Saturday, May 6, 2017

On Grief

May 5 2017 ~4pm.
Peter our dog died peacefully late this afternoon. He has been dealing with neuropathy for a month and apparently his heart just couldn't deal with it any longer. Prednisone made him comfortable but apparently the strain was too great. A wonderful pet. Happy to have him a part of the family for these nearly 8 years. RIP Peter,you earned it beautifully.

Grief is ones immediate reaction to the fact that the person or animal that has been an important part of ones emotional support team is no longer an active part of that team.  It is the sudden realization that those little continuous indications of mutual love and support, have ceased and can no longer be relied on and new substitutes must be found.  They are not the big things, a hug in a happy situation can always be found as will sympathetic tears in a sad one.  

It is the "Hi you are back" whether verbal or a tail wag, the food or treat that will no longer be provided as a recognition of all the emotional support provided.  The quick stopping by "just because."  The vetting of visitors to the property and to the house as known friend, unknown person, or possible foe.  "Never trust anyone your dog doesn't like."  But part of the recovery is the realization that those things aren't lost, just not active any more.  That unlicked bowl now needs to be rinsed for the dishwasher, but you still remember the patient waiting begging only with the eyes that you taught with the service provided as the reward.  And you still put the bowl on the floor instead of the table to remind yourself that hesh is still waiting patiently begging only with his eyes in his death dreams; or yours for herm.

Atheists and others have a beautiful ceremony celebrating the life of a deceased love one in part to keep those death dreams of the deceased alive in the real dreams of the survivors.  We call them memories, but what is a memory but the reliving of an event in a dream like state that may be a reflection of the loved one's presence.  

The House Dog's Grave : Robinson Jeffers.

The House Dog's Grave (Haig, an English bulldog)

I've changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you, if you dream a moment,
You see me there.

So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you'd soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.

I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no, all the night through
I lie alone.

But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read--and I fear often grieving for me--
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.

You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope than when you are lying

Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.
No, dear, that's too much hope: you are not so well cared for
As I have been.

And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided. . . .
But to me you were true.

You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.

Robinson Jeffers, 1941

A Friend's tribute to his late wife

An atheist friend of mine lost his wife of 33 years recently. The following tribute is his beautiful response:

When someone has sweetened your existence with a strong “sense of life,” transforming every dark and shaded place around you to warmth, even the grief one feels in the hours of separation appears out-of-place in the brightness of her after-glow. It is easy to see her mark upon the Earth, etched forever in the hearts and minds of those that she loved and those that couldn't help but love her, too.

When a life-thread so vibrant is unexpectedly snapped, this awful circumstance comes upon us like a dark cloud; for some time we feel we cannot find our way without her guidance. Look carefully and you will still see a trail lined with candles that she left for each of us, to help us find the path to joy, to take up those candles, to light them and to share them with another person trying to find their way through life. 

On Atheist Priests.


I was part of a Requiem sung for a good Catholic friend. There was no hypocrisy there, for the duration of the requiem I was a believer helping other believers send their loved one to herm Lord Jesus Christ. My beliefs or lack of them had absolutely nothing to do with the performance. I was a human being helping other human beings deal with their grief.

A very good Catholic friend asked me to pray with him in a bereavement situation. He knew I was an atheist, but he also knew that I knew his God. We were on our knees together in a chapel praying for the gift of strength for him to deal with the situation. Was I being a hypocrite or was I helping a friend in a difficult situation? He was the one that told me that atheist prayers are more valuable to God as they are always sincere.

I see no problem with an atheist priest suspending disbelief to perform his offices for the benefit of his parishioners. Since there is no God to care anyway, what is the difference if the priest complies sincerely with the rituals for the believers in his parish. If their belief in the myth helps them get through the week, what is the problem with an atheist facilitating that belief? He is simply a human being helping other human beings, not judging them. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Cultural Immune Systems.

Notes from Phædrus

Rober M. Pirsig
An Inquiry into Morals
Bantam Books 1991
(KXXX - pages in Kindle edition.
Notes from
Michael Shermer.
The Believing Brain
Henry Holt and Company, 2011
Page references from
Advance Readers edition


 What it always means is that you have hit an invisible wall of prejudice. Nobody on the inside of that wall is ever going to listen to you; not because what you say isn't true, but solely because you have been identified as outside that wall. A cultural immune system.  K58 
It was classical nineteenth-century science and its insistence that science is only a method for determining what is true and not a body of beliefs in itself.  K59 

Patterns of culture do not operate in accordance with the laws of physics .   How are you going to prove in terms of the laws of physics that a certain attitude exists within a culture? K60

