Shorts 1

What Would You Do?

Following an older minivan down a rough paved road in the northern part of Vancouver Island. We pass endless trees growing close to the road, held away by ditches on either side. The drive is marred by clearcuts and fire-kill that rape the low hills, scarring the land for generations.

The minivan driver’s head can be seen nodding aggressively to heavy metal that could be heard if I left my window open. I keep it closed to shut out that and the motorcycle’s racket from behind me. It has been following on my bumper for an hour, refusing to pass, just droning endlessly.

Heading toward a slight bend in the road, the minivan driver’s nodding has become quiet. He wakes up just in time to lose control as he plummets down the near bank, does a lovely pirouette along the far bank, then rolls back down into the centre of the ditch, bouncing, and finally ending upside-down in the wet weeds.

As I slam to a stop on the narrow shoulder ahead of the minivan, the motorcycle screeches hard behind me and overcontrols, sending that driver into a high flip over his bike which lands him half into the ditch ahead of me.

I get out in a panic and decide to rush over to the motorcyclist. He is lying in a spread-out heap with his neck at a gut-wrenchingly weird angle. Not wanting to move his neck in case it is broken, I figure out how to carefully raise his helmet visor. Blood is dribbling from his mouth into his beard and his eyes are shut. His chest is not moving.

Since the motorcyclist is, at best, beyond my ability to help him, I turn away to slip down the ditch to reach the overturned minivan. Through the cracked windscreen I can see the back of a very corpulent man sprawled out on the inside roof behind the front seats, incongruously collecting things and putting them into a large kitbag.

As he sees me try to open the passenger door he violently waves me away. Confused, I back off. The driver continues, more quickly, to grab small pieces of paper from around him and stuff them into his kitbag. As he rolls over to reach across his bulbous chest, I see blood pouring down the side of his forehead. At this time, his head slumps fully against the floor, with his thick tattooed arm plopping off his chest to slide beside his body.

I grab the door handle and, after a couple hard pulls, yank it open. The strong smell of weed is even more prominent than it was outside. The driver remains still but I am encouraged to hear a low groan.

There are crumpled twenty and fifty dollar bills scattered everywhere inside the minivan. A pistol lies near the driver’s feet. Hairs begin to rise on the back of my neck. I think about just backing away from this scene.

Shaking my head, I take one of the bills and use it to wrap around the barrel of the pistol, tossing it out the door behind me. With several clean tissues I had stuffed into my pocket while getting out of my car, I gently wipe the blood from the driver’s eyes. He opens them and I can see that he is focusing on me. I don’t know why I notice that tissue bits have collected in his stubble.

“Take it easy – are you hurt anywhere else?”

He puts his free hand up to his head. It comes away with blood all over his fat fingers. I give him the wad of tissues. He awkwardly wipes away more blood.

“You should apply pressure to the cut… Hold the tissues tightly against…”

He twists away but then slumps back down, out again.

I take the tissues from his hand to apply gentle pressure to the head wound. A few minutes pass. He rolls his head away from my pressure but I leave the tissues on the cut.

“Don’t pull the tissues off yet. It’ll start bleeding again.”

The driver raises his hand up to the tissues then decides to leave them.

Twisting his head with difficulty, he stares directly at me. “Who are you? You a cop?”

Smiling, I shake my head, “No. I was driving behind you when I saw you roll. It looks like the airbags stopped you from going through the windshield. Are you ok, other than the cut on your forehead?”

The driver thinks for a bit, moving his free arm then his legs. “Help me turn over. I, ah, have a lot of cushioning.”

I pull on his shoulder and hip to get him flat on his back.

“Left arm. Feels… Shit. Something wrong with my wrist.”

He lifts up his left arm and tries to flex his hand. “Goddamnit! Can’t move my hand.” Then he remembers his kitbag and the bills. He grabs my arm in a powerful grip with his right hand. “Put back everything you took! Or I’ll…”

He looks around for his pistol.

Calmly, “Take it easy, friend. I didn’t touch your money. Let me help you outside. Oh! There was a motorcyclist who flipped right after you did. Let me help you out then I’ll see if he’s… He didn’t look good.”

“Dead?”

“Well, his neck looked broken…”

“Good. Leave the fucker there. Was tailing me. Help me get to my knees. Have to…” With that, the driver’s eyes go blank and he slumps back down.

Confused, I feel his grip on me release so I back out of the minivan. The pistol is just outside the door. Making a decision, I take a tissue from my back pocket, pick the pistol up with it, then, still wrapped, I stuff the pistol into my back pocket with other tissues.

Waiting a minute to think, I see the driver wake up once more. He touches the tissues on his wound but leaves them. With enormous effort, he rolls onto his right side then uses his good arm to get to his knees. Ignoring me, the driver once again starts collecting the loose bills around him and pushes them into the kitbag with one arm. It gets overflowing-stuffed. Absently watching the scene, I make up a number, mumbling under my breath, “Two hundred thousand?”

The driver stops and grins at me. “Close. You’re a cop, right? No problem. With Shitface dead, I’ll give you some of this if you drive me to the ferry… No questions. No fuss. Just free money. I can disappear and you can do what you want with… shall we say, ten grand? Ten big ones and all you have to do is drop me off at the ferry. You can be my Uber driver.”

He resumes collecting bills then reaches for another bag. The driver doesn’t raise his head as he adds, “Make up your mind before someone else comes along.”

It is tempting. I pat the pistol in my pocket then shift it, feeling through the cloth, so that the handle is up.

Slyly, “You got the gun. What’s to worry about. Here, take this full bag and zip it for me while I finish off in here.

As he rises to swing the kitbag out awkwardly with his good hand, he hits the ceiling/floor of the minivan. “OW! DAMNIT!”

The tissues fall off his forehead and the cut opens up again. It doesn’t pour out as quickly as before but it still needs to be staunched. With my last few tissues from around the pistol, I reach in to help the driver. He tries to grab my arm again. I back off.

Throwing the tissues at him into the minivan, I back off. “Clean yourself off, this time. If you can’t trust me I guess I’ll have to go report the accident.”

