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Odd Lots

Frank W. Duntemann’s 100th Birthday

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Today is my father’s 100th bithday. For newcomers: No, he’s not still with us. He died 44 years ago, after a hideous nine-year battle against smoking-caused cancer. I was 16 when he was diagnosed, and my sister only 12. As you might imagine (especially if you’ve had loved ones struck by cancer) our family life was never the same after that.

I’ve already told most of the good stories about him in this space, and I’ve posted nearly all of the good photos I have of him. He was the photographer in the family, so in most cases when things were going on he was on the other side of the camera. The photo above is not my scan and isn’t terrific. But it represents one of his stories that I don’t think I’ve yet recounted here: When he was in high school, one of his father’s friends sent him a baby alligator while she vacationed in Florida. Alex was a real alligator, and family legend holds that when he grew big enough to be a hazard, ate a neighbor’s cat. The family then donated Alex to the Lincoln Park Zoo, and, according to my father, they went to see him now and then.

A few years ago I told the story about how, when he returned from the War, he smuggled home a mongrel puppy that the GIs at an experimental radar base in Mali had adopted. He was never without a dog (or sometimes two) after that.

So, with all the stories told, what more can I say? Something I can say in only two words, which I will put in big bold type so that nobody can mistake them:

Fathers Matter.

Why? Fathers civilize us. Mothers have a role there too, but (especially for boys) fathers teach us how to put our killer-ape genes on a leash and contribute to the peace and prosperity on which our very uneven world depends.

In my first 16 years my father taught me a great many things, but what I consider his most important lessons are these:

  • That girls are not playthings, but colleagues, friends, and…soulmates. “If you’re lucky and smart, you’ll marry your best friend. I did.”
  • That the best part about being smart is the ability to teach yourself new things. “The most important subjects in school are English and Math. Ace those, and you already know everything else. You just have to read the books and work the problems.”
  • That fighting is a last resort. “If other kids laugh at you, laugh with them. Life demands a sense of humor. Then walk away. But if some SOB ever corners you, hit him where it hurts.”
  • That responsibilities must be met. “A man provides for and protects his wife, his kids, his animals, and his property.”
  • Finally, and most crucially, that life demands energy and enthusiasm, but also discernment: “Kick ass. Just don’t miss.”

Thanks, dad. I never learned to love beer or baseball, but what I learned from you turned out to be most of what counts in life. Godspeed.

Review: Rise of the Guardians

A few nights ago, Carol and I watched Dreamworks’ 2012 animated feature, Rise of the Guardians. It came free with Amazon Prime, and given the research I’d done on Dreamhealer, I wanted to see another take on good dreams vs. nightmares. As with any of my movie reviews, there will likely be spoilers here, so read or don’t read accordingly.

I would characterize Rise of the Guardians as “so strange that it’s cool.” The animation is nothing short of dazzling, even ten years on. The studio clearly drew every idea they had and tossed it into the pot. They might have stirred the pot a little more, but stay tuned. I’ll come back to that.

The premise sounds loopy: Under a certain amount of protest Jack Frost joins the Guardians, who protect children from, well, bad stuff, especially Pitch Black, a well-drawn villain voiced by Jude Law. So we have a sort of League of Holiday Superheroes starring a Russian Santa Claus named North, with “Nice” tattooed on one forearm and “Naughty” on the other. North’s colleagues include The Sandman, who doesn’t talk but makes his thoughts known by drawing them in golden sand, an Easter Bunny channelling Crocodile Dundee, and the Tooth Fairy, who is very sweet but in truth doesn’t bring a lot to the table in terms of super powers. Jack Frost was selected as a Guardian by the Man in the Moon, but would prefer to help kids have fun in the snow. Bunny brings colored eggs. Jack Frost brings snow days. North brings toys. Sandman brings pleasant dreams. Tooth Fairy brings quarters, and hoards the teeth she takes in return as forgotten childhood memories. (Echoes of the excellent Pixar cartoon feature Inside Out.) Yes, loopy, but I bought it, especially as a satire of comic-book superheroes.

