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 #3 Southern Summer 2003-2004


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    part 4 - autumn 2004     


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  Thur 4 December 2003  

Last week - 27 November - was my Dad's 80th birthday. He is quite eccentric but in relatively good health and very active. For his birthday he decided he wanted to go gliding at Beverley which is a wheat belt town about 124 km from here. Approx 96 km due east to York, then about 30 km due south from there. The trip went fairly well. Glenda, the two youngest kids and myself went from here and we arrived at the Beverley air strip just in time to see him taking off, which was very good timing considering how our circus functions.  Below is an extract from an email I sent a couple of days ago to my sister Ella and brother Adam who were also present and in fact did all the organising. The bits in brackets are added for commentary here and were not in the email.

Hi Guys,

Thanks for organising Saturday, it all seemed to go off like clockwork and a jolly good time was had by all :-) ['cept the lady in the coffee shop never delivered my Florentine slice ...]

I presume Dad is still all in working order after his flight and feeding frenzy. [NB: this refers to his liking for food.]

I came down with some kind of 24 hour stomach wog on Sunday - might have actually picked it up Saturday - then all the lying around moaning and groaning and occasional Technicolor yawn caused my back to go crook on me. I sort of felt like things weren't the best with my back by late Sunday night but couldn't take any of my favourite drugs for it because that would simply have set my stomach into reverse.

By the time my tummy was better late Monday arvo the rot had really set in, and then close inspection of the Queen Street pill stash revealed that the best stuff had just run out! Long story cut short: I hobbled like an old man to see my doctor who prescribed strong pills and immediate physiotherapy.

Well the pills are working, even if they make me feel a bit nauseous again, and the physiotherapist was an unmitigated sadist. [Like whoever heard of trying to massage muscles deep inside the body, just in front of the backbone in fact , by pressing hard on the front side of the victim's belly? I guess it didn't help either when I asked her if she had heard of someone called Torquemada :-] C von P is her name.

[update as of 21/6/2012:  her name used to be here and, after the full stop, the next word was "Bitch!" which I still think appropriate. However today, eight years later mind you! that lady rang me at work and asked me to remove her name.

It seems that prospective clients [or 'victims'?] have been Googling for her name, seeking reasurance of her professional bona fides, and guess what, they found this page. Interesting to note is that Ch von P did not deign to appologise or even hint that the concept of appology had entered her head. I saw no reason to applolgise either; her name will be revealed to anyone who asks me for it.]

[By the way Torquemada was the name of the guy who ran the Spanish Inquisition  :-]

On later consideration, I think the strong pills - of ibuprofen, the stuff in Nurofen or Bugesic - are actually having the main effect. And I worked out that cutting them in half is a good way to lessen the side effects and I gives me what seems like a life time's supply!

I guess if none of you came down with any bug, then it was most likely the Dorsogna Hot Salami I opened for Sunday lunch snack. It's usually pretty good, the stuff on my sandwiches for the last 10 years all seemed in order anyway.

Ella, your friend Rose seemed nice enough, but I am still heavily NOT into astrology! [In fact Rose was a complete pain in the arse, raving on about astrology and then going on to Chineseyear signs. Once she turned up at the restaurant she hogged the conversation and prevented the rest of us from catching up. Glenda particularly found this frustrating because she has so little chance of getting to see any of the others and my sister Gaynor, whom Glenda used to be quite close to, normally lives in Tasmania, 4000 Km away.]

Gaynor, it would have been nice to see more of you, but I am still not back into driving - due to the very unorthopaedic seating style of the Nomad, and Glenda is booked up with kids 'til COB Thursday.
********************************** end of email 

I have today been back to the physio and she was clearly disappointed not to be able to attack my belly again, but that part of me is still sore and I totally disbelieve her theory about massaging the muscles in question. I mean what she says about how the solus muscles should function and that they are all tensed up in my body may well be quite correct, but the idea that she could benefit them by applying enough pressure to my belly to rupture lymph nodes or tear some connective tissue is just barmy!

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   Friday 12 Dec - far too early - typical nightowl pathology.....

