Why even have a jury if someone else can decide what they should have thought?
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day.
Google’s St. Patrick’s Day Doodle for 2020 features the famous Cliffs of Moher.
I am celebrating St Patrick’s Day with Guinness and Jameson’s.
I used my Woolworths Rewards points to get a good price on a dozen cans of stout and a bottle of whiskey. I’m not planning on drinking it all at once. However I may just be getting myself gargled. And to be sure, why not?
When sorrows are many, and pleasures are few
Tis fine to be drinking the rare Mountain Dew.
I first learned the wonderful word gargled when I visited Lios Dúin Bhearna, in September 2008. Lisdoonvarna has an annual matchmaking fair every September and I just happened to arrive on that day. There was, of course, no accommodation available and I had to drive on to Ballyvaughan, in Irish, Baile Uí Bheacháin. Seeing that and realising the two were pronounced the same, was when I decided I had to learn irish. A task I still struggle at with little success.
But I digress.
In Lisdoonvarna I noticed that almost everyone I saw was either intoxicated or were selling something to the intoxicated. There was definitely some sort of festival happening. I went into a shop, where I bought a fine pie and a bottle of some soft drink I’d never heard of before. Orangina, from France.
I asked the shopkeeper what was going on. He told me it was the day of the annual matchmaking fair, and as usual, everyone in the town was pretty much gargled by ten o’clock. I love that word. To me it such a descriptive irish term. Especially when said in a soft West coast accent.
As with all new words, once heard, I heard it soon again. Just the next day, at the Cliffs of Moher. A group of people had just walked out onto the cliff top past the “Do Not Proceed Past This Point” sign.
“They’re probably gargled”.
Around 50 people had fallen from the cliffs by that time. The score is 66 only 12 years later.
So here’s to getting gargled and not falling down.
This morning I see a python on a gnarly tree branch and a vindictive ghost.
They are strange creatures. I have studied them for some time, and still find their behaviour inexplicable. Despite almost constantly killing each other in various Skirmishes, battles and wars, anywhere, and at any time, around their planet, they rarely eat each other, even after mating. They don’t even eat their own young, although they can catch them easily.
Their genetic code differs greatly from ours. I have been unable to learn anything from those I have eaten. Thus I must learn from studying their behaviour, a task that seems dauntingly difficult.
They have no claws or ovipositors, but have developed an astonishing array of synthetic weapons with which to attack each other. So far I have not determined the criteria on which they base their decision to attack, nor on their choice of weapon, which ranges from sharpened objects of various types and hand held projectile throwers, to extremely large mobile devices, having cooperative crews of many individuals and capable of throwing projectiles and explosive devices over a great distance.
This interesting social construct of cooperative communities is a most alien concept, difficult to grasp. It consists of numbers of individuals, from small groups to large area-wide populations, and of any gender working together to construct habitats and also to craft these various devices with which to attack each other. In some areas, these attacks are ritual in nature, and death rarely results. In other areas whole communities attack and slaughter other communities, with devices designed to make holes in vital organs, or to disintegrate them entirely.
How they learn the skills required without eating each other I have yet to discover.
How individuals decide to cooperate with some, yet attack and destroy other groups, I have been unable to determine. It may involve territoriality. There appears to be some form of genetically coded ritual involved. They may not be able to consciously choose, despite the appearance of rational behaviour on occasion.
A difficult ritual to understand, from my perspective, takes place on designated pathways where individuals or small cooperative groups enter various forms of mobile device and ritually pass each other at high speed, apparently seeking suitable prey. These pathways cover most of the land mass where terrain permits and cross territorial boundaries.
At seemingly random intervals, somewhere along these paths one device will crash into another, or into some feature of the environment. This may result in injury or death of some or all participants. For some reason, survivors rarely attempt to finish off and eat any others still alive. In fact they cooperate to ensure any injured or damaged individuals are taken away to places where they can be repaired.
