19 December 2013


Thank you all for your kind words.

Jake loved to sing from early on and would burst into full-throated howls whenever anyone played the piano. He taught Lily how to sing. At first, she had no clue what was happening when he would sing, but eventually came around. Poor little thing couldn't carry a tune, but now she's a very enthusiastic chorister. This is their last duet on Jake's last day with yours truly accompanying. I'll always cherish it.

18 December 2013

Jakob Wolfgang Gunther von H. aka Jake, RIP (2000-2013)

I'm not an obsessive pet poster. Here's two (the earlier post, at the bottom, is really quite interesting if you haven't read it), and you might find a couple of random pix scattered. That doesn't mean I'm not a pet lover nor an avid pet photog. But I felt I wanted to share this.

This is a bit of a sad Christmas for the H's. We lost Jake, our 13-year old German Shepherd Dog. He was a great dog and faithful companion. He raised all three of my children. I spent more time with him in the last 13 years than I did with either my wife or my kids. He and I work out of the house together while everybody else goes off to work and school.

He had a long, happy life for a GSD, a great yard, and a family that dearly loved him. We took him on car trips, hikes in the NC and GA mountains, and lake and beach vacations where he proved to be a champion body surfer. Pretty much everywhere we went without flying. He never met a body of water he didn't want to jump into and play. He loved children, and they loved him. If you came to my home and I welcomed you, Jake welcomed you instantly into his herd.

Toward the end, he developed the canine version of Lou Gehrig's Disease [ALS]: Chronic Degenerative Myeolopathy. It's progressive and incurable. He was beginning to suffer and struggle, couldn't walk without falling on his backside, couldn't control his legs. It was a wrenching family decision, but we had to put him to sleep. We are waiting until Wisdomie comes home for Christmas to spread his ashes in his beloved dogyard.

We miss you, Buddy!

Here's the first pic we took when we brought him home.

Floppy eared fluffball who looks you right in the eyes
You might find happier pictures of me, but I assure you you won't find many. Jake, either! My 80 lb lap dog.
Wisdaughter's touching pictorial tribute
Jake in HIS fenced yard which he gracefully shared with tiny Lily. His last day.
Jake and Sasha by the fire. Our last pic of Jake.

13 December 2013

Your Friday Night Jam

I simply can't stop playing this video. Click it large and play it loud.

Just wow!

11 December 2013

Haters Gonna' Hate, Pt .3

(cont'd from here) Some quotes:

“Hate is a bottomless cup; I will pour and pour.” Euripides, Medea

“["F]or it's not possible," [Socrates] said, "for anybody to experience a greater evil than hating arguments. Hatred of arguments and hatred of human beings come about in the same way. For hatred of human beings arises from artlessly trusting somebody to excess, and believing that human being to be in every way true and sound and trustworthy, and then a little later discovering that this person is wicked and untrustworthy - and then having this experience again with another. And whenever somebody experiences this many times, and especially at the hands of just those he might regard as his most intimate friends and comrades, he then ends up taking offense all the time and hates all human beings and believes there's nothing at all sound in anybody.” Plato, Phaedo

“In time we hate that which we often fear.” Shakespeare, Cleopatra.
"Nature seems (the more we look into it) made up of antipathies: without something to hate, we should lose the very spring of thought and action. Life would turn to a stagnant pool, were it not ruffled by the jarring interests, the unruly passions, of men. ... 
"The pleasure of hating, like a poisonous mineral, eats into the heart of religion, and turns it to rankling spleen and bigotry; it makes patriotism an excuse for carrying fire, pestilence, and famine into other lands: it leaves to virtue nothing but the spirit of censoriousness, and a narrow, jealous, inquisitorial watchfulness over the actions and motives of others. ... 
"In private life do we not see hypocrisy, servility, selfishness, folly, and impudence succeed, while modesty shrinks from the encounter, and merit is trodden under foot? How often is "the rose plucked from the forehead of a virtuous love to plant a blister there!" What chance is there of the success of real passion? What certainty of its continuance? Seeing all this as I do, and unravelling the web of human life into its various threads of meanness, spite, cowardice, want of feeling, and want of understanding, of indifference towards others, and ignorance of ourselves, - seeing custom prevail over all excellence, itself giving way to infamy - mistaken as I have been in my public and private hopes, calculating others from myself, and calculating wrong; always disappointed where I placed most reliance; the dupe of friendship, and the fool of love; - have I not reason to hate and to despise myself? Indeed I do; and chiefly for not having hated and despised the world enough." Wm. Hazlitt, The Pleasure of Hating
“Loving someone is different from being in love with someone. You can hate someone you're in love with.” Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“[O]ne captain, seizing the line-knife from his broken prow, had dashed at the whale, as an Arkansas duelist at his foe, blindly seeking with a six-inch blade to reach the fathom-deep life of the whale. That captain was Ahab.” Melville, Moby Dick

