Saturday, January 31, 2015



Practice can be more effective if attention is paid to details.  Once the principles are part of your routine, it can be better if they are applied automatically without conscious thought.  In fact, a book on tennis notes that if your opponent compliments you on some aspect of your game, you are more apt to think about it as you are doing it and override the better job your well-prepared subconscious part of your brain can do.  Golfers are just as likely to mess up their game if they try to think about their golf swing once they are ready.


Since a Puttmeter probably won't be available to you, a line level, that has inverted V-shaped supports at both ends, should be as effective, although not as comfortable in your pocket.  It can help guide your choice of line to the hole when on the green.  It also can help you estimate the length of putting stroke needed to go the distance to the hole.

Few of us play on- perfectly manicured greens of constant grass length and windless day that are neither wet nor overly dry.  So adjustments may be needed for wind, wetness, grain and length of grass, uphill or downhill lies in addition to selection of a line for slope of the green if you are not on the uphill-downhill line.

Some aspects of the adjustments needed are:
WIND- adjust the line toward the wind proportional to the wind speed at ground level.  Wind is much less of a factor in putting than it is in driving.
WETNESS- the wetter the green the harder the stroke needed, but the less correction for break needed.
GRAIN- a harder stroke is needed against the grain.  Any grooves or lines from equipment will tend to move the ball to a parallel line to the grooves.  Grain is the uniform bend in grass, usually due to mowing, the ball will tend to be forced in the direction the grass tips are pointing.
LENGTH OF GRASS- longer grass requires a harder stroke but less adjustment for break.
UPHILL OR DOWNHILL LIE- an uphill position of the cup results in less break than the same slope with the cup in a downhill position.  Of coarse, directly uphill or downhill lines mean no break is assumed for such a location.
OPTICAL ILLUSIONS- various aspect of a golf course often include lakes, hills, or other features that can make a level green seem tilted or make a tilt look level.  Use of the line level may make you aware of the distortion.

ADJUST YOUR LINE LEVEL  Select a position for it on the shaft of your putter lying on a flat floor or table (the line level will read the same regardless of the direction the club is positioned if the floor is level).

Adjust the level, as indicated by the appropriate A above, by wrapping enough tape around the club shaft to make the bubble centered in the level.  The wrapping will also serve to locate the level on the club each time.

On the green, position the club on the line to the hole (C, below) and then at a right angle to that line (B, below) and note the position of the air bubble in the the level for both positions.

Amount of movement of the bubble from the center of the level toward either end can be used to estimate how far the putting line should be set from the line to the hole as indicated by the diagram below.  The diagram shows only the adjustment for right to left break.  For bubble positions to the left of center the adjustments would be a similar amount to the left.  Although the putter is used to measure the break in the diagram below, one could play like Monk, the almost psychic TV detective, and use the fingers of your hands at arms length to do the estimate.

The angle for your line is the same regardless of the distance to the pin.  If there are multiple slopes of differing directions just choose the intermediate value.  Distance is not a factor in line direction.  You can prove this to yourself by putting numerous balls along the same line but different distances as indicated in the sketch below.

On extremely sloped greens you may do better by putting toward the line directly up-slope from the hole with only enough power to reach the line if there were no break.  As indicated by the diagram below, the ball will move almost straight down slope toward the end.

The slower the movement of the ball, the greater the effect of slope.  That is the reason for the varying lines needed for fast or slow greens, regardless of cause, and uphill or downhill lies.

Don't forget to take flag out of the hole before you putt.  I left them in in the diagrams so you could tell which was the ball and which was the hole.


A pro could give you better advice about your putting stroke than I can.  But I used to love to putt just using my wrists.  Once I started using my arms and putter as a unit with no wrist movement, and adjusting the power by the length of a pendulum like swing (rather than adjusting the effort of the wrist movement), my ability to putt the appropriate distance improved markedly.  As you can infer from the diagrams, if you plan to putt beyond the hole to minimize break at the end it requires a slightly different line.  It can leave you with a tougher second putt than getting the distance just right.  There may be a volcano-like hole (soil around the hole slightly raised, perhaps due to setting a new hole position or feet trampling the soil more a few inches from the hole?).  Too much speed is even more likely to prevent the ball from dropping, even if the line is good.

