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man vs machine

Artificial Intelligence Has Common Sense

 

The aggrandizing of artificial intelligence appears to have a firm hold these days. Maybe you didn’t read Issac Azimov’s “I, Robot” series of books. I thoroughly enjoyed them as a kid. If you missed out, central to the stories were key rules that boil down to intelligent machines always putting human safety and rights first. It was plain to me this common sense rule wasn’t fiction – and that it applied to humans just as much to robots. But stories aside,  just what is it about AI that prompts so much huzzah? Is it the signal that something’s been over-looked?

 

Is Machine Intelligence Really the Point?

 

With so many involved in AI development and the countless hours put into anticipating and executing purpose, design, and programming, it seems more likely to me by the day that comparing machine and human intelligence is inappropriate. The machines wouldn’t exist without the prerequisite contribution of human cognition. And programmers, just to consider one group of key creators, know better than most that garbage in equals garbage out. Successful AI is reliant on unerring human input.

Speed and Complexity Come Second

 

All computing machines have this in common: programming that follows exact rules. Errors all mean the same thing – the rules weren’t followed. And if they weren’t followed, the same action is applied in every case. Someone figures out which rules need attention and corrects things. It’s no different than doing our arithmetic. A faulty answer isn’t the point. It’s simply the evidence that we either didn’t understand – or didn’t follow – the rules. The task is then to learn them better or make sure we hold to them in future.

Whether we’re balancing the cheque book or trying to understand reality, it doesn’t matter how fast the calculating or how persuasive or fancy the theories. If the mark is missed and it isn’t noticed, chaos enters the system.

Your tablet and the latest and greatest super-computer use the same core instructions for essential functions. Without these basic directions, neither machine will get the job done properly, no matter how simple the task.

And this is where the machines clearly rate far higher than people. Are the ways we’re taught about the rules of reasoning any more consistent than the weather? What could we gain by applying the dedication and quality control heaped on technological development, to the advancement of all areas of human reasoning?

Besides not having complex biology to maintain, the machines reap the benefits of uniform, correctly thought out rules, which when followed, can’t help but cause them to excel at coming to correct conclusions.

Of Robots and People

 

The machines are faster at many tasks and can be programmed to deal with complexity that, if we had to do it ourselves, would eat up so much time there’d be none left for generating new ideas – even if we didn’t make any boo boos. Since machines are unlikely to ever match human capacity for creating, their function simply isn’t enough to replace us, no matter how advanced the calculating they eventually tap out at.

Rather than worry about an AI “take-over” it might be a good time to widen the view-point.

It’s noted that we tend to fear, demonize, or in opposite fashion, over-esteem – even worship – what we don’t yet understand. The latter detour might remind you of another sci-fi writer – Arthur C Clarke. To paraphrase his observation:

Technology sufficiently advanced appears as magic.

Looking at the machines capacity as magic has it’s difficulties.

When put aside, reality comes into focus. We can be glad that the machines take so much of the tedious and nit-picky load off. Just how valuable the rules are when learning to understand – not just grasping the outcomes we’re aiming for, but really getting a handle on the  most sensible ways to implement them – becomes obvious. And another thing that comes quickly to mind is that the machine kind of accuracy is quite possible in every area of human endeavor.

Successful AI is Due to Unbiased, Effective Human Thinking

 

The development of intelligent machines serves as proof of concept. Just look at what has been accomplished by applying consistent, well understood rules! Any system can use these methods to reliably generate coherence.

But what about our “non-technological” rules? Rule breaking continually adds chaos to our systems. And since many human rules and laws are inconsistent, following the ones that haven’t been thought out properly also increase chaos.

Yet development of AI proceeds apace despite the messy social realm rules. How can this be? No, it isn’t magic. Developers just put the core rules first, and in doing so, the AI version of common sense is automatically maintained.

It’s Not Sci-Fi

 

Clarke’s idea isn’t too shabby, but Azimov hit the nail on the head with his robot laws. These rules fit right in with human core laws already in place internationally. All that’s left to do is put these rules in first place, no matter what area of reasoning or expertise we’re operating in. Human safety and rights laws –  square one – must come ahead of all other rules and practices. This action makes it so much easier to de-bias. As errors are removed, the way to improvement opens wide. More and more incoherent rules can be straightened out or eliminated.

The initial gains we can look forward to?  Even if our thinking doesn’t speed up – although I suspect it will – there will be fewer, but much more effective, ideas generated. Decision-making will become rock-solid. As these outcomes reach the mainstream, more and more time for error-free thinking and deciding will become available. Chaos will be increasingly constrained, allowing even more time for quality thought.

The smart machines aren’t our competitors. They are intended to extend our cognition and capability, not replace it. And, although quite a few hastily assume that rules are the bane of creativity, used properly, they actually are the foundation of it. Intelligent machines, and the careful procedures that make them possible, are both the blueprints for, and the finest, most helpful tools. And they’re increasingly being made ready  to be put to their highest and best use.

Transfer this educational wealth. The best methods for using rules in common are already tested out in the realm of technology. Make this kind of standardization accessible as the global learning-path with human rights as the core. All hands on deck.

I, Robot Wiki

responsible science

Consumers Lack Cognitive Apparatus? The Need for Rational Research

I didn’t make this one up…

 

Cognitive Handicaps in the Realm of Consumer Privacy.

 

Critical thinking skills and human rights awareness are needed more than ever in research. My review is rather old, but some proponents of behavioral economics are still kicking the consumer square – and with renewed energy.

This article by Professor Dilip Soman and Melanie Kim, MBA, research associate at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto Ontario Canada was recently reprinted in revised form in the Toronto Globe and Mail. (Link to the revision is given at the end of the post.) Prof Soman is also appointed by the Privy Council Office in the Canadian Federal Government as a Senior Policy Advisor at the Innovation Hub in Ottawa.

Their story begins with the statement that online privacy breaches by large retailers such as Home Depot and Target are on the increase. Two explanations for the phenomena are presented. The first is summed up as: The more information companies can get from consumers, the more money they can make.

The second claimed force behind the alleged increase in privacy violations is described in a long, and largely unsubstantiated, attack on the mental capacity of consumers. The report blames shoppers for the increase in breaches, asserting that all of us consumers are irrational. The opening examples used by the authors don’t relate well to this notion.

 

Consumers are Irrational?

Hackers stealing Home Depot’s credit and debit card databases are apparently evidence of consumer incompetence. While a shopper with extensive training in risk evaluation might have an advantage in identifying on-line security factors, would even widespread education of this nature prevent criminal activity? How does this illegal activity reflect on the mental capacity of shoppers?

If a bank is robbed, are clients to be diagnosed as cognitively crippled if they continue to do business with banks?

Another example used in the article also misses the point. Regardless of the details, the unexpected result of one teenager’s disclosure of personal information to one retailer (Target), is insufficient evidence to condemn all consumers as mentally incompetent. It doesn’t support the idea that the unfortunate teen is, either. And was the retailer really out of line? With the regulations as they are, it doesn’t seem likely.

 

Appeals to Authority?

 

A mere mention of decades of research in the behavioral sciences, with no citations or references given, is misused to lend credence to idea of widespread lack of cognitive apparatus and motivation in consumers. The deficiencies are said to be complicated by inconsistencies of attitude and behavior. Apparently some people – described as outraged by the events at Home Depot and Target – reveal personal information themselves by posting about their vacations, purchases and whereabouts on Facebook.

The actual inconsistencies are not described and blithely condemned as reckless behavior. What they might have to do with posting on Facebook isn’t revealed, but alleged causes of the unidentified inconsistencies are given:

1 – Consumers are limited processors of information.

 

I have to disagree. Consumer access to clear, relevant, understandable information is what’s limited.

 

2 – Consumers are susceptible to cognitive laziness.

 

Again, I disagree. Conjuring the hasty conclusion of laziness is misleading and prejudiced. Hunger, fatigue, stress, time constraints, illness, lack of information, just to name a few factors, affect human cognition regardless of training, experience, educational or professional level. We know we have to avoid decision-making when under-par, but blunders do happen. Blaming them on laziness is inaccurate.

 

3 – It is difficult for consumers to anticipate the ways in which their information might be made vulnerable.

 

No kidding? Without adequate regulation, even acceptable collection of information is prone to abuse. Consumers shouldn’t have to anticipate. Those who ask for the data should.

 

4 – Consumers are increasingly displaying impulsive behaviour online.

 

No valid evidence is citied for this claim. Instead, the author takes the slippery slope. The spectre of dire consequences due to reckless sharing of extremely sensitive information is strongly promoted, then dubiously associated with impulse buying. Amazon’s one-click shopping button is singled out as the demon.

Amazon doesn’t motivate people to behave irrationally and give up sensitive personal information. Before the one-click button can be used, customers give the usual purchase and shipping information they would provide any other retailer, on-line or off.  Return customers appreciate not having to repeat this process with every visit. Amazon guarantees the security of this necessary information. the company also uses the stored information to streamline order fulfillment. Using the button in no way involves information that shouldn’t be disclosed to the retailer. And how using this button tells anyone whether shoppers are behaving impulsively or not, isn’t explained, either.

 

It’s All In the Interpretation

 

The food and restaurant industries are lauded for improving customer awareness. Grade cards displayed by restaurants in Los Angeles County, California are cited as a public education measure and credited with reducing the number of food poisoning cases. The cards do disclose to potential customers which establishments actually pass inspection. No more guessing. But it wasn’t the consumers that needed educating. Diners getting sick provided all the education required. Their complaints – along with those from the health care system – led to stiffer rules and disclosure requirements for restaurants. Stepped-up government regulations enforced by inspections and fines for poor hygiene reduced the food poisoning cases, not cards in windows.

And did the food industry volunteer to reveal product ingredients and add nutrition labeling? Regulation forced labeling – fuelled by persistent consumer demand  for it. And the demand is ongoing. We should have the right to know what we’re eating – particularly those of us with life threating allergies. And many are opposed to undeclared genetically engineered substances being passed off as natural food. It’s obvious that the majority of manufacturers aren’t about to disclose unless legally required to. Which brings us to the next point:

Pro-Business Bias

 

The authors’ promote the idea that some nudging is all businesses need to get them to try a little harder to protect the information they request.  And perhaps businesses should be held accountable for violations, even though it’s really is all the consumers’ fault. Nice touch.

Development of free-market products to protect consumers is advocated. Safe-guarding of consumer privacy is high-jacked by yet another way to enable profiting while avoiding responsibility. Skip it. Enact and enforce stiff regulations and fines for businesses that ask for, then fail to secure or other-wise abuse, personal information. Businesses that take consumer privacy seriously have nothing to worry about. What works for the food industry will work for the on-line shopping industry.

 

Bottom Line: Who Minds our Minds?

 

It does sound as though the authors would prefer it if everyone just take it for granted that we are so cognitively limited and handicapped, that special measures must be devised to manipulate our choices to ones deemed to acceptable. And who gets to define acceptable, I shudder to contemplate.

 

Links to Rotman School of Business and latest version of the article below:

http://inside.rotman.utoronto.ca/behaviouraleconomicsinaction/about/ Globe and Mail – Leadership Lab

and one more little reminder:

Daniel Kahneman and Underpowered Studies

 

solar and wind rock

Solar and Wind Energy Aren’t About Cheap – They’re About Saving the Environment

It’s been obvious for decades that depending on conventional power must end. Nuclear generation is no exception. This article in Forbes Magazine – If Solar And Wind Are So Cheap, Why Are They Making Electricity So Expensive? by Michael Shellenberger – leaves critically important information out in the cold. The most glaring omission is his failure to disclose his advocacy on behalf of nuclear power.His full Bio is here.

 

The True Costs of Energy

 

The author’s speculation about pricing in the conventional and fledgling alternative energy sectors amount to nothing more than distractions – red herrings. Context matters. Not long ago, the alternative route was prohibitively expensive. Only recently have costs dropped to a point where the investment can be seen to pay out in the long run. Cheaper today, yes – but still not cheap.

The new solar and wind technology must also first build it’s infrastructure. The initial costs can’t reasonably be compared to existing, mature systems.

All energy technologies were heavily subsidized in the beginning to offset high first-time expenditures. Typically, tax dollars shouldered the lion’s share. The consumer is dinged more directly than in the past to cover this latest start-up.

There are many bugs in the new system yet to be worked out. Inefficiencies, while they should be declared up front, are common when new technology rolls out.

As start-up costs are recovered and adaptation to the new kind of supply structure stabilizes, the price of the product will more reflect the actual generation and delivery costs.

The short-term pain is accepted in favor of the long term gain.

 

More Comparing of Nuclear and Conventional Apples to

Solar and Wind Oranges

 

Three heavy users of nuclear power are claimed to have the lowest energy costs. And a few areas where costs have increased are linked with closure of nuclear generating plants.

It’s obvious that areas not paying for new infrastructure will be laying out less money than those who’ve made the commitment to replace unsustainable technology.

Let’s not forget that decommissioning a power plant isn’t free or a close-it-and-forget-about-it deal.

Leaving these factors out skews the context enormously. There is mention of the fracking revolution, but it seems rather detached from the latest economic reports. But I digress. What is the main point?

 

The Real Costs of Nuclear Energy that

Solar and Wind Stop Cold

 

Safe, or economically attractive, ways to deal with nuclear leavings and their endless after-effects don’t exist. And we are all are inescapably stuck paying for the pursuit of managing it all.

The health-care and tax bills that result keep growing and will continue to do so.

Who had the right to paint humanity into this corner?

Unfortunately, even a total moratorium on nuclear-related activity is no more than a band-aid. And for the countless numbers of people and environments already impacted, it’s far too little done far too late.

There’s no escaping the burden of attempting to protect health and rights for ourselves, and all who come after us.

 

Money Does NOT Talk – or Think, Either

 

Just mull of over how different things would be had those responsible for allowing nuclear industry in the first place used their common sense instead of their calculators?

How would it be if they’d put the health of the planet we all depend on, first – even if critical thinking wasn’t their forte? How would it be now if the effort went into solar and wind power forty years ago?

At the very least, we’d be free of the ongoing human and economic costs of disasters already created. And we’d also be free of the constant effort required to ensure there are no more.

 

Nuclear Power Has Always Been the Wrong Way
Down a One Way Street

 

The mental and financial energy wastefully and misguidedly poured into nuclear development would have been available to create sensible power – and medical – solutions long ago.

People have lived on Earth without electricity for all but the equivalent of a mere blink in our history. We can easily adapt to doing with far less than we currently use.

This action would make solar and wind even more effective. And we’d have a far easier time of eliminating any more poisonous additions to our environment.

