The Eyes of the Cat (MOTV)

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When entering a dark place from a very light place, as all Veritas learned at an early age, prudence demanded using caution. The current situation of Tu-Swift and Shadow Walker demanded still more caution. Both had been injured; though not seriously; both felt limited mobility. Beyond that, the three women and one man that Tu-Swift had recounted as the occupants the cellar were all members of the tribe of People Who Steal Children! 

All of these factors and more weighed on the mind of Shadow Walker. He glanced around what was left of the ancient armory. He spied no more swords but there were a few useful spears and clubs which could prove useful. Though they would be heavy to carry far, even had they both been whole-bodied. Still, there is enough weight here that I could prevent them from ever leaving this cellar, if indeed, they are even still in there. Tu-Swift thinks they’re safe, but he is really still a child. 

Shadow Walker leaned close to Tu-Swift. “How sure are you that they are still in there? This could be a trap.” 

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“I am certain that they are still in there.” 

Shadow Walker chewed his lip thoughtfully. “How can you be so sure?”

Tu-Swift smiled, “This twig tells me so.” 

Shadow Walker frowned, “What? What do you mean, the twig…ah.” Shadow Walker’s broad smile now supplanted the frown. “You put an inconspicuous twig on the edge so that if this door were moved you would know because the twig would be moved. Ingenious!” 

Tu-Swift smiled too. It really warmed his heart to see Shadow Walker. “My tribe, especially including you and Many Paths, has taught me well, and for that I am grateful. As to the motives of Those Who Steal Children — of that I am less sure. But these three seemed very … frightened. The man never struck me as personally cruel in the first place. And now, he’s in serious pain and has been for some time. Whatever his motives in the long term, I don’t think he’s likely to attack us.” 

Tu-Swift continued, “There is something else. These people … are … odd. I mean, they never laugh or sing or dance. I think they … follow orders. And, now they have no leader. I think if their leader were here, and he told them to attack us, they would! But without their leader encouraging them to do it … I don’t think so. Their leader though … even though I never saw him … I could feel a kind of cold wind of evil ever blowing outward from him. Or, as though he were a river of evil from another world, flowing into and poisoning our own.” 

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At last, after a long shared look, they creaked open the heavy trap-door — just a crack. The cellar didn’t just seem dark; it appeared to have sucked all the light out of the area. At least they could see that no-one crouched at the top of the stairs ready to ambush them. After some moments, their eyes began to adjust and they could see that the stairway was clear. They could hear the moaning of Jaccim Nohan, and Tu-Swift noted that it seemed somewhat weaker than when he had left.

Tu-Swift descended first. He used his sword now as a bit of a crutch. He greeted the people with a combination of sign language, Veritas (though he thought none of them knew it), and a few words of greeting he had overheard. He tried to explain that his friend, Shadow Walker, was of his tribe and had come with medicine to help Jaccim Nohan. 

{Translator’s Note}: It was indeed a few words — one to be exact. The closest modern American equivalent might be a flat-toned: “Hey.” It seems, so far as we can calculate, by far the most common form of greeting. The ROI rarely went beyond this. But I will render it into the more common polite Veritas expression: ‘How does it go with you?.’ 

Shadow Walker took a quick look around to ensure no-one else was nearby and descended after Tu-Swift. He patted his chest and said, “Shadow Walker.” He held up the leaves and pointed to them. “Medicine. Heal you.” He pointed to Jaccim. 

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Shadow Walker’s eyes had now adjusted completely to the dim and flickering torchlight in the cellar. As he approached these odd people, he began to further appreciate Tu-Swift’s assessment: these folks hardly had the demeanor of warriors. They exuded fear, bewilderment, and confusion; he felt no anger or hatred whatsoever. That, of course, did not mean that there was no danger; not at all. A confused and fearful animal might attack even when the odds were stacked against it. Shadow Walker would continue to be wary, but he definitely wanted to reassure these people, not dominate them. 

Although the Veritas language and that of the ROI were very distinct, there were some similarities. Using a combination of speech and sign language, Shadow Walker gained their confidence enough to approach closely. First, he pointed to his ankle, still visibly swollen. He hopped and grimaced. He applied a small portion of the herb to his knee. Then, he hopped without grimacing.

Eventually, he “convinced” them to try the medicine. He prepared the leaves in boiling water and spun them about to cool them down before applying them. These “burns” were not of fire but moving across too long and too hard which also causes “burns.” Only as Shadow Walker gently lay the leaves did he realize the strangest sensation — as though he were laying these leaves here and now but also there and then. Not only that: he had the distinct impression that he was not himself but a different person. A woman. One that he knew. But the image flickered out before he could place her. How could he…? 

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Shadow Walker returned his attention to the task at hand, the here and now. The more he looked in the eyes of this man, the less danger he felt. Suddenly, he spun around as one of the women spoke from right beside his ear. 

“Thank you for helping Jaccim Nohan. I am called “The Cat-Eyed One,” for clear reasons.” 

Shadow Walker looked at her wide-eyed and simply shook his head from side to side. “If you speak Veritas, why didn’t you say so, Cat-Eyed One?” And now, Shadow Walker could see that indeed, her pupils were as those of a cat. 

“I had to learn whether or not it was safe to trust you. Once I was sure you meant us no malice, I thought I should let you know.” 

Shadow Walker frowned, “But how? How do you know Veritas?”

“I was brought up in a branch of the Veritas over the snow mountains,” began Cat Eyes. 

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“There is no such tribe! Not of Veritas! No-one has survived going over the snow mountains! There is legend of a band trying, but they all perished and never returned!” 

Cat Eyes smiled. “And, if no-one else crossed the mountains and no-one returned, how do you know they all perished?” 

Shadow Walker replied quickly, “Because they would have let us know! That is our way. To share knowledge!” 

Cat Eyes smiled still more widely, “Indeed it is. And that is why I am sharing this knowledge with you. Though you seem rather an ungracious recipient. No, no. Patience, please. I will explain why no-one returned. On our ancestor’s journey, they crossed the mountains and some of that was on a sheet of solid ice. Once we had settled in a fertile valley, far beyond the snow mountains, and were sure that we were secure and not beset by enemies or disease and would survive, we sent a party up to re-cross and re-connect with our center place. But they came back saddened to tell us that the solid ice sheet was no longer solid at all. It was too treacherous to cross. The leader of their band stepped on ice and it broke, he begin to slip through a crack. His hands grabbed frantically at the edge as he slid down.  His friends could hear his screams — which thankfully only lasted a few long minutes — and that scream arose from a place far, far below. 

“After that, people were very cautious and tested the ice and walked with long poles, but the ice never improved. In fact, it got worse every year. I suppose some day, the ice may be totally melted and then we could make our way on dirt or, more likely, mud.”

Shadow Walker listened and began to take seriously this notion that he had close cousins he had not been known about. “But then, Eyes of Cat, how did you get here?”

Cat Eyes nodded and her face grew grim; her voice, quiet. “I was stolen. I was a child. They came on their horses and took me. I don’t really know whether anyone cared enough to try to track me… or… “ Her voice trailed off.

Shadow Walker still didn’t understand why someone would steal children. “But why did they steal you from your own family? I don’t — that’s what happened to Tu-Swift as well. Why?”

Cat Eyes replied, “I recognize Tu-Swift. I knew he was Veritas and that he too had been stolen. But I never had an opportunity — the freedom — to contact him. You see, the ROI stole me to be a slave.”

Shadow Walker sighed. “I still don’t see why they would bother to go to all the trouble to steal someone else’s child. It makes no sense. Can’t they just use their own children? They are called the ‘ROI’?” 

Cat Eyes sighed as well. “Yes. That’s what they call themselves The ROI. Don’t you see? They use us for things they never want their own children to experience. They did things to me that they would never do to their own children.” 

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The Myths of the Veritas: Book One.

The Myths of the Veritas: Book Two.

How Social Media Might Exaggerate Division. 

City Living vs. Country Living. 

Author Page on Amazon

Myths of the Veritas: Killing Sticks

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The pain in Lion Slayer’s arm came in waves. He neither whimpered nor cried aloud, but even in the fading light, Eagle Eyes could see the flashes of pain playing across his face like heat lightening. She put her fingers to her lips to signal quiet. Then, she took her fingers and pushed four fingernails into his shoulder, not hard enough to draw blood, but hard enough to hurt a little. At the same time, his excruciating burn pain disappeared. She continued the pressure for some minutes and then released it. Lion Slayer braced himself for the pain, but it didn’t come. He looked in her eyes and bowed his head slightly, silently mouthing his thanks. 

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When Eagle Eyes reckoned that most of the straggling band of the People Who Steal Children would probably be asleep, she whispered that they should try to move closer to the camp but not so close as to be seen. Slowly, they crawled through the grass, eager, if at all possible to overhear the campfire, though neither of them spoke the language. Nonetheless, she hoped to glean something from the pacing and the mood. Their efforts were frustrated however. These people had no common evening campfire or discussion. People mumbled here and there but no real conversations took place; at least, none that they overheard. 

Before first light, they receded though a zig-zag path so as not to be discovered with the dawn, which arose in brilliant red. The pain had returned to Lion Slayer’s arm and Eagle Eyes again relieved it with her magic touch. 

For three days and three nights, they followed the People Who Steal Children, each night sneaking a little more closely and each day receding, but not quite so much. It seemed to Eagle Eyes that the People Who Steal Children not only lack all skill at covering their trail but also in seeing one. 

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Each night they also made a farther retreat once the traveling band had gone to sleep. Here they were far enough a way to speak in normal quiet voices, and it was in these quiet normal voices that each day they argued about whether to go back or keep tracking the Children Stealers. Neither was “wedded” to a particular position; each contributed pros and cons equally as they thought of them. Their dialogues often wandered into observations of the Children Stealers. 

Eagle Eyes had just wondered aloud whether the rest of the tribe might either take them for dead or send out a larger search party for them. 

Lion Slayer said, “But what about the eagle?” 

Eagle Eyes replied, “Yes, I hope he takes the message back to the center place, but we don’t really have enough experience to know how likely that is. The hope itself makes me happy though. The tribe might also surmise that we might be injured … have you heard any of the Children Stealers cry?”

