Bundling Ideas

Patterns – how fascinating they can be!  For some of us, patterns can become obsessive…and I am no exception.  If I examine a piece of clothing, I’ll be able to reproduce its pattern.  I can accurately draw the floor plan (pattern) of every single building I’ve ever been in (at least, the areas I saw).  I love visual puzzles.  But, observing social interactions – human or animal – has always been my favorite venue for observing patterns.

One very important aspect of human behavioural patterns is that we tend to bundle ideas together.  It seems so very natural to us, we don’t really even think about it.  Yet, we inevitably do bundle ideas together without even being aware of it.  It couldd be as simple as ‘connotations’, at other times the ‘bundling process’ is more complex. 

This is a handy way for us to ‘categorize’ things, help us make sense of all the ‘stuff’ out there.  And that is good.  As long as we remember that we are doing it.  Because if we are not careful, we can end up rejecting very good ideas (or accepting very bad ones), just because someone (innocently or manipulatively) has managed to bundle them with a whole other set of ideas that are quite unrelated, yet which will colour our perception of the whole ‘bundle’.

Perhaps I am not being very clear … an example or two might help illustrate.  One time, while buying shampoo, my (at that time) four-year-old son told me I should buy a particular brand.  When I asked why, wondering if he liked the smell or something, he answered:  “Because you’re worth it, Mom!”… this was the catch-line of that brand’s latest ad campaign….

Ads are one of the most familiar ways ideas are intentionally bundled:  if the advertising campaign can successfully link a product with an image which is desiarable within the target audience, the sales of this product will be higher than should the campaign have only presented factual information on the product.  This works with positive as well as negative advertising.

Most of us are wary of the manipulation of idea-bundling by advertizers, but there are so many other areas in which we are bombarded by these idea bundles, yet where we are much less sophisticated at detecting them.  Still, they occurr all around us. 

So, what does one do when society ‘bundles ideas’ in a way that does not line up with one’s own ‘bundles’?

Perhaps the most obvious example is in the world of politics.  The more ‘right of centre’ one’s fiscal and social ideas are, the more one is presumed to be ardently Christian.  The more ‘left of centre’ one’s fiscal and social ideas are, the less ‘religiously Christian’ their ideas are presumed to be.  Perhaps, in the past, this might have ‘sort-of’ been  so.

This ‘bundling’ of ideas on the political scene really does not account for the emerging trends within our society.  Two of these many ’emerging trends’ are ‘non-religious conservatives’, the other are ‘very religious non-Christians’.  These are just two off several of the fast growing segments of our population that simply do not ‘fit’ the political ‘idea-bundles’.

It is extremely difficult for non-religious (or, the also emerging anti-religious) conservatives to find a place in our society.  These people are extremely uncomfortable with the religious right, and their motivations for many policies.  Yet, they see the folly of the social and fiscal policies of the liberal (or, perhaps more accurately called, anti-liberty) left. 

On the other hand, the ‘religious right’ perceive this new and growing segment on their end of the political spectrum with suspicion, not considering them to be ‘real’ conservatives )and being very vocal about this).  Perhaps that is how people like George Bush Jr., whose fiscal policies are anything but conservative, yet who is a Christian fundamentalist, can be perceived as somehow more ‘conservative’ than a fiscal conservative libretarian who is not shackled by religious dogma.  I’m not making a judgment here, simply observing a pattern!

Similarly, many very religious non-Christian immigrants are finding an uncomfortable ‘political home’ on the left side of the spectrum.  Not hung up on the historical division between the religious right and the communist (and atheist) left, they appreciate the benfits they receive from social programs instituted by ‘left’.  Among a small segment of them, there is also a very real fear (justified or not)  of both the ‘religious right’ and the ‘libretarian right’.

This is the dilemma that was, to some degree, faced by the Jewish populations in ‘the West’ following WWII.  As Barbara Amiel (yes, Lady Black is Jewish) had explained in her writings, following WWII, many Jewish people were, rightly or wrongly, wary of anything that was deemed ‘right wing’ – and threw their support behind the ‘humanist left’, whatever the costs.  An unesy arrangement, at best.

So, with the growth of non-Christian religious vote, are we going to see a re-alignment of the current political parties?  Will the ‘consrevatives’ come to represent non-religious, fiscally conservative libretarians, while the ‘religious vote’ will flock to the ‘liberal/socialist’ vote?  Or will we see a fragmentation of the traditional parties, into the ‘four corners’:  ‘religious right’, ‘religious left’, ‘non-religious right’ and ‘non-religious left’? 

And if we do, how will the different faiths within one movement come to terms with each other?