Observing the different factors and their affects will usually make your subconscious optimize your performance sooner than will cussing your luck.  Good luck with the rapidly approaching golf season.

Joe Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan      February 1, 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015



The game of golf has changed by the gradual process we can call evolution.  Sometimes changes occur rapidly and it might almost be called a revolution.  Both are changes, one by gradual steps, the other by drastic changes.

I tried to introduce a tool into the game to help golfers complete a game with fewer strokes by improving their putting.  I gave my device the name, Puttmeter.  It really is just a variation of a line level available in most hardware stores.  The patent lawyer I consulted said it was basically a level and couldn't be patented as one, but a design patent could be applied for possibly some protection.

           From top to bottom- maple, walnut, red oak, and cherry Puttmeters.

A soon to come post will describe how to use the Puttmeter, or your own line level.  Sorry, but I no longer make Puttmeters.  I sold less than a dozen from a few advertisements in Golf Digest about thirty years ago.  I thought I would be wealthy from the product so I could spend more time in research, and less teaching, to get my evolution and other ideas in to print.  The small number of ones sold came from orders stretching from the East Coast to the West Coast.  But I had a larger number of requests for free samples from various golf league officials to use for prizes at their annual golf banquets or outings.

Even if you don't have or get a line level, the instructions on a coming post about using one may help you improve your putting.


Early balls in Scotland, the country viewed as the birthplace of golf, began as small quantities of a stuffing material packed into a cover that was presumably stitched tightly shut.  The biggest changes in my lifetime has been replacement of the dimpled cover subject to being cut, or sliced open, by impact with an edge of the club face.  The interior, formerly a tightly wound strand of rubber, has been replaced by a solid but resilient compound.  The surface sculpturing of the ball used to be bumps, for a long time now they have been replaced by over a hundred shallow surface concavities designed for best aerodynamic effect.

Because the ball gets some of its velocity added as it pushes off from the club face that has flattened it, softer balls are used for those not having the power to fully compress the ball with their swing.


In my father's day, his clubs had wooden shafts and the shorter ones had metal heads, longer ones had wooden heads.  Metal inserts were usually on the face and bottom of the club to reinforce the wood for greater durability.  Materials have changed, especially for the woods.  Now we have metal woods.  The heads are attached to shafts of metal or fiberglass.  It would be good to get a pro to help you get a set of clubs with the right attributes for you.

A pro can also get you started on a swing to practice with a stance and alignment that well help you make consistent desired movements of the ball.

The lower the number of a club, both for woods and for irons, the longer the shaft and the closer the club face is to vertical.  A third class of club is the putter.  It is used when the ball is on the green.

Putters are quite variable although all have the same object - to roll the ball into the hole formerly occupied by the flag staff marking the target you try to reach with the fewest number of swings from tee to green.


I had given my idea to my brother-in-law who had a factory making vials for levels and was looking for product to expand the use of his production equipment.  He didn't do much about it but told me he knew of someone who tried putting a level-vial into the head of a putter without much success.  I told him I thought it could be put in the shaft or handle of the putter to be more effective in reading the potential variability in the break of the ball on the green.

He provided me with a large supply of vials and I inserted one of the smallest one into the grip of my putter so that the bubble was in the center of the vial when the putter was laid on a level surface.

Puttmeters in various stages of construction.  A bag of 250 vials (of type used in wooden Puttmeters, lower left) and several small vials similar to the one used in the club grip.


I used the first one built into my putter in the golf league I was in.  Apparently, my putting improved because after one round a member came up to me and said "I laid my putter down like you do and it didn't do me any good!"  I stopped using it when someone told me such devices are not allowed in competitive play.  So my dream of installing them in putters evaporated and its use as a separate training device was pursued for a short time.