 

There Sure is More Than One Side to The
Nuclear Story

 

Among the many citations on Mr Shellenberger’s Bio Page is a TED talk called How Fear of Nuclear Hurts the Environment.

Those who understand the reality of radiation pollution are not reacting out of fear and ignorance. They are actively working to protect human health and that of the planet. Anyone claiming otherwise is making a gross misrepresentation.

I whole-heartedly agree with the reasoning that obligation to report fairly and accurately must be upheld on all issues.

The surviving victims of the nuclear industry are equally and legally entitled to be heard without pre-judgment. And this counts for those affected – but don’t know it, yet.

The people who labor and research to help them – and us all by default – also have the same right to be fairly represented.

 

Our Descendants Have Been Robbed of Their Rightful Say on the Nuclear Legacy

 

Pandora should never have been let out of the box. But we can – we must – decide to do far, far better from here on in. There are many alternatives already. There are sure to be many more discovered.

Some may think it too expensive, but this is relative to whether they just consider at- the-tap dollars and cents or the true, never-ending price. The bottom-line is environmental safety, not money.

Links:

 

Pilgrim Nuclear Plant in Massachusetts to Close by 2019, Owner Says

Historic Nuclear Waste

Kennetcook Still Nova Scotia’s Ground Zero

Materials on Radioactive Shale Gas Drilling Waste

 

human rights

The Educational System is Not A War Zone

The war against bad teachers is in full swing according to this report. Teacher tenure is believed by some to protect the worst teachers. This is apparently sufficient justification for fighting to eliminate it. And I do appreciate the author passing on the news, but do google it. There are many other articles discussing  the woes in the educational field.

Tenure certainly isn’t the only target.

A study mentioned in the same report, released in 2012 by economist Raj Chetty, claims that one year of exposure to the worst teaching could cost a class full of kids 1.4 million dollars in adult income.

The research is based on English and Math scores compared to tax earnings.

A very interesting study, and a lot of water has gone under the bridge since it’s debut. But Mr Chetty’s conclusion is still generating oodles of controversy, so I include it:

 

Reward high value teachers and fire low value ones.

 

Don’t bother to investigate what led to the disparity in teaching quality? Just base everything on outcome? Just throw money at it? Nothing else to learn here, folks – move along?

 

What Does Standardization in Education Mean?

 

Can you imagine a system for building a basic, reliable car where the rules differ, not just in every region, but even routinely diverge between manufacturing plants? Even from individual worker to worker? It might be considered miraculous that any of the cars turn out to be functional. It would certainly be no surprise that those from some areas fall apart, and that a mixture of results from each region are also noted. But instead of implementing a consistent standard for all, differences in manufacture are examined and fought about endlessly.

Rather than prompt us to come up with a workable, effective blueprint to guarantee quality, all eyes go to the failures. And from these are generated endless blame. All efforts focus on correcting minutiae, case by case, sometimes all the way to the top levels of the courts.

Laws definitely matter, but don’t do much good if they aren’t uniform or are inconsistently applied. Since the educational laws are in obvious disarray, it would make sense to begin with putting them straight, wouldn’t it?

If there’s no standard, there’s no basis for quality assurance – and no way to evaluate properly, either.

Blaming and extolling – labeling teachers as bad or good, high or low value, or what ever black or white categorization is currently in vogue, are reasoning errors for a reason. Wars and fights, too, come of faulty reasoning – not to mention much of this isn’t even legal.

Theses approaches are inexcusable substitutes for properly thought-out action.

 

All Kids are Entitled to an Education

 

Does anyone dispute that all children should have the right to learn properly? In order for this to happen, laws must be universal and strictly held to. Regional, or any other variation, is not allowed. It isn’t about testing, tenure, pay-checks, or any of the other red herrings commonly mistaken for cause.

It isn’t about groups or individuals, regions, or any other imaginary subdivision. Everyone in the educational system must learn and hold to the same rules.

The basic laws already exist and come ahead of all others. They are the very foundation of reasoning and consistent development of common sense.

 

Authority is Not a Person or a Group

 

These basic laws are the authority. No matter what level of responsibility any individual or group occupies in the system, all are responsible to – and are never above – them.

People who aren’t consistently taught about human and civil rights don’t understand them properly – and don’t know how to protect – much less teach others – about them. Think back to your own school days. Which teachers did you do best with? The ones who consistently treated everyone fairly and equitably? What about those who favored some over others or maintained other biased practices?

Can kids be expected to learn about and respect fundamental laws from educators and proponents who assume that declaring war, fighting, blaming and singling people out for attack are acceptable means?

Should we just assume that monetary reward and hiring and firing practices are solutions, rather than band-aids? Is the value of an education all about how much we earn later on? Turn the clock back a few hundred years. Was winding up financially well off on the labour of slaves any measure of quality? Anyone can become successful if they have the means to keep others working – or even thinking – for them. Remove the money. What’s left?

 

 

Rights are for Everyone

 

Discrimination is a huge and illegal barrier to effective learning – and quite a bit more. No one learns properly in a biased atmosphere, no matter which side of the line they are on.

Solid common sense relies on solid understanding of the rules. Without this understanding, what’s viewed as progress is no more than a series of patch jobs. The same old problems keep cropping up as the band-aids fall off. Even those who do manage to learn well don’t reach potential. And over time, the errors keep eroding progress until there are so many problems, the majority lose hope of ever straightening the mess out.

 

I shot an arrow into the air and where it lands, I know not where.

 

Standard Law of Gravity – what goes up must come down. We learn common sense by experience, to a point. But if we want a better educational – or any other kind of – system, we must maintain a steady and accurate aim. The primary goal is to repair the core issue – making the rules – and the value of the reasoning behind them – understandable to everyone.

Confidence comes of knowing what’s fair and equitable. Many of us gained much of our determination by struggling against firmly entrenched rights infringements. Doing it this way works, but there are far better alternatives. Teaching kids directly to protect their own and others rights eliminates time wasted on unreasonable distraction. The mind’s energy is freed from this unnecessary detour.

 

The real point – learning – receives the attention it deserves.

 

This kind of education is independent of situation, location, circumstances or subject. Standing up for and protecting the laws that protect us all – and doing it in full respect of them – must become second nature. These values need to be in place as the heart and brains of the system. And any laws – along with the mish-mash of reasoning errors currently making the rounds – that don’t back this goal must be eliminated or altered appropriately, ASAP.

Very few of us have had the opportunity to learn how to learn as well as we’re capable of, but there’s no time like the present to stop the battles and move forward.

https://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html

 

 

compassion

Compassion is the Main Course

Definition of compassion:  sympathetic consciousness of  others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.

  –Merriam Webster

Is it a case of needing a bunch of new words and  definitions? The dictionary doesn’t help out much. The  compassion word is found attached to a dizzying array of meanings.

I read and hear it tossed around plenty, most often with no offer of help with the chef’s interpretation. Left to flounder, I usually skip even trying to figure it out – especially when mentioned in this kind of statement:

 

So-and-so lacks compassion.


My mind processes these words into, Blah, blah, blah. To make sense of it, I’ve created a meal out of my own ingredients. I’ll  throw in sympathy and empathy for a more examples of words with confusing, contradicting, and conflicting meanings. Here are my versions:

 

Sympathy: considering what others express from my own context.

Empathy: considering what others express from their context.

 

Where  sympathy or empathy, in the sense of the dictionary meanings, might interfere with clear thinking, people may respond with compassion. Medical professionals are responsible for the health and safety of many. They would be hard put to empathize or sympathize – as the dictionary defines the words – to any degree in the course of a typical day. While kindness is always welcome, it’s secondary to the chief aim: alleviating suffering, injury, and illness – taking the well being of each patient into regard in light of the best possible outcome.

 

It might not seem compassionate for those on the receiving end, but there’s usually a tacit understanding. Although the broken leg really hurts and  treatment may hurt even worse, the expectation is one of short term pain for long term gain.

 

It’s clear that the doctors, nurses and support staff are putting their energy into what matters most to any patient: restored health. And many view this goal as the main ingredient of compassion. Not getting help could be permanently crippling, and most will endure the smaller harm to avoid the larger one – could we call this self-compassion?

 

A Larger Compassionate Idea


Prescriptions are written to treat disease, reduce pain, or otherwise aim to improve quality of health. Taking medication controls or cures many conditions. Creating and making medicine available is widely considered as compassionate action.

 

Pharmaceuticals pass through the body and are eliminated. Most winds up at the municipal sewage treatment plant. Some drugs have toxic residues, and thousands, perhaps millions, of people contribute in this way to pollution that sewage treatment doesn’t, or only partially, removes. Some of these substances affect animals living in and near water adjacent to treatment plant release sites. Other animals feed on them and also might be affected. Some of the substances can wind up in drinking water supplies.

 

Really big picture compassion regards individual creatures or even sub-ecosystems in the context of:

 

What’s good for the planet comes first. Those who depend on it get what they get. Adaptation is the rule. Be quick and keep the goal in sight.


It might not be what the individual, or even huge groups, would prefer, but oh, well. Droughts, diseases and pests happen. Gentle rains, wild edibles and sunny, purifying, days do, too.

 

 

Smaller Picture Compassion – a Very Limited Diet

 


It’s accepted that icy roads must be dealt with. After all, poor road conditions lead to accidents, injury, even death. Extra energy directed at maintaining safety and productivity in general are also burdens. But the short-term benefits keep ice control at the top of the menu.

 

On the other hand, millions of tons of salt and other chemicals damage infrastructure and vehicles, contribute to pollution from mining activities, etc. The toxic substances leach into groundwater. Wells are contaminated. Affected ground water can poison the soil, seriously harming the ecosystem in stricken areas. In some places, leachate is moving towards –  or has already reached – freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds and streams.

 

There’s no practical way to clean things up at this time. With the top-heavy focus  on control, there are too few resources moving on finding viable solutions. The effect the de-icing stew has on wild life and drinking water supplies won’t cure itself. But the issue rarely makes it to the grocery list, much less to the dinner table discussion. How long will the short term gain over-ride the long term pain? Is this a key measure of compassion – the balancing of immediate goals against future consequences?

 

 

If a Common Definition and the Big Picture Came First …

 

 

The dictionary isn’t much help. Lack of a real, common meaning makes understanding damned iffy. A lot of time is wasted just defining meaning and concentrates on increasingly complex, but superficial, talk. The big picture is obscured and too often, the main point is missed.

 

Creative and effective ideas to inform action – the ideas being the equivalent of essential nutrients – wind up as occasional croûtons that turn up in a huge side of fancy-looking, but vitamin deficient, lettuce and dressing. Decisions derive from the poorest quality food and the outcomes aren’t healthy.

 

A simpler idea: My context, your context, the human context, the planet’s context.

 

But if you enjoy a tossed salad on occasion, here’s a link.

 

Bon appetite.

language

unhacking radical change

Unhacking Radical Change

 

It’s assumed that radical changes are needed to live within the resource boundaries of the planet. This idea reminds me of the saying attributed to Albert Einstein – “We can’t solve problems with the same thinking that led them.”

 

Is the idea of radical change a show-stopper?

 

It’s not rocket science. Each of us need clean air, water, food and shelter. There’s nothing radical about human needs – they simply need to be met. These days, the opportunity to be educated – to learn – it’s commonly thought of as need as well. This is fine, as long as we don’t trap the idea of education into the confines of “educational system”. There are so many ways to learn outside of this venue, it almost goes without saying that what ever conventional education a person has is just one piece of his or her mind-evolving launch pad. No matter what we’ve learned or how we’ve learned it to date, what counts is what we figure out from this point forward.

 

Energizing the Ideas

Electricity – both the generation and consumption – is just one resource hog of many. But what we can learn to do as we straighten out the balance here, applies to other places requiring attention. In many ways it isn’t even a case of learning – just using what we already know more effectively … uh, understanding better.

 

 

Home Power – Unhacked

Some think this is radical. It isn’t. It’s quite possible to meet needs for electricity with this. There’s nothing special, extreme, or otherwise freaky, about it. Billions would be happy to have this much electricity. What’s needed is to stop trying to meet wants. Sustainable energy with wants as a bottom line is a dead-end. When attempting to reduce and re-balance use, a clear distinction between want and need must be kept front dead-center while thinking.

 

The resources required to convert the typical western household, factory, school, grocery store, office building – or most other modern example of infrastructure – to renewable electricity isn’t feasible. Power is eaten up at levels far beyond anything sensible. Conservation is the foundation of alternative energy. Building the roof before the footings are in isn’t just lousy math.

 

 

Computers, Mind Power and Reality

 

Once needs are clearly defined, there’s something else to get into the picture. It’s not just about physical resources. If the brains poured into things such things as computers were directed to refrigeration, an affordable, sustainable fridge that runs on a 9 volt battery for years would be something we’d already take for granted.

 

It’s not difficult – or radical – to begin with foundations. Robotics, medical cures, fossil fuels, psychology, space travel, marketing etc., all chew up mega-tons of mind power. Redirecting the focus so the main effort goes to health – promoting, planet-respecting practices and technology in the areas of soil, water, heating, co-operatives, cooling, nutrition, reasoning … doesn’t take any more energy than the equivalent of turning the steering wheel a little.

 

Setting priorities properly and recognizing radical change for the ordinary, every-day stuff that it is lead the way to sustainable progress. We’ve been told since we were small to use our heads. Considering how best to do this and then getting it into gear belongs at the top of the to-do list.

A Good Life for All Within the Planet’s Means

 

Fair Rules

NAFTA and Property Rights – Canadians Ripped Off

The Investor State Dispute Settlement Provision – Chapter Eleven of NAFTA – has long been in dispute itself. And for very good reason.

Businesses from many other countries own land in Canada for commercial purposes. NAFTA rules allow these owners to sue for compensation should regulatory changes prevent them from using their property as they intend. If government introduces legislation that interferes with or stops development, these landowners can – and do – sue Canadian tax-payers for huge amounts of money.

Yet Canadian citizens and business have no such right to compensation. If any level of government changes the rules in ways that affect value, Canadians are forced to eat the loss.

The NAFTA rules are reprocial between member NAFTA countries, but Canadian owners are routinely treated as second-class. And don’t think it’s just the “little guy” taking the beating. Canadian corporations don’t rate, either. Canadian National Railway lost their case twice when the City of Vancouver decided to turn some of CN’s land into a “public space” sans compensation.

 

 

The Environment Matters – and So Do Rights

 

 

Sometimes there are sound reasons for restrictions and changes. There should be ways to halt environmentally risky land use. But the current laws are in sorry shape – and Canadians are paying through the nose because of them.

The regulatory rules skirt the expropriation laws. If land is expropriated, owners must give up title in exchange for payment. In a regulatory taking, the owner retains title.This little detail is the deeply entrenched – and lame – excuse used for not compensating financial loss caused by the taking.

