Thursday, April 28, 2005


Wit is the name of a pier here and I’m sitting at the end of it in a bar called Musing.

We just tripled the size of our aquarium. An aquarium is the same as a fish tank except you don’t intend to eat the fish. That is my problem. I want to eat one of the remaining two fish in one section. If I do, I will no longer be able to brag that we have an aquarium. we will only have a fish tank.

Here’s what happened. A few days ago we had 5 fish and scores of crawdads in that section. 3 of the fish and dozens of crawdads disappeared. There are 2 suspects. One is a bottom feeding, tank cleaning, suction equipped, black fish that stays in hiding most of the time. It behaves very much like a criminal but seems mild mannered. The other suspect is a large white fish with ruthless eyes. That fish lunges at me, teeth bared, whenever I get close. That is my favorite suspect.

As soon as I saw the shattered population, my first instinct was to eat the white fish. I know it’s edible. I see the same species in a fish tank at our favorite restaurant. But if I ate it, because he had eaten the smaller fish, wouldn’t I be behaving very much like a fish? Wouldn’t I become just the next step in a fish eating chain? Mightn’t that give me bad dreams about the next step above me?

These are things I’m thinking about while sitting in Musing at Wit’s end.

And then I thought about a whale they caught one and found thousands of lobsters in its belly. One whale! I saw pictures of whales hunting in a group and trapping huge schools of these little fish and swallowing thousands in a single pass. A single whale, in a lifetime, must kill millions of smaller creatures.

When I saw film of a pod of killer whales attacking, killing and eating a large whale off the Golden Gate, all I could think of was, ‘That will save millions of smaller creatures.’ So the tearful commentary of the narrator fell on my deaf ears.

They’re not going to feed me that crap about the whales weed out the sick and the old and the slow. Those suckers eat them all! But for me this is a comment, not a judgment. I merely witness, not root. I have no dog in that fight.

These are the things I think about while sitting in Musing at Wit's end

And how about them sharks?

Before I get into sharks, I had better explain numbers. Numbers are important whenever you discuss sharks and a lot of people really don’t understand numbers.

Way back in another life my best friend was of the “hippy” persuasion. Once I gave him an “awareness” test by asking him how many fingers I was holding up.

He stared at them awhile and finally said, “Green.”

“No, no,” I told him. “Green is a color. I’m asking you a numbers question. You can’t answer a numbers question with a color.”

“Oh yeah.” He nodded as if he understood. He stared at my fingers a little more. Then he asked, “What are numbers again?”

Primitive people can never get the concept of amounts larger than what is in their environment. “As many as trees in the forest,” is about their limit.

When I went to surveying school we were deluged in a rainspout of numbers. Surveying is all numbers and instruments that measure things expressed in numbers. Some students were swept away. Get the concept or get out. We were all a bit overwhelmed.

A friend in the school told me a story.

A kid was learning to be a machinist but was having a hard time trying to figure things out to a thousandth of an inch.

His boss, losing patience, asked him, “How many thousandth do you think there are in an inch?”

The kid replied, “Hell, I don’t know. There must be a million of them.”

For a lot of people a million means ‘too many to comprehend.’

Back to sharks.

There is much dismay over the reported wholesale slaughter of sharks. It is difficult for me to choose sides in that. Sharks are not like the buffalo, the elimination of which benefited no one and harmed many. It is indisputable that the elimination of sharks would benefit some species. It (killing sharks) isn’t causing over-population in other species because there are reports of diminishing population of many other types of fish. There are reports of fishing areas being fished out and, from that, people conclude that a species is vanishing.

I wonder if it’s more like:

“Hey Bob. Every time we go over there, a bunch of us get caught. Why not go over here for a change?”

“Good idea, George. Hey you guys, we’re going over here!”

The fish in one area are severely depleted or are no more. But the oceans are big places. Maybe they caught all the dumbest fish.

I wondered how many sharks were caught yearly. As much as I hate research or anything else vaguely resembling work, I looked it up. One source said there were 5 to 7 million killed each year. Another source said 200 million.

How could anyone not love those environmentalists? They are so wide eyed and innocent. It brought back memories of raising my three sons. One would come in showing me what he found. A clear glass marble he was holding in his grubby little hand as if he had discovered the universe.

Don’t you just want to hug those people and protect them from the real world?

What one is saying is, “As many sharks are being killed as there are trees in the forest.”

The other comes along, also not really understanding numbers, and says, “More sharks are being killed than there are trees in the forest.”

He picked out a number that sounded bigger than the previous number. He was right.

These are things I’m thinking about while sitting in Musing at Wit’s end.


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