After Helga’s Death 5.2.12

Dear Friends, 5.2.12
How Am I Doing? Are you taking care of yourself?
Well, I am doing better than I expected a few days ago. Here’s a quick report from a nice peaceful reflective morning, a therapeutic hypertext with sporadic tangential rants. It’s 5 am and I just got up thirsting to write. The first ideas upon getting up are sometimes just great, certainly there is a clarity upon arising I wish I could get down on paper before the day gets busy and ideas are forgotten. But now I don’t have much to be busy about which is a new experience, another blessing. I get more undisturbed sleep now than anytime in the last 2.5 years, since the stroke. But I am alone now for the first time in 40 or more years, and that is a novelty, though I am without my dear friend. It’s a mixture of sadness if I go there, which I am avoiding. Sometimes it fights its way to my upper brain and then it’s a wallow. Continue Reading →



A Field Report from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

By William Olkowski


I have been here two months now but felt my experiences here are worth recording as it’s a most unique place with a unique mix of people, organisms, and environments.


Lake Atitlan is a fresh water basin formed by eruptions 11 million years earlier, or so Wikipedia says.  It’s now surrounded by three volcanoes, one of which still rumbles at various times that I have perceived.  The Lake is 8 x 16 miles across and over 300 meters deep, feeds two rivers, but has waterfalls, rivers and creeks pouring in during the rainy season, late May to October. We witnessed an unusual rain storm in early April which was most impressive in the volume per minute for a few hours on two different days.  Apparently that sort of rain fall occurs regularly for months during the rainy season.  April is when the holiday ends for tourists.  Hangers on says heavy mold grows during this time, so much so that it’s difficult to breathe, but those are probably a minority.  After the rain the air feels clean here at lake side. Continue Reading →

What’s Going On? Commentary on a festival.



 by William Olkowski, 5/20/13

 Is the nation of shop keepers and war mongers transforming into entertainment junkies?


I may have an answer to this question, but I certainly have an important pertinent observation to report.  I just came back from 4 days near Joshua Tree National Park attending something called Shakti Fest, a Celebration of the Divine Feminine (May17-19) at the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, 59700 29 Palms Hwy, Joshua Tree, CA 92252.  My fiancé raved about this festival but I was cautious in my approach, but thought ok, she thinks it’s a good thing, so I went.


I came in cold to the event, mostly, since I had not attended a “festival” previously in my many decades.  She said its lots of music, dancing and yoga.  It didn’t sound too heavy, besides we needed a break.  A big plus was a rented house nearby with a pool.  So I went along.  It took a 4-5 hour drive from Santa Barbara to reach the desert grounds where the festival was located.  The place was nicely positioned amongst old Joshua tree expanses common to the area where the great National Park is located. 



My approach to anything religious is very cautionary as I view such social institutions with great skepticism.  I was raised a catholic and the only good thing worth mentioning from that period is that once out of the social/mental trap/maze set up by this belief system, one gets inoculated against similar diseases.  For that I will always value my upbringing, for once bitten always warned.

The Shakti Fest, as it is called, smacked of religion when after the first day events.  These were mostly yoga sessions led by people who used certain words over and over again.  A sample would suffice: words like Universe, Divine, Heart, Love, Light, opening, healing, centering, etc.  As these were never defined I became suspicious.  Yet, the people seemed happy, interested in personal development, were engaged in music and dancing in a big way, and there were many yoga adepts, judged by the number carrying yoga mats, something I see regularly down here in Santa Barbara. 

I thought it doesn’t seem painful, nor does it have anything like the religious trappings from Christianity, like sin, the necessity to experience pain and suffering nor a mystical creator who died for our sins.  But they did mention reincarnation, karma, and somebody called Krishna, who I took to be an analogy to the monotheistic idea we call God.  But I slogged on with my suspicions because the context seemed benign. 

Besides the different workshops were full of young females, my estimate was about 1,500 people, 90% female, mostly young and pretty all dolled up in colorful costumes.  The night dancing went almost to 12 midnight and I staggered home after a brief drop in the hot tub.  In my sleep I was forced to admit that all those Goddesses who sang and danced and taught were great and “it couldn’t hurt, right?”

The Second Day I was converted to a “fester” and took in various yoga classes which in my decrepitude were refreshing, leaving me lightly exercised, or maybe exorcised would be a better term. 

I have a bad knee and some of the “exercises”, really procedures of stylized movement, with soft flute music, gongs, fluets and chants, lasting an hour or more were relaxing like I never experienced before.  And I danced deep into the night with the throng around the main stage.

I was puzzled by the constant reference to various words and phrases, apparently from Sanskrit and the funny stylized songs with regular audience responses, something I had only seen before in religious ceremonies.  Apparently, this form of music is called Kirtan and its a world-wide genre, much like the internet mob dancing also sweeping the world.

I concluded this festival is an expression a social movement, a sort of amalgam driven by musical artists primarily – certainly a social movement with its own belief system.  And since there was no priesthood but mostly muscian/artists/singers I was drawn in. 

Apparently this whole movement is an invasion from India being creolized or amalgamated by Americans into an entertainment, business thing, which looks like a religion but has no pope, nor hierarchy to control what is permitted or excluded.  There are impressarios in charge, apparently, but they seemed imbued with the spirit of festivals, sort of like a regular episotic Woodstock.  So I joined the throng and decided to find out how to learn a thing or two at a deeper level.

The third and last day, pushed me over the top.

This occurred primarily from a work shop on Tantric Love based on artistic interpretations of Indian sutras.  Here is the item describing the workshop from the catalogue:

“Laura Amazzone – Shakti and the Tantric Wisdom Goddesses!  This workshop is an exploration of the wisdom teachings of ten wildly passionate and independent expressions of Shakti known as the Tantric Wisdom Goddesses.

I chose this workshop because the one I had planned to attend was full up.  The randomness of the selection made the event even more special, but it also tells of a poor presentation in the catalogue.  Besides, it was inside and being inside compared to a tent-like mat-filled-session was more pleasant than being hot outdoors. 

Well, was I pleasantly surprised.  A friend pushed a small booklet into my hands called – The Radiance Sutras by Lorin Roche, PhD, just as the first performance began. 

Lorin and Laura were a team heading the workshop who explained what was to come next but opened with a most expressive enticing dance routine, played to music from a group of musicians sitting on the floor who were very familiar with the format and actually helped out making the expressions which followed most striking.

As a prelude to the series of interpretations by members of the audience, Laura performed an ecstatic dance, one component of which I will never forget, an erotic undulating representation of an orgasm. 

Although not named, the dance was easily recognized and fully acknowledged by the audience.  It was a beautiful sexual expression without being pornographic, better described as erotic.

The forward by Shiva Rea explains the text, translation from Sanskrit, being passed from generation to generation verbally and now translated by Lorin Roche into English — no small feat.  An example will suffice: “This text glows with an expansive intimacy in the conversation between two lovers, Bhairava and Devi (male and female, respectfully).  It releases a naturalness of being.” …

Here is sutra No. 60, which was translated into beautiful expressive dance by one of the volunteer participants — which itself was both surprisingly unpracticed yet beautifully authentic and seemed normal in this type of workshop:

“Rocking, undulating, swaying,

Carried by rhythm,

Cherish the streaming energy

Flooding your body

As a current of the divine.


Radiant One,

Ride the waves of ecstatic motion

Into a sublime fusion

Of passion and peace.”


So this little gem of a workshop made me glow and I went on to other similar experiences, with yoga demonstrations/teachings, and the finale capped the whole festival feeling, deep into the night with the kirtan music running into hours.  I danced along with a throng in front of the stage.  I was transformed into an appreciator rather than a skeptic.

As one of my heroines said (Gilda Radner, from Saturday Night Live’s early days), “It can’t hurt”.

Oh, by the way, this is what the Sanskrit word Shakti means (paraphrased from an article titled Mighty Shakti, by Dr. Lorin Roche in LA Yoga, May 2013:

power, ability, strength, might, effort, energy, capability, faculty, skill, and effectiveness or efficacy (of a remedy).

I figured out what the festival was all about from combining various ideas expressed by different artists: love and passion is what could heal the violence and hatred fostered by our society, most of our political leaders, religions, institutions, and sick psychological failings.  If that is what you think you might just want to pay attention to, this festival/musically driven belief system.  It certainly looks like a good thing.  And besides I came home with some new interesting foods, drinks, music and information, along with a relaxed yet exercised danced out body, with a bunch of new ideas and daily practices.  That’s a good thing for an old skeptical atheist.


Biog Note for 2013 Ecofarm Conference


Wise Words from Someone who was there.

The following summary was prepared for introductory remarks at the 2013 Ecofarm Conference held annually at the State of CA’s Asilomar Conference Center.  There is a tape of the interview conducted by Amigo Bob Cantisano.

Bill Olkowski is an ecological innovator and pioneer in biological control and integrated pest management (IPM). He helped found the first 3 recycling centers in the U.S., the Berkeley Ecology Center (under Ray Ball), ran a first of its kind Creek Clean Up Project (Cordonices Creek, Berkeley, CA) , and with his wife and partner Helga (1931-2012), the Integral Urban House (considered one of the best houses of the 21st, century by Architecture Magazine), the nonprofit Bio-Integral Resource Center (BIRC), which was a membership organization independently producing two  Internationally distributed journals, one for professionals, and the other for the general public.  In addition, along with their passion for small scale food raising at their own home, they designed and ran 2 public teaching gardens and a small organic teaching farm.

Four years of work on processing tomatoes (ketchup, salsa) in the Sacramento Valley culminated in a pilot program, called Reference Field Monitoring which showed how to reduce pesticide use by developing an appropriate sampling system for the late season crop.  This was implemented in this difficult and highly sprayed industrial crop on 12 advanced farms, totally well over 5,000 acres:

For over 6 years they team taught food raising using a teaching garden on University land, in downtown Berkeley, with a curriculum they designed, along with Plant Pathologist Bob Robby, and two soil scientists Vlamos and Williams.  They worked after leaving UC, Berkeley, Division of Biological Control with the John Muir Institute (JMI), under Max and Julie Linn who stewarded them into their own Center for Applied Ecology (CIAS).  They left UC, but continued their work with city governments demonstrating least toxic pest control programs for city trees with JMI.  Later, after setting up their own non-profit called the BioIntegral Resource Center (“BIRC”), they published The IPM Practitioner (10 issues/yr and Common Sense Pest Control Quarterly (4x/yr with a small cadre of helpers for over 20 years before turning it over to its present managing editor, Bill Quarles, who has continued the publications.

The couple authored many publications including the seminal 740 page reference /text “Common Sense Pest Control, teaching thousands of people how to manage pests without poisons.  They and colleagues coauthored 4 books, some book chapters, numerous magazine articles (Horticulture and Fine Gardening, and others), manuals and hundreds of articles, book reviews, and fliers for the public on Least Toxic Pest Control.  Their classic work, Common Sense Pest Control, is a 740 page compendium written for the general public concerned with managing various residential and urban pests, e.g., cockroaches, termites, garden pests of all sorts, especially aphids, and others.  They were joined in these efforts by their close friend, colleague and fellow author, landscape architect Sheila Daar, who was also the Director of the Institute from which they founded and worked.

The couple also innovated in creating a number of non-profit organizations including Antioch College West in San Francisco, an organic farm based school in the Sacramento Valley, and designed and operated the farm and 4 urban gardens in the San Francisco Bay Area at different times.