Nature of ‘Faith’

In the last two posts, I looked at an alternate explanation of some statements in the Bible.  As the feedback showed, some Christians believe these statements literally, others figuratively.  And they are all happy holding onto their very different beliefs, even though all of them are inspired by the same passage in Genesis.   That is great!  

People ‘hold on’ to their ‘profound beliefs’, regardless of what others think of them or anything else – and I would not want it to be any other way.  This is called ‘faith’.  I have learned about this phenomenon.  I do not comprehend it, but I am ready to accept that some people are capable of it.

Yet, people often ‘hold on’ to ‘beliefs’ or ‘opinions’ on trivial or non-profound points which are demonstrably unsupportable.  I have tried, but I really don’t understand this aspect of human nature.  Personally, I have a hard time with this 100% one way, or 100% the other way mode of thought…..perhaps because I’m not ‘wired just right’…but I don’t think there is anything I’ve invested a 100%, non-conditional ‘belief’ in.

No, I’m not talking about everyday life things, like knowing I love my kids and so on….emotional investment is NOT what I am talking about.  Nor am I talking about the ‘ought to’ kind of belief, as in “I belive all humans ought to be treated as equals in the eyes of the law.”

I mean ‘factual’ stuff:  like physics, chemistry, history…that ‘stuff’…. and global warming, political implications, someone’s culpability in something, superstitions, trust in actual physical institutions …that ‘stuff’, too.  For example, when driving over a bridge, I am reasonably convinced that the probability that the bridge will collapse under me is so low as to be negligible – or I would not have driven onto it.  Yet, I do not believe that it will not collapse….there is a difference!

OK, I ‘know’ gravity is a ‘force’ – yet, if someone presented me with substantiated evidence that it wasn’t a force, but rather an aspect of, say, space, I would be sceptical, yet I’d want to know what they based their claim on.  They’d need solid evidence, but….I could be convinced by it.   Knowledge, conclusions, opinions – these are all subject to change as more information comes in.  I get that!  I understand that process, and have experienced it many times.  What I don’t get is ‘belief’ or ‘faith’.

Perhaps this is a characteristic of us Aspergers’ people:  I recall some friends cutting out a comic strip in which a teacher is handing back a math test.  She reads one of the answers out loud:  “provided both trains are travelling in straight line, with no hills or curves, provided there are no accidents that slow them down along the way, provided we neglect to account for the curvature of the Earth, provided the clocks in both stations are synchronized, and that the whole path is along same height above sea-level and so no time diallation occurs, the trains’ average speed is XXX. ”  She hands the test to a boy, and he wonders:  “How did she know this was my paper?  I forgot to put my name on it!”

For some reason, my friends thought this was hillarious and wanted to show it to me….something about the comic basing a character on me… 

It seems many people have as much problems with ‘my’ processing of information into conditional conclusions as I do with ‘faith’.    This truly shocked me….after all, does not EVERYONE state the obvious limits under which any conclusion is valid?  Why do many people percieve such qualifications as ‘waffling’?  It certainly is not so!  Would not presuming such things be an oversimplification, to the point of error? 

Yet ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ seemed more natural to many people than my ‘conditional conclusions’!

What is it that allows one person to ‘believe’ or ‘have faith’, while another cannot even commit to a math-problem answer without stating all the assumptions and limitations?  Which one is the ‘normal’ one, and which the ‘anomaly’?  Or is this like a spectrum, where there are no discrete breaks, just a continuum….with my ilk falling squarely at one extreme?

These questions have haunted me, ever since I can recall formulating their cognitive pre-cursors in nursery shool.  Even back then, I simply could not understand the motivations and expected goals behind other children’s games – and when I asked, I got blank stares or the old ‘index-finger-making-circular-motion-by-the-temple’ gestures in return.  I can understand both the process and the motivation/expected goals behind a calcualted risk, problem analysis, conditional conclusion, that sort of thing….  But, for the life of me, I cannot understand either the process nor the motivation/expected goals behind ‘belief’ and faith’ – both profound and mundane.

Is this just another aspect of my ‘faulty wiring’, one that makes me so very Aspergers?  Or, are ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ simply a label for ‘I don’t understand and am not worthy/willing to think about’?  Or is there something entirely different at play here?

Old Guys in the Bible: Part 2

This traces the search for the ‘nifty little formula’ used to ‘translate’ the high ages ascribed to Old Testament patriarchs into something more closely related to our current experience, as listed in Part 1. It is certainly not intended to challenge anyone’s personal faith. If you are likely to find such exploration offensive, please, do not read this post.

Ancient peoples were rather good at setting up calendars. The Ancient Egyptians were no exception: they observed the lunar cycle, but they also kept precise track of the solar cycle which affected the seasonal flooding of the Nile. Theirs was a lunisolar calendar. And Egypt is where the Israelites came from…

Surely enough, the early Hebrew calendar. And the lunations themselves were VERY important in Early Hebrew culture, to the point that people ‘bore witness’ of having seen the new crescent moon during religious ceremonies in the Temple.