“Wait!” The driver leans onto his left elbow and holds his right hand toward me. More quietly, “Wait a minute. Not in any shape to argue.” He smiles, “And here you are trying to help a fat old accountant while I… Listen. You got all the cards. All I got is some money. You say you’ll help me for twenty thou and that’s the deal.” He bends his thick neck enough to look me in the eye. “What do you say?”

What would YOU do?

(adapted from a narration of an incident by John Wilson)

Punishing Your Body

The jaw-dropping cache of documents made public by the Washington Post – https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/six-takeaways-from-the-deas-pain-pill-database/2019/07/16/ [paywall]- and reported further in Ars Technicahttps://arstechnica.com/science/2019/07/76-billion-opioid-pills-in-7-years-how-pharma-companies-drowned-us-in-drugs/ – can hardly be believed.

The article starts with this paragraph: “Between 2006 and 2012, opioid drug makers and distributors flooded the country with 76 billion pills of oxycodone and hydrocodone—highly addictive opioid pain medications that sparked the epidemic of abuse and overdoses that killed nearly 100,000 people in that time period.”

Should these prescriptions even be given?

Any medication that punishes the body when one tries to stop taking it needs to be prescribed with extreme caution.  The current and tragic opiate crisis is a direct result of such caution not being exercised.  As I explain in my book Anxiety: Debug It, Don’t Drug It, published by Rutherford Press, the next shoe to drop will be the massive over-prescription of benzodiazepines (“tranquilizers”) for anxiety.  Many people say these drugs are even harder to give up than opiates. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has a proven track record as being far more effective for treating anxiety than do these medications, especially over the long run.   Both the rationale for CBT’s application as well as a step-by-step process for enacting it also are outlined in my book.  :Dr. Michael Catchpole.

Where Are We Going?

Photo by Roi Dimor on Unsplash

This election cycle may be our last chance. Work HARD for the Progressives, do the best you can to see them elected, and vote as if all our lives depend on it, because they do.

Comment by “Art” in https://theintercept.com/2019/07/05/shell-conference-climate-change/

This brief comment to the article in The Intercept was one of several by “Art”. His other comments were a depressing, long list of scientific findings that he, as a climate scientist, offered to support his reasons for being so blunt.

To those who said it is too late, or that we, the people, have no power to make a change, Art replied, ” Your nihilism is duly noted but I refuse to give up.”

To which “mgr” wrote:

Art: Spot on! That’s really what it comes down to. We may win, or we may lose, but giving up is always defeat, from the inside out. It comes down to making a choice.

Where are we going?

For the sake of our children and their children, we have this choice: follow the platitudes of our current leaders as they follow the money dangled before their noses; or put your hand up and vote for a future that will include humanity. A future that will include breathable air, enough clean water to drink, sufficient vegetation and animals to maintain the only place, the ONLY place, in this universe where we can live.

The money being dangled before our noses cannot be breathed or eaten.

It is way past time to be nice. Our very lives are at stake.

There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew. Marshall McLuhan

The Trappings of Science

Square Rigged, by Ben Nuttall-Smith

– How science is being eroded as an objective agent for our species

I recently underwent a grueling exercise with an individual who is exceptionally intelligent. I describe it as grueling because he clung for the longest time to a perception of “science” that is, regrettably, common. Nevertheless, that perception is not real science.

In a textbook, he was given three descriptions of science from which I asked him to choose the option that best matched his understanding of “science”. May I humbly suggest that only one option is worthy of that label.

Proposition A: a person of science will develop a theory, then apply evidence that can be found that will support that theory.

Proposition B: observations will be seen to have apparent relationships. A hypothesis is developed that encompasses those observations with a possible explanation of why or how they relate to each other. Evidence is gathered using observations and/or controlled experiments; assessments are made as to whether the evidence supports or does not support the hypothesis. If there is found to be sufficient support, a theory may be developed. The theory is tested continually to determine if it is still supported by new evidence.

Proposition C: an authoritative person pronounces on a theory which may be based on common sense, long practice, or even logical deduction or reasoning.

Prop C actually contains several distinct propositions. I will refer to them a group.

Discussion

Plato and many famous philosophers since have used logical deduction to explain the wonders of the world. Within the toolbox of science, this can be a useful method for arriving at possibilities. The main problem with that is, it may be useful but it often doesn’t use feedback from objective evidence. To offer a simple example, it is observed that a penguin is black and white. By logical deduction we know that snow is white and coal is black, so that must make a penguin equal to snowy coal. While an artificial intelligence (AI) program may produce that kind of logic, people understand it to be silly.

Another Prop C option: Aristotle was an admired and authoritative figure. Despite the prior writings of Pythagoras and others who came up with close approximations of the great size of planet Earth, Aristotle suggested with respect to the disappearance of a ship over the horizon, “…All of which goes to show not only that the Earth is circular in shape, but also that it is a sphere of no great size: for otherwise the effect of so slight a change of place would not be so quickly apparent.” (from Aristotle’s On the Heavens). No.

Prop A looks promising. This was chosen by my exceptionally intelligent friend (he is still a friend, by the way). It was also chosen by many other intelligent folks, such as Sigmund Freud (for personality development, in which he argued that personality is formed through conflicts among three fundamental structures – however, in testing that theory, the actual existence of his concepts has been fraught with partisan arguments, rather than objective evidence); John Locke (babies are born with a blank slate – which we now consider inaccurate); Aristotle (spontaneous generation of life, wherein he “observed” life starting from apparent nothingness). In essence, Prop A says that a smart person can come up with a theory and cherry-pick observations that may approximate what the theory suggests.

A theory, however, is never “proven” – merely supported by evidence, or not. A theory must be able to make predictions that can be tested. If we presume that penguins are snowy coal, observations and comparisons would quickly invalidate that “theory”.