Glenda's sister Maureen has arived from Thailand. She came in at some ungodly hour yesterday morning or bfore midnight and Glenda picked her up from Perth International Airport. Perth people seem to get the short end of the stick in this regard because most of the international flights are going through to somewhere 'more important' in the eyes of the airline moguls so they have to arrive at a decent time for the jet setting class. So Perth is just a refueling stop and the convenience of Perth people is not worth considering. Anyway, Maureen is a Christian missionary who has spent the last 20 years or so working in Thailand. She fits in better there than here in Oz and now, due to her eyesight problems, it is easier for her to live in Bankok where there is plenty of convenient public transport and where she knows her way around rather than in Perth where public transport is appalling.

 I will leave my whingeing about Perth public transport for another time. Glenda has taken Maureen to Narrogin where their parents live. Maureen will do some of the things that missionaries do when they come home on leave - like obligatory visits to sponsoring churches and the like. Hopefully Glenda and the little girls will come back tomorrow.

I have been trying to get Glenda to write down some of her thoughts on the problems of schoolng and other issues that affect children these days. She has great insight into many of these issues and often comes out with really clear and apposit one-liners. I just wish she would write these things down but she reckons she just doesn't have time.

I am also, anyway, trying to gather together some thoughts on how stress affects children, the main causes of stress, how it manifests and what might be done about it. According to Lewis, quite a few of the kids he messages on the Net are depressed. As I understand it, most of these kids are bright young people who generally get good marks at school and who all think that everybody else is doing OK. They therefore wonder what is wrong with themselves and blame themselves for how they feel. Apparently nobody is offering them support in developing critical insight into the fundamental problems inherent in bureaucratic education systems. For example the pervasive and permanent lack of the funding needed to supply enough labour for a process which is inherently labout intensive.

The closest thing I could see to being a valid and realistic prayer for kids of today goes something like this:
I am the result of 4 and a half thousand years of evolution;
I am part of this Earth and I belong here.
I have a right to be here and a right to live in freedom,
so long as I bring no deliberate harm to others.
Nobody can tell me what it is like to be me, and
nobody has the right to tell me what it ought to be like to be me.
I am here now and I like it.


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Thursday 18 Dec   very early, once again.

Have done some posts to the Mind & Brain discussion group at Yahoo groups. I was quite disappointed by how the overly prolific usual posters, jumped on what I said and seemingly misread it badly. I have made a response pointing out their misreadings and demanding that they carefully read again what I actually said. And I am really not impressed by the 'Quantum Consciousness' afficionados. They believe in fairy dust!

Xmas is upon us again! Seasonal madness, fit only for children really. I tried walking around Perth CBD shopping precinct and it was a real pain. Next week will be far worse.

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 Sat 27 Dec  after Xmas 

Well, I have survived the season so far. Quite well in fact ..... Santa was very nice to me. A new computer no less! Quite how the fincancing occurred for this I will never know. Obviously Glenda has been saving for some time. Lewis prescribed the technical specs. and Gwyneth gave moral support, as well as some heavy lifting it seems. [Her Tai Kwon Do is doing her good in more ways than one.]

Overal it seems Xmas has been a success, although the two youngest seem more than ever determined to argue about things. We all drove down to Narrogin on Xmas Day to see my in-laws, seeing that they cannot travel now. He can no longer drive and she never learned - at whose insistance I do not know - but it is too late for Lorne to start learning now. On the way back in the afternoon of Boxing Day I got breathalised once, at Bannister, and before that near Williams we saw someone being booked for speeding. Evidently he had been clocked by the on-board radar as he and the patrol car closed on each other. He had been going in the same direction - northwards - as we were going so the police had been coming south. As we drove past Lewis and I noticed that the woman in the passenger seat was giving her male driver a real ear full! She was still doing so when they overtook us further along the track, me at just under the 110kph speed limit and him over it [force of habit of course! Nothing to do with terminal stupidity or anything like that :-]

At Narrogin Franklyn still recognised me, although I noticed he never used my name, and he seemed to be quite with it, which is a relief and no mistake. Apparently the medication he is on is staving off the full onslaught of Altzheimers - it seems almost like a partial remission in comparison with how he was last year.. For as long as can be I hope. I am really unsure how Glenda is going to take it when he completely looses contact. Hopefully this will not happen for some years yet

What has happened to www.pepysdiary.com? The site seems to have gone right off the air! This is a moral and cultural disaster! And after I touted the virtues of the site in the weekly newsletter at work too! Classic Murphy's Law that's what it is! Hopefully it is just that someone has gone away for Xmas and they will fix it when they get back. I had a look at an alternative source for the diary at  Bibliomania which may be a reasonable alternative text except that I think it has bits missing, either that or it is just nowhere near as well organised as pepysdiary.com. Bibliomania seems good for all sorts of other texts though so maybe something of value has come out of it.

