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Archive for April, 2011

Still pondering that David Eagleman article I wrote about the other day on time, and will eventually get to the bit on drummers I found interesting, but tonight it’s a different angle that has me twisting in the wind when I should be sleeping.

That bit about time going faster when it’s the familiar around us makes sense in ways I’m feeling these days. Maybe it’s the fact I have a birthday in a couple of months. Perhaps it’s the time I spend with Sam and Cj. Who knows? But what it’s boiling down to is a linking of age and time and how that makes it go so bloody fast.

Does it not make sense that time is relative, and not only to the spinning planet and ancient universe, but also to each individual? Sure, in geological terms a human life is an eye blink, as how could any of us even begin to comprehend the eons needed to carve a Grand Canyon or push India up against the Himalayas? We barely have the patience to wait to see how our own little dramas play out, so how the hell can we incorporate the truly slow grind or non-linear time that has the grind happening ahead as well as behind us?

I’m beginning to see life as through a telescope. When we’re young, we put the “wrong” end to our eye so everything seems so far away, beyond the chance of touch and so densely crammed into the picture that details are difficult to make out. As we age, it’s the other lens we gaze into, the one that brings things closer, and as we become progressively more familiar with what we behold, we begin to range wider for new sights to examine.

Time, it seems, telescopes as well. At ten, one year is a tenth of life. By 50, that percentage is so greatly reduced that there’s no wonder one Christmas seems to follow another with barely enough time to put a shopping list together in between.

At twenty we’re rushing toward life, anxious to get started on whatever path our feet might find. At sixty we’re wishing we hadn’t run those gamuts so quickly and have grown too aware of the speed the ground is passing under our feet.

Can’t we all … all of us of a certain age … recall the huge abyss that lay between eleven and twenty-one while wondering where the hell decade between thirty and forty got to? For sure Mick Jagger sings “Time Is On Our Side” with a far different take on the lyrics now, and I won’t even mention how “When I’m Sixty-Four” feels as that decade looms. (That was, after all, “many years from now … “)

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
~William Shakespeare

And tomorrow comes just that much faster the more you’ve had …

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If you’ll give me a minute or two, I’m about to go off on yet another tangent about time, all in my good time, of course.

The fact that my time is very likely different from your time is the grabber here, and not just different now, but variable depending on your circumstances and mine.

WTF is this woman on about now? (Yes, I can hear you … )

It’s this from the New Yorker that gave me pause … and led my paws to the keyboard of my poor, dying Mac … on time spent and discussed with David Eagleman, one of the more interesting people around these days, a thirty-nine-year-old assistant professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

He is a man obsessed by time. As the head of a lab at Baylor, Eagleman has spent the past decade tracing the neural and psychological circuitry of the brain’s biological clocks. He has had the good fortune to arrive in his field at the same time as fMRI scanners, which allow neuroscientists to observe the brain at work, in the act of thinking. But his best results have often come through more inventive means: video games, optical illusions, physical challenges. Eagleman has a talent for testing the untestable, for taking seemingly sophomoric notions and using them to nail down the slippery stuff of consciousness. “There are an infinite number of boring things to do in science,” he told me. “But we live these short life spans. Why not do the thing that’s the coolest thing in the world to do?”

As head of a department that has most showing up wearing watches that haven’t worked for ages, Eagleman has a take on time I’d like to wrap my head around, but the second I feel I’m grasping an idea both the thought and the second are beyond me. The concept, for example, that time is a dimension, or that which asks, ” … how much of what we perceive exists outside of us and how much is a product of our minds?”

According to the guy at Baylor “brain time” … that’s our reality, not microseconds or millennia, since we don’t actually get either of those at any level that’s helpful … is subjective:

“Try this exercise,” he suggests in a recent essay. “Put this book down and go look in a mirror. Now move your eyes back and forth, so that you’re looking at your left eye, then at your right eye, then at your left eye again. When your eyes shift from one position to the other, they take time to move and land on the other location. But here’s the kicker: you never see your eyes move.” There’s no evidence of any gaps in your perception—no darkened stretches like bits of blank film—yet much of what you see has been edited out. Your brain has taken a complicated scene of eyes darting back and forth and recut it as a simple one: your eyes stare straight ahead. Where did the missing moments go?

Rather like the fact that one’s nose is always in the vision path but edited out of perceptions, it is true that we miss an awful lot of what is right in front of us. There are, of course, reasons our brains leave out many salient details, but it’s important we realize this happens, and happens all the time.