The trouble was that man ins't suited to this kind of scentifec pbjective study.  Objects of scientific study are supposed to hold still. ...Man doesn't do this. Not even savages.61
As a fiscal conservative and a social liberal ...I have close friends in both camps, and over the years I have observed the following: no matter what the issue is under discussion, both sides are equally convenced that the evidence overwhelmingly supports their position.  I am sure it does because of the confirmation bias, or the tendency to seek and find vonfirmatory evidence in support o already existing beliefs and ignore or reinterpret disconfirming evidence.  AR259

A work in progress.  I am in the process of reading Lila.  More quotes and finally analysis and commentary to follow.  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Freedom of Speech Collection Post

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

There is actually an argument that Religious Extremists are not covered by the First Amendment in the USA which specifies freedom of religion, all religions including Nones. It was in part enacted to prevent the Calvinist extremists from requiring an Oath to God meaning the Calvinist God as a requirement of holding office. 

 George Washington added "So Help me God." to the official oath required by the constitution as a political sop to the Black Regiment of politically active Calvinist extremists pending further efforts by Jefferson and others to keep religious freedom (from Calvinism) in the US . See the Treaty of Tripoli forced on John Adams the most religious of the Founders, although not fundamentalist anything.

Game Theory Collection Post

TL;DR So a useful excerpt:

So let’s derive why violence is not in fact The One True Best Way To Solve All Our Problems. You can get most of this from Hobbes, but this blog post will be shorter.
Suppose I am a radical Catholic who believes all Protestants deserve to die, and therefore go around killing Protestants. So far, so good.
Unfortunately, there might be some radical Protestants around who believe all Catholics deserve to die. If there weren’t before, there probably are now. So they go around killing Catholics, we’re both unhappy and/or dead, our economy tanks, hundreds of innocent people end up as collateral damage, and our country goes down the toilet.
So we make an agreement: I won’t kill any more Catholics, you don’t kill any more Protestants. The specific Irish example was called the Good Friday Agreement and the general case is called “civilization”.

So let’s talk about how beneficial game-theoretic equilibria can come to exist even in the absence of centralized enforcers. I know of two main ways: reciprocal communitarianism and tit-for-two-tats.

Reciprocal communitarianism is probably how altruism evolved. Some mammal started running TIT-FOR-TAT, the program where you cooperate with anyone whom you expect to cooperate with you. Gradually you form a successful community of cooperators. The defectors either join your community and agree to play by your rules or get outcompeted.  

The most useful strategy for a community seems to be a variety of tit-for-two-tats. Some forgiveness for transgressions but recognition of the fact that consecutive transgressions are socially dysfunctional.  This is particularly useful in social situations where communication is possible between the “players” and the first transgression can be identified as such and some sort of counselling available as to community standards.

This strategy is inherent in the UU First Principle of Radical respect. The first transgression is attributed to ignorance of social standards and not malice. The second transgression especially after the reciprocal “tit” even without counseling can be attributed to malice and appropriate action taken.

A 40 Minute Hotel Room Workout.

 Actually 60 minutes from rolling out of bed, to dressed for work.

 I hate running.  Even on an interesting parkway.  Running in airport hotel parking lot is self inflicted torture.  But exercise is a necessity.  When I was travelling a lot and working too many hours a day to fit in a decent walk I had to make do.  

 I adapted a gymnastics warm up and cool down plus a bit of the RCAF 10 minute workout, added 23 minutes of high intensity Aerobics I learned as a part of a study run by the Physiology Prof and gymnastics coach at Stanford Wes Ruff.  

 The gym team among others were volunteers to determine the optimum level of aerobics to maintain peak Cardiovascular health.  That study is the reason for the universal recommendation for 20 minutes of aerobics in any exercise program.  We were divided into groups with varying levels of time and intensity and monitored monthly on a EKG bicycle with a breathing mask.  (The worst part of the study.)  Intensity mattered less in maintenance of existing levels of CVH, if you could do it at all 20 minutes kept you where you were and more didn't help at all.  It didn't hurt of course, and strangely pushing the intensity didn't help either. You were stronger and had more endurance but the basic level of CVH didn't change (for the College Varsity level athletes in the study.)

In any event the workout:
Two minutes of limbering and stretching I use the usual six point strech, the first six limbering, the last full 30 second stretches.  
Two minutes 4 position Yoga position bicepts work
Thirty second supine planche,  feet on the floor now. 
Thirty second seated toe touch stretch
One minute supine bicycle ab work
Fifteen seconds of push ups, as hard as you can make them Chest slaps originally, lucky to stay off knees now. 
Back arches as needed for tone.  Too many may overpower core and cause back issues.  
Two minutes of back stretches (Pretzel) for back issues
One minute of crunches as hard as possible.

 That should put you at about 9 minutes for a minute breather and drink and "Exercise pulse rate." 