They were advocating over 40 years ago for urban gardens as a partial solution to the lack of pesticide free foods and went further to design and operate an organic farm school for disadvantaged young women.  The farm specialized in exploring how animals could be integrated into a 60 ac farm in the foothills of the Sacramento Valley for food, fiber, and weed control. This farm was based on fertilizers made from their own aerobic composting systems created with their farm wastes from a small 800 chicken operation, producing about 100 dozen eggs per week and over 40 boxes of produce sold as part of a CSA, Community Supported Agricultural system.  They were also were advocates of  small scale “farmets” (coining a term) as part of boundary green belts around and within Urban areas.

His wife, Helga (4.27.12) and he were regular speakers at the Ecofarm conference right from its start years ago.  Helga and Bill team, sometimes called BillGa taught for most of their 42 years together.  They formed a scientific writing, and teaching team lecturing across the US, with visits to Canada, China, and Europe (Italy and Berlin).  They also ran and personally searched for natural enemies in different parts of the US for importation to California.  They stopped active work on least toxic pest control in 1998 to help care for their principle supporters, Helga’s parents, Tosia and Dave Martin who died in 1996 and 1998, respectfully.

Afterward, they travelled and lived for 8 years in an RV going from the North coast, Mendocino Area, to the Southwest Desert Parks: Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Mojave preserve, Tucson Mt Park and others.  They travelled in a giant circle, with Bill painting, and Helga identifying plants and animals.


Bill Olkowski, “Doc” to his closest  friends, pioneered in designing and piloting biologically based pest control programs for many different types of public agencies, 6  local cities in the San Francisco bay Area, to the state government on contracts with State Department of Water Resources (CA DWR extending their hands-on management system for weeds, and rodents (ground squirrels)), and on Processing Tomatoes, funded by the State Department of Pesticide Regulation (CA-DPR), and a consortium of funding agencies and foundations headed by the Mott Foundation.  He worked in pioneering IPM programs for school districts, residential homes, private and public gardens, The San Francisco zoo, levees run by the State Department of Water (DWR), state and many federal parks, and a private pest control company.  Many of the hundreds of pest control program designs are documented in the classic book on the urban area: Common Sense Pest Control. For others and details see the web site: (also contains copies of paintings produced over 40 years).

The IPM program designed with DWR after 4 years of support, at about $70K/year, demonstrated how to manage ground squirrel populations using smoke bombs at strategic times of the year, reduced burning of levees, plantings of alternative vegetation, use of aerial photographs for squirrel density detection (using holes as indicators of activity).  Using this type of aerial derived data allows for virtual continuous monitoring of squirrel numbers and densities and ways to monitor for long term studies, say over a 15 year period.

The program elements we demonstrated for altering the road treatment system, which previously was treated every year, was reduced by over 87%. This alone could greatly reduce the amount of herbicide on the 30,000 of miles of the Water Project overall.





By William Olkowski, PhD.  12.3.12

I heard about T replacement therapy thru a friend here in SB who was advising Helga on hormone replacement to substitute for her daily use of the estrogen/progesterone (E-P) pills she took to help prevent osteoarthritis.  The justification for the combination is that estrogen alone is a cancer producer, so it needs progesterone to sluff the uterine lining.  Estrogen builds it.  The combination just confuses the body.  Kaiser docs were recommending the combination E-P since she also had used premarin for many years before she met me, back in 1969.  The talk then was that premarin may have increased the risks from hypertension, but this was a wrong assumption, one of many I found when dealing with many doctors.In fact, I found that most gynecologists we consulted in 3 places (including the famed Eisenhower Hospital System in Palm Springs where we traveled each year for some time) were vastly ignorant, even about their own specialties.  One gynecologist even went so far as to tell me that the biochemical pathway from cholesterol to estrogen and beyond were all reversible chemical exchanges, which was patently false.  This guy mostly dealt with natural births, so really was ignorant about gynecology as births are usually normal and in need of little aid, except for emergencies.  That was my clue as to why he was so stupid. I use this word in its most pejorative sense as he should be more knowledgeable.  Don’t professional baseball players know where home plate is?

The biochemical changes only go one way and are not reversible.  And cholesterol is essential within the body for formation of the steroid hormones as well as forming the cell membranes for all new cells.  To stop cholesterol interferes with cell reproduction.  To stop production of cholesterol is another case of vast ignorance.   There is a growing literature showing that the cholesterol causing heart disease is dead wrong.  It is a correlation, not a proof of when heart disease is correlated with high cholesterol blood levels. It is also correlated with the amino acid homosystine, which may be a better marker for heart disease.

Dead wrong is a good word as now we see the treatment of high cholesterol levels leads to recommendations of statins, the side effects of which are another disaster, the principle one being muscle weakness.  These poisons are now administered to over 25 million in the world and constitute the single greatest use of patent medicines. And they are administrated for stroke victims, something which surely is beyond the pale as these folks almost always are paralysed in different areas and so already have muscle weakness.  Sometimes I think we are really just around the corner from 1850 England.

This should not be a surprise to anyone who reads the history of medicine.  There are at least 20 such stupidities already well documented by medical historians.  References on request.  One must be very careful when taking doctor recommendations in this era of Big Pharma.  Buyer beware is the watch word.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy

Testosterone replacement therapy (TT) parallels the use of Hormone replacement (HT) as practiced on women for the last few decades.  This HT for women is already documented as one of the greatest medical experiments (disasters) of all time.  The key word is “practiced”.  This fiasco finally was revealed to be causing heart attacks, and then like always they went too far and  they said all women should stop their use of HT with no discussion of bioidentical hormones. Since Bioidentical hormones are not patent-able, they cannot be profitably sold, at least by Big Pharma, or so it is said by these same companies, which incidentally, are bringing in huge sums with these ideas.

The early birth control pills were designed to mimic natural hormones.  These were all based on altering the natural substances for patent purposes, a great disaster as it turns out. By adding a molecule or two here and there onto the natural substance these molecules turned out to be subtle poisons, something Big Pharma, is a specialist in selling. The word of this disaster began seeping out about 10 or so years ago, at least to my knowledge.  See the book Sex, Lies and Menopause.

Today, the best advice comes as using bioidentical hormones.  Helga switched to these about 15 years ago.  I am sure this helped her with her underlying, probably genetic predisposition for hypertension, which I can elaborate on about being another area of stupidity.

Oh, well, enough of my ravings about the state of medicine.  Use of HT with women is a blessing, especially if the guy has a vasectomy, which I had just after I met H.  Tubal ligation and vasectomy, the latter now being reversible are the best way to go today, based on my current knowledge.  There are already too many people in the world and we need more help in raising the kids we have.

I thought the birth control pills were contributing to Helga’s hypertension so was willing to forgo children, which my dear wife even volunteered to have if I wanted one, even at the age of 40.  Age 40 for women having kids can raise the rate of genetic defects.  I still remember the day I decided to have the operation.  And I know just where in the garden at Acton St. when my decision was made.  I dedicated myself to an idea about making a contribution to other people’s children, after all, many men do not reproduce and give their lives away during war time, so making a deliberate decision was my choice, and not that odd.  Deliberate is always more pleasurable than default.  The classes at the More House where we taught the sex class, as we called it, taught this idea and I have used it ever since.  Another example, is to take out a splinter in your hand yourself and compare it to having someone else take it out.  It will be less painful if you do it yourself.

The male use of TT follows the same idea used with women HT (i.e. bioidentical)..  And this time us males benefited from the early experiences done on women.  Bioidentical is better than the patent medicines.  More on that theme another time, perhaps.

When I was making my decisions about vasectomy  I was worried about 1) whether TT would cause prostate cancer, which turned out to be the wrong advice, again, by our trusted medical professionals.  I have a book (see blog) on TT by a Harvard Professor of urology who recommends using TT as a treatment for prostate cancer.  Another 180 degree turn.  He even uses it for treatment of men who have been castrated as the currently recommended treatment for prostate cancer.  Gads, what a world!  One thinks, how can I, a mere mortal have so many ideas that fly in the face of so many industries and professions.

If I did not have my deep history in pest control and their related use of toxics I would not be such a strong counter thinker in the medical field.

The other thing I was worried about was what would happen to my ability to have erections and adequately perform my biological and pleasurable role with females.  This is something every male is worried about and feels the loss of when it actually occurs.  II certainly did, and still am concerned about.  Fear can be a major barrier as well as a warning.

Again I think use of TT actually helps prevent ED, at least slows it down and make recovery possible.  There are exceptions to all human behavior so I am just generalizing mostly from my own experiences.  ED sets in wjhch almost every male over 50 can expect.  Of course the years vary with the individual and his health status.  And his health status is partially as aspect of how frequently he has ejaculations, as these are part of a healthy functioning prostate.  Use it or lose it, is the motto, which in our society is fraught with social restrictions.  Now I see this changing.  And I attribute this to a loosening of females from the bondage of reproduction, at least for the younger females.  The older ones, I am now just learning about, and so far with my limited experience, other aspects come into play.

So in my summary to date, I say most men should start supplementing when their libido starts its downward trend in the 40’s (or thereabouts), and if ED sets in as can be expected start supplementation immediately and don’t look back.  The first level of supplementation should be with arginine. More on this later.   Dosing with T is something every man needs to work out, as each body is different, and then there is the problem of finding the right doctor, since one needs a prescription to use TT creams. And these doctors are probably the most difficult to find.  I am lucky to have found one, who has become a friend, here in SB.  And of course, all this is taboo, which is another thing I am working on, even with myself.

Not only does TT helps with preventing and recovery of sexual functions including libido, it does much more for the entire body.  I don’t hesitate to suggest that this could help extend the useful life of male bodies and even females who associated with such males.  T like the Estrogen-Progesterone are key hormones which go down and are correlated with accelerated aging. Loss of secretory functions of all hormone producing organs is part of aging.  Now aging and its associated maladies, mental and physical, are being reclassified as diseases and giving rise to treatment protocols, now mostly in the alternative medical field of anti-aging medicine.


Of, course this follows the pattern of modern medicine, with its disease orientation and consequent treatments, so again, I am cautious, but today, it’s all I have to go on.  So, taking TT, or even HT is an innovation, subject to the usual learning processes.  Given the alternative, I think it’s worth the risk.  Surely more will be discovered.  The human body is not simple.  The alternative is rapid aging, even accelerated aging evident in skin changes, loss of secretory functions, loss of libido, cancer, heart disease, and worse.  This is a vast simplification, of course, as many other factors, particularly diet, behavior, and thought processes are all involved as well.

I am a big believer in use of supplements, carefully selected and used.  I feel these along with diet changes and selection of foods can be most useful.  More later.




Dead Yesterday, Unborn Tomorrow,…


A Musing to Self.

By William Olkowski, PhD,  7.15.12.

Apologies to Omar Khayyam but …

this is how I remember the quote:

“Dead yesterday, unborn tomorrow,

Who cares, if today be sweet.”

I have been thinking about these lines ever since I read it.

Sure today is where the senses detect the world around each of us.

And sure, we all make whatever we will of that sensory information.

And if today be sweet who needs the past and who has time to muse about the future.  Today is where the action is.


While I live all who I can remember live again and again as I recall them.

Sure, what I make of these memories can change and even be improved as time passes and that is interesting.  That makes even a bad experience useful, sometimes.  And sure, the past is gone, so all the more reason to live today for that is all we have, ultimately.


Without a past, no learning is possible.  Yes, one can learn something new each day, maybe a new mix of colors, or to find a new great paint brush, even meet a new friend, which can change your life.   They can all be important.  But the past is always present, whether you recall it or not.  Its part of who you are.  Its part of who I am anyway.  Who can forget the beauties of living?  Why forget them if they can live again and again.  It’s easy to forget bad things sometimes, sort of as a deliberate act of neglect.  It’s probably a good thing too.  Why carry garbage around, why not recycle it into something useful?