It’s a little unclear where Pitch Black has been, but he’s returned with some very literal nightmares and is ready to drop them into little kids’ heads. But that’s not the whole story. Pitch is somehow persuading kids to stop believing in North & his gang, and too much of that will make them disappear. This was the one trope I found tiresome, since we see it so often in films: Believe in Santa Claus or he loses his powers and eventually goes away.

Pitch tries to recruit Jack Frost (cold and dark; what a dynamic duo they could be!) but Jack, always a bit of a snot, wants none of it. This is where the film gets a little incoherent. One of the kids (Jamie) is a strong believer, but even he starts losing it. Although Jack is normally invisible, Jamie (as best I can tell) believes in him so strongly that Jamie can see Jack Frost. (None of the other kids can, though they sled happily on the ice that Jack creates.) Jack plays a few sumptuous visual tricks with frost and snow and helps Jamie win back his belief. The other kids in Jamie’s gang come around soon after, though it all happens so fast it’s a little hard to tell what the mechanism is. The Guardians then battle Pitch Black and take a lot of hits. In fact, Sandman is overwhelmed by Pitch’s black nightmare sand and disintegrates. (Pitch is sort of a sandman for the Dark Side.)

In the climax, the Guardians (minus Sandman) and Jamie’s gang confront Pitch. Jamie has one of the best lines in the film when he takes a step toward Pitch and says, “I believe in you. But I’m not afraid of you.” The other kids step forward and echo Jamie. Pitch, furious, directs his black sand at them. Jamie (followed by the others) raises his hand and (somehow) Pitch’s black sand turns into golden sand, which then reverses course and not only tosses Pitch to the butt end of (somewhere) but brings back Sandman.

And that’s where the pot could use a little more stirring. What I think the scriptwriters wanted was for the kids to reject nightmares in favor of good dreams, and by believing in Sandman bring him back to life. They missed a chance to make that explicit. Jamie should say something more at the climax: “I believe in you. But I’m not afraid of you. We all remember our best dreams, and we believe in them.” Who brings good dreams? Sandman. So by remembering the good dreams that Sandman always brought, they bring Sandman back. Those memories could have been strengthened by Tooth Fairy, who, alas, doesn’t have much of a role in the climax.

Maybe the animators ran out of time. Maybe I failed to notice a few things. The film is so gaspingly kinetic that you could blink and miss a whole subplot. It’s certainly a tour de force of gorgeous computer graphics.

All that said, I enjoyed it a lot and will probably watch it again, in an effort to see what I might have missed the first time. Note that it’s a little intense (and complicated) for the under-seven set. Don’t expect total coherence. Plan on just enjoying the ride, whether or not the whole thing makes sense or hangs together. (My inner life as a ten-year-old wasn’t especially coherent either. I wouldn’t pick the nits then that I routinely pick now.) No. Leave your nitpicker in the medicine cabinet. Think of the whole thing as a cool dream. It is.

Reasonably recommended.

Daywander: On the Feast of Stephen

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“Good king winter Brussels sprouts are always crisp and even.” This was the sense my little sister made of a certain well-known Christmas carol, when she was maybe three, or four on the outside. We laugh about it to this day. It’s a song that’s just begging for a good firm filking, and I gave it a whack back toward the end of the 1990s. I published what I had here in 2004. The opener was strong:

Bit-king William Gates looked down, with his gopher Steven,
Westward out to Puget Sound, South to Portland, even.
Everyone with Windows played, up from Earth to Heaven;
All but one whose screen displayed Apple’s System Seven.

My filk engine ground to a halt after a couple more fragments. I wanted a comic dialog between Gates and the world’s last Mac user; maybe my right brain considered that a reach too far. However, this part is good enough to share:

“Bring me Windows! Bring me RAM! Bring me hard disks spinning!
We’ll show him the Mac’s a sham, and he’ll know who’s winning!”
Burdened thus they roared away, in the monarch’s Porsche…

I hit a wall when I tried to find a rhyme for “Porsche.” The names of expensive sports cars are peculiarly resistant to rhyming. What rhymes with “Bugatti”? “castrati?” I tried rhyming “Boxter,” “DeLorean,” and “Jaguar”. Nada. My 90’s rhyming dictionary app wouldn’t install under Win 7, even, so I scrapped it. And that’s where the filk stopped. Hey, being funny isn’t easy, and some jokes just don’t work, as much as we’d like them to.