Anyone who owns real property – including our personal residences –  deserves fair compensation if regulatory changes interfere with value. Canadian owners are wrongfully denied anything more than a break on their property taxes! And do the municipalities facing these tax losses get anything by way of compensation? No …

 

 

Using NAFTA Rules to Run All the Way to the Bank?

 

 

On the other hand, owners protected under the NAFTA agreement are often awarded in excess of fair value, courtesy of the tax-payer.

A recent case here in Nova Scotia: A company is suing under the agreement for $300 million plus costs for loss of potential income. Their quarry expansion plans were stopped at the environmental assessment stage.

And Ottawa has recently been ordered to hand $17.3 million over to Exxon Mobile and Murphy Oil due to Newfoundland and Labrador changing the rules in the middle of the game.

There are plenty more examples either in the midst of disputing, or already settled. Precedents are piling up. The trend is obvious and the costs are escalating.

 

 

Time to Level the Property Rights Playing Field

 

 

Many attempts have been made to straighten out Canadian property rights laws, but so far all have failed due to lack of support in Parliament. While any country has the right to stop land use that will cause serious environmental damage, the end must be accomplished by fair and reasonable means. Now’s the time to put this straight and insist that MP’s take property rights seriously. The top areas for focus:

Property owners losing out due to regulatory changes – especially ones they had no way to see coming – are owed compensation.

Preferential entitlement for NAFTA members is inequitable and prejudiced. All property owners deserve protection.

Settlement amounts need pre-set limits to avoid lengthy and costly court battles – and excessive awards and losses.

Disclosure of any proposed regulatory changes need to be made public.

Open-door policy for negotiation of proposed changes must be created both for NAFTA and Canadian legislation.

And, last-but-not-least, the free-hand needs to be removed from Canadian tax-payers’ and property owners’ pockets right now.

 

For a brief, comprehensive read on the regulatory taking situation in Canada, some insight into how it works in other countries for comparison – and how it could affect you as a Canadian property owner – I highly recommend:

Stealth Confiscation by Mark Milke

Human Intelligence

Intelligence In Waiting – Clearing the Way

As people devote more and more intelligence to specialties, how do the general “all-around” smarts come out at the end of the day? With the bulk of the effort concentrated on such thin slices of reality, the time – or energy – to gain and maintain awareness and competence in other areas can’t help but fall behind.

There are attempts to reduce the isolation. Universities are combining specialties to combat the silo effect, but it’s unlikely the net result will be enough to balance things out.

As the roads to knowledge continue to divide, the common pool of information we all count on to learn from is over-loaded. The basic skills people share with the rest of Earth’s creatures – the ones nature develops to allow survival unaided in the world – are somewhat flexible. The environment is subject to change, and it seems the capacity to adapt is built in. But we don’t get to choose which features change, or how long it takes – so far.

Luckily people have the special option of adding to basic competency without waiting for nature to morph us. We make use of this feature quite a bit. But substitution, rather than addition, has become typical. How many are there left who’ve learned well enough to maintain as nature designed? And we’re adding more layers to this dilemma. Concern is growing. Are some technologies – and attitudes – interfering with learning how to use the skills we count on to learn in the first place?

 

What Builds Brain Power?

Literacy lit a fire under ingenuity. This more effective way to share knowledge and improve understanding spread across the globe. But these days, it’s being crowded out in favor of scanning, viewing, listening – methods of information intake with quite different effects on the brain and learning. What the result will be isn’t clear, but it might be time to remind ourselves :

 

There’s nothing yet discovered nearly as complex as the human mind.

Only the barest beginning has been made in exploring this potential.

 

We hear all about advances in artificial intelligence. But where do we find out about effective ways to improve on our own? Incessant sensationalizing is usually featured with news of the clever machines – along with bashing human intelligence. And what’s left out of the up-sell?

 

Human minds are so different from machine imitations, there’s no way to compare.

People use their minds to invent and refine some really useful tools, but the real action is between our ears.

And … finding out how to do the absolute best with what we have must be moved to the top of the research pile.

 

De-specialize, Adapt … or Something More?

 

We learn continuously, even if we don’t much notice. But the call is to do it more consciously, since it has so many benefits. At the very least, it seems to be the equivalent of exercise. Use it or lose it, applies to more than just our muscles. Some work out by trying to keep up with all the specializing going on … but there must be easier options.

 

Maybe it isn’t so much the subdividing of learning we should be concerned with. It’s a huge universe. Just keeping up with investigating ourselves and the planet could take millions of thinkers. A way around specializing doesn’t seem possible, given what we know at the moment, anyway. So what can be done to make important information readily accessible and understandable for specialist and non specialist people alike?

 

Maybe we take communication too much for granted but it’s central to clear thinking. Plain, direct and accurate terms would go a long way to improve cross-talk between specialties. To help the general audience stay in the loop, we have to insist those responsible for reporting, do it … responsibly.

 

Media Muck

 

It’s no secret that current news spreading habits have serious deficiencies … sensationalizing is just one unwelcome pain-in-the-brain to be rid of. Halting the endless spin-doctoring that’s choking our primary learning channels would be an awesome move forward. Imagine sitting down to a smooth, uncomplicated time-out to catch up with what’s really going on. Wouldn’t this be a refreshing change? It might even be healthier for us.

 

Sure, the mental equivalent of slogging through a swamp full of nonsense in hope of finding something of substance is exercise. But would anyone just exercise one leg or one arm? By the time we’ve dug through all the useless – and too often misleading – verbiage, there isn’t much energy left to go hunting for something worth bothering with. And the kind of thinking that needs the work-out the most doesn’t even get a warm-up!

 

Manipulative Reporting

 

The distinction between entertainment and reporting new information has become almost non-existent in every form of media. It’s time to demand it’s return. Reports don’t have to be boring, but do need to stick tight with reality. When most of the information is only included to create the immersive experience, there’s no room left for the news!

 

Junk-free access to information is just a start on improving communication and understanding. But as the trash disappears, under-served ways of thinking regain their share of the juice. And with this, more ideas for adding improvements come along. Once these settle in, even more ideas have the chance to appear. In time, pumping-up-the-mind moves towards a self-sustaining, balanced routine of aware, continuous learning.

 

It’s often said, What we can imagine, we can achieve. It might not be entirely the case, but with the potential we have just hanging around, fretting about limits could be a little premature.

 

Decoding the Most Complex Object in the Universe

 

Thoughts

The Other Side Of Mind – New Frontiers

Nature provides, but how it all comes about is still one of life’s biggest mysteries. And mind is a concept of widely – and frequently wildly – differing interpretations. Where nature and mind meet, we find the burning question – how do we evolve awareness and thinking?

Few answers, but would it be a surprise to find that improving on accurate understanding of reality is at least on the agenda? If survival and reproduction are basic biological imperatives, then mastery of figuring out what’s really going on would be a huge contributor to ensuring we continue as a species into the future.

 

It’s not hard to imagine that the better we are at reality checking, the fewer potentially lethal errors we’ll make. But there’s still so much we don’t know. The idea of there being a top end to having a solid handle on it all seems a little remote. There are signs of progress, though – and some obvious clues of what to pay attention to.

The spread of literacy sparked an upsurge in human curiosity. Inventiveness really took off. The most notable activity has been in the:

 

What You See Isn’t What You Get Department

 

People have come up with theories and tools that make what’s invisible – and beyond our capacity to hear, feel, smell, or taste, real to us in ways we wouldn’t have much hope of ever developing naturally – at least as far as we know at this point. But this kind of ingenuity – moving us from our concrete experience of ourselves, each other, and the world – to what exists but can only be understood indirectly, points to what needs more attention.

Objective thinking – our logical, critical, empirical and ethical ways of understanding reality have their subjecting thinking counterparts: curiosity, intuition, imagination and prediction. And these last four faculties are the most needed when attempting to discover what’s for real in the invisible world. How is it that subjective mind – and the highly useful thinking it generates – not only gets the least attention, what little it does get isn’t very supportive? In fact, at times, the attitudes of many out-and-out undermine it.

Ideas Whose Time Came Along

 

Back in the day, many inventors – and other alternative thinkers –  were viewed with suspicion. Theorists mostly kept their ideas to themselves and might not ever let them out of the bag unless they could come up with a workable way to demonstrate. Those who managed to come up with useful machines sometimes managed to convince the “right” people to pay attention. But who knows how many viable possibilities never saw the light of day?

No matter how doubting a person might be about intuitive and other subjective aspects of mind, it would be hard to imagine he or she wouldn’t appreciate the Geiger counter. It’s quite nice to be able to test for radioactivity and avoid death. And without the help of subjective mind, such a gadget would never have been conceived.

Airplanes out on air – something we only notice by touch, unless it’s blowing what’s visible or smell-able around. Diagnostic tools such as x-ray machines, CAT scanners are medical staples that make great use of what human senses just can’t pick up. Little things we so take for granted – radio, TV, computers, microwave ovens – all relied on using the other half of mind to explore what might be just out of reach of human energy detection.

Let’s face it, most of what we’re taught only considers the objective. The rest is limited to what’s regarded as proven – and widely taken advantage of for objective purposes. To go any further than this, we’re pretty much on our own. But even with all the evidence available, the subjective side of understanding reality can still rile up resistance from those who write intuitive thinking off as impossible, or worse.

Making the Most of What We Have Upstairs

 

The firing up of thinking capacity that reading seems to have triggered, has speeded progress. It’s possible that some of this savvy has at least somewhat altered human intelligence in heritable ways. Unfortunately, epigenetics is just at it’s beginning – only time will tell. But think of the potential if subjective mind were better understood and developed, even if nothing that could be passed on came of it. What kinds non – genetic evolving over generations might this might encourage?

What we can’t detect by biological means is the usual in our environment – and perhaps well outside of it. And this situation is reflected by the workings of our own minds. Learning to understand the kind of thinking best suited to deal with this reality rates at least equal time with the more conventional ways of inquiring and sussing things out. What’s yet to be detected between our own ears matters. It isn’t as though intuitive intelligence hasn’t demonstrated it’s incredible usefulness in concrete terms. Minds were meant to evolve – and the invisible possibilities here are begging for our notice.

End Discrimination

Gender Equality is the Tip of the Iceberg

 

We have been fighting the gender pay gap for decades, we have tried everything,” Ms. Traustadóttir says. She says the most important principle behind the new law is to ensure equal pay for work of equal value.

 

 

 

The pay equity gap has resisted change for forty years – along with other even more serious consequences of discrimination – everywhere you care to look. Sexism is blamed again and again, but the problem seems impossible to resolve. The saying, ” Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results isn’t sensible, ” comes to mind. What also comes to mind is that isms – you know, ageism, sexism, racism … – have been accepted as causes of unfair practices and attitudes.

 

Is this habit of categorizing blocking information? What could be missing? Many are targeted with pre-judgment – sweeping generalizations about groups of people without regard for facts or consideration for human rights. I also notice that each group has long fought to gain parity with those who’s rights are better respected  – but still haven’t reached the goal. Maybe the isms, and the blame that goes with them aren’t causes. Maybe they are symptoms. And every single discriminatory one of them follow a similar pattern – people are reduced to objects of contempt, one way or another. Whether considered only deserving of low pay, not being hired at all, not fit to associate with, or a target to be taken advantage of, the source of the ignorance fits this profile:

 

Narcissistic viewpoint regards other people as property, belongings. Similarity and agreement are highly valued and more likely to be rewarded – and jealously controlled. Those viewed as being different or in disagreement are discounted, used, rejected, abandoned or driven off or attacked.

 

We’re born stuck in our own context – and as we grow up we learn that other people count as much as we do. We’re taught about human rights, rules, and various civic laws intended to protect us all from unfair and inequitable treatment. But some narcissistic habits manage to hang on. And some of these habits are so common they still seem acceptable to large majorities.

 

As people learn beyond society’s habits, the discriminatory discrepancies are recognized as interference with rights. The ones who catch on manage to show others, but can’t get across to everyone. Part of the reason for this could simply be mistaking the symptoms for the cause. But until the real cause is identified correctly, continued tough going can be expected. Punishment won’t eliminate it. No matter how stiff the band-aid applied to the symptoms, a full cure won’t be easily discover-able or reachable.

 

I’m not saying that there shouldn’t be penalties for breaking human rights and employment laws. But for effective – and permanent – solutions, the real cause has to be dealt with and the education caught up. The voluntary measures should have worked and clearly haven’t – and not just in Iceland. And it’s sure not just about pay equity. Discrimination never seems to sleep, and the reverse reaction to it is too often as biased – and even narcissistic – as the prejudice that triggered it.

 

Iceland’s latest attempt starts top down – and only takes one group into account. But for the rest of us, there are opportunities to contribute. It doesn’t really matter the category when hanging out in the locker-room, the back-room, or the board room. If the talk is narcissistic, it’s time for a change. Rights and fair treatment are for everyone. Shift to this view-point, rather than holding tight to ineffective, categorized groups and labels. No one deserves to be discriminated against. Every single voice counts equally in the need to make upholding the laws typical – and resorting to punishment as a control a thing of the past. One unanimous very well-informed group could be just the solution we’re searching for. Get the superficial patching up out of the way. Better answers are waiting just below the surface.

 

insomnia

Science That Will Keep You Up Nights

 

The news on research quality could be better. According to The Natural Selection of Bad Science, a new paper by Paul E Smaldino and Richard McElreath, Department of Cognitive Science , University of California/Max Planck Institute:

 

Poor use of methods in scientific research persist, in part, because of incentives that favor it. The most prolific publishers are the most successful, but the quality of work suffers. The professors note that replication helps, but state that “change must happen at the institutional level if there is to be any improvement.” 

 

Another Possible Factor — Asleep at the Wheel? The Insomnia Study

 

Over-catergorization — of the sort that amounts to pre-judgement — is a frequent find if you’re looking for mind-sets that undermine the purpose of science.

But here’s a recent example of miss-categorizing altogether.

Thanks to the contribution of 23andMe customers, who’ve allowed the results of their personal genetic tests to be used for genetic studies, researchers had access to data from 1,331,010 people, to do what they are calling a genome — wide study of insomnia.

 

Quantity vs Quality

 

It most certainly is a huge study per the field of genetics — the biggest one to date, in fact. But despite the unprecedented amount of data — “genome-wide” is a bit of a stretch. And, although such testing has great potential, at this point only a tiny percentage of a person’s genetic information is revealed.

Genetic science has only just begun to examine each little bit of DNA, called SNP’s (single nucleotide polymorphisms). There are vast numbers of SNP’s to be fully evaluated. Much of the research is at a very tentative stage. There are decades worth of work to test and replicate it all yet to be done.

