Grouping

Racism is not a modern-day phenomenon, as ever since the beginning of humanity people wanted to belong to groups, so they looked for things to define them.  People look for patterns, it is what we do and there is nothing wrong with that and if we didn’t always try to classify things, there would be no mathematics, science or language.  Grouping is a good thing, but when one group thinks that it is better than another group, that spells trouble.  There is good and bad in every group and racism is a learned behavior, it is not an inherent prejudice.  Nobody is born being a bigot.

I believe that racism can be eliminated or at least diminished, if mankind starts to look for the similarities that we share, instead of looking for differences.  As we enter the space age and have people living on the International Space Station who realize that they need to cooperate with each other in order to survive, there was an agreement that English would be the operating language for everyone.  I always felt that the quickest way for humanity to come together would be for an alien race to attack our planet and then we would all open up our eyes and see that we are all in the same group, that being Earthlings.  When people get smarter racism will disappear.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #81, which asks, “Do you believe that racism is an inherent human trait or is it learned?  Either way, are there actions that society can take to eliminate, or at least diminish, racism?  Or will racism always exist no matter what we do?”

Going Deep Today

Fandango asks, “Is the concept of ‘you’ continuous or does the past ‘you’ continually fade into the present and future ‘you’? Considering that your body, your mind, and your memories are changing over time, what part of ‘you’ sticks around?”

How do I answer an existential question like this without first defining who ‘you’ are?  I will skip the Who song ‘Who Are You’, because that was based on a day in the life of Pete Townshend and it does not get into the philosophical nature of life.  Most of us probably have a good idea of who we think that we are, but we don’t go around asking ourselves questions about the concept of who we are, as we normally go about our day, simply existing.  Self-concept is based on your personal experiences, body image, your thoughts, and how you tend to label yourself in various situations and it is generally thought of as our individual perceptions of our behavior, abilities, and unique characteristics and this can give you a mental picture of who you are as a person. You might believe that you are a good friend, or you are a kind person.

Fandango is interested in time periods, specifically the past, the present and the future and everything changes with time, that is until the end of time, which I will skip as that is way too deep for a Wednesday.  I am going to assume that Fandango is interested in getting our thoughts on whether or not that as we age, do we still maintain our Awareness, Understanding, Perception, Knowledge, Abilities and Skills that we have accumulated over life.  If we do lose these things over time, has time robbed us of a part of ourselves?

I would like to think that I am the improved version of my old self, even tough my body was in better shape when I was younger, I feel that I am a much better person now than I once was.  I have all of my body parts, except the useless cataracts that grew on my eyeballs which ruined my vision and that one wisdom tooth that I had pulled out, so basically baring a few extra pounds that I put on and the loss of hair on my head, I am still me.  I could end up getting Alzheimer’s disease or Dementia some day and that would be a shame, but I try to keep my mind active and that helps the real me stick around.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #80, which was a lot of fun.

Posterior Capsule Opacification (PCO)

I just had cataract surgery on my right eye and next week I am scheduled to have my left eye done, but I am not seeing any better in my right eye because I have some dark tissue under the area where my cataract was.  My doctor said that my cells underneath where she performed my cataract surgery have grown over the back (posterior) of the capsule (thin membrane around my eye’s natural lens), forming a cloudy layer of scar tissue behind my lens implant, causing it to thicken and become slightly opaque (cloudy).  This means that light is less able to travel through to the retina at the back of my eye.  The vision problems caused by PCO can make it seem as though my cataract has returned, but it can be easily treated with a quick, painless, outpatient laser procedure to make my vision clear again, which is supposed to be very low risk, quick, and painless, carried out in the outpatient clinic.  Once I have had the laser treatment, PCO shouldn’t normally cause any long-term problems with my sight.