Anyway. Carol and I had a wonderful, low-key Christmas together. We went to 10:00 Mass Christmas morning (at our house, midnight is for sleeping) which was our first in-person Mass in a long time. Bit by bit, normalcy is returning. Just don’t expect the panic peddlers to admit it. Tune the fools out.

Carol, remembering the hassles I’ve had trying to keep air in the tires of our hand cart, bought me a dual-power inflator. It’ll chug out air on either wall power or cigarette-lighter power. Before throwing the box away, I wanted to test it on something. So I took it out to the tack shed to harden up the hand cart’s presumably empty tires.

The cart’s tires were not empty. They were not even soft. They were still hard as a rock from the last time I filled them up at the gas station at 64th & Greenway. Figgers. I found a limp beachball in the back of the guest closet that inflated very nicely and had manners enough not to pop in my face. Carol’s sister’s family sent me a very nice Black & Decker cordless screwdriver. I had a similar Ryobi for a long time. Its battery died, and was not replaceable. That’s borderline criminal, since the tool is otherwise superb. (Though now that I have a working cordless driver, I’m going to pull the dead one apart and see if I can jigger in a new battery. I’ve done harder things. The hardest part may just be getting a replacement battery.)

We had a quiet dinner together, drank maybe a little too much egg nog, and cuddled while we watched A Christmas Story. We didn’t pull the trains out this year for a jumble of reasons. Next year, fersure. We’ve already cleaned up the canonical post-Christmas debris. St. Stephen is by legend the first martyr of Christianity. He may also be the patron saint of wrapping paper.

Carol and I wish all of you a blessed (and merry!) Christmas season–and remind you that it doesn’t have to be over yet. We’ll keep playing our Christmas CDs and keeping our decorations up and lit for another week or ten days. Christmas is important enough not to be here and gone in a day or two. That said, celebration must end eventually, lest celebration become ordinary and lose its luster.

Odd Lots

New Music on YouTube

Way back in the summer I posted here about digging around on YouTube for new music, particularly in the realms of melody and harmony. I admit that an occasional hard rock song appeals to me for reasons unclear, a good example being the Gin Blossoms’ “Found Out About You.” The human brain is a weird business, but we’re all nerds here and you knew that.

So, as we close in on Christmas, I wanted to post a few items I’d found and liked on YouTube. Nearly all of it is Christmas music. (I’ll post some other non-Christmas discoveries in a future entry.)

And that, my friends, is precisely what Christmas music is for.

Does Zinc Interfere with mRNA Vaccines?

During my reasearch into how SARS2 mRNA vaccines operate, a very odd notion occurred to me: Can zinc ions interfere with vaccines?

It’s an important question for Carol and me. At the advice of our doctor, we’ve been taking zinc supplements and an OTC supplement called quercetin now for well over a year. We’d been taking it for months before we got the Pfizer vacc.

(If you’ve not read up on mRNA vaccines yet, this short explanation for laypeople is the best I’ve seen so far.)

The Pfizer vacc is the first of its kind. Vaccination is the process of familiarizing our immune systems with a specific pathogen. This is generally done by injecting weakened or fragmentary pathogens into the patient. The immune system reacts to those weakened or fragmentary pathogens and develops enough familiarity with them to attack the little devils on sight.

Making large quantities of a whole or partial pathogen is a slow business. Because time was of the essence, Pfizer used a new mechanism called mRNA, which literally creates a sort of crude virus using RNA sequences. This RNA virus enters human cells in the patient and begins manufacturing parts of the target pathogen. In the case of SARS2, it’s the spike proteins. Our immune systems then recognize the spike proteins as enemy action, and kill anything having that specific spike protein.

