Happy Thanksgiving!

Beautiful, clear morning in Tucson. It will reach 70 degrees today. I am joining the next door neighbors and their friends and kin for dinner. I will provide the mashed potatoes. Should be fun. 

The city is quiet this morning. Even the trans-continental trains seem to be taking Thanksgiving off. 

Was informed last night that there was a family of rattlesnakes in the back yard this summer. Rattlesnakes are actually pretty defenseless against their predators, which are gopher snakes, raptors and...believe it or not, squirrels. So most young rattlers do not make it to adulthood. 

The snakes are deep in the ground right now, so no hope of seeing one, which disappoints me only a little. 

Neighbor Pat is a retired veterinarian and loves animal life of all sorts. She now sclupts animals out of metal. Her husband Howard is a retired food chemist who loves to cook. I quiz him about food matters as they arise.

Are hard eggs bad for you? Only if you fry them in oil and  cook them until they start to turn brown. Then the protiens become inaccessible. 

Are canned tomatoes dangerous? I read that recently. No, only if they are old is there even the threat that the acid of the tomato will interact with the side of the can. 

You can't enter Pat and Howard's house without learning something new. Their present houseguest is Charlie, who leads African wildlife safaris and takes photos for National Geographic on the side. He recently published a coffee table book of his incredible photos from Burma. 

One theme: The incredible damage done to Africa and Southeast Asia by the robust Chinese market. For one thing, the Chinese have an insatiable appetite for exotic foods, and the jungles of Laos have been stripped bare of any form of wildlife, even birds. 

Charlie introduced me to a new animal: The pangolin. It is now threatened due to its gourmet status. Recently a van with 200 dead pangolin was stopped at the Thai border. It was headed for China. 

Meanwhile, I am reading the book 1491 by Charles Mann, about the Americas before Columbus. Much strange and wonderful to learn there, too! Early civilizations have recently been found on the Peruvian Coast which date back as far as 12,000 years. It is likely that the Americas were more advanced than the Ancient Mideast. Bigger cities. Higher population. Advanced farming. 

Disease introduced by Europeans ended all of that. 

People tend to be provincial, both in geography at present, where we ignore vast swaths of the earth in favor of what's going on in our backyard, and historically, where we tend to think that we have reached the apex of civilization--which by amazing coincidence is here and now. 

Therefore we resist information which suggests we are not the center of the universe and the very purpose of creation. Provincialism is a pernicious and ignorant mental habit, and it is the purpose of education to shake us of it and stimulate our curiosity, about other cultures, about other regions, about other eras, about the oceans and the skies. To shut one's self down and resist newness is to die an early death.