The demise of the Puttmeter illustrates the extinction of species that don't survive the struggle for existence.  My boxes of unfinished stages of the wooden product may never show up in the fossil record.  If they did, would anyone think it had anything to do with golf?  Or evolution?

Joe Engemann           Kalamazoo, Michigan     January 30, 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015



The original mask was reported to have had the beard break off and then be glued back on in an Egyptian museum.  I saw a brief view of the repair job, I think, on TV today.  I wasn't sure it was the original mask so I ran a search on the internet.  King Tut had over 4 million  hits.  King Tut's mask had over 300,000 hits.

The search engine brought up a group of eight or more different images without identifying the original version.  I presume all were copies.  So here is my photo taken in the Royal Egyptian Museum in Cairo.  It was taken when I was on a side trip to Cairo, when the Strathnaver, that I took from Melbourne to Marseilles in October of 1957, was one of the first cruise ships through the Suez Canal after several years blockage.

My history knowledge of King Tut is all jumbled up in my mind - thought he was a boy king and wouldn't have a beard.  I think he came from a different pyramid than the one I climbed (Cheop's).  I didn't realize the privilege I had to see it.  There were less than a dozen other visitors in the museum.  When the mask was on tour in the U.S.A. several dozen years ago the lines to see it were blocks long.  Anyway, I suspect the picture I took of the mask above is of the original one.  So you can compare and tell which is the real one if you want to buy a copy.  It looked like they are for sale, but not the original.

I'll get back to evolution topics soon, I hope.

Joe Engemann     January 26, 2015

Saturday, January 24, 2015



Any biologist doing evolution type studies of phylogeny should understand the concepts of the following posts which are not currently appreciated, especially by those doing molecular phylogeny studies.

June 9, 2014, Variable rates of evolution

June 22, Evolution in the deep sea

May 31, 2013 or June 1, 2013  Science screw-up no. 1 - Why molecular phylogeny experts have gone astray with the introduction of Ecdysozoa and Lophotrochozoa has been archived as below

January 23, 2015 -  Salvaging data for evolution studies, it should be read in conjunction with the blog post listed above, may be a view principally of interest to biologists studying evolution.


My demise is not expected, but at my age I would hate to leave a world lacking a link to ideas needed for the advance of animal evolution studies.

Joseph G. Engemann   Kalamazoo, Michigan   January 24, 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015



It occurred to me within the past day that I have ignored one of the things I learned in my youth - how to get some use out of discarded materials in the city dump!

Such experiences were something few children in modern cities get.  So many of the products we use are not designed to be repaired, just throw the whole thing away and get a new one, or at best, get a module to replace a portion.

So my criticism of the Ecdysozoa and Lophotrochozoa studies [post of May 31, 2013] overlooked the fact that, if the errors introduced by linking most ancient ancestors were taken in to consideration, and some such ancestors were omitted in a new analysis, the remaining data might lead us closer to the reality of the ancestral paths.  Even so, the inadequate sample sizes and the limited portion of the genomes examined are unlikely to be very useful.

I don't think it is worth trying because the sample sizes were already inadequate and might still be if clusters could be reanalyzed omitting the nematodes in the Ecdysozoa study.  Nematodes need omission not only because they may have extreme retention of genomic identity giving them "long-branch attraction" to diverse distantly related groups, but they also are a separate lineage that is not basal to any other major modern group.

The Lophotrochozoa represent newer evolutionary events.  Because uncertainty due to variable length of lineages from common ancestry of early coelomate animals, and the "long-branch attraction" problem affecting some of the members descended from annelids via the Pogonophora, the relationship of various "lophophorate" clusters can not be determined with simple corrections.


As discussed in my posts regarding isopod egg comparisons it is clear that the old idea of the "biogenetic law" where animals were thought to repeat some steps of their evolutionary development in their individual embryonic development is not valid.  But I hope I made it clear that the concept is still a useful model that may suggest investigation for support from other evidence.

