Tuesday, November 21, 2017

--- Some cool software ---

This blog is about getting off the computer, getting away from the television, and experiencing your world first-hand, but, occasionally, I will post a nod toward interesting cyber-experiences that I've found. I, too, enjoy a good documentary or lecture...or interesting software package, which is what this article is about.

Most folks read about philosophy and psychology, so, as would be expected, software about philosophy and psychology is relatively rare, but they do exist. Here are some of my favorites.

Argumentative developed by John Hartley and available here: http://argumentative.sourceforge.net/index.html is a well designed program to help construct and evaluate arguments. The program should be valuable for anyone interested in debate or decision making theory. It's well documented and should be easy to learn. The help files are integrated into the program (you don't have to go online to access them) and if they're not clear enough, the Teaching Company has a great lecture series on debate that I will bring up later in a blog on Links and Lectures (Wait for it....)

The National Science Digital Library's Online Psychology Laboratory (http://opl.apa.org/Main.aspx) is "way cool" (I picked that phrase up from some high school students I was tutoring) because any individual interested in psychology can join with others across the Internet to perform group experiments in psychology, then they can download the results and even use statistics to process the data just like a psychology researcher. I repeat - "way cool".

The Online Psychology Laboratory has a limited set of studies you can take part in (a bunch, but still limited). If you want to design and carry out your own experiments, there are two programs (also "way cool") that can be used. They're actual programming languages, so it helps to have some background in programming if you are going to use them. Both are well constructed and well documented. Both install with a collection of experiments ready-to-run.

Todd Haskell's FLXLab is available here: http://flxlab.sourceforge.net/ (Note that FLXLab is no longer maintained and may not work on recent operating systems.

PEBL: The Psychology Experiment Building Language, originally developed by S.T. Mueller and B.J. Piper (users have contributed heavily to it) is still maintained and very flexible and extensible. It is available here: http://pebl.sourceforge.net/

Notice that many of these programs are available from SourceForge. All the ones above are free downloads but, if you like them, send a donation their way. Otherwise, they might disappear.

For philosophy software, I am still very impressed with Warren Weinstein's The Play of Mind website, http://www.theplayofmind.com/index.htm . I can't imagine a more enjoyable way to explore philosophy.

And, talking about "free downloads", I'm continuously developing macros for my ToolBook. Recently, I'm developing a kymograph for the Psychology page, that will be out soon. A kymograph is a tool used to study memory. It's used to flash words and/or numbers at set intervals (or randomly) to a subject. Mine is cool ("way cool", in fact) because it will flash a list that contains anything that can be placed in spreadsheet cells including colored and formatted text or cells. It should be up by the end of the year. The ToolBook can be downloaded from here: http://www.theriantimeline.com/ToolBook.ods

Currently it may not be way cool, but it is cool because it has timers, counters, and randomizers in it.

It's all free, so, if you're interested in psychology or philosophy, you should download all of them and have fun.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

--- Notes on perception ---

[Unlike extension, secondary qualities, such as colors and sounds, exist only as sensations in the mind. In material bodies such qualities] are nothing but the powers those substances have to produce several ideas in us by our senses; which ideas are not in the things themselves, otherwise than as anything is in its cause.

John Locke

We have sense organs like eyes, and ears. Those instruments pick up energy fluctuations in our surroundings and sends impulses up nerves to the brain. To this point, what's going on is electrical charges traveling along cell walls and chemicals being secreted and sensed by other cells. Does that sound like what we sense about our surroundings? We know these things are happening because we can measure them.

The brain decodes these impulses into other impulses with converge on certain parts of the brain to....do things. Things happen and we can measure them. Strange things often happen. Have you ever heard of "blindsight?" There was a movie based on it. I've experienced blindsight before.

I have a rare condition known as "acephalic migraine". An acephalic migraine is a "migraine without the headache." I have the things that lead up to a migraine headache (they're called "prodromals") and I have the hangover-like feeling afterward. What I don't have is the actual headache - I'm not complaining.

One common prodromal is neuronal blindness. It starts as pixelated sparkling lights in the periphery of my vision and it spreads until all I can see are sparkling lights. I'm blind - but I can, for instance, drive a car.

I was once stuck in rush hour traffic in downtown Montgomery when the little twinkling lights began to invade my vision. I was in the inside lane and I couldn't get out of the traffic fast enough. I was completely blind, yet I drove to the next intersection and off the interstate into a parking lot and stopped until my vision cleared.

I couldn't see but, obviously, somewhere - in my head, in the ether, somewhere, my brain was putting everything together into the same visual representation I'm used to. My body responded as it usually does. The only difference is, I couldn't see!

There is no material manifestation of the experience of sensation in our brains. There is nothing you can point at to say, "This is real." Sensation is what neurologists call and "emergent quality". It springs from what is actually happening but it's only nature is that of information - no page, no computer screen, just neurons firing, nothing you could put your finger on, not "real".

Our sensation of reality, as real as it seems, is not real - it's a hallucination. We hope it bares enough of a resemblance to reality so that we can get along, but it's not perfect. At the everyday level, there are illusions. It gets really troublesome when there are pathological process and the person affected can't distinguish between the reality and the errors.

It sounds scary but, consistency bares out that our versions of reality are, indeed, accurate enough. And,  they give us better than reality. Consider, there are different wavelengths of light, but there are no colors in reality. Color is a result of how our eyes and brains decode different kinds of light. Different people see colors differently. Color blindness is much more common than most people think.

According to Wikipedia, about 8.7% of humans have some form of color blindness. But I can tell that my right eye sees greener than the left eye, which makes things look bluer, and I test out fine in regard to color vision.

But our "hallucinatory" view of the world gives us color! Our brains color code our world for us.

I don't feel short-changed at all.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

--- A spooky adventure ---

Well, not very spooky after all....

Since my 40s, far fewer "spooky" things happen around me. For the entire twenty years in one of the most haunted cities in the United States, I experienced one haunting and saw one dragon. During that time, one of my camp outs was crashed by a vampiric entity and I didn't even have direct contact with that (I was off hiking at the time.) No possessions. No portals. Not that I'm complaining.

I'm not so convinced that all the haunting in Denver (there are even companies here that capitalize off haunted tours) have any more substance than imagination. There is certainly the potential.

The local "boot hill" was turned into a development and one of the cities most popular parks, Cheesman Park, without the developer bothering to remove the bodies. Have you ever seen the movie Poltergeist?

Molly Brown ("The Unsinkable") supposedly haunts Brown Palace in downtown Denver. Molly Brown spent her life, by all reports that I've seen, busy helping others. I can't imagine why she would want to hang around an old building. According to the Wikipedia article, she only stayed in the hotel for one week after surviving the sinking of the Titanic. The best I can tell, Henry C. Brown, the original owner of the Brown Palace, was not directly related to Margaret Brown or her husband.