Thus, the natural inclination would be to see if it would be reasonable that the time period cited as ‘years’ really signified ‘lunation’… now to follow that lead!

The Hebrew lunisolar calendar is specific. The solar year is divided into 12 lunar months. There are a few days left at the end of the year – but no partial months are allowed. Instead, every 2 or 3 years, an extra month was inserted into the year to ‘catch up’. It was sounding complicated, but there is a regular cycle: every 19 years, exactly 7 extra lunar months were added. Averaging this out, every year would have 12 months and 7/19ths ‘extras’. So, as a simplification, one solar year could be treated as having 12.37 lunar months.

I love it when complicated-looking things turn out to have easy-to-follow rules!

Armed with this new evidence, I took a peek at the ages the Old Testament patriarchs became fathers.

Even a cursory look made it clear that there could not be a simple misunderstanding between lunar and solar cycles in the chronology: it simply does not seem credible that someone could become a father at the age of 30 months. So, there had to be another factor at play.

Sometimes, it is curious how one holds many clues, but does not see they are even related….until some key connects them all. Then, things fall into place faster than one can ‘think them through’!

It was G’Kar, a character from Babylon 5, who handed me that key. He described how as a child, he had a different name: he only chose his ‘adult’ name at his coming-of-age ceremony!

Could it be THAT simple?

The Jewish coming-of-age ceremony for boys it the bar-mitzvah, when they reach the age of 13. But, this particular ceremony has only existed in its current form for a few hundred years. So, is it based on an older tradition, one that could bring us back into Biblical times?

Jesus Christ is said to have been baptized at the age of 30. Even though Jesus’ baptism may have been indicative of induction into priesthood, it is the basis of the modern practice of baptism which marks a person as a member of the Christian community Intriguing, but …

Back to history: there has been a long tradition of welcoming boys into the ranks of men at about the age of thirteen. The ancient middle-eastern traditions are no exception to this. The early Hebrew tradition seems to have been that young boys would undergo secular education, until about their thirteenth year. After this point, they would be allowed to join the ranks of men in the Temple and study religion.

There are references to it certainly being so in the times of Abraham (Abram): Abraham himself is said to have rejected idolatry and accepted God at the age of 13, and both his sons attended a school until they turned 13, after which one went to study Hebrew scriptures, the other ‘heathen ones’. There is also evidence that 13 may not have been too rigidly adhered to, that circumstances may have led to allowing younger boys to be accepted as men.

Furhtermore, there are references that Abraham (among others) refers to his coming-of-age ceremony as the time he started being called ‘something’ – and there are many conjectures as to the meaning of this ‘something’. I certainly am not a Talmudic or Biblical scholar, so I simply lack the knowledge to comprehend, much less assess these claims…(and I fully expect to be educated on this by incoming comments). 

But, what if the ‘something’ was a reference to his own name? As in, what if these comments about him starting to be called ‘xxx’ mean that he started to be called by his name: Abraham (Abram)?  Could it be evidence of a ‘naming’ ceremony which marked the beginning of his life as a man

What if the ages, as cited in Genesis, do not refer to the number of LUNAR cycles a person lived, but the number that he had lived as a man?

Presuming 13 to be the age that the patriarch became ‘men’ (even if some, like Nahor, may have been younger), and using 12.37 as the approximate number of lunations in a year, I arrived at my ‘nifty little function’:

Age(new) = [Age(old) / 12.37] + 13

This offset by 13 years just might make ‘sense’ of the listed ages.

I would like to stress that this is not meant to criticize or deny anyone’s personal faith, should they believe these ages to be true as given in the Bible. Personal faith is above such things as my little musings!

Also, I fully expect to hear back from those of you more knowledgeable on Biblical issues than I, with valid criticisms that will demonstrate the errors of my analysis. And that would be great! I’d rather be corrected than persist in error, any day.

Yet, looking at the ‘newly proposed ages’ for these ancient men, I cannot but wonder if, possibly, there might be some plausibility……?

Old Guys in the Bible – Part 1

If you are likely to be offended by non-traditional looks at the Old Testament’s patriarchs, please, do not read this post. It is not meant to be offensive or insulting, not even a little bit. Yet, it does contain a non-Christian’s look at the unusual longevity of the early biblical patriarchs and a somewhat clumsy – though sincere – attempt to make ‘sense’ of it in today’s terms.

It is really Sister Carlotta‘s fault. She’s the one who got me hooked on this.