 Twenty three minutes (nominal) run in place intervals.  18 sets of a minute run + 20 sec .Jumping Jacks or sprint as able. I know that is 24 minutes but you can run and jump faster than that can't you? If you get much below 23 jack up the intensity. I count steps and jumps rather than watch a clock.

The clock comes at the end of the 23 minutes.  Hit the lap timer, find a Jugular pulse in ten seconds, and count 10 seconds X6  for your intense rate.  That was the study protocol which I have stayed with all these years to track a reliable baseline.  I assume modern gadgets are better but I can't be bothered.  

30 Sec wide leg, straight foot wall stretch
One min. light exercise, I use a in place mogul run.
30 second each one leg stretch
30 sec each one leg knee bends, balance and mild exercise
30 sec wide leg, splay foot deep wall stretch to end.  

Another pulse check, S.S.S. and 20 minutes later a recovery pulse check (optional it doesn't change much except when you slack off for a while.)

Bicycle Stories.

 I was the "Businessman on a bicycle." in New York City in the '70s who used a full lane I memorized the Vehicle Code number from circa 1900 that established the bicycle as equivalent to a horse drawn carriage and horses, entitled to the use of a full traffic lane. I always used one. The law was for the occasional cop who shouted at me to move to the parking lane and I shouted back NYVC 10-25 or whatever it was. For cabs more aggressive measures were needed. I had a huge master lock on a fairly long hardened chain, which hung on the traffic side handlebar and occasionally slid off forcing me to catch it before it swung too close to an encroaching cab. Even cabs intent on forcing me into the parked cars got the message. I never had to make contact but the word spread rapidly and soon editorials began to appear that bike lanes on the Avenues were needed. I got some "help" from bike messengers in establishing the need for bike lanes South of Central Park. They not only used traffic lanes, but all available space on streets and sidewalks. Bike lanes came relatively quickly and established the unfortunate precedent of being located on the traffic side of the parking lane. Much better than none, but I still carried the lock when prudence dictated leaving the bike lane for the traffic lane.

 An amusing aside, I was riding down 5th Ave. past Rockefeller Center spring break and a class of kids saw me about 51st and screamed Look a Businessman on a Bicycle which was picked up by class after class all the way to about 46th. I at least smiled and waved.

 Most of my bike commuting was downwind and down hill going to work so a suit and tie was OK if I took it easy. Clean bike gear was in the saddlebags. Coming home involved a change at work, a long steep hill upwind, a shower in bike gear after the strength workout, and a cool dryer. Even strong tourers rode my wheel up Geneva in SF into a 40 mph wind after belittling my "easy commute of only 6 mi. My favorite however, was a 15 miler from Sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge through Sausalito to Mill valley. No sweat at all to work in the morning if I took it easy up a couple of hills and the bridge. Home was an easy warm up to the Bridgeway Hill where the tourists dropped out and the work out began for the rest of the way home.

When I moved to Silicon Valley a bicycle as transportation didn't provide efficient exercise, but I would occasionally ride up to the City to sneer at the van riders on Sunday's weekly closure of 4 miles of Cañada Road. A nice warm up, but why the van to get there?

 Then there are the real bicycle pros.  Nephew Nick missed the 7-11 team only by an admission to UCB.  He lived in Carmichael east of Sacramento, rode to the Davis Double, rode the double and rode home. All in a day's work(out.)  

Any serious cyclist needs to spend some time with the cones to learn where to look.  Hint it isn't at the trouble, it is where you want to go.  A bicycle is incredibly responsive.  If you look at oncoming trouble you will hit it. This is how I got hit on a bike path. I was going where I needed to go and the other rider looked their bike right into my wheel.

There are at least two tribes of cyclists: those who cycle for transportation, and those who cycle for fun. There may be a third tribe, weekend warriors for serious fun cycling. Both and maybe all three have quite different priorities with respect to automobile traffic. Fun cyclists want bike lanes, cycling paths and closed roads. Transportation cyclists want shared lanes everywhere. Even shared transit lanes and shared breakdown lanes on freeways. They consider bike lanes, even protected bike lanes death traps.  Turning drivers especially left turners don't even see bike lanes or cyclists.  A left turner trying to beat oncoming traffic will be going fast enough to cause serious injury to a cyclist in the bike path. In rush hour traffic drivers aren't even aware of bike lanes. On weekends in light traffic they may be all right.

I don't care if the freeway breakdown lane stays open to cyclists or not.  I'll pass.  I trust cyclists more than motorists. A cyclist is naked on a 30 pound open frame.  So am I.  A motorist is surrounded by a ton of steel and unyielding plastic which will save herm butt no matter what hesh does or does not pay attention to.