So, while I was initially pretty excited by the announcement that a study of this size has finally become reality, I was completely let down by the researchers’ opening statement:

 

“Insomnia is the second-most prevalent mental disorder … “ Say, what?

 

Mental disorder? How on earth has sleeplessness come to be categorized as a mental disorder? Where is the evidence to back this claim? With so many factors to consider, and with the research to date so limited, there’s no reasonable basis for classifying insomnia as anything but a symptom. The researchers’ conclusion is entirely inappropriate.

The folks consenting to the use of their genomic data in this, and any other, study might want to sit up and take a look-see, here. I’ll definitely be paying much closer attention, not just to what the data is being used for, but also to the interpretations.

Critical analysis counts, and it’s obvious something has run amok. For science to be worth doing, it absolutely must be done properly. The assumption that insomnia is a major cause of mental disorder is just plain over the top.

 

Responsibility — It’s Time to Take it Seriously

 

If researchers want access to personal data, they need to be damned sure they’re using it strictly to rule. Jumping to conclusions rates as the baddest of bad science. Big numbers don’t count for much if the data isn’t evaluated accurately.

Genetic testing companies also have a deep responsibility — to protect their clients’ information. How their data is used in this investigation gets a big thumbs down!

And, while it’s heartening to see that reasons behind bad science are being looked at, more effort is needed to over-see and correct errors right now, no matter what the excuses for it turn out to be.

 

Contributors to this study are listed as: VU University, Karolinska Institutet, Utrecht University, Erasmus University Medical Center, 23andMe, Inc.,University of North Carolina; Pre-print of abstract link here.

 

 
discrimination

Over-Categorization is for the Birds

 

 

You’ve seen the signs: Women’s Parking Only. The biggest complaint is it’s discriminatory. And yes, we get the point. But we might miss this one: over-categorization – taking it way too far – which often distracts from much more important information. In this case, the laws intended to protect people from harm need to be enforced. Creating special parking to control crime doesn’t work. It’s the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a broken leg. And along with the distraction over-categorizing leads to, we have another source – over-generalization.

 

We aren’t trees – we can move.

Sure. Some can afford to call a moving van, pack it all up and truck off to Happy Land just like that! Takes money, though. But what does this have to do with categories?

 

 

The Third World … an Imaginary Category

 

 

We all have the same right to live where we choose, but we don’t get to pick where we’re born. And chances are very good we don’t get to decide if the powers-that-be contribute to war or other grossly discriminatory action – and put innocent people in harm’s way. Some have a great need to move, but can’t without a lot of help.

 

But what would help the most? The money and effort poured into militarism would go a long, long way to repair, restore, and otherwise make sustainable, habitable and arable, areas of the planet devastated by war – and it’s fall-out – in the first place. People wouldn’t be forced to move nearly so often – maybe not at all. But the calls to end war do nothing. Those who won’t consider and end to war are too numerous.  Education is still lacking. We have to look else where to help with useful change, for now.

 

War fall-out reaches far and wide from the original targets. As people who do find a way to move, along with those who choose to immigrate, spread out around the globe, more over-categorization shows up in the wake.

 

Discrimination:

Age

Gender

Income

Appearance

Ability

… and so on …

Are you asking why this last list is over-categorizing?

humans - no categories

 

It’s just another bunch of labels – pre-judged pigeon-holes to stuff folks into. Time to turn it around.

 

One People Living on One World

Discriminating against one discriminates against all – UN Tolerance Day Learning to identify – and quit – discriminating, is what’s needed. And forgetting about categories is something we all can do to get rid of discrimination faster. Our rights are all the same. It doesn’t matter who or where we are, whether we’re coming, going, or staying put. We need to support each other, not divide up. Let go of the previously decided ideas – let more possibilities in. It’s a big world, a huge neighborhood, and an incredible amount of human potential.

Self Esteem – In Other Words?

Well, the dictionary doesn’t help much:

 

Self Esteem:

1: A confidence and satisfaction in oneself

2: Self conceit

 

I hear the most about low self esteem – those who don’t think themselves good enough. Good enough doesn’t tell us much either. I can’t imagine trying to assess my own self esteem this way, but I’ve heard and read of it plainly intended as something meaningful – as something I should be able to interpret and use a standard. But good enough compared to what or who? And what do comparisons have to do with it?

Another common definition is the sense of how capable one is. OK, confidence counts, but a can-do or a can-learn attitude doesn’t guarantee that a person has good enough self esteem. There’s some talk of liking – or even loving – ourselves, respecting ourselves, knowing where we fit in. But none of this hits the nail on the head, either.

 

Value, Worth … or Respect?

 

Even the word esteem might not be the greatest choice. It implies value. And this idea carries a simplistic, superficial quality that seems more appropriate for property. People certainly aren’t property!

We hold many things in high esteem – gold is called precious due to it’s high monetary value. Sometimes people are tagged as precious, too. And sometimes this is just a bit too, too.

High self esteem fits the dictionary description of self conceit fairly close. This attitude is we run up against idealizing, aggrandizing, entitlement.

But we’re stuck with the inadequate words for the time being, at least, so I’ll try to make the best of it. Esteeming people might be viewed as recognizing each and every one of us has our own potential. While potential isn’t equal or identical for each, the opportunity for growth within it is.

 

Potential Plus

 

But I began with self esteem, didn’t I? Hmmm … the word self leaves something to be desired, too. Esteem only considered in the self-context just doesn’t work very well. What ever my views of my own potential, I can’t seem to get away from the idea that to keep my assessment of my own potential in perspective, I have to be aware of everyone else.

Those who have solid self esteem, although they tend to work toward their goals on their own, are found to work with ideas and activities that help others reach their own potential in some way or another. It isn’t just about themselves.

There are just too many examples of those who have all the appearance of success, but obviously hit the heights at the expense of others. Respect for people’s potential is low or even missing altogether. Interference with, rather than support of, others progress is typical. The idea that real self-esteem needs to be co-operative with other esteem to hold it’s own stands out.

 

Context and Balance

 

This is getting windy, so I’ll attempt to pare it down some:

Balanced Esteem – respect for and understanding of, one’s own potential in the context of respect for, and understanding of, everyone’s potential.

And maybe, rather than going along with the popular drive to be successful, discovering more about, and setting off in directions more in keeping with, our individual possibilities, even if they aren’t typical, might be the most balanced esteem promoting goal.

The Ig Nobels 2017 – A Didgeridoo for You, Too

Sleep ApnoeaWho’d of thunk it? Researchers have been awarded the Ig Nobel Peace Prize (Switzerland, Canada, The Netherlands, USA) for results that are the first to show that training of the upper airways significantly improves sleep related outcome. The aim was to determine if this training could reduce daytime sleepiness in those with sleep-apnoea and snoring related difficulties and was accomplished by playing a didgeridoo for at least twenty minutes on at least five days per week.

Want to check out more of the 2017 Ig Nobel Awards? Link Here

Genetic or Learned–Process or Progress?

 

genes or mindsHeritability as a means to predict learning outcomes? This review of  what schools can be expected to achieve in light of scientific evidence on cognitive ability – by Leon Feinstein lays it out clearly how dicey deciding on a genetic basis can be.

Reading of all this complexity, for some reason, reminded me of the multitude of lists I find all over the Internet that pound on the rules kids should be taught at home. I used to wonder if all this repetition indicated a popular belief – that many children aren’t taught the basics prior to attending school.

 

From Impulse to Competence

 

By the time they start school, kids have heard many rules. They’ve started to acquire personal awareness and decision-making skills – but they aren’t finished, yet! They still look around to find examples to follow, or who to ask. And the opportunity to learn how to think things through for themselves, even if they notice it would be a good idea, might not happen as often as taken for granted.

 

The reasoning behind the rules isn’t much talked about. Kids are simply expected to obey, backed up by correction. Any explaining is usually confined to consequences. And when they get to school – a completely different place than familiar, comfortable, home or day care – the number of rules to remember keeps increasing.

 

How often is any child thinking, I wouldn’t be allowed to do that at home, I probably shouldn’t be doing it in class? Again, they’re more likely to follow the lead of other children, than remember rules. And even more likely to follow, as work-loads and distraction levels increase.

 

An Ounce of Prevention

 

It’s easy to tell a child what to do, such as, Stop wiping your nose on your sleeve if you don’t mind saying it over and over. It takes a little longer to add, If you don’t have a Kleenex, there’s a box on the corner shelf. Please take one if you need it. A short discussion about the health benefits of using Kleenex and how important it is to have some handy takes even longer. But isn’t the second approach more likely to result in remembering to carry and use a tissue?

 

How many similar teaching opportunities are there in a day? No matter where a child is learning, making the most of explaining reasoning behind our everyday rules adds to the thinking-things-through skills for all.

 

A lot of energy goes into jawing about what kids should know but don’t, followed by finding something or someone to blame. What about putting the effort into considering how to increase awareness all along the way? Is there something the matter with with sharing rational information with children? Understanding takes longer in the short term, but by reducing repetition and errors, speeds things up over all.

 

And if there’s anything to epigenetic theory, attending to what fosters understanding, rather than just rule-acquisition could turn out to be worth more cure than previously supposed.

All’s Well that Ends Well – An End to the Fairy Story

It’s a lot of fun to play with. It brings out the artist in most everyone. It’s healthy to have some boundary-less time to just imagine, even without silly putty. All kinds of ideas arise, some that would even work out in the real world of means, ends, and universal laws. But not all the artistic output is for real – although the con artists, the BS artists and the woefully miss-labeled creative accountants of the world would have us believe otherwise.

But this isn’t silly putty:

planet

And neither are peeps:

peeps

 

 

However a person might try to mold the world –  or we that live here – into their idea of what reality should be, the outcome, even if it appears to end up well and everyone is happy – the happiness only lasts a short while. Discontent rears it’s ugly head in no time flat – so much for ends well.

So what’s missing? – the understanding of how the seemingly happy ending came to be. Well, obviously, respecting the rules matters, but happiness seems to count on more than this.

And I’m beginning to seriously wonder if the experience of happiness is more about understanding the means, no matter what the outcome. The way we arrive matters, but not just in the “rules” department. The universe is pretty big, ourselves pretty small compared to it. If we start small with checking out the reality of happiness – in our own selves – a few things come to mind.

Imagine something you’ve struggled with – something minor, like a puzzle, or a crossword – or the latest Ikea purchase.

Recall the feeling you had when you found where each piece, each letter or  part finally added up to the correct word or placement. The process is totally automatic. I can’t say it’s simple, just that we’ve done it for so long with no awareness of what we’re doing, it isn’t known how to describe it. But as we’re struggling, we all know the frustration that comes along, too.  When we complete, or understand, something, we feel good. I can’t find any studies that back this observation, so please keep an open mind. If a sudden understanding that seemed to just fall out of the clear blue sky comes to awareness, we feel really good. But even matching tiny, insignificant, generates little bits of happiness as each match is found.

Understanding underpins at least some of what arrives us at happiness. And no matter what we understand of others, the world or the universe, it doesn’t substitute for our own self-understanding.

It’s easy to look back at the trail of Aha! and Oh, now it makes sense! moments we’ve created along the way, and remember how we felt when the dots connected. Some of it may have turned out to be a little hasty – rework was needed here and there. But without even thinking about it, we connect information this way almost continuously. It’s so quick and habitual, it seems to just happen – but the little sparks of happiness appear at every almost instant creative connection. In hindsight, it could be likened to a trail of breadcrumbs in the woods, couldn’t it?

Not a scientific analysis by any means – but perhaps a little ray of sunshine on the means to achieve what I’m going to call:

 

Persistent Happiness

 

But what about the frustration? Doesn’t this cancel the idea that happiness can be persistent? Look at it this way – if all this frustration is really out of not being finished, or not understanding yet, then it’s just a matter of time until happiness kicks in. Since we’ll be happy soon enough, by embracing the idea that it’s on it’s way, rather than the frustration we’re feeling, might just open the way for a happy journey.

 

Bon Voyage!

Seeds for Sustainability – And Space Travel

 

This 2007 UN study – Organic Agriculture and Food Security In Africa – provides the details of initiatives to train smallholders of several African countries in organic food production methods beginning in 1995. Using simple techniques and locally available biological inputs, the majority of the mini-farms increased yields to oversupply, allowing sales of surplus. Some crops hit yields high enough to garner export sales.
These successful farmers have been encouraged to share their updated expertise with fellow farmers to keep the ball rolling. Freedom from the cost of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers floated the boat during the transition, and the soil amendments and management changes brought quick improvements.

Unfortunately, there is one fly-in-the ointment. One conclusion of the study:

“Organic agricultural systems are making a significant contribution to the reduction of food insecurity and poverty in areas of Africa, and to an improvement in rural livelihoods.There is potential to do more in this area with enabling policy and institutional support.
Organic agriculture is not directly and specifically supported by agricultural policy in most African countries; indeed, it is sometime actively hindered by policies advocating the use of high-input farming management practices. If organic agriculture and it’s associated positive side-effects are to be scaled up, an enabling policy environment is critical.”

 

Natural Farming Needs Natural Seeds

 

These days Africa is besieged by biotechnology – pushy, international interests who have no time, or show little respect, for slower but sustainable methods. This contingent brings hybrid and GMO seed that won’t reproduce true to type if replanted. Some won’t sprout at all with out an additional outlay for a chemical treatment. Terminator seed was rejected flat out several years ago by many African countries. The prospect of relying entirely on others for their seed supply was not acceptable. African farmers improve their seed the old-fashioned way. Seeds are kept from the best plants at the end of the season.

Survival of the Fittest

 

And by best, I mean fittest. Seeds from the most vigorous, and top producing – the most drought, insect and disease resistant – are saved for the next season. Farmers figured out how to select for and fix traits in plants via hybridizing in a good-enough way long ago.This method allowed agriculture to spread and flourish. Mendel went at it more scientifically much later on.  It takes longer than one – off hybridizing, and a lot longer than genetic fiddling, but the cumulative improvements can be relied upon to show up in the plant’s offspring – true to type – unlike the one-season hybrid and GMO seeds.

 

Are New Ways Always the Best Ones?


Modern agriculture pretty well dumped the slow method decades ago in favor of the faster boosts in performance that could be had – even though it meant they had to buy new seed every year and buying didn’t provide any more protection than what open pollinated plants offered from new pests and diseases. The cost seemed small compared to anticipated benefit. In the short run, it appeared a reasonable direction to take. But there are long term costs that many overlooked – and still do.

The vast majority of research and development going into fast hybridization and genetic modification pretty well halted work on improving conventional plants the conventional way – and is now far behind where it could be. It has also blurred the line between what is hybridized and what is genetically altered – and the distinction is far too often downplayed or deliberately hidden.