PCO is the most common complication of cataract surgery occurring in 20-50% of patients within 2 to 5 years of cataract surgery and it is often referred to as a secondary cataract, but it is really is not a cataract, as once a cataract is removed, it does not come back.  The ophthalmologist focuses the laser exactly onto the back of the lens capsule in order to cut away a small circle-shaped area.  The laser uses a wavelength of light that cannot be seen, and each laser pulse is over in a fraction of a second and this procedure should take about 5-10 minutes.

To me the worst part of this cataract surgery has been the eye shield that I have to wear at night for one week after the cataract surgery.  The tape they gave me to hold the eye shield in place is very gooey and I hate having my face feel sticky.  I have three different drops and two of them I have to use four times a day.  They gave me a check off chart to keep track of all the drops I am using, but I often miss my eye and the drops run down my face.  Sometimes I drip three drops on my face, before I can get one in my eye.  I am excited about being able to see without the use of glasses, but I will have to wait till September to schedule my PCO laser treatment as my eye needs time to heal.

On another note, I am experiencing some carpal tunnel symptoms in my right hand from being on the computer too much and my doctor told me to get a Wrist Splint to wear at night.  The splint should hold my wrist joint in a neutral position, so that my hand is less likely to bend while I am sleeping, thus relieving pressure on my median nerve.  I also ordered Dragon speech recognition software that will turn my voice into text and I figure this will allow me not to type so much, once I learn how to use it.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #72 which asks, “What is the one thing in life that you are most excited about right now? Why?”

Need a Haircut

Fandango, a guy that answers a lot of questions, but reveals very little about his personal identity has another provocative question today.  I am a bit different, as I have revealed my name and shown my picture here on WordPress.  I turned 67 in March and I feel pretty good, especially with my diabetes blood sugar numbers going down.  I have cataract surgery scheduled for tomorrow, which was originally scheduled for February, but postponed twice and this makes me feel old, but if I can see better after I get these new lens implants, that would make me feel young again.  Not having my hair cut in several months now, probably makes me look a bit older.

I guess that I feel like a 67-year-old male should feel, although I probably sleep more than I should, but I have always though of myself as being a bit lazy.  Once I get motivated, I stop being lazy and I go full steam ahead into what I am doing.  I am a bit more cautious now, than I was when I was younger, as I realize that my body will not regenerate like it did when I was younger.  I probably act less than my age, but I have always been immature in my sense of humor and I still think that flatulence is funny.

Acting my age means different things to me on different days.  There are certain situations that call for a person to be mature, like filing your taxes and attending a funeral and there is no reason to be childish at these times.  Kids understand how to have fun and I don’t think that should be lost, just because a person gets older.  Being mature does not mean that you have to stop watching cartoons, or playing video games, it means that you are able to fit in with society.  The way you fit in with society dictates your age, but society can not change your age, as you are what you are.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #71 which asks, “How old are you* and how old do you feel — older or younger than your actual chronological age? Do you generally act your age? And what does ‘acting your age’ mean to you?”

Becoming Invisible

I am transparent like glass and light waves pass right through me without being obstructed as there is no reflection, refraction and absorption, but I can still interact with matter, so I can pick things up and also drive my car.  The only problem is that I am not able to wear any clothes, as then I would be detected.  I don’t have any other magical powers and I don’t mind being a nudist, especially since nobody can see me.  The few people that know my secret call me the Invisible Streaker.  I live in Florida, so I don’t have to worry too much about being exposed to the elements.

I woke up one morning and I was invisible and I have no clue how it happened.  It’s not the most reliable superpower, as I have no control of when I am going to turn visible again and, on several occasions, this has happened at exactly the wrong time.  I never accidentally turn invisible, as this only occurs after deep meditation that allows me to shift my body slightly out of phase with reality, but whenever I turn visible, this is done unintentionally.  When people ask me why I stay naked all the time, I tell them that I am not naked, I am wearing the Emperor’s new clothes.  I am trying to control my changing back to being visible and when I get better control over this, I will be up to some nefarious exploits.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #69 which asks, “Assume you are a real-life superhero. What is your super power? What is the largest obstacle to using your super power?”