I twitched a little when I figured this out. We’re infecting ourselves with a virus that makes virus parts in our own cells, thus avoiding the delay of having to generate gazillions of doses in vitro. It’s an elegant solution, sure, and we were able to get it on the street in record time. There are a lot of fistfights going on right now over the issue of serious side effects. I’ll leave that discussion to others. The issue here is fundamentally different from that of side effects.

Carol and I had plenty of zinc ions in our systems when we were vaccinated. The quercetin (taken daily) is a zinc ionophore. It “escorts” zinc ions into a cell. Zinc really doesn’t like virus replication, and stops it cold. This is how some clinicians have been treating COVID-19: by giving patients zinc and a zinc ionophore as soon as symptoms appear.

My question is simple: Can zinc + a zinc ionophore block the mRNA vaccine’s spike protein replication process?

Don’t say, “Of course not!” I doubt that question has even come up yet, given the media’s mad-dog attack job done on a certain zinc ionophore called HCQ. We don’t know. If you’ve seen somebody take up this question elsewhere, send me a link. I’ve begun to wonder if the shots we were given actually took, and if they did, to what extent. We reacted to the shots, which is a good sign. That doesn’t mean the generated immune response wasn’t weak, brief, or both.

The issue isn’t whether the vaccines work. The issue is whether we were in fact fully vaccinated at all. And y’know, about things like that I’d really like to be sure.

Omicron as Variolation

My Irish grandmother Sade was a very funny woman, and if I have any gift for humor myself, it came down from her through my father. She had funny words for things, and it was years after she died that I realized that a lot of them were real words. “Oinchek” (or close) meant “goofball” or perhaps “dumbass” in Irish slang. “Redshanks” were Irish and Scottish mercenaries of the 16th century. Sade used the term for imaginary creatures who dug up her tomato garden; we pictured them as mice in red pants. “Gomog” hasn’t turned up in my research and may be Sade’s coinage, but it’s another term for “goofball.” Then there’s “omathaun,” (simpleton, fool) which I thought Sade invented until I heard it used in Disney’s Mary Poppins. And last week, when I first heard of the “omicron variant,” I initially read it as the “omathaun variant.”

Heh. In some respects, all the variants have been omathaun variants, judging by mainstream media reactions. Oh yeah…I keep forgetting…say it with me now…we’re all gonna die!!

Fecking ijits. (You can figure that one out for yourself. Sade never used it in our hearing but it’s real.) The South African researcher who identified the omicron variant told the media that the symptoms of omicron are “unusual but mild.” Reading her description, well, it sounds like the common cold. Milder, even. In fact, the symptoms are at such variance from COVID-19 that my first reaction was, is SARS2 really behind it? Evidently that’s been established to most everyone’s satisfaction. And that’s a good thing.

Omicron could end the pandemic.

Work with me here. I have no citations to offer; this is pure speculation on my part. Omicron appears to be what evolutionists and epidemiologists predicted long ago: a mutation that spreads easily but causes a less serious disease. What it leaves in its wake is natural immunity, which doesn’t exist according to the media, but to everyone with half a brain and some education, it does. (You can get thrown off of Twitter or Facebook for even mentioning it.)

If omicron really is SARS2, then a person who gets it, stays home for a day or three and then recovers, may come away with immunity to all variants of SARS2. The fistfight over whether natural immunity is stronger and longer-lasting than vaccine immunity is ongoing. Given that the CDC no longer states that the vaccines impart immunity at all, I’m betting that natural immunity is indeed stronger and broader and longer-lasting.

As Edward Jenner discovered circa 1790, people who had recovered from a mild disease called cowpox (many of them women who milked cows) didn’t get smallpox. Jenner found that deliberately infecting people with cowpox imparted immunity to smallpox. Jenner invented vaccination, which for a long time was called variolation, after variola, the scientific name for the smallpox virus.

Omicron may finish off an inadvertent ongoing regimen of SARS2 variolation. A great many people around the world have already fought off SARS2 and are now immune to it. Vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections will come away with immunity. Those who haven’t been infected will probably get omicron eventually. They may not even realize that they had it. Omicron may “fill in the cracks” of SARS2 immunity, and turn the damned thing from pandemic to endemic, like flu. People still die from the flu every year, and we don’t go into a screaming panic over it. Or…omicron could make SARS2 rare enough that it mostly disappears. Where’s SARS1 these days, anyway?