It is this custom of repairing themselves that I find the most inexplicable of all. After doing their best to kill and maim each other, they then go to great lengths to to repair damaged individual survivors, rather than eat them. Without that, how do they learn from each other?
How the individuals who carry out the repairs are able to restrain themselves from eating those damaged ones needs to be studied further. Perhaps they use some form of inhibitor to suppress the natural cannibal instinct. They may be a separate sub-species genetically primed to repair rather than attack. If their genes have somehow combined with those of the general population, it may explain the strange dichotomy of behaviour planetwide. How it helps with the continuation of the species will take considerable further study. I may be witnessing some new evolution of the Survival Directive.
I shall not return to mate and be eaten until I have incorporated a satisfactory explanation of the above phenomena into my matrix.
Dr. Steven Novella
Neurology, Yale University
Dr. Novella knew he was headed into the lion’s den when he accepted an invitation to go on the notorious Dr. Oz show, perhaps history’s most influential promoter of unscientific alternative medicine. He was there to represent science-based criticism of alternative medicine, and hoped to make the best of the opportunity the producers afforded him.
All signs were good until the cameras started rolling, and from that moment on, it was hopeless. Allowed only a few seconds to answer each of Dr. Oz’s questions, Dr. Novella did the best anyone could, but each of his points was followed up by counterpoints from:
• An alt-med doctor sitting beside him, given an unchallenged opportunity to refute each of Dr. Novella’s points;
• Other alt-med professionals stationed in the audience, also given chances to refute Novella’s points, with never a chance for him to counter; and
• Slick pre-produced taped segments blatantly misrepresenting alternative medicine as being backed by strong experimental evidence.
Even when they don’t quote mine or use the editor’s razor, the most motivated television producers still have plenty of tools in their arsenal to turn the tables against good science and promote nonsense.
Science Friction is a new documentary film that will expose these faux documentaries, and give the scientists a chance to clear the record. The film is being crowdfunded.
JThe winter it has passed
And the summer’s come at last
The small birds are singing in the trees
And their little hearts are glad
Ah, but mine is very sad
Since my true love is far away from me
And straight I will repair
To the Curragh of Kildare
For it’s there I’ll finds tidings of my dear
The rose upon the briar
By the water’s running clear
Brings joy to the linnet and the bee
And their little hearts are blessed
But mine can know no rest
Since my true love is far away from me
A livery I’ll wear
And I’ll comb back my hair
And in velvet so green I will appear
And straight I will repair
To the Curragh of Kildare
For its there I’ll find tidings of my dear
All you who are in love
Aye and cannot it remove
I pity the pain that you endure
For experience lets me know
That your hearts are filled with woe
It’s a woe that no mortal can cure
Songwriters: CHRISTY MOORE / DOMINIC BEHAN / HAROLD SHAMPAN
The Wrens of the Curragh’
In 1856 The Curragh Military Camp had been established on the plains of Kildare, and attracted a community of Irish destitute women. The women, mostly in their twenties, lived on the plains about a mile from the camp. Outcast by society, they supported each other within their community and lived difficult lives in furze-covered shelters dug in the ground using any protection from the weather they could find.
Because they mostly iced in ‘nests’ in the ground the women became known as The Wrens. Their choices were limited to either living rough on the Plains of Kildare or in the workhouse where they would have no control and no dignity whatsoever.
Their only means of income was the oldest profession. They sold their bodies to the soldiers of the camp.
The women were ostracised by society, the church, and the local communities. Many had young children living with them but such was the nature of society at the time that they received little compassion. They were beyond the pale of so called ‘respectable society’. They were stoned, spat at, and beaten in the the local communities. Shopkeepers refused them service. Only one business, run by a widow, would allow them to enter and be served.
The army permitted them to buy necessities twice weekly at the camp store and sent water wagons out to the ‘nests’ twice weekly.
There are accounts of gangs of local men who considered it sport to terrify the women and burn down their nests.