Resuming My Life

It is not surprising that these disturbing projections are fine with our president, as all he seems to be concerned about is staying in office.  The coronavirus task force being dismantled or even just winding down is unsettling to me, but for the Trump administration, this is a way of giving himself a pat on the back for a job well done and a chance for him to use more superlatives about the tremendous progress that he feels that he has made.  55% of Americans say that the federal government has done a poor job preventing the spread of the coronavirus, which causes the disease Covid-19.  A majority 55% of Americans also feel that President Donald Trump could be doing more to fight the outbreak, and 52% disapprove of the job that he has done in handling the pandemic.

In the pre-pandemic days, I had no idea what am N 2.5 mask filter was and I used to think that it was odd seeing all of the Orientals wearing them when I watched the news on TV.  Now I own several of these masks, I know how to wash them, and how and when to replace the filters.  I even have a face cover that I can wear to go over the masks, hey you can’t be too safe these days.  Although supplies for testing the coronavirus are increasing, it is difficult to find a place to get tested and it isn’t available for everyone right now.

I got sick back on February 25th this year, I had an awful cough, but I did not have the shortness of breath or difficulty breathing that is supposed to be one of the symptoms.  Covid-19 affects different people in different ways.  Infected people can have had a wide range of symptoms going from mild symptoms to severe illness.  I had some muscle pain, a slight fever and a nasty sore throat, but I did not have chills, repeated shaking with chills, headaches or new loss of taste or smell.  I was ill for about two weeks and I think that it was Covid-19, but I never got tested for it.  My doctor treated me for the flu, but when I didn’t get better after a week, I called back and then I was given a prescription for antibiotics, which helped, but I still have this slight tickle in my throat, but maybe that is from all of the weed that I smoked back in the day.

Coronaviruses didn’t just pop up recently.  They’re a large family of viruses that have been around for a long time.  Many of them can make people ill with sniffles or coughing.  Before the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak, coronaviruses were thought to cause only mild respiratory infections in people.  The new (or “novel”) coronavirus is one of several known to infect humans.  It’s probably been around for some time in animals.  Sometimes, a virus in animals crosses over into people.  That’s what scientists think happened here.  So, this virus isn’t new to the world, but it is new to humans.  When scientists found out that it was making people sick in 2019, they named it as a novel coronavirus.  We are still learning and we have a long way to go.

It’s normal for a virus to change, or mutate, as it infects people.  A Chinese study of 103 COVID-19 cases suggests the virus that causes it has done just that.  They found two strains, which they named L and S.  The S type is older, but the L type was more common in early stages of the outbreak.  They think one may cause more cases of the disease than the other, but they’re still working on what it all means.  It’s too soon to tell how long the pandemic will continue.  It depends on many things, including researchers’ work to learn more about the virus, their search for a treatment and a vaccine, and the public’s efforts to slow the spread.

I understand that people with essential jobs like hospital workers, firefighters, police, garbage collectors, delivery service personnel, food service workers and grocery store workers need to go to work, and all of them must continue to practice social distancing.  Lifting the stay-at-home, and shelter-in-place orders should be contingent on a downward trajectory of reported Covid-19 like syndromic illnesses reported over the previous 14-day period.  This means testing and having the ability to quickly set up safe and efficient screening and testing sites for symptomatic individuals and trace contacts of Covid-19 results.

This must be done in conjunction with continued practice of good hygiene, washing our hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, especially after touching items that we use frequently, or coming in contact with surfaces that you don’t know have been cleaned.  Always avoiding touching your face, as the Covid-19 virus is a respiratory infection and it will only make you sick if it enters your lungs.  Make sure that you carry tissues with you in case you sneeze or cough.  Disinfect items that you use frequently and clean surfaces as much as possible.  Wear a face covering while you are out in public, and always keep practicing social distancing.  Anyone who feels sick must stay at home.