The comparison may not be germane; I don’t know. The important thing is to read news from many sources (including international sources) and not panic. From all I’ve read (and I read a lot) the end of the pandemic is definitely in sight.

Rant: One Jab to Rule Them All

I monitor the COVID scene pretty closely. I read the stats, I read research papers, and I read the stuff that Twitter and Facebook won’t let you post, even though I have to turn my crank filter up a little. (These days, my crank filter is usually at 5 or 6 just reading local Arizona headlines.) I read news that disappoints me, if it makes a good case. Last week, a columnist I follow pointed out that studies showing that ivermectin works against COVID tend to come from places where parasites are endemic. Knock out the parasites (which is what ivermectin definitely does) and you have people better able to mount a robust immune response against COVID. So maybe ivermectin isn’t an antiviral after all. (The long-form piece from which the analysis came is well work a look, even if it’s a slog.)

That said, I am appalled at the willingness of MDs and hospitals to stand around and wait for people to die, when a course of ivermectin costs almost nothing and as best I can tell (MDs won’t talk about it) the human formulation of ivermectin has few side effects taken at established doses. So why not try it?

Nobody can tell me. And nobody can explain the slobbering, twitching, eyes-rolled-back-in-the-head fury tantrums people in the mainstream media throw when anybody with a platform suggests it. I have a simple question: Will it hurt? If so, how?

Nobody can tell me. Er…nobody will tell me. At this point, I don’t think I need to be an MD to know the answer. It won’t.

I think I know something else. I think I know why the media is doing all that slobbering, apart from the fact that they’ve had lots of practice and are mighty good at it. Stand by. I’ll get to that. In fact, that’s the whole point of this rant.

But first, let’s talk about the new antiviral pill that Pfizer has ready to roll, pending FDA approval. Pfizer is claiming that its new drug, Paxlovid, cuts hospitalizations and deaths by 90%. Even the Washington Post is bullish on Paxlovid.

So why hasn’t the FDA granted Pfizer an EUA allowing the drug to go on the market immdiately? The drug companies had such good results that with FDA approval they ended the tests early.

Still no pills. It’s possible that Pfizer is arguing with the FDA and the Biden administration about pricing. You know damned well the pills won’t be cheap. New drugs never are.

In the meantime, I stand scratching my head over news that in the world’s most heavily vaccinated countries, new cases and hospitalizations are off the charts. One might almost begin to entertain a certain sneaky but unavoidable suspicion that the vaccines don’t really work. Sorry: A vaccine that protects for four or five months (if that) doesn’t work. And then there’s the question of what “protection” actually means. Recall the stealthy walk-back by the CDC of what the vaccine is capable of doing. They silently erased the statement that the vaccines grant immunity to SARS2 from their web site, replacing the word “immunity” with the non-technical term “protection.” The next step was to state that the vaccine doesn’t prevent infection, but merely makes the infection less dangerous. Oh–the vaccine doesn’t keep the vaccinated from spreading the disease. So…what does it do again?

Gibraltar is 118% vaccinated (the number includes non-Gibraltar Spaniards who commute to their jobs on the island nation) and the virus is eating them alive. Ditto Ireland, with 91% vaccinated. How is that possible?

Still no EUA and no pills. And I have a theory as to why: Treating COVID-19 patients as soon as symptoms appear will end the pandemic. If you get the virus, you get natural immunity. Eventually, people capable of spreading infection become so sparse that the virus has nowhere to go that it hasn’t already been.

And that’s good, right? End the pandemic with (ok, sure, expensive) pills?

Depends. I’ve identified something about the pandemic that I call the “One Ring Effect.” Sauron sank so much of his power into the One Ring that destroying the One Ring ended not only his power, but Sauron himself. Ever since the vaccine was first available, it was sold as The One Solution. It soon became forbidden to talk about treatment or natural immunity. The media, government, Big Medicine and Big Tech all were screaming that THE VACCINE IS THE ONLY THING STANDING BETWEEN US AND DEATH!!!!!

