Bob Muller, close friend and colleague, died last Monday (Sept 16, 2013). His life was remarkable in breadth, richness and the number of people he loved and influenced. Bob occupied space, lots of space, now a vacuum. Not a vacuum, really; we have memories, achievements and the influence Bob had on so many. Alex, Bob’s daughter, read an email he sent while she was struggling as a novice marine biologist, trying to tag and collect tagged fish. Bob’s email was what we had come to expect: funny (very funny), warm, insightful and wise (although minus the scatological humor regularly heard from Bob).*
Made me think of the work of another genius, Herman Melville. Moby Dick has a remarkable passages interleaving oceanography, cetology, and philosophy. A wonderful chapter is “Fast-Fish and Loose-Fish”, about the ownership rights to harpooned whales. The chapter ends …
“What are the Rights of Man and the Liberties of the World but Loose-Fish? What all men’s minds and opinions but Loose-Fish? What is the principle of religious belief in them but a Loose-Fish? What to the ostentatious smuggling verbalists are the thoughts of thinkers but Loose-Fish? What is the great globe itself but a Loose-Fish? And what are you, reader, but a Loose-Fish and a Fast-Fish, too?”
Bye Bob, loosest of loose fish.
* Update, Sept 22: Alex Muller (aka, “bug”) has forwarded the email and gives permission for posting:
From: Bob Muller <Bob.Muller@downstate.edu>
Date: February 18, 2011, 10:25:19 AM EST
To: Alexandra Muller <alex@gxx>
Subject: Re: daad
Thinking about the disappearing fish, one question I have is: Do they check out because they are handled or because they are tagged? To answer this, you need a second tagging method and of course I don’t know if one is available or, if it is, whether it is impractical to do in the right amount of time or is too expensive etc.
But there is an even more basic question, which is whether what you call disappearance is in fact a reflection of the normal behavior of the wee fishies. If I knew more about what you are doing there might be statistical tricks that could provide some insight without tagging.
In regard to the possibility that there may be “other species and types of beings that will better suit my fieldwork desires…” what comes to mind are rutabagas and parsnips, which have the virtue that they do not go away when tagged and in fact probably don’t need much tagging at all. Other candidates that come to mind are maple trees (some of which are saps), sessile creatures such as sponges (which are very absorbing) and coral (which get you to very nice places).
Tell me more.
Daaaaad (proper spelling, pronounced ‘daaaaaaaaaad’)