If there is no evidence of a rebound, then States should lift the stay-at-home, and shelter-in-place restrictions, but social distancing should remain in place.  Try to maximize physical distance from others.  Social settings of more than 50 people, where appropriate distancing may not be practical, should be avoided unless precautionary measures are observed.  Elderly individuals, African Americans and other individuals with serious underlying health conditions should always take precautions, as you never know what invisible monsters are out there trying to kill you.

I am retired, so I can stay on lockdown easier than those people who need to earn a paycheck and reopening the country boils down to acceptable losses.  What are you willing to risk, if staying at home is too costly, then you must do what needs to be done?  Nobody said that life was going to be easy, but one thing that is assured now, life is going to be different.  I need a haircut, as you can see from the picture above and I would like to go to the salon to have my toenails clipped, but other than that my post-pandemic life will be much like my pre-pandemic life, as I will still be here every day writing.  Resuming my life has already started for me, as I am being much more cautious.  I can’t say if lifting the stay at home orders are premature, but time will tell.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #68 which asks, Do you think it’s premature for states to be lifting the stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, and social distancing restrictions? Or do you believe that it’s about time they were rescinded? Once they are removed, how quickly are you likely to resume living your life as you did in the pre-pandemic days?

A Perception of What We Think is True

History is written by the winners and Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “The truth of history, so much in request, to which everybody eagerly appeals, is too often but a word. At the time of the events, during the heat of conflicting passions, it cannot exist; and if, at a later period, all parties are agreed respecting it, it is because those persons who were interested in the events, those who might be able to contradict what is asserted, are no more.”  Thus, history is the facts that people have agreed to be true, but they don’t have to necessarily be true.

Facts can be manipulated and if history is what we perceive it to be, can we actually ever trust history, especially if the statistics were compiled by someone with less than moral intentions?  If I was taught something in History class and later on it is found that the history book was plain wrong, could I become psychological damaged from this?  A lot of groups got a bad rap from history and the American Indians were totally taken advantage of with the white men stealing their land.  The Black slaves were held back from telling their story for years, because they were illiterate and they were treated even worse.

Maybe history is a collection of stories that are told by the person with the biggest mouth, or are told from the point of view of the richest people.  I see history as being a lot like the Bible, being filled with wonderful stories, which may or may not be true.  Even if you do extensive research on a history topic, you are likely to come across facts that have been embellished or biased, so you still have to figure out what is plausible and weed out the ridiculous.  A lot of history is probably made up of fake news and this makes me wonder how Trump will be perceived in the history books in the future.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #58 – What is something you’ve long believed to be true, but you now realize is not true?

Entropy

The ancient Greeks looked at chaos (the void state preceding the creation of the universe or cosmos) as being the primeval emptiness of the universe before things came into being, or the abyss of Tartarus, the underworld.  Chaos was the empty, unfathomable space that came before Gaea mother earth and the offspring of Chaos were Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night). Nyx begat Aether, the bright upper air, and Day.  Nyx later begat the dark and dreadful aspects of the universe (Dreams, Death, War, and Famine).  Chaos was a shadowy realm of mass and energy and everything that exists today came from chaos the primordial god.

Everything that begins will eventually end, it is just the way things work.  I took a Thermodynamics course in college which is an extension of Physics, and it has laws just like Physics, in fact it has three laws and two of them are related to entropy.  The first law, which is also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy cannot be created or destroyed in an isolated system, thus energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another.  The second law states that the entropy of any isolated system always increases.  The third law of thermodynamics states that the entropy of a system approaches a constant value as the temperature approaches absolute zero.

Concerning the first law of thermodynamics, the total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to another, but over time energy will dissipate as heat.  Many theoretical physicists believe the Universe will end in what they call The Big Freeze, which will be the result of the universe expanding to a point where entropy will increase until it reaches a maximum value.  The vast supplies of gas that create stars would be spread so thin that no new stars would be able to form.  Under that model, time becomes an endless void in which nothing ever happens, as there would be little to no energy left in the Universe.