In Orson Scott Card‘s ‘Ender’s Game’ series (don’t read them out of order or you’ll spoil it for yourself!!!), she raises the topic of Old Testament patriarchs during a conversation with another character. Together, they discuss why these men might have lived for such a long time. Until she planted the idea in my head, it never occurred to me that there might be a ‘reasonable’ (as in, non-miraculous) explanation of their longevity, and that it could be a puzzle to be solved!

I love puzzles, especially logic puzzles, and this one was most tantalizing. Many Christian websites insist these high ages given for the early patriarchs are symbolic only (as there were kings from that era who claim to have reigned for a comparable time period), and have no historical value. But, what if…?

That was years ago… but being obsessive-compulsive (and a slow thinker), I never quite let go of it. What if the ages recorded in the Bible say exactly what they are meant to say, and we just don’t understand what they mean? Given the zeitgeist of the era, I even had some suspicions… but could never quite make it all fit. Then, as luck would have it, the very spiritual G’Kar handed me the key!

Yes, I know, I have a problem ‘letting go’… but I could not help myself! This is sort of ‘the look’ of the list in the Old Testament (paraphrased):

Adam was 130 years when be ‘begot’ (I take this to mean his son was born, not conceived, or 9 more months would need to be added) Seth. Then he lived for another 800 years and died at the age of 930 years.

Once the ages and years were ‘run’ through my ‘nifty little function’, this would become:

Adam was 23 years old when Seth was born, then lived for another 65 years and died at the age of 88.

The list is sequential – i.e. the son is listed immediately under his father. For brevity, I will use this format:

  • Adam was 130 23 at his son’s birth, lived for 800 65 more years and died at the age of 930 88.

Here, the age given in Genesis is ‘crossed out’ and replaced by my guess. The ages are ’rounded off’, so addition may at times appear off by a bit… Without further ado, here is the list:

From Genesis 5:3 – 32

Name        Age at son’s birth     Lived on for         Died aged

  • Adam            130    23.5             800    64.7           930    88.2
  • Seth               105    21 .5            807    65.2           912    86.7
  • Enos                90    20.3             815    65.9           905    86.2
  • Cainan             70    18.7              840    67.9           910    86.6
  • Mahalaleel     65    18.3              830    67.1            895    85.4
  • Jared             162    26.1             800    64.7           962    90.8
  • Enoch              65    18.3             300    24.2           365    42.5
  • Methuselah   187   28.1              782    63.2           969    91.3
  • Lamech         182    27.7              595    48.1           777    75.8
  • Noah              500   53.4             139     11.2           639    64.6

From Genesis 11:10 – 32

  • Shem             100    21.1           500    40.4            600    61.5
  • Arpaxad        530    55.8          403    32.5             933    88.3
  • Salah                30    15.5           403   32.5             433    48.0
  • Eber               43o    47.8           430    34.8            860    82.6
  • Peleg                30    15.5           209    16.9             239    32.4
  • Reu                230    31.6           207    16.7              437    48.3
  • Serig                30    15.5           200    16.1              230    31.6
  • Nahor            920    87.4           119       9.6            1039    97.0
  • Terah               70    18.7           139      11.2             209    29.9
  • Abram (Abraham)…

Perhaps this has already been done and rejected by people who are scholars in this field. Or, there are better ‘versions’ of this solution, and I’m just not educated enough to know about them.

Yet, I feel strangely happy that I solved ‘the puzzle’ to my satisfaction: even the proverbial Methuselah is brought into the realm of what ‘my brain’ considers ‘reasonable’: he would have fathered La-mech when he was 27 and lived until he was 87 years old. Certainly, this is a remarkably high age for his time period, but not outside ‘potential human experience’.

These answers are not likely to be ‘accurate’, but…

What do you think?

Easter: what’s in the name?

This time of year, there are many religious festivals and events. Please, let me take a moment and wish you all ‘Happy Holiday!’

What’s in the name of a holiday, anyway?

Shortly before Christmas, on ‘Convince Me’ – my favorite online debating site – someone started a lively debate about that holiday and whether it ought to be celebrated by non-Christians. One position presented was ‘Of course it’s only about Christ! That’s why it’s called Christmas!’

Yes, I am sure there are many people ‘out there’ who – with a prim-little condescending smile – have said that very thing. Of these people, I would like to ask the following question:

If Christmas is exclusively about Jesus Christ, because his name is right in there, what about Easter?!?!?

I am not, in any way, shape or form, saying this holiday season is – or ought to be – only about the Goddess Eostre (also spelled Eastre, though I have also seen it spelled Eostera and Eastera and about 5 other ways). Everyone knows many other spring fertility festivals, like Luprenalia, are also going on. And, I think the Christians and Jews might also be marking holidays. :0)

All I am curious about is if the ‘logic’ about the name of Christmas also holds about the name of Easter!

