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All posts for the month June, 2021

So My Anthropomorphism Wasn’t Totally Off Base!

Published June 30, 2021 by Nan Mykel

Special–had to share…

annieasksyou...

About Beronda-Beronda L. Montgomery, image from berondamontgomery.com

I’ve noted on occasion that I tend to go pretty far down the anthropomorphism path. An example: our house was long shaded by wonderful old trees.

I loved them for their natural beauty, their cooling us from the summer’s heat, their enveloping us with privacy. Sitting beneath them or watching from a window as their leaves swished in the breeze, I invariably felt calm and relaxed.

Over time, a number of these trees became ill. We always waited til we’d received solid confirmation that they were dying, when we had no choice but to take them down before they toppled onto our house in a storm.

That potential became frighteningly real during a severe windstorm last year, when three enormous nearby trees fell, their roots yanking up huge chunks of sidewalk and leaving deep holes. They severely damaged a house and two cars…

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WILL THE REAL GOD PLEASE STAND UP?

Published June 25, 2021 by Nan Mykel

Linguist Noam Chomsky has spent much of his life studying the underlying structure of language–not the meaning of words used but their underlying form and pattern. Evolution is the hypothesized generator underlying language, which subsequently developed world wide into the various languages, all based on the underlying pre-existing patterning. (See Grammatical Man by Jeremy Campbell, Simon and Schuster). A similar underlying evolutional provision is hypothesized to exist in other areas (with some suggestive evidence) in the area of mathematics and musical talent. Incidentally, the most spoken languages as of 2020 are English: 1,132 million; Mandarin Chinese: 1,117 million speakers; Hindi 615 million; and Spanish 534 million (blog.Lingoda.com).

Perhaps a more clearcut evolutionary prescription is suggested by what has been called the spiritual gene hypothesis, fine-tuned by Dean Hamer, a molecular biologist at the National Institutes of Health. The God gene hypothesis proposes that human spirituality is influenced by heredity and that a specific gene called vesicular monoamine Transporter 2 (VMAT2) acts by altering monoamine elements and provides an evolutionary advantage by providing individuals with an innate sense of optimism (Wikipedia).

Hamer draws a sharp distinction between spirituality and religion or belief in a particular god, the latter of which is transmitted culturally. Wikipedia reports that there are approximately 4,200 active religions in the world [!] As of 2020 the breakdown is:

ReligionAdherentsPercentage
Christianity2.382 billion31.11%
Islam1.907 billion24.9%
Secular Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist1.193 billion15.58%
Hinduism1.251 billion15.16%
Buddhism506 million5.06%
Chinese traditional religion394 million5%
Ethnic religions excluding some in separate categories300 million3%
African traditional religions100 million1.2%
Sikhism26 million0.30%
Judaism14.7 million0.18%
Spiritism14.5 million0.18%
Baháʼí5.0 million0.07%
Jainism4.2 million0.05%
Shinto4.0 million0.05%
Cao Dai4.0 million0.05%
Zoroastrianism2.6 million0.03%
Tenrikyo2.0 million0.02%
Animism1.9 million0.02%
Druze1.2 million0.015%
Neo-Paganism1.0 million0.01%
Unitarian Universalism0.8 million0.01%
Rastafari0.6 million0.007%
Total7.79 billion100%

Summer Poem

Published June 24, 2021 by Nan Mykel

Magnificent…

Oran's Well

  

This poem is a writing chair at 5 AM
with summer night pressed to the window,
luxe and lush and fresh-scented with rain.
Night is the river and the poem her crannog,
the song of the salmon coursing the worlds,
her eyes fey-lit with bioluminescence,
that glowing domain of water words
the verses weave in wombed refrain.

The poem shuts its eyes as the night bids
and widens undersense to dream, canoeing
down the river in a drum of crannog song,
chaired in ecstasy’s vatic virile thrum.
The music is water-born and bourned,
branching horns across the night forest
that canopies the poem’s pale cranium.

A crashing rhythm by matins wrought:
from river forges the poem tongs its fish
glowing with weirdlight harmonies,
silverine over ghostly sash, the ochre
of occasion rimmed with silt — soul ash.