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“Why would they cry, Eagle Eyes? Oh, I see. Yes, of course. They just lost their village. And some of their warriors died. They lost their horses, though I know not how much they might care about that. No, I heard no cries.”

Eagle Eyes nodded. “Nor I. And by the way, I would expect that some suffer not just emotional pain but some are likely badly burned as are you.”

Lion Slayer sighed. “It isn’t just crying though. I haven’t heard a really sad voice or happy voice among them. It may seem crazy, but in my tribe, even in the face of great tragedy, the children playing among themselves sometimes find occasion to laugh and sing.” 

Eagle Eyes furrowed her brow. “Why are they doing any of it? If there is no … no feeling? No … experience?” 

“Indeed, Eyes of the Eagle, it seems no life. But perhaps this is how they react to pain and tragedy.” 

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The next day, they tracked the People Who Steal Horses to the largest village any of them had ever seen. There were so many people milling around what appeared to be a gate in a wall, it was hard to comprehend. Their cover had become nearly non-existent. They decided to attempt to reconnoiter the perimeter both to see the extent of the village and look for another way in that might enable them to enter unseen. They waited until twilight and then began their explorations far enough into cover so as not to be seen. Every so often, however, Eagle Eyes would creep forward toward the wall, looking for a way in. 

About half-way around what appeared to be a largely circular wall round the city, Eagle Eyes spotted a postern gate beyond a small trellis maze. It was evening and the light was fading fast. They appeared to have entered an anteroom to some sort of ceremonial chamber. They could see into the brightly lit ceremonial room through a fine wooden lattice, but judged they could not be seen provided they stayed far away from the screen and stay silent. 

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One man sat on a large chair set atop a large platform of polished wood. In front of that man three men knelt on what seemed to be sharp stones. The one on the throne sounded both sly and angry. He gesticulated at the three and then snapped his fingers. At this juncture, one of his guards brought a strange spear over to the man in charge. The man in charge, toyed with the spear and then pointed it at one of the three men kneeling. 

A deafening noise followed and the kneeling man screamed and crumpled. Blood began to flow freely onto the gravel. Yet, the spear had not left the hand of the man in charge! Nor, so far as Eagle Eyes could tell, had the spear touched the man! What strong and strange magic is this, she wondered. 

Another of the kneeling men now seemed clearly begging for his life. He kept saying “Nut-Pi! Nut-Pi!” Apparently that was the name of the man in charge who pointed his magic spear at the begging, cringing man who put up his hands to protect himself. The magic spear made another thunderous noise and this man fell back and soon blood pooled around his body. And yet, Eagle Eyes once again did not see any thrust or throw of the spear! 

The man in charge, possibly named NUT-PI, then seemed to speak to the man remaining alive, whom he called, “BRA-BRILL.” This man BRA-BRILL begged for mercy but to no avail. Yet again, NUT-PI pointed his magic spear and BRA-BRILL screamed and fell. Unlike the others, he did not so quickly fall silent. It appeared that the magic this time had not killed him outright but only severely wounded him. 

BRA-BRILL clutched his thigh and soon his hands were covered in blood. He began crawling away on the sharp gravel. NUT-PI began laughing and sauntered after him. He pointed the magic spear at BRA-BRILL and another loud report was followed by a scream of pain. BRA-BRILL now crawled with his elbows, both of his legs trailing uselessly behind him. NUT-PI only laughed even more raucously. He came up behind BRA-BRILL and pointed the magic spear at one of NUT-PI’s shoulders. That too became injured. NUT-PI now began to jump on the injured parts of BRA-BRILL, each time eliciting a fresh, inhuman wail. 

Wordlessly, Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer sidled back outside. Eagle Eyes peered out into the area beyond the postern gate. She crouched stock still for some moments, looking for a sign of movement. She neither heard, nor smelled, nor sensed anything untoward. She crept out and she and Lion Slayer quickly headed for the nearest cover. Their quest to circumvent the whole wall was abandoned. It only took one look into each others eyes to know that they both agreed. The knowledge of this magic killing stick had to be shared with all the people as soon as possible.

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The Beginning of Book One, The Myths of the Veritas 

The Beginning of Book Two, The Myths of the Veritas

Introduction to a Pattern Language for Collaboration 

The Pros and Cons of AI

Author Page on Amazon    

Thinking Tools: The Whole Enchilada

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Tools of Thought: The Whole Enchilada

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A home made salad. NOT an enchilada.

Do you like enchiladas? I do. I like the combination. It’s much better than just the corn tortilla. It’s better than just eating sauce by itself. And, although I like the fillings, even the fillings are better to me when they are part of the whole enchilada. Sometimes, things only “work” when all the ingredients are present.

Do you think it’s safe to drink and drive? What if I told you that 13% of the drivers involved in fatal traffic accidents had been drinking? Would that convince you that drinking and driving don’t mix?

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It shouldn’t. Not by itself. Not only does that statistic, in and of itself, not show causality, it does not even show correlation! 

What else would you need in order to show that there was at least a correlation between drinking and driving? You would need to know what proportion of people who were not involved in fatal traffic accidents had been drinking. What if that percentage were 50%? What if it were only 1%? 

Let’s take another example. What is the cause of your back pain? Imagine that you went to the doctor and that you had an MRI and it showed that you had a bulging disc or some other back abnormality. Your doctor tells you that you need surgery to fix the bulging disc and that this will get rid of your pain. In fact, the doctor says that 50% of the people who have back pain have a bulging disc or other spine anomaly. What can you conclude from this about the relationship between spine abnormalities and back pain? Nothing. Not yet.

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You cannot logically conclude anything from this statistic in and of itself. You have to know what percentage of people who do not have back pain also have a spinal abnormality. What if it’s exactly 50%?

What if it’s only 1%? If it’s only 1%, it would seem that having a spine anomaly might be a good indicator (though not necessarily the cause) of potential back pain. 

What if 90% of the people without back pain have bulging discs? Then, it might seem that having a spine anomaly is a good thing! 

Once again, before we can even establish that there is a correlation or association between back pain and spine abnormalities, we must know four numbers:

How many people have back pain AND a spine abnormality. 

How many people have back pain and NO spine abnormality. 

How many people have NO back pain AND a spine abnormality. 

How many people have NO back pain AND NO spine abnormality. 

Then, we can test these numbers of find out whether there’s a statistical association between back pain and spine abnormality. Even if we find that there is a statistical association between the two, it would not prove that the abnormality causes the back pain. For example, it might be that some other factor is responsible for both. For instance, it might be that people who regularly run, swim, walk, or otherwise exercise have far less back pain and far fewer spine abnormalities. Conversely, it might be that people who experience back pain exercise far less and this lack of exercise is what causes more spinal abnormalities.

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Or, it might be that older people have both more spine abnormalities and more back pain. It might really be age that causes an increase in both. 

But be careful. If you take a snapshot in time, it might be true that today’s old people have more spine abnormalities and more back pain than today’s young people. But does that prove that age itself is to blame? No. It might be that people who are old today were exposed to more pollutants than younger people. Or, it might be that people who are young today are exposed to many more artificial preservatives and that one of these actually helps prevent spine abnormalities and back pain. 

The point is not that science is impossible. It isn’t. But neither is it trivial. 

Most people who are scientists were good in science and math and they enjoyed it. While most people were struggling through science, some people, like me, loved it. In the first grade, we had a “science text book.” I found it fascinating. But I didn’t stop there. I went to our local public library on Arlington Street, and discovered that they had our textbook on the shelves — but right next to it, they also had the science text books for grades two through six. I read all of them in order and immediately the day I discovered them. 

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My grandfather subscribed to Sky and Telescope, Scientific American, and The Natural History Magazine. I began reading these at an early age. If I didn’t understand something, Grandpa would explain it to me. By the third grade, I was very familiar with much of the simple “nomenclature” of anatomy, paleontology, astronomy, biology. I read 2-4 science books every week during my childhood. Mr. Wizard was one of my favorite TV shows. He was the “Bill Nye” of the 1950’s. I got a chemistry set and joined another “club” that sent a different science experiment every month. 

Most, but not all, people who are scientists today also loved science as kids. And, in high school, they — like me — continued to study and read about science. And most of them took further science and math courses in college. And most of the people who are “scientists” then went to graduate school and studied science for another four or more years. Graduate school  for science is the intense study of science. The grad student doesn’t take physical education or literature courses or “Western Civilization” courses. If they are in a science Ph.D. program, that is what they are studying. Most then do some sort of “Post-Doc” meaning that they get a job, but continue to learn on the job under the tutelage of someone already expert in the field. 

One of the things that I find fascinating about current American society is that a huge proportion of people no longer trust what scientists say. Most folks would never go to a forest ranger to have their teeth fixed. They would never go to a professional golfer to have their gall bladder removed. They would not rely on a car mechanic for open heart surgery. Yet, when it comes to climate change or the safety of vaccinations, they are willing to rely on very rich people with a vested interest to tell them what to think over a body of experts who have devoted their lives to learning about a particular field. And the “arguments” of those with vested interests are generally like the opening example. They do not tell the public all the facts or observations needed to make rational decisions.  

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Let’s now return to our alcohol example. When I was an undergraduate, one of my part-time jobs was as a projectionist. One week I worked all week during spring break for a week-long conference at Case-Western Reserve on the effects of alcohol on driving. It turns out that (as you might expect), there is an association between drinking and being in an accident. People who are scientists not only collected data on this but also studied driving and performance under a wide variety of circumstances. 

This is also crucial to understand. Scientist do not typically just go work in a lab by themselves and come to a conclusion. They present and publish their work so that they get feedback from other experts. Of course, like other human beings, they would prefer that their work be “perfect” but at the same time they welcome feedback from these other experts. They don’t just keep asserting over and over and ever more loudly that they are “right.” A person who insists like that will soon find themselves shunned by the scientific community. 

So these scientists studying the impact of alcohol on driving came together from all over the world in order to get feedback from each other. Each became a teacher and a student. People who are done with school and don’t want to be students or teachers any more should not really become scientists. 