If you are not familiar with her by her name, you may have heard of the Goddess Eastre in another way. She is one of the ancient fertility goddesses of spring. Her power begins to awaken on the winter cross-quarter day – the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox – the coldest part of the year…February 2nd. She is said to begin to drive winter away, so the weather turns warmer and paves the way for spring. Her strength is at its fullest during the first full moon following the spring equinox. As winter vanes, Eastre causes the Earth to sprout, green things to grow, nature to re-awaken.

When she shows herself to humans, Eastre is said to take on the form of either a rabbit or a groundhog. Yes, she is the ‘Easter Bunny’ and the groundhog of Groundhog Day!

It is no coincidence that chickens only lay eggs when days are longer than nights. Nowadays, chicken farmers use electric lights to stimulate chickens to lay eggs all year long, but until electric lights made this possible, eggs were simply not available during the winter. They only reappeared each year when days outlasted nights…following the spring equinox…it’s almost as if Eastre brings the eggs with her ascent to power.

I suppose this is another way of saying that the Easter Bunny brings us eggs!

Now all I have to do is figure out how chocolate fits in. Because if I can’t, disposing of all these stores of it is bound to trigger a migrane…

Of Cellphones and Hijabs

OK, these two do not seem too closely related. Perhaps a more accurate title would have been ‘Of Passing Laws Which Ban The Use of Cellphones While Driving And Of Passing Laws That Force The Wearing of Hijabs‘, but, somehow, that seemed a little long…

Every now and then, another spot on Earth passes a law banning the use of cellphones while driving – or flirts with passing such a law. A flurry of debates and discussions follows, weighing the pros and cons of such a law…often mistaking appeals to emotions for objective reasons, confusing symptoms with causes.

Typically, the pro-ban side (or, as I affectionately call them, the ‘bannies’) cites reams of accident statistics (real or imagined) which occurred while the driver was indeed using the cell phone. They usually present one or another variation of the following argument:

1. Talking on a cellphone can be distracting to drivers.

2. Distracted drivers do have more accidents.

Therefore, cellphones cause accidents and laws banning drivers from using them must be passed, in the interest of preventing those horrible car accidents. After all, anything less would be irresponsible!


Those opposed to the alarming increase in behaviour-engineering legislation usually put forth some silly nonsense like: “If a car is being driven badly, cops already have the right to ticket the driver, so a law specifically prohibiting cellphones is not only superfluous, it is redundant. Why pass two laws to cover one misdeed? If cops don’t apply one law they have, why give them a second one that does the same thing?”

These little arguments fall on deaf ears of the ‘bannies’. Usually, they counter with more statistics (but not those that show that even after cellphones were banned, the overall accident rates are pretty much unchanged in the long run). And if one begins to worry about the intrusiveness of the law, they invariably point out that drunk-driving is already banned, so why not cell-driving?

Perhaps it is commendable that the ‘bannies’ are looking out for us all – by banning all that is, or could potentially be, a source of harm to us. But what is not commendable is their basic mindset of attempting to legislate ‘common sense’, while they themselves fail to display an iota of it. So, I suppose it would be legislating ‘common nonsense’, n’est-ce pas? Having been in a debate with a vociferous ‘bannie’, I was unable to make her comprehend the difference between a chemically impaired judgment and a ‘distraction’…

Yet, that is not the only failure to apply logic in the ‘cellphone debate’. The real fallacy is in completely misunderstanding the nature of ‘distraction’: it is the driver’s responsibility not to become distracted by anything while driving. The cellphone is a symptom, not the cause of a driver’s distraction….only one of the many possible ways of abdicating responsibility to focus on driving. And as history has taught us, banning the symptoms never alleviates the underlying problem, it only masks it.

Which brings me to the hijab part… Please, consider this unfortunately real ‘reasoning’:

1. The sight of a beautiful woman arouses men.

2. An aroused man will want to have sex.

Therefore, the sight of a beautiful woman causes rapes and laws banning display of feminine beauty must be passed, in the interest of protecting women from those horrible rapes. After all, anything less would be irresponsible!


Yes, this is real! These are some of the reasons put forth in support of laws that require women to wear a hijab, a burka, or similarly concealing ‘modest dress’. Don’t believe it? The Mufti of Copenhagen Sahid Mehdi said in 2004 that women who do not wear the hijab are ‘asking to be raped‘. Australia’s Mufti in October 2006 was much the same thing, but in much cruder terms – comparing unveiled women to ‘uncovered meat‘….and how could you blame cats who came to eat it? And unless I am much mistaken, an Egyptian Imam said much the same thing in England (though I could not find a very good original article on this…happened too long ago).