What’s more, many open pollinated varieties have gone extinct. There are seed banks, but nowhere near enough seed on store to recover from an unanticipated interruption in the supply of one-season seed. Another difficulty with fast hybridization and GM – there’s a growing body of evidence indicating that, while yields have increased, nutritional quality hasn’t been maintained in many varieties.

Down But Not Out


Organic farms generally use conventional, open or self pollinating plants. Many will only use heirloom varieties to keep the original genetics alive. Some only keep enough seed for their own needs. Others buy from certified seed growers to help support both the growers and continued availability. Shortages are common.

Natural-method farms also have to contend with the fact that conventional plants can be pollinated by modified ones, rendering the seed useless. Genetic drift is pushing altered genetics into non-food wild plants, rapidly reducing natural diversity. Preserving what’s left of conventional varieties, both food and non-food, has become an uphill battle. We need the security of viable seed. There’s no excuse for not having this basic insurance. It’s time to restart the clock!

 Hybrid and GM Seed Will NOT Be Flying to Mars

 

Hybridization definitely has it’s place, but by that I mean real hybridization – not the shady, line-crossing, genetically-modified-but-passed-off-as-hybridized kind. The money, time and energy being poured into GMO would be far better invested in sustainable conventional plant development. The growing cult-like faith in science and technology to come up with solutions to everything isn’t viable.

All the high-end machinery and techniques in the world will never change the simple fact that nature can totally kick our asses when ever and where ever. Open pollinated seed is essential to our continued existence and if those wanting to go to Mars do make it there, they will be bringing conventional seed with them. Too bad the quality isn’t as good as it could be, but there’s no time like the present to make the needed changes.

Learning to work with nature is a never ending challenge, but it gives us the understanding we need to survive  – and thrive. Constantly trying to override reality could have most, if not all, of us sleep-walking off the technological equivalent of a cliff. It’s not just Africa that needs government commitment to sustainable agriculture – every country on the planet needs it and needs it ASAP

Of Walls, Mars, Climate Change

Sustainability

Climate variability is widely demonstrated in the geological record. There’s no particular reason to suppose that variability won’t continue. There’s not much static in nature – even the rocks morph eventually. Science, at this time, is not capable of predicting with any certainty how the climate will shift around. Humans, as always, have to deal with unexpected change.

The question of whether pollution contributes to climatic change or not is a red herring. The climate change issue has been polarized into yet another you’re either for us or agin’ us feud. This completely misses the point – and most of the information that needs examining in between the two extremes. We need to understand what’s going on with our environment, and shutting out data just because it comes from the other side, is devoid of critical awareness. We all need every scrap of input and all the answers we can get!

 

Pollution is the Real Point

 

Pollution damages the planet – and we depend on the planet. Pollution also damages us directly. If you don’t want certain substances in your glass of water or bath, in the air in your living room, mixed into the food and pharmaceuticals you eat, rubbing all over you from the clothes you wear, and leaking from the structures you live and work in – then why on earth would you support industrial, agricultural, governmental, etc., practices that routinely make it possible for those substances to contaminate everyone’s air, water, food, and shelter?

It isn’t enough to stop using or buying stuff that contain these substances or use them in their manufacture. Those who fund and develop these substances and the products made from them need to start taking their responsibilities seriously. Design and use benign materials and processes only. Much of what wrecks us and the environment has been made possible by just-because-we-can and just-because-it’ll-make-us-money attitudes.

 

Just because doesn’t address the vital question – does it make any sense to do so given how it could affect the health of the planet and all that depend on it?

 

Ambition is found behind unsustainable outcomes. Ambition tends to narrow concentration to consider only the goal. The more ambitious the drive, the more often reasoning methods are ignored – so wrapped up in hitting the target that potential consequences are downplayed, attacked – or don’t even come to mind. Motivation is important, but there’s such a thing as too much.

Just because we can make stuff out of tar sand, oil, coal, uranium – does it makes sense to?

Just because we can modify life-forms genetically, should we?

Just because we can come up with all and sundry unnatural chemicals, is it reasonable?

We need safe, sustainable ways to survive and get around in our environment without impacting that environment. How best to move toward this reality? Look around – who’s making the most progress with alternatives? How are they doing it? How can we apply it to our own situations – or better yet – improve on it?

Just because we can go to Mars – does it make sense to? What would come of investing that money and expertise into learning more about, and developing, sustainable processes on Earth, first? Air, water, food and shelter matter just as much here as on Mars. When we can get all this straight at home, then maybe we’ll be ready to head to other planets.

Just because we can make cars – does it make sense to? What if the beginning technology of public transportation progressed without the competing development of cars? Where would we be at now? What’s envisioned today could have been done years ago! How can we transition to viable transportation?

We need to question those who persistently use narrow scope – thirty billion dollars for a Mexican – American wall, plus uncounted millions in future maintenance and security costs?

What kinds of environmentally supportive industries, businesses, educational, research, and medical facilities could be created along that border – or any border – that would enhance human and environmental well being?

What about spending money on encouraging knowledge growth that generates environmental stability and employment focused on:

 

Natural source, renewable energy

Atmospheric and alternative water collection development

Dry/cold/hot climate natural soil/food production advancement

Bio-based fuel/fertilizer production

Self-sustaining shelter and communities

 

This is a small start. When you think about how much is known compared to how much there is yet to learn here on Earth, its obvious the possibilities are barely tapped. We can’t afford the time and energy wasted on scrapping over whether climate change is real or not, nor the funds being poured into science that doesn’t deal with pollution elimination directly.

Let’s get caught up to those who are already cooking. Here’s a few links:

Earthships Green Heating and Cooling Atmospheric Water Harvesting
behavioral economics

Brain Science – What Does Behavioral Economics Have to Do With It?

“Carnegie Mellon University is marrying the so-called dismal science to brain science to launch a new undergraduate major in behavioral economics.
The university will establish the nation’s first bachelor’s degree in behavioral economics, policy and organizations this spring.
TribLive – Debra Eardly”
Since when does behaviorism stand in for neurology? And is economics all that scientific in itself? Some days saying what’s meant doesn’t count for much…I tried to leave a comment, no go. Maybe you’ll have better luck.

innovation

Never Mind the Mindset – Open Up for Innovation

 

Free Dictionary – 

Mindset: A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person’s responses to and interpretations of situations. 2. An inclination or a habit.”

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. With the increasing and repetitious appearance of the mindset word almost everywhere I read these days, it just got away from me, honest. I mean, there’s success mindset, and positive mindset, and gorilla mindset, and growth mindset, and abundance mindset … and the list keeps growing…

 

I ask you, Where’s the appeal? A a rut by any other name is still a rut.

Just add water to the concrete mix, pour it in the molds and voilà! in no time –  mindsets as hard as a rock. They do hold up for a long time. And they don’t let much out once you seal a bunch together. And they repel anything trying to get in. Very inorganic, they are quite resistant to anything natural. Note the lack of flexibility does make them vulnerable to shattering if they are left to themselves – they’re far stronger if mortared all together in pre-engineered arrangements.

 

Growth mindset? Is a more congruent label in order? Please?

Some of latest and greatest excitement in science is all about the flexibility and changeability of the human brain. So many things that were previously assumed to be permanent are turning out to be anything but.

A post I was reading from MedicalXpress, reporting on how reading increases cognitive flexibility spells things out nicely. The article describes mental flexibility as “ the ability of a person to shift a course of thought or action according to the changing demands of a situation. It allows an individual to abandon a previous response set or pattern in order to generate an alternative that is better suited to the requirements of the situation at hand. “

 

Ah! Growth mindflex…waddya think? Better yet, how about creative thinking?

 

Think of a subject that you really didn’t like when you were in school – or right now, if you’re a student.

Which one, if any, of these three approaches would encourage you to at least investigate further, if not fully pursue, the disliked subject?

 

a) It’s been pointed out to you the many ways you could benefit by paying attention and learning this subject.

b) It’s been pointed out to you the many ways that not paying attention and learning this subject could limit your option

s.

c) It’s been well demonstrated to you: that paying attention to this subject could benefit both your understanding of yourself, other people, and the world – as well as inform you about this subject.

 

Maybe neither love nor money could persuade you to engage. Maybe great marks, great jobs, rapid movement to the top of the ladder – win, win, win – just wasn’t incentive enough. Perhaps not even the thought of lose – lose – lose – could push you. This is g

reat stuff – you aren’t easily influenced – but …

The first two approaches are in the same category as do it right, so you don’t get it wrong – either/or, black or white sorting. How often do you find only two possibilities in real world situations?

Notice that the persuasive/coercive approaches leave you out: your interpretations, your reasoning, your understanding. How what you take in

connects to you, as a human being, matters. How what you take in connects you to other human beings matters, too.

Bringing home the bacon and being good at what you do is something you value. But you aren’t just a projectile to be fired at a target somewhere out there in the business or academic jungle. Dancing to the tune of acquiring what you’re told you need to know isn’t the same as developing a personal – or a big – picture.

If what what we’re expected to learn rarely goes any where near the inner reason for learning – to grasp reality as well as possible – is it any wonder commitment to learning so often falls off? Loading the mind with knowledge – to get a good mark, a good job, or at least a good paycheck – is mostly concerned with the teaching of what to think. Learning about how to develop sound thinking – skills needed to pin-point what really matters to you in life, and to make well considered decisions by yourself, for yourself, generally come in a poor second.

 

It’s often said that success comes of loving what you do.

But love has so many definitio

 

 

ns. Caring about the growth of our minds is so often over-ridden by the constant noise of outside influence. If caring doesn’t kick in or is drowned out, very little is learned. Creative thinking, not unlike walking and talking, is mostly self-taught from picking up on others example. Recall a school subject you really liked. Did your appreciation have more to do with how what you were learning was put across than the subject itself?

Connecting to – and succeeding with – what we do, is thought to depend on learning skill sets. Following rules and methods found to be effective aids to learning is a good beginning. But the ideas and reasoning behind the mechanics need to come along for the ride. The weaker the idea that we can learn anything of importance from a source, the more slowly – or superficially – we learn. Method isn’t enough. Those most successful at learning see opportunities to increase understanding where many wouldn’t bother – or out and out refuse – to even look. If you haven’t read Viktor Frankl, give it a shot for an example.

It seems the initial willingness to connect is the deal maker or breaker – staying open to learning independently of the situation. Where we already do this was likely learned long enough ago, that it’s become automatic. We don’t notice what we’re actually doing when we engage – or what we’re doing when we don’t. From this idea, at least one possibility of ramping up more open, creative, thinking and learning comes to mind:

 

Re-discover the skills you already have:

 

Think about your favorite teacher, then consider what would have happened had this teacher taught every subject.

What was this teacher encouraging that helped you to engage with what you were learning?

Now think about a subject you liked no matter who was teaching – one you were motivated to find out more about on your own. Note similarities and differences in how you approached this subject compared to one you wished you didn’t have to take.

What ideas and approache

s are you finding out of this examination that you’d count on to connect – motivate engagement 

no matter what the subject is, who’s instructing, or how it’s coming at you? 

Of these ideas and approaches, which ones work best to keep you focused on discovering information that adds to understanding in general, no matter the situation or context?

 

Don’t set your mind – open it! Take the time to think about your most creative learning experiences – and put what counted most about them into words. The best methods and ideas are in there, just waiting to be withdrawn from the memory bank.

Psychometric Tests – Is It Time to Test The Testers?

psychometric

I happened to land on a workplace testing company’s site the other day, and there was an Inductive Reasoning Test offered to try for free. Having nothing better to do at that moment, I clicked the button.

The test and a brief description of what to do appeared. I was totally confused. The instructions said to pick the next pattern in the series. Below were several boxes, each with 4 symbols, each box with either a different pattern of symbols, some with symbols other boxes didn’t have … you’ve seen this kind of set-up many times. Thing is, I was expecting a verbal test. But I went along with it.

After staring at it for a few minutes, I started to see how some of the symbols were ordered, and eventually chose one that seemed to me would be next according to the pattern I noticed. I won’t tell you whether I chose correctly or not, because it isn’t the point.

What’s the point? That this test doesn’t test inductive reasoning aptitude – not that I could see any reason to test that anyway. We use inductive reasoning so much, everyone must have an aptitude for it. You know, start with a specific, or a few specifics – I know three Martians and they all smell funny, therefore all Martians smell funny – and come to a generalized (in this case, over-generalized) conclusion. Which, of course, can’t be proved. The scientific method uses inductive reasoning – hopefully more carefully than in my example.

The test is incorrectly labeled. It doesn’t test for inductive reasoning. It could be used to give an idea of aptitude for mathematical induction, which actually uses deductive reasoning and can be proved. But if you were hiring someone that needed that kind of skill, say your business is in the computer sciences or engineering areas, your candidates would have already taken geometry, calculus and know all about inductive math. They wouldn’t really need to be tested for aptitude, would they? They’d know this test isn’t what it says it is.

If you were hiring a researcher, a great inductive math aptitude score masquerading as a great inductive reasoning score wouldn’t be very helpful.

I decided to go back on line to see if this was an isolated incident. Sad to say it isn’t. This miss-labeling is widespread. To make matters worse, I even found so-called inductive reasoning, symbol groups to choose from and all – under the heading of Verbal Reasoning Test. This is not good news for job hunters looking in the communications area who aren’t so hot in math.

To be fair, I did find the same test a couple of times listed under analytical reasoning, which would be a little closer. But, for sure, there are some folks out there in psychometric testing land who aren’t clear on at least a few key concepts.

When is a verbal reasoning test not verbal reasoning test? When it’s a inductive reasoning test that isn’t an inductive reasoning test. Oh, and just in case this little gem is kicking around in school testing – heads up! Too bad the most common names and descriptions for reasoning methods weren’t taught back when we took grammar – it’d be handy to know what to call what we’re already doing – and this kind of little mix up wouldn’t happen.

Data Use Mystery–Are iOS Updates Related to Unexplained Higher Mobile Data Charges?

A little off topic today, but a recent (and ongoing) experience has prompted me to send out an alert to Apple users – and possibly other operating system users.

 

Here’s the Skinny

 

I’ve had my iPhone 4s phone since 2012 and never updated the software due to the size of the downloads – I live rural, with no alternative but to rely on mobile data almost exclusively. Updating is just too expensive.
I’ve never made any special effort to restrict settings. iCloud services, Google Maps, mail, Find My Phone and the like have always been left on. Windows Updater and virus software updates have always been set to automatic on my laptop, but until I updated the phone to iOS 7.1.2, (taking advantage of free wi-fi at the library), I had no difficulty staying inside of a reasonable data use limit.