I am very good at finding other people’s typos. I am horrible at finding my own. That’s why I ask other people to proofread my work. 

It’s the same with science. Despite having worked for years as a scientist, individuals do still make mistakes in logic. That’s why the consensus of a large group of scientists means more than the conclusion of one scientist who has come to a conclusion. 

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As for alcohol, some scientists at that conference at Case-Western measured the impact of alcohol on “reaction time” — how quickly a person reacted to a simple stimulus. They measured, for instance, how long it took people to push a button after a light came on. In more “realistic” tests, people sat in a driving simulator and scientists measured how quickly they put on the brakes when a red light came on. In those studies, it turned out that simple reaction time didn’t really become noticeably impacted until the person had three stiff drinks on an empty stomach! 

Someone from the insurance industry who had studied accidents in the real world, however, found that even a half drink significantly increased the chances of being the driver in an accident! That’s quite a discrepancy! 

But scientists do not throw up their hands at this point and say, “Oh, my! Science is hard! Let’s give up and go watch TV.” No. Scientists find this an interesting problem. Why is it that it takes three drinks to find a significant impairment in reaction time, but in the real world even having half a drink causes a significant increase in accidents? So, they begin to tease this apparent contradiction apart with more experiments. 

Does it have to do with particular people? People who agree to participate in lab experiments are not a random group of people from the whole population. They tend to be younger, healthier, and better educated. Could that be part of the apparent discrepancy? 

What about mood and motivation? When you come into a laboratory and people measure how quickly you can respond, you might tend to be in a “serious” mood and typically, in our competitive society, you are motivated to be as fast as possible. When you are out partying, you may be in a much different mood. Perhaps your motivation, especially if you are a teen-ager, is to “impress friends” that you are not “chicken.” So, maybe 1/2 drink might induce you to do stupid things that you wouldn’t do when you are sober. At the same time, if you’ve been drinking, chances are that your fellow passengers may have also been drinking so they may cheer you on in your choice to pass on a curve or engage in a high speed race or chase on the highway. Even if they don’t cheer you on, having friends there talking, laughing, and singing may distract you from your main task which is to keep everyone safe. Indeed, it does turn out that while simple reaction time takes three drinks to show a significant slowing, your ability to switch between tasks and to control your attention begins to suffer immediately under the influence of alcohol. 

What about back surgery to cure your back abnormality? I am not an expert on backs. Here’s a nice summary of things to think about before having back surgery. 

https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa6282

And I highly recommend the books by John Sarno. Reading this book completely cured my sciatica. Naturally, that doesn’t prove it will work for you, but you may want to try a $10 book before you go under the knife for $10,000, $100,000 or more! 

For instance: 

https://www.amazon.com/Healing-Back-Pain-Mind-Body-Connection/dp/0446557684

Take-aways: 

Don’t drink and drive. 

Science works. But it’s not trivial. Experts know more than you do. But the knowledge isn’t inaccessible. It’s not some secret hidden knowledge that scientists want to keep from you. You can become an expert in some field. But it will take time, effort, and an open mind. Or, you can take the word of experts. Or, you can decide that you’d really be okay with a forest ranger fixing your teeth or a car mechanic doing your open heart surgery. Or, you can decide to rely on people funded by fossil fuel companies to tell you whether climate change is real. 

Scientists mainly work together to seek the truth. Their “culture” is not to lie, cheat and steal in order to get rich. They get their kicks in other ways. 

If someone tries to imply a causal narrative about A causing X, you have to see the number of cases in FOUR categories before you even have evidence of an association. If they only tell you how many cases are in A & X, they are trying to convince you of something, not in having you see the truth. You need to find out how many: 

A & X

A & ~X

~A & X

~A & ~X. 

Even if A & X are statistically associated, it doesn’t prove causality. Proving causality depends on careful study using a variety of methods to converge on the truth. 

If all your doctor tells you is that you have a back abnormality and you have pain, and that therefore you need back surgery, get a second opinion. 

Of course, it’s a free country. So far. And, if you want to go to a Mexican restaurant, you’re free to order enchiladas and scrape all the sauce out and then scoop out all the ingredients and just eat the corn tortillas. You are missing out though. And if you then declare that Mexican food isn’t that great…? Well, you do the math. You really should have gone for the whole enchilada. 

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Author Page on Amazon.

Introduction to A Pattern Language for Collaboration.

Stories and Storytelling. 

The Pros and Cons of Artificial Intelligence.

The Myths of the Veritas: Book One. 

The Myths of the Veritas: Book Two.  

Mueller Time?Or Just the First Draft

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In some ways, the Mueller testimony was disappointing. In other ways, it was very damning for Trump, though in a completely undramatic way. Then, I got to thinking: what could Mueller have said or done to change the minds of Trump’s supporters? 

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I really can’t think of anything. He could have said, for instance, “Well, Trump came to me and said that he thought the American public were stupid and it was his right to fool them because they were so stupid they deserve to be fooled. Of course, I got help from Russian! How the hell else could I have been elected. But you ain’t see nothing yet. I’m going to win in a landslide next time. You guys are losers! I’m a winner and I’m going to be dictator!” 

Trump’s supporters would simply say that Mueller was lying; that Trump never said that. 

Suppose Mueller said, “Well, actually there were 5000 witnesses to the meeting. Here are their names and phone numbers.” 

Those people would immediately be decried as part of the effort to “get Trump.” In fact, at least one person on Fox News would suggest they were being paid to say that by George Soros and that they would be better off dead. They would all be seen as part of a vast conspiracy. 

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Amazingly, though people across the earth cannot address global climate change in order to survive, they can all get together in a multi-billion person conspiracy to oust Donald Trump. 

Does that sound too ridiculous? It is ridiculous, but many of the base already think that global warming and its attendant increase in flooding, drought, climate-related deaths, species extinction, sea level rising, worse forest fires, etc. — is a conspiracy — a conspiracy which require millions of people to be “on board” with faking data, photos, eye witness accounts, etc.

These are not just random people either. In tens of thousands of cases, these are scientists for whom truth is the highest value. They have dedicated their lives to finding the truth and yet, somehow, they’ve been corrupted in a single stroke. 

So, I’m forced to conclude that Trumpism has gone beyond a religion to replace Christianity. It is indeed a cult. To me, the distinction is not in the sheer numbers of people, but the extent to which their belief is impervious to feedback from the real world. 

There are many people who hold traditional faiths very much in reverence, whether it is Christianity or something else. But these religions focus on things that are spiritual in nature. The mainstream of such religions do not ask their adherents to believe things that are provably wrong about the physical world. The Catholic church, for instance, does not insist that the Earth is the center of the Universe just because they once believed it. They are very conservative, but they are not impervious to facts — not in the long run. 

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Here are links to some popular articles about religious cults. It would seem that Nazi Germany under Hitler was also something of a giant cult. Anyway, I wonder whether anyone is aware of first hand accounts of people from Germany who initially welcomed Hitler and Nazism and later realized the horrible and horrendous error of their ways. 

https://www.insider.com/most-infamous-cults-in-history-2018-8#members-of-heavens-gate-were-told-that-god-was-an-alien-39-members-died-by-suicide-2

https://allthatsinteresting.com/insane-cults

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/understanding-jonestown_b_8282188

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-is-a-cult_b_11729868

https://slate.com/technology/2011/05/apocalypse-2011-what-happens-to-a-doomsday-cult-when-the-world-doesn-t-end.html

If video is more your style. 

https://www.aetv.com/shows/cults-and-extreme-belief

Myths of the Veritas: Many Pains for Many Paths

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Many Paths awoke in a start and saw that all around her, there was a rosy glow. Why? Her heart raced when a fire-image crept into her mind. She scrambled up and peered outside. Ah. The rosy glow was merely from an unusually beautiful sunrise. She smiled at herself, happy that the alarm had been false. She looked down at her right hand and noticed the studded club in her hand. She had no recollection of having grabbed it. 

Many Paths, suddenly shook her head. She shocked herself to realize that there was a small part of her that was actually sorry it hadn’t been an emergency of some sort. 

{Translator’s Note}: The Veritas were apparently all taught from earliest years to acknowledge seemingly contradictory feelings and then, when conditions permitted, to track down what was going on. It was considered very important not to be living with contradictions of any kind. Factual contradictions, value contradictions, and even emotional contradictions needed to be sorted.  

Failure to resolve or at least understand such conflicts was thought to almost certainly cause problems. From a contradiction of facts, anything can be “proven.” A contradiction of values can lead to vacillation — which is inefficient — as well as breaking trust with others. The Veritas considered the breaking of trust to be a very serious crime. Their whole society, like any free society, was based on trust. Breaking that trust is tantamount to attempting to destroy society. 

A contradiction in feelings did not mean that the tribe member needed to decide which feeling was “correct.” Though they apparently did not have a modern knowledge of anatomy, they were well aware that many parts of our body have muscles arranged in antagonistic pairs. Often feelings are arranged the same way. They considered it important to understand the origins of feelings and then to choose which one to act on based on probable outcomes.

Many Paths quickly realized that a true emergency, a visible enemy, even a necessary evacuation would allow her to do something. And, doing something, anything, would be more pleasant than this incessant waiting. And there were the mutterings. As the days wore on, people looked at her differently. She did not hear any open questioning of her leadership, but when she drew near, she could tell that conversations fell silent or switched to “pleasant” topics. If she were leading them in active battle, they would consider her a more active leader, and she herself would feel as though she was somehow “helping” her tribe reconnect. And, she especially missed Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift. Not knowing whether they were dead or alive or wounded somewhere — these led to extremely unpleasant images and feelings. 

She prepared herself for her day and let it be known that she wished to have a council fire and dialogue that evening. Rather than pretend that everything was wonderful and that her leadership was unquestioned, she thought it better to encourage others to share their ideas about what else might be done. 