“One does not hate as long as one has a low esteem of someone, but only when one esteems him as an equal or a superior.” - Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that's the essence of inhumanity.” - G. B. Shaw, The Devil's Disciple

"We do not like to be robbed of an enemy; we want someone to hate when we suffer. It is so depressing to think that we suffer because we are fools; yet taking mankind in mass, that is the truth. For this reason, no political party can acquire any driving force except through hatred; it must hold someone to obloquy. If so-and-so’s wickedness is the sole cause of our misery, let us punish so-and-so and we shall be happy. The supreme example of this kind of political thought was the Treaty of Versailles. Yet most people are only seeking some new scapegoat to replace the Germans.” Bertrand Russell, Sceptical Essays.

“Suddenly, by the sort of violent effort with which one wrenches one's head away from the pillow in a nightmare, Winston succeeded in transferring his hatred from the face on the screen to the dark−haired girl behind him. Vivid, beautiful hallucinations flashed through his mind. He would flog her to death with a rubber truncheon. He would tie her naked to a stake and shoot her full of arrows like Saint Sebastian. He would ravish her and cut her throat at the moment of climax. Better than before, moreover, he realized why it was that he hated her. He hated her because she was young and pretty and sexless, because he wanted to go to bed with her and would never do so, because round her sweet supple waist, which seemed to ask you to encircle it with your arm, there was only the odious scarlet sash, aggressive symbol of chastity.” Orwell, 1984

“The truly terrible thing about the war spirit, about the fear and hate hysteria it generates, is that it forces us to think and talk and feel in terms of abstractions—those "communists" this time, those "fascists" last time. But those we are fighting and killing are people—men, women and children—not political, geographic or economic abstractions. They are, in the main, as decent and fearful and confused as we are. And they regard us as abstractions as much as we do them.” Sydney J. Harris

"At the very beginning, it seems, the external world, objects, what is hated are identical." Freud, The Instincts and their Vicissitudes, p. 136 (1915).
"Hate of the object involves hate of oneself, you suffer with the object you attack because you cannot give up the object and feel one with it. …
"What is the meaning of hate? It is not the absolute opposite of love; that would be indifference, having no interest in a person, not wanting a relationship and so having no reason for either loving or hating, feeling nothing. Hate is love grown angry because of rejection. We can only really hate a person if we want their love. Hate is an expression of frustrated love needs, an attempt to destroy the bad rejecting side of a person in the hope of leaving their good responsive side available, a struggle to alter them. The anxiety is over the danger of hate destroying both sides, and the easiest way out is to find two objects and love one and hate the other." H. Guntrip, "A Study of Fairbairn's Theory of Schizoid Reactions," p. 351, Psychopathology: A Source Book, ed. Charles Frederick Reed.
(to be cont'd)

04 December 2013

This Week in Water

It's been a bit slow around the ole' H2O cooler the last couple of weeks. An abbreviated aggravating aggregation follows.

