yellow and black is called CMYK.
I decided that I would create my own CMYK system by sampling the colors of objects in this tropical paradise. I got the cyan from the strip running down above the lateral line of the jack that I got spearfishing with my Hawaiian sling. The jack was terrorizing a school of baitfish when he ran into me. The cyan strip down his silver body is magnificent, and I sampled the color in Photoshop.
The magenta came from the bouganvillea bush by our gate. It is a magnificent shade and not three steps away, is the yellow flower growing on our fence. These are the colors of this tropical paradise. They are not some color wheel -- they are the colors of this country, and they are magnificent.
We were all ravenous, and after eating the crabcakes, we were looking for more. I ordered a bowl of chili fries, and our English guest ordered chili fries topped with an unidentifiable processed cheese. The above pic is what he got. To him, it was lip-smacking good, and he polished the meal off promptly.
Later on, I googled chili cheese fries and was flabbergasted. Chili Cheese Fries has up to 2,900 calories and 182 grams of fat. Men’s Health magazine puts them in its tabulation of “The 20 Worst Foods in America.” The website Slashfood puts it in its list of “The 88 Fast Food Items Most Likely to Kill You.” Based on that, we were lucky that our English guest wasn't our English Patient.
Based on calories alone, a bowl of chili cheese fries is equivalent to eating two pounds of tenderloin steak. And based on fat content, you could still eat a pound and three quarters of the same tenderloin steak.
If you ate peanuts, you would have to eat a full pound of shelled, dry roasted peanuts to eat the equivalent in calories and/or fat content. That would be more than a big jar.
If you went fruit instead, you would eliminate the 183 grams of fat if you ate the same caloric content. To gain the same amount in calories, you would have to eat 27 bananas or 35 apples.
All this to say, is that chili cheese fries are not exactly health food. It is a pity, because they really taste good. Why is it that all of the food that tastes good is bad for you? I try to watch what I eat too, but usually I just watch it going down. I am on a new diet though -- just black coffee and food. And I religiously follow the diet dictum of Miss Piggy -- Never Eat More Food Than You Can Lift!
Growing under the Barbados cherry tree in the yard of my office, is a bunch of shrubs and bushes. I pushed them aside while picking cherries (see previous entry on mystery cherries) and I saw two mystery flowers. Above is one of them. The inside looks like a miniature cob of corn to some extent. It is beautiful, and I have no idea what it is.
I was expecting a major crop of cherries, but the birds and other humans have discovered the tree as well, and I only got 4 big ripe cherries this morning. But speaking of major crops, I got a major crop of golf balls yesterday evening out of the ocean. It had been windy for days, and my competition at golfball harvesting never made it out to the reef.
Consequently I have some more corporations whose executives pay $260 for a round of golf, and whose stocks I would short.
- Bear Stearns -- I was waiting for this to turn up. They screwed a lot of people in the sub-prime fiasco. They are trading around $80.55 and down in the past three months from $105. It looks good on them.
- Starwood Hotels - They own among many hotel properties. They are trading at $48.02, down in the past 3 months from $54
- Canon - These guys are trading at $42.57, down in the past 3 months from $53, and I propose short selling them to fall further
Among some of the other interesting finds was a golf ball embossed with "The Bar Plan". I had no idea what it was until I googled it. It is an insurance company run by the Missouri Bar Association to insure lawyers against malpractice in the states of Missouri, Kansas, New Mexico and Indiana. I wonder if the lawyers know that their insurance premiums are paying for premium tropical golf for the Bar Plan execs. They would be happy to know that their balls ended up in the bottom of the ocean, which incidentally is a good place for all lawyer's balls.
Apparently there are only three kinds of poisonous or venomous lizards, the Gila Monster, the Mexican Beaded Lizard and the Komodo dragon. None of them live here. There are precedents for eating lizards. The iguana is, in Mexico, more or less what the Thanksgiving turkey is in the United States. Mexicans catch iguanas, fatten them up, and serve them on festive occasions. Tribes in Africa catch and eat lizards that they call "Fish of the Desert". Edible lizard is eaten by the people in the northern provinces of Thailand.