When we look around at some of the marvels of the modern age, most of them have something to do with, or are enhanced by, digital technology. When da Vinci sketched out his plans for a helicopter, the reality of building one was stymied by rudimentary materials technology and lack of an understanding of aerodynamics (each field having recently received considerable impetus via digital technology: “computers”).

A computer, however, is merely a tool. If digital technology is relied on to be the magic bullet, depending on it as if it were the final answer usually leads one far down a garden path. When proponents of instant language translators say that they are on the cusp of a perfect solution, one would be wise to read what a professional in the field of translation has to say:

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/01/the-shallowness-of-google-translate/551570/
Douglas
Hofstadter is a professor of cognitive science and comparative literature at Indiana University at Bloomington. He is the author of Gödel, Escher, Bach.

“I’ve recently seen bar graphs made by technophiles that claim to represent the “quality” of translations done by humans and by computers, and these graphs depict the latest translation engines as being within striking distance of human-level translation. To me, however, such quantification of the unquantifiable reeks of pseudoscience, or, if you prefer, of nerds trying to mathematize things whose intangible, subtle, artistic nature eludes them. To my mind, Google Translate’s output today ranges all the way from excellent to grotesque, but I can’t quantify my feelings about it. Think of my first example involving “his” and “her” items. The idealess program got nearly all the words right, but despite that slight success, it totally missed the point. How, in such a case, should one “quantify” the quality of the job? The use of scientific-looking bar graphs to represent translation quality is simply an abuse of the external trappings of science.”

We are inundated in the media with assertive pronouncements regarding the efficacy of certain products. Imprecise statements, cherry-picked observations, and outright fabrications are used without regard to the harm they cause. The harms extend beyond merely loss of money in buying worthless stuff. Purchasers may be conned into spending their meager resources and time on the worthless stuff to the detriment of using an approach that can be of actual value to them. This is particularly egregious in the medical and pharmaceutical fields. People who have become addicted to drugs such as opiates are dying in the thousands after being prescribed the drug and not being followed up properly, or where the prescription was for a symptom that should never have been treated with drugs in the first place. (See Anxiety: Debug It Don’t Drug It, Dr. Michael Catchpole 2019, Rutherford Press.)

One must ask, what harms are yet to be caused by AI in charge of ground and air vehicles. Analysis of the recent Boeing 737 Max 8 plane crashes will take some further work, but we understand a lot at this time (see https://avherald.com/h?article=4c534c4a). Those tragic results cannot be placed solely at the feet of artificial intelligence residing in the software, but it may turn out that a significant component could possibly be attributed to a culture of hurried development and over-dependence on the “magic bullet” of AI, as alleged by pilots and engineers at recent Congressional hearings. Perhaps that culture has been fostered by a subliminal dependence on, and shifting of responsibility to, the lines of code on a silicon chip. Getting that shift wrong with a new laptop design is an entirely different order of mistake than getting it wrong with a new airplane that can carry over 200 lives on board. (see  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/27/business/boeing-hearings.html)

Trust in Science

Is trust in science  misplaced, or is it conveniently used as a replacement for deeper understanding?

Considering the difference between denialism and skepticism, a study found evidence, yet again, that presenting a denier with objective facts was not an effective strategy:

Because this denialism springs from motivated reasoning, science advocates are scrambling to understand how to debunk misinformation in a way that motivates their target audience to accept it. [added emphasis]

https://arstechnica.com/science/2019/06/debunking-science-denialism-does-work-but-not-perfectly/

Being “motivated” means that a denier is self-censoring anything that does not conform to the way the topic is stored in their mind.

A recent study of 140,000 people worldwide proved instructive. Here are the main highlights:

Trust in science and health professionals

Globally, 18% of people have a ‘high’ level of trust in scientists, while 54% have a ‘medium’ level of trust, 14% have ‘low’ trust and 13% said ‘don’t know’. This ranges from a third of people having ‘high’ trust in Australia and New Zealand, Northern Europe and Central Asia to around one in ten in Central and South America.

from: Gallup (2019) Wellcome Global Monitor – First Wave Findings
https://wellcome.ac.uk/sites/default/files/wellcome-global-monitor-2018.pdf

The study is both fascinating and frustrating. The breadth of the study needs to be read to be fully appreciated. Any study that includes 140,000 subjects who answered such a range of questions is to be commended as a considerable feat.

May I humbly say, however, that frustration arises in those numerous instances where the numbers being thrown at the reader elicit questions of greater depth. Take this statement in Chapter 2’s Summary:

Worldwide, more than half the people aged 15–29 (53%) say they know ‘some’ or ‘a lot’ about science, compared to 40% of those aged 30–49 and 34% of those aged 50 and older.

Is age a causal variable, or correlational, or coincidental. For instance, might it be that older folks have matured into the realization that the more they know, the less they understand? And that certainty is best left to the young blurs that pass by on their respective missions? Is there a whiff of something like the subject of Douglas Hofstadter’s article on translation: all the right words – absent depth?

The reason for my skepticism is outlined below.

Human Rights or Social Permission

Do humans have rights? Are they “inalienable”; or are they subject to the will – or lack of will – displayed by a political community? This was explored by Kenan Malik:

So, what should we do? Our starting point must be the recognition of rights neither as inalienably rooted in human nature, nor as gifts bestowed on citizens by the nation state, but as aspects of human social existence continually created through struggle and contestation. Rights are, as the political theorist Lida Maxwell has put it, ‘collective achievements rather than individual possessions’, and achievements that are ‘fragile’ and ‘imperfectly realised’.

How does the topic of human rights fit into this discussion? One way is that it shows the value of skepticism in approaching a subject for which so many people hold hard views.

The Science of Skepticism

For those who consider it “good science” to first develop a theory and then try to prove it, the field is open to cherry-pick whichever evidence can be shoehorned into the most compelling package. After all, the right words are being employed by proponents of their pet theory: science, reasoning, evidence, clinical, proven

No. Science depends on skepticism: questioning the evidence which supports or doesn’t support a hypothesis; constant review of evidence; the belief that a belief is a blindfold…

Malik’s analysis of human rights, above, lists ideas and their proponents who wish to bestow a conceptual construct into human genes. They insist that the only way to combat discrimination is by saying that people are “born with rights”. A corollary of this approach, however, allows some to say that only certain humans have the “rights gene”, therefore discrimination against the defective elements of the population is permitted.