But rape is not the only threat to women who do not don the veil: Palestinian broadcasters live under a death threat for wearing makeup and not covering their faces while on camera – I guess it is not so easy to rape a TV image, so the islamofascist ‘bannies’ content themselves with threatening to kill them a firebomb their houses instead.

The ‘reasoning’ in both cases – cellphones and hijabs – is eerily similar.

It may seem a chasm from banning the use of cellphones while driving to forcing the hijab on women, but bigger gulfs have been bridged, one little step at a time….each one facilitated by complacency and happy little ‘bannies’!

What Convinces Us: the corollary to ‘How We Argue’

Often, I feel like an outsider looking in on how the rest of the world lives, bewildered by all these ‘unseen rules’ that guide human interactions.  The fact that I am heavily ‘Aspergers’ probably has a lot to do with it:  I compensate for my lack of intuitive understanding by obsessively observing and cataloging behaviour.

Noticing how people argue seemed relatively easy:  the evidence was ‘out there’.  But understanding what convinces people to change their minds….that I have found much tougher.  I can see the arguments ‘out there’, in the open, but the ‘convincing’ process itself is inside a person’s head – hidden from direct observation.  It was easy to see that some arguments were more effective than others, but it always puzzled me how come an argument could convince some people, but not others.  Do not all people undergo similar thought processes?

I’m still not sure I get it.  But, it seems to me that both how much of an ‘investment’, and of what type it is, is of importance. 

A few years ago, something unusual happened: I was wrong.  Yes, it does happen, occasionally….  :0) 

During a get-together, I got into a heated-yet-amicable discussion with someone on an inconsequential topic – and, not having proof for either side on hand, we came to an impasse.  Another person came in, who just could have had the answer, so we asked her.  As she began to speak, it became apparent that the information was not favourable to my position, but the general revelry of the get-together was beginning to drown out her voice.  So, I started to ‘shush’ everyone, so we could hear the rest of what she had to say.

My opponent, sparks of laughter in his eyes, commented that perhaps it was not in my interest to be getting her to speak, as she’ll only prove me wrong!  This puzzled me, and I said so:  I’d rather be proven wrong, than persist in an incorrect position.  It was my opponent’s turn to be puzzled – it seemed this approach, which I took to be the only plausible one, had never occurred to him.

This gave me a big clue:  some people cannot be convinced, because they value winning an argument (and not ‘loosing face’) higher than they value being right.  And if this could be true of an inconsequential thing, among friends – where laughter was the measure of the volume of the argument – how much more true this would be for ‘big things’!

One of the ‘big debates’ that is going on now centers on the veracity of the ‘Anthropogenic Climate Change’ model.  I was one of the earliest proponents of ‘global warming’ – it sounded reasonable to me.  However, over more than a decade of  reading up on the underlying science, the IPCC reports, and after speaking with some of the scientists (and an economist)who were part of the whole UN shindig about it, I have concluded that it is much more of a political tool for behaviour modification than it is a scientific theory…

Not that long ago, I got into a discussion about ACC with an intelligent, educated young man – and an excellent debater – whose positions fall far left of the centre.  I made an observation that most of the ACC’s proponents were left of centre, and he accused me of politicizing the debate.  Yet, he was logical, and challenged me to convince him that ACC is a load of dingo’s kidneys, without ‘politicizing’ it. 

So, I explained a lot of the ideas that the ACC’s proponents are using, and explained the underlying science behind them…and why this model does not fit the scientific evidence.  I also explained the IPCC’s process in writing the report, and how the methodology was used to exclude science to play significant role in the report.  I even pointed out a few bits where frustrated scientists used wording that acted as ‘red flags’ to other scientists, indicating the unsoundness of the statement.

Nothing seemed to work.  I simply did not know how to convince this man.  Frustrated, I made an offhanded comment about how the whole pseudoscience of ACC was started when Margaret Thatcher commissioned a report that would show ‘fossil fuels should be abandoned in favour of nuclear power’, in order to use it as a weapon with which to end a pesky coal-miners strike….

I was quite floored when he retorted:  “You might have mentioned Thatchers involvment at the start and I would have instantaneously lost all of my credible thought procceses and immediately jumped on your wagon.”

Perhaps it is beyond me to figure out what convinces people…

Animal-speak: cats and dogs

One of the most influential books I read in my teens was ‘On Aggression’  by Konrad Lorenz.  I had always been keenly interested in animals – if the pun were not so bad, I’d even say I can’t resist their ‘animal magnetism’. Yet, after reading his book, I began to notice more and more specifics of their communication.

My first ‘profoundly funny observation’ was to notice the ‘communications problems’ that cats and dogs were having. 

When a dog approaches someone in a non-threatening way, he wags his tail from side to side to clearly show friendly intentions.  Cats also wag their tails from side to side – but only as the last warning before they attack! 