There are accounts of incidences of gang rape by groups of soldiers. An incident reported in the town of Newbridge concerns a local priest who attacked one of the Wrens, tore the thin shawl and gown from her shoulders and beat her with his riding crop until her blood splashed all over his riding boots. Though witnessed by many locals, no one voiced any protest.
Another priest was known to attack any Wren he encountered with scissors he carried for the purpose. He would cut off their hair, marking them with the “shame” of the Corinthian prostitutes. No one ever objected or tried to help.
For fifty years, until the end of the nineteen century, the Wrens of the Curragh lived in the ditches of the Plains of Kildare and died there of from disease and exposure. When they fell ill the workhouse usually refused to take them in and those few they did were kept away from sight in conditions no better than those they had left on the plains.
Because of the hypocrisy of religion we Irish, usually renown for generosity, could be just as uncharitable as anyone else.
At the end of the 1960s, and the mystical hippie dawning of the Aquarius age, we were all still searching for meaning.
The big four philosophers when I was 18 were Hesse, Vonnegut, Brautigan and Tolkien.
Of course I read other influential writers, but at the time I really believed everything I needed to know about being a decent human being was in the works of those four, though it took me another 50 years to really begin to understand why.
There was another influential book I encountered.
In the course of exploring the world I came upon the I Ching. inevitably. It had a great deal of credibility amongst the hippies of my generation. Of course I looked into it. I still have, in my lock-up in New Zealand, a beautiful translation from Chinese through German to English, of the I Ching by Richard Wilhelm.
Yarrow sticks were hard to come by where I grew up, but I was a numismatist, and had in my collection several of those fascinating old Chinese coins with square holes. It seemed appropriate to use them. Having designated which side was heads and which was tails, I had a culturally acceptable method of obtaining a randomly generated hexagram, in accordance with the instructions accompanying the book.
My youthful, hopeful self was quite surprised to find how seemingly accurate and appropriate was the advice I gleaned from the wise words of the Tao. The last remnants of my Roman Catholic superstition we’re slowly fading at the time (now only the guilt remains) and I could possibly have easily fallen into the woo mentality of believing some spiritual power, something beyond myself, was guiding me, through the words of the book.
But I read something – I don’t recall exactly where – some scientific article, perhaps, that said our brains were hard-wired to look for patterns. We look for visual patterns, such as potentially threatening animal or human shapes hiding in the trees, and we look for patterns of events and try to make some sense, often wrong, of the coincidences and causality.
The evolutionary advantage of this pattern recognition behaviour is in the significance of the value of the false positive over the false negative.
If I see what looks like a lion lurking in the bushes, and run, the likelihood of staying alive is increased, whether it is a real or imagined lion. If I decide it’s a trick of the light, and ignore it, my chances of survival are decreased if I am wrong.
The same principle applies if we recognise a pattern of events that seem to coincide. Should it rain enough times after we ask nature politely for a shower to water the crop, we may come to believe that asking causes rain.
The downside of this, is that as there is, or was, an evolutionary advantage to being superstitious. We suffered from pareidolia. It became an affliction. We came to see those shapes and faces in the bark of trees, as beings, and ascribed to them powers and motives. We recognised patterns of events, some like the celestial movements, or the seasons, quite real. Then some smart arse recognised the patterns of our own behaviour, saw an opportunity for power and put himself forward as an intermediary between the common people and the spiritual world. And we got religion.
But I digress. I was speaking of the I Ching. I recognised that my brain was looking for patterns in the events of my own life. I was taking the words from an ancient book written in Chinese, translate first to German then to English, and gleaning valuable meaning from them. But this was not superstition. The advice the book was giving me was good. Why? Because it was written in such a way that it was inevitable that the reader would apply the general advice in such a way that it would most benefit him. Because the Tau was the way of the upright, it had to be good advice. For a few formative years the I Ching helped me make decisions that brought me to where I am now. I have few regrets.