The peoples of the South Pacific have a whole culture of eating lizard. The Rangitane tribe caught a edible lizard smoking it out of its burrow at the foot of a tree. People who have eaten lizard have stated that there is a very pronounced fishy taste. South Pacific Islanders use certain sour leaves like lemon to mask the fish taste, coupled with salt.
Apparently to eat a lizard you have to skin it. You start at the ankles and proceed to the rest of the body. This would be no more onerous to the local islanders here who eat conch. Conch is a large sea slug or snail with a shell, and yet it is one of the national dishes here. To eat it, you have to take a small axe and make a hole near the top of the shell. You insert a knife and cut the muscle attachments to the shell. The meat is one big muscular foot of the conch that enables it to drag itself across the ocean floor. Once you have a rubbery piece of conch flesh, you have to beat the hell out of it with a hammer to make it edible. Then like the lizard, you add lime to get rid of the fishy taste.
So it is a mystery to me why lizard is not eaten. I bet you that it would go good with fries and coleslaw. I can see it now -- the Deep Fried Lizard Finger Combination Meal. The Lovely One will not permit me to cook lizard in our kitchen, so I am unable to try it first hand. The Lovely One likes French cooking and part of that is eating snails. I try to convince her that we are sitting on a gastronomical gold mine here, but it is all to no avail. She doesn't believe that it tastes like chicken.
The plants in a tropical paradise never cease to amaze me. They are real eye-openers. When my eye fell on the trunk of this tree on one of my walks, I was struck by the pattern. It looked like a pile of eyes stacked up, one upon another. There is even eyelashes around the eyes. I have kept my eye open for other trees like this but I haven't found any.
The pattern is created by the branches falling off as the tree grows. I believe that this is some sort of palm tree, but I am going to keep an eye on this trunk. The visual effect is stunning. As the tree grows, you get an eye-full tower. I would vote for this tree as being exceptionally unique, and the vote would carry because the 'eyes' would have it. Bushy eyebrows takes on a whole new meaning when looking at this picture. The amazing thing is that with this tree, you can see the whites of the eyes. If little seeds grew out of the eye pattern, they would be natural eye-pods, and not the apple ones. (oooh a triple pun).
This wasn't the only unique tree that I saw. There was one next to it with funny nuts, but The Lovely One won't let me write about that one.
So when does a company take the giving away of perks too far? When do they start putting the comfort of the management above the interests of the shareholders? An old adage among stock traders is that it is time to sell when the company buys a corporate jet. The management becomes so self-indulgent, that they place their own interests ahead of the shareholders.
One of the ways that you can make money on the stockmarket, is by selling short. It is a bet that the stock will decline. The way that it works, is that if you believe that the stock is as high as it is going to get, you short sell it. You place a sell order. The broker borrows the stock and sells it. When it falls, you buy some shares to cover the amount borrowed at the lower price and you keep the difference.
Well, living in an island paradise next to an ultra-luxury resort has given me a new indicator as to when to short the stocks. When companies start paying for $260 games of golf, then you know that it is time to sell short. And how would one know who these companies are? Well I would. I go snorkelling every day for golf balls, and I find corporate embossed golf balls that have landed in the ocean next to the green. I have a list of companies who pay $260 for a round of golf on the shareholder's dime. I am willing to bet that the share prices on the stock market will decline as a result of the indulgences of the execs.
So let this be an experiment. I am willing to bet that the following stocks will decline.
1) Accenture -- This is the consulting company that changed their name from Arthur Anderson after the Enron scandal. Their stock is trading at $33.85. In the past 3 months it has declined from $38.