I've been to the Brown Palace. Some friends gathered at the ground floor cigar bar, Churchill's, for a birthday party. It struck me as the kind of British "gentleman's club" often seen in movies. But, of course, being a modern attraction, it gets noisier at times. The "flatiron", triangular building with it's brown sandstone and cement exterior and the storefront bar with it's dark, wooden interior (the decor is quite whether the clientele is or not) is very attractive. I didn't notice anything "weird in the neighborhood", though.

I took a walking tour on October 20 to see a few of the "weird sites" in Denver.

First, I took a bus down Yale avenue to Wadsworth where the Brown's summer home, Avoca Lodge, now stands. It's a beautiful brick home that is popular for family gatherings and public functions. Use requires an appointment but anyone can look around the grounds during civilized hours.

Not having admittance to the museum didn't bother me. I'm not studying history or architecture right now - I'm looking for weird - and I had a willing caretaker who was cleaning up the yard. He said that he was not aware of any weirdness associated with the building or grounds. On the other hand, he was friendly and a good conversationalist.


If you do a Google Maps search for cemeteries in Denver, you will be able to draw a rough curve from Denver Pet Cemetery and Crematorium near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal back west to Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary and Cemetery and Mount Olivet Cemetery in Arvada. The arc sweeps down and through the center of Denver where the old "boot hill" rests (that's what the caretaker at the Brown House called it. We call it something different today). With much difficulty, I can find references to Denver's "deadline" on the Internet. One is a book "The Haunted Heart of Denver" by Kevin Pharris. But there are a lot of Denverites that will gladly talk to you about it.

As in all the westerns you ever saw, "boothill" was on a rise at the edge of town. Denver's boothill was no different. Then other cemeteries popped up (or down?) around the edge of town following an invisible boundary as the town grew. Then Denver grew over the deadline. Some of the graves were relocated but some of them.....some of them were not. They're still there.

I took a bus from Yale, up Wadsworth, to 26th street and the Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery and Mortuary. It was a gated cemetery but the elderly man in the guard shack at the entrance was friendly and informative and said that the cemetery welcomed visitors, so I started the mile long trek through the graves.

The cyclopean mausoleum at the back of Olinger Crown Hill Cemetery and Mortuary gives some the willies. The Tower of Memory is just so huge. For me, the cemetery is a big plot of land, well maintained, beautiful and peaceful. The Tower is currently being rejuvenated and is surrounded by scaffolding but it is a rather spectacular piece of architecture.

                                          Olinger Cemetery and the Tower of Memory

From Olinger, I walked down to Colfax Avenue and caught a couple of buses to Franklin Street. From there I walked south to Cheesman Park. It was populated by happy, active people enjoying one of the last moderate days in the year. People were laying on the great lawn, picnicking, jogging, walking their dogs - everyone was happy except maybe the homeless fellow sleeping in the gazebo.

As I stepped onto the lawn and made my way around a clump of trees, I almost stepped into a rectangular depression in the earth.

Did I mention Denver's original boothill? This was it, first called Mount Prospect Cemetery. If anyplace in Denver has any right to be haunted, this is the place. An undertaking company was hired in 1893 to move the crowded graves there to Riverside Cemetery so the plot could be used as a city park. Riverside Cemetery is still extant and one of the graveyards of the deadline. The coffins supplied were 1' x 3' pine boxes and, by all reports, it was a scene of gruesome carnage with body parts strewing the area. The workers looted the graves and there are still, evidently, hundreds of graves that were not moved.

                                                                Cheesman Park

There are, of course, tales of hauntings there and in the area. I personally didn't notice any weirdness (except, maybe, sunken graves to trip over) and the other folks seemed unperturbed that they were "dancing on graves". Maybe the haunts have burned out - or I have.

In short, I haven't noticed any ghosts in Denver. There is a thriving industry of paranormal tourism here and I wouldn't want to dissuade that. It's, after all, what tourism is supposed to be - fun.

What I have noticed is portals. The area around Denver seems to be spatial Swiss cheese. I've heard tales from associates of sections of town that disappear and reappear and sections they drive into that just plain shouldn't exist in a sane universe. My own experience convinced me.

I don't generally walk a mile in 15 minutes. I can, but my walking speed is usually 3 miles an hour max. After an endurance hike that speed diminishes to less than 2 miles an hour.

I had walked from my first residence in the Denver area, in Broomfield, to Flatirons Junction, over the Coalton trail and back, and was walking along Interlocken, a street I had driven along several times. I checked my watch and then noticed how far I had come along the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport. I looked at my watch to see that I had been walking 15 minutes. It would have taken me 45 minutes to walk to where I was. It was aggravating.

I had walked all day. My hike would have been two hours shorter if I had not had to walk through Arvada to get home.

No ghosts. Just a hole in space.

I've heard tales of ogres, dragons, ghosts, and  headless horse women that lop off peoples' heads.

The real horrors in Denver seem to be the same ones that plague mankind everywhere. Other people. In 1999, the decapitated bodies of two homeless men were found. Since the targets seemed to be homeless people, there might have been others that just were not found. One person that was not found was the murderer.

--- Notes on intuition ---

All our knowledge begins with sense, proceeds thence to understanding, and ends with reason beyond which nothing higher can be discovered in the human mind for elaborating the matter of intuition and subjecting it to the highest unity of thought.

Immanuel Kant

I'm all for intuition. It seems better to me than common sense because intuition, at least, has the basis of experience and common sense only has the basis of "that's what I heard" and common sense is notoriously unreliable.

Have you ever played Telegraph. In a group, one person tells another a "secret" in private. That person tells another, and so on. In the end, the secret is completely transformed. Imagine what happens to an item of common sense over many, many years. It was common sense to Aristotle that men had more teeth than women.

But intuition isn't perfect. I have had some ninjitsu training. One reason people in martial fields go over and over patterns of movement or strategy until they are internalized is that, in a fight, you don't have time to think out every move. Repetition turns patterns into intuitions.

But, when possible, intuitions should be tested by reason and that is where I agree with Kant.

As a vocational evaluator,I subjected many clients to "demeaning" work which greatly undervalued their actual skills and they, of course, took offense, until I explained that the purpose was diagnosis. I could observe them in "real work" situations. The more "advanced", sophisticated, in brief - complicated the activity was, the harder it was to separate the characteristics of the job from the characteristics of the client, which is what I was trying to discover.

And that is why I enjoy dishwashing (see The Zen of Washing Dishes). I can explore my own behaviors.

I currently have a sore thumb caused by the very dry conditions of a job I have taken. My skin is drying out faster than I can moisturize it and my thumb just split open like an over-ripe plum. So, while washing dishes today, I noticed that, without conscious thought, I slide pieces of silverware to the drain so I can get under them without using my thumb. I have worked enough with typical people to know that this is not normal behavior. They will usually continue to use their sore thumb as they always do, grumping and groaning all the way.

I attribute my adaptability to things like endurance hikes and dishwashing in which I can try out different ways to do things and attend to them. In other words, I have tested various problem solving behaviors and internalized the ones I found particularly useful.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

--- Ghost stories ---

My family lived in Griffin, Georgia and I was still in a youth bed, so I must have been three years old. I woke up one morning and I was laying under the covers with my hands clasped under my pillow, but then I noticed that one of my hands was down at my side so I raised up and looked and what the hand under my pillow was grasping was not my hand but a green scaly hand.