The more difficult approach to fighting the many forms of discrimination is to freely admit that rights originate in words; they are born in the fire of social discourse. And there, the rights may be either eroded away or strengthen for those who must depend on them the most. That fire may wane or flare, so it is incumbent on the people of a political community to keep feeding oxygen and, yes, fuel, into the fire.

Skepticism is one such fuel. A skeptic’s voice must be heard by all who wish to contribute to the discussion.

Denialism is not, however, the same as skepticism. Denialism is a soggy blob of retardant on the fire of social discourse.

The trick, then, is to find a method that distinguishes motivated reasoning from healthy skepticism.

Yes, this is hard.

Love and Time

Thoughts on Margot: Love in the Golden Years

How does one celebrate the romance of a lifetime?

To lovers in their latter years, the prospect that one will leave before the other becomes increasingly evident. Yet, no matter how prepared we think we are, the shock and resultant loneliness reach far beyond any expectation.

Seniors become accustomed to caring for one another in ways younger couples seldom dream of. Such intimacy and dependency deepen love far beyond the heart-fluttering romances of younger years.

Despite the annoyances of age such as loss of hearing and the inability to control certain body functions – flatulence, bladder control – we tend to become more forgiving and considerate of the other.

The excitement of sexual activity gives way to back and neck rubs, intimate conversations and the simple joys of being in one another’s company.

We tend to favour the comfort and happiness of our partner, far above our own. Love reaches its full potential.

                                                                                    Ben.  June 29th 2019

Anxiety at Steam Punk

Within the walls of the Nautilus in the delightful back room of Port Alberni’s Steam Punk Cafe, how could one be anxious?

Shane – who did literature review for Dr. Catchpole – and Shane’s mother, Tammy, look to be in good spirits, and Dr. Catchpole certainly is relaxed. In between signing over 20 books, he kept telling us of his upcoming fishing expedition into the wilds of Oregon.

So many of the folks coming in for his book, Anxiety: Debug It Don’t Drug It, expressed their sincere gratitude for the special perspective it gave them when real anxiety started to interfere with their lives. From the book:

My third and final career goal has been to convince the public, and more directly in this book, to prove to you that it is no longer necessary for you to live with or be bullied by distressing levels of anxiety…

…“Anxiety-related Disorders have been beaten”. All these disorders are now proven to be treatable, and the success rates… are outstanding.

And, critically, the treatment does not include drugs!

No subsequent addictions, terrible withdrawals, zombie side-effects or paying your life’s fortune to some heartless pharma corporation (nor a street drug dealer).

Just get cured.

Buy the book at https://rutherfordpress.ca/anxiety

Free Speech?

From https://kenanmalik.com/2019/05/31/who-has-the-right-to-speak/:

…It is, in my view, precisely because we do live in plural societies that we need the fullest extension possible of free speech. In plural societies, it is both inevitable and important that people offend the sensibilities of others. Inevitable, because where different beliefs are deeply held, clashes are unavoidable. Almost by definition such clashes express what it is to live in a diverse society.   And so they should be openly resolved than suppressed in the name of ‘respect’ or ‘tolerance’. And important because any kind of social change or social progress means offending some deeply held sensibilities. Or to put it another way: ‘You can’t say that!’ is all too often the response of those in power to having their power challenged. To accept that certain things cannot be said is to accept that certain forms of power cannot be challenged.

The notion of giving offence suggests that certain beliefs are so important or valuable to certain people that they should be put beyond the possibility of being insulted, or caricatured or even questioned. The importance of the principle of free speech is precisely that it provides a permanent challenge to the idea that some questions are beyond contention, and hence acts as a permanent challenge to authority. This is why free speech is essential not simply to the practice of democracy, but to the aspirations of those groups who may have been failed by the formal democratic processes; to those whose voices may have been silenced by racism, for instance.

The real value of free speech, in other words, is not to those who possess power, but to those who want to challenge them. And the real value of censorship is to those who do not wish their authority to be challenged…

My comment to the above post:

Having been censored from this blog, but nevertheless continuing to value the ideas placed here, I have to gulp.

I don’t know why my comments have been censored. I am certain that in the present readers’ minds, the very fact of my being censored by Kenan must be a damning statement that must immediately put me into the very back of a deep cell.

To go back to examine my previously accepted comments, and then those that were censored, I am at a loss. The contents really do not appear to warrant such action.

Perhaps it is because of my visible name? [not given in the Comments] Having been in programming, the desktop computer field and bulletin boards and all their subsequent iterations since 1972, I have seen the best and the worst of it. For that reason, I am averse to placing my given and family names onto an internet platform. Sorry about that. If that is sufficient to get me automatically damned, so be it.

To the substance of the post: I am in complete agreement with Kenan’s philosophical argument that free speech ought to be “free speech”.

Similarly, I fully agree that the law in a democracy ought to apply to every person equally.

Then we get to reality. Those with heavy duty lawyers and access to the various gatekeepers in the judicial system will always have the law bend toward their side. In a copyright infringement case where I was an expert witness for the other side of the table from a major Hollywood producer, who was backed by a formidable team of lawyers from cities across North America, funded by a major film production house, the plaintiff had no chance. That my suggestion even allowed his single non-specialist legal counsel to fight them to a draw was a miracle. It is undeniable that the full-court press tactic, even without a “win”, caused a major chill across the community of writers.

There are way too many cases where the law is most certainly not being applied “equally”. Witness the very recent official admission that indigenous peoples in North America, and specifically in Canada, have been subjected to nothing less than a “genocide”.

So, in which of the endless universes is there equal treatment under the law?

Back to free speech, and back to you the reader’s undoubted innate response to my starting statement that Kenan censored me: we all depend on some basic platform from which to gaze upon the actions around us. Kenan’s Moral Compass, therefore, must be considered such an absolute reference point. And if HE censors someone, boy! that guy must deserve it!