2) CBS - man they have golf balls from all of their subsidiaries polluting the ocean. Showtime is there in spades, and 1210 AM - The Big Talker home of the Philadelphia Phillies are among them. CBS is trading at $24.30. It has already fallen from $27 in the past 3 months.
3) Worthington Industries -- they process steel. Their stock is trading at $16.19. In the past three months, they have fallen from $23.00 and I predict that they will fall more.
4) Wells Fargo -- The Home Mortgage division guys are real bad golfers. I have more Wells Fargo golf balls than any other company. They are trading at $29.05 and they have already fallen from $34.00. The Wells Fargo guys are also the shortest hitters. I find their balls closest to the tee.
5) Blumont Capital -- I don't think that they trade publicly, but manage funds that do. It is ironic that their Opportunities Fund is down 8.5%. Look for it to underwhelm some more while the fund managers are busy golfing in paradise.
6) BlackMont Capital -- they may be related to Blumont. They trade the CI Financial fund -- ticker symbol CIX.UN on the Toronto exchange. It is trading at $22.14, down from $30.
7) American Family Insurance -- they seem to be privately held, but they have slipped from 313 to 323 on the Fortune 500. Look for further slippages.
8) Heinz -- the Ore-Ida folks at Heinz are playing in paradise. Their stock is $42.33 and I predict that they will drop further as well. They were as high as $49 in the past 3 months. -
9) Coca Cola -execs of the soft drink maker have given me a collectible -- a genuine Coke golf ball. Coca Cola quotes at $59.50, and in the past three months they are down from $65 dollars. I predict that the fizz will go out of this stock and it will be a quite flat in the future.
Here are other corporate brands that are in deep water so to speak:
- IDI - Industrial Development International
- Chicago-Tokyo Bank
- Quinta do Lago Luxury Resorts, Portugal
- Uline Shipping Containers
- S& C Electrical Chicago,
- Differin -- the acne drug
- Virgin Holidays
- Beverly Hills Lamborghini
So there you have it. I will keep you apprised of how the portfolio is going. For this exercise, we will short sell $1,000 or so of each company, and see how much money that we can make. Perhaps my short-sell method will become famous as the "Golf Ball Stock Bellwether". Time will tell. I will kick myself for not putting my money where my mouth is if these stocks freefall.
Like most former boy scouts, I was totally prepared. I brought along a fileting knife in case I got supper. Not having a sheath, I wrapped the blade in paper towel, secured the paper towel sheath with a couple of plastic ties, and threw the thing in the bottom of my mesh bag.
As I was walking to the reef, a wave washed over my mesh bag. I didn't think anything of it, but it thoroughly wet down my home-made sheath and knife with seawater.
I then swam through a gaggle of four baby barracuda, maybe the size of a foot ruler each. They were thin as pencils, and just just pretending to lollygag along while keeping an eye on the horde of small one-inch fish a few feet away. There was nothing to shoot at there. The barracuda were barely thicker than my spear.
I did eventually come upon a lion fish. They are a scourge in the Caribbean. They came from the Phillipines, and as an alien species, they quickly took over. They have barbs at the end of their fins, and one jab and you have a heart attack from the poison. I shot the thing and buried it deep on the beach. By the time that I finished the interment, it was getting dark, so I headed home empty handed. Well, I wasn't entirely empty-handed. As I was swimming to shore with the lion fish on the end of my spear, I found a golf ball -- a fairly decent Titleist.
When I got home, I emptied my mesh bag, and took out my knife. The homemade paper towel sheath was sopping wet. When I took it off the blade, to my horror, the blade had already started to corrode. It was a brand new knife.
I looked up on the internet to find out what chemicals go into making paper towels. Among them are bleach, caustic soda and sulphur. Between them and the seawater, they started to eat away the blade of my Old Hickory Filleting knife. Old Hickory was turning into Old Rusty right before my eyes. I tried rubbing and polishing, and the end result is in the photo above. The knife is permanently pitted. Man, between what the seawater does to knife blade and my armpits, by the end of the year I should be either permanently pickled or 50 pounds would have corroded off my body. I'm not sure which option is the most pleasant one.