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Original Artwork by Pierce Morgan

The rosy glow of the morning gave way to a sweltering day of hazy sunshine. After her own chores were done, she decided to walk among the people and pitch in with their chores and discover what was on their minds individually. She noticed Stone Chipper and his son, Horse Viewer headed back toward the river where Horse Viewer had been the first among the Veritas to see a person standing atop a horse. She thought it worthwhile to quiz them gently when they were back at the precise place where Horse Viewer had first seen those Who Steal Children. Sometimes, people can recall that which first escaped them when they are once again in similar circumstances. Anyway, it would be cool near the creek and Many Paths knew there was a small nearby lake with Pickerel and Arrowhead. She judged it was likely too early to gather the Pickerel seeds but the Arrowhead tubers could be harvested any time. 

They walked in silence for a time. At last they neared the creek and Many Paths said, “Horse Viewer, can you show me where you stood when you first saw the man on the horse?” 

A large, radiant smile lit the small boy’s face. He loped over to a spot near the outlet to the lake. He turned back to the adults, jumped up and down a few times. “Right here! Here’s the spot! I was looking across to there.” 

Many Paths strode up to him quickly. “Can you do me a favor, Horse Viewer? Can you close your eyes, please?” The boy complied as Many Path continued, “Now, can you picture anything else?” 

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“Well,” said the boy without opening his eyes, “there was a kind of rope or strap coming from the mouth of the horse to the hands of the man who stood atop the horse. Although…he didn’t really stand on the horse. He stood on something on the side of the horse. And, the man…the man was wearing a black, hairy mask on the lower part of his face. The man … the man kicked the horse. I think he kicked the horse with his heel into the side of the horse. That’s all I remember.” The boy opened his eyes and stared at Many Paths. 

“Thank you, Horse Viewer. Your memory is good. Can you think of anything else?” 

The boy closed his eyes again, but opened them soon. “No, not really. Except…I couldn’t really see the man very well, but he was … stiff?” 

Many Paths glanced at Stone Chipper and back to the boy. “What do you mean by ‘stiff’?”

Horse Viewer frowned. “I mean. He was riding so fast! He should have been scared or happy or … something… but his face was blank and his body was … stiff … as though he felt neither joy nor fear in riding such a wondrous beast.” 

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Many Paths nodded. “You are a good observer, Horse Viewer. If you think of anything else, let me or your father know.” Now, help find some good stones for arrowheads. We may need many more soon. Meanwhile, I will also be gathering arrowheads. She smiled and gestured toward the margin of the lake. 

Stone Chipper said, “Many Paths. I also have something to say.” 

“Yes? What is it?” 

Stone Chipper looked at Many Paths and said, “I want you to know that I think you are a good leader.” He paused. “I do not think it’s your fault we were attacked at feast. And I don’t think it’s your fault that our search party has not yet returned. And we all of us thought sending a small search party was most appropriate. I don’t think it made sense to send a larger party. We don’t know yet what we are dealing with. As my son said, these people are not … they are not Veritas … and we do not yet know how they think or what other weapons they may have. They lie. We know that much from Friend of Squirrel. To pretend to trade in peace and then attack? They are not good people, I think. They are a great danger to us all. This is not the time for rash action. When you chip a stone properly, you must turn it this way and that. You must chip carefully or you will break the stone so that nothing good is left. I have made such a mistake of too much haste myself. Then, I must start over. We don’t want to break the tribe. That’s all. That’s what I think.” 

Many Paths sighed, nodded, and smiled grimly at Stone Chipper. “Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. She took both his hands in hers, looked in his eyes and said, “you are a fine maker of arrowheads, sir, and you are raising a good son. We will see how long it takes me to gather arrowheads and we may or may not walk back to the Center Place together. But for now I take your leave.” She then strode to the side of the lake. She removed her moccasins, and began wading into the cold, refreshing water. 

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By late afternoon, Stone Chipper and Horse Viewer had gathered a heavy bag full of stones to be chipped. Likewise, Many Paths had a large number of Arrowhead tubers. They decided to return together to the Center Place. They had not gone far though when they came across Trunk of Tree who seemed to have been waiting for them though he seemed surprised to see the three of them together. 

“Hello, Many Paths! Have the three of you been collecting stones?”

Stone Chipper answered, “Well, I have along with Horse Viewer, as you now call him. Many Paths has been gathering for tonight’s feast.”

“Oh. Interesting. Gathering food. May I talk with you privately, Many Paths?” 

She glanced at Stone Chipper who shrugged. Many Paths, said, “Yes. What is on your mind.” Trunk of Tree looked back at Many Paths but said nothing until the other two were well down the path and out of earshot. 

“Many Paths, you know I support you totally, right?” 

“Well, thank you Trunk of Tree. I do appreciate that.”

Trunk of Tree, chewed on his lip for a moment. “Well, yes. The thing is, some of the braves grow impatient. They wish to send out a larger party. They say you are afraid to do that because you’re afraid to find out that Shadow Walker is dead. And Tu-Swift. As long as we all stay here, we will never know and you can pretend they are still alive.”

Many Paths drew back. “What? I — no, I do not think either of them are dead, but if they are, I will get over it. I do not counsel sending more people out until we learn more from those who went to discover more about this enemy. I am not afraid of finding out they are dead. I appreciate your support, but …. “

Trunk of Tree stopped in his tracks and turned toward Many Paths, laying his thick hands upon her upper arms and turning her toward him. “If you truly appreciate my support, why not show it?” 

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Many Paths frowned. “I just said that I appreciated your support. You puzzle me.”

“Many Paths, you are beautiful, but unused to the ways of men. I can show you those ways and you will be a better leader for it. I like you. You know I do. But it is time to acknowledge that Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift are not coming back. You need a family. I can provide that family, if you favor me. Let’s just try a handful of kisses and see how we like it. If either of us doesn’t like it, you can find someone else. But meanwhile….” Trunk of Tree tightened his grip on her arms and drew his body close. He closed his eyes and attempted to plant a kiss on her mouth. She quickly raised both hands above her head and brought them down quickly on the thick forearms of Trunk of Tree. She thus escaped his grip, but only momentarily. “NO!” she screamed. “We talked about this already. I am for Shadow Walker. He’s only been gone a short while. He will return. He’s your friend, or so we both thought. What is with you? I thought you were supporting me! Trying to force a kiss is not supporting me!” 

“I know! I know! I’m sorry. You’re just so beautiful. It is hard to resist.” 

“Trunk of Tree, you are strong. You can do difficult things. So you can leave me alone. I do not want to complicate…it would be such an absurdly bad idea. What do you think would happen?” 

“I think you should raise children with me! I am strong and I could be leader but I would listen to you for advice. We could lead this way together. Strength of body and strength of mind together! No-one would then question us!” 

Many Paths lidded her eyes, set her jaw and looked at him with dagger eyes. “I want people to question me! These are difficult times. I want everyone’s input, but I do not in any way want to raise a family with you. Indeed, I don’t wish to have children now! For what possible purpose? So that they can be stolen away by the horrible People Who Steal Children? If you object to the way I am handling things, then bring it up at the Dialogue after dinner and quit trying to force yourself on me. No. No. NO!” Trunk of Tree again tried to kiss her and this time Many Paths swung her elbow across his nose, breaking it. 

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Original Artwork by Pierce Morgan

Trunk of Tree had now grown angry and felt for a moment like breaking every gone in her body. But he saw that Stone Chipper must have heard their argument and quickly head back down the path toward them. Horse Viewer was close behind. Trunk of Tree grimaced and placed what he thought was a bland, pleasant smile upon his face. “Oh, hello, Stone Chipper. Sorry, we got a little excited at the prospect of killing the People Who Steal Children.” 

Many Paths slowly shook her head and looked at Trunk of Tree with great disappointment. “We’re done talking, Stone Chipper. It’s time to go back now so that we can feast on some Arrowheads.” She spun on her heel and begin striding down the path. Stone Chipper looked sternly at Trunk of Tree and let him pass so that he could keep an eye on him.

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Original Artwork by Zoe Colier

   

After a wonderful feast, capped off with herbal tea, most of the tribe gathered for another Dialogue. Many Paths began. 

“As you know, we all agreed to send out a small search party both to find and return Tu-Swift and also to find out more about the People Who Steal Children. They have not yet returned. I am hopeful they will return soon with knowledge and with Tu-Swift. But I also understand that it is frustrating for the rest of us to feel as though we are doing nothing. Let us together once again contemplate what else we might do.” 

Everyone was silent for a time. At last, Trunk of Tree spoke. “I know I speak for many who are afraid to speak for themselves. We believe the search party is dead or captured. We have learned nothing about these People Who Stand on Horses. We can stay here and do nothing. Or we can go and seek our revenge. I am strong and a warrior. I do not like sitting here like women simply gathering food and waiting to be attacked. I think it is time to consider a new leader.” 

She Who Saves Many Lives spoke next. “And who might that leader be?”

Silence.

Trunk of Tree spoke then. “If no-one else will step up, I will do it. I will find these People Who Stand on Horses and will kill them all.” 

Stone Chipper spoke next. “It is not true that we are simply gathering food and doing nothing else. Just today, I gathered many more stones that I can chip for more arrowhead and spearheads. It will take some time, but not a time overly long. And meanwhile, we all know that we have made it more difficult in many ways and in many places for People Who Stand on Horses to attack us. And, now we are all wary. They fooled us before. They pretended to come in peace. We will not be fooled twice. I, for one, stand with Many Paths.” 

There was a general murmur of assent. 

After much talk of many paths and Many Paths, She Who Saves Many Lives spoke again. “I am very curious, Trunk of Tree. Just this morning, I heard you also support Many Paths. Now you speak against her. What made you change your mind?”

“I thought about it more. That’s all!” Trunk of Tree said. 

His voice held too much anger to signal thinking so She Who Saves Many Lives persisted in her questions. “Does your change have anything to do with your falling down and breaking your nose?” 

Trunk of Tree burst out angrily, “I never said I fell! I…I mean.… I don’t know how I broke my nose. It doesn’t matter!” 

She Who Saves Many Lives laughed gently. “I find that a bit hard to believe. I am a woman who has seen many winters. No doubt, I may sometimes now find that a fly has bitten me when I did not notice. But even I would be quite sure to know when and how I broke my nose. If you do not wish to speak the truth in our deliberations, then, do not speak at all.” 

“WHAT?! All right. You want to know the truth? Many Paths broke my nose!” 