I kind of imagined this like two people meeting for the same time, neither speaking English well, and each working from a ‘Monty-Pythonesque dictionary’…. of the ‘Your hovercraft is full of eels’ type…  However, each would have completely different edition, with the phrases in it giving different translations.  Extrapolating to the ‘cat-dog’ situation, I imagine their conversation might go something like this:

Dog says:  “Hello, how do you do?  It is very nice to meet you!”

Cat hears:  “You there!  Yes, I’m talking to you, you mangy scum!  I’ll punch your lights out!”

Naturally, Cat is not going to take this lying down!

Cat answers:  “You son of a bitch!  This is your only warning:  if you don’t leave me alone, I’ll rip you to shreds!”

Dog hears:  “How do you do!  Very pleased to meet you!  Let’s sniff butts!”

Dog is happy, thinking the proper etiquette is being followed.  After all, they ARE getting along swimmingly…  Not only is Cat’s tail wagging faster than ever, Cat even lowered its head closer to the ground!  I’d better accept this ‘universal’ sign of submission and make the first move to butt-sniffing.

Cat, already on edge from being challenged by this rude stranger, now sees Dog make a move towards Cat…..so, defensively, Cat unsheathes the blades which are its claws and smacks the closest bit of Dog, the nose!

Well, you can just imagine how hurt the Dog is by this unprovoked attack!  OK, Dog’s nose may be smarting, but, the really hurt part are Dog’s feelings.  After all, how much more polite could Dog have been?  And Cat was just leading him on!  Answering nicely and politely, suckering him into coming closer by inviting him to butt-sniffing…and the whole time it was just a setup to claw him!  What a slap in the face!

Once bystanders separate the two combatants, they both go away with an uncomplimentary picture of each other.  Cat thinks Dog is a rude brute!  That’ll be the day, when Cat will ever bother with another dog ever again!  And Dog is left thinking that Cat is mean, crafty and treacherous, pretending to be polite only to get close enough to hurt someone.  Cats are just not to be trusted, ever!

Yet, cats and dogs CAN learn to live together, they ARE able to learn each other’s language!   Sort of like the people in the Monty Python sketch:  the people understand that when THIS person says something about one’s parentage, they really think they are asking to buy a pack of matches….

Of course, cats and dogs are not the only ones whose communication can get messed up by crossed signals.  I always like to see if ‘lessons learned’ in one area can be applied in another….  Perhaps next time I’ll write about such a ‘conversation’ between Dog and Rabbit!

Good neighbours

As I have written in the past, one thing we humans do is form communities.  Yet, as we live in more and more crowded cities, we could easily become overwhelmed by just how many individuals our communities do contain.  David Wong has described this rather well in his rumination called ‘Inside The Monkey Sphere’.

Whether we are overwhelmed, or afraid of being lost in this sea of humanity, people who live in urban centres tend to isolate themselves from many of their neighbours.  The more people thrown together in one place and time, the more we tend to draw inward and isolate ourselves.

Luckily, there is another thing humans tend to do:  even if we don’t know each other, we help each other.  There is nothing like a little adversity to bring the best out in good people!  And it need not be a huge disaster, it could be as simple as a ‘little snowfall’!

Unless you have been isolated, or not interested in North American weather (well, come on, that would be far fetched…a person, speaking English, not interested in weather!?!?!?!), you have probably heard of the little snowfall we’ve had over the weekend.  Here, the sparkling, crystalline gems that are snowflake started to gently drift down from fluffy clouds on Friday afternoon….and by Sunday morning, we had received about 50 cm of them (a bit under 2 feet).  That is depth, not width…

This, in itself, would not be so terribly unusual.  However, it has followed a particularly snowy winter…before this snowstorm, we had already exceeded our usual annual snowfall by almost 50%….  so even though we appreciate its aesthetic beauty, we are all thoroughly sick of this wet annoying stuff!  Yet more shoveling…..

Which is where the ‘good neighbours’ come in:  A few of the ‘guys’ took it upon themselves to help everyone around them out!  2x during the storm, they braved the elements and ‘fought the white dragon’ (their term!), and snow-blowed the laneways of everyone up and down the street, so the snow would not get unmanageably deep.

On Sunday morning, during the calm after the snow, the 5 of them were out with their snow-blowers (and 1 with a shovel), going up and down the street, making it passable for cars to drive down. (Yes, even a neighbour with a Hummer got stuck on the street before they rescued him. It’s not that it was slippery, rather, the snow was so deep, the bottom of the car or truck would rest on the snow, and the wheels would not reach down low enough to get traction….)  Then, they went up and down the street, and cleared everyone’s laneways and walkways!

It may not sound like a lot, but it is!

