Sunday, July 25, 2021

march of the toads

Mysterious toad march to top of Mt. Homanzan

Whatever motivates bufo toads to undertake a seemingly desperate and perilous annual march to the summit of 829-meter Mount Homanzan here, even at risk to their lives, reached its climax in early July. The toads spend several years on the peak of the sacred mountain before making their descent. They take more than 50 days to reach the summit and encounter numerous hazards along the way, mainly from predators....

Family news

So we have been having heavy rain all week. No major flooding here in town but it is delaying the plating of rice seedlings.

we felt an earthquake yesterday morning, only a rumble since it was far south of here. Actually I was asleep but the dogs got upset and work me up, so all I felt was a rumble and thought it was a rice truck going by (at 4 am).

Ruby is taking driver ed training to get her license. She has no car in the USA but can probably use her license to get one there.

Joy's mother has Parkinsons'disease and has stopped eating. She is now a bit better and eating, but Joy has been visiting there frequently.

The cook, the maid, Joy, and Ruby have been sick with a flu like syndrome. Covid? No tests done, but no high fever so probably not. I have been well so far.

The dogs are all sleeping in my room now: so much for protection. But they do wake up and bark if someone goes by the door, even when the help turns off the lights at 5am.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

the gain of function kerfuffle: The facts

Someone posted a snippet of this on twitter: 

Ah: Fauci lied. He knew that gain of function research was dangerous> but what is being overlooked is that this basic rexearch is needed to understand dangerous viruses so scientists can figure out how to protect people.

the snip on facebook was taken out of this longer video which is a long discussion about the risks and benefits of doing gain of function research. from Dec 2012... and it was about bird flu, not SARS.

Dr. Rand Paul was right: by funding Wuhan, it gave money to that lab to do gain of function research.

why send the money to China to do the research? the problem is that the US labs had had accident problems so it was banned in the US....but a loophole let the funding be sent to Chinese labs to do the research... ignoring of course that lab accidents happen in China too...where corruption is widespread and covering up mistakes is the norm.

and it didn't even bother to discuss "dual use" of the research: I.e. it could be used for biowarfare.

But Dr Fauci made things worse by denial to Dr. Paul: instead of giving a nuanced answer, he simply denied the fact that is well documented.

In both of their defences, I should add the MSM and the right wing counterculture news would probably distort their answers.

Which brings us to epidemic threats in the modern world.

The lecture is about bird flu, which had infected a few hundred people mainly in Asia, but had a very high mortality.

Bird flu jumped the species and infected humans, but it did not mutate to the next step, which was to enable human to human transmission. And it is simply a matter of time until this happens.

So a lot of the research was about bird flu, and a lot of the adenovirus and mRNA research for vaccine was being done so that there would be a fast development of vaccine for bird flu.

The adenovirus technology was used for Ebola, and is one reason that, despite the chaos/war/refugees etc. in central Africa, that the public health authorities managed to keep that epidemic under control.

as for the conspiracy types who see the covid epidemic as an evil plot to kill off excess population: 

Well, if that was the plan, they chose a weak virus to do their dirty work. (indeed, the shutdowns probably killed more people than the virus. The problems of the supply chain the increase in prices of commodities, and as my earlier post on increase in fertilizer prices suggest, the possibility of famine related deaths, not to mention riots and uprisings when food becomes too expensive for people, will be a threat for the next few years).

I have to wonder about conspiracy theorists who see this as a bio attack by China, or by the NWO. (it was probably an accidental release, covered up to save face, similar to how the Chernobyl disaster coverup attempt).

Sorry, guys, it just isn't that lethal.