Here is the poetry the darkling night rides
a transit, if you…

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Gosh…

Published June 24, 2021 by Nan Mykel

In 2020, during the Trump administration, 881 active Secret Service employees were diagnosed with COVID-19. This, according to records obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), included a majority, 477, of secret service “special agents,” and 249 from the “uniformed division.” From <https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2021/6/22/2036545/-Newly-released-records

A lightning strike can lead to strange super talents. [But don’t count on it}. In a blog post for Psychology Today, University of Miami neuroscientist Berit Brogaard writes about an incident where an orthopaedic surgeon who was struck by lightning developed an urge to learn to play the piano. He began to compose music he had mysteriously started hearing in his head since the strike. After a few months he abandoned his career as a surgeon and became a classical musician. This type of phenomenon baffles scientists. From <https://www.sciencealert.com/what-happens-after-being-hit-by-lightning>

YIKES! (via the May 17, 2019 The Week): A 72-year old French adventurer and former paratrooper has become the first person to cross the Atlantic in a barrel.  Jean-Jacques Savin set off from the Canary Islands in December in his 10-foot reinforced plywood vessel, which has no motor, oars, or sail and was propelled only by ocean currents.  After four months at sea and having traveled 2,930 miles–during which he survived on canned food, freshly caught fish, and a block of foie gras–Savin finally reached the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Eustatius last week.  It is “the end of this adventure,” He wrote on Facebook.  Image CNN Travel

 

JUST CURIOUS…

Published June 23, 2021 by Nan Mykel

Is anything positive happening anywhere in the government? If so, I’d sure like to hear about it.

I’ve seen lists of things that have failed. How about a list of successes to date, beside money for those suffering from the pandemic. Not that I’m discounting that but perhaps for every unfortunate occurrence we could acknowledge a positive one?

Help ask leadership a few questions that need answers

Published June 22, 2021 by Nan Mykel

Food for thought, Mr. President.

musingsofanoldfart

I do not have a crystal ball, but I do read and have read for more than a few years. I am not prescient, but I do recognize we have issues that are just not getting talked about enough or at all. Please help me ask a few simple questions of leadership – state and federal representatives, senators, governors, council member and county commissioners, etc.

  • since there is a global and US water crisis that will only be made worse by climate change – what do you plan to do about it now, not as it becomes even worse a problem?
  • since climate change is a huge problem by itself and shows up in utility, reinsurance, NGO, and governmental models with catastrophic impact, how do you plan to leverage further what others are already doing to combat it?
  • since America has fallen woefully behind other countries in infrastructure and we…

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COUSINS

Published June 21, 2021 by Nan Mykel

Horseshoe crab hanging on my wall

tunes up louder our past’s recall.

Someone found you on the beach

and brought you within my reach.

I gutted you but you were dead,

ahead of me, let it be said.

Now you hang in one oh seven

pausing on your way to heaven?

You’re bereft of life as I will be

when my old heart gives out on me.

But now I hang you in my hall,

a dreg from life’s own carryall,

and strong reminder of our past–

cousins, joining hands at last.

8-26-19

EUREKA

Published June 20, 2021 by Nan Mykel

Diana Ravitch today on her blog reported on an incredible study at Stanford University which brings to mind the concept of a course not only to be taken by students, but also by candidates running for office, members of Congress, and yes, all adults too:

We live in an age when politicians, advertisers, and others develop and distribute fake news to sell their wares. It’s more important than ever for people to have the digital skills to check the accuracy of what they see online.

A recent study conducted by Stanford University researchers reached a sobering conclusion. Most students don’t know how to fact-check what they see online.

The University published the following survey of the results:

A new national study by Stanford researchers showing a woeful inability by high schoolers to detect fake news on the internet suggests an urgent need for schools to integrate new tools and curriculum into classrooms that boost students’ digital skills, the study’s authors say.

In the largest such study undertaken, researchers from Stanford Graduate School of Education devised a challenge for 3,446 American high school students who had been carefully selected to match the demographic makeup of the American population.

Rather than conduct a standard survey, in which students would self-report their media habits and skills, the research team came up with a series of live internet tasks. The results, published online this week in the journal Educational Researcher, highlight what the researchers say is an urgent need to better prepare students for the realities of a world filled with a continual flow of misleading information.