I stood up in my bed and started jumping up and down. The green scaly what-ever slithered back under my covers and was gone.

And, that, folks, is what they call a waking dream. Since then I have had them regularly, to the point that I usually wake up long enough to mutter, "Just go away and let me get some sleep."

Sometimes my "double sight", shamanic vision, temporal lobe screwiness, schizophrenia, or what ever you want to think it is picks up things that are going on inside my head - sometimes it picks up dragons. It didn't really put me out for long.

Like my father used to say, "I don't believe in UFOs, but let me tell you what I saw...." It's not that I don't believe in ghosts, but I'm not so presumptuous as to explain them.

Even if a ghost were to tell you that they were your grandmother, who died thirty years ago, and has come back to tell you things that only you could know, one of the parties involved is you, and you, at least, know what only you can know. It's not unthinkable that you are conjuring up images from your own mind.

I have a metric of belief. I imagine that it was proven to me, beyond a shadow of doubt that a belief is untrue - how would I feel. For instance, if the being that is my spirit guide, who assures me that he is the Holy Spirit, were proven to be Descartes' Demon, I would be rather flabbergasted. On the other hand, if it were proven that the white floaty apparition floating between us really is your great aunt Matilda, I would be mildly amused.

It's not that I don't believe that ghosts are the disembodied spirits of people who died and forgot to "go into the light." It's that I don't know what they are.

It seems that the general populace assumes that a ghost is what's left of a dead person. A common belief in the Christian church today is that it's a deceiving demon. I believe that it's something that has sometimes woke me up when I wanted to be sleeping. ("Whaddayou want, now.")

I was in high school in the late 60s when we moved into the haunted house on Hobbes Street. In fact, my bedroom was the epicenter of the haunting. The reason I knew it wasn't just an emanation of my own mind, is that others observed it. I guess it could have been suggestion.

I would wake up at nigh to the sound of chains rattling (how dramatic) and bottles clinking. The standard tale was that it was the landlady's deceased husband.

My brother, Ron, came home on leave from the Air Force and decided to explore the situation. We put him up in my bed and I slept on the couch in the living room. He kept a soda bottle by the bed.

In the middle of the night, he woke up to the unmistakable sound of footsteps and he got up (with his soda bottle) to investigate. The house was a type that had a large central dining room and smaller rooms around the periphery of the house. Admittedly, I did walk in my sleep back then, but on completely circumnavigating the house, Ron saw nothing moving around. I was still on the couch. In the end, he was convinced that there was something else in the house with us.

As I got older, haunts (whatever they are) began avoiding me. I lived in one of the most haunted cities in the US (Selma, Alabama) and there was only one place that even hinted to me that it was haunted. I had been in Selma over ten years before I wandered a block down the street to visit the Smitherman Building, which was purported to be very haunted.

The old building had been a home, a hospital and a Masonic lodge, among other things. Currently, it's a historic museum and a must-see for tourists.

Most of the hospital artifacts are on the third floor. In addition, it sports ghosts, who gave me the distinct impression that they did not want me there, so I left. My policy is that, if I'm in someone else's home and they don't want me there, I respect their wishes.

Some hauntings don't include ghosts. I was called to investigate a haunting in Sulphur Springs, Alabama. I could find no indication of disembodied spirits. I've never understood why ghosts would hang out in cemeteries, anyway. People don't associate with them in life and people don't generally die there.

I walked around the churchyard and the little cemetery in back, then I stepped over to the other side and had a talk with the church. For a long time, a small congregation spent a lot of time there and it shared every phase of their life from shortly after birth to old age and death. Now, the small rural plot is rarely visited, usually to place flowers on old graves. Simply, the land grieves for a lost past.

Carl Sagan's "extraordinary claims" doesn't apply to hauntings. There's nothing extraordinary about ghosts. Every city I have lived in had hauntings; most were well known. If you're interested, there should be one near you. Now you have web search engines that can pinpoint (on a map) where all the haunted points of interest are in your area.

Commercial haunted houses will provide tours with talks about the history of the place and other information. Private residences may let you visit, but call and make sure the owners will welcome visitors first.

Let me warn you, though, that despite the New Age doctrine that "ghosts can't hurt you," there are things out there that most certainly can hurt you. You should take the same precautions with "paranormal" tourism that you take with any other kind. Educate yourself about your stops before you go.

And that's another thing. To paraphrase Stephen King from Room 1408, there are places that are just plain evil.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

--- Watching birdwatchers ---

As an exercise in peoplewatching, I planned to sign up for one of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science birding field trips, but I waited until too late in the season. That's okay, though. I've run into many birdwatchers in this area on the trail.

You really can't miss them. Birdwatchers are interesting people. In the first place, they're passionate about their hobby and they don't mind telling you all about what they're doing and I can't imagine anyone minding.
A couple of years ago, in the spring, I was in the city park in Morrison, Colorado when the only other person there, an elderly lady with a wonderful accent (I think it was German) asked if I was a birder. I said that I was a lifelong learner and that I watched birds sometimes, but I wasn't really a birder. Then she asked if I was looking for water ouzels and, when I said that I didn't know what a water ouzel was, she told me all about them.

The water ouzel, also called the American Dipper, is a pretty little, gray water fowl that looks like a song bird. It likes swollen mountain streams because it likes to perch on rocks in the stream where it's safe from predators. Then, when it gets ready to eat, it jumps in the fast water and walks along the bottom of the creek to eat the water insects there.

There were no water ouzels in Bear Creek at the time, but I made it a point to go back on Mother's Day, when the lady told me they are always there and I did spot one under the C470 overpass. Birdwatchers' enthusiasm is infectious.

This is the only unblurred picture I managed to get of the ouzel - they....flit.

                                                                 Ouzel (in the circle)

Birdwatchers can often be identified by their equipment. They will almost always have binoculars, possibly a camera and it will usually be pointed at something you can't see. Like many Weres, I have a predator's vision and, if something isn't moving, I have a hard time seeing it. I have a horrible time tracking down canned milk in a grocery store because it might be anywhere and I can be looking straight at it and not see it.

I was on the Stone House trail, which parallels the Bear Creel Trail near Wadsworth Boulevard and I saw an elderly lady (despite Doonsberry and other sources, not all birdwatchers are elderly) circling a cottonwood tree with binoculars pointing upward. She collared me and asked, "Do you see the owls?"

I strained my eyes but couldn't.

She pointed excitedly and directed my gaze to a crook in the tree's branches and then I saw the tiny birds. She was almost as excited for me as she was about herself spotting the owls.

Birdwatchers may travel in groups. The Denver Museum's bird watching filed trips are a case in point.