To live without a future means  you are dead already.  Plant a tree and die if you have to.  Seeds in the ground can sprout without you.  Seeds into trees leave a memory for friends.  Who planted that tree?  Someone may ask.  I will say, I did and I didn’t care who gets the fruit.  An old teacher told me: “There is no limit to the good a person can accomplish if he/she does not care who gets the credit.”  It was directed at me, I thought erroneously, but that memory popped up while I was musing about the BIG THREE today.  The Big Three, The Past, The Future and Today are intertwined; we separate them with our words, which divide up inner perceptions for focus.  It’s OK to focus as long as you remember that all three make up a life.  And as for credit, well we can see by our fiscal disaster all can be wiped out in a flash, just like your life.


Like Woody Allen also says: “Whatever Works” to give some modest pleasure, grab it, cultivate it, see it for what it is, and be happy.  For this is all there is.  All life is in your hands, heart and mind.  Sing about it, paint it, mold it, store it, laugh with it all, love it all, for when you are gone, there’s nothing.  Emptiness will descend, and cover all your dreams and thoughts.  This everlasting vast moonscape will not know you or your thoughts and dreams.

“So tear your pleasures with rough strife through the iron gates of life;  and though you cannot make it stand still,  we will make it run.  (Another apology to Andrew Marvell (1621–1678), from To His Coy Mistress).

Khayyám at work:





By William Olkowski, posted 9.14.12

The Boy Scouts of America has reaffirmed its exclusion of known homosexual men from membership and as volunteer teachers.  As a former Eagle Scout and member of the Order of the Arrow, an honorary membership organization within the Boy Scouts, I am disgusted with the ignorance of the executive committee about a natural phenomenon.

Homosexuality is a natural phenomena and it is vitally needed now that our population is too high.  Homosexuals don’t have their own kids, but can help raise other people’s kids. Cutting out such people from being volunteers over the fear of pedophilia is unreasonable.  If that is the source of the fear of homosexuality it would be good to exclude all Catholics judging by the vast number of legal actions taken against the many priests of the Catholic church.

The following is excerpted from Wikipedia and tells a great deal more about homosexuality than any Christian church or any of its priests, ministers or church leaders.  Theology is not a good source for explaining natural phenomena.  This exclusion of a minority of citizens of the US is undemocratic, something the BSA should reaffirm.  Are we going to be a democracy or a theocracy?  If it’s to be theocracy get ready for the fight of our lives as history tells horrible stories about such conflicts.

Our country was founded on the separation of church and state largely because of the ferocious conflicts at that time from competing religious belief systems.  They are all divisive; each thinks they have the direct word from God, so they can’t all be right.  In fact, I think they are all wrong.  So, I can’t be proud to be a former boy scout and I say good riddance.  But I do so reluctantly as my memories were formative for me.   But I can see now what used to be a fine experience for young boys being changed into another religious institution.  We already have too many religious institutions; we need a secular non-demonized democratic educational organization with an emphasis on camping and knowledge of the natural world, just as its originator desired.

Homosexual behavior in animals refers to the documented evidence of homosexual and bisexual behavior in various (non-human) species. Such behaviors include sexcourtshipaffectionpair bonding, and parenting among same sex animals. A 1999 review by researcher Bruce Bagemihl shows that homosexual behavior has been observed in close to 1,500 species, ranging from primates to gut worms, and is well documented for 500 of them.[1][2] Animal sexual behaviour takes many different forms, even within the same species. The motivations for and implications of these behaviors have yet to be fully understood, since most species have yet to be fully studied.[3] According to Bagemihl, “the animal kingdom [does] it with much greater sexual diversity – including homosexual, bisexual and nonreproductive sex – than the scientific community and society at large have previously been willing to accept.”[4] Current research indicates that various forms of same-sex sexual behavior are found throughout the animal kingdom.[5] A new review made in 2009 of existing research showed that same-sex behavior is a nearly universal phenomenon in the animal kingdom, common across species.[6]Homosexual behavior is best known from social species. According to geneticist Simon Levay in 1996, “Although homosexual behavior is very common in the animal world, it seems to be very uncommon that individual animals have a long-lasting predisposition to engage in such behavior to the exclusion of heterosexual activities. Thus, a homosexual orientation, if one can speak of such thing in animals, seems to be a rarity.[7] One species in which exclusive homosexual orientation occurs, however, is that of domesticated sheep (Ovis aries).[8][9] “About 10% of rams (males) refuse to mate with ewes (females) but do readily mate with other rams.”[9]

The observation of homosexual behavior in animals can be seen as both an argument for and against the acceptance of homosexuality in humans, and has been used especially against the claim that it is a peccatum contra naturam (‘sin against nature’).[1] For instance, homosexuality in animals was cited in the United States Supreme Court‘s decision in Lawrence v. Texas which struck down the sodomy laws of 14 states.[10]



Consider the Ant and Be Wise

A conversation with the Entomological Philosopher, Wm Olkowski, PhD

Republished from 2.1.12

“Consider the Ant” is good advice.  After all, as social experiments go, ant colony life looks robust.  Ants go back, way back, when Insects started in or before the Cambrian Geological period almost 400 million years ago (mya).  So they must have experimented and learned a bunch over the million of years, right? Well, from my view it’s a heartless social organization, not worth emulating.  But one can learn from almost any bad idea.

The ant, remember is not one species.  Estimates for the number of ant species run over 9,000 species so far (see Wilson’s famous book on the Ants of the World). Will we fragment into 9,000 species of humans?  We certainly can’t get along with each other, much like ants, who raid and kill each other, take war victims, have slave raids, and just march out of the colony to die when its time.  And many people operate just like ants with someone else calling the shots.

An Exception

One exception amongst so many is the Argentine Ant, Linepithema humile (Iridomyrmex humulis), common throughout the southern US and elsewhere by now.  This species does not war between colonies, but interrelates.  Queens walk off with a few hundred or so workers and start up another colony.  Basically it’s one giant, giant, giant, etc., ant colony from coast to coast.  These omnivorous species, accidentally introduced to N. America in coffee shipments from Brazil are really beneficial species as they attack the troublesome fire ants and subterranean termites.  To get them to attack a termite nest you have to help them along by opening the termite nest at one of its branches.  I did this once and watched the ants swarm into the nest eliminating it.  Could the bothersome house invader from S. America be a good model for us humans?  We could get along with each other if there were fewer of us, maybe.  Or do we need evolutionary changes?

What Have the Ants Learned So Far?

And what have all those ants all learned so far?  What have they learned that we can learn from? They are certainly older than us mammals, but that means they have shifted enough, species-wise, to get thru some mighty big environmental changes.  We mammals got thru the last few ice ages probably by eating meat, and the age of the dinosaurs by going underground.  We made it thru many thousands of years of drought, which is a good start, but we were near extinction many times.  And for the big changes ahead we look rather poorly prepared.  At least something was in control of ant colony life – the queen, with her hormones and directing pheromones.

But the automation evident in ant colonies leaves me feeling vapid.  I don’t want that kind of limited life for me as an individual.  So we mammals bought freedom with pain and suffering.  Still, maybe ants have pain and suffering, too.  Other vertebrate animals I have known certainly suffer pain, sadness, loneliness, and fear.  Invertebrates, I don’t know.  Bees are certainly smart.

Lessons from Sheep

We learned a great deal from sheep when we were sheepherders in the 1990s.  One stormy night with high frequency of lightning I got worried about how the sheep were doing.  Once you take on sheep you get to really know what dependency means.  You are responsible for food, water, their health, shelter, and even their emotions, especially fear.  Your job is providing freedom, freedom from famine, thirst, disease and fear.

They give you in return meat, wool, and each mouth a mowing machine.   But there’s no day off.  And they will all die if they think it’s a good idea.  You can surely see that it’s a symbiotic relationship.  You must even worry about when they worry and it’s detectable.

A Night in a Rainstorm on a Ridge above the Sacramento Valley, CA

So this night with a rainstorm falling full of lightning I go up the hill and there they all are huddled around a donkey.  We kept donkeys with our sheep to protect them from coyotes and mountain lions.  Never lost any to these feared predators for well over the 5-8 years we had donkey protection.  An aside: donkeys are cheaper than guard dogs, as donkeys can eat grasses; dogs need dog food, a purchased item.

So I am in the pasture with the sheep and donkeys, rain is falling heavily and lightning is coming less than 5-10 seconds apart.  The light creates recognizable walls of silhouettes.   I know that the shorter the time between flashes the closer the lightning, and I get some fear.  But the sheep are virtually shoulder-to-shoulder to the two guard donkeys.  Normally sheep and donkeys don’t like each other but tolerate the other species.  We force them together but given the choice there would not be symbiotic.  The sheep have made a good decision.  If the lightning hits it will hit the higher headed donkeys.  Once I realize I am standing too tall for safety I go back to bed.

Ants Shift for Humans?

Should we switch to an ant-like colonial life, or will we remain like human-sheep?  Maybe it’s a matter of the known enemy is better than the unknown enemy, or something like that.  I like the idea of division of labor, but to make it a caste inherited by birth (=genes) is too strict. Hindu society was structured like that but it’s an obvious violation of freedom for those on the bottom.

Our civilization makes it even more difficult than merely a matter of freedom.  Ours just lets those on the bottom starve and die from lack of help.  And we just keep on reproducing without any deliberate brakes.  But disease knows no boundaries for the most part.  Sure the elites can hide behind their walls but microbes can sneak in without being seen.  We are all connected, ants, sheep and humans.  What we do to the web we do to ourselves.

Organize Behind Freedom?

Freedom is a good idea.  Freedom, without pain and suffering produced by freedom is the best.  This maybe the only way forward as a criterion for any social/political/genetic changes now contemplated.   One guy I heard wants to use stem cell research by applying it to add wings to the human body.  That’s so wild an idea that I am sure it’s for attention purposes.  But freedom or even wings cannot be imposed unless people want it.  Most people make the cage they live within.  They even get to like it.  But that’s the bad angel of my nature speaking up.  Got to watch out for him, or is it a her?

Organize Around Compassion?

And then there is compassion.  Do ants have compassion?
The real tragedy of the fight over evolution instigated by the right wing crazy religious nuts is that evolution is a cruel process I feel we must, as humane people, resist.  If that is part of the law of life I don’t want it, so in a way, me and the religious nuts overlap.  But how can you resist something you don’t know anything about and even refuse to learn about?  These people don’t know evolution exists because they are using all their mental energy to resist knowing about it and how it works.  Sure, the geological and archeological record is wrong.  The earth and all its being was created in 6 days about 6,000 years ago.  When myths compete for knowledge we are in trouble.

I am for medical interventions as a way to reduce pain and suffering. This sort of thing is a cultural creation, but still due to the same forces of evolution.  So cultural evolution fights traditional evolution, the dog-eat-dog evolution of Darwin.  Ants don’t have medical interventions.  In fact ants maybe model bureaucrats but it looks dull to me.  But having only one female to produce most young maybe is a good idea as the birth rate could be regulated more easily than if every female can reproduce willy-nilly.

And ants have chemical evolution as their principle communication system (and sight); we have sound and sight.  We both have tactile communications as well.  So when two ants meet of the same colony they smell each other, sometimes share food, feces when young, and touch.  This keeps them organized as food searchers, nurses, soldiers, and kings or queens.  Our boundaries are more fluid and redefinable as situations change.


But the phrase – from the Bible I think – about considering the ant has that other rider about Being Wise.  So where is the wisdom in the ant world?  Could it be in the vast experimentation done in organizing the colony?  Could the colony be the agent of evolution that is favored or selected out as the colony meets the exigencies of living?  I think the agent of evolution is the colony not the individual alone.  It’s both.  And that is a bit of wisdom applicable to humans.  We need to learn how to cooperate.  There the ant has a long time ahead of us.  The individuals gave up their reproductive actions to focus on the job of maintaining a living.  But it turn out they did not give up too much as their fellow workers are all sisters.  So by helping a sister and not reproducing yourself you can make a good life.  Is that their learned message?