I have been trying to contact John Makeham again since his reply to my first email. Adelaide Uni appears to be on the blink also, either that or there antispam system is rejecting my messages, although the error message seems to say that messages to the address cannot be delivered. Something about 'cannot include null characters' whatever that means.

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 Mon 12 Jan    very early AM - again

 So much has happened since before Xmas. I'll have to write about it later today, after some sleep!

A brief list though: my new computer is working fine but I still hate Bill Gates, I found out why pepysdiary.com disappeared, I scalded my arm with boiling coffee on New Year's day, I went back to work for a week [medeaeval and/or Byzantine is how I discribe that], I have done a diagram of how I see the processes underlying consciousness - the neural correlates of C.

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 Wed 14 Jan

I am on leave until Tue 27 Jan, the day after Australia day. [or 'New South Wales day' as Bob Cook calls it. This is very good because it gives me a chance to catch up with all the damned computer maintenance and rearranging of the computer room. I now have the scanner attached to my machine instead of the old one. That machine is soon going to really need Win 98 reinstalled again [curse you Bill Gates!].

The reason I couldn't get onto pepysdiary.com for more than a week over Xmas was because my ISP Arachnet did not get around to updating their internet database. Slack I call it! I guess I will know to kick up a fuss the next time such a thing happens. Furthermore a newsletter from Arachnet today informs that they are going to install SMPT filtering for dynamic IP addresses like mine. Apparently some clients of theirs have been invaded by spammer viruses without realising it and this has caused arach.net.au email domain to be blacklisted. This could well be the cause of my not being able to get through to adelaide.edu.au where John Makeham is.

My scalded left forearm is much better now. The area is still a choice pink hue and there is still some old dead skin flaking off around the edges but basically it all appears to be OK. This is in part due to me getting that part of my arm into cold water pretty quick smart when it first happened - not helped by the fact that it was a pretty warm for New Year and the cold water first ran hot before it got back down to the underground watere main temperature. [This is often a problem with the taps here in West Oz in summer where the water pipes are exposed to the full sun on the side of the house or, as in our case, the pipes run just under the roofing tiles for part of their way to the kitchen sink. I actually tried to get the plumber who did the most recent work on that part of the system to take them another, much shorter, route along an inside wall but he wouldn't be in it because he reckoned that part of what I intended was not legal according to the regulations. [BS! is what I reckon about that!]]
Anyway, the other reason for the good outcome for my scald was that I rushed off to a local 7 day pharmacy and the woman in charge at the time - Sue Conti - fixed me up with a wide sticky bandage which protected the wound for about 7 days. I think this was a very good thing to do in the circumstances so I am very grateful to Mrs Conti [who seemed to be a particularly fine lady in every respect quite ravishing in fact]

I have, at long last, put together a diagram showing my thoughts on the neural basis of consciousness. I can't seem to get irfanview, which is what I usually use to size images, to shrink if properly so the diagram currently fits the whole width of a 600x800 browser window.

And now, some hours later so that it is Thursday 15 Jan, I have just finished watching the 2nd Lord of the Rings movie and seen most of the special features disk also. DVD is good fun, especially if using head phones to get the full frequency range stereo sound. I read the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy many years ago, in 1971 or 72 when I lived in Kings Cross in Sydney. Well, in another life, I think it would be better to have just seen the movies in this case. I don't know if I am motivated to go and see the 3rd instalment on the big screen. DVD will be enough for me in this case [proper stereo sound needed of course!].

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 Sun 18 Jan  very early ..... again!