“This study is not an indictment of the students—they did what they’ve been taught to do—but the study should be troubling to anyone who cares about the future of democracy,” said Joel Breakstone, director of the Stanford History Education Group and the study’s lead author. “We have to train students to be better consumers of information.”

In one of the study’s tasks, students were shown an anonymously produced video that circulated on Facebook in 2016 claiming to show ballot stuffing during Democratic primary elections and asked to use Internet-enabled computers to determine whether it provided strong evidence of voter fraud.

Students tried, mostly in vain, to discover the truth. Despite access to the internet’s powerful search capabilities, just three of the study’s more than three thousand participants — less than one tenth of one percent – were able to divine the true source of the video, which actually featured footage of voter fraud in Russia.

In another task, students were asked to vet a website proclaiming to “disseminate factual reports” about climate change. Ninety-six percent failed to discover the publisher’s ties to the fossil fuel industry. Overall, the researchers found that students were too easily swayed by relatively weak indicators of credibility—a website’s appearance, the characteristics of its domain name, the site’s “About” page, or the sheer quantity of information available on a website, irrespective of the quality of that information.

“Regardless of the test, most students fared poorly, and some fared more poorly than others,” said Sam Wineburg, the Margaret Jacks Professor of Education at Stanford, who co-authored the paper. “It presents a concerning picture of American students’ ability to figure out who produced a given story, what their biases might have been, and whether the information is reliable. More troubling still is how easy it is for agents of disinformation to produce misleading—or even deliberately false stories—that carry the sheen of truth. Coupled with the instantaneous and global reach of today’s social media, it does not bode well for the future of information integrity.”

The researchers suggested potential remedies that might right the ship, including teaching students strategies based on what professional fact checkers do–strategies that have been shown in experiments to improve students’ digital savvy.

“It would be great if all students knew how to take advantage of the full web and had complete command of advanced skills like Boolean operators, but that’s a lot to ask,” Wineburg said. “If you want to teach kids to drive a car, first you have to teach them to stop at red lights and not cross double lines, before learning how a catalytic converter works. As the study shows, a lot of these kids aren’t stopping at red yet.”

It is possible to develop students’ digital literacy skills, Wineburg said. Given the risk to our democracy, it will be critical for schools to integrate these skills into all subjects, from history to math, and at every grade level.

“The kids can do it,” Wineburg said. “We must help get them there.”

The study was funded by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

I BIT

Published June 19, 2021 by Nan Mykel

The first thing on my mind when I woke up this morning was, IS JILL doing some kind of experiment to see how easy it is to start a conspiracy theory? She gave no source, and surely the dialogue is too excruciatingly snide and awful. So I took the article down, for now. I know it’s easy to believe conspiracy theories–I had my own about 9/11 and JFK’s assassination. Not saying it’s a conspiracy theory, just so unspeakable until the source appears. Perhaps Jill will say more?

NO FUN!

Published June 16, 2021 by Nan Mykel

As if the rampant pandemic weren’t  enough, there’s information afoot that “only one thing is certain: The universe will end.”  (It doesn’t mention heaven).

The astrophysicist Katie Mack’s The End of Everything (Astrophysically Speaking) writes,  as reported in The New York Review of Books July 1, 2021, “Only one thing is certain: the universe will end.  It simply cannot remain unchanged forever. The universe has been expanding since its birth about 13.8 billion years ago. As its composition has changed from being dominated by radiation for the first 30,000 years of its existence to being dominated by matter and then by dark energy (for the past 4 billion years),  the expansion rate has also changed. Further transitions will determine the universe’s ultimate fate.  This is a challenging question that several large teams  of cosmologists are probing with observational surveys and experiments.”

Another review in the same article is of Frank Wilczek’s Fundamentals, containing two main sections, “What There Is,”  and “Beginnings and Ends.”  The review, All Things Great and Small, by Priamvada Natarajan, also discusses Katia Moskvitch’s new book, Neutron Stars: The Quest to understand the Zombies of the Universe.

We are reminded not to worry, life on Earth [or Earth itself?] won’t be around by that time.  Still, couldn’t our inhabitants quit squabbling and instead  love, support and enjoy while the eternal now  lingers here?

The accumulation of money, power, manipulation and ego just doesn’t hack it.

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