Wisdom is the love of knowledge and is gained by applying knowledge and seeing that there is more to be learned.  There is always more to be learned.  And nobody has learned it all, nor will.  And that’s one of the great truths from a search for wisdom.  You never get there because it recedes like all ideals.  It’s in the search where the fun is.  Oh, well back to the search.  End.


A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

A Story of Friendship.

By William Olkowski

6.1.12, reposted 8.19.12

The image of a friend I no longer see floated up last night — and I woke this morning with the memory still present.  Here’s the story.

We were on the farm and the hills had already dried.  I was laying a new electric line to the pump connecting it to the tank up on the hill.  The idea was to have the pump run to fill the tank when a float system in the tank triggered the pump to pump.

I wanted an automatic system as now I had to watch the indicator periodically with binoculars from the house.  When the float indicator said the tank was empty I would throw a switch at the house, about 2,000 feet away.  I had other things to do than just watch the float indicator.  So I started to put the electric line into a trench dug almost the entire distance from the pump and tank. This line would connect the pump to a trigger attached to the float inside the tank.

And here is the critical part.  The trencher stopped after hitting a large rock buried under the surface.  Large rocks were rare in our soils, which is whyCaliforniais such a great place to farm.  So I left the last 50 yards of electric line on the surface but connected to the pump.  And I tested the system by letting the system do its thing.

Our gardens were set up with drip systems and timers in each area were to water regularly but only for an hour or two, depending upon what we were growing.  With this system we were keeping a large growing space evenly watered during the host summer months, essentially by distributing the 2,000 or so gallons of water.  Maybe the trouble all started when I had an idea to create the automatic system.  But then I had to get the trencher fixed and had to go get mulch for the garden at the UC,Davisdump where the wastes from many animal houses were deposited after cleaning.

This mulch was great stuff and vital to keep water losses to evaporation as low as possible.  The deeper the mulch the greater the protection from evaporation.

The mulch was made from rice hulls, animal manures, urine and waste alfalfa.  It made a great floor covering for different animals at the University.

Rice hulls were a common agricultural waste in the area as there were many rice fields about 30 or so miles away towardSacramento.  We were in the western foothills, so I had to drive to the dump, about 20 miles, load up and come back to the farm.

As I am going back home I look toward the hills as there was a notch in the hills behind our farm and just to the right of that notch was our farm.  I liked to focus at that spot as a sort of pleasant thought, thinking, Wow, bill you own a 40 ac farm.  Such a dream come true.  The travel was boring because I had done the road so many times.  One year I made 150 trips with my old trusty 57 ford pickup (which burned oil, but kept on going.

It was my oldest vehicle of the three we had.  On a farm one falls in love with vehicles because you are with them so many hours and have to baby them at times with new belts, batteries, new tires, overheating, etc.  Without vehicles no produce can get to the point of sale, and no raw materials needed to run the farm can find their way without an effort.

A poor farmer saves everything and values even old boards which may be needed sometime.  It was painted red and I have no picture except that in my memory.

On my drive back to the farm to my surprise I see a puzzeling plume of smoke rising from what looks like is near our farm.  I squint.  Is that near where we live?  I ask myself.  I don’t race home because I never connected the location with the plume, but it looked like a grass fire.  Grass fires in the area are natural factors in ecosystem maintenance.  The native Indians knew this and actually set fires to increase fodder for grazing animals like deer and rabbits.

As I get to the dirt road leading up to our farm house I see Larry B out in the road.  Larry liked to visit with us and he helped us greatly at times, but he worked in the SF Bay area.  He was staying a few days as he was prone to do.  I stop and he says we have a fire and he is waiting for more fire trucks to make sure they know this is the road to the house.

I get up to the gate to our farm and see a line of bulldozers heading up the hill and in the small valley between our pond and the big hill (550 ft altitude).  I ask Helga what’s happening and she says while working she hears a loud snap like sound.  And after awhile she sees a tall plume of smoke rising from over where I had been working on the pump.

She says she got very frightened as the flames seemed to be very high, easily higher than the house, maybe 15-20 high.  She called the fire department and they sent two trucks and maybe 4 bulldozers.  That’s what all those large vehicles were doing in our lower pastures.

Wow, I think, so I head out to see what all the bulldozers are doing.  I pant myself up the hill to the top where I find a fire chief.  And I am now watching a crew of criminals from a local prison working to make a path through our virgin rare native vegetation and express my dismay.  One guy has a very big chain saw.

The fire chief looks grossly irritated by an ignorant home owner who does not understand anything about fires.  He explains that the crew is preparing a one yard path through the vegetation where they will try to stop the fire.  I object but it does no good.  He tells me to leave the job of fire fighting to him and his crew.

So I leave and castigate myself saying: “ts your own fault so you have to eat what you get”. Which means you made the bed now you have to sleep in it.  I watch my inner voice carefully so as not to take on too much personal criticism that is not warranted.  This, however, was warranted.  I was glum.  Apparently a mouse had probably eaten through the insulation on the wire and since it was hot a spark jumped from the wire and started the fire.

I head back to the house licking my wounds and what do I see but my friend, John P. from a nearby farm parked right in front of the house standing next to his van.  He tells me that he was at work in his office inSacramentomaybe 40 miles away and saw the fire on our farm and left to get to us in case we needed to evacuate.

Now I know in rural areas there used to be a sort of socialism where people would pitch in to help another family out in times of difficulty.  But this day nobody else who were much closer thanSacramentocame to our aid.  They were probably busy defending themselves, though as for that there was at worst only a small threat to their houses compared to ours.

You know, until that event I had viewed John P as a friend but in a rather casual way.  We had gone to graduate school in the same parasitology program, and had interacted with friendship common to most fellow graduate students.  But today I saw another person, a real friend.

John P was a fly control specialist who worked for the California State Department of Public Health department where I had too a job identifying flies, that was before they moved the department to the capitol.  He made the move and I left the department to go back to finish my PhD.

He put himself out for us, knowing how bad fires in the area can be.  I never forget kindnesses, but try hard to forget harms which is a lot harder.  So I understand why this image of him in front of our house came up last night.  I miss him too.

We didn’t need his help that day, but I remember that act.  Such a friend!, but now we live far apart.  But there is email, and we share jokes, good stories we find, and some great pictures. My community resides in my friends and they are scattered far and wide.  And I am happy he still lives.




Letter from My Mom Found in My Things

Letter from My Mom Found in My Things

July 30, 2012

I found this undated letter by chance and thought it helped explain a great deal about my early life so I wanted to include it with my life series, if I ever get to create it.

I found the letter among the best my mother wrote and she passed a copy to me and my wife.  This one was written to Brian, my brother’s son who asked my mom for some info about his roots.  It also covers some of my roots.  [Slightly edited for clarity].

Dear Brian,

Today I wanted especially to devote my energy and time to make this birthday very special.  I heard you express that you would like to know your roots so I will tell you mine.  I am going to be 85 years old on March 9, 2006 and I am happy to tell you my parents were born in what was divided Poland.  I enclose an article my sister Mary sent to me when her daughter did some work to find her mother’s roots [Not part of my copy].  My father came to Ellis Island before my Mom, received his US citizen papers and never even revisited Poland.  This he said was his country.  My Mom took me (age one) and my sister Blanche (age 4) and my sister Mary (age 5) to visit Poland after WWI and left my father to continue working and saving money.  At the time, 1922, many people returned to their homeland bring many dollars hidden on their person and she used me, baby Frances to carry many dollars.

We were in Poland 2 years and I was a delight to my grandmother Rose Wysocki and the times on the farm were great for my Mom who was enjoying her homeland.  Her mother Rose had at that time a beautiful home built close to her parents.  My grandfather was the mayor of the village.  My memory consists of having no bathrooms and grandmother taking me with her when she had to use the open facility outside.  My Mom loved supervising the building of the house.  My special Uncle who was eventually given the house loved my beautiful sister Blanche and I remember him carrying her everywhere he went on his shoulders.  My sister Mary was given to the nuns who taught her Polish.  She today speaks colloquial Polish.  The nuns would take here for the day and return her back to the farm every evening.

The set up for my young Mom was perfect but my father wanted us back as he missed us and he threatened not to send any more money unless Mom promised to return.  The snail mail communication was all we had in those days.  Two years rapidly flew by as time flies and my Mom made application to return to theUS.  We 3 daughters, because we were born in theUS, could return, but Mom was not a citizen of the US and would have to remain in Poland because Immigration laws forbid her to return.  What a fright she experienced as she was torn between love of her parents, love of her husband Joe and her three daughters.  In those days you married until death and you left your parents despite your love of them.

My father, who was living all alone in the cheapest possible cold flat went to the Democratic elected politicians (Hague and his political machine) probably told him to become a citizen and a Democrat.  All his life my father, from that time, voted for the Democratic party. I followed his example which was good as my father always had a job even during the lean years of the Depression.

My father was educated because he always said that even under German rule the Polish who desired an education were allowed to learn.   HisPolandduring that time was under German rule.  My Mom who had come to Ellis Island when as a young girl about 21 years of age did not have an education as under the cruel czar (he who had many children and I believe you know the movie Anastasia) did not allow the Polish people to be educated.  My Mom always told us how lucky we girls and later my two brothers were to get a free public education here in theUS.

She was so wonderful and told of getting a job taking over household tasks for a rich family inNew York City.

However, a relative whom she visited in Brooklyn asked her to come to live with them. This relative, Ciocia Potocki, got her a job in a rug factory. This aunt and everyone we called aunt (polite way we were taught to refer to her) was related to governor Potocki. This aunt took my Mom into her cold water flat where all the men and women from Poland lived.  There,  some slept nights and some slept days in the same bed (no sex allowed).  The one group worked days and the other group worked nights so beds were always used and this aunt worked endlessly cooking and feeding and having all pay her.  She and “uncle” had many children.  She died early in her 50’s if I remember correctly but we young girls often visited Brooklyn and I remember their involvement in politics.

My father, I believe was an alcoholic as vodka was plentiful after a hard day’s work.  However he was so good looking having brown wavy hair and the most beautiful blue penetrating eyes and Mom fell in love with him.  Aunt and Uncle cautioned Mom against this union but headstrong Pauline would not listen.  My Mom was beautiful, had long brown hair and brown eyes and a slender waist and weighed 100 pounds soaking wet.  We used to have a picture of Mom done by an artist in a gorgeous large picture hat and a lovely dress and her with a narrow bodice.  At the time girls and women wore laced corset to tighten their bodies (RE: Gone with the Wind example) and I as a tiny girls was always clinging to Mom and would gaze at her in our 3 room cold flat.

I loved Mom and my Dad, who would try to take me away telling me I had to be on my own.  He was a wonderful father always buying us new clothes and shoes which we wore on Sundays and special occasions.  The rest of the week we wore shoes he repaired as he had an anvil and bought leather by lot which he cut down for soles for the shoes.  This was, of course, later in our lives.  When Mom had my brothers at home with a midwife doing the honors and a pop a worried mess, Dad left to get drunk.  I did not know this at the time as other then this bad habit he loved us beyond reason.  He and Mom had many fights about his drinking and gambling as Mom was stingy about money.

I have inherited so much from both my parents and I loved them dearly.  My father always worked and he believed in the good life for us while Mom believed in security.  I believe in the good life and Dad is my example, however, from my Mom I remember it is important to rely on yourself.  She was a magnificent example and his and her love cannot be measured.  They came as foreigners and became wonderful Americans.

End letter.