Whether Kenan’s reason was trivial or substantive is not the issue, is it?

Dare I ask, was Kenan being ({[hypocritical]})?

No. (Providing, it wasn’t, in fact, some AI contraption that did the dirty deed.)

Kenan was being HUMAN. We, at this point in our evolutionary stage, depend on some stable reference platform upon which to stand. Is that a point to be argued? Whether it ought to be so, is not the argument.

Individually, we are not yet points of energy that have no need for relativity.

Until that simple situation can be accepted, philosophical discussions of oughtness must be tempered by what can be done with what we are given.

What do you think of “free speech”? Before answering, I urge you to read the full post: https://kenanmalik.com/2019/05/31/who-has-the-right-to-speak/

Balance of Consciousness

About five months ago I had a sinus or inner ear infection that was routinely unpleasant. It was different, however, in that it left me with a minor but specific disruption in my sense of balance. At the onset, when I got up from a prone position it produced a fascinating, almost psychedelic effect that took over my consciousness, flashing colourfully as my mind cruised very near the edge of unconsciousness.

Dr. Google suggested it may be labyrinthitis. Not quite, though. I also looked through Wikipedia for “proprioception”. Interesting, but…

I assumed that the effect and its underlying cause would eventually repair itself. Well, the flashy colours are mostly gone, but my sense of balance is still affected in that specific manner. After I lie back on a pillow, then start to get up, the effect takes over for a few seconds.

It’s like a reverse mercury switch – the regular one consists of a small blob of mercury rolling about inside a glass capsule, and two contacts sticking through the glass wall form a bridge by the mercury only when the capsule is in a particular orientation. Instead, imagine a capsule woven with contacts everywhere – except for a specific location, where contact is on the edge of being lost.

Balance results from the integration by the brain of three inputs. One’s eyes produce, in effect, the cognitive feedback. In seeing one’s bodily orientation with respect to objects and a horizon, the brain gathers that the body is vertical or otherwise.

Somatic feedback comes from the muscles and joints. If seated, receptors will send their signals to indicate that fact. (“Flying by the seat of one’s pants” is famously what a pilot should not do, as those somatic receptors quickly become tired and stop signaling after a few minutes, allowing the pilot to feel that the plane is still level.)

The vestibular system is next to one’s inner ears. It is the “accelerometer” that reports movements of the head in the way that a cellphone’s accelerometer will signal the view on a phone screen to flip as you change its orientation.

I think the bug of five months ago affected either a small part of one of the semicircular canals of my vestibular system, or the route along which signals are sent to that part of the brain that is the accumulator of all the signals that comprise the sense of balance.

So, my question is: why should that small signal disruption have such a critical effect on consciousness?

If your cellphone’s accelerometer is turned off and the screen no longer flips, the rest of the phone’s functions continue happily blinking and beeping at you. If an injury leaves you with no feeling below your chest, your consciousness is not disrupted.

What is this connection between balance and consciousness? The combined wisdom of the internet is not helpful in answering that simple question. This could be important.

What do you think?

The Beach Boys

Ben, from Crescent Beach, and George, from Qualicum Beach.

The Spring Writes Conference in Nanaimo, held on May 2-5, was organized by the Federation of BC Writers. Rutherford Press was there in full force with the Beach Boys happily showing visitors the several books by Ben Nuttall-Smith, along with the new titles by Dr. Michael Catchpole, John Napier-Hemy, and George Opacic.

Favourite titles ranged across fiction and non-fiction: Mad Gods of the Toltecs, Crescent Beach Reflections, Anxiety: Debug It Don’t Drug It, Evacuee, In a Cloud of Sails, and Quantum Events.

Thank you to all our visitors!

Happy reading and Good writing!

FBCW & VPL

Rutherford Press will be at two upcoming events. Come on out to say hi to Ben Nuttall-Smith, George Opacic and John Napier-Hemy!

Federation of BC Writers at Nanaimo/VI Convention Centre, 80 Commercial St., Saturday May 4th, from 10 am.

Vancouver Public Library, Writing & Publishing Fair, Saturday May 11th, from 11 am.

See you there!

From Whence Comes Anxiety?

Anxiety comes from…

The mind or the brain?

If it is the brain, there are a phalanx of drugs being promoted that purport to alleviate the symptoms.

If your anxiety comes from your mind, it can be eliminated by professional coaching.

Your choice: drugging the symptoms, or removing the anxiety by having a direct conversation with its cause.

Weigh the consequences of either option: Drugs such as benzodiazepines, opiates or alcohol are dangerously addictive and only mask the reason for your anxiety; Coaching by a certified psychologist using CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) will attack the source of your anxiety and place in your hands the proven tools to stop anxiety from taking over your life.

To mask anxiety or to get rid of it?

Your choice. Read Anxiety: Debug It Don’t Drug It, by Dr. Michael Catchpole, available through Rutherford Press:

Anxiety: Debug It Don’t Drug It

Is the Internet Breaking?


One hundred-and-fifty years ago, most countries had a postal service that enabled citizens to send and receive five or six messages every day. If you wanted to have afternoon tea with a friend, you could place the request into an envelope, drop the envelope into a mailbox by 10am, and have confirmation in time to dress for the occasion.

Today, we do the same with a variety of synchronous (phone, video) or asynchronous (text, email, etc.) technologies. The outcome has changed little – though, it is more likely to be coffee instead of tea.

With the vastly increased complexity of our new communication technologies – exacerbated by our loss of community oversight to private interests with only profit and corporate benefits in mind – there has been an equal increase in the number of access points for the transmitted information. And where there is such access, someone will seek to use it to personal advantage. “Community oversight” is now considered too naive a concept, so we have rules. As each rule is circumvented a new book of rules is required. The volumes of rules now requires armies of people in each country – bureaucrats and lawyers – to adversarially determine which “t” needs to be crossed and at what profit to whom.