Bird flu would be a better way to kill off the population. Half of the patients died.

the threat of bird flu was so scary that the US prepared plans on how to stop or minimize the epidemic: LINK

The conspiracy theorists see the Johns Hopkins meetings about a Sars like outbreak before Covid appeared as a NWO plan to give the world a dangerous disease: but like hospital disaster drills, city EMS disaster drills, or like war games, the meeting was about figuring out what one should do if something happened.

for example, the Dark Winter exercize ( June 2001) posited a terrorist attack with small pox. After 911, this became a big worry, and our public clinic was sent the plan of how we should set up ring vaccinations and isolation of patients outside of hospitals. I was put in charge of reading and teaching our clinic how to do this. Luckily, Saddam's small pox was not released on the USA, (destroyed or maybe just never existed) only a weak type of anthrax was released, the same strain one finds in barnyards and is used to make vaccines.

as for vaccines: 

Anti Vax is not limited to the right: it was a big push by KGB disinformation in the third world in the past, and in the US and UK it was pushed by celebrities not scientists.

The pseudo science against the vaccines just say vaccine, nothing specific. But the Sinovax (Chinese) uses an old fashioned technique that goes back 100 years. 

And the Astrozeneca and Sputnik use an adenovirus template, which is new, only a decade of so old. But adenovirus based vaccines have stopped recent epidemic of Ebola in central Africa.

As for the mRNA: this is more experimental, but the science suggests it is working and will be an easy and fast way to make vaccines in case of a really scary epidemic. 

So if you don't want to contaminate your body with newfangled vaccines, hey, ask for Sinovax. And if you are a radical prolife catholic who shouts about using vaccines that use fetal cell lines that came from fetuses aborted many years ago, then find, use Sinovax.

This group is more catholic than the pope ( yes, I know: Some of them don't consider Francis Catholic, but several previous popes said  it was okay to use rubella vaccine derived from fetal tissue from long ago aborted fetuses, as long as the fetus was not aborted to make the vaccine, but aborted for other reasons.) 

and if you are young and healthy, then fine. Get the disease. no problem.

one of these days the experts will say you should be checked for immunity instead of being checked if you had the vaccine, especially when there have been break through cases.

but for the vaccine, it comes down to risk/benefit ratio;


related item:


inflation in the rice fields

 we mainly use organic fertilizer for our organic rice, but do grow non organic rice on some of our fields.

So Kuya complained last night that the price of fertilizer has increased greatly in the last year, which means less profit for our farmers.

From the Inquirer:

The sharp increase in fertilizer prices has prompted several farmer groups to renew their call on the Department of Agriculture (DA) for a onetime production subsidy of P15,000 for small-scale farmers who each own less than three hectares. In a statement, the Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women, Bantay Bigas and Anakpawis Partylist noted that prices of urea—the most basic type of fertilizer used in planting rice—surged by between 49 and 53 percent this month in the major rice-producing provinces of Nueva Ecija and Isabela against quotations between December last year and April this year. 

italics mine. 

why has this happened? This article blames the lockdowns.

Due to the shortage of labor and the shutdown of fertilizer plants located in the integrated chemical complexes, shipments were affected in the initial lockdown process.

countries with natural gas resources can make their own urea fertilizer but many need to import it.

It seems to be a widespread problem: I checked out various trade publications, but they all seem to say the price has been going up for awhile. Much of this is not my area of expertise, so I am mainly noting the problem.

intensive cultivation (2 or three crops a year) mean you need fertilizer. 


and right now we have heavy daily monsoon rains made worse by Typhoon Fabian nearby, which mean it is hard to decide when we should start plating the rice.

and Manila streets are flooded: this is common, alas, due to the low lying land and because the sewers don't drain the water: not enough drainage and clogging of drainage by litter etc.

Chinese aggression, unchecked

 Austin Bay has an essay summarizing Chinese aggression against the Philippines (and VietNam and Malaysia) in the west Philippine sea, and ignoring international law to do so.

China used its "sea militia" to invade Filipino territory. Here's how that worked and continues to work in the EEZs of several Southeast Asian nations. Hundreds of Chinese fishing boats enter the smaller nation's EEZ. Acting as a gray-zone warfare armada, they drive off local fishermen. China Coast Guard vessels arrive to protect the Chinese boats.
China's response to the Court's censure vacillates. It attempts to ignore it; it flaunts new violations. Chinese diplomats have criticized the ruling so fiercely their vehemence suggests someone in Beijing fears the decision. China has a face culture. Did the ruling deal the CCP and its president, Xi Jinping, a severe loss of face? The ruling did not halt Chinese expansion and aggression strategy.

they have sent large flotillas of fishing boats which has resulted in overfishing the area, and their dredging has harmed the ecology of the area. Longer report here:

The fisheries and fishers of the South China Sea warrant much more attention. The disputes over the islands, reefs, and waters in the area have made effective fisheries management impossible even as a calamitous stock collapse threatens livelihoods around the region.

translation: no one dares to stop Chinese overfishing or destroying the ecology by dredging for giant clams or dredging to build their so called islands. 