All the time being non-constant, as it is, some of the time shifts things around a good deal … like when you’re scared shitless and time slows in that aggravating way that allows perception of every little article of terror and laminates all.

I can still distinctly recall every detail of a car accident I was in when I was 14 … the images out the window as single frames of spinning world, the sound of metal under force, the smell of black rubber smoking across tarmac, the realization that my head was about to hit safety glass and the hope that I wouldn’t end up a bloody mess and that my father wouldn’t kill me for being in a situation I was so not supposed to have set myself up for. The whole experience took less than a few seconds, but I could easily manage a couple of pages of description that would feel about the same duration if read … slowly.

Eagleman studies this.

In one story, a man is thrown off his motorcycle after colliding with a car. As he’s sliding across the road, perhaps to his death, he hears his helmet bouncing against the asphalt. The sound has a catchy rhythm, he thinks, and he finds himself composing a little ditty to it in his head.

“Time is this rubbery thing,” Eagleman said. “It stretches out when you really turn your brain resources on, and when you say, ‘Oh, I got this, everything is as expected,’ it shrinks up.”

Being a wimp when it comes to things like jumping off high places, this goes far to explain what it is about that sort of nutso stuff appeals. Although the idea of having the sensations seem to last longer is nothing I’d vote for, I can almost understand why others would like that.

One of the seats of emotion and memory in the brain is the amygdala, he explained. When something threatens your life, this area seems to kick into overdrive, recording every last detail of the experience. The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. “This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,” Eagleman said—why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.

There is more to this, but I seem to have run out of time. I may need to find something to scare me to slow things down a bit, but for now I’ll near the edge by trying to post this blog as my Mac heats up and meltdown threatens.

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Hat NOT optional

A couple of caveats lead into this post, the first being that, yes, I have lived outside the good old US of A for going on twenty years now. The second, perhaps even more obvious to frequent readers, is the fact that my take on most Republicans is that they’re morons, evil or self-centered assholes, or, often, all three. The point in putting provisos in paragraph one? Fair warning.

I’ve managed to ignore most of the issue that’s now referred to by the unlikely title of “birtherism”, but in my time off from writing about annoyances this one has grown beyond the boundaries of ignorance … ignorability … whatever … into that dimension we used to call “The Twilight Zone”, but now has gone really scary.

An article in Slate that reports 45% of Republicans saying President Obama was not born in the US had me giggling … at first … with the thought that about that wide a margin in the GOP hasn’t quite got the scoop on Hawaii actually being a state. Although that’s probably true, it gets worse:

Among Republicans, 45 percent believe he was born abroad, while only 33 percent say he was born in the United States. More than a dozen state legislatures have discussed or are discussing “birther bills” that usually seek to force presidential candidates to prove their birthplace, although at least five states have been reluctant to actually turn the bills into law. Oklahoma could soon become the first with a vote expected next week.

What a fucking waste of time and money! And that’s not even bringing up the idiot factor.

As mentioned, I’ve not followed the the buildup to this pile of smelly residue, so followed this link to, TA DAAAA!, “Where it all began”, and am forced to admit it makes even less sense now.

That theory first emerged in the spring of 2008, as Clinton supporters circulated an anonymous email questioning Obama’s citizenship.

“Barack Obama’s mother was living in Kenya with his Arab-African father late in her pregnancy. She was not allowed to travel by plane then, so Barack Obama was born there and his mother then took him to Hawaii to register his birth,” asserted one chain email that surfaced on the urban legend site Snopes.com in April 2008.

Another early version of the theory, reported by the Chicago Tribune in June 2008, depended on a specious legal theory that was, for a time, the heart of the argument: that Obama was born in Hawaii but had a Kenyan father, and his mother was only 18 years old. Therefore, under existing immigration law, he was not eligible for automatic citizenship upon birth — a claim that depended on an understandable, but incorrect, reading of immigration law. Other theories suggested that Obama lost his U.S. citizenship when he moved to Indonesia or visited Pakistan in violation of a supposed State Department ban as a young man. (There was no such ban.)

A birth certificate was produced — produced as in “handed over by the State of Hawaii”, not “run off with the help of Photo Shop” — but apparently proved about as much to “birthers” as any old piece of paper might, not surprising when many dedicated to the concept of Obama being foreign-born most likely have fake diplomas from Whatsamatta U hanging on their walls.