She Who Saves Many Lives smiled slightly. “Really? And why was that?” 

Trunk of Tree blushed scarlet. “She tricked me. She got mad because I told her the truth: that Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift are dead. She didn’t like that.” 

She Who Saves Many Lives spoke even more softly. “Have you seen the bodies?” 

Trunk of Tree grumbled. “NO. Of course not. But why aren’t they back? Everyone knows they’re dead!” 

She Who Saves Many Lives spoke again, “I do not think they are dead. What do you think, Many Paths?” 

“I feel very strongly that neither of them are dead. But…I do feel that both Tu-Swift and Shadow Walker have been injured. I do not know for sure, but that is how I feel. I know it sounds a little odd, but when I touch the Rings, I feel as though I can connect with both of them. I feel as though they are alive. But that is not proof. I would suggest that we think about other defensive measures. 

“I think we should all sleep a sound sleep tonight and we can discuss tomorrow whether we want a new leader. As for me, I cannot for certain foresee the future. I do not believe any leader may guarantee what will happen. Not She Who Saves Many Lives. Not Trunk of Tree. Not me. No-one. So, I have to ask myself what does it mean when someone claims that they know what they do not know?” 

A-OC raised another question. “Is it true what Trunk of Tree said? Did you break his nose?”

Many Paths glanced at She Who Saves Many Lives. “It is true that I broke his nose. Yes. It is not true that I tricked him or that I broke his nose because he said my love and my brother were both dead. Saying this did not make me angry because I believe he is simply wrong. And, one day, we will know the truth of their destiny.” 

P-OC next spoke, “Then why did you break his nose?” 

Many Paths stared at Trunk of Tree. “Trunk of Tree: you and I worked together on many things. We are friends, I think. Why don’t you tell the tribe why you think I broke your nose?” 

Trunk of Tree shut his lips together tightly and folded his arms across his chest. “I will tell you what I think. I think I should be leader. I am strong and decisive. I will lead you to a victorious … victory. I will … we will steal all their things and be richer. That’s what I think and it doesn’t matter why I broke my nose. Let’s vote tomorrow morning as Many Paths suggests. Or does she perhaps want to suggest another twenty things we should think about instead?” 

Trunk of Tree stomped off. The rest of the tribe looked back to Many Paths. 

Many Paths looked at each person and spoke softly. “So be it. We shall vote in the morning. Peace be to all.” She raised her voice and cupped her hands aside her mouth as she added, “And peace to you, Trunk of Tree.” 

Stone Chipper added in a loud whisper, “Or, as we may now call him, ‘Trunk of Tree with Broken Branch’.”

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Original Artwork by Pierce Morgan

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Books by the Author. All are available on Amazon in both paperback and ebook.

The Winning Weekend Warrior focuses on the ‘mental game’ for all sports: strategy, tactics, and self-talk with examples from golf, tennis, softball, etc.

Turing’s Nightmares describes various possible scenarios of the future of technology — especially robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

Fit in Bits suggests many ways to work more fun and exercise into daily activities such as traveling, sitting in meetings, shopping, playing with kids, etc.

Tales from an American Childhood recounts early experiences and then relates them to contemporary issues and events.

Website with earlier stories, essays, and poems.

 

Essays on America: Wednesday

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How you see where you are depends on how you got there.

It’s Wednesday. And that means, at least for most of us, that yesterday was Tuesday. Mundane, right? Obvious, right? 

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But suppose that it’s Wednesday for you but that yesterday was Thursday! 

Oh, my! You would be in quite a different “Wednesday” than the rest of us would. How could this happen? 

Many ways. You could be a character in a Sci-Fi movie. Maybe you were in a coma for six days. Or, you could have retrograde amnesia from a blow to the head. Or, maybe you have some weird form of temporal lobe epilepsy. No matter how you got from Thursday to Wednesday, you will treat the day quite differently from those of use who experienced yesterday as Tuesday. 

And this is generally true of human beings. 

How you experience your current reality depends a lot on how you got there. 

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It so happens that my dissertation studied human problem solving. I used a problem called the “Hobbits and Orcs problem.” You may have heard of it.

There are three Hobbits and three Orcs on one side of a river and you have to get them all over to the other side. The only way to cross the river is by use of a small boat. (No flying, swimming, catapulting, disapparating, etc. allowed). For the boat to operate and not simply float off downstream, it must have at least one creature in it. But the boat can only hold one or two creatures. It cannot hold more. Orcs, as you probably already know, are suspected of eating Hobbits. You cannot ever let more Orcs than Hobbits on either side of the river, even briefly. You can try the problem for yourself.  Remember though…you cannot let there be more Orcs than Hobbits on either side of the river — not even briefly. 

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I compared how people solved this problem to an early AI system modestly called, “The General Problem Solver.” As you might expect, even though both humans and the AI system (GPS) can solve the problem, they behave quite differently. For instance, the places where humans have trouble (take more time; make more mistakes) are quite different from the places where GPS slows down. 

Start – HHHOOO (boat) {river}

Goal –                             {river} (boat) HHHOOO

Spoiler alert — now, I have to talk about the solution.

At one point, you will feel as though you’ve been making good progress and you have two hobbits and two orcs on the far side of the river along with the boat. Now, comes the sticking point (for humans). If an Orc brings back the boat, you’ll have two Orcs and one Hobbit on the near side. The two Orcs will gang up on the Hobbit and eat it. Fail! But if the Hobbit brings back the boat, the far side of the river will have two Orcs and one Hobbit so that Hobbit will get eaten. 

Here is the situation: 

HO {river} (boat) HHOO 

The “trick” is to use one Hobbit and one Orc to bring the boat back. Now, you use two Hobbits to take the boat to the far side, and it’s pretty easy to solve from there. The “trick” is only “tricky” because it feels as though you are undoing the progress you’ve already made! You took two over and you need to bring two back. In fact, many subjects wanted to “give up” rather than bring two creatures back over. They claimed it was “insoluble.” 

But wait. 

It gets even stranger. 

Half of my subjects began with a “half problem.” They started in this position. 

Start: HO {river} (boat) HHOO 

Goal:        {river} (boat) HHHOOO

These subjects had very little trouble solving the problem. They began by taking the boat to the left side by using one Hobbit and one Orc. They quickly solved the rest of the problem. 

Then I gave those same people, the entire problem again, but starting here: 

Start – HHHOOO (boat) {river}

Goal –                             {river} (boat) HHHOOO

They had little problem at the beginning. 

But when they got to the position shown below, many wanted to quit. Many said the problem was “impossible” once they got to this position: 

Now: HO {river} (boat) HHOO 

Goal:        {river} (boat) HHHOOO

Does that pattern look familiar to you? It should! 

This is exactly the problem that they themselves had just solved a few minutes earlier! When they started there, it was easy. But when they got there by arriving at it through their own effort, that same position was now daunting. They didn’t even recognize or realize that they had just been there. (None of this behavior was like that of the General Problem Solver, by the way). 

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A number of economists were interested in this result. Why? Because “classic” economics operates like GPS. It looks at the Starting Point. It looks at the Goal. It looks at various possible moves. It doesn’t “care” how it got there. According to classical economics, if you buy IBM stock at $50 and I buy it at $150 and now it’s at $100, if we have the same knowledge, then we should make the same decision about whether to buy or sell. In reality, people do not. If you bought it at $50, you’ve made a huge profit and are happy to sell it. If I bought it at $150, I’m going to suffer a loss. How people view a situation is heavily dependent on how they got there. 

Now, let’s play another little “what if” game. 

What if you were an extremely rich person who also happened to be extremely selfish. In America, for instance, worker productivity has increased decade after decade. This meant that the wealthiest people in the country kept getting wealthier and wealthier. But the workers, who made a lot less than the owners, also benefited by getting wealthier. 

Until around 1974. Then, a strange thing happened. The productivity of American workers continued to grow. However, the increased wealth that accrued from all those people learning new technology, learning new methods, using the suggestion box, etc. — none of that increased wealth went to the workers. All of it went to the richest people in the country.  

https://economics.stackexchange.com/questions/15558/productivity-vs-real-earnings-in-the-us-what-happened-ca-1974

There had been a kind of partnership between owners and workers. The owners of large companies said, in effect: “if you keep being more productive by working harder, smarter, and faster, we will all benefit. We’ll have more profits and you’ll have higher wages.”

Then, the owners stopped living up to that implicit agreement. They took all the increased profits for themselves. Basically, that’s what happened in 1974. And it also happened in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. It varied, of course, somewhat from industry to industry, and month to month, and company to company but that is the big picture. 

People who had organized their lives and the lives of their families around their jobs found that they had no job. Their jobs were shipped overseas or given over to automation. They were pissed off. As they should have been. Notice that this trend continued unabated under both Republican administrations and under Democratic administrations. It’s hard to even see a difference in the divergence that occurred between the ever-increasing wealth that workers contributed through their increased productivity and the stagnation in their real wages. 

Then, we come to 2016 and someone said, “You can’t trust these politicians. They’re all the same. They are in cahoots with their rich donors. You know who you can trust? ME!” 

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The very worst fear of many of the wealthiest .001% of the country is that all workers will get together and demand their fair share! The workers are at least as responsible for the increased overall wealth as the owners. But while real wages for workers has been basically unchanged for decades, the compensation for owners has skyrocketed. Of course, they know it’s unfair! They don’t care if it is unfair. But they do care greatly that the yacht party of caviar and champagne continues unabated. 

How to deal with this? What can you do if you’re wealthy because of other people’s work and this becomes common knowledge? You divide and conquer. You shout long enough and hard enough in every possible medium of communication that it isn’t the greed of the wealthy that has kept your wages from going up. Oh, no, not at all. It’s the foreign competition. It’s the people of color. It’s the gays. It’s the Muslims. It’s the Jews. It’s the uppity women. It’s the video games. It’s violence on TV. It’s sunspots. It’s aliens from other planets hidden in area 51. It’s lack of ambition on your part. It’s because you haven’t taken responsibility. It’s because of liberals who want to take all your guns away and make you eat quiche or salad. 