Tools like VIIRS and SAR show that the number of fishing vessels operating in the disputed Spratly Islands is exponentially higher than AIS transmissions suggest. Improving the monitoring of these fleets will be critical if the claimants hope to save the South China Sea fisheries and reduce the frequency of unlooked-for incidents between vessels.

translation: Chinese ships have been threatening local Filipino fishermen, and now this has expanded to collisions with Filipino small fishing boats. And there have been incidents against larger boats transversing international waters: so far nothing major but it is only a matter of time. The essay uses the phrase "unlooked for incidents".... duh. 

Meanwhile, a different kind of fishing fleet, one engaged in paramilitary work on behalf of the state rather than the commercial enterprise of fishing, has emerged as the largest force in the Spratlys. The numbers of militia vessels operating in the area on behalf of China is much larger and more persistent than is generally understood. Experts and policymakers focused on the South China Sea will need to devote a proportionate amount of their attention to these actors and the role they play in the area.
Translation: Today the small Filipino fishing boats, tomorrow the commercial shipping.

deep in the report they notice that a lot of these "fishing vessels" could not actually fish, meaning they are quasi military force who have been chasing out Filipino fishermen... and maybe doing more things: a quiet threat to the sea lanes to other east Asian countries comes to mind, but also their long term plans to steal the petroleum and natural gas resources in the area.

PhilInquirer has the story of what is going on there.

not only are they destroying the fishing ecology but it appears they are planning to check out if oil is there, and most suspect their long term plan is to steal oil resources.

Zarate said that during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, China used the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking to explore the country’s territory to their advantage, but with the absence of the agreement now, “it seems that they are doing so on the sly.”

It was suspected GMA was bribed by the ZTE deal.

But now Duterte, has been harassed by "human rights" activists from the USA because of his drug war (a war that kept the Philippines from becoming a narco state, but never mind. My neighbors killed by druggies robbing them don't count as drug war murders). President Obama didn't help the Philippines stop China when they started grabbing the area, and now it's too late, especially with Biden in the WH. So Duterte is trying to make nice with China, but alas China keeps screwing him and not keeping their promises. Sigh.

from the Inquirer article:

In October 2020, President Duterte lifted the moratorium on oil exploration in the WPS, a move closer to implementing a joint exploration deal with China.
Fishermen from Infanta, Pangasinan, recently found a device reportedly used for oil exploration, which was later confirmed by an expert to be an ocean bottom seismometer or OBS, north of Scarborough Shoal. The device had been turned over to the Philippine Navy. Zarate said MalacaƱang should not dismiss the issue and “once again protect China’s imperial interests.”



related article on "Blood Cobalt": StrategyPage on the mess in Central Africa, including China's grab of their mineral resources, especially cobalt to be used for electric car batteries.

Amnesty international report on child labor in cobalt mining.

and the irony is that many greens will celebrate the increase in China using electric cars, but they won't notice that they use electricity from (high sulfur) coal burning electric plants nearby. 


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

And now they are coming for ancient history

 I link to a lot of lectures on ancient history and antiquity.

Pretty apolitical right?

Then I ran across this:


more here:

On Facebook, History Can Violate Community Standards

notice that the excuse is that facebook is stopping "anti government extremists". whatever that means. 

I presume it means Republicans and blue dog democrats like myself who are not members of the extreme left. 

on the other hand, I stopped going to facebook because liberal friends kept posting rabid anti Catholic and anti Christian posts there: usually strawman arguments, often exaggerated, and usually condemning all believers as evil bigots who need to be censored or harassed, especially if you belong to a Christian church, even if you are African, Hispanic, or Asian.