"IceCube", an instrument consisting of some 5160 optical sensors carved into a cubic kilometer of Antarctic ice (not the actor/rapper), has detected the first evidence of extraterrestrial neutrinos: "Neutrinos are subatomic particles with essentially no mass and no electric charge. As such, their interactions with matter are very weak. ... they can travel unscathed from the edge of the universe, from the inner neighborhoods of black holes, and from the nuclear furnaces where cosmic rays are thought to be created." Billions of these high-energy particles pass through our bodies every second.

A 4.4 billion year old meteorite the size of a fist—dubbed "Black Beauty"—that managed to find its way from inside a Martian volcano to the Saharan desert is revealing clues to the origins of our solar system some 4.5 billion years ago, the formation of Mars, and the presence of chemicals and even water on the Red Planet.

A volcanic eruption off the coast of Japan has given rise to a new island.

Methane gas escaping from underneath melting Arctic ice, especially the Siberian shelf, could catastrophically increase global warming and could stimulate another mass global extinction event.

For the first time, scientists are able to measure the amount of charcoal entering the oceans through runoff. It appears to be massive.

CO2 is increasing ocean acidification at alarming rates. "When CO2 dissolves into the ocean, it creates carbonic acid. Carbonic acid leads to higher water acidity, especially near the surface. As levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere rise due to human activity like burning fossil fuels, acidity levels in the oceans also rise. 'As ocean acidity increases, its capacity to absorb CO2 from the atmosphere decreases. This decreases the ocean’s role in moderating climate change...'"

TEPCO, the Japanese power company, is planning to dump the radioactive waste water from its damaged Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

Plastics, breaking down in the oceans, are beginning to show up in the digestive tracts of lugworms which are low on the food chain.

An iceberg the size of Singapore has broken off from Antartica.

Scientists are trying to model the complex set of processes that lead to a rise in sea level and are beginning to make some reasonable predictions.

Canada wants to claim the North Pole. Denmark, Norway, Russian, and the U.S. say "not so fast."

Canada is also attempting to build a series of toxic lakes to deal with the environmental devastation caused by extracting oil from its Alberta tar sands. Environmental concerns abound.

Is your city threatened by the stresses on U.S. aquifers? Does it stand to run out of water perhaps even by mid-century? Mine does. According to Columbia University's Water Center and NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, Atlanta joins Salt Lake City, Lincoln, Cleveland, Miami, Washington, El Paso, San Antonio, San Francisco, Houston, and LA among large cities that could be deeply effected by water shortages in the not-too-distant future.

Water restrictions may soon become necessary in South Florida.

A brief sampling of regional 'water wars' taking shape in the U.S.

Israelis are pioneering 'drip irrigation' techniques to increase agricultural productivity efficiently. Meanwhile, the sewage system in Gaza has collapsed and raw sewage is running through the streets.

Environmentalists and social justice activists are urging the World Trade Organization to resist the privatization and commodification of water (and sanitation) as a market-based resource in the on-going TPP talks and free trade negotiations between the U.S. and the E.U.

The Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Corporation has been waging a long-standing covert campaign to discourage and stigmatize the use of tap water for drinking in its marketing efforts for its bottled water products.

On a positive note, water levels are beginning to rebound in the U.S. Great Lakes, home to 1/5 of the world's fresh water.

Satellites have mapped Australia's Great Barrier Reef for the first time.

Rip currents claim more lives in Australia than bushfires, floods, cyclones, and sharks COMBINED. If you are swimming at the beach and feel yourself being pulled out away from shore, do NOT fight the current. Float and signal for help. If no help is available, drift with the current until you feel you can swim parallel to shore and swim out of the rip and along the shoreline until you are out of the rip. Then the waves should help you swim back into shore. You can get exhausted swimming against a rip current and drown.

A submersible off the coast of Oahu located a WWII Japanese submarine scuttled in 1946.

Divers searching for bodies at the site of a three-day-old shipwreck off the coast of Nigeria found the ship's cook alive and breathing in an air pocket of the upturned ship. That may be the coolest thing ever!

02 December 2013

"Has It Ever Occurred to You..."

I want to thank Jerome Doolittle over at Bad Attitudes, a blog of pointed snippets and commentary I've been reading for years, for pointing me to this article on Psychology Today's blogsite.