Last year, near Fox Hollow Golf Course on Bear Creek Trail, I ran into a party of three birdwatchers - a man and two women, who were taking  part in a competition to record the most different bird species. They were resting on a park bench but, unlike most joggers and bikers, were more than happy to explain what they were doing.

In brief, birdwatcherwatching can be an interesting and fulfilling hobby. You can even learn about birds as a bonus!

--- Notes on moral virtue ---

It has now been sufficiently shown that moral virtue is a mean state, and in what sense it is a mean state; it is a mean state lying between two vices, a vice of excess on the one side and a vice of deficiency on the other.... That is the reason why it is hard to be virtuous; for it is always hard work to find the mean in anything....


I do hold, with Aristotle that moral virtue is a median state. Even philanthropy can be an evil if carried to an extreme. Perhaps you have heard of the case of a parent who loved their family so much that they became a nag. And, of course, if a parent doesn't care at all for a child, the child will have a poor experience of growing up.

But, of course, it isn't that simple. An average murderer can't be considered morally virtuous. Aristotle's position was popular in his day but, since then, philosophers have taken his opinions apart and put them back together again in various permutations and, of course, many other schools of thought have developed. For instance, during Aristotle's time, the idea that might makes right was also popular and that philosophy reappeared in modern times in the philosophy of Nietzsche.

I also agree with C. S. Lewis in his assessment of lostness. A person can become so wrapped up in any idea to the point that they lose their humanity. They become an embodiment of that idea. He says that, in a way, they become a demon themselves. That can apply to anything including religious devotion.

I have been involved with several "special" groups such as people with specific disabilities, animal rights groups, and civil rights groups and I usually include the appeal that they maintain connection to other groups. For instance a person with multiple sclerosis can easily become so involved with a support group that all they thing about is multiple sclerosis and rights for people with multiple sclerosis. In effect, they can stop being "a person with multiple sclerosis" and become a "multiple sclerotic."

We live in a universe of relationship and those relationships are at the center of moral virtue. Responsibility and purpose, far from being the enemies of individuality and personal freedom, are what keeps us from drifting aimlessly in the world.

Jesus boiled the Christian virtues down to two points - love God completely, and, equally, love your neighbor as you (should) love yourself.

Monday, September 18, 2017

--- What's "para" about "paranormal" ---

There are so many assumptions that humanity makes from ages past but has yet to test. Our attitude toward the other occupants of this planet are based on untested assumptions. In the distant past, our method was to base our understanding on "what works" and not try to understand why it works. That is why science appeared in the 1500s, as a tool to understand.

But now I'm sliding into a region of the Dewey Decimal System rife with assumptions, where we are still quite satisfied with "what works" without thinking to question where we got our knowledge or even if, in fact, it actually does work or not. Assumptions:

The paranormal is "para". "Para-" means "beside, beyond", certainly "outside". Therapists occasionally encounter cases that include elements that place them in a quandary as to how to proceed and they call those elements "AEs' or "anomalous experiences". I lived in Selma, Alabama for 20 years, one of the most haunted cities in the United States and the majority of people who have lived there for any time have had an experience with ghosts. I have lived in a haunted house (not by choice but by pure chance, whatever that is) and every city I have lived in has had one or more "haunted houses" within their borders. The paranormal is certainly not infrequent. What's "para" about the paranormal?

The supernatural, by etymology and, I would assume, by definition, outside of nature, apart from creation. I guess the common assumption that such things as ghosts, angels, demons, God or gods, transdimensional portals, etc. are the product of overactive imaginations  would lend credence to the idea for, if these things do not really exist, then certainly they would be outside of our existence; but the frequency of experiences of people with these unaccountable (and inconvenient) entities and phenomenon lead me to suspect that just saying "it doesn't exist" doesn't nearly cover it. But wholly other? I should think not. Just because we don't understand something (and it looks like we've put woefully inadequate effort into such understanding) does not mean it's outside of the nature we all accept as "our nature". What's "super" about the supernatural?

Everyone knows what a ghost is - it's what's left of a dead person after they've been dispossessed of their body. But I've never seen anything that would move that bit of information from the realm of assumption into the kingdom of founded knowledge. In fact, as many people who have experienced ghosts, I haven't met with a convincing explanation yet. I've run into a few things that could make sense, but without any substantive support.

Let me try to enumerate the official list of entities acknowledged as real in the Christian church, which seems to be the authority in the Western world. Starting at the top:

maybe add devils and their master, Satan.

I think that's all. Biologists added a few more kingdoms of life - slime molds, bacteria, extremophiles, and the like.

But is that all? I've studied the Bible for over 40 years and I can't even see where it supports that. As I have mentioned I many such conversations, the Bible doesn't talk about plumbers, llamas, Chinese, Black folks (well, it might have, but certainly not) Australian Aborigines - all of which existed in Biblical times. Bottom line, just because the Bible doesn't mention it, it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And, shockingly, just because scientists haven't mentioned it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. E. O. Wilson in his The Future of Life predicts that by 2100, up to half of the species currently on our planet will be gone, many, if not most, without even having been recognized by science.

You can't use Carl Sagan's vaunted "exceptional claim clause" either. There seems to be nothing exceptional about ghosts.

So, without apology, I will soon be exploring the assumed and the maybe not so exceptional about the Denver area and I will be encouraging lifelong learners everywhere to go boldly where no lifelong learner....oh forget the Star Trek thing and go out and enjoy yourselves - and stay safe.

--- Notes on wisdom ---

The habit of viewing life as a whole is an essential part both of wisdom and of true morality, and is one of the things which ought to be encouraged in education. Consistent purpose is not enough to make life happy, but it is an almost indispensable condition of a happy life. And consistent purpose embodies itself mainly in work.

Bertrand Russell

A philosophy of wisdom is touchy. Maybe more than any other philosophical topic, you can answer "What is wisdom?" by "It's a word."

Specifically, the root "wise" is an old English word (actually and Old English word) meaning "a way of proceeding". And, of course, it looks like ancient peoples were more serious about their languages and packed more into their words than we do today. "Way" meant more than a direction. It was a path in life (as, for example, "The Way"). So wisdom is a way of life. Whatever it is, it's not just something you know.

Knowledge can be incidental or trivial - not wisdom, but I believe that there is a relationship between the two. Knowledge is the information you have in your head that seems to work as a reasonable approximation for reality. Wisdom is the skill of using that knowledge to build a "good life" (and I've talked elsewhere about "good life" and I'm sure I will again - I'm looking forward to an article on "moral value").

Russell brought up a few points on what constitutes wisdom, though. It is holistic. It tells you where any particular fact fits into the larger scheme of things, and particular the larger scheme of your life. Is brushing your teeth wise? Well, maybe not, but understanding the consequences of doing so or not doing so in your social life and, further, the effects on your ability to get important concepts across to other and, so, your religious, scientific, or political life - certainly - in that wisdom is the ability to sense the web of causality in which we all sit and to navigate it to benefit ourselves and the world around us.