Taking Ireland and Gibraltar into consideration, well…no. And hell no.

If Pfizer’s pills work (and from what I see online I suspect they do) those pills can stop a SARS2 infection in its tracks, before the infection becomes serious enough to warrant hospitalization but after natural immunity develops. It might take six months or a year, but it will reduce the virus from a death-threat to a minor nuisance. Get symptoms, get tested, get pills, get over it. No more pandemic.

Now, if the vaccine didn’t stop the pandemic but pills do, then all that screaming was for nothing. Government at all levels will lose face to a degree history has never before seen. The public will realize that they’ve been fooled by people who claim to be experts but are just power-drunk political hacks, who poured all their power into The One Vaccine. Those little Frodo Pills threw the pandemic into the volcano, greatly diminishing the power of governments to bulldoze a country into totalitarian mandates that do nothing but generate ill-will.

Governments will not like this. And since the mainstream media are mostly government cheerleaders in ugly clothes, they won’t like it either. There will be other consequences too, but I’ve made my main point: The pandemic was to a great degree about power. The powerful don’t want it to be over. They oversold themselves as protectors. This is why there was so much slobbering over HCQ, ivermectin, and almost anything else that was a possible treatment. From gormless mask-fetish busybodies in grocery stories all the way up to the highest levels of government, SARS2 provided a sense of power and meaning. People who have little power and no identifiable meaning in their lives just love it and want it to last forever.

Bring ’em on, FDA. Those pills will change the world. Oh–and they will change you, too. Get used to it.


Ok, this was a rant. You know what a rant is, right? (I don’t do them often enough to have a reputation for them.) I am not an anti-vaxxer. Carol and I have had our shots. Angry or accusing comments will be nuked without regret.

The Four-Color Problem

A year or so ago, a stray thought popped into my head as I crossed a large parking lot to get to one of the few remaining indoor malls in the Phoenix area. I stopped. I looked around. I looked around again. And damn, that stray thought was right:

Cars appear to be made almost entirely in four colors: black, white, silver, and red.

Up and down my row it was almost a physical law. I raised my gaze and did a 360. Ah–way over there, a flash of blue! On the opposite edge of the lot was something that looked brown. Or maybe it was just dirty.

There was no yellow. There was no green. Lord knows, there was no purple or pink. (Is Mary Kay still a thing?) It was black, white, silver, and red plus debris.

I first assumed it was a fluke. Or maybe selective vision. Carol and I have a silver car and a red car. Up and down our street it’s pretty much black and white. So there you have it: We notice what we’re used to noticing. But as days and then months passed, the pattern played true: black, white, silver, and red, with an occasional green or blue rounding error. It’s persisted to this day. When I see two blue cars at the same time it startles the hell out of me. And a few days ago I saw the first yellow vehicle I’d seen in over a month. It was a big honking pickup truck. (Could it be a custom, er, bespoke paint job?) Yes, I would be able to see that one coming.

Ok. You who know me know this: Stray thoughts enter my head so often my head might be considered a sort of thought pound. Most of them don’t stand up to close examination. This one has.

Time was, mall parking lots were rainbows. When I was growing up, our family owned cars in blue, various shades of green (including two-toned green), gold, and yellow. In fact, at one point we owned two bright yellow cars at the same time. For a little while, we had a two-toner in gray and maroon. And that was before I left home. Later on, red, white, and brown cars finally entered the Duntemann homestead. I do recall seeing a few purple cars back in the day, though not in front of our house. (As best I know I have never seen an orange car.)

No more. So what happened? My guess is that car manufacturers are shaving costs by limiting available colors. They may keep one paint machine open for special-order colors, and I’ll bet they make customers pay big for the privilege. I don’t know anyone in the car industry or I’d just ask.

It doesn’t matter in any important way. But a little bit of weird urban beauty has passed out of this world. I wonder if I’m the only one who’s noticed.