The isopod eggs, and ecological factors involved in deep-sea selection, helped me see how the Pogonophora explain the close relationship of ancestry of deuterostomes to advanced protostomes.  Judging from the number of views of my blogs on the topics, I think people studying such things are unlikely to know about them and thus will be unable to apply the concepts.


Amazing data can be found in studies of anatomy.  But it is increasingly unlikely to be helpful, not because it can't be, but because modern researchers are swamped with so much useful information they will never get far into older studies and approaches.  Anatomy and its changes not only reflect evolutionary history but are intimately connected with the genomes of animals.

The environment imprints it natural selection role on structure, development, and the responsible genes.  But the complex interaction is so nebulous I pity the researchers of today who are certainly more technically advanced than I have ever been.  The day is not long enough, nor their life long enough, to have much chance of putting it all together.  Still, I anticipate the continuation of the string of remarkable advances science can make in many areas.  I hope they can still get the benefits study of the humanities can make in their lives.

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan    January 23, 2015

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


The Point of the Previous Post

I had hoped to indicate all religious views have some good in them.  Most of my early life only gave me exposure to Christians.  I heard many of the contentious views that separated denominations.  But when I talked with friends from those different denominations, it was difficult to find fundamental differences of importance.


My Roman Catholic background included seeing anti-catholic sermons advertised on signs in front of churches.  Of course, I worried about them not having the true religion I had.  I'm sure some of they worried about me for the same reason.  Perhaps my first enlightenment came with a discussion with my best friend from grade school, Jack Rumohr.  He was well along with his preparation for becoming a Baptist minister who later spent many years as a missionary in Africa.  Like most Protestants, I don't think he shared my views of the Pope, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Apostolic Succession of the priesthood, and details of sacraments.  But fundamentals about God and faith in our salvation through Jesus Christ had only semantic differences.

In graduate school, discussions with Pierson VanAlten made me see that the difference between Christian Reformed views of predestination, and free will as seen from my point of view, seemed to hinge on minor differences in understanding and the words used.  During my two years in the army, another platoon member was Warren Wiles, a Pentacostal Minister and a good friend with whom the sincerity of belief in the action of the Holy Spirit in his life was without question.


Herbert Wolfson was a Jewish friend, also in the same platoon in the army.  We went together on a three day pass to Vienna and had to pass through the Russian occupied zone of Austria.  We didn't discuss religion, but he was a good and honorable man.  The only Jews, in the town of 4,000 where I grew up, were Abe Friedman and his wife.  I knew neither one, but my father knew him from his business and had a very good impression of him.


While attending the University of Tasmania I lived in a boarding house where two others were university colleagues.  One was a graduate student from a Muslim university in India.  The other was my room-mate who was a Hindu and a professor from a different Indian university, he was researching the chromosomal make-up of certain primitive gymnosperms.  In the years since then, I have gotten to know more of both Hindu and Muslim faiths.  That happened in the years since I was in Tasmania.

In 1980 I spent a few weeks in Libya with other member's of Abubaker Swehli's doctoral committee.  We visited several oases in the Libyan portion of the Sahara Desert.  The hospitality of the people in desert oases was remarkable as they hosted mid-day meals for our group of strangers.  Apparently, part of the Mulsim tradition is taking travelers into their home for up to three days, but at the end of three days it is time to go.

At the time we were there one of Dr. Swehli's siblings was being married in Tripoli.  I attended one of the wedding events where the men walked from the Swehli house to the house of the other wedding partner.  It was something like the shiveree tradition accompanying weddings in the old American West.  I was not a vocal participant in the process, but one of the participants engaged me in conversation about his pilgrimage to Mecca.  He was wearing the gown of the color signifying he had made the visit to the Kaaba.  He told me of its significance and then surprised me with the question "what is your big message in life?"  He may have phrased it differently, but I struggled mentally and came up with something I had thought about a number of times in the past.  I told him something to the effect that "one shouldn't take criticisms from others personally, they are just trying to make themselves seem or feel better."  For a long time after that I wanted to ask people with printing on their T-shirts, "what is your big message in life?"