Comments from Bill

I never knew my Mom went back to Poland and was almost trapped there, so that helps explain how she knew so much Polish.  I know very little Polish.  Later in her life she told us how she worked as a translator for new immigrants from Poland.  She commented about these new people as being spoiled already as they did not appreciate the benefits of living here.

I had heard about the drinking of my grandfather and I remember the fights he had with his wife, my grandmother, as for many years we lived above them on 45 Livingston Avenue, Lyndhurst, New Jersey. Consequently I did my best to avoid getting hooked on alcohol.  They owned the house and my family paid rent.  I lived in the attic and occasionally crept secretly down to sit on the stairs and hear my mother and father discussing money matters.  It was always a problem to make it to the end of the month food-wise.

The only significant memory I have of my grandfather was one time I joined him by chance as he was walking toward his house.  We walked in silence for a while and I probed for his thoughts about Poland.  After some brief rather unhelpful responses, he sort of stops and sums up his thoughts like this: “Between here and there, here we don’t have to do what our fathers did”.  This spoke volumes to me at the time and even now I feel it helps me understand why he left Poland.  But he must have lived through WWI so that’s enough reason to flee Europe’s political environments with its constant warfare and stultifying prejudices.  Yet today, Europe seems vastly superior in many ways to the US.  Nothing like the benefits of killing 40 or 50 million.  But it’s still awfully crowded.

The only other comment I have concerns politics.  Politics and religion are the two subjects I can no longer discuss with my brother and sisters, unfortunately.  There is just no discussion possible.  My father was a devoted democrat and always reinforced the idea that the democrats helped the poor and the Republicans helped themselves. Those were the rich, and “the rich always get richer and the poor get poorer”.  That’s the lesson of history for the US and probably the world.

I will never forget that my mother voted for McCain before she died.  I felt like this was a violation of a long standing tradition in our family.  And my father would turn in his grave to know this had happened.  So it’s not true what my mother wrote about being a devoted democrat for her whole life.  My mother had a habit of embellishing the truth, maybe for effect.  As a consequence so much of what she writes I suspect on some of the details.

Further, my parents both reinforced the idea that the way a poor person could rise in this society was through education.  In fact, they would say it was the only way to rise and therefore you must get an education and study hard.  I was smart enough to get through high school without too much study so I never really pushed myself.  But college awakened in me such a strong desire to learn that it leads me even to this day to many distractions.  I want to learn everything, which of course, is impossible.

That aside, I did learn some valuable things and me and my wife pitched in to help make our America a better place.  For that I am proud and am proud to have listened to my parents from that standpoint.  But I am not proud of what I see happening today, politically.

However, in some ways my investments in learning are lost to my living family, certainly it was lost to my mother who remained a stout catholic always trying to convert me back into the fold, so to speak.  She never paid attention to what I was learning so her advice seemed empty of content; it was just a good idea to avoid having to work in dangerous jobs or for long hours, which it was.  But it was much much more.  Aside from the long hours which I loved using, my work life was a great joy, being fully engaged in constant learning, reading, writing and teaching.

A particular case in point to emphasis these statements you must know that when she said she voted for McCain, over Obama, I was aghast.  She was going against her own self, her history, even her own country by her very own declarations.  The Vietnam war was another case in point.  She, being immersed in Polish ideology hated the Russians who were traditional enemies.  So her attitude about the Vietnam war, it was a good thing, as we fought against communism.  Wow, what a superficial view of history.  She swallowed the right wing propaganda hook, line and sinker.  I think my living family suffered as a consequence of these beliefs, particularly from being raised as Catholics.  They just don’t know their own history.  So today, we live in different worlds.

Chaos Gardening.

Chaos Gardening: A New Landscaping Concept, an Alternative to Terrorism?

By W.Olkowski PhD

5.16.12 Part of the Helga Series, 6th.

This thought – about the idea of chaos gardening – may be a response to having a new garden down here in Santa Barbara which is turning out delightful but looks chaotic.  Stuff just comes up here without being planted directly by me.  If I don’t want it I pull it out and have enough carbonaceous material to start another compost pile.  This includes nasturtiums, borage, sweet alyssum, and cow parsley (a weed).  Back in Berkeley I used to let the chard go to seed, at least a portion of the whole crop.  Sometimes this occurred before too long as I used to get sick of chard.  Helga loved it.  I heard that it binds calcium and produces oxalates.  And Helga suffered from oxalate vaginal tissues late in her illness.  Anyway, letting chard go to seed provides an awful number of new chard seedlings.  I pulled it out where I didn’t want it growing up.  But this tactic can be used with other plants.  In fact that’s the chaos in chaos gardening.

People say this area of Southern California is part of paradise, and I have come to believe it is, but you need to train the mind to see beauty even before you can see paradise.  This kind of paradise doesn’t have a bunch of virgins and all the booze I can drink.  That was the story about why those crazies traded their lives to fly planes into the twin towers killing people who never harmed them.  The plane that hit the pentagon was fair game in a war, so warrior to warrior deaths are part of warfare.  War on civilians whether deliberate or as collateral damage is not part of the warrior code.   Yet this aspect of human warfare has been increasing in intensity and horror with successive wars in the 20th century wherever war breaks out.

Paradise and Hate, a Bad Idea Mix

The draw of paradise is not enough alone, hate needs to be combined.  With hate any kind of paradise could be an incentive, make up any story that will do.  The mix can be then a great weapon, as we so have tragically learned.  Then with such a weapon the direction of whole countries can be affected, as we have tragically learned.  Or did we learn anything from this recent set of disasters.  This mix of religious belief focused with hate is a weapon superior to any nuclear missile.  And its vastly cheaper.  More specifically, its cost/effect ratio is low.  Not like million dollar drones, tanks, aircraft and multibillion costs of spying, storing all the emails of all theUScitizens for all the years since Georgie Porgie.  Is email storage another war on civilians?  But who’s the enemy?

Creating Gardening Paradises is the Answer

But gardening does not lead to hate but paradise, and that paradise is here on the earth.  And we can build it ourselves, so if humans survive there will be good stories to share.  The garden is a creative, beautiful thing that returns life from dead plants and waste foods.  It’s the most important food source on the planet.  Participating in the value shift turning waste into the source of life, wow! That’s a high.  Chaos gardening is new because I just made it up as a way to explain what I see in my back yard garden.  Chaos is hip, such a new idea, and combining it with gardening beats even an imagined paradise, certainly one based on hate.  I’ll explain further.

Chaos implies lack of direct manipulation.  I like to think it’s the basis of our universe, behind all the Nature we see, the stuff of energy that runs the earth/sun ecosystem.  Chaos can be seen when  looking at particles seen through a microscope jumping in a drop of water, without on obvious cause.  Chaos is an indicator of the stuff of the Universe.  Chaos like this threatens people who know how the Universe is structured by an omnipresent and omni-beneficient god.  When someone professes special knowledge I want to see the evidence and evaluate where the conclusions made from the evidence is justifiable.  That’s the scientist speaking.  Scientists have never started a war, even though their results are twisted into weapons.  Politicians start wars.

Gardening is Part of The Paradise We Can Create Here

As long as I keep putting compost onto the garden as mulch everything seems to just jump out of the ground down her in the SW US, in Santa Barbara.  This is because we have a mild climate, high levels of sunshine, sandy clay soils, and enough water.  We have a green waste curbside pick up stream and county composting system which makes free mulch available for pick up or delivery (costs).  Watering the garden takes too much water too, even though my plan is to raise the mulch level as high as it will go.  In April we used just over 10,000 gals of city water, cost $80..  That’s over 300 gals per day.  I don’t use toilet water for urine disposal as I poor it into the garden.  Mulches reduce the need for irrigation.  I have seen mulches 6 inches deep with no weeds between planted plants; that’s my goal.  Goals are achievable, ideals always recede, as one approaches them.  So make realistic goals, its more fun.

The deeper the mulch, the greater the insulation against the heat of the sun which would normally dry the bare soil excessively.  The increased evaporation from bare soil robs plants of life stimulating water, which would be conserved with mulches, even at a shallow level.  The soil organisms will take the mulch and chew it up, add their own manures to the soil all feeding the plants via their roots.  The tunnels made by the mites, nematodes, insects and all the others are part of the root respiratory system supporting green plants.  The roots take in oxygen, just like the leaves.  The roots also take in all the nutrients to support their plant lives.  These soil/root tunnels are thus nutrient sources, too.

WATER IS IMPORTANT but Precipitation Patterns are Changing

This water relationship is more accentuated here in SB which is a marginal desert area – with an average of 18 inches of rainfall.  Mediterranean bioclimatic regions have their rainfall in the winter.  This year is very different.  Its now May and expected rainfall is down, which means earlier dry hills than normal.  Its been a dry year all the way to August so far and the threat of fires is high.  Usually the hills dry enough to support a fire by mid June.  By September, certainly by December without rains, massive fast burning fires are more likely.  This is expressible like a mathematical relation: Early dry hills equals early fires.  Early fires are big problems with big costs.  This is especially true for the palace houses on the outskirts of Santa Barbara.  The last big fire here destroyed over 200 Montecito Palaces.  Fewer palace houses would be a benefit.  Insurance rates would be lower.  Mulches help conserve water, the deeper the better.  They may even reduce fire hazards, depending upon their processing and how they are used.

Mesasure Y – A Local Development Issue

Measure Y is now a contentious issue in the local city and county election.  Posters are around on the streets, for and against Y.  I have been asked twice to put up a poster in my front yard.  My place is good for advertising things.  I put stuff out by the curb and it is picked up with in at most 2 days.  I put an old car up for FREE one time and within 20 minutes a homeless guy came and gave me a dollar and drove it away.  There’s more to that story but let’s go back to measure Y and gardening.  I know more about gardening than measure Y, but Y looks like another costly effort to install a few more palaces for our new gazillonaires.

Measure Y will do some good and some bad and that can confuse people, it did me when I first heard about a project to build a bridge over and clean up a creek.  Careful reading also mentions a few high priced homes.  The plot now becomes clear.  We are asked to trade some benefit for somebody to make a million or two, serving the gazillionaires.  We don’t need any more palaces, however.  We need shelters for homeless people.  Can we have both palaces and shelters?  I think yes, but I don’t see the option being developed.

The Weather is Changing but Is it Climate Change?

Gardeners who pay attention know the weather is an indicator of climate conditions.  Things are changing, but don’t worry, paradise waits for you; but not for me.  I don’t want that paradise anyway.  I got one out the back door.

Climate deniers, like the religious crazies talking hate and paradise will kill us all, unless we take the world back and get the hogs out of the creek, like Jim Hightower says.  He says that about the bankers and billionaires who don’t pay their fair share.  The hogs include the public employees who are only working for themselves when they should be working for us.  The hogs in the creek, that’s a legacy from Reagan, maintained by the GOP and the milk toast democrats, ever since Reagan.  He actually removed the solar collectors from the roof of the white house as one of the first acts upon being elected.  What a throwback.  In garden terms, a throw back is what happens in a slow compost pile when hybrid seeds are cross fertilized.  They produce fruit but its useless.

Carter was just too much so had to go, just like the Kennedys had to go.  Once the hogs are out of the creek we may see our democracy work again for all of us, but the hogs will need to be pushed out, nobody gives up power it must be taken from them.  We can take it back with truth and intelligence.  See the talk by Jim Hansen ( the early pioneer government scientist who risked his career in the Bush disaster going against their climate change denier policy.  Another scientist who travelled that path decades ago, Rachel Carson, ran the same gambit of lies and even hate.  And there are whistleblowers all over which need help, power does not like the truth.