These musings were inspired by coming upon this following little piece in one of the philosophical emails that turn up in my in-box from time to time.
After a few more hours swimming up and down the Bribie Island pool, I may have more to write on the subject.
The following is borrowed from Psychology Today.
Impact of the I Ching on Carl G. Jung & its implications
Jung, Taoist psychology, and cross-cultural communications
Monosodium Glutamate, or MSG, has had a bad rap. There is no such thing as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. No one has ever been able to reproduce it, or to explain a physiological mechanism for it. People who claim to be allergic to MSG, putting it plainly, aren’t. If they were they’d be allergic to mushrooms, soy sauce, Parmesan cheese AND tomatoes. All of these are naturally rich in glutamate. There is no Italian Restaurant Syndrome either. Obviously.
I have known this for a long time, and I’ve never been concerned about whether there was MSG in my food. These days however, there rarely is, all because of a myth. I can’t even find it in a supermarket any more, though I have tracked it down on line. So someone is still using it.
This became of interest, even of importance to me when my friend Bob commented on my post in which I talked about reducing my sodium intake for the sake of my failing kidneys. A quick check with a reputable source of scientific information confirmed that, as Bob had suggested, MSG will enhance the flavour of food significantly better than salt while contributing to the diet only 40% of the sodium that salt does.
Worth knowing. It may well be that salt is not the bad guy it is made out to be either, when it comes to blood pressure and heart attacks. A study a few years ago suggested that people tend to self regulate their salt intake, and though its consumption is higher in some societies than others, there is not much correlation between sodium intake and BP and heart conditions.
Be that as it may, it IS a known factor in chronic kidney disease.
While on the subject of food myths, let’s pop a few others;
Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. This belief was generated by Mr Kellog, who wanted young men to stop wanking.
There is nothing scary or dangerous about GMOs. All our fruit and vegetables as well as our livestock are genetically modified. That is what evolution is. Modern science has just found a way to speed up the process and guide its direction.
There’s no such thing as a superfood. No discussion necessary. Good food is the basis of good health, it is not medicine. Though some foods have medicinal properties, they are not medicines because there is no way to know or standardise the concentration of active ingredient without processing and analysis. This is why most medicines and supplements are synthesised rather than extracted.
The body cannot distinguish between synthetic or natural substances. They are chemically identical and metabolised in exactly the same way. This means that the vitamin C in Berocca is as good as what is in an orange.
This principle also means there is no “good” sugar and no “bad” sugar. No “natural”or “organic” sugar. There is just sugar. The only bad thing about sugar is in the amount eaten. The poison is in the dose. Any diabetic knows that starch is metabolised into sugars. The important factor here is the rate of conversion, which is why complex carbohydrates are better for you.
Fats and oils, however, are chemically different, and are metabolised differently. So there are good fats and bad fats.
Lastly, and I speak from both expertise and experience, the only diet that ever works for weight loss is one in which the amount of energy, measured in Calories or kilojoules, that is taken in by way of food and drink, is exceeded by the energy burned in normal metabolism, activities and exercise. To gain weight, reverse the balance of the equation.
A healthy diet is one that contains all the components, in the proper overall proportion, for maintaining a healthy metabolism; protein, fat, fuel in the form of carbohydrate and sugar, vitamins and minerals. And don’t forget fibre to keep it all moving, and water!
I learned two new words today. Hypnopompic and the related term hypnagogic.
I have frequently experienced these phenomena and, frankly, in my younger days they scared me. Some of the times I experienced this, it seemed to suggest I might have some form of prescience because in a vivid dream I had apparently “predicted” an event that later did in fact happen. I wondered if I was psychic. I was pretty sure there would be a completely rational explanation. I posited to myself that perhaps my brain, subconsciously aware of data I had not consciously considered, had worked out a likely scenario which was later confirmed, as “predicted”.
I believe I got that right. It still makes sense to me. More sense than having psychic abilities, anyway.