My data bill after the update was much higher than usual, with no corresponding increase in use.
Within a week of receiving that bill, despite reducing time on-line, I had an alert that my month’s data was half used – 6 days into the new billing period.

And even after shutting down everything and anything that could up or download data automatically on both the phone and the laptop, switching to opera turbo browser and severely limiting my on-line time, by mid month – 8 days later – I was over my data limit for the entire month.

Nothing like this has ever occurred in all the time I’ve had the phone – not even the time I fell asleep with You Tube on!

In the process of trying to find out what was the matter and making sure I hadn’t missed any app, phone or laptop function that could use data automatically, I realized I was far from being the only one having this problem after updating, regardless of version.

While the data saving measures I’ve implemented – both the obvious ones and those I had to dig for – would have saved me money over the life of the phone up to the point that I did update, it has not solved the data overuse problem since the update. (I shudder to think what the bill would be had I not shut off every possible data waster!)

 

Is the Data Eater in the Update?

 

After accounting for and making sure my settings were the same as they were before the update, I should have been able to continue as accustomed with no increase in data use.

Since this has not turned out to be the case, despite drastically reducing my data use, and also discovering that there’s lots of folks having similar problems, independent of the update version, the only explanation I can think of at this point is that what ever is leading to or causing the excessive data use is hidden in the updates.
It also occurs to me, if the updates are behind the problem, had I regularly updated, I might not have noticed incremental increases in data consumption.
Making the jump from a version 4 iOS to 7.1.2 has been quite the eye opener and I see that it’s very possible that I’m not responsible for the majority of the unexpected and unexplainable data costs I’ve incurred since updating.  As I mentioned earlier, I live in a rural area. I rely on my hotspot data connection for business, but to the ridiculous degree I’m now forced to limit internet access even after eliminating all but absolutely essential functions – and still failing miserably to keep the data costs even close what they were before I updated – has rendered my phone almost useless for it’s intended purpose and has severely impacted my ability to work.

 

Heads UP!

 

Had I any idea that updating could subject me to data charge increases that I’m not even told about, much less have any control over, I would never have done it. I certainly don’t recommend anyone EVER update until there is a full public disclosure of any effect that any mobile operating system update or upgrade can have on data use, positive or negative.  What more can I say? … that I want my iPhone restored to the data usage baseline it had when I bought it … and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

The Planet – Earth is the Real Technological Wonder

World of IllusionHuman invention is played up, and even sensationalized, far and wide. Fascination with the latest breakthroughs  keeps the media, science, and the public at large, in constant scan mode.  The latest and greatest gets top billing.  Even fear of the geek-label fails to deter. The minds of young and old alike flow into the technological groove. Encourage that race – better, faster, and above all, first! 

But few become attracted, much less attached, to improving understanding of the absolute essentials – air, water, soil. You would think that a deep and expansive knowledge of the planet would be the educational gold standard, given our ever-so-obvious dependence. But this idea is a heck of a long way from becoming any kind of a benchmark.

And even though the most innovative technological ideas derive from observation – and often flat out copying – of what already goes on in nature, the source of inspiration sure isn’t shown much, if any, appreciation.

 

Doing Battle

 

The war on insects is just one sorry example of how little ecosystem expertise there is compared to all the energy directed to single, and narrow purpose  technological interference. Insect issues are routinely reduced to:

which product is best to poison the invaders out of existence?

how and how often should we dowse them with it?

… and move on.  And if there isn’t a technological knock-out already – or the noxious after-effects of existing ones are complained about loudly and long enough – the race is back on to develop new ones.

Examination of environmental evidence often doesn’t even cover proper understanding of the target insect and how to kill it. And lately, the cavalry has shifted the sights to overtly genetically messing with nature itself. How much genetic change has already occurred with no recognition that anything is amiss – yet.  How much useful – and ultimately indispensable – information goes misinterpreted, ignored, or over-looked all together when the concentration is so intently directed at defeating the enemy, ASAP?

 

Circular

 

No matter that the invaders re-appear, sometimes even stronger and better adapted than before – or are replaced with other unwanted bugs … or worse. That many fixes turned out to be the equivalent of band-aids just doesn’t break the spell! The soil, water and air continue to bombarded with a host of unnatural, toxic or altering substances, leading to even more imbalance and undesirable outcomes – and then finding fixes for the fixes adds more to the mess.

It would take a while to count how many times a cure turned out to be worse than the ailment. The chances of there being consequences not even detected yet are pretty good. The outcomes already observed are unsettling enough, but we must take care in investigating.  Too often, hasty conclusions are drawn before research has barely even scratched the surface – and seriously hindering progress.

 

Technology is a Hammer – Nature isn’t a Nail

 

Technology is a helpful tool when used intelligently. It’s not a panacea and the habit of fashioning weapons with it doesn’t come of wisdom. The answers we need to understand ecological balance aren’t likely to be found by waging escalating technological warfare. The us vs them mentality is extremely narrow and limited.

It’s said that we live and learn. We also learn and live – and continue to learn so we can keep on living. Just because we’ve always fallen for the fallacy, doesn’t mean we have to persist. The option to look around for more sensible approaches is ready and available.

Awareness of how the planet operates belongs first, front-and-center in the continuous learning arena. Data gathered so far has a lot of holes, but not enough care is taken to keep this in view.  There’s far too much faulty interpreting, so while technology – and faulty explanations – race ahead, comprehension of the underlying natural foundation falls further and further behind. If we don’t figure out how to straighten up and re-pin the under-story, gravity- will prevail.

 

Planetary Prosperity and Our Own are One and the Same

 

The war mentality shuts out so much information, there’s nothing to recommend continuing with it. Constant racing isn’t sustainable, either.  Winning and losing are just more black and white thinking limitations. Recognizing and eliminating the ways we’re only succeeding at shooting ourselves in the collective foot, is long over-due.

The study of air, water and soil – and the life that depends on them – is so very new in the world’s time-line. The potential is awesome – and I mean the learning, not the capitalistic notion of, potential. The mastering the world and everything in it mindset is an incredibly myopic habit in need of a sharp correction.

Nature is the master, the mistress, has the last word – and holds the keys to the knowledge vault. The funny part is that the door isn’t locked, and the information is abundant and intended for everyone. But look how often it happens that the first idea that comes through is grabbed and run with as if it’s all there is.

Putting the attraction of shiny, new first ideas into perspective isn’t a big deal. We can do a lot better job of understanding what’s needed to heal, restore and protect. There’s almost always more than one way and curiosity doesn’t kill cats. Impulse is the real culprit. The  careful, open-minded, curious and observant approach takes more reasoning power and research elbow grease in the beginning. But taking care of the planet is taking care of ourselves, plain and simple. It’s worth doing, and it’s worth doing well.

The Powerlessness of Persuasion


FreedomI was reading an older post by Steve Neuman on Salon describing his wonderment of the endless reach of rhetoric and the influence it has on what people assume is for real.  As he points out, it’s nothing new. Rhetoric has been around for a couple of thousand years, but that he wishes it was something obsolete comes through loud and clear.

I’d like to toss in my two cents to the case against rhetoric.

Persuasion is everywhere. But like advice, it’s only useful if it’s reasoned and informs accurately. And no different than reasoning, it must always make human rights the bottom line.

 

Plain, but Precious, Freedom

 

Consent is required. Every single one of us are free to say no thanks to any pitch without fear of interference or consequence. An offer of reward to listen is no better than punishment –  like a true gift, there can’t be strings attached.

 

Persuasion is far too often thinly veiled coercion, however pleasant the approach – or even how good the intention! The end and the means must be reasonable. Alarmist rhetoric is bullying, too –  flat out manipulative button pushing. Mr Neuman terms this the trespass of the sacred boundaries. Fair enough, and another way of saying that human rights aren’t being taken seriously.

 

For all the fiery – or soothing – rhetorical energy poured into any pitch coming your way, how well considered are your basic rights of consent and freedom from coercive interference? If these aren’t being respected, what are the chances the speaker’s conclusions are even worth taking in?

 

Keeping it Simple

 

In the busy, noisy world, the time to really think issues through is scarce. While Mr Neuman discusses psychological research, I’ll leave it to the psychologists. Uncomplicated solutions are often overlooked. While we need to keep ourselves informed, it’s our undeniable right to choose what we listen to. If the message – or it’s delivery – is manipulative, it’s time to move along and find more sensible, reliable sources.

 

There’s no obligation explain refusal, but stating that human rights must always come first as we head for the door – or to the comments section before we leave the page – might prompt those who try to make our minds up for us rather than provide factual information we can use to decide for ourselves, to at least do the math.

 

Persuasion, respectfully done, and mindful of our rights, has it’s place. The sorry imitation calls for exercising our freedom every chance. But the typical – and virtually unavoidable – kind of rhetoric is long over-due for retirement. Is there a better time than right now to hand it it’s gold watch?

 

Goals – You Come First

Engagement

There are a lot of ways to reach a goal, but the gold standard is full engagement. The closer the goal is oriented to what really matters to you, the higher the likelihood of achievement – and happiness.

Engagement is generally understood well enough when it comes to relationships. The involved couple – just getting to know each other – haven’t  committed. The engaged pair, on the other hand, have decided to make it permanent.

Outside of relationships, the distinction is often muddled. You can be deeply involved with the movie, book, sporting event, emergency room visit, speech, deadline, etc., but obviously there isn’t any commitment beyond enjoying, or enduring the experience of the moment. Yet, this involvement, the immersed state  –  is routinely misidentified as engagement. Immersion has little lasting power and details fade quickly.  The general emotions are what come to mind, but soon, even these disappear. Occasionally, what’s experienced may return too vividly, but this comes of reliving, or re-hashing, rather than understanding and moving forward. And understanding and moving forward are what engagement is all about.

 

Success – Will that Be Regular or Satisfying?

 

Goal setting is an essential personal priority. Sorting out the difference between involvement and engagement is a critical necessity whenever a commitment is on the radar.  Prospective jobs, courses of study – or anything new, really –  that immediately appeal lose their shine quickly. In the everyday sense, the long term commitment and satisfaction factor usually hinge on how well the balance between what is expected of us, and what we can expect in return is maintained. In choosing between a high income  job where selling nutritionally questionable foods is  top priority, or a less exciting position with a company that places environmental responsibility high on the values list – would you consider the second job if you thought you’d stay happier there?

Engagement keeps motivation alive even if the going gets seriously tough. Without that vital connection, giving up, or having to resort to chronic self control to stick with it are common outcomes. Discovering what truly engages in the first place goes a long way to ensuring long-term satisfaction, despite bumps in the road.

 

When the Goal Has Tarnished

 

But all’s not lost if you find yourself committed out of involvement and bloom is now off the rose.  Look at the task you’re involved with – and find a goal within it that connects more with your inner need for growth.

 

Look around – are there other people you could somehow provide back-up for?

Look closer – is there anything about the task you could learn more about ? 

Look to the future – does the task teach you basics you could use to find more engaging activities?

 

Give it some careful thought and you’ll see ways to restore your inner link to motivation.  Self-control burns a lot of energy, so even the smallest re-connection to engagement saves you in the long-haul.  And, at the end of the day, if the new commitments aren’t enough in themselves, you still have the option.  Sometimes the decision to start over and set a target more in tune with your drive to thrive is your very best bet.  Don’t underestimate. Your current commitments can teach you plenty about what you really want to commit to.

 

Depressive Symptoms

Depression is a Symptom – Keep Looking for the Answers

 

There’s an incredible array of conflicting information on the subject of depression – and the situation isn’t helping anyone.

Treating symptoms is an expensive, ineffective, and sometimes dangerous, waste of time. No one would think putting a band-aid on a broken leg is an appropriate treatment. Yet in the real world, the equivalent happens – and not just to folks with depressive symptoms. It’s likely happened to you, and most of the people you know, at one time or another. Treating symptoms without looking further for causes happens far too much.

Magnesium deficiency, for example, isn’t always checked for. A lack of this essential mineral  can present in many ways. One symptom of not enough is migraine. The head-aches are often controlled with pharmaceuticals.  But, the underlying magnesium deficiency, left undetected, can lead to other difficulties, some very serious. And the unnecessary migraine medications may have side-effects, aside from the expense. This particular error isn’t as common as it used to be, but failing to check beyond symptoms is inexcusable.

 

Hope Matters – A Lot

 

The claim that depression is an illness, or even a disease in itself – with some even going as far as to say there’s no cure – is widespread. The possibilities of it being a symptom are left out completely. Clients are misinformed, and the condition misrepresented. To pronounce depression incurable is not just unreasonably hasty and inaccurate, it’s downright destructive. No one has no right to mislead and take away hope.

Similar to the magnesium deficiency example, people are prescribed medication to treat what’s secondary to the actual cause. This often results in negative outcomes. Failure to identify and treat underlying conditions adds more difficulty that may range from unnecessary distress, illness, and even death.

 

A New Approach to Medical Quality and Accountability – and a Helpful List of Underlying Causes of Depression

 

A company called Healthgrades* offers this very informative run down of medical conditions related to depressive symptoms. There are more causes than listed here – ones not related to biology – but it’s a great start.

It’s also brings to the fore another pressing consumer need – for qualified, accessible, oversight of medical institutions and practitioners. The company specializes in rating hospitals and physicians. They provide consultation to help medical establishments improve treatment and services as well as offering consumers advice on the quality of medical services available. While Healthgrades only operates in the US, in time either they, or new companies, will hopefully expand. There are a lot of gaps to fill.

 

But for now, Healthgrades’ over-view of underlying causes of depressive symptoms is an invaluable resource, and is available here for everyone.

 

You can find their home page here for other services and information and here is Wikipedia’s review of the company.

 

*I’m not affiliated in any way with Healthgrades.

Climate Variability – Is it BioMethane Dome Time?

biogas

Carbon, carbon, carbon –  no end of talk about carbon dioxide and the greenhouse effect. Not much talk about methane, although there’s enormous quantities out-gassing from wetlands, water bodies, volcanoes, etc., – and it’s much more heat trapping than carbon dioxide.

But now there’s a new rumor – Arctic melting is releasing huge amounts of methane and a few have gone as far as to claim it a near term extinction triggering event – due to lack of oxygen that allegedly will result from the excess methane.

Well, let’s hope this is all science fiction. But there are some ideas generating from all this biogas release. Put domes over every cap-able natural methane source. Leave out the volcanoes, might be too tricky –but burn the procurable methane to produce electricity. Electrolyze water with some of it to make hydrogen – and oxygen, if necessary.
Feed the bonus electricity into the grid. Use all saved funds to replace dino-industry and fossil dependent technology with wind,solar, hydrogen –  and yes – biomethane power and it’s bi- products.