Well, I have cracked the case of the mystery cherry (see entry below). It is a Barbados Cherry, and it has an amazing property -- one Barbados cherry has 12 times the Vitamin C of an orange! This caused a hubbub for a while in fruit circles decades ago, but there was never commercial exploitation, because it was cheaper to make ascorbic acid in a chemical factory.
However, have you ever walked into a supermarket and seen fruit that you have never seen before. There seems to be an explosion in demand for different things. It all started with brocoli in the 1960's. Then came kiwis, and cactus desert pears and a plethora of different things.
I am willing to bet that you will see organic Barbados cherries soon in supermarkets. As a matter of fact, if I had the capital, I would start to exploit this now. To me, it would be remarkable saleable, considering the novelty and the health benefits. I am glad that I took the time to solve the cherry mystery.
I have another mystery in the photo above. I chopped the images from a much larger image. I'll give you a hint. They are shadows.
they are shadows of seagulls.
Growing up we always had a cherry tree in the back yard. I fell out of it many times trying to pick the ripe fruit before my siblings or parents got to it. I just had to go and investigate this cherry tree.
I went out into the office yard, and sure enough there were cherries on the tree. I plucked a red juicy one and popped it into my mouth. The taste was only vaguely of cherry. It wasn't too sweet and it wasn't sour. It was slightly acidic, but not astringent -- there was no pucker power. The cherry taste was very faint and it was more fruity than the traditional cherry taste. Instead of a single stone or pip in the center, it had three. The flesh was bright yellow with a bright red skin.
This was some sort of fake cherry or cherry-like fruit tree. The amazing thing about it, is that it had fruit on it before Christmas, which was all gone by Christmas, and it is fruiting again. Northern cherries just bear one crop per year. The other amazing thing, is that you can see flowers, green fruit, and ripe fruit all at the same time. This is unlike any other fruit tree from the north which goes through a flower stage and then a fruit stage and never the twain meet.
The ground below the 'cherry tree' is strewn with pips, but I have yet to find a cherry sapling. The seeds don't seem in a hurry to germinate.
So now at the office, we have a mystery orange tree that grows greens instead of oranges, and a mystery cherry tree that grows fake cherries. What next? I am just waiting for the dogwood to grow real dogs. But that is another story.
We were hungry, so The Lovely One and I's first order of business was eating. We went to the curry tent, and I ordered goat curry. TheLovely One, being less adventurous, took the chicken curry. It came with rice, a huge slab of cold macaroni and cheese, and a generous dollop of coleslaw. We had to buy tickets, and each meal cost us the equivalent of $8.00.
From what I could gather, a goat is all bones. Or maybe the curry was made from the skinny legs chopped into one inch pieces with a bandsaw. Every bite of so called meat was all bone with maybe a few molecules of meat or gristle on it. The Lovely One didn't fare much better. Her chicken curry consisted of nether pieces of the chicken that the chicken itself would be least proud of. Their was a piece of the very end part of the wing that one usually throws away, and another piece of bone from the pooper end of the chicken, and various unidentifiable bone bits that would have kept a forensic pathologist busy for a year trying to identify.
After we walked about the grounds, we decided to buy a raffle ticket. There were 18 prizes. The first prize was a trip to San Francisco for a week (accomodations included). The rest of the trips did not include accomodations. The second prize was a trip to New York -- just the airfare. They dump you off in New York at the airport and you are on your own. The third prize was Chicago -- again, no accomodations. It got better. Fourth prize was Newark, New Jersey. It went downhill from there.
At about 14th prize or so, it got interesting again. They were giving transportation away to some of the nearby islands in the Caribbean. We would have loved to have won those and see the local color. Apparently the islanders here do not think that they are special.