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Those that want it all for themselves are terrified that you’ll catch on to their game. And, if you do catch on, you may just choose not to play any longer. So, they buy politicians. They buy air time for commercials. They indoctrinate you to hate workers that look different; that speak differently; that eat different foods; that wear different clothes; that worship in buildings with a different shape. They plant lies about all of these “other” people so that you will hate those “other” people — meanwhile trying to convince you that they are on your side; that they are just like you really. After all, you’re both “white” or “straight” or “Christian” or “Midwestern” or whatever. But the truth is — the lives they live are quite different. Despite being extremely wealthy, many of them pay far less tax than you do. If their kids goof off in high school or aren’t very bright — no problem! They’ll just bribe the way for their kids to get into a top university.  

So far, their little game has worked. By using the same methods that get you to buy skin products you don’t really need; the same methods that get you to buy sugared water at a high price; the same methods that get you hooked on sugar; the same methods that make you feel guilty about being overweight; the same methods that induce you to buy products and systems to help you lose weight; the same methods that fool you in a thousand ways — they get you to hate other people — people who are superficially different are “sold” as being fundamentally different. While the people whose lives really are fundamentally different from yours are being touted as living lives that are very similar to yours.  

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Once you begin voting for the folks who are paid for by these very wealthy people, you will tend to listen to them. You will tend to believe them. Not because you are stupid or gullible. You will do it because that’s what you’ve done in the past. The more you vote for them, the more you want to believe them. And, here’s the kicker: if they are outrageous  in behavior and speech, you will want to believe them even more. After a few years, it doesn’t matter how absurd or ridiculous what they say is. You’ll still believe them. It’s not your fault, really. But it does keep you, and all the rest of us, trapped in a vicious circle. 

You got to this Wednesday from yesterday. But your yesterday was Thursday. It’s comforting to know that there are millions of others who also got here from Thursday. 

You don’t have to keep choosing this way. But many of you will. And, that’s precisely the way that the wealthiest .001% like it. They don’t want to share with you the wealth that you created. They’d much rather keep things the way they are. They’d much rather keep that wealth for themselves. After all, caviar, champagne, yachts, and beautiful teen-agers are expensive. 

There is, of course, a much easier solution to the Hobbits and Orcs problem. Hobbits and Orcs could stop hating and mistrusting and killing each other. Then, crossing the river to the other side is easy. And that benefits everyone. 

Everyone, that is, except the .001%. 

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Author Page on Amazon. 

Abstract of article in Cognitive Psychology

 

 

       

Essays on America: Wimbledon

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Wimbledon.  

An amazing venue. An amazing tournament. 

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This year,  in particular, offered up a host of amazing matches; e.g., Federer vs. Nadal; Federer vs. Djokovic; Serena Williams vs. Simon Halep; all the matches of Coco Gauff. And many more. The quality of tennis keeps improving. And not by accident. It’s due to fair competition. 

In match after match, not only in the finals, players threw themselves into the fray to run, perceive, plan, hit, decide, and use their emotional energy in positive ways. What makes this, and every sports event, wonderful is that it is a fair contest. And because it is a fair contest, people train hard, push hard, try their damnedest to win. 

The opponents make each other better. And, then, after they have trained as hard as they can train, they play as hard as they can play and we watch the drama that reveals the limits of human performance. 

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Imagine instead that the outcome were to be predetermined by those in power. Because someone bribes the dictator, or is otherwise connected by favors or blood, the winner is chosen by the dictator. Then, everything is “show” to make it fall into place the way the the dictator wants. Maybe some of the competitors would be drugged. Maybe some of them would meet with accidents. Maybe the line calls could consistently shade one way. 

Would fans even get any joy in watching? I suppose some might. After all, I do enjoy watching 007 movies, Star Trek, etc. even though I already know which side will win. But then, why bother with a tournament? Why not just make a fictional movie about tennis and the dictator’s favorite tennis player? 

Who would want to enter such tournaments if they knew that the outcome depended on your connections to the dictator rather than on their skill and strategy? Who would bother to train hard for the event? Who would even be attracted to the sport in the first place? 

If you were a top quality athlete, if some sports were “open and fair” and other sports were predetermined by the dictator, which one would you want to play in? 

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Of course, in a dictatorship, it isn’t just sports that are corrupted. Every aspect of life is corrupted. You can poison the food and water and get away with it — if the dictator likes you. You can run your company into the ground and be bailed out if you are aligned with the wishes of the dictator. Government officials will be advanced according to how corrupt they are rather than how well they do their jobs. You can be a brilliant academic, but if your views do not align with what the dictator thinks will protect and expand his own power, you’ll be passed over for promotion. That’s the best case scenario. You could find yourself in a prison camp. 

And under these circumstances, why should people try hard to discover and disseminate the truth? Why should anyone make the best possible product if the dictator might jail you because you are competing with the dictator’s son-in-law? 

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Under dictatorship, everything in life decays into a moldy shadow of what it should be. Creativity is stifled. Your brilliant discovery won’t be approved by the dictator because the dictator didn’t know about it ahead of time (by definition). On the other hand, the dictator might “prescribe” findings and discoveries such as the existence of phlogiston. Experimental results will be manipulated and the population will begin to believe in a reality that is less and less aligned with the actual facts. 

Do you think this is an exaggeration? It isn’t. But don’t take my word for it. Read about writers, film makers, singers, movie stars, athletes that were not in “favor” with Stalin or Mao. 

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Do you, like most workers, take pride in doing a good job? Why bother if the dictator can brush away your team’s product in order to promote the competitive product made by the dictator’s daughter, say? Absolute power is an addictive drug and a dictator will never voluntarily give up power. They insist on more. Of course, no-one can know everything and the worst kind of dictator is the impulsive/cover-up kind. They don’t bother to understand a situation but make snap judgements. Then, everyone is required to scramble to pretend the snap judgment was actually a good — no, a great decision. 

The lies and mediocrity will proliferate. In many cases, cruelty will be extracted from “enemies of the people” intentionally. Beyond that, there will be almost no incentive for government to be effective under a dictatorship. Do you think the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is inefficient now? You haven’t seen anything like the inefficiency of a dictatorial state! But if things stay on the current trajectory, you will. 

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Once honesty becomes replaced with loyal lying, everything crumbles. Everything.

Your body only stays healthy and alive because it sends all sorts of communication signals. If your body “lies” to itself and sends false signals, you will soon find yourself in terrible health or worse.

It is the same with a nation. If public officials lie, it destroys government in and of itself — and it also encourages  the rest of the population to lie, cheat, and steal. 

Game. Set. Match. 


Author page on Amazon.

 

Essays on America: Labelism

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Essays on America: Labelism

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This is a post about racism. But, it’s also a post about misogyny. It’s a post about homophobia. But it’s also a post about Trumpism and the “base.” (BTW, if any of these terms makes you not want to read the article, then you definitely should read it). 

Because all of the ideas associated with these terms are in some way linked to one particular term: labelism. What is labelism? It is treating the label of a thing as if that label equaled the thing labeled. Let’s take an example. Call me Ishmael. (My real name’s “John” but you can call me “Ishmael”). But I’m guessing that that really bothers some of you. Why? Because my name is “John.” Let’s come back to that. 

When I was a very young kid, I recall my mother telling me that we were going to visit one of her friends, Mrs. Fox. Immediately the image of a woman who was also a fox sprang into my imagination. She had a human hairdo popular back then with straight hair at the top and many curls below ear level. But her snout was distinctly vulpine. Her eyes were also fox-like, but it was made up and she was wearing lipstick! I must have had a wide-eyed and glazed look when I said back to my mom, “We’re going to see … Mrs…..FOX?!” 

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Mom giggled and said, “That’s just her name. She’s not a four-legged fox with a tail!” I think that my mother must have imagined something similar to my image because she then burst out laughing. I don’t think I was totally convinced by Mom’s reassurance, but I was at least willing to go see for myself what this “Mrs. Fox” really looked like. 

Now, in fairness to my younger self, there were many examples of cartoon animals and books that equated the name with animal. The Three Little Pigs. Donald Duck. Mickey Mouse. And they all exhibited the same hopes and fears that I did.

It seems to me that people differ quite a bit in terms of how much “reality” they attribute to a label. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve seen microwave popcorn on the shelves with the word “Butter” prominently displayed, but when you read the ingredients, there is no butter in it whatsoever. Similarly, some marketing genius came up the idea of naming a perfume “Unscented.” So, if I go to the store and buy cat litter that says, “Unscented” it is actually perfumed with a perfume whose name is “Unscented.” (Get “Fragrance Free” instead, although I suppose eventually that will also be a lie). 

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How did I discover that the popcorn had no butter? I read the fine print. I looked at the ingredients. Right now, we are lucky because Americans earlier put the pressure on until it was legally required to list ingredients. (For what it’s worth, the popcorn’s good; besides that, it probably wouldn’t work to put butter in microwave popcorn. But why lie?). 

As I argue elsewhere, listing every ingredient wasn’t necessary hundreds of years ago. People would buy their bread at a local baker and if they put crappy ingredients in it, everyone in town would know. But now? Most of us buy stuff from people we don’t know and are never going to meet. And, the trail of responsibility is very complex indeed. Today’s supply chains lower costs but make quality hard to pin down and very hard to pin down responsibility for bad behavior. 

How did I discover that “Unscented” is a scent? Initially, I think someone told me and I think it was my daughter-in-law or my daughter.  And then, I confirmed it with my own sense of smell. By the way, the manufacturers of cat litter are masters of perfumery because they make one brand that actually manages to smell much worse that cat poo or cat urine or both combined. It is vile. Now, that takes genius. 

If you think facebook gets a bit nasty on occasion, you should really try twitter. Anyway, I ran across a tweet today that got me thinking along these lines of labelism. The tweeter basically said that she “wasn’t a racist but” (a phrase highly correlated with the very next thing being a racist comment). She wasn’t a racist, so she claimed, but it didn’t make sense to pick a black actor for Ariel because they don’t look anything alike.  