Even if an extinction event isn’t looming any time soon, ignoring the clean fuel value of naturally created methane doesn’t make sense.

Here’s a link and if you have more ideas, please share!

Update – the latest climate modification idea – refreeze the arctic with wind powered pumps.

understanding

Saying What We Mean is Easier Said Than Done

 

Communication Chaos?

 

Sorry, I have to leave out the over 6000 spoken languages. Just dealing with English is confusing enough. Effective communication – finding the words that best get across what we mean, and skilfully interpreting what we hear – is in need of a little more than labeling with a trite saying. Language litter – the messy, inaccurate, use of words that often confounds clear expression and understanding – abounds.

There’s plenty contributing to talking at each other instead of talking to each other. Double and triple definitions for the same word, overlapping descriptions, misinterpretations, words used where they don’t even belong, all add to the muddle. To pare things down, begin with our sense of perspective. How we mentally focus – a largely automatic process – and the way we describe this process – leaves a lot to be desired. There sure isn’t a clear way to discuss this key player in the game of comprehension.

We use one word – focus – as though it’s all one thing. The qualities of, and the ways we use, perspective haven’t been nailed down in the categorization and description department. I think it’s about time. How about you? Context has quite a bit to do with how we interpret. A more exact way to think – and talk – about the process would be really helpful.

I know, I know, categorization has been taking a beating –for sure, there are places where it’s way over-done. But at the same time, words – the most basic labels – are, apparently, needed to communicate. Should we skip it all and head straight for the Vulcan mind meld?

Then again, we do have speech genes. Are they epigenetic adaptations, or were we meant to have language? Like we have two legs, two arms, two eyes …?

Big questions with few answers, to date. But we can narrow it down. A little extra time spent figuring out how best to focus, interpret, and then say, generates insights that otherwise might not come to mind – new ideas that make finding the words even easier.

We do have most of them – the words, that is – but the use is often scrambled. For openers: paying attention and observing are different. How often are you asked for your attention – the mode you use to sort out information and make sense of it – when what you’re really expected to do is watch and listen, simply take in information? Technically, we aren’t supposed to be attending – thinking – when we’re listening.

 

But …

 

We naturally switch back and forth between observing and attending constantly. And we do this far faster than listening, understanding, then developing well thought out responses, can take place. Recall the times when what you could have said – or what was really meant – popped into your mind hours, or even days, after a conversation. It takes time to process. We can only respond quickly with what we already know. Anything new will come to us later.

Context also makes a difference. What can be recalled in one context, won’t necessarily come to mind in another. Who hasn’t gone blank on a test, only for the known answers to arrive shortly after the test was over? Developing better context awareness is darned useful.

Our brains don’t seem to appreciate the plodding pace of conversation. Just listening all by itself – say during a lecture or speech – is awkward when the brain insists on blazing ahead on it’s own while we’re trying to hold up our end at conscious speed.

How often are you asked to listen – observantly gather information – then expected to answer questions immediately – before you’ve had any time to sort things out in attention mode?

Ever been told you’re not a good listener? Who is? Even though we’re supposed to be observing, we still have to attend to understand what we hear. We also need to remove our personal context from interpreting – so we won’t fill in the blanks with our own meanings – where we aren’t sure of the speaker’s. Now add on having to remember what to ask for clarity’s sake when the talk is finished. All at the same time we’re suppose to be listening, unless we interrupt to ask every time we need to confirm intention and meaning.

We’re also simultaneously processing visually … and a few other things. It’s easy to see that what’s routinely expected in the observation department is a pretty tough row to hoe. The less aware we are of the automatic processes, the harder it is to optimize. So developing better awareness is the start-point if the goal is to improve communication.

 

So How Can We Better Manage Communication on the Way to Awareness?

 

On topics we’re well enough acquainted with, conversation runs smoothly. The further we get from the safe areas, the bumpier the course. It’s not surprising that we tend to stick to the superficial much of the time. There’s not much to understand, so keeping the chit-chat going uses minimal resources. As topics shift into less well known areas, the more effort it takes to grasp the meaning of what we hear, sort it out, and respond sensibly. We then start hitting the wall on points we aren’t familiar with – consciously, at any rate.

New information takes time to process properly. And what was learned long ago can be pokey about coming to mind, as well. But far too often, as soon as we pause to think, we’re accused of being slow. If we don’t have a ready answer, there’s bound to be someone jumping to the conclusion that the time needed to process is a sign of dim-wittedness.

Time for a deep breath. Now, let’s go for some flow.

For more progressive conversation:

 

1 Keep in mind that your rapid-fire processes are doing essential work, not sabotaging you*

2 Set aside a little time to meditate. This helps develop notice of when you’re observing and when you’re in attention mode – processing. As you become more aware of the difference, you’ll find yourself on much better footing at both listening and talking time.

3 Reasoning skills also run on automatic. The more conscious you become of them, the easier it is to consciously notice validity issues during conversation. Or reading, watching TV – or talking to yourself, for that matter. We tend to do this automatically – intuitively. But this way doesn’t supply the words needed to consciously get the point.

(Reading about reasoning methods helps get them out of long-term storage and fresh in your mind where you can put them to more effective use. A little effort now will save time and add understanding idefinetly. You’ll listen – and express yourself – more accurately, too.)

4 Get a few standard answers together ahead. Use when you need more time to think things through before answering, but your audience isn’t aware enough of communication reality. A few examples:

 

This idea deserves more thought, let’s come back to it later.

I don’t have an answer right now, let’s move on.

I’d need more information before I could say.

I’ve never thought of it that way, could you tell me more?

 

5 Ask questions if you don’t understand. It’s a lot more accurate than than second-guessing.

Now for the return serve:

6 When it’s your turn to talk, cut your listener lots of slack. Stay on topic. Welcome – even encourage – questions.

7 If your discussion partner needs more time, share this key comment for creating a more comfortable and progressive atmosphere: It’s fine if you want more time to think about it.

8 When with agreeable company, start a conversation about things that add understanding to conversations – and leave plenty of room for clarifying word meanings. Get behind the over-used labels and find the gold.

9 Remember: When you do need to pause and someone condemns you for it, at least you know the conclusion isn’t valid.

 

Communicating is so taken for granted, it seems it’s only noticed when it’s not going well. A little time spent examining how you’re going about it doesn’t just boost awareness of what you can improve on. Those you communicate with pick up on some of the more effective ways themselves. Some will appreciate your ability to listen better than most. And no matter what, your awareness expands.

Saying what we mean is an ongoing exploration. As the accuracy increases, the understanding grows right along with it.

*Automatic thinking processes are too often interpreted as having flaws that interfere with our reasoning. There’s not much solid research to back this idea, despite all the talk. Just being more mindful of the reasoning methods we’re using gives us a really useful tool to make improvements in real time conversation.

 

 

 

 

GMO

Black or White? – There’s a Lot More Than Two Possibilities for Sustainable Food Production

 

 

Louise O Fresco’s credentials are what initially caught my attention. As the former Assistant Director-General of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, I assumed she would have constructive ideas to contribute. Not to mention she’s also the President of Wageningen University and Research Centre in The Netherlands.

But soon into the read, it was clear something was really out of whack. A theory was referred to, but never materialized. Visions of trattorias and green ribbons, do not a theory make. I don’t know what it’s like in  the Netherlands but I know, here in Canada, that any green house tomato I’ve ever eaten was a pale imitation of the ones I’ve either grown myself or bought from neighboring growers. I don’t have access to any nutritional studies, but since what’s in a tomato depends on the soil it’s grown in and it’s genetics, this wouldn’t be enough information anyway.

 

Pretty down on farmer’s markets – and consumers.

 

Most produce markets I’m aware off bring goods from areas outside of town or city. Transportation is involved no matter if products are headed for the market or the supermarket. The last twenty years have seen a surge in making out-of -season produce available year round in many areas of the world. Bananas, raspberries, mangoes, papaya and other perishables come from South Africa, Chile, Israel, Indonesia, and I’ve even seen FRESH New Zealand lamb from time to time. I can’t figure out how bringing locally grown produce into a city from outlying farms could be any more wasteful than shipping across the oceans by boat, then trucking from the coasts – or the airport – fancy packing or not. The fuel and pollution, for crying out loud – this all by itself makes no sense!

 

It’s stated in the article that tomatoes spoil in a matter of hours, and I notice the author jumps from this inaccuracy straight to saying that all produce will spoil if it doesn’t reach the market within a few hours. This is rubbish. People routinely store potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, onions, dried beans, grains, nuts, etc., for most, if not the entire, non growing season without any special technology.Tomatoes are perishable, but are good for a few days, or more, if low tech refrigerated.

 

The article moves on to talk of the resource waste that farmer’s markets represent. Here in Canada efforts have begun to recover the enormous quantities of food and scraps thrown away at supermarkets, restaurants, food processing plants, produce supply terminals, commercial and institutional buildings, and individual homes. Singling out farmer’s markets as sole and primary food wasters is irresponsible reporting.

 

Ms Fresco notes that it’s hard work picking fruit and vegetables, and I’m sure that laborers who work for the huge food conglomerates overseas will be happy to be unemployed and starving when they lose out to robots – it’s hard to buy food with no income. Oh, and these same producers are right up on building those green houses – they’re sure to be pesticide, herbicide and GM free, too. I’d love to see one of these robotic green houses that are pumping out 70kg of tomatoes per square meter. Where can I find one? What kind of fertilizer is used? Where can I find nutritional analysis of these wonder tomatoes? And hey, hi! organic growers out there. How’s your yield? You using non-hybrid, or heritage seed? Love to hear from you.
Robots and special greenhouses cost money, They also have a manufacturing footprint. How ecologically fitting either technology is, isn’t advertised.

 

It’s stated that organic produce is grown without fertilizer. This is flat out false. And again, the poor worn out tomato is either/or compared in green house and non green house water use. In-season tomato growing relies on rain. Water that evaporates, eventually falls back down as more rain – and you can generally store rain water in case of unexpected dry spells. If you want to grow food where it’s so dry irrigation is necessary, you might as well do it in a green house – you won’t have to import as much water. Better yet – grow something suitable for the environment.

 

Next comes the wonders of dairy industry left overs! Modified milk ingredients -yes – what this stuff contains doesn’t have to be declared, and can be imported from anywhere, no matter what lack of pesticide, herbicide or food safety regulations exist at point of production. It’s found it’s way into almost every dairy product in Canadian grocery stores – and I can’t eat it. It makes me sick! I have to buy full fat dairy to avoid it – and even then I have to check to be sure. Almost all of the cheese has it added, regardless of fat content. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people thinking they’re lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy, when the real culprit could be this additive – or then again, it could be the thickeners, colorants, preservatives, etc., also commonly found in reduced fat dairy products. By-products can be useful, but do have to be tested, and regulated, if necessary, for safety’s sake. Not making it clear what added by-products contain is a serious health hazard.

 

It’s been known for a while that cooked tomatoes release more beta carotene that raw, so tomato sauce, paste, puree, etc., deliver more of that nutrient. Commercially prepared ketchup is extremely high in added sugars, flavorings and preservatives – it qualifies as ultra-processed – and can’t be considered healthier than a fresh tomato as the articles claims. And what ketchup has to do with cooking and Ms Fresno’s way-out-there suggestion that cooking food had something to do with brain evolution, I can’t even see a correlation.

 

I see no excuse to denigrate consumers.  We don’t decide what winds up in our store bought food. Technologists working for huge corporations do the lion’s share of this. And more and more often, we’re denied the right to even know what’s in commercially supplied food. More fallacies: science is always right, and food is affordable. The only cheap food I see these days is ultra-high processed – not real, and not nutritionally useful.

 

 

There are so many possibilities to improve things. Here’s just a few ideas:

 

 

decentralization

reclaiming and rehabilitating poisoned land

seasonal food production with the use of greenhouses where warranted for near or total local food sufficiency
breeding open pollinated varieties that do well in greenhouses and maintain or even improve nutritional quality ( long-term)

total nutrient recovery within in co-operative towns – extract every bit of fertilizer and fuel value from local biological sources

autonomous housing within independent towns – no grid, no pipelines

run towns and connecting public transport on wind, solar, bio hydrogen and bio methane
putting a stop to pollution

I don’t think sustainability is to be found at today’s farmers’ market or supermarket without a lot a change. I don’t see much of what’s described in this article as superior food on my plate. If any reader has yet to learn to grow a few vegetables, do head to your community garden – you be growing in no time – please don’t listen to this:

 

The closing statement:

 

“If you do not believe me, give growing tomatoes a try on your windowsill or in the garden. Most likely, your tomatoes will wither on the vine or be eaten by other hungry species. Hopefully, this will leave you full of admiration for all those who work to get flawless tomatoes to your table: the farmers, the processors, the scientists, the greengrocers and retailers. They need our respect and support to make your tomatoes even more sustainable – and then to feed the world”.

These condescending words polish off a highly biased attempt to dismiss all that is organic and local as antiquated and wasteful. Modern organic farms use up-to date information and methods to grow excellent produce, in good yield, with minimized, yet appropriate, inputs. Fertilizers are used, but they are organic amendments, usually produced locally. These additives ensure that soil retains the structure, biological activity, and fertility needed to successfully grow sound, nutritious produce. Soil quality is monitored. Non persistent and minimum impact biological pest and disease control is employed when needed, and must meet strict standards. Non GM seed use is also strictly enforced. Spoiled produce and trimmings are not waste. They’re an important part of the materials used to naturally feed the soil. That’s why food waste is now diverted from landfill. It’s composted and used properly as soil improver.

 

The costs of moving produce a few hours by truck, while not ideal, eliminates the need for advanced packaging or other expensive technological interventions. Locally produced foods – allowing sale within a few days of harvest – are a far better option on the basis of the environmental cost of transcontinental, artificially modified and controlled shipping, alone. Alternative power for local delivery would be a huge improvement, and hopefully will come soon.

 

And surely I’m not the only one who has seen tomatoes – and a lot of other vegetables and fruit – growing on balconies! All in all, Ms Fresno’s biased essay leaves out most of the facts and plays fast and loose with the few she’s chosen to include. What’s really unsustainable is her attitude and unreliable opinions.

Link to reviewed article.

 

Science and Democracy – Muzzle Free

censorship

“And here we come to the crux of the matter. Muzzling represents an erosion of the principle of free speech and impoverishes the public debate. We can’t hope to make sound decisions on complex problems like climate change without input from those who know the most about it — the scientists. But instead, we have a federal government silencing scientists in a scurrilous “attempt to guarantee public ignorance,” as the New York Times put it.”