Making Compost with Horse Manure

The thing about compost is it must be used as a mulch, placed on the surface of the ground.  Unless the soil is really bad, then turning some compost in upper soil levels can help the first time one reclaims a neglected urban lot, for example.  But on the surface is superior. There never seems to be enough compost so the first and primary activity in gardening on any useful scale is making compost.  I am greatly aided by the local horse people.  That’s another way the wealthy can help: keep maintaining horses.  They are marvelous animals, but I am partial to donkeys which I have more experience with.  Maybe someday horses will be part of my life but now it was donkeys.  Horses give horse manure, which has the perfect carbon/nitrogen ration of about 25 or 30/1.  Bedding mixed with manure is better yet as the urine has urea and with local temperatures water is evaporated, then it is just perfect.

The few experiments, just pilot studies, I have done so far here in SB taught me that adding about 10 5 gal buckets of horse manure to the same number of household kitchen wastes just cooks up fine.  The pile I have going now has been at over 150DF for 3 days, after building 5 days ago.  That’s enough to sterilize weed seed, plant pathogens, any developing fly larvae and decompose any proteins (“denatured”) or fats.

My greatest unknown achievement was to compost a dead sheep one time when we ran a farm.  My piles were bigger then what I recommend for household gardens .  The mix was mostly garden debris and horse bedding/manure mix from local horse stables.  With the right amount of water the pile I built around that sheep decomposed the skin, ribs, all the other tissues leaving the big leg bones, and skull.  I still have the skull, I loved my animals and it reminds me of them.  Sheep taught me so much, that’s for another time.

Chaos gardening makes the work of gardening easier since it occupies niches where weed seeds will emerge, so it reduces weeding labor.  It brings up plants with gobs of flowers, adding to the beauty of the garden.  And Chaos is the character of the behavior of the universe so one feels in touch with the cosmos, always a source of wonder and thoughts beyond just humans, thoughts of sources.  That’s my god.

And with that thought I add, gardening is enough, I don’t need to fly planes to kill others.  Building up something is more difficult then destroying.  Any asshole can destroy, it takes intelligence to build.  Let’s build a new world out of those ashes.  That’s what I am doing.

End episode 6 Helga Series



By William Olkowski  6.2.12/7.25.12

Well this morning I am going to take on my current main daily subject: grief.  The take will be conceptual rather than emotional although the emotional is the stronger, especially right now.  That’s because grief can overwhelm the senses including the so called sixth sense of conceptualization.  Some people think the sixth sense is telepathy which is a lot of fun to think about.  Fun is great, if you can find it, in yourself and others.  But the evidence for telepathy is rather weak, if there is any good evidence at all.

At dinner last night I met up with 8 other grievers in a group run by volunteers here in Santa Barbara.  There were 5 men and 4 women.  Nobody talked about the main thing on their minds, or better under their minds. Listening to other people’s grief stories makes ones own less important.  There are some people who are marvelous in their reactions to such terrible things my heart goes out of itself in sympathy, but that is hard to share.

One exception was the guy next to me, who made a comment about a Greek movie he had recently seen which explored a great range of the emotion contrasting grief in the young and an older new teacher.  These representative groups were of younger students who lost their teacher and the new teacher who was also feeling the heat too, but the kids gradually learn about his experiences as the drama develops.  I imagine both peoples grew through their particular experiences.  I don’t want to see the movie.  I don’t need to wallow right now, maybe another day.  I look for uppers, especially if I am going to use some time to relax and enjoy.

Through his comments, I thought, hey, this guy is something special and probed further.  And so it turned out.  But from his comments about the movie critics who paned the movie I thought further.  He says the critics were too critical, and had overlooked the special aspects of an excellent drama.  His explanation for why the critics were so critical was that they were just young people who had never yet experienced grief.  That seemed to be the only common agreement the group seemed willing to acknowledge.  And I wondered.

I can’t be so dogmatic and want to see what that idea contains.  Well, the young and the old have different views, and our society seems hell bent on separating the two social groups, mostly by default.  Me, I had grandparents living close for a time in my early youth and that was important to me.  One grandparent certainly complained rather regularly, about infirmaries.  And we had lived very close in the same building for my earliest years, up to about age 4.  I liked my grandmother because she liked me, mostly, and paid attention.  Boys had it good in such immigrant groups, maybe in all groups. That’s another topic.

Plus she used to cook up these giant meals at different holidays.  I loved to eat and still do, but that in itself is not a great accomplishment.  She was an old Polish woman of stocky build with bad legs.  Legs seem especially important to her, maybe it’s an old age thing, so I thought.  I may have been right about that even as a young boy, but with my aging and now leg hurts, maybe its a family thing.

In our society the young and old don’t live together and so the worlds don’t cross very much and consequently the important experiences don’t pass from one group to the other.  My view of the oldies was they seemed depressed and slow moving, although there seemed to be times of joy.  No wonder the two groups diverge.  Who wants depression, especially as a steady diet?

Today I feel very different about that viewpoint from my youth.  I have met many younger people than I, by many decades, who seem very sympathetic and that is a great discovery.  But the element of truth is that grief is certainly highly specific to each person, yet all will eventually experience it.  So why not learn something about it.  Maybe this is a good subject for schools.  Oh, well, we load up our schools with so many desires, no wonder they fail.  Or do they?  The kids seem to learn in spite of the schools, but many do not.  Maybe that can be fixed someday.

Here, my view of life may diverge again from the common experience since I have had a great exposure to the youth of many different species, particularly insects, but also chickens, rabbits, sheep, and donkeys.  Learning about insects is an odd personal feature which arises regularly enough to stun me.  It must be odd for others who know so little about most of the species on the planet. All the hatching egg masses I have seen never hatch 100%.  So, some of every new generation is lost almost just out of the chute.

And so it is with people, too.  In our compassion for suffering, which is an admirable trait, I think we go too far.  Nature creates losses all along the life span.  Loss is part of living.  We must learn this and maybe its part of why religions developed and persist.  Anyway I am always wondering about how and why such silly institutions persist amidst the greatest growth in human knowledge ever seen.  The stories religions tell are so unbelievable it’s hard to see their relevance to today.  And why they conflict with modern learning is a great grief.  But that’s another side trip and a different kind of grief.

The main religions of today seemed to have been fixed thousands of years ago.  So to understand them one must go back in time.  An intimate exposure to history can always be good, i.e., learning history, right? Well I wonder about that too.  In fact I am wondering about a great many things now.  Maybe that’s one good thing about loss and grief.  It certainly makes one hold up and think.

Well, thinking is always a good idea as long as one can make the time.  Thinking, however, can be very faulty.  In grief a thought could be seized like a life saver, good for a time, essential for a time, but to live in a life saver is not possible.  And thinking is needed to build and repair.  I think grief is like a wound, with its own kind of scab.

And it’s a bad idea to keep poking a wound.  The analogy seems most apt.  The question remains however, about how to make healing possible, continuous, and healthy.  Certainly other people, especially friends, play a big part.  Younger friends most likely will certainly outlive you?  So how to get their attention so the old elephant can pass on the knowledge of the water holes so the whole group can find water in the drought.  Maybe grief is a path between the old and young?  That’s an operational idea, now for me.  I will keep you posted.

William Olkowski, PHD





A Musing to Self.

By W.O.  7.15.12

Apologies to Omar Khayyam but …this is how I remember the quote:

“Dead yesterday, unborn tomorrow,

Who cares, if today be sweet.”


Khayyám at work: x Wikipedia:

I have been thinking about these lines ever since I read it.  Sure, today is where the senses detect the world around each of us.  And sure, we all make whatever we will of that sensory information.  And if today be sweet who needs the past and who has time to muse about the future.  Today is where the action is.


While I live all who I can remember live again and again as I recall them.  Sure, what I make of these memories can change and even be improved as time passes and that is interesting.  That makes even a bad experience useful, some times.  And sure, the past is gone, so all the more reason to live today for that is all we have, ultimately.


Without a past, no learning is possible.  Yes, one can learn something new each day, maybe a new mix of colors, or to find a new great paint brush, even meet a new friend, which can change your life.   They can all be  important.  But the past is always present, whether you recall it or not.  Its part of who you are.  Its part of who I am anyway.  Who can forget the beauties of living?  Why forget them if they can live again and again.  It’s easy to forget bad things sometimes, sort of as a deliberate act of neglect.  It’s probably a good thing too.  Why carry mental garbage around, why not recycle it into something useful?


To live without a future means  you are dead already.  Plant a tree and die if you have to.  Seeds in the ground can sprout without you.  Seeds into trees leave a memory for friends.  Who planted that tree?  Someone may ask.  I will say, I did and I didn’t care who gets the fruit.  An old teacher told me: “There is no limit to the good a person can accomplish if he/she does not care who gets the credit.”  It was directed at me, I thought erroneously, but that memory popped up while I was musing about the BIG THREE today.

The Big Three, The Past, The Future and Today are intertwined; we separate them with our words, which divide up inner perceptions for focus.  It’s OK to focus as long as you remember that all three make up a life.  And as for credit, well we can see by our fiscal disaster all can be wiped out in a flash, just like your life.


Like Woody Allen also says: “Whatever Works” to give some modest pleasure, grab it, cultivate it, see it for what it is, and be happy.  For this is all there is.  All life is in your hands, heart and mind.  Sing about it, paint it, mold it, store it, laugh with it all, love it all, for when you are gone, there’s nothing.  Emptiness will descend, and cover all your dreams and thoughts.  This everlasting vast moonscape will not know you or your thoughts and dreams.

“So tear your pleasures with rough strife through the iron gates of life;  and though you cannot make it stand still,  we will make it run.  (Another apology to Andrew Marvell (1621–1678), from To His Coy Mistress).



Old Farts and Flash Mobs


By  William Olkowski, PhD


Somedays you feel old, somedays young.  It’s a puzzle.  But this appellation: “An Old Fart” comes from my youth.  An ignorant youthful view of old people is that they are all wrinkled and smell funny, so that’s the fart view.  But there is one advantage the old have over the young and I will try to describe it with a few stories.

When Reagan was voted in I was aghast and thought it heralded the decline of the US and all the good things we had stood for.  I could even see the decline of civilization from that victory.  Of course I was ignorant of much of US history so knew about some good things like the rebellion against England which set us free.  Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States.[2] filled in the other side decades later.  But back in the old Reagan days with his insipid smile and stupid simplicities I knew we were doomed.

But my father in law, Dave Martin, knew vastly more than me about politics since he followed the daily news via The McNeal Learner Hour on the TV, plus he was in his 60’s at that time.  That was a time when news was news not propaganda, (maybe).  He counseled me to just view Reaganism as the swing of the pendulum, some years it swings left, some right.  So just relax and get ready for the swing back, was his view.  But he could see Alzheimer’s Disease in Reagan right from the start as his wife had it and its early signs are most easily detected.

Flash Mobs

So now it’s my turn to counsel the young, although as for that it’s the young who are really doing the counseling for me.  I spent a few hours the other night looking at flash mob videos.  I loved them.  The last one from Russia came from a friend as so many good things do for me nowadays.  Imagine dozens, hundreds and even now thousands of people dancing together, black, white, yellow, the full spectrum of humanity dancing together.   These are synchronized dances akin to Jane Fonda videos sort of exercise routines you can see at the local gym.

But at the local gym it’s mostly females doing the dance exercises.  I stop like a reflex to watch and wish I was 20 years, even 50 years younger.  There were no females in any of my entomology classes when I went to college.  What a poor history that tells.  The “flash mob” scenes I saw that night even had males and female twirling and gesturing in all sorts of innovative tangles of arms, legs, hips, head throws, you name it.  In fact the moves have no names so you have to see them to know them. Of course our mating rituals mimic many bird displays which couples engage it, so males and females dancing together, that seems normal.  What is not normal is the spirit of glee and enthusiasm demonstrated by the people, even in far off Russia with its interminable cold.  You can see the smoke like exhausts from the participants.