We ‘had to’ go out Sunday afternoon, because the ‘Super Smash Brothers Brawl’ for the Wii had just been released….and past where our ‘good neighbours’ spread their goodwill, people were helping each other push their vehicles through the deep snow, until they got to the bigger (and thus plowed) roads.

So, to the good neighbours of our street:  Thank you!  You have not just helped shift the pesky snow, you have reminded me how good people can be to each other, just for the sake of being nice.

Politics of ‘TIME’

Time, what is ‘time’? 

Objectively speaking, time is an aspect of the space-time continuum within which we exist… at least, to the best of our limited observations!!!  :0)

The neat thing about time is that we can only perceive it in one dimension…and even that, rather imperfectly.  This is reflected in the ages old saying (which my husband claims comes straight from Confucius….):  ‘A man with two watches never knows what time it is!’

We do measure the human experience in time, and nowadays, we have way better ways of measuring time than they had back in the wise sage’s days.  One could spend years ruminating on the causes:  were we created this way?  Had the natural alternation between light and dark periods caused us to evolve this way?  But I am going off on a tangent here…..forgive me.

The observed reality is that we, humans, have an ‘internal clock’ – our circadian rhythm.   And though it is not always perfect (yes, mine seems to be set onto a 100, rather than a 24 hour period – I’ve always been a ‘metric girl’), it does affect us in many ways that are not obvious at a first look. 

We are all aware it affects our sleep patterns, but it also affects our appetite, ability to reason and our ‘clumsiness’ (I don’t like to use the term ‘dexterity’, for obvious reasons), plus a few more.  Just remember the last time you were jet-lagged:  your head seemed to be in a haze and you bumped into things until you adjusted.

But, being humans, and living in a global village, we need to ‘normalize’ our experience in order to ‘fit it’ into the framework of our society.  That is OK, and much of this can indeed be good.  To help us co-ordinate our actions, since the earliest dawns of civilization, humans have created conventions for defining specific points in time. 

The earliest of these were simple:  dawn and sunset, one sunset (or dawn) to another measured one day.  Then we got fancy….observed the solstices, equinoxes, lunar phases….and worked all these things into calendars.  Even today, we measure ‘years’ in terms of Earth’s path about the sun; our ‘months’ are solar bastardizations of the lunar cycle.  Both the ancient Egyptians and the Mayas had a neat calendar, which considered the solar and lunar cycles….defining an ‘era-year’ by their co-incidence.  Pretty sophisticated…..

And just as we define the year, the solstices and equinoxes in natural terms:  our planet’s motion within the solar cycle, so we define the period we call ‘day’.  Since, in our early history, we noticed that the light/dark periods were not identical in length, and thus only useful in a ‘rough’ definition of ‘day’, we have defined ‘noon’ as the point in time when the sun was most directly overhead’, as demonstrated by the ‘shortest shadow’.  Because this point was exactly half way between he dawn and the sunset (which are variable, unless one were directly on the equator), we have called it ‘mid-day’.  Half-a-revolution later, we call ‘mid-night’.  And, noon to noon or midnight to midnight is defined as ‘one day’; or, if you prefer, one day is 24 hours, or 1440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds….  These seem like clear and logical definitions, firmly grounded in natural observations.

So, why is it that we are so ready to abandon these sound traditions?  Why are we turning our backs on nature?  Or, if you prefer, why are we turning our backs on our creator’s divine order?

This weekend, we are ready to ignore the natural/divine order, turn our backs on millennia of accurate definitions, and turn back the clock…..at the whims of a few political overlords!!! I speak of nothing less than the folly called ‘daylight savings time’!

Oh, the reasons given for the establishment of ‘daylight savings time’ are numerous….and bogus.  All of these aims could easily be achieved by establishing ‘summer business hours’ – while leaving the natural/divine order undisturbed. 

After many years of this misguided practice, there are hundreds of scientific studies that demonstrate that every ‘clock change’, the population undergoes a real and observable ‘jet lag’:  accidents (both industrial and automotive) occur more, with more fatalities as a result (sufficiently greater numbers so as to be statistically significant), there is a measurable decrease in productivity… and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

And what for?  Some imagined monetary savings?  Are human lives really that cheap?

Or is the motive for imposing ‘daylight stupid time’ quite different….is it a demonstration from our political masters of just how completely they control us?  After all, it was first imposed during a war histeria…..when people are most ammendable to political coersion – and we’ve never managed to rid ourselves of it.

So, is it a power trip, designed to demonstrate the politicians hold greater influence over our lives than nature, or a divine creator?  Because they can indeed impose an artificial system to override the reasonable, natural/divine one?  And make us believe they are doing us a favour? 

I certainly don’t know.  That is why I’m asking the questions….