One debate about wisdom is whether it can be taught or not. Personally, I believe that the ability to develop wisdom is inherent in thinking beings. Our brains, as I have said before, are incredible pattern processors and wisdom is a pattern analysis skill. Wisdom allows us to take the massive body of knowledge in our minds and extract meaningful information that can constitute a "way" of life. Much of it is subconscious, which may be why many think it cannot be taught. But it's more of a habit than a knowing. It's a philosophical pursuit. After all, "philosophy" means "love of wisdom". And I believe that a love of wisdom can be instilled early in growing minds as a habit of curiosity, wonder, and love of life and nature. We learn to hate by being bombarded by the hostilities and unfairness perpetrated on us by, well, mostly by others like ourselves. We could just as easily be shown the beauty and great-heartedness of our fellow creatures as we mature.

And work, far from being the bane of humanity, gives us the laboratory we need to see how our knowledge works in real life - the way to finely hone our ability to see the webs of life and the outcomes of our decisions in a real life environment.

Again, our lives are like a garden. The work we put into them will determine the beauty, joy, and material benefit that we get out of them. And we all profit or none of us do - that is wisdom.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

--- Healths ---

When I was a kid, we had health classes - walk on the side of the street facing traffic, don't eat too much sugar, that kind of stuff. Back then, we could talk to strangers and, of course, people who weren't adult never had sex (oh, of course not).

Sex and drug education came around as I was about half way through high school and, of course, I had already heard all of it (in some version or another) from my peers. And films like Reefer Madness convinced me that the adults had no clue. We had lots of films showing, gruesomely, what would happen if we did not drive responsibly. It was like going to the weekend matinee horror flicks!

But President Kennedy had determined that America would be physically fit so everyone had physical education in high school, which consisted of picking up cigarette butts around the high school and putting up with the jocks bullying. At least back then kids didn't often kill each other or drive people to suicide.

In the 60s, President Kennedy had demonstrated a commitment to the physical fitness of Americans. Due to his programs, by the time I entered college, institutes of higher learning required students to take a certain number of physically demanding physical education courses and a certain number of "leisure" recreation courses. Of the three courses I flunked in college, one, golf, was in the latter category. Regardless, I figure it was a good idea. America was getting flabby.

The problem is that physical fitness isn't the only kind. When I was growing up, when a coach was confronted with bullying, the most common response was, "Boys will be boys." If the coaches' ideas were that bullying was age appropriate, they were not mentally fit. If the bullies' only source of self-satisfaction was to have the power over weaker people so as to make them miserable (and, of course, to get the prime breeding stock), then they were not emotionally fit. And if the people they picked on were not equipped to deal with the bullying, they were not socially fit. And I mean "fit" in the same terms as "physically fit" - having the equipment and strategies to fit into the environment - to survive.

Physical fitness isn't the only health issue. I recognize five domains of health - physical, emotional (which relates to the barriers between mind and body), mental (which deals with problem solving), environmental (which addresses the barrier between self and other), and spiritual (which deals with the ability to "step outside" oneself and get a realistic understanding of how the world works without self-serving biases and agendas).

The famous Robbers Cave experiment of Muzafer Sherif underscored the idea that, once groups were separated by group affiliation, the only way to bring them back together was by presenting them with a common enemy (you should look up the Robbers Cave experiment). Talk about a horror story.... American politicians have always known that. If you want to manipulate a large mass of people, give them something to fear.

So, why is bullying, mass and serial murder, xenophobia, and police brutality such an issue in "the Greatest Country on Earth"? I honestly believe that we don't know how to deal with stress, self-image, relationships, our environment...

We favor completely inappropriate strategies to deal with our problems. Every kid, at leasts in high school, should be required to study Eric Berne's The Games People Play.

We might be physically healthy (and we're slipping at that. JFK, come back!), but we have never been emotionally, mentally, environmentally, or spiritually healthy and nightly news (I guess, now, Internet news) continue to give ample evidence of that.

--- Notes on science ---

The laws formulated by science... possess only a Platonic sort of reality. They are more real, if you will, than the facts themselves, because they are more permanent, trustworthy, and pervasive; but at the same time they are, if you will, not real at all, because they are incompatible with immediacy and alien to brute existence.

George Santayana

Science doesn't provide knowledge of reality; it provides models.

A particular danger to researchers is reification, the confusion of concepts with reality. The word isn't the referent. The concept isn't the reality. No matter how accurate a concept is in representing reality, it can never characterize the whole of a real thing.

And that's not a problem. I have heard that, when a child ask, wonderingly of Abraham Lincoln's height, how long his legs were, he answered, "Long enough to reach the ground." Well, our models are not perfect but they're good enough to help us predict how things will happen and understand how things work. That's what models are for.

Science allows us to construct reliable and valid models of a consistent reality that we all can share. Beyond that we can not go, nor do we need to, as long as we do not confuse what is in our heads with what is in the world.

Monday, August 21, 2017

I tossed around whether to blog the eclipse or not. I'm not planning to deal with astronomy until 2019, but I took some pretty decent photos so I caved.

Denver was in the area of about 90% eclipse, so it was pretty nice. A few of the tribe were planning to go to the path of totality in Wyoming but didn't get to, so we had a yard party.

I set up my cell phone on a tripod with a #14 welder filter over the aperture and took the following photos.

The sun, filtering through the fir tree in the back yard also produced some nice pinhole effects.

And there was some nice iridescence in the high cirrus clouds moving into the area, but it didn't come out very well on the photos.

Still, it was a nice day with family and the last total solar eclipse that I'm likely to see in this lifetime.

I'll probably review these photographs in more detail in a couple of years.

Monday, August 14, 2017

--- Notes on logic and mathematics ---

Nature cares nothing for logic, our human logic: she has her own, which we do not recognize and do not acknowledge until we are crushed under its wheel.

Ivan Turgenev

Well, maybe not quite so negative. I don't think Nature is waiting out there to crush us under wheels, but I have said that I don't believe that Nature's primary purpose is not our convenience, so you should watch where you step.

But I don't see logic "out there". Logic characterizes reality to some extent but I've said over and over how "the word isn't the thing" and it's dangerous to forget it. Logic (and mathematics, concepts, models) is a language that we use to understand how things work in the world, and it is a very useful tool as long as we keep a firm hold on it's limitations. It is not the be all and end all of analysis. It will not allow us to formulate all knowledge (as the logical positivists hoped).

Our binary Western logic isn't even complete. There are things that doesn't fit into a nice, neat dichotomous scheme - true/false, extant/nonextant. For instance, my favorite example - the circle (Plato preferred the right triangle - whatever). It doesn't exist - it cannot exist. It's a curve which is everywhere equidistant to a single point, but such a curve would have no width. But so much of our society is built on a circle. Architectural designs, machines, symbols (anybody ever been in the winner's circle or sat in a support group?), so many circles! They don't exist but they certainly affect society as if they did. Circles exist powerfully in our minds. They exist as information, something that is nonexistence-in-existence. Eastern logic recognizes many categories of existence and can deal with categories such as information better than we can in the West.