So what do I make of all this?  I catch some enthusiasm from these mass efforts, each of which seems utterly unique and international.  Maybe there’s hope for the world if the youth can force the older folks to wake up and groove on life and living.  So like the proverb says while there’s life there’s hope.

I used to feel this watching my sheep in the spring.  The mothers would watch as their mob of youngsters rush this way and that, in mass with excited abandon.  Some lambs just jumping for joy at being alive.  The older females had a sort of knowing tiredness looking at this sort of display.  Anyway that was what I thought was going on.

What is Going On?

Another learning experience caps my feelings of hope for the future.  This comes out of a long resentment I carried around for decades over my blackballing from the UC Department of Entomology.  When the college kids now doing part time work as fundraisers call me as an alumni of UC Berkeley I told the last one that I no longer felt any kinship with my alma mater, largely because of my treatment years before.  Some background is important.  I showed up at UC, Berkeley with a tiny suitcase to attend to a career as a parasitologist, mostly because of a great teacher I had back in U. of Delaware, Paul Catts.  When I took his medical entomology course I was blown away by his ideas and particularly his drawings on the blackboard.

He would draw the insects on the black board when lecturing about fleas, ticks, flies, mosquitoes, what ever, and he would show the adaptations for parasitism, be they the laterally depressed bodies of fleas which helps them move through fur, or the tarsal adaptations lice had for holding onto hairs.  For me his animated stories were an introduction to evolution I never really understood from my biology classes, which seemed rather sterile presentations of DNA, and how genes made proteins, etc.  These stories were about molecules nobody really sees, just our scientific priesthood.  Teaching biology by talking about molecules just does not carry the story of our evolution.  But life histories of beings who learned how to live unusual lives did it for me.

Going to Berkeley

So I followed his teaching and recommendation to go on to Berkeley.  It was 1967. Berkeley then, was the hotbed of rebellious youth who were objecting to the latest war, Vietnam.  Again I got an education, but this time it was atSproulPlaza, not in the classroom, with speakers from the community and the college, many students and a sprinkle of tenured faculty.  They shouted then as I do now that war is not the answer.  In fact, given our recent history I would say unless a massive invasion of theUSwas eminent war never will be the answer.  Hiltler’s efforts to capture and rule the world, is worth a war, however.  Since then war has been a waste of good people, intelligence, and vast resources.

Even today an invasion of the US is remote.  Yes, cleaver people can use our fragile structural complex organization against us, as the plane hijackers proved.  But it was not an invasion, more like a commando attack, so well developed by the British commandos against the German war machine in the 1940’s.  And we knew about the plane attack but dropped the ball.  $40 billion per year is what we put into spying on the world and we dropped the ball!!  My reaction to these attacks is that we must get smarter, not build a massive military machine which demoralizes us, wastes talented labor and resources better used to improve our lives.

Improvements here in education, liberty and justice, and environmental health can tell a better story of who we are than drones, better tanks, missiles and air assaults.  Although every national bully now knows who is the biggest and baddest bully on the block.  Fighting bullies by becoming the biggest bully is just an inadequate solution like Reagan’s trickle down theory, so simplistic that it trips on itself.  It’s even laughable if it were not so disastrous in murdering by-standers and even so-called soldiers.  It’s like our current presidential race, or should I say endurance contest, with another level of enormous fiduciary and human waste.

Old Age as a Teacher

But my old age is teaching me to look back with a fresh brain and think about what actually happened when the kangaroo court met at the Gill Tract years ago after I got my PHD and told me that my work was not research.  They thought that I should leave the laboratory the head of the Division provided for me, my wife, and student helpers.  The direct personal disparagement was shocking and I tried to defend myself but it seemed like so much hate surfaced that I could no longer look these people in the eye.  My boss, Robert van den Bosch was not there, nor were those professors who signed my thesis so the attack was timed just right.  It was like a sneak commando attack.  I staggered home, told my wife we must leave and started to search for another way to go ahead with what we had started.

Eventually we formed our own non-profit organization after a few years with the John Muir Institute, headed by Max and Julie Linn.  These people were examples for us as to how a couple could make some waves by setting up their own institute and do special research, which no academic organization with its hide bound traditions could even contemplate.  They adopted us and taught us how to operate a non-profit.  In characteristic fashion I thought we could do it all better.

Later we left that organization and set up our own.   We called the new non-profit the BioIntegal Resource Center (BIRC) as we had ideas about a great deal more than just pest control, which was a major and continuing emphasis as the years continued to rush by.

Rest from Saving the World to Save Ourselves

Now after a almost 10 year break with that BIRC effort I can look back over a rest period devoted to travel and art from which my brain got diverted away from saving the world to how to live a good life for me and my wife.  We were lucky to have the support of her family and as always our friends.

So now here is the gist of it all.  Looking back to those dumb bastards who pushed us out of the University, they actually did us a great service.  Without that push I may not have searched out an organizational framework where my wife and I along with our rag tag collection of volunteers and staff gave the world a shake or two.  Integrated Pest Management or its common abbreviation “IPM” was our wagon train and we took the road east from the west and tried to bring up the east coast entomology world up to the standard of the west with its Biological Control history.   We certainly spread the Rachel Carson theme and met some great people doing the same.

And that road has made all the difference as I can see the future day when pesticide reduction will become the law of the land.  It’s already the zeitgeist in the small community of thoughtful people who always lead the sheep.  I just wonder how much time is left to see real changes.  Ever hopeful, let’s shuck off the Supreme Court’s corporate personhood inspired coup and shuck off the moneylenders who dominate our democracy.  Let’s flash dance our way out of the mess.






By William Olkowski, PhD


Mrs. X comes into the rabbi’s quarters and the rabbi asks how he can help.  Mrs. X then launches into a long tirade about Mrs. Y, who she says said terrible things which must be untrue.

Rabbi: What did she say?

Mrs. X: She said this thing and that thing and they were terrible and untrue and she is a liar and a bad person.  (I am simplifying here for economy sake).  Mrs. X goes on and on and then asks the Rabbi’s opinion.

Rabbi: “Your right.”

Mrs. X: leaves feeling greatly relieved.

The next day, Mrs. Y comes in and asks to speak with the Rabbi and is granted an interview.

Mrs. Y: “Rabbi, you will not believe what Mrs. X said about me, and she launches into a tirade even worse than Mrs. X’s in length and breath and depth.  Isn’t is terrible about Mrs. X?

Rabbi: The Rabbi thinks a bit and says: “Your right.”

Mrs. Y: leaves greatly mollified.

Meanwhile, the Rabbi’s wife is listening behind the lattice curtain as she is not supposed to be listening, but she was and overheard both conversations.  And she asks:

Rabbi, how can Mrs. X and Mrs. Y both be right?

The Rabbi thinks a bit and responds: Your right, too!


Note: This story was part of the collection that my wife’s father, Dave Martin told told me one day.  I don’t exactly remember what prompted the story but it was part of the wisdom he dispensed at times.  I loved him for it.  I should not call it a story or joke, but a parable.  And there were others.  He told these to his only daughter when she was young.  I am sure it contributed to her sense of humor, something one should never overlook in the mad rush we call life.

Our Santa Barbara Garden (ca. 2011)

by Wm Olkowski, PhD

paintings and photographs by Wm Olkowski

We virtually planted helter skelter in the bare backyard when we moved into the Santa Barbara house after Helga’s stroke (11/7/09).  At first we used to just look into the garden to see what kind of bird life we could attract.  Then, when I had time to plant things, I started Chinese chives (“Jo tsi”) to add some greens to each breakfast.

As time passed I got a few minutes or longer each morning and evening when I took Helga outside for her “fence rail walk.”  So, in these times, I, and our friend, Jean Yant, and one of our caretakers, Roger Thornhill, would plant what I bought at the local nursery.  Jean made a number of purchases at her local nursery up in Lompoc.

A New Garden in Santa Barbara

Since we were RV snowbirds for about 10 years (fr. ca. 1998 to 2009), on our short stays at home we just bought mulch and then hired people to spread it out to keep any weeds from taking over.  Even though Dave Martin had a very full garden before he died we did not keep it up, preferring to visit exotic places and do my painting.  Things changed again after H’s stroke.

At first there were the trees that Helga’s father had planted.  He had a fig tree that died just about the time when he died in 1998.  When we visited I used to stuff myself with figs, at first since I was still amazed about what would grow so easily in California.  After a few days of overdoing it I slowed down from a sort of alimentary canal looseness of stool.  And they had a lot of  sugar!  The leaves are beautiful but one must meter eating at a slow rate.  It was a beautiful tree and I loved sketching its leaves.

The other temptation was the persimmon.  Helga’s father, Dave Martin, told me he took almost 700 large fruits from the tree one year.  I have an acrylic of his workshop with the workbench covered with persimmons like he used to have it.  He would go out each day and pick more before the birds got to the fruit.  Some birds would just take a jab, probably to taste it to see if it was ripe.  This would virtually destroy the fruit so the idea was to beat the birds to it.  After picking the almost ripe fruit, itself an art form, he would put them on the bench and feel each one to see if it was ready to eat.

Again I used to go wild over these fruits and even went on other properties to load up the car with boxes to take back to Berkeley.  Now I think there’s too much sugar in the fruit and give most away and keep some for later in the year by freezing.  Thawing the fruit later means I can meter it in without stuffing myself.  So I can have a fruit once a week or once a month later in the year.

There are two orange trees, one comes on earlier and is sweeter, the other bears fruit after the first matures and is picked.  It was sour but now seems good.  So we can have oranges for 4-6 months.  For a while I stopped eating oranges for fear of too much sugar.  We were trying to keep our glucose intake below 10 grams per day.  This worked for a few years and moved us away from type II diabetes, which was our doctor’s appraisal of our condition.

Flowers and Vegetables

I’ll let the pictures which follow describe the smaller vegetation with only the following: I used to shun flowers as I thought they were unnecessary and I was trying to change America’s agricultural systems.  Urban agriculture was my battle cry (see Plowboy interview on my blog).  Now after spending many months indoors, only going out to shop 1-2 times per week for an hour or so, I changed.  I started to buy flowers and liked to see them when we started exercising outside.  It was uplifting to see the colors, and the local nursery had inexpensive flats with 4-6 seedlings.  And those, along with some key vegetables (boc choy, Chinese chives, onions, strawberries, blueberries and squashes, are our foods now.  At the farm we had many more vegetables and herbs for sale, but I did not eat that many.  I favor meats, as does Helga.

I mention these factors because I think people who have the space should grow some vegetables and fruit, not only flowers, hedges, ground covers, and lawns.  But I have changed and so have our garden objectives.  Beauty is nice to have around and color certainly helps stimulate the beauty sense.


My Life #2.

By Bill Olkowski, PhD

The Word “If”

If maybe the most important word in the English language.  Maybe one should add the additional word, “what” either to the front.

This is one story about IF back in the time of Vietnam.  The movie “The Blue State” stimulated this quick note.  See it if you care.  It’s illuminating given the current wars and political climate.

My Uncle Eddie

My uncle Eddie Mosyznski, (one of my mother’s brothers) served as a private pharmacist in the Korean War, which was back in 1948 or thereabouts.  His commented to me that “ If” you have to go into the military, go as an officer.  Had I known then what I know now – wow – I would avoid the experience.

Its not that I would not fight the Russians, or whoever was really threatening our democracy, but I do not feel our military is the right solution to all our conflicts.  For example, Vietnam was a disaster for all concerned.  The current war is a similar situation, and I even feel threatened by our political climate.  Religion is playing too big a role in politics and I feel organized religion to be a relic – but that’s another story.