We still know that we need some way to communicate with friends and family regarding the afternoon tea, so, holding our nose, we still use the services of the private, for-profit organizations to perform the human necessity of maintaining contact.

The unfortunate result is that humanity has created a virtually autonomous monster called “the internet”. And we really have no idea how to moderate the monster’s negative effects.

In fact, unknown to all but a tiny number of users of the internet, there are dedicated people working mostly as unpaid volunteers who struggle to deal with this monster. One such group is the European “RIPE”, described in Wikipedia: “RIPE is not a legal entity and has no formal membership. This means that anybody who is interested in the work of RIPE can participate through mailing lists and by attending meetings.”

Here is a fascinating peek into that mysterious world:

…………………………………

Posted by anti-abuse-wg ; on behalf of; Ronald F. G******* :

Perhaps some folks here might be interested to read these two reports, the first of which is a fresh news report published just a couple of days ago, and the other one is a far more detailed investigative report that was completed some time ago now.

Dossier Gubarev – Russian hackers

Court Document

Please share these links widely.

The detailed technical report makes it quite abundantly clear that Webzilla, and all of its various tentacles… many of which even I didn’t know about until seeing this report… most probably qualifies as, and has qualified as a “bullet proof hosting” operation for some considerable time now. As the report notes, the company has received over 400,000 complaints or reports of bad behavior, and it is not clear to me, from reading the report, if anyone at the company even bothered to read any more than a small handful of those.

I have two comments about this.

First, I am inclined to wonder aloud why anyone is even still peering with any of the several ASNs mentioned in the report. To me, the mere fact that any of these ASNs still have connectivity represents a clear and self-evident failure of “self policing” in and among the networks that comprise the Internet.

Second, its has already been a well know fact, both to me and to many others, for some years now, that Webzilla is by no means alone in the category commonly referred to as “bullet proof hosters”. This fact itself raises some obvious questions.

It is clear and apparent, not only from the report linked to above, but from the continuous and years-long existence of -many- “bullet proof hosters” on the Internet that there is no shortage of a market for the services of such hosting companies. The demand for “bullet proof”
services is clearly there, and it is not likely to go away any time soon. In addition to the criminal element, there are also various mischevious governments, or their agents, that will always be more that happy to pay premium prices for no-questions-asked connectivity.

So the question naturally arises: Other than de-peering by other networks, are there any other steps that can be taken to disincentivize networks from participating in this “bullet proof” market and/or to incentivize them to give a damn about their received network abuse complaints?

I have no answers for this question myself, but I felt that it was about time that someone at least posed the question.

The industry generally, and especially in the RIPE region, has a clear and evident problem that traditional “self policing” is not solving.
Worse yet, it is not even discussed much, and that is allowing it to fester and worsen, over time.

It would be Good if there was some actual leadership on this issue, at least from -some- quarter. So far I have not noticed any such worth commenting about, and even looking out towards the future horizon, I don’t see any arriving any time soon.

Regards,
rfg
…………………………………

Squids and Free Will

(from Quantum Events)

The absolute quiet wakes Simion with a start. Not wanting to let the least bit of heat out of his sleeping bag, he moves very carefully to face the pingo’s door. It looks OK.

The little ceramic heater is clicking its way toward cold.

He makes a minor but critical adjustment to a flap of blanket that covers the back of his head, up to his night toque.

Minutes, or tens of minutes, go by. Simion goes over in his mind what happened during the day; what he could have done better; what he wished he had been quicker about doing; the hot, monstrous mouth that was inches from his neck…

“This is going to be one of those long nights,” he mumbles.

“Dah,” answers Andrei.

“You awake too?”

“Heater wake me. Click, click, click. Never end. Get warm, get cold. You snore. Never end.”

Smiling, “I try hard. Perhaps if I lay on my back I can manage to let out some formidable snorts for you… At least it could keep the animals away.” Simion debates whether he should speak frankly. Something, anything to take his mind off that hot gaping mouth.

“Andrei.”

“Still here, my friend.”

Pensively, “Good… Do you ever wonder, ah, if people can hear, like, what…” He trails off.

“Like what what?”

“Things have happened to me, sometimes, so that I’m certain that, well, people can sometimes hear some of what I think.”

Andrei tries to remember the word. “Telepathy.”

“Yeah. Probably silly…”

“Know about squid?”

“Eight slithery tentacles; good camouflage; whales consider them a delicacy.”

“Speak with colour. Every cell on skin can change colour and, and texture. When nearby squid look sexy, colour shimmers in pattern. When food come in big bunch, squid tells other squid with shades of colour. When you catch squid for table, turn red ‘cause it mad as hell. Very smart – to control all of skin needs lots of neurons.”

“I didn’t know that, Andrei. I promise, the next time I have sushi, I’ll give it some thought.”

“What about colour-blind squid?”

“Huh?”

“What if one squid see no colour? Only grey. This squid see other squid talk and do thing, but colour-blind squid only see grey. Think other squid know what they say ‘cause of telepathy. Must be something like telepathy, ‘cause language of grey say little. Everybody must speak with telepathy, he think. He is wrong.”

Simion is stunned by the analogy.

Andrei carries on, “Is like Asperger symptom.”

“Ok. Ok, but I might have a little bit of that, yes, but why can people hear me?”

Andrei ponders that. “If true, prove. Think word. No – need science study…” He is about to launch into a research proposal.

“Thanks, Andrei, but never mind. I’ve already gone through that at a university. Did an intensive four hours of trying to beam my thoughts at research subjects. Nothing. Then, when the oh-so-skeptical assistant prof was wrapping up and telling me about random chance and probability, and I was so tired I just wanted to go and flake out on a couch, I was thinking, what the hell time is it? And he looks at his watch and says, ‘Four o’clock.’ I asked him why he said that. He said, ‘Because you asked me.’ I said, no I didn’t. The argument went on for a while, but nothing good came of it. So I’ve never brought it up before…”

Now, Andrei is wide awake. He tries to make a conscious effort to not think – which, of course, entails strenuous thinking. Soon he slips back to sleep, exhausted.