Logic and mathematics are languages composed of words. They don't exist out there but are powerful tools of the mind to span the dimensions of reality.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

--- Intelligence 7 ---

Yolanda U. Trapps article "Multiple Intelligences: The Learning Process in Our Students" is a decent and brief introduction to modern education. For those who associate "modern education" with the kind decried by C. S. Lewis in many of his works, this ain't it. This is more modern.

Actually, if you want a real update, The Teaching Company has a couple of lecture series. "The Art of Teaching: Best Practices From a Master Educator" presented by Patrick N. Allitt, and "How We Learn" presented by Monisha Pasupathi, will get you up to speed, but those will take you a couple of weeks, at least.

The exercises described at the end of the module are for classroom activities but they might suggest some interesting adventures. If you've never visited a nursing home, You might get permission to go to one and record some life stories. Old folks can be fascinating, and many of them love telling stories. You may even have some elderly family members that would like to tell you some tales. All the ones in my family are long gone and I sorta miss them. Grab the chance before they're gone.

There are actually organizations that invite you to take part in their adventures to record life stories, such as StoryCorps (https://storycorps.org/). You might just find out that that's your thing.

Awhile back, I tried to learn some Spanish. We have a large Hispanic population in the area and I figured it might be nice to be able to talk to some of my neighbors in their own tongue. I was devastatingly unsuccessful. I did learn that age interferes with learning new languages, but one of the exercises in this article gave me an idea. I've also wanted to brush up on my American Sign Language and I might have a better run if I combine the two goals. The act of internalizing signs might be paired with foreign vocabulary to make them both stick. The problem I had with Spanish was that, a week after I had learned a set of words, and was learning new words, I found that the older set was just, flat gone.

Next year, I plan to be looking at social sciences and languages in the area, and this might be a great adventure for me to take on. Starting now will give be a running start and I can let you know how I do.

Thomas O. Merritt's "A Multiple Intelligence Approach to the Physiology of the Brain and How Middle School Students Learn" is a good review of the structures in the brain that house the different "intelligences" outlined by Howard Gardner. He suggests looking at diagrams of the lobes of the brain (actually, all you have to do is browse "brain" in Google Images) and dissecting a cow brain - eh, you might or might not want to do that. You can likely get one from your friendly neighborhood butcher.

Here's something you can try - it usually works (but not always). If you're right handed, visualize the image of someone or something that you are very familiar with to your right, but keep your eyes fixed straight on (if you're left handed, do everything from the other side). Don't move your head or eyes and visualize the image drifting across your field of view from right to left.

Go ahead - don't read any further until you've done it.

The first time I did this, it was startling. Right at the center line in front of me, the image vanished. This was a demonstration performed by a visiting speaker in one of my psychology classes. She was a specialist in psycholinguistics.

Evidently, the eyes really are windows into the mind. They trace activity going on in the brain. The right side of the brain in right-side dominant people deal with memory and learning. The left side deals with creative activities.

So, when people are remembering some image, their eyes tend to track to the upper right field of view. When they are thinking up some new image, the eyes track up and to the left. It's as though the eyes are following the activity in the visual centers in the back and central parts of the brain.

When people are remembering in a sound, their eyes track to the right at about eye level and when they are thinking of some new sound, maybe composing a piece of music, their eyes track across to the left.

The, when people are talking to themselves, their eyes track down. Often, when someone is lying to you, they will look a little down and to the left. When people are depressed and their inner voice is making it worse, they will be looking down and to the right. The presenter told us that, often, all a depressed person has to do to "raise" their spirits is "look up". I've tried that and, by George, it usually works for me!

The last section in the Yale-New Haven module on intelligence is Judith L. Bollonio's "Multi-Sensory Manipulatives in Mathematics: Linking the Abstract to the Concrete", which has some fun things to try with mathematical manipulatives, things that illustrate mathematical concepts that you can, well... manipulate.

I'm quite fond of manipulatives. If you have a problem grasping some concept and you can find a model you can play with, that's often a great way to get a hold on it. Since I'm not dealing with mathematics right now, I won't go there, but you can be sure that, if we do get that far, I will be talking a  lot about it.

So, now back to the topic at hand. I can't take the standard IQ tests anymore. I've taken all the old ones so many times, I just know the answers. The new ones would require that I were still a practicing evaluator to use them. So, since I'm just doing it for fun, anyway, I'll just go onto the Internet, find some random IQ test, and not worry about validity and reliability.

On the other hand, if you want a challenging test, The Brain Game by Rita Aero and Elliot Weiner (1983, Harper Perennial) includes an IQ test developed by Mensa.

In my case, I found this test at the University of Cambridge.


It seems to be a legitimate test under development and that gives me some added satisfaction of helping develop a new instrument. The introduction says that it will take from 45 to 60 minutes to take the test, so I will wait until I have plenty of time.

The test seems to be based on the Raven Matrix test, which is one of the more unculturally biased tests, having mostly performance items rather than verbal. It's called My-IQ and it was developed by Fiona Chan of the University of Cambridge Psychometrics Centre and Michal Kosinski of the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Wow! That was a cool test. I scored the lowest score I've ever scored on an IQ test but it was fun.

I did notice that I have consistently scored lower as I have gotten older.

I wouldn't have given this one to one of my clients because all it gives is an IQ score and I like to have more multifactorial (multiple scores measuring different things) results, but I recommend it for recreational purposes.

Is it culturally biased? I don't know. I suspect that many of the items could have been interpreted and analyzed in more than one way and it may be that different cultures would orient people to see the items differently, but I see that they are recording where respondents are from, so they should be able to tell if there are any strong cultural biases.

--- Notes on truth ---

... in matters of action, truth or practical rectitude is not the same for all as to what is particular, but only as to the common principles; [whereas in speculative matters, concerned chiefly with necessary things,] truth is the same for all men, both as to principles and as to conclusions.

Thomas Aquinas

My naive model for truth is what-is-out-there, but when people are talking about "truth" they are generally talking about something that is known. What-is-out-there, would accurately be called, "reality". In other words, if there were no conscious organism, no "knower", then there would still be reality but there would be no truth. So truth is knowledge that happens when what-is-known matches what-is-out-there. Truth is knowledge of reality.

At the surface, that sounds okay but just a little consideration will bring up an immediate problem. How do we know - how can we know - that what we think we know actually matches what-is-out-there. This has always been a problem for philosophers (and scientists, for that matter). If you don't believe it, watch The Matrix and ask yourself, "How do I know that the movie isn't the way things really are?" It can drive you to a real existential crisis.

Descartes tried to resolve this problem. He asked how he could know that what he thought of as reality was not just some sort of delusion caused by a demon. It's at the center of many religions. Hindu and Buddhism both speculate that there is a principle in the world called Maya that creates the delusion that what we perceive is real but that only a universal mind is real. Christian Gnosticism proposed that the material world is a delusion created by an evil demiurge to entrap the spirits of people in a servitude of material existence and that only spirit was real. But Descartes' answer was that, although he could never be sure about the reality of other things, he could nevertheless be sure that, since he was thinking, a thinking agent must at least be real and that, because he was thinking, he must be real.