What comes to my mind is when JFK said those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.

Monday, July 19, 2021

in the Heights the movie


the US films I see here in the Philippines (on HBO etc) usually show minorities who are drug dealers or criminals a la "Hollywood Shuffle" cliches, or full of upper class white girls who work elite jobs and then find a boyfriend and "reality" when they go back to their small town (and neither they nor their boyfriend have family ties or money problems) as in every Hallmark movie available.

and of course in too many Hollywood films, everyone falls in bed with each other, and there are car chase scenes, and in a lot of them there a monster who pops out of the sewers to threaten the nubile (blond) teenager.

which is why I watch so many K dramas.

 But here, we see ordinary folks trying their best to live a good life.

WTF? aren't those making the film aware that these cliches are the only ones that can make money in Hollywood?

well, what do you expect when you get a film made by the guys who made crazy rich Asians and Hamilton. link

the story is about a Dominican Neighborhood in NYC, and like most ethnic neighborhoods is full of family stories, people working hard to get by, and caring for each other. And I emphasize family: because Hollywood seems to ignore that families exist, or when they show families, only show neurotic dysfunctional families full of nasty characters.

the main character dreams of going "home" to his family's town to set up a small shop, prompting my granddaughter to point out that often the second generation immigrants don't appreciate the problems of their parent's home country because they only see it on short visits. (One of her complaints about FilAm kids who think the beach in Boracay is the norm, not the rice fields of Pampanga or the barangays of working class Manila).

but like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, he finds his dream is really at home.

About the only thing missing is religion and religious icons on the wall. Oh well, never mind.

A similar story could be told about working class neighborhoods in cities and small towns. But this is told with music and dance.

A nice film filled with hope.

My only complaint is that I hate rap music, so dislike the songs and would have preferred more melodic tunes. But then I am an old grannie: and my granddaughter loved it.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Gee, didn't I see this in a film a couple years ago?

back in the 1970s, an agnostic catholic wrote a book that was made into a TV movie about the Catholic church turning into a social work organization, and about a monastery that said the mass in Latin and because many went there to hear mass, the Pope shut it down. link

since the book/tv was written by an agnostic, no one in film really believes in God, prayer, or the holiness of the mass, so the film is a bit cynical, as if the author lives in a flat universe without the ability to recognize the nuances of belief.

You can still find a fuzzy copy of the TV movie on youtube:

so today, Pope Francis has issued a decree shutting down the Latin mass in parish churches. Life imitating art.


actually the Latin mass was allowed in response to so many going to schismatic Catholic chapels that said the older mass. That group was in danger of becoming a rule oriented cult, so previous Popes decided to let people go to the older mass in their own parishes, and many did.

but now the Pope is shutting them down.

this is similar to the Jesuit war against the Jansenists a couple of centuries ago: The Jansenists were a response to the corruption in the church and incorporated the strict moral code of Calvin and other reformers into Catholicism. 

The danger was that Catholicism would degenerate into a cult where following rules was more important than your relationship to God or caring for your neighbors.  

Why do folks go to the Latin mass? It's sort of a reaction to the collapse of holiness in the mass, (not to mention the rejection of the bishops who allowed abuse to go on under their watch).

Many Catholics felt a mass had become about us instead of about worshipping God and meeting him personally in the sacrament.

myself, I merely found it boring.

but anyway: not much to do with me, since here in the rural Philippines I am not yet allowed inside the church due to covid, and alas many of the young and middle class are going to Protestant churches that actually preach Jesus in a pentecostal way.

sort of a related story:

StrategyPage has a long essay on China's aggression againts their neighbors, including the Philippines, India, and China, and expansion in Asia. Read the whole thing.

But halfway down the discussion they discuss religious persecution in China, because China knows how religious movements can be a way to oppose a government.

Most westerners know about the persecution of the UIghar Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists, and most Christians know about the persecution of these churches. But SP has details on the FalunGong, a taoist movement, which is being persecuted with little outcry by the west. And they mention the use of the imprisoned Falungong members as a source of organ donation: which by the way is part of a plot of one of Dean Koontz books.

no mention of the underground Catholic church there however, mainly because Pope Francis had the Vatican sign an agreement allowing the Communist party of China to essentially run the church while ordering the underground Catholic church to cooperate.