Simion ponders the Aspergers analogy. He thinks that it explains a few things… Sleep.

Next morning, Simion is still thinking about the colour-blind squid. He puts it into a letter to Laura. His and Andrei’s letters are saved in a mail packet.

Another listless night for Simion in the pingo. It is warmer, so he rolls over with less care about his blanket.

Warmer! What’s wrong?” he thinks, sitting up with a start. “The amount of light bleeding in around the door looks ok . Andrei is… breathing ok . Did the weather change?”

Listening intently, he hears nothing out of the ordinary. He settles back down, causing the plywood under his sleeping bag to creak against the gravel.

Andrei’s head turns toward him slowly. “Shto?”

“Nothing. Too warm. It woke me.”

Now Andrei does a perimeter search with his head raised. “Ok?”

“Yeah, I think so. Must be warmer outside.”

“Dah.” He rolls to his other side.

Several minutes pass.

“You’re not sleeping, are you?”

“No, my friend. Adrenalin do good job to keep head spinning. Thank you.”

Pause. He carries on, “Jebem. What is? Smell wood cell burning.”

“Grey cells. Just… thinking.”

“About…”

Simion sniffs. “About, well, I have this funny way of thinking.” He cuts off Andrei’s retort, “Yeah, and you’re crazy too, but it’s like…”

“Like vodka fog?”

“Shiraz is better for you. No. You know, I have this feeling/idea/certainty someplace in the back of my mind that if I can only take time to drag it out from back there, that there’s something that’ll be really important… That it’ll be an important contribution to how we see our society in the context of why we’re here.” He started slowly but ends with real feeling.

Andrei’s mind is thrown into visions of Paluntov saying the same thing, then he frantically races his mind in a dozen directions at once to avoid what he imagines is “transmitting”. Outwardly, Andrei is tensely stiff, focusing on a sliver of light from the door.

The lack of a voiced reply makes Simion think Andrei is ignoring him.

“Andrei! This is important!”

He relaxes a bit. “Three times important. Good job. Thank you – you make me sleep now.” He produces a snore, wide awake, still on the defensive.

A minute passes.

The effort is exhausting. Andrei rolls to his other side to calm down. He uses Simion’s technique of tossing out a non sequitur. “At night, I wake up sometime and think, ‘Bozhe moi! Is brilliant idea! Have to write idea down! Do in dark. In morning, words and scribble make no sense. Think grand idea in sleep. In morning light is all mish-mush. Mean nothing. Just nice dream… Go to sleep. Have more nice dream.”

Simion shakes his head. “Something weird is going on, Andrei. It’s not like I can hear voices in my head…”

Nodding, “Is good.”

“It’s that I find myself – I don’t know how; mostly when I’m tired – I’m actually inside somebody’s mind…”

Renewed panic scrambles Andrei’s thoughts. Simion waves at a buzzing sound around his ears.

“Is dangerous. Very dangerous, my friend.” Andrei sits up awkwardly, focusing on the outline of light around the door. He pulls his legs from out of the sleeping bag and sits on the box next to his bed.

Suddenly Simion feels a hot panic that he hadn’t felt since the three bullies from the block near his house caught him in an alley contemplating a twenty-dollar bill he’d found outside the local pub.

Heart racing, “What… what do you mean dangerous? Andrei?” Unwelcomed words push forward in his mind: cold death-trap, Russian soldier, rifle, middle-of-friggen-nowhere. He fumbles franticly with his sleeping bag, getting the extra blanket caught around his good arm.

Andrei turns toward him. Quietly, “Stop.”

Simion finally extracts himself, standing and breathing heavily on his side of the beds.

Staring back at the door, Andrei pulls out thoughts he never knew he had.

“Do not know if you hear me in ears or head. No matter – in pingo, in Mofin, attack by bear, we are friend, always.”

He turns again to face Simion. “Have poor English. But need to tell important thing. Man from Oceanographic Institute, Director Paluntov, very smart. More smart than anybody I know. He study philosophy, like you. He know much more.” Andrei smiles kindly at Simion. “Maybe you learn more in future.”

Simion is about to say something but Andrei holds up a hand.

“Paluntov tell me this philosophy very hard for understand. When he say this, I think he joke. Is impossible for simple Andrei to understand. Can say this. Philosophy guys always try understand what means person and what means community. And what connection is.”

Simion lights up. This is his favourite topic, with which he has turned many a party into stone.

“Ok. Like the presocratics, and then Sophists…”

“Only Sophis I know is last name Loren.”

Completely undeterred, Simion catches fire. “So the Greeks started the rational movement by questioning what an individual could do to change the course that their fickle gods had put him on. They came up with the idea that free will was something separate from the will of the gods or even the will of the community. And that it must be some thing that went along with your body but wasn’t really part of your body.”

“Paluntov have same eye like you. See thing not there.” Andrei, at this point, dearly wants to be speak and understand these concepts with Paluntov in Russian. He wants to engage intellectually with Simion, and yet the language barrier is palpable.

“The monotheistic religions…”

Andrei jumps in, “Tradition guys. Close-mind tradition…”

“Ok ok. You’re right. It was the traditionalists in the main religions that always took power away from the thinkers.” Simion shakes his head. “Why do we always end up getting led by closed-minded, as you say, power-hungry people with only enough vision to stay in control! Self-appointed gatekeepers!”

“You read this? My, my teacher say…”

When Simion is excited about a topic he forgets to be respectful of the other’s opinion. “I took this in university. Philosophy, religion, anthropology, biology, psychology, linguistics…”

“All interesting class. Problem I give you at start is why you want to jump both shoes into my mind?”

“Huh?”

“If punch face, I punch better. Or put on mask. Can do nothing if you stomp in brain.”

“Huh?” Simion is taken aback, like someone just told him to get his hands out of a lady’s purse.

“Is hard.” Andrei tries to dredge up Paluntov’s argument about free will. “What you think is your private. What I think, my private place. Want no stomp. Want no eyes, comment, troll. Private… Friend tell friend, if want, what private thing is in mind. If not want, must be locked door. Yes-no?”