Many times I have awoken thinking “Wow. How did my brain come up with all that? Where did it come from? Then within a few minutes I have totally forgotten everything except how impressed I was with myself for having dreamt it. Occasionally I have had such a frightening dream that I have never forgotten it.
Once I dreamed I was holding my infant child’s cold, grey corpse and weeping. I awoke still weeping and could not shake the dread that I felt. At that time June had taken our baby girl back to Solomon Islands to present her to the family. I had stayed in NZ. I couldn’t afford a ticket for myself as well, nor spare the time off work.
When I awoke, the dream had been so real I was panic stricken. In those days there was no way I could contact the family in the village to assure myself all was well.
I was working in the area of home that day so I called in to check the mail at lunch time. There was a letter from June. It was postmarked a week ago. Sumana was seriously ill in hospital in Muda. It was a Wednesday, which just happened to be the one day of the week there was an Air Pacific flight to Honiara via Nadi in Fiji.
I immediately called the bank and arranged for them to cover payment for a flight to Honiara, and contacted a cousin in Honiara to arrange a flight for me to Muda as I could not arrange it myself or through a travel agent. I then called work, told them I was taking leave, packed a bag and headed for the airport. That night I slept in a hotel in Nadi and by ten the next morning I was in Honiara. My relative’s wife met me at arrivals with a ticket for the next flight to Western Province. An hour or so later I was in Muda, where I borrowed a bicycle and pedalled from the airport terminal to the hospital. There I learned that Suma had been discharged. I pedalled back to return the bike, then headed down to the wharf by Agnes Lodge resthouse. As I arrived I called out to a passing canoe in my grammatically poor Roviana to ask if they were going anywhere near Nusa Hope village. “Of course we are” answered my sister in law, whom I had not recognised.
So it was that barely 24 hours after reading June’s letter, I arrived in Nusa Hope village, where Sae, my father-in-law said “I told them all you would arrive today. No one believed me”. He added ” You are looking fat” and then, knowing why I was there, and to my great relief, “Leana hola sa komburu.” The baby is fine.
It turned out that Suma had suffered what was probably heat prostration and was taken to hospital where she was tested for, and diagnosed as having, malaria. Despite being already on prophylaxis she was treated with a massive dose of chloroquine, which made her sicker. Hence the letter.
She was well again by the time I arrived. Apparently someone had mixed slides in the lab. Another child had not been diagnosed when he should have been.
Shortly after I arrived in Halls Creek, I had another weird hypnogogic experience that I still remember distinctly. I was, I was quite sure, completely awake, staring through the darkness at the green glowing digits on the air conditioner, telling me it was running at 18 degrees. I heard three sharp knocks on my bedroom door and turned to see an elderly aboriginal gentleman standing in the doorway, smiling at me. He was very old, dressed in shorts, with white hair and beard, and a long stick or spear. He looked at me with a penetrating gaze and a friendly smile. I felt no unease, though I was surprised, because I was sure I had locked the doors before coming upstairs to bed.
“Hello”, I said. “How did you get in?” Then, for some strange reason, “Would you like a cup of tea?”
I got up, turned on the light in the hall, and went downstairs to put the kettle on. Then I went to check the doors, which were just as I thought, locked. I turned to ask again how my visitor had gained entrance. Of course he wasn’t there. Standing in the kitchen I realised I could not possibly have seen him as clearly as I believed, because the room had been dark with only the green glow of the LED digits of the aircon to illuminate it. And where had he gone when I arose and turned on the light?
Afterwards, realising I had imagined it, I wondered whether I had actually got up and gone downstairs, or had I imagined that too?
These two events are examples of a few that are different from most I have experienced because I have never forgotten them, and can still picture in my mind what I dreamed, or thought I saw at the time. Most are forgotten within minutes of waking.
The mind is an odd thing.
I can well believe it when someone says “It came to me in a dream”.