Okay, then. Let’s first just get one thing out of the way. Ariel is a cartoon character. The Actor is a real person. People are quite different from cartoon characters. And, they look noticeably different, regardless of color. But much more importantly, the person would not be anything like Ariel either. The person would have lungs, a heart, a brain, 720 different muscles, have weight, be real, could move on her own, etc. 

On the other hand, characters in novels, plays, movies and cartoons — if they are well done — are like real people in terms of their internal lives. It is all a fiction, of course, as well as magic. (It’s no accident that Disney called his extravaganza theme park “The Magic Kingdom.”) Fiction is magic in that it allows you to vicariously experience another person’s choices, actions, sensory inputs, relationships, self-talk, and even internal conflicts. The words are used as cues or clues and you yourself imagine the actions, sights, sounds, and smells. You generate the feelings with your brain. The book doesn’t have a brain. The movie doesn’t have a brain. 

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When you watch a movie, you see a person and hear a voice. The most important thing is what is going on in the actor and whether they can hint at what is happening internally through their motions, expressions, and voice. That is what is important about good fiction: what goes on inside. 

What could possibly be more racist than to think a POC could not feel inside what a white person was thinking? Or, what could be more racist than to think a POC could not show that set of feelings through their actions and voice in a highly competent, artistic, & inspired fashion? 

Now, let us set aside the really important part of the story process and just focus on the external factors. Two complete human forms typically share a myriad of surface characteristics. Most people have bilateral symmetry, ten toes, ten fingers, one head, the same set of 720 muscles and so on. Our fingers share the same joints, fingernails, etc. And yet — out of that sea of similarity, the “I’m not a racist but” tweeter claims that because the actor is black, she “doesn’t look anything like [emphasis added]” the form of the cartoon character. So, the “I’m not a racist but” tweeter thinks skin color counts — but none of the other 1000 physical characteristics that nearly all of us share count at all. Hmmm. So, for the “I’m not a racist, but” tweeter, skin color is the only marker of a person’s physique that makes any difference. 

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Human beings are vastly complex. Our life — the very life we feel right now — goes back in unbroken lineage 4.5 billion years. Our bodies contain 70 trillion cells. By contrast, the (already considerable) population of earth is only 7 billion. To pick out one characteristic as being the only one that counts? 

The tendency to confuse label with substance persists into adulthood for all of us. For instance, in Dan Ariely’s book, Predictably Irrational, he cites studies in which adults, e.g., prefer dentists, whose name starts with “D” and will give preference to someone with the same name they have, even though the name sharing is coincidence.  We also have the option to be on the look out for labelism. Watching out for it and then looking into things more deeply is the first step to minimizing it in your thinking. 

Because there are others who are well aware of this tendency to confuse the thing with the label and all too happy to use that confusion to make a profit at your expense. In the examples above, consumer products companies are following the letter of the law (all the while lobbying to rescind even those protections) but at the same time, spending millions to mislabel their products and mislead you. “All Natural Juice Drink”! Doesn’t that sound wonderful? The one I looked at had less than 5% juice. There’s nothing about it that’s “natural.” It’s basically water and corn syrup. And, indeed, at this point, the actual ingredients are listed. So, if and only if, you take the time to look at that government-mandated information, you will see what’s really going on. Large corporations are not satisfied with only misleading the people who won’t bother to read the ingredients. They want to right to fool everyone. 

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Sadly, this manipulation of labels to confuse the unwary to do things in the interests of the very rich rather than their own interests is not limited to their consumer products. The very wealthy who essentially own and/or run the corporations want to be able to control elections. So, they brought a law-suit under the label “Citizens United” all the way to the Supreme Court. (This was hardly “citizens united”!! It was brought on behalf of some of the richest and most powerful people in American). 

Applying nice-sound labels to things that are “bad” is just one type of trick. Another common trick is to label something negatively in order to get you to dislike it. Why do people want to manipulate you into disliking somebody? Basically, they do it to get you to put your anger on them for your troubles rather than the people truly responsible. 

The word “label” implies a word. But let’s look more deeply (or at least more pragmatically) at the basic concept of playing on your labelism so that you act against your interest. Corporations use music and pictures to impact your psyche in the same way. When they tell you (as currently required) about the deadly side-effects of a drug, they play calm, idyllic music. Nice music. Music that makes you feel there is nothing to worry about. And sweet pictures. Pictures of flowers, and rainbows, and family fun, and romance. How could anything possibly go wrong? But those pictures do not logically flow from taking the drug. Nor does joyful music start playing in your life. 

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You may or may not experience this after taking that new drug. After all, it’s just a picture, not a promise. But your brain treats it as a promise. And they know that.

We just accept it now. After all, it’s just “business as usual.” But why is it “business as usual”? Who benefits from the rules that now exist? And what if, someday in the future, Americans become so accepting of this manipulation of feeling through labels, images, & sounds that they did not even notice that this was going on in politics? What if we were not just being manipulated by big moneyed interests into buying cat litter, popcorn, and drugs? What if corporations were also spending their billions to buy elections in order to make the rules of the game even more favorable to them? 

We can only imagine. 

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._FEC

https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/07/how-supreme-court-turned-corporations-people-200-year-saga/

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The Declaration of Interdependence

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The Declaration of Interdependence

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The first fireworks I recall seeing: Camp Y-Noah, when I was about 7 or 8. Before, I had seen some from a distance — little sprays of colored lights in the sky followed by a distant boom. Even those distant booms terrified my dog Mel, a wonderful, loving, honey-colored Cocker Spaniel. 

Being right next to the action at Y-Noah was an entirely different experience. The sound thumped by chest! The spreading streamers of bright explosives filled the sky! The sparkling threads were red, white, and blue as well as gold, silver, green, and purple — all the colors of the rainbow and more besides!

I watched with one of the kids from my cabin. I cannot recall his name but I do recall that he had a blond crew cut and was a bit on the chubby side. At Camp Y-Noah, we slept in log cabins on bunk beds, about 10 kids to a cabin. Our days included swimming, archery, shooting 22 rifles, hiking, and various contests, including “morning inspection” pitting one cabin against another, or volleyball (pitting one cabin against another) or softball (pitting one cabin against another). We generally hung out with the other kids in our own cabin; they were on our “team” and the ones we spent most of our time with. 

For that reason, I was surprised when a kid we didn’t know came to watch the fireworks with us. This kid, whose name I also don’t recall, was an African-American with short curly hair.  After silently watching for a couple minutes, began commenting on every firework. But instead of saying “Oh, WOW!” as we were, he likened each firework to what he was going to do to one of the kids in his cabin. It seemed odd that he would dislike one of the boys from his own cabin and especially that he would passionately dislike him. 

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He soon solved that mystery for us. His cabin mate kept calling him the N-word. I grew up in a very segregated white neighborhood and school. Nonetheless, I knew from an early age that this was not a word to be used. I associated using the word with “bad people” and found the idea that one of the kids at Camp Y-Noah would use it rather amazing and a bit upsetting. I also found it amazing that this kid from another cabin would be so upset. 

Of course, kids being kids, I had lots of experience with kids calling each other names. While I didn’t typically start such insults, I would respond in kind and sometimes “pile on” when someone had a nasty nick-name applied to them. In the first grade though, these nasty nick-names never perseverated. And none of the names we came up with were associated with racism, hatred, and lynching.

The first time I recall an unlucky recipient keeping a nasty nick-name for more than a few days took place about four years later. We were studying American myths and legends at the time and one of these legendary figures was “Pecos Bill” who supposedly tried to jump over the Grand Canyon, got half-way over, realized it was too far and turned around in mid-jump and came back. (Don’t try this at home). For some reason, all the other boys in the class, and quite a few of the girls, dubbed “Bill” “Puke-us Bill.” He hated it and told us of his hatred of the name. That made it all the more fun for us as fifth graders. 

Although cruel, the name was unique. It had nothing to do with Bill’s race, religion, or country of origin. Though he hated it, and we teased him with it for the rest of the year, he still hadn’t reacted as passionately as the kid from camp had done to being called the N-word. 

And with good reason. Bill’s ancestors had not been enslaved whole-sale and stolen from their native land and torn apart from their families. The women had not been systematically raped. Men who tried to escape had not been castrated or had their foot chopped off. They had not endured centuries of oppression. Even after slavery was abolished, citizens of America descended from those slaves were tied up and tortured, lynched, and to this day are more likely to be shot dead for no better reason than complying with a police request by pulling out their wallets to show their ID’s or by not pulling out their wallets to show their ID’s. White people, in the year 2019, are calling 911 to report black people doing such dastardly deeds as having a picnic, or playing in their own yards. 

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Fireworks are explosives. They may look very pretty. But every year, thousands of Americans end up in the ER from fireworks. Fireworks are violent explosions. They need to be treated with great care. It’s very common for a fuse to be shorter than it seems. And explosions don’t always go as planned. 

And racist slurs? To people who are in a minority, a racial slur is nothing like a “nick name.” I really didn’t understand that when I was a seven year old camper. But I do now. What I also understand is that playing to racism or religious differences have led to millions of innocent people killed. And, the distance between freely using racial slurs and millions of innocent people killed is not as long as you might think it is. 

Today is a day for all Americans to celebrate our independence from tyranny. We should celebrate. The American colonists were taxed by the British government but had no vote and no representative in Parliament. The rationale for our declaring our independence was based on many grievances, and eventually some of those influenced the Bill of Rights. But having a vote is absolutely fundamental to having a democracy. If it isn’t a democracy for all of us, it isn’t a democracy. 

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When it comes to measures to disenfranchise citizens, those are a blow to democracy itself. That should concern everyone, not just those who are not disenfranchised. And, so should applying racial slurs and killing innocent people. And, so should intentionally inflicted cruelty of any kind. We breathe the same air. We are all inter-connected. The Declaration of Independence speaks to independence from tyranny, but when it comes to defending those freedoms, we are all in it together. E pluribus unum. 