Chastened, Simion rolls it over on his tongue, nodding as the concept coalesces. “Your private thoughts are… private. We all have those things that we must keep that way. So, as you say, when a friend decides to tell you those private things, it is that person’s free will to do so.”

“Is not free will if someone see everything private. Is dangerous. Get you dead.”

Simion is having an epiphany. Stepping over this line, he looks back to see how blind he has been to people around him. Not simply in the matter of wanting to look into their minds. He sees that he was imposing his own will on them in so many ways, without giving it a thought.

“Respect is at the heart of it.” He nods again. “Everybody has their own private thoughts and their own desires. If they want – if they want – to engage with me as a friend, it is their free will to make that decision.”

They sit on their boxes thinking it over.

Andrei flashes an impish grin. “Not all have enough brain for free will.”

Time to Recycle (or Dump?)

Pile of Letters

Isn’t the internet great? Anything you want to know is right there at your fingertips!

There are a few problems. Wherever people and their ideas congregate, somebody wants to make money out of it. So, there are ads coming out of your keester, hucksters trying to spam/phish/scrape/? your i.d. and your id. Grumps and haters YELLING AT YOU!

And there are just too many new words and terms to keep straight – ah, correct.

We all have vague memories of some really neat stuff that we read. Somewhere. Sometime. Maybe. If only all that miscellaneous disconnected data would just stop flying at my aging greying cells!

Where was I? Oh. Recycling. Well here are a few facts that were posted in the last century. They have each been debunked – which is to say, “proven to be factually untrue”. But that won’t stop the internet from recycling them (wry grin):


In the 1500s baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water.  The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children — last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.  Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water”.

True or false?

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme, “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old”.

True or false?

If you would care to see the debunkers at work, check out these two sites:

“Snopes”

“History Magazine”

Put On a Hat

The Six Hat Gang

Writing from the point of view of another personality can sometimes be taxing. Here is a technique taken from the wonderful world of training and human resources, significantly amended for literary artists:

Six Hats is a way of putting your mind into another mode. When a character in your story needs to be shown to think in a certain way, put on a Hat from below, as appropriate.

White hat – Facts & Information

These people make statements of fact, and are able to discern information from scant evidence, presenting the views of others in a factual manner.  Yes, they are boring personalities. In plot lines, these characters act as the neutral “announcer”, and can present details about your plot or other characters along with the background to events.  Where background info or character traits could take too many pages, a white hat person can be useful.  Absences of information can also be brought to the reader’s attention.

Red hat – Feelings & Emotions

Their feelings are in your face. They tell you their gut instincts.  In many cases these characters are foils against which ideas can be tested, and can be contrasted against other, more stable, characters.  While central characters may not be Red Hats all the time, they may express this side of their nature periodically.

This hat can be used to emphasize an empathetic response to a situation of other character.

Grey hat – Being Cautious

 These characters regularly identify barriers, hazards, risks and other negative connotations.  While some people may find his hat is natural to use, the issues with it are that some will tend to use it when it is not requested and when it is not appropriate, thus stopping the action of others.  Another issue is that some people will naturally start to look for the solutions to raised problems —they start practicing green on grey thinking before it is requested.

Yellow hat – Being Positive and Optimistic

These characters identify the positive aspects associated with any situation. This is the opposite of grey hat thinking. A Yellow hat looks for the reasons in favour of something.  They will look to justify statements in favour of the idea or other person.  Called the idea of “undecided positive”  -whereas the grey hat would be skeptical – “undecided negative”.
They may use statements regarding the benefits that exist, or positive statements about the likelihood of achieving the benefits, or identifying the key supports available that will benefit this course of action.

Green hat – New Ideas

This is the hat of thinking new thoughts.  These characters bounce from one idea to another like butterflies in a field of flowers.  They exist to identify new possibilities, some of which may be reasonable. Things are said for the sake of seeing what they might mean,rather than to form a judgment.  Because green hat thinking covers the full spectrum of creativity, it can take many forms.

Blue hat – The Big Picture

This is the hat used by experienced people who assess all the possibilities and then set a course of action.  The blue hat organizes things.  What have we done so far?  What can we do next?  Who should be asked to do it? Which consequences need to be considered?


Quantum Events

It is now available!

My collection of short stories, plays and poems has been published by Rutherford Press.

Extract from Love is War:

Bistro, that weekend.

Loud music, yelling conversations, lights flashing, gyrating dancers on the floor, small groups and twosomes more-or-less conversing at tables and on couches around the dance floor. Some are drinking, some are taking other forms of mind-altering chemicals. Much smiling and nodding.

Elena is dressed in a knock-out bright tangerine and neon blue combo that mostly contains her ample figure. Rosey is, in her own way, more subtly attractive in a light green and tan dress. They are both wearing high heels, though Elena’s looked weaponized.

Contents

Pretending To Be Human
The Universe Is Shrinking
The Land is Life
The Clinker
Is God Dead?
Corporate M & A 
Living in a Pingo
Skytrain Desultory
Do They Walk Among Us?
Visitor
Unbonding
The Future of the Future
Love Is War
Bus Delivery
Squids and Free Will
Searching For Fate
The Cub
Moebius Slip
BOXES

Buy it on Amazon: Quantum Events

Or here:

Quantum Events

C$21.95

 

And A Fine Time Was Had!

Kay gave a riveting reading from her book, Beyond the Blue Door, at last night’s book launch. Her good friend, and ex, Craig Brunanski, wowed the audience with his songs. One of them was written using the book’s images and called, of course, Beyond the Blue Door. Thank you so much Craig!
The evening was capped with Ben Nuttall-Smith reading from his memoir about surviving the London Blitz, a pedophile uncle and he and his sister’s passage as children on the Rangitata, a converted oil tanker, as they survived a submarine attack. His poem of their horrible sail through burning, oil-covered sailors in the water, who could not be picked up, brought tears to the eyes of the audience.
A memorable evening! Thanks to Kay, Ben and Craig!