People quickly noticed the flaw in Descartes' thought. Do character's in an author's mind think? Perhaps we are all just characters in someone else's mind. So how can there be truth if we can't even tell if there is even a what-is-out-there?

The conclusion that I come to is that we can, at least, be certain of a continuity. We have tools to test what we can all convince ourselves is the case and has always been the case as long as we have had records to archive reality. Replication, triangulation, experimental control, historical constancy all allow us to test what we might know to see if it is valid and reliable knowledge. We can at least say that, if what we believe to be the truth is not reality, then we have a common and consistent perception of reality that might as well be truth because it is the only truth we can have and, indeed, it has always served us well for truth and must be relied on to serve us in the future as truth.

It might not be completely satisfying as an answer but I'm not so sure we can do any better. Truth is the truth we have.

--- Your adventures ---


Andalusia is far south in Alabama. There are no mountains near there. It's far south of the fall line. But there is a waterfall about 5 miles north of there. It's in a little town called River Falls and I was curious as to why a town that far south would be called "River Falls", so I drove down there one weekend to find out.

I asked several people if there was a waterfall in the area and no one knew until I stopped at a convenience store, ready to give it up and go back home. I asked the counter person, who didn't know but said that, if anyone did know, it would be the lady over there, a mail carrier. Sure enough, she knew and gave me directions to an impressive waterfall in town.

                                                        Photo of River Falls waterfall

It's my experience that people don't know what they have in their own neighborhoods.

Adventure can be near or far. It can be as simple as cooking a new dish or as complex as a vacation in a place that you've never visited. A surgical procedure is definitely an adventure. Do you dare go to YouTube and find a video of the same procedure?

But above all, an adventure can be a learning experience. Where are your adventures?

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Harvard Gulch

Actually, the way you design a highline canal is start at the elevation at the beginning and set a course that closely follows the contour of elevation (you know, like the lines on a topographic map) but very, very (very!!) gradually descend from that elevation. The canal follows the "highline". That way, you don't  have to pump the water. Gravity does all the work for you.

There are other canals in the Denver area. Ward canal parallels Bear Creek through Bear Creek Canyon at Morrison.

Denver was built on the high desert so it's understandable that it is concerned with water conservation. Canals are not the only artificial waterways in the area. When Denverites talk about gulches, they mean something a little different from the standard definition. Usually "gulch" is defined as a narrow v-shaped valley with steep walls cut out by a creek or what used to be a creek. The later case would be a "dry gulch". In Denver, gulches are semi-artificial stream beds. Instead of following a contour of elevation, they run straight down the shoulder of valleys to a river. I say "semi-artificial" because the original stream bed might have been diverted by the gulch (as in the case of Bear Creek Gulch, which was modified by the McBrooms to bring water to their homestead), or the stream bed might be widened or lined with concrete to avoid erosion or increase the capacity of the stream. Many of the gulches in Denver play dual purpose. They usually have a trail and a string of parks paralleling them, but primarily they serve to carry runoff water to a natural stream. They are flood control.

Harvard Gulch, East and West are two gulches that Channel water down the South Platte River valley down to the river. I hiked the Harvard Gulch West several times from Harvey Park to Ruby Hill and the river. It's a nice hike.

I followed the Harvard Gulch West today down from University Boulevard to where it disappears underground at Rosedale/Kumming City. Harvard Gulch is named that because it parallels Harvard Avenue on both sides of the South Platte. In this area, most of the streets are named for colleges (as if Denver didn't have enough colleges of their own).  Here are a few photographs.

All the water features are Harvard Gulch. Only a few of the pictures look like the regularly defined "gulch" but Harvard Gulch is rather typical for gulches in the Denver area. The last few photographs are from the high hill in Kumming City Park. The last picture is from Harvard Gulch Park. I liked the view of the thunderstorm coming in. I almost didn't get home in time!

Highline Canal

I now live on a high ridge overlooking the South Platte River valley (Well, it would be "overlooking" it if it were not for so many trees in my neighborhood - not that I'm complaining - I like trees.) On east-west streets in my area, I can look out and see Mount Morrison and, behind it, Mount Evans, still snow capped in August.

Denver is a rather disorienting place. I can look out and, it seems, down on Loretto Heights, which stood above where I used to live, yet, Loretto Heights is one of the highest places in Denver. Looking from Loretto Heights eastward toward where I now live, everything looks like lowlands, and, of course, they are. Loretto Heights is a full hundred feet higher in elevation than where I now live.

So, there is a highline canal, and there is the Highline Canal.

A highline canal is an artificial waterway that follows the natural contours of the land. In other words, you design a highline canal by throwing water on the ground and see which way it flows - maybe trench out a channel for it.

The Highline Canal in Denver begins in Waterton Canyon where it is drawn out of the South Platte River as it flows from the Rockies onto the plains. Here's the very place where it  begins.

So what in Sam hill is it doing over here on my ridge just down the street from me on a high ridge across the South Platte River valley from where it originates?

But, then, there's a 500+ foot drop in elevation from the foothills to the South Platte River, and about 400 feet difference between the elevation at Waterton Canyon and here. So the Highline Canal actually flows downhill from it's headwaters to this high ridge overlooking the South Platte River. Let me tell you - Denver is disorienting.....

Thursday, August 3, 2017

--- Intelligence 6 ---

Robert P. Echter's article, "Working With Children's Powers Not Their Handicaps" offers little in the way of adventure but the contents are worth looking  over if you work with children, especially children with academic problems.

If you have academic problems, something that makes your brain lock up when you are confronted with something new or difficult, I would emphasize the main thread of the piece - find your areas of strength and approach the problem from our strengths rather than your weakness.

In my own case, I'm dyslexic and, reading something like this paper would take so long as to be prohibitive, so I don't read it. I am perfectly capable of understanding the contents but I simply use a more effective way of taking it in - for me. I have a program called Natural Reader (https://www.naturalreaders.com/assets/software.html). Anything I can copy, and almost every format of text file will work, I can paste into this program and it will read it back to me. The voice it uses is very easy to get used to and I use it for most of my "reading". I also take advantage of the free readings from Libravox, a website that provides a wide range of books read by volunteers. When I go to bed at night, I will usually listen to a selection of classics - literature or major scientific pieces. Tonight I am listening to Balzac's, The Ball at Sceaux. I downloaded that from the Gutenberg Project as an HTML file and have copied it into the Natural Reader. It's rather long so I will likely split it into a couple of sections.

Most of the people in the job readiness classes I taught  never managed to grasp fractions in school. That seemed to be a primary barrier in mathematics - yet they seemed to have little trouble with it in our classes. The difference is that most public schools use one model of teaching only and that model is oriented toward teaching the average person with the common academic strengths. The further a person is from that average, the more difficulty they have in a standard classroom. But there are many different approaches available for learning anything.