FactCheck.org, the non-partisan website, was allowed to examine the physical copy of the birth certificate in August 2008, and concluded it was real, that it had a raised seal, a signature and met all the State Department criteria for proof of citizenship. Combined with the state’s recognition that the record was real—and contemporary newspaper announcements of Obama’s birth, submitted by the hospitals —they concluded that he was a natural born citizen.

Hawaii has repeatedly confirmed the document’s authenticity.

“I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawai’i State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawai’i State Department of Health verifying Barrack (sic) Hussein Obama was born in Hawai’i and is a natural-born American citizen,” one exasperated state official said in 2008 and again in 2009 in a statement.

“Of course, it’s distantly possible that Obama’s grandparents may have planted the announcement just in case their grandson needed to prove his U.S. citizenship in order to run for president someday,” FactCheck concluded. But, “those who choose to go down that path should first equip themselves with a high-quality tinfoil hat.”

As 2012 looms … as an election year or the end of the world, you make the call … those tinfoil hats should be mandatory.

Of course, not all Republicans have fallen under the lobotomy blade …

Some Republicans take the position out of a basic respect for facts, but they also worry about its consequences for their party.

“It makes us look weird. It makes us look crazy. It makes us look demented. It makes us look sick, troubled, and not suitable for civilized company,” one of the first conservatives to turn against the birthers, talk show host Michael Medved, said in 2009. “I’m not a conspiracist, but this could be a very big conspiracy to make conservatives disgrace themselves.”

Hm.

What if …

Donald Trump has been hired by the Dems to stoke the fire under the bonkers birthers … cuz just maybe he’s needing a few extra bucks for those hair plugs he’s needing … so finds it worth it to make a complete ass of himself on the alter of complete assdome in hopes of either fooling all of the people all of the time or just enough idiots for long enough to be president or make the GOP a laughing stock.

There’s a theory …

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Treading water while burdened by worry prompts a shutdown. A bit of verse and some photos on offer, though:

Hue Cares?

Not ice, nor powder
no robin’s egg,
no nothing royal
neither slate nor steel,
electric or baby
Cyan’t and indon’tgo …
just BLUE

Thankfully, there are kids!

Cj in her birthday crown

Birthday Strawberries

Beautiful Girls! Cj and Amber ...

Sam waters Alex

Photos by JP and Christine Larose. Thanks!

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Having way too much fun being lazy with the kids these days to focus on shit in the world, so will now bore the socks off you with photos rather than write …

Cj and Mitzy ...

Cj at the waterfallSam at the same waterfall

Hammock time! Can't touch dis ...

Cj after birthday shopping ... YIKES!

Cj's new dolls meet Sam's toys. Should I be concerned?

Cj’s 6th birthday is day after tomorrow and there’s a beach picnic tomorrow, a gathering on Sunday and much fun to be had! Have a great weekend, all!

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Wazzup …

Kids are on school holidays.

It’s April, the hottest month in Seychelles.

The sea is as calm as a pond and crystal clear.

My Internet connection is driving me mad.

Just four of the reasons I’m not blathering here. Enjoy the peace …

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Bill Tabb with this comment:

That first link…it’s the butterfly effect. Or perhaps it’s Heisenberg. Either way, you cannot use the energy without somehow affecting it. The wind blows, the turbine turns, the turbulence created causes a drop of rain to fall in Mali, a seed germinates……

And lets keep religion out of it. That just throws a spanner in the works.

As for Oxford, let us not forget that while Newton made incredible contributions to our knowledge of how the solar system and the universe works and why stuff falls down, he was also one of the preeminent alchemists of his day.

You now owe me a letter, Bill!

I started writing this blog in an effort to build a place I could vent all that didn’t fit on the professional sites I wrote for and as a way to keep in touch before facebook made that so easy. Through it I have met the most wonderful people, reconnected with many I’d worried I’d lost and learned much from all.

To say I’m grateful for every click and comment is understating how blessed I am, but I am truly at a loss when it comes to conveying my thankfulness.

I will occasionally read back through posts, relive moments, and each time I do I realize how much sharing small bits of my world has brought me in return. In joy and grief, in rage and in praise, through celebrations and solitude, I have not been alone.

Yes, I live on this tiny island in the middle of a huge sea, but by connecting as I can … and having you connect back … I feel the threads that bind me to the greater fabric, and I love the tug that comes with being part of the weave.

Thank you.

Thank you.

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