Entropy was the hardest concept for me to grasp in that Thermodynamics class.  In classical physics, the entropy of a physical system is proportional to the quantity of energy no longer available to do physical work.  Entropy is the reason why life always seems to get more complicated.  Drawing on Murphy’s Law which states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”, trouble is waiting around the next corner and anything that causes trouble will make things more difficult.  Problems will naturally arise on their own, and solutions to resolve them require our attention, energy, and effort, once we are alerted.  Over time our lives become more complicated and gradually decline into disorder rather than remaining simple and structured.  There is only one possible state where everything will fit perfectly together in order, but there are a nearly infinite number of states where the pieces are in disorder.  Mathematically speaking, an orderly outcome is incredibly unlikely to happen at random.  Entropy is the natural tendency of things to lose order, and it always increases over time.

With that said, Fandango asks, “Are humans better at creating or destroying?” for his provocative question this week.  To respond to this, I have to understand what it means to be human and then figure out if humans do more positive things or more negative things.  One definition of being human says that we have the ability to communicate systematically using words, symbols, body gestures, and facial expressions and we can make our own decisions and bear the consequences of them.  The human brain is hardwired for negativity, making us remember the bad things more than the good.

Humans lie, cheat, steal, gossip, bully, torture, kill and we are skilled in deception and manipulation and some of us have a selfish attitude, so we do many destructive things.  We are supposed to be an intelligent species, but we often do stupid things and we seem to crave violence.  We have many bad habits and we are solely responsible for global warming, although the methane produced by all the cows that we keep is not helping.  Humans are not all bad, as a race we are inherently good and some of us do good things.  We are biologically programmed to seek friendship or companionship and when the chips are down and the lights are off people will come together, as humans are instinctively concerned with the welfare of others.  Even bad people like Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot, the Cambodian leader who killed so many of his own people did some good in their lives.

It is hard to balance the scale of human existence and judge us as being better creators or destroyers, as human beings possess a remarkable capacity to build things up, as well as being able to break things down.  Humans have creative and destructive tendencies and in the short time that we have been living here on Earth, we have left an impact on everything that we touched.  Humans enjoy creating their own space to live in and this is often don with no regard for the other animal species that were there before us.

Humans have created many good things, but we have also invented many bad things, like weapons, bombs, poisons and viruses that can be used to destroy stuff.  We have done things that no other species is capable of doing, like creating music and poetry, but then again in the process we also developed rap, which probably is not such a good thing.  Birth and death happen every day, the freshness and life that spring brings and the decay and death that winter brings are a constant reminder of how fragile we are, the smooth skin of a baby will become wrinkled as old age sets in and death is imminent for everyone and everything, which leads us back to chaos and entropy.  Shit happens and we need to learn how to live with it, especially since humans seem to be equally good at creating stuff as we are at destroying things.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #57 – Are humans better at creating or destroying

In God’s Hands

A God that knows everything is called omniscient.  Omniscience is the capacity to know everything and the concept of omniscience has been around for thousands of years dating as far back as Homer when he said “The gods know everything”.  Omniscience is a characteristic of the god of most monotheistic religions.  Is God in absolute control of everything that happens in the world, or in the universe?  It must not be easy for anyone who has complete unlimited knowledge, awareness, and understanding of all things and is able to perceive all things that will ever happen.  The question of, “Is it better to know or is it better to not know?”, is hard enough for humans to contemplate, but I wonder how God feels about this provocative question.

It is difficult to imagine anyone even God knowing everything, as the memory storage capacity needed for that is phenomenal.  Does God need to rely on data compression techniques to store all of this information, and if so, how does this effect processing speed?  The performance of the CPU is affected by the number of memory cores previously known as processors, its clock speed and the amount memory RAM and ROM.  I would guess that God has some type of external storage where He keeps things that he does not need to access every day.  If anyone has access to the cloud (on-demand availability of computer system resources), it would be God.