Normally, I read/skim posts from the Wisblog Roll on the right side of this page, absorb the information, chase down the links, and continue on my merry way. When I read Doolittle's post the subject struck a chord with me, but I didn't have the time to run down the reference. And I was haunted by it the entire weekend. When I got back to my computer, I couldn't remember where I had originally seen it. I had to page through several of my regular haunts until I found it.

Here's the money quote:
Dunning and Kruger often refer to a “double curse” when interpreting their findings: People fail to grasp their own incompetence, precisely because they are so incompetent. And since, overcoming their incompetence would first require the ability to distinguish competence from incompetence people get stuck in a vicious cycle. 
“The skills needed to produce logically sound arguments, for instance, are the same skills that are necessary to recognize when a logically sound argument has been made. Thus, if people lack the skills to produce correct answers, they are also cursed with an inability to know when their answers, or anyone else’s, are right or wrong. They cannot recognize their responses as mistaken, or other people’s responses as superior to their own.”
I realize that PT has what I would call an "empathy bias", that is to say they don't necessarily see the Gohmerts, Palins, and Becks of the world as knaves, but rather as fools deserving of our understanding. They are granted a certain amount of cultural 'authority' by virtue of their having access to the megaphone of politics and media PR and are allowed to say, or repeat, whatever talking point some political handler or PR flack has put in front of them. To PT, their lies are not lies (because they don't necessarily know what they are saying is false), they simply don't know any better and, in fact, because of their self-regard do not even recognize that they could be wrong. More's the pity.

The problem of assertive, self-confident, self-righteous ignorance has long been a puzzler for me. How do you deal with people for whom the concept of a shared, factual reality is foreign? People for whom the notion of truth is simply irrelevant or at least subsidiary to an emotionally satisfying 'gotcha' point? Especially when they are politically aggressive and noisy and well-funded. Especially when they make every effort to avoid inconvenient facts.

This is quite possibly the central problem Socrates (via Plato) addressed 2500+ years ago in the nascent democracy of ancient Athens:
Sophistry + Rhetoric + PR vs. Truth + Logic + Reality.
Quaint, I know, but the Protagoras is still relevant today.

Socrates was famous for asking questions like 'What does it mean to lead a good life?' 'What is excellence (or virtue), and how important is its pursuit in everything I am and do?' and 'What does it mean to "know thyself"?' These are the sorts of questions that any self-aware person should constantly be asking themselves so they don't fall into the trap of ignorance and bias. It is a philosophical attitude. One that helps a person understand when they might be wrong or mistaken.

The authors of the PT article identify the sort of ignorance into which these types of question simply cannot enter.
The Dunning-Kruger effect describes a cognitive bias in which people perform poorly on a task, but lack the meta-cognitive capacity to properly evaluate their performance. As a result, such people remain unaware of their incompetence and accordingly fail to take any self-improvement measures that might rid them of their incompetence.
A correlate of this Dunning-Kruger effect might possibly explain how roughly 40% of Americans believe themselves to be in the top 1% financially and thus how they can be duped by political con artists into voting against their own economic self-interest.

Sure, it's possible to argue over what is or isn't a fact, what may or may not be true, what the nature of reality is, what is or isn't a logical solution. And those are the sorts of arguments we should be having in the public sphere. But when we get into the realm of ignorance, emotional manipulation, blind faith, false premises, preconceived notions, self-serving prejudices, ideologically based propaganda, etc., dialogue—and, more importantly, real societal progress—becomes difficult if not impossible. An emotionally satisfying argument is not necessarily the best.

Critical thinking, logic (Aristotelian/classical/propositional as well as symbolic), rhetoric (its uses and abuses) need to be an integral part of every person's education to help them break out of this vicious cycle of ignorance and prepare them for the public sphere of life in a nominally democratic society such as ours. But the question is: how can we inculcate these sorts of values/virtues in a society/culture in which they are not prized and, in fact, in which there are wealthy and powerful interests arrayed against them?