Eddie said he served as a pharmacist, as a private with private pay and he worked alongside of other pharmacists who were officers and were paid more.  On leaving after his tour he refused to every wear kaki or any near brown colored clothing.  I wrote him regularly during his tour – his mail number was 501360.

Jumping for Joy

He told me many stories and I loved him for his exuberance.  It reminds me of when we had new fawns on the farm.  The babies would just jump for joy – maybe because they were finally out of their mothers, who would seem to tolerate the running and spontaneous jumping.  One year we had about 15 new fawns and the whole group would just up and jump and run this way and that.  The mothers seemed to be just nearby watching and eating, sort of bored-like.

Eddie, my pharmacist uncle, was the only person I ever met who would dance and sing as we walked.  When much younger in my birth town, Jersey City, I remember being on a bus when he burst out in a nationalistic polish song.  I have never experienced this again.  I was at the time just a boy and his stories were great.  One time Eddie acted out the whole movie of the Three Musketeers with sword thrusts and hiding behind curtains, and court intrigues.  It filled me up with adventure and fun.  When he came back from Korea he took me to a movie in Jersey City on a trip to get back his ring from an old girl friend who gave him up when he was in the army.


So back in college I had a choice to choose an ROTC program that would lead to a commission as an army officer.  The military then was looking for officers as they always do.  The ROTC (reserve officer training corps) was a mandatory program at my college (U of De) for all males for the first two years.  Some experiences are not worth having and in retrospect, even though all learning is good. I would recommend cessation of this mandatory aspect, but I might as well whistle in the dark.

OK, if you want to risk your life and be subjected to humiliation and personal loss of freedom, but to make it mandatory is unjust.  I wanted a college education and since I had a full ride thru college by way of a football scholarship I did not really know what this program was like, nor did I know that having a commission as an officer was a lifetime commitment.  Army recruitment was then and probably still is a maze of lies.  Back then, of course, we were fighting the Russians, or were we?

So I made a mistake.  Even now I get memories from the training.  I have a friend who went to Vietnam.  He told me two things I will never forget.  He told me of how in going out on a patrol they saw a jeep load of guys sitting by the side of the road.   When they came back the jeep had been hit by a friendly round.  Now in training they never mention “friendly rounds falling short”.  You can imagine why.

Another episode if you can tolerate it.  He also told me that one time he was carrying six canteens.  I didn’t understand at first.  He explained that whenever a squad member was damaged or killed he would go for their canteen.  One of the great things his father sent him while in Vietnam was socks as he just wore them until they rotted.  I am sure glad I never went near Vietnam or any gunfire.  I even feel threatened when having to face police officers that carry guns.  Regular police officers in Britain don’t carry guns and their society appears not to suffer from the restriction.  We, in the US, still carry the old Wild West around like a monkey on our backs.


Now with that preamble one episode is worth telling from my ROTC training.  We had to go to training camp for 2 weeks during Easter vacation in my junior year, which was a difficult time for me as my back was hurting badly – another story some day but as a health comment not really a ramble like now.

I remember carrying a machine gun (a BAR, Browning Automatic Rifle) for a few miles, one of those old things, which was very heavy, really a clunker compared to current war rifles or machine guns.  Afterward putting it on the ground my shoulders were numb for hours.  In those days the march was a training exercise to break us into the two-week field experience.  They did not allow us to drink water during the march.  Later we were allowed water.  Some of my fellow trainees fainted along the way.  I was happy to have my football experiences with exercise and felt superior to many who were exhausted.

The Attack

The highlight of the whole program was an attack on a hillside fortification.  An old sergeant was handling one of the lecture/exercises.  He pointed out a small hillside about 300 yards away and told us our squad was going to sneak along a small depression and attack the hill from the left flank.  The idea was a machine gun was to continuously fire across the enemy hill encampment and move in front of us as we charged across the encampment.  During this maneuver the artillery barrage would move back so that anybody who jumped from the holes would have to go thru the barrage.

Then he told us of one of his experiences from the Korean War.  It was a similar hillside with a dug-in group of enemy (probably North Koreans or Chinese).  He told us of how he and another guy crept up to the objective carrying a bag of grenades.  As the machine gun continued to keep the enemy in their holes, they went from hole to hole dropping in grenades until they killed them all.

Those poor bastards in the holes probably did not know what hit them.  Maybe that’s the way to die, but given a choice I’d rather die in my bed with some real friends, not just war buddies.

The last exercise I describe here occurred at the last days.  I was chosen as the company commander during an attack against a Texas training regiment who seemed to tolerate us trainees with some disgust.  The privates in the group were particularly disdainful, as we all were inexperienced and rather poor soldiers – mostly poor physical specimens compared to them.  Those Texas boys seemed natural soldiers – by the way – maybe left over from the Civil War Schools.

So for a few minutes I and another guy who was my Executive Officer were briefed on the upcoming attack.  We had so little time to think about what they told us – which seemed realistic and stupid.  So here is what they told us.  There would be a small nuclear bomb attack at first and we were to follow up and kill anybody left.  We would of course, go thru the radiation zone (something I learned later was very risky).  Of course it was a simulation.  They gave us the names we would use over the radio and designated a radio operator to follow me everywhere.  My executive officer would lead a squad of tankers and small troop carriers (with 50 caliber machine guns).

The executive officer would be the right flank.  They would disembark when I told them to and move up to the emplacement we would win, joining our squads.  Tanks with portable machine guns are awesome things to know about and see.  We all had code names so we could decipher the radio traffic.  My code name was moonstone and codenames were given to all squad leaders all with radio operators.

The first thing that would happen was a small limited nuclear bomb on the objective and our three squads were to sweep up any remaining enemy.  Ha, Ha!!  I guess that experienced soldiers know what I mean by that exclamation.  Nothing is that simple, especially with any group of people and certainly not while in the army or in attacking an enemy.

A Small Scale Nuclear Bomb

So here’s what happened.  OK we saw the bomb go off and I told two squad leaders to follow up holding one squad back as a reserve.  All went according to plan and we got the objective.  My job then was to make sure our solders were probably dug in for the night.  Night came and much to my surprise some Cornel came along with a blistering lecture on how many infiltrators had made it through our lines.  I went to look and found a 30-meter gaps between 2 squads.  I had neglected to cover the entire perimeter from exhaustion.  So the command passed to another trainee.

So what do I make of these experiences?  Let me reiterate that it’s best to skip these experiences IF you can.  Military operations are error prone and when using guns, mortars, tanks and artillery there are errors all around just waiting to happen.  It’s complex, dangerous and really in the last view stupid – a really bizarre human activity of no worth, unless, of course my house or family or friends are being threatened.  That’s another story, which needs no further comment.

Back to the word IF

Here is another example of IF in a positive vein.  This occurred in my graduate days at UC, Berkeley.   I took a summer class (free) with a large (1000 or so students) on learning to write computer programs with Fortran, an early programming language.  The teacher says to first make a diagram of what you want to happen in the program.  This was my first view of a graphical language.  To this day this learning experience was one of the greatest mental skills I have ever learned.  This program was build upon the following statement structure:

IF (another statement that can be answered true or false) Then (another statement but now something to do).  The first statement could be something like x = 10.  The second statement could be, for example, add 1 to the variable x, or jump to another part of the program).  With a series of such statements one could build logical branching trees of any depth and complexity.  Got that?  It’s from the early days of computing science.

I say this was a great learning experience because I used this sort of graphical language over the last few decades with my pest control work.  See the website for examples, or some of my published work.

Enough for now.


My Life – first Installment – #1

By Bill Olkowski, PhD

Henry David Thoreau is reported to have written, “I should not speak so much about myself if there were any body else that I knew as well.” With that thought as one motive to start an autobiographical record, I begin a process of recording and introspection for my own pleasures and for any friend or others who may want to spend time thinking about someone else’s thoughts and memories.

The early years

For most of the facts about these years I must rely on my mother, since my father died early in his 50th year. But I have a birth certificate that says I was born on 7/18/41 in Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital in Jersey City New Jersey (in our safe deposit box). This, itself, tells a story of a rather low-level economic existence.  We were never poor but just above the poverty level, judged by what I heard from discussions between my mother and father, usually after dinner when I should have been in bed. When I arrived we lived on Bright St., in Jersey City, New Jersey, in my grandfather’s house, a five-story building that housed all his kid’s families and some near relatives.  My grandmother, Mrs. Moscyznski, (we called her Bapcha, which in Polish means grandmother) had five living children (eight died), there were a batch of cousins in the house, usually on different floors. One of the great things she told me was a great truth, “When you lose your health you lose everything”.

We all paid rent and my father had a pigeon coup on the roof where I occasionally went with him to fly the birds.  My father worked in the shipyards as a welder and thereby avoided service as a military or merchant marine in WWII, since this was a special occupation exempt for military service. Building ships in WWII was a vital war-industrial function. He remained a welder for most of his life.  His company moved when he was in his late 40’s and, although offered a job, it would have meant moving very far away to the southern US, something too hard to contemplate. So he gave up that job, no big loss as far as I could determine.  My mother found him a job as a janitor in my high school, after I had graduated.

My mother was 19 when she had me and from what she says her father did not believe in girls going to college after high school.  Her father came from Poland and worked on the railroads in the US over the years until he died.  Her mother also came from Poland and I knew her as a primarily polish-speaking older woman who always produced a sumptuous feast on thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, when the whole family (all on her side) got together for food, festivities (cards – pinochle) and discussions.  I remember many things about these gatherings, but in later years I mostly did not find them interesting enough to warrant spending the whole day watching people play cards and could not engage in the discussions.  So I watched mostly and later watched TV football games (into my high school days).

Earliest Memory

The earliest memory I can recall now is some sort of preschool play where I was a soldier and there were girls present on a stage and we all had costumes.  The memory is fleeting and I did make an effort to store it for long-term recall, but it remains now just a brief memory.

Next comes a pre -five year old memory of going to church with my mother in the Easter period of the year.  (see other document as WWII was in full bloom).  My mother used to say she and her husband wasted time in taking us to so many boat launchings.  Years later I asked my father why he did not rise in his profession beyond just a welder and he said he did not want the responsibility for assigning welders for work in different areas of  the ships they were building.  This was because many men had families and if one were killed or damaged, which was a likely possibility, he did not want their lives on his head.

After the shipyards closed he began working at American Hoist and Derrick Co. as a welder.  Later in his 50’s he was laid off.  During these years I saw my first TV program on a small 8-inch monitor (1948).  I was in the boy scouts and we lived at 45 Livingston Av, in Lyndhurst, N.J.

To summarize some decades I hope to sometime comment upon the following, what I call:

My Life Phases

  1. Athlete
  2. Student
  3. Entomologist-Plant Pathologist MS U. of Delaware
  4. Parasitologist
  5. Ecological Activist-My time as an ecoactivist is what made me the hero of my life. Recycling was my mania, started the first recycling center in Berkeley CA.
  6. Systems Ecologist
  7. Educator-At UC, in the first Natural Resources Program, AC/W then BIRC tri-founder, or is it quad-founder as an administrator.
  8. Biological Control Specialist, first at UC with Dr. van den Bosch
  9. Technical Publisher, IPM Practitioner, Common Sense Quarterly and 4 books, particularly Common Sense Pest Control
  10. IPM Practitioner as contractor to Federal, State agencies, and private companies a. Urban  b. Agricultural
  11. Farmer-Teacher at our farm school in Winters Ca
  12. Artist – see RV diaries on website
  13. Head Nurse and Bottle Washer and Health Nut
  14. Ento-philosopher with my blog – current and continuing I hope.

The end for now. Will continue as time permits.