The cloud is changing how we perceive information and remember the world around us and the internet now contains information on almost every conceivable topic.  If I want to know something, I Google it and others may ask Siri, or Alexa.  This does not mean that the internet is as smart as God, or that it contains everything, but in the Bible, God does not say that He knows everything and in fact the word “omniscience” cannot be found in the Bible.  This concept was developed by the church which is made up of men, so it is fallible.  According to Luke 12:6-7, God knows the number of hair on your head, He knows the sparrows that fall to the ground, but this doesn’t say that He knows the sparrows that will fall to the ground a millions of years from now or how many hairs will be on your head in the future.

Knowledge makes a person accountable.  Knowledge is power, and with great power comes great responsibility.  Anyone who knows that something is going to happen but fails to act is guilty of inaction.  If everything is in God’s hands, then He should not be sitting idly by, letting the cookies crumble and the dust fall.  If God knows 100% of everything that has happened, is happening, or will happen, that should make Him responsible for everything that has happened in the past, is happening in the present and that will happen in the future.  This is too much to ask of anyone, even of God, as nobody needs all that responsibility.

I wonder if God has to tune out certain information, or if He washed His hands of us after giving everyone free will and He no longer feels obligated to do anything, to make decisions, or to exert control over any situation.  If I were God, I think it would be best not to know what was going to happen all the time, as that must be excruciatingly painful for certain events, although when good things do happen, He could always have a front row seat for them, because He knew it was going to happen.  God sure has a lot on His plate, but concerning this provocative question for today, maybe it is best if it is left in God’s hands.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #4 Revisited concerning “Is it better to know or is it better to not know?”

Somewhere Between

Objective is based on facts and observations, whereas subjective relies on assumptions and beliefs to express an opinion.  Morality is something that humans use to make decisions and it concerns the distinction between what is judged as being right and wrong, or what constitutes good and bad behavior.  Psychology a branch of science, it is not human, so it can’t be classified as being objective or subjective.  Decisions are made based on human psychology and when they are made from a personal perspective, they are subjective and if they are based on hard facts that are quantifiable and measurable, they would be objective.  Subjective and objective are opposites, but sometimes things slip through the cracks like saying, “It is raining.”  It might be raining on one side of the street and not on the other, so this depends on the perspective of the person who is getting wet or staying dry.

My dad always used to say, “I never drink beer till it is 12 noon”, but I would see him pop one open at 10 AM sometimes after he finished mowing the lawn.  I would tell him that it was still morning and he would say, “It must be noon someplace”, as he drank his Pabst.  People like to look for patterns and put things in groups and pareidolia is a term that is used for seeing patterns in random data.  Images taken in 1976 by the Viking 1 mission showed a face on Mars that many people thought was a remnant of an ancient civilization.  Humans enjoy creating patterns instead of thinking that things occurred as a coincidence and pattern recognition is a cognitive process that matches information from a stimulus with information retrieved from memory.  An audience is more likely to consume and absorb any type of information that is presented to them, if it is grouped into some type of pattern, because it becomes more engaging and satisfying when everything is put into its proper place.

Grouping can be a good thing or a bad thing, as being part of a group is satisfying and it gives people a sense of belonging, helping them to see value in their lives and cope with certain emotions, but some things defy groups and since every person of a certain color or race is not the same as the others, you should always try to see things in 50 shades of grey.  Cultural differences exist and morality should be used to find a way, so that we can all get along with each other.  I wonder if morality is ingrained within us, embedded in our DNA, as some people know from a very young as what is right and what is wrong and others seem to never grasp this.

The saying, “You are what you eat” comes to mind also, as children who grew up without much social interaction or exposure to accessible information are more likely to become deformed by the lack of morality.  Morality is in all of us and it evolves progressively over time, some people slower than others, it is affected and altered by the decisions that we make and transformed by the compassion that we feel for others.  Fandango asked today, “Is morality objective or is it subjective?  If you believe it’s objective, what is its source?  If you believe it’s subjective, how do you know whose concept of morality is correct?”  I believe that morality lies somewhere between these two extremes and I could be right, or I could be wrong, but I am happy that I took a stab at this provocative question.

Written for Fandango’s Provocative Question #3 Revisited about morality.