Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Notes – July 17

Note: Photos this week are a random selection from my archive ( with two from Wikipedia ) - more or less related to the topics...

Topic 1. Some things, if they weren’t so common, would be great wonders! When the morning is still, reflections of woods and hills upon lake water look so real! - it is as if you could walk into them… Shadows that grow as the day progresses until they are much longer than I am tall...

Roxy and her shadow - late evening

...calls of birds and children that seem to linger in the twilight air... a parade of 19 geese, swimming one after another, where are they going? The sound of a cock pheasant, on a warm summer afternoon, awakens long distant memories...the communication skills of a flock of red breasted linnets noisily plucking seeds from spiny thistle heads..

...the communication of bees within their community...

Topic 2. Someone said to me recently – “I’m not sure if I believe in evolution...”. There is confusion in America today, much of it fed by talk-show hosts that faith and science are somehow interchangable… We all have things that we believe in that cannot be tested. I believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people! I believe in the power of loving relationships… I believe that knowledge is better than ignorance… my religious beliefs are an important part of my life.

James Watson and Frances Crick: The first to identify the structure of DNA - the carrier of genetic code found in most life on earth...

Science is not about belief. Science is about collecting unbiased information about a natural phenomenon and then forming the best interpretation possible– then testing that conclusion in the toughest ways you can imagine. Scientific conclusions continue to be always open to further testing and refinement. A scientists may have an emotional leaning toward an idea – but other scientists in the same field are also testing and evaluating results.

One of thousands of galaxies in our "neighborhood of space" - similar to our own - our sun is a relatively small star on an outer arm of our galaxy

Opponents of science seek a lone dissenter and then may say – “See – not everyone agrees!” Science as a field of inquiry will ultimately settle the issue as investigation continues. It is not the nature of "beliefs" to be continually tested in this manner…

For example, the wealth of data supporting evolution as a natural process is enormous and continues to grow. Data also shows that there is a strong relationship between carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere and climate change on our earth.

Curious that the general shape of the galaxy and this hurricane system appear somewhat the same - A scientist would ask if their is any reason why they have similar patterns.

Early man thought that the sun travelled around the earth. …They thought that disease was caused by evil spirits. …And that the best treatment for most human maladies was to remove "bad humors" from the body through “bleeding” or leaches. It is thanks to scientific inquiry that we now have a clearer understanding… In the time of Galileo the church was strongly opposed to the idea of a sun centered universe – Anyone who supported the idea was considered a heretic, open to severe punishment.

Seen at Montera Middle School - Oakland CA : A reminder of how to behave in the midst of disagreement

When scientific conclusions are suppressed in an attempt to uphold an untestable conclusion – then we are in danger of sinking into an “age of ignorance”…it has happened before in human history.

Standard garb for a Plague Doctor in the 13th century - each part of the costume was designed to protect the doctor...

It is up to each of us to separate those beliefs we take on faith and what knowledge we have that is supportable by scientific inquiry... The uncomfortable part is that sometimes scientific conclusions are not what we want them to be - and then we must decide how we will deal with the facts. We must either accept the results before us or retreat into myths that may appear more comfortable.

Massive dust storms, similar to the 1930's dust bowls, recently blew into Arizona and Nevada

Topic 3. Only in Niles (our part of Fremont) … Today as I was walking the dogs I met a delegation of seven Tibetan monks wearing long reddish brown robes, walking down the trail. Their sect has purchased the land adjacent to the regional park where I often walk, and they were on their way to the middle of their land (which is grown high with wild oats and wild radish) where they have created an open-air meditation space.

Tibetan Buddhist Monks

They were very pleasant when we met and we exchanged greetings and pleasantries all around. One of the senior monks has just completed a weeklong meditation on these grounds, with other monks coming at intervals to provide for his needs. Today they erected a pole with Tibetan symbols in the midst of their property.

Topic 4. This past year those Americans who have been speaking up for lower taxes and smaller government are getting a taste of what they say they want. As a result of tax reductions that have already occurred in cities, counties, states, and federal offices – we now have fewer jobs - even secure positions like Teachers, Fire fighters, Librarians, Policeman, Military budget, State parks have been cut. Reduced tax revenue - less government - translates into less support of those least able to care for themselves, less maintanance of our infrastructure, and less support for those programs leading to our growth and stability of our future health and stability. If the cuts that are being demanding were to be adopted we would become a smaller less effective nation... A nation with an even wider separation between a small wealthy class and "the masses". Signs of this change are already evident.

Depression era WPA painting of American farm life circa 1932

According to economist Janet Yellen "the growth [in real income has become] heavily concentrated with the top 1 percent of American earners. The data revealed that reported income increased by 9% in 2005, with the [average] for the top 1% increasing by 14% and that for the bottom 90% dropping slightly by 0.6%. Americans have the highest income inequality in the developed world and over the past 20–30 years Americans have experienced the greatest increase in income inequality among rich nations. The puzzle to me is why poor people in America support a political party that is working against their own best interests.

A word of hope

4. Links of the week:

a. is a free music site that seems too good to be true. You can request almost any singer, instrument, genre of music, style or national music… you name it – and then down load it to your playlist. You must start by creating a free account. One limitation is that you can not listen to the music and them leave the site – Ok if you are writing a document on your computer, but not OK if you want to surf the net…They make their money by when you find something you like you will pay to have it downloaded to your computer…. I wondered if it is legal and I checked - it is. If you find the posted announcements distasteful, you can pay a small fee to view the site without the ads – but I just ignore them.

b. Daily Kos: One of my favorite sources of political information - updated frequently during the day - often one of the first with breaking news.