Re-quoted from thetyee.ca  Article by Thomas J. Duck is an associate professor in the Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is on the advisory board of Evidence for Democracy.
Scientific censorship has stopped in Canada, but it appears to have just begun south of the border. The state of the polar icecap, in particular, and the research regarding it needs to be kept free of political interference – world climate information doesn’t belong to any one country and the Canadian debacle stands as a clear warning to the rest of the world – it’s happened once, it can happen again:

I am an Arctic researcher. Donald Trump is deleting my citations
Victoria Herrmann

How to Free Creative Thinking

 free mind

Each of us have our own unique thinking combinations.The contradictory information I find on the subject of creative thinking may come of the highly individual nature of creativity. Another point to consider is the messiness that centers around the artistic and the creative. While it’s common to find them combined, they aren’t one and the same.

Artistic thinking and expression share impressions and evoke experiences. With the exception of story-telling and imagining – fiction and fantasizing – the artistic involves complex combinations of physical, spatial, visual and/or musical skills. Art may represent reality in form, or completely ignore the boundaries of reality all together. To imagine outside of the boundaries of what our senses can take in – or what has yet to be imagined – needs the artistic. To understand and define the newly discovered boundaries, needs the creative.

Listening to the enchanting music doesn’t add much understanding of how it came to be or create skill in composing or playing it. It’s meant to be experienced and, hopefully, enjoyed. Watching a lively mathematics video may encourage, but doesn’t replace, actually doing the the sums – and won’t give much of a clue on how to make a video, either. Artistic thinking inspires, but can’t take the place of, creative thinking.

Creative thinking heads straight for understanding reality. To grasp, as fully as possible, how it really is, how it really works, – and what can come of this understanding – is the goal. A few reach far in this pursuit, but we all think creatively – or are meant to. And the possibilities are essentially endless – it’s not likely we’ll run out of unexplored reality any time soon.

 

Now that you know what I mean by creative, how do we let it loose?


Most of us are up to our ears in a constant stream of information. We long ago developed ways to filter the incoming. This sifting happens below the threshold of awareness and we carry on our daily business without a second thought about it – maybe without even a first thought about it. Highly creative thinkers – innovators, inventors, investigators, designers, etc., – are reputed to have some kind of special gift or talent. In part, what really goes on is letting in more – or different – information through the filters than most do. This increases the number of possibilities to notice.

Whether or not you or I could be as all-fired innovative and inventive as some of the geniuses of history is unknown, but most of us can definitely let more of our creativity shine through.

One so-called talent ascribed to creative thinkers was described by DeBono as noticing what seems unrelated, or even impossible, but is related, possible, and can be explained reasonably. He called this kind of thinking lateral.

How we’re accustomed to taking in information causes us to dismiss as unimportant, or over-look altogether, key information that would lead to clearer understanding of what’s possible.


First Impression:


 


Now Stand Back:

 

Big Picture




Now really stand back – let more information in:



Focus




Creative ideas are snippets of think big. When a lateral idea pops into mind, it’s often accompanied by this question: Why didn’t I think of that before?! 
Everyday thinking sifts out too much. Taking apart common ideas is a way to recognize conventional habits that interfere with more realistic thinking. Here’s one:
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

The notion that not reaching goals is due to lack of effort gets a lot of airplay. If we push ourselves and it so happens that we meet the expectation, it’s a short jump to the conclusion that the correlation is proof that lack of effort is always the cause of failure. But lack of effort is only one possible cause of many. Quick acceptance of inaccurate interpretations doesn’t get us where we need to go – and this idea isn’t lost on creative thinkers:

Work smarter, not harder.

Seems pretty obvious, but consider:

If you find a way to make life easier for yourself, they call it lazy.
If you find a way to make life easier for others, they call it genius.
-unknown


Trying to make headway with unconventional ideas is the bane of the creative thinker. And the intention to turn uncommon ideas into practical, useful, reality can be an long uphill trudge if backing is needed. Many start-ups bootstrap out of necessity, not just to maintain control of their ideas. This situation puts off many would-be creative entrepreneurs. Crowd-funding is a help, but creative support is in general, is shaky at best.

Another link in the chain: established expertise can be over-confident and go hard against ideas that challenge what’s accepted as the norm. On the one hand, not every new or different concept is well thought out – scepticism is healthy. But on the other, certainty that what’s new or different must be bunk, interferes with genuine creativity far too often. The antidote is it to remove bias from our own thinking. The happy side effect of this effort is clearer – and more creative – thinking. It also makes it easier to understand, and sometimes even communicate with, those who automatically reject innovative ideas.

 

Promotion of Free Creative Thinking Begins With Boosting Our Own

 

We tend to look at our progress as making our own path, but this is a linear view. Growth happens on many different levels and in many directions. The path analogy serves to symbolize what’s difficult to imagine, much less describe. Learning could look more like this:

non linear

Visualizing thoughts and ideas flowing in your mind – just allowing the picture to form itself, rather than constructing it – has a relaxing effect, and often brings fresh ideas to the surface.

 

 

Taking a Break is a Creative Action

 

Another creative resource is what’s called an ultradian rhythm – one of many natural biological cycles that recur within a twenty-four hour period. The particular rhythm I’m referring to is usually called daydreaming, and some studies report the frequency as every ninety to one hundred and twenty minutes, while other findings have it at every four hours, throughout the day.

Research is just now scratching the surface of the various less-than-fully-conscious states we experience. The emphasis has been on the opposite – full high awareness – and ways to maintain it. The daily peaks and valleys are associated with high and low dopamine levels. In the few people tested as they lapse into daydreaming, the brainwaves were found to be the same as first stage sleep.

That somewhat zoned-out, reverie-like states and unrecognized possibilities coming to mind go hand in hand has long been reported. Since this little shut down in consciousness happens whether we want it to or not, do what you can to make the best of it.

Keep a way to record handy while you kick back for the reboot and just let the mind off the hook to wander free. Your system is telling you it’s break time, anyway. What you may have looked at as inconvenient down-time is prime time for creativity.

And at the end of the day, be sure to have a note pad or recorder by the bed. As you wake up from a nights sleep – or nap – there are usually a few not-your-everyday kind of thoughts drifting around. Catch them first thing, before you get up –  they fade fast. You’ll recall some dreams too, but these have been known to deliver unique insights from time to time, so you’ll increase your creative harvest.

 

Active learning feeds creative – and artistic – thinking, but remember:

 

You already have a huge store of knowledge that’s just waiting to re-combine and evolve into bigger thinking. Take advantage of your know-how and the natural, more creative cycles that happen during your day – and don’t be surprised as innovative thoughts begin to flow beyond the chains of set ideas

Kids Needs Come First

human rights

The old school authoritarian standard gave way to less autocratic child rearing ideas, but these days the impression is of a widespread permissive opposite extreme. The conclusion that excessive entitlement is caused by this alleged change is frequently jumped to. That abusive treatment is also strongly associated with exaggerated ideas of entitlement seems to have slipped under the rug, along with many other suspected causes – and let’s not forget the exceptions. Not every child winds up too stuck on themselves, regardless of upbringing.

I recently read an article by John Rosemond – and was  thoroughly shocked by his patronizing attitude and manipulative approach. Here’s a few highlights:

He cavalierly writes off Millennial parents as credulous suckers. On what basis? After a quick question to his clients – he immediately assumes the inability to answer to his liking as proof of intellectual incompetence. Not just of the parents he was questioning – all parents! He then points out what he views as reasoning errors rampant in the Millennial crowd – completely ignoring his own. It’s possible that the idea that kid’s come first has been shortened from kid’s needs come first.

He makes it plain he thinks all Millennial parents are too mindless to learn. From here he insinuates himself to be the only one fit to tell them what to do. Rosemond  makes short work of his peers. Other mental health practitioners are labeled as “parenting babblers” and what they write as “largely baloney”. In other words, only he is competent.

Do  parents need this spin doctored pseudo-advice? What about a flexible, equitable, learning environment? To effectively teach respect and consideration for self and others – basic human rights awareness – isn’t accomplished via slave driving and manipulation.

“Yes Virginia, once upon a time in the United States of America, children were second class citizens, to their advantage.” John Redmond Naples Daily News January 1 2017

spin

Rosemond’s babble that kids treated as property are advantaged is double speak that reveals a sickening lack of respect for children.

This guy wants to turn back the clock – all the way back to Santa Claus, his fairy tale imaginings of a strong America where, in his dreams, children always behaved – and there certainly weren’t any adults with over-blown ideas of their own worth and entitlement.

It’s 2017. The parenting – and far too often, the professionals’- skill picture has always been missing a chunk. There are long established habits – and I mean on the order of generations – that interfere with reasoning awareness. And there’s no time like the present to straighten the matter up.

 

For parents interested in seeing to it your kids get the opportunity to make up for what’s been left out, critical thinking is a decent place to begin: here’s some links:

http://www.criticalthinking.net/parents.html http://www.thelearningcommunity.us/resources-by-format/tips-for-parents/thinking-skills.aspx Link to Rosemond’s Website Universal Declaration of Human Rights 

Mindfulness – A Confidence Creator

MindfulnessImagine a class full of rambunctious, giggling, squabbling, squirming six year olds, and think about how much fun you could have attempting to talk all of them into listening to you. Where would you start? If you aren’t a teacher, work in daycare or don’t come from a large family, you might be tempted to end the fantasy prematurely.

Then again, you might be  acquainted with mindfulness practice. And if you’re lucky, the kids are too. Then you can simply ask the class to be mindful and calm. In a short couple of minutes, your request for them to please listen would be taken up by all, immediately.

So what is this mindfulness business in the classroom doing? Or out of the classroom for that matter? The one thing that stands out in my view is how beneficial learning to be aware of our own calmness is. From there it’s a short reach to recognizing that calmness is always available to us. Building on understanding exactly what our own calm is, and that we can choose this state at any time, is a valuable addition, not just to self awareness, but to confidence.

To be aware of our capacity – the fact that, although we don’t understand yet, we can, and we will understand – this is fundamental to confidence. From such a relatively small task as learning to closely relate to our own calm, the way to quickly see similar connectedness to anything we want to achieve opens up.

No matter our age, from the position of calm, observation is easy. From easy observation comes awareness of more possibilities. From awareness of more possibilities, comes potential for highly creative thinking – and outcomes.

This may be far from the ideas of self-control and discipline you and I were raised with. That there’s no control involved, simply a choice we can make at any time, may feel a little backwards. But if we’ve been moving backwards for so long, to move forward will seem the reverse for a time. A short period of doubt and insecurity gives way to the more creative, useful and resilient reality. It’s a small choice, but a powerful one, even if you don’t have thirty kids to contend with!

Take Back the Internet

 internet

It does look nice and neat, the bulleted or numbered list, but I fail to see the radical effect claimed by many of the – How to Write Killer Content – articles found all over the ‘net these days. Similar to button-pushing headlines, I read again and again how “attention is riveted” by such things.

The eye is drawn, that much is true. And the appearance is orderly, neat and tidy – attractive, appealing, even. But I’m looking for information, answers to questions, directions, explanations, or new angles to consider. Pretty, fluffy content pieces are the last thing I want to wade through. Block format or indented, with jazzy headings or not, uses lists or doesn’t, with or without info graphics – none of this matters to me. It’s about how much pertinent, useful, and/or though-provoking, information is found on the page, isn’t it?

 

The Secret of Fiction Writing

 

Sure, long articles are nicer to read if there’s white space, some headings, pictures, or illustrations. The eye-ball savers are appreciated, and if they contribute to understanding, so much the better. But just think about all the fiction writing in existence. We could probably fill the flipping ocean with it. Now think about the quantities of it devoured in plain old paper back – and these days, plain old EBook – formats. Nothing fancy here, folks.

It seems there’s a deep contradiction with the most popular how-to claims. Enduring works of fiction share the same secret – the immersive quality of the writing. No amount of prettiness will substitute. And non fiction that delivers well explained, carefully checked, information has always been, and still is, the ticket to reader engagement.

So what’s the point of all the empty, but eye-catching, content? Well, when I thought about reverse engineering this question, one thing came first and plainly to mind –  the complaints I’ve heard about how hard it is to find something “real” to read on the ‘net. Sifting through pages of fluff sucks. But it’s clear that getting readers to click takes a far precedence over quality. I subscribe to some aggregators, attempting to save time finding what’s new, but lately, the pickings are extremely thin. And hitting the search engines brings me the same old click-bait, time after time.

So what are internet writers to do if they’re aiming to provide quality – but can’t make it to page 300 in a Google Search?

High-Fiving the Content

I know it’s long been the intention behind share buttons to allow readers to promote the gems they’ve found, but there’s lots of room to make more use of the system. And …I think the day has come for a vote with your click revolution.
Just do this if you haven’t alreadymake sure you put share buttons on your writings. Ask readers to use them and tell them why you’re asking them to. And if what you’re reading is worth while, share, share, share! The more everyone does it, the more good stuff comes up first everywhere, not just in the search engines.

How much of a ‘net share for quality can we can take back? There’s only one way to find out. Another thing to consider: since it’s become almost standard practice to lean more towards – um, well, click-bait-style writing, just for the sake of ranking – the extra sharing could have a secondary effect. The more often great content gets first place, the less incentive there is to write solely for maybe getting noticed. More, better, content generating more, better, content? I’d love to see that day come, real soon – how about you?

Please use the share buttons to take back the ‘net! TY!

Science – Is It About Faith?

scienceThere’s not much that can be proved without a doubt, scientifically or otherwise. Science relies on what is most likely, somewhat likely, and not very likely, in general, along with what can’t be considered in a general way. Our language shifts all over the place and I long ago learned to leave out words like faith, believe, and to avoid using right/wrong, true, etc. The words have a limiting effect, leading to full stops where it would be far better to explore beyond. And where there is disagreement at these full stops, defensiveness, or even outright combativeness takes over if discussion continues. The point is missed – and isn’t the point of understanding to find it? Having faith in science makes even less sense to me than having faith in a belief system. Science is a system of inquiry and discovery, not of belief.

Technically, assumptions and theories are open for review, revision, and occasionally, outright replacement. This constant updating is essential. Human error, machine error, misinterpretation, biases, criminal fudging, new evidence, improved techniques, and more, continuously influence the thinking and researching. This constant change must be taken into account – nothing is carved in stone. But in the real word, the necessary openness is too often left in the dust by those who insist – we are right and they are wrong. This mindset doesn’t just slow progress, it jams it into reverse. The time wasted having to back track, due to what could have been avoided in the first place, can’t be recovered. Just believe it isn’t appropriate, Take nothing for granted might seem a slow and picky standard to maintain in the short-term, but the planet’s future – and future generations – count on it.

Story – Nobel Winner says. “I placed too much faith in underpowered studies – read the rest at Retraction Watch
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