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Ever stop to think about how much even commonplace things that you take for granted depend upon the efforts and knowledge of others across the globe — and millions of other people who lived in ages past? https://petersironwood.com/2019/05/06/corn-on-the-cob/ 

Still confused about how much you’ll be able to “recreate” modern conveniences based on your own hard work and knowledge? Maybe this video will help. https://www.ted.com/talks/thomas_thwaites_how_i_built_a_toaster_from_scratch?language=en

My title is hardly original, and here is a link to some of the earlier uses of the title. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declaration_of_Interdependence

Here’s another take on the fact that people around the world have developed slightly different skin colors and somewhat different cultures. https://petersironwood.com/2018/08/03/the-myths-of-the-veritas-the-forgotten-field/

The Doors of Mystery

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“What an amazing sunset,” Fleet-of-Foot said to no-one in particular. His companions, Hudah Salah, Easy Tears, and Day Nah sat close by. 

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Easy Tears noticed that Hudah Salah, who had previously said very little had become much more talkative since their escape from the fire — and her separation from Lion Slayer. Here she was again: “Perhaps the fire in some way joins up with the fire of the sunset. Then, he shines more brilliantly than ever.” 

Easy Tears listened carefully to Hudah Salah, just as she did to everyone in her own tribe. “That’s an interesting possibility, Hudah. Let us think on that.” 

{Translator’s Note}: And, unlike our more “civilized” society, where everyone is judged on being able to respond immediately with arguments carefully crafted to push people into one of two predefined camps, this is what Easy Tears actually did: She allowed herself to think. She did not try to dissect the idea, nor prove it, nor disprove it. She let the idea loose in the archives of her mind. Easy Tears, in particular, did not like to put up walls either between herself and others or within her own memory archives. There was no “Restricted” area. The idea could play around in there as long as it liked. What was the hurry? Their bodies all needed restitution and traveling by night is not always a good way to make things quicker. And, now they were all enjoying the sunset. 

Of course, unlike the Veritas, your translator was brought up in a world where speed is all and if you can’t get your next version of software out the door yesterday, you can go out the exit door for good. So, when I describe things, I tend to phrase things in a much more simplistic fashion than what actually went on in the minds of the Veritas, as best we can tell from the burgeoning field of statistically inferential macro-psycholinguistics. It would be helpful then for you, the reader, to remember that my translations will tend to reflect my own modernistic blinders – and yours. But let’s get back to finding out whether these folks are going to get back to the center place of the Veritas alive and tell Many Paths, their leader, what they have learned about The People Who Steal Children. 

As Easy Tears allowed the idea to roam freely, she did not have to “watch” the idea or “be careful” where it might lead. So, she could just sit back and watch the sunset. The idea conjured a trumpet that sang a song about fire. Most of the various artifacts, people, ideas, places, in the mind of Easy Tears paid little attention to this particular tune. A few however, had their say. Easy Tears recalled how hard it had been to see when they were running through fire. Even when the flames were not an issue, the smoke made it hard to see. So smoke interacted with sight. 

Another memory heard the tune and danced to it. Easy Eyes had been a small child, but one who had already revealed her eye for beauty and design. Everyone who wished to, was encouraged by the Veritas to share designs for patterns on both the autumnal and vernal equinoxes. She had created several ideas in her head and one in particular had caught her eye.  That would be the one! She worked in secret on her full scale project and as it neared completion, she became more and more disconcerted. The design no longer seemed a thing of real beauty. She recreated the small scale version and it still held exquisite beauty and balance.  What, she wondered, was going on? She had gone back to her larger design and it appeared empty and bland. So, the size of something could even change its nature. She had added additional elements to the large scale design and had, in fact, received much praise for her design. This was sincere praise, not just pat-the-sweet-little-girl-on-the-top-of-the-head praise. And, she knew it. So, smoke rises and spreads and becomes more sparse. 

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Easy Tears related these wakened memories to the group and Hudah Salah translated for Day-Nah. 

Fleet-of-Foot, though not quite so open as Easy Tears, also allowed these words and memories free access to his own experience. “For some reason that I cannot explain, it reminds me of skipping stones on a creek or a pond. You want stones that are as round and flat as possible. But, the size of the stones proves crucial too. If a stone is too small, even if it’s flat, it will curve in the air and slice right into the water too steeply. If the stone is too large, even if well made, you cannot throw it fast enough and it will only skip a few times. So, here too, the behavior depends on the shape, or design, but also on the size. 

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“Yes,” added Hudah Salah, “in my experience size matters. And also speed. In our lands, much sand there is and one grain or two — this is nothing. But we have — you and Eagle Eyes — you saw such a storm, during your visit. Much sand coming fast – it can kill you. The nature of much is different from the nature of one or a few.” 

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After a long pause, and when the sunset had faded from crimson all the way to gray ash, Easy Tears said, “We think it may be the case that something about the nature of much smoke together on the ground to be different than much smoke not together high in the air. But sunsets vary so much. We must ask to join with the wisdom of others to decide. Let us sleep. I will keep first watch.” 

The dawn also proved visually stupendous. The foursome broke camp and continued their journey even before the color reached its peak. They saw no sign of their friends nor, thankfully, of the People Who Steal Children. They did see horse hoof marks and that kept them on the alert. 

Occasionally, they returned to the topic of the beautiful sunsets and sunrises and whether it was related to the fire. 

Hudah Salah remarked, “In the heat of the summer, it seems as though the sun actually pushes you down, as though the light is heavy.” 

Fleet-of-Foot turned back to look at Hudah. He smiled at her. An image of them together flickered through his mind. Then, the same idea stole into his mind in words. After all, he thought, life must go on. If Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer are both dead…. Or, perhaps, they just decided to go off together? How could they have just disappeared? We were all running together. Maybe they’re sick of all this fighting. That’s ridiculous. I know she’s okay and I know we will be together. Feed the good wolf, feed the good wolf. 

Easy Tears spoke. “I have a feeling it has something to do with light that reflects or the light that isn’t there.”

Now, Fleet-of-Foot was amazed at Easy Tears. “Light that isn’t there?” 

Easy Tears, motioned to Fleet-of-Foot to come closer. “Look at the bare ground over there. What do you see?”

“Many things. You mean, your shadow?” 

“Yes, Fleet-of-Foot, my shadow. It is lack of light. What color does it appear?” 

Fleet-of-Foot frowned. “Color? No color. Well, I suppose it looks a little bit blue compared with what is around it.”

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Hudah Salah broke in, “Oh, yes, it is blue. It can be quite obvious in the desert. The sun is yellow but the not-sun is blue.” 

Fleet-of-Foot considered. “I see what you mean. But, I’m not sure…”

Easy Tears pointed to the other side of her, “Now, look over there. What do you see?” 

Fleet-of-Foot shrugged his shoulders. “Not shadow?”

Easy Tears laughed. “Don’t guess! Look! And keep moving. My shadows will come with me!” 

Fleet-of-Foot shook his head, frowned, and took another look as he strode alongside. At last he said, “Well, to tell you the truth, you have another shadow on that side but it’s vague and a bit greenish.” 

Easy Tears continued. “Yes. You see those bright red sunrise clouds high in the sky? There is shadow from the light of them as well. 

They strode on silently for a time. 

Fleet-of-Foot said, “You are truly amazing to have ever noticed that!” 

Easy Tears laughed. “Oh, I didn’t see it. I lived for years and never noticed it. Eagle Eyes pointed it out to me. She truly is amazing! Haven’t you noticed?” 

Fleet-of-Foot blushed and hoped the others attributed it to the high red clouds. He cleared his throat and mumbled, “Yes, of course.” 

They continued all day with few breaks. At last they found themselves on the path they had taken on the way out. A few hours later, they were at the same odd door that stymied them for a time on the way in. They had intentionally left it closed in the hope of thwarting what they assumed would be a large group of the People Who Steal Children riding on horseback. Now, their way was blocked by a large heavy door that six of them had had difficulty with. How could they open it with only three adults and a small child. The alternative was to try to find another route but nothing obvious had presented itself. 

The three of them pushed and pulled to no avail. After some minutes, they managed to move it perhaps half an inch. Then it stopped and further effort proved fruitless. The three sat down heavily and looked at each other, trying to catch their breath. They looked around and realized that none of them knew where Day-Nah had gone. 

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Fleet-of-Foot called out, “Day-Nah!” 

“Day-Nah. Here. Help me.” 

Fleet-of-Foot cautiously approached the voice and soon saw Day-Nah pulling at something. Fleet-of-Foot soon saw that it was a thick rod of the same stuff that the door itself was made of. 

Fleet-of-Foot was amazed and wanted to learn more. “Where? Where did this come from? What place?” 

Day-Nah stared at him uncomprehendingly. Fleet-of-Foot thought back to his time among the Nomads of the South. Suddenly, the word sprang to mind. 

As soon as he said it, Day-Nah’s face brightened and he ran over to a nearby hollow log. Fleet-of-Foot thought it an odd place to hide a club, but it seemed to be a good club despite its odd shape and long length. It was made of this hard, heavy material and he was happy to have it. But he could not use it to break down the door. It was made of the same stuff and way too thick to be destroyed with a club. 

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Fleet-of-Foot returned to Easy Tears and Hudah Salam and showed them the club. Waving it slightly, he said, “This may prove useful should we encounter the People Who Steal Children.” 

Hudah Salam looked at him and smiled. She walked directly toward him and for a moment, he thought she might kiss him! 

But it was not to be. She merely, took the “club” from him and walked over to the door. She put one end into the small slit and put both hands on the other end. Then, she braced her feet and pulled backwards. The door moved! 

Fleet-of-Foot laughed and shook his head. “Oh! How not fleet-of-thought I am!” 

His friends laughed too. Easy Tears glanced at him and smiled. “I didn’t see it either. But I suspect Eagle Eyes would have. She’s good at that kind of thing.” 

Fleet-of-Foot smiled. He knew exactly what Easy Tears had meant by ‘that kind of thing’ though there was really no word for it. But there should be, he thought and they pitched in and quickly moved the door. 

On toward the Center Place of the Veritas they strode. After a few moments, Fleet-of-Foot waved the lever and said, “Well, it also makes a good club.” All of them laughed for it seemed to them at the time that the worst was over. 

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Author’s Page on Amazon

The Pros and Cons of AI

Introduction to a Pattern Language for Collaboration and Teamwork

The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The Orange Man

The Beginning of the Tales of the Veritas 

The Beginning of Book Two