After my year in Tasmania, I had stayed on for a few months with a fellowship extension to help complete a year studying the isopods discussed in other posts.  I got back to Michigan just in time to attend my younger sister's wedding shown in the photograph below.

                In the Catholic church in my hometown and my sister's wedding.

Now, after being fortunate to be friendly with people of many countries and of many religious persuasions, as well as some agnostics and atheists, I see why God is so happy with his creation and I should join my Protestant friends holding up the sign that says "John 3,16".  The message should make each person realize the vast amount of love God has for each one of us.

I am optimistic that the world is improving in spite of all the trouble and woe.  One bit of evidence is the first sentence of the prayer of Pope Francis for the month of January, "Dear Heavenly Father,
During this month we pray that you bless all those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will, that they may work together to produce real peace in our world."

So what is our relationship with God?  God loves us.  Do we reciprocate that love as best we can?  It's never to late to start.  One way is to love everyone else; God does.  At least, smile once in a while, it's a start.

Joseph Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan    January 21, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

GOD and Religious Traditions

MONOTHEISM, belief in one God

Most people probably grow up thinking their religious tradition is the correct one favored by God.  Before the predominate view of a single, all-powerful, infinite God beginning with the monotheistic God traced back to Abraham, there were undoubtedly numerous traditions around the world.  Both Christians and Muslims trace their origins through, and, along with Judaism, back to Abraham or Abram about 4,000 years ago.

POLYTHEISM, belief in many gods

Polytheism was common in much of the world during pre-Christian times

The Hindu tradition began with a blending of the beliefs of new arrivals to India and those of native Indians about 3500 years ago, almost as early as Judaism began.  They are not far from monotheism by viewing the many gods as representing one divine principle.  Within Hinduism, Budda (Sidhartha Gautama) founded Buddhism over 2400 years ago.  Both Hinduism and Buddhism recognize successive reincarnation as aspects of their traditions.

The steeple of the Hindu temple above in Colombo, Sri Lanka, depicts many gods sculptured on it.

Confucius founded Confucianism in China over 2400 year ago.  A few generations later, Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and scientist, proposed his proofs for the existence of one supreme God.

My first roommate in a dormitory at Michigan State University, during my first year of graduate school, in 1954, was Toshiaki Kinjo, from Okinawa, Japan.  I didn't discuss religion with him much, but he presumably had a Shinto background.  He was one of the finest persons I have ever met.  I lost contact with him after he moved to Brazil to help develop agriculture in new areas.


Islam was founded by the Prophet, Mohammed, about 1400 years ago.  He recognized Jesus as a Prophet, but did not get the message that his divine nature as the Son preexisted in the one God, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, as recognized as the three persons making up the One, Trinitarian God of Christians.  For Muslims, the first principle of their faith is declaring that there is one and only one God at least once publicly during their life.

                                Mohammed Ali Mosque (back, right) in Cairo, Egypt

Their second duty is to pray at least five times throughout the day.  One or more minnerettes (or towers on their mosques) are used to call the faithful to prayer at appropriate times.  During prayers, they face the Kaaba, located in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

                      A minerette viewed from a balcony of a mosque in Bombay, India

Muslim duties also include paying alms, fasting during Ramadan, and, if possible, making a pilgrimage to the Kaaba at least once during their life.  Like other religions, Islam has versions, about 90 percent of Muslims are Sunni, about ten percent are Shiites of one of three groups.


All major religions preach some form of the Golden Rule as being part of their moral code.  Treating others as you want to be treated is usually a good idea.  But apply it reasonably and don't force candy on a diabetic.  In fact, don't force anything on others and be cautious about applying a right of self-defense.  Freedom and slavery issues have plagued humanity from inherited built-in survival mechanisms developed earlier in our evolutionary history.