Cardinal Zen predicts the result will be the collapse of Catholicism in that country, 

“A schismatic Church put up by the communists, whom we suppose will be rejected by the Chinese people, will die out soon,” Cardinal Zen told Religion Unplugged. “There is no foundation in the culture, in a tradition. Their leaders have no credibility, respectability… They will have no market.”
These new regulations seem to completely sever Roman influence from management of the Chinese Catholic Church — a move that would intrinsically make the CCP’s regulated church schismatic and no longer part of the Catholic communion....

ah but deep in the article, the PC version takes over: it says all of this is about the Pope's favorite stalking horse, the synodality movement, meaning every area of the church can make up it's own rules. 

Indeed, that part of the essay compares the takeover of the Catholic church in China by the atheistic communist government as merely an example of synodality, and compares it to the takeover of the German catholic church by their (atheistic) bishops who want to introduce the latest intellectual fads into the world wide church under the guise of "synodality".

again, none of this is new: the CCP takeover of the church has similarities to Henry VIII takeover of the British church, but also has roots in the investiture conflict (1076) which was about if kings or the Pope could appoint bishops and direct the church.

As for the German bishop's attempt to change the Catholic church into a church of what's happening now, well, one is sort of reminded of all those bishops of late antiquity against Athanasius .



GetReligion BLog on the dating app story.

Lots of concern that this liar was caught because his app was hacked.

Sheesh. Years before the Altoona diocese scandal broke, all the laypeople knew which priests were sneaking out to tha gay bars in Pittsburgh  ,(or being seduced by sex starved ladies). In other words, if the average church lady knew whatwas going on, why were the bishops blind to openly sinning priests?

But the important part of the article is that it points out how the promiscuous and the predators got away witg it...because the bishops were vulnerable to blackmail.

This is a claim Ann Barnhart has made in the the National Enquirer, a lot of her most radical claims about the church have come true. She is however still paranoid when she discusses least I hope its just paranoia

End sarcasm


update: A history of why China is afraid of outside religions: It dates back 1500 years.

Friday, July 16, 2021



Film of the week

 quick before the copyright cops find it and remove it:


 ignore the ugly remake on Netflix: they wanted to make it more "realistic" so made her ugly and everyone else mean, as if meanness and ugliness was more "Real"than telling the story. 

 There is a place near the end of "Saving Mr Banks" where the Disney character, played by Tom Hanks, explains that their job as writers/creators is to retell the story and redeem their memories, so that they can give hope to others who watch their stories. 

that is what Montgomery did in her stories: retell the struggles she faced being brought up by her strict aunt after her mother died and her father could not care for her.

so she recast the story in a way to give hope to her readers.

It is this melding of fantasy life and reality that makes the story meaningful even after 100 years. My mother read it, and later I read it as a child, and many years later my adopted sons watched it (one of their favorite films: They watched it several times because we taped in our our VHS machine). They were adopted and faced difficulties in adjustment as did Anne. And like their other favorites, WWF Wrestling (!), Pinocchio and Star Wars, the film gave them hope.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

catching up on the news

 Joy is flat in bed with a cold and fever symptoms. I put her on zithromax and tylenol... I had severe aches and asthma/uri symptoms yesterday but no fever so took prednisone and feel better today. The maid is sick with the same symptoms and probably gave it to us, but Joy runs around with business so might not have the same thing.

The internet is back on after Kuya changed the modem (a yearly problem:? cheap Chinese made modem or is it from the thunderstorm related surges we get all the time).

Asthma and diarrhea are going around too, and some ask for money to take their kids to the hospital ER. Public hospital is free, but not the medicine or tricycle fare. But many prefer to be treated in the private hospitals/clinics because of the crowded waiting rooms and danger of catching Covid.

Our family has had one shot so have partial immunity. Second shot due in August.

In the meanwhile, the news is crazy. 

forget Godzilla: THE CAT IS COMING!