I bought five tickets hoping to win one of prizes 14 through 18. I was actually quite hopeful of winning, until I looked at my pics and saw a picture of the raffle ticket drum. It was big enough to hold an elephant. Apparently the islanders here like games of chance, and the raffle tickets were the most popular of the items being bought.
So the raffle came and went, and apparently we did not win any trips. What a pity. I am reminded of the raffle ticket I once bought that gave away a trip to Poland. First prize was a week in Warsaw. The second prize was TWO weeks in Warsaw.
Well, the feral cat trapping programme is progressing. We had another customer this morning, who thanks to some local vets, is going to get the snip in its nether regions today. This will be the second wild cat that will be either spayed or neutered among the eight wild cats that come to dinner every night. We have actually caught three, but one of them was an abandoned creature who had already had the clip-terectomy.
But feeding these cats has caused some problems for us. The cats use our flower beds as a luxury sized kitty litter box. It is covered with this odor-absorbing cedar bark chips and The Lovely One has a particulary sharp sense of smell. She has been complaining to me that we either have to get rid of the cat, or the odors.
I immediately hatched all of these cat repellent ideas for the flower beds. Most of the ideas consisted of using gallons of hot sauce, or a pee-detector linked to a firecracker or stuff like that. I had a few useless ideas as well.
Needless to say, The Lovely One nixed all of the high-energy ideas, and the concentrated chemical solutions. I was left to plain old ingenuity.
In the meanwhile, I had to empty the small Chinese BBQ, a midget imitation of our lovely Weber bbq that we left up north. We BBQ our meats over charcoal. I dumped the ashes over an area of the flower bed that the kitties use as a communal toilet. To my surprise, they stopped using that area. I had made a discovery of huge scientific import. Never mind that it drove the kitties to start relieving themselves at the gate where everyone coming to our house could enjoy the odors -- this was pure science at its best. And I am a man of science.
As soon as we had another batch of briquet ashes, I dumped them at the gate. The kitties chose another bathroom area. The ashes look unappetizing (see above photo), but at least the smell is gone.
I think that this is a major discovery. I should get a Nobel Prize, or an Honorary Doctorate in S-Catology or something. The Lovely One says that the lack of odor is reward enough for her.
The Palm tree outside the office was making babies -- creating more seeds for more Palm trees. Then the winds last Sunday came and knocked off the branch with the baby palm seeds. It sat on the ground for a few days. Then I got locked out of the office without keys. I was waiting for someone to show up, and I was bored. In this island paradise, no one hurries.
As I was looking for ways to relieve my boredom, I touched the dead palm babies, and a dozen seeds fell into my hand. I idly threw them at the gate. Instantly, the idea of Maxwell's Demon came to mind.
Maxwell's demon is an 1867 thought experiment by the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell, meant to raise questions about the possibility of violating the second law of thermodynamics. In it, he has two chambers filled with a gas, and a trap door with a window in between. A small 'demon' operates the trap door.
When the demon sees a fast moving molecule approaching from the other chamber, he opens the trap door to let it in. Conversely, when a slow moving molecule from his side approaches the trap door, he lets it out into the other chamber. Eventually one chamber has mostly fast moving molecules and the other has slow molecules. Fast moving molecules make things hot, and slow moving molecules represent a lower temperature. Thus the second Law of Thermodynamics would be violated.
So what does this have to do with Maxwell's Demon? I was pitching the palm seeds through the chain link fence gate, and I was wondering what percentage of them would make it through. The chain link was sort of a Maxwell's demon for the seeds.
I wanted to see what percentage of seeds would be filtered through, what percentage would be bounced, and what percentage would fly through unscathed. As it turns out, 70% of all palm seeds thrown through the chain link made it through unscathed. Thirty percent had some contact with the gate, and in that figure, 10% of all of the seeds, never made it through, but bounced back toward me.
I am still trying to figure out how this knowledge could be useful.