"Learning disability" is a misnomer. A more accurate description would be "learning difference". Where I have a problem absorbing text, I have no such problem with lectures, videos, or materials that are read aloud. My memory has never been great but a memory system like the one described in The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas eliminates that problem for me.

The problem is that, what works for me may not work for you. No one perfectly fits the "model student". Learning the best approach for you will open up a fascinating world of lifelong learning, and finding the best approach is a great adventure in its own right.

--- Intelligence 5 ---


The Mozart effect has been pretty much blown out of the water. Playing Mozart while a baby is still in the womb - well, it's a pleasant pastime and, if you think you're doing something special, more power to ya'. There probably will be some salutary effects - but it won't be the Mozart effect - sorry.

But it is amazing how even academics get caught up in new trends - Mozart, Laetrile, anti-vaccination, hyper-light particles - they come and go.

But there is, of course, something to music.

I had a bipolar friend who could not take the drug of choice - lithium. He, like many, experienced serious side effects from the drug. I and several others mentioned music therapy to him. As a result, he came completely off his medication and did fine.

One of my earliest counseling clients was completely nonverbal and rather violent when aroused. I used music therapy to "interact" with him and, eventually to much reduce his outbursts.

I have no doubt that music is very powerful in a counseling environment. As indicated in the article by Michael Vollero, "Nurturing the Body and Mind in Physical Education with Mozart", there is enough research that indicated that music has a beneficial effect on physical and academic learning, and may even improve the scores on intelligence tests (Vollero mentions a quote by Fredrick Goodwin, past director of the Institute of Mental Health, that quotes increases as much as 20 IQ points."

Well, I've said what I think of IQ scores, but I'm all sold on music.

The Doreen L. Canzanella piece, The Musical Learner: Rhythm and Reading emphasizes the use of music in learning (remember all those mnemonic songs you learned in grade school ("Thirty days hath September.....")). Again, it's an interesting article but the exercises are very specifically for kindergarten aged children.

--- Notes on language ---

Philosophy lives in words, but truth and fact well up into our lives in ways that exceed verbal formulation. There is in the living act of perception always something that glimmers and twinkles and will not be caught, and for which reflection comes too late. No one knows this as well as the philosopher.

William James

One of the greatest traps for thinkers is forgetting that words are not the things they refer to. Is language the patterns you see on a page or the concepts they engender in your mind?

Unfortunately, language is both but they are not the same and it's devilishly easy to forget that.

A word like "knowledge" does not have "a" definition. Take a minute and look it up in a dictionary, or just type "define knowledge" into your Internet browser and see what comes up. The very extensive Oxford Dictionary of the English Language will give you plenty to read. If you've never seen it, there is probably one at your local library. Ask your reference librarian about it.

Most words are like that. There is no single definition but a family of definitions - all the definitions are related but there are going to be subtle but important differences. In order to parse out what someone else means in a conversation, you have to figure out, with some precision, how they are using the words they are using, and it is very common that, what you think they mean is not quite, maybe not at all, what they actually  mean.

Language, like philosophy, is an adventure and it can be just as dangerous. In order to understand what others are saying, you have to avoid the natural assumption that you know what they  mean. The devastating thing is that, in order to really understand yourself, you have to let go of the assumption that you know what you mean. If you have ever read Plato's Dialogues, you know that the very heart of most of them is Socrates demonstrating to people that they really don't know what they are talking about. And if you haven't read them, you really should. It's a powerful  medicine to realize that you don't know what you're talking about. That's always the first step toward knowing (as Socrates advised) yourself - "the unexamined life is not worth living."

--- Cool lectures for computer enthusiasts ---


The best computer science video courses I have been able to find online are the Harvard courses presented by David J. Malan, a clear and entertaining presenter.

Intensive Introduction to Computer Science (https://cs50.harvard.edu/weeks)

Understanding Computers and the Internet
(See Academic Earth's Computer Science Courses on http://academicearth.org/computer-science/)

There are also many more open courses available at Academic Earth.

The University of Washington also presents a History of Computing course with instructors Ed Lazowska, Steve Maurer, and Geoff Voelker which could not be more in-depth with guest speakers who are the history of computing. In addition to video lectures, the course is loaded with graphic slides and other materials. It is available here:


(The above websites were accessed 7/30/2017)

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

--- Transportation in Denver ---

                                               The Rockies from my new neighborhood

                                                                       Water fowls

Part of my adventures since moving to Denver has been learning to get around. I won't say that it was my plan to get rid of my van and become a pedestrian - it pretty much just happened, but, most of the time I don't regret it.

The Dewey Decimal System includes transportation and communication in the social sciences for a reason. They are a major part of society. They are a large part of how people interact because they bring people together. Sometimes they bring people together too effectively because it has become so easy that folks take it for granted and when the technology fails them, they are often left floundering.

But I've really enjoyed learning the transportation system around here.

I didn't own a car until I was 27. Where I lived (Auburn University), I could walk anywhere I wanted to go and I enjoyed walking, but when I started picking up responsibilities all over the map, the car became useful.

When I moved to Denver, I couldn't get the resources I needed to get  my van registered. Emission testing is a big thing in Denver and I certainly recognize why. They've had a lot of problems with pollution. Most of that is in the past now because of things like emission testing. Good for them, no so good for me. But, I repeat, I like walking and Denver is a great place to walk.

But walking limits me to as far as my feet can carry me and only the distance they can carry me in a day. There's a lot more of Denver than that, so when we moved to South Harvey Park, I decided to learn to use the RTD (Regional Transportation District) buses and trains. My first bus trip was a long one from home to my eye doctor in Broomfield and back for a postoperative examination after one of my cataract surgeries. It went of well and day pass books aren't too expensive, so I made it a regular part of my travels.

I also noticed that there were inexpensive charter buses to places in the mountains like Black Hawk and Central City.

Throw in the light rail and most of my transportation problems were solved. Now, I know how to get just about anywhere I want to go. If I need to take a trip across the country, I can rent a car.

There's a bus stop right in front of the new place and I can easily walk to the nearest light rail station. The bus that runs in front of the house makes a beeline to City Park and the zoo and Museum of Nature and Science.

From Harvey Park, my trip to the "big Walmart" was either a day long trek up Bear Creek and South Platte River Trail to Dartmouth Avenue, across the river and up the valley in back of the Walmart; or it involved walking to River Point shopping area along Bear Creek and through the shopping center to Oxford Station. From there, I took a train to Englewood Station and walked the rest of the way (a short walk from there) to Walmart). This was a monthly practice.

It's a fair distance from where I live now to the same store but I decided to try it out the other day and was pleasantly surprised. It's all downhill and the walk is nice without a lot of street traffic. There are some nice parks and the walk ends in a shopping area with the post office, some favorite store, my favorite restaurant (The Beirut Grill), and the light rail station.

I used this trip to learn to use Lyft, a phone based taxi service operated by people who work for themselves and use their own vehicles. The process went off without a glitch, it was easy and inexpensive, and I learned another link in the local transportation system.

But now, I'll have to see what it's like for the second leg of the walk - that one is all uphill!