Violence seems to have been something religions have not escaped.  Fanaticism of some divine right or obligation may possible be derived from some aspects of Old Testament theology.  In its worst form in recent years, such as the dictatorships leading up to World War I, it was not particularly religion based.  But, much earlier, the Crusades and the Inquisition had religious roots.  Today, the Islamic world, over one and a half billion strong, is embarrassed by the small fraction with mostly Shiite background trying to avenge perceived wrongs.  The Christian embarrassment has not ended with the Inquisition; witness the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States and the attempts of the Irish to solve their political problems.  Of course terrorism, partially religion based, in several African countries has yet to be solved.


Looking at where God's Son took on human form in the person of Jesus might shed some light on the question.  Muslims came after the fact, and Judaism was the smallest of the three great traditions of the time.  That part of the world was frequently beset with wars, invasion, plundering, and placing the conquered into slavery.  Perhaps the Oriental and Indian regions, especially in China, had similar turmoils but fairly stable and peaceful times seem to develop.  Although I am largely ignorant of the history of the Eastern part of the world, it seems that the family had developed into a stable unit, and older family members were accorded great respect.  Deceased ancestors were also viewed as being an important part of their heritage.

So Jesus went where he was sent and needed.  In the process he fulfilled predictions of the prophets, becoming the greatest Jew and prophet or rabbi the world will ever see.  He charged his follows to carry his message of love and redemption to the rest of the world.

So the message that Jesus left us with that God loves all of his creation and knows our inmost thoughts, may indicate the following.  The peaceful orient already understood the message, but the warring Middle Easterners needed more direct instruction.  His criticism of the priestly leaders style of not following what they were preaching can probably still be seen as needed.  Hence the hope engendered by the comments of Pope Francis to the Curia.  Perhaps such problems leave Protestants relieved they need no top human leader.  I suppose Imams having different views of Sharia may be less of a problem if they do not have civil authority combined with their religious role.  Separation of church and state seems a good principle to follow.

So, you can see I don't really know the answer to the question.  But my having had the benefit of knowing Christians of many persuasions, as well as Jews, Muslims, and Hindus makes it easy to see that God loves all the people he has created. And that includes agnostics and atheists.  Maybe some are special, but Jesus said "in my Father's house are many mansions" and "others I have that are not of this fold".  In fact, all individuals are special; God not only knows us better than we do ourselves, he also loves us more than we do ourselves.  That love extends to forgiving us all our failings if we turn to him.

Joseph G. Engemann    Kalamazoo, Michigan      January 19, 2015

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


The Beauty of an Ice Storm

                                                      is often not appreciated.

The picture above was taken in January over thirty years ago of fruits on a small tree beside our house.  Before the winter was over the berries were eaten by a flock of birds whose usual food had become snow covered or eaten.

In the spring, well after the ice storm, I looked up and saw slashes of light colored wood on the upper branches of big silver maple trees along the street.  Throughout the city there had been many trees and large limbs broken down by the load of ice the trees bore.  A coating of ice on the tips of upper branches presumably broke off many of the small upper twigs and lightened the load on the big branches so most trees survived.

About a dozen years ago we were in a different house when another ice storm hit.  The most remarkable damage in our yard was a tall pine tree in a neighboring lot broke off and almost reached our house.  I had noticed that the upper part was bending over under the weight of ice and better exposed the branches to more freezing rain and ice accumulation.  During the night the trunk snapped off about ten feet above the ground.

The consequences of such events must have a selective role in the lives of many organisms.  In a forest the occasional large tree falls and leaves an opening for sunlight to enable a new cycle of plant growth near the ground.  The various plants have a role in feeding or hiding animals from small to big.  Such complexities have no doubt been a feature of the environment organisms adapt to over time as they evolve to better compete.  If they don't they join the throng of extinct species preceding them.

There are many natural disasters that do have a role in natural selection even though they arrive at unpredictable intervals and locations.  Many of the disruptions we cause may affect the course of evolution, sometimes in ways similar to natural disasters, sometimes in ways that may be worse.

Joe Engemann       Kalamazoo, MI      January 7, 2015