I have just read my way through Steven Lehar's cartoon series explaining the epistemology of conscious experience and his Gestalt Bubble theory of internal volumetric modeling. Well the cartoons are good: very well drawn with bright and pleasing pastel and crayon colouring. Very well worth a visit and carful thought by anybody interested in the hows, whys and wherefores of consciousness theories. I have got a copy of his paper explaining in detail his Gestalt Bubble theory. It is very detailed and I have not yet read all of it. I really need to print it out but it is quite big. I think I am in agreement with most of what he says but I don't understand his objections to neural network theories.

Today Glenda's brother Cliff and his wife Gloria brought some stuff all the way from Mandurah to leave it on our front verandah so that Glenda can have *yet another* garage sale. Can't say I am pleased about it. In fact I start to feel true existential nausea at the thought of people buying junk and feasting their souls on the joy of believing they have acquired a bargain! [Cough, cough, choke, puke!]. At least Cliff and Gloria - who are very much practicing Christians - are not obssessed with things. They do not appear to have brought things that are totally useless.

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 Sun 25 Jan ... too early 

Watched a couple of interesting movies on DVD this week: The Thirteenth Floor starring Craig Bierko and Gretschen Mol, and Memento starring Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano.
The Thirteenth Floor is SciFi along the lines of Matrix [a bit anyway] but far less pretentious and not 'up-itself' like the last of the Matrix series. The bit in the movie where some of the characters go to 'the edge of the world' reminded me somewhat of playing MS Flight Simulator. I especially loved the music accompanying the end credits - Erase and Rewind by the Cardigans - the female singer has a superb voice and the music is cool. I must track down a CD of theirs.
Memento is a totally different kettle of fish. Gwyneth bought the DVD after studying the movie for one of her second year uni units last year. The lead character, played by Guy Pearce, has a psychiatric condition, induced by a blow on the head. The problem is that his brain cannot create new memories, just like Alzheimer's except that his condition is not progressive. He can remember things up until his head trauma so he knows all the usual things a person must in order to get around, and he knows also that his wife was murdered by someone who he wants to track down and kill. His difficulty is to reestablish this purpose in his mind every five minutes or so, and he has to devise ways of keeping track of where he is and what he is supposed to be doing. His main strategy is to tatoo certain essential information on his body so he can't help noticing it each time he wakes up in the morning, but he also uses an Instamatic camera to take pictures of important people and places which he then annotates and keeps handy for guidance when he meets people.

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 5 Feb .... too early again  

 Heaps of things happening at the moment: the main thing for the family is kids going back to school. For Lewis and Allison this is after two or so years of home schooling, for Gwyneth is is almost back to uni time, and for Emma it is first week ever at preschool. A somewhat emotional time for all! Glenda has been working her butt off getting everything ready, in the most economical way possible in each case.

I have been readinng Steven Lehar's paper Gestalt Isomorphism and the Primacy of Subjective Conscious Experience: a Gestalt Bubble Model. I'm about half way through it at the moment. Good Stuff!  I have been reading it on the bus to and from work, which I am riding because my back stuffed up last Friday due to me leaning forward into a strong head wind for the 8 km to work and my back getting cold at the same time. Ibuprofen for about a week should hopefully fix it this time.

Another thing I managed to do last weekend was to get a new version of Arthur Peaty's genealogical info about the descendents of William Peaty, Officer of the Excise  onto my Arachnet site. I used the Mormon's Personal Ancestral File [PAF] program to do that. I was able to use PAF to generate a set of web pages which should be much easier to maintain than the setup with Gendesigner. Mind you the Gendesigner people appear to have updated their web site recently and it seems that an new version of the program may be coming out soon. No good to me if it can't update the GIF files individually as necessary to maintain the site with updated info though.

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 Friday 13 Feb  

I need to spend more time recording my thoughts here. Never mind, I have read through Seven Lehar's article and hereinunder are some notes on it.

Comments on Steven Lehar's Isomorphic Gestalt Bubble Theory.
Several things come to mind for me as I read Steven Lehar's Gestalt Isomophism paper. [same link as above]

He makes a very good case for the volumetric representation of perceptual space. And yet this is incredibly challenging to think about because I feel the need to try and marry up what he is saying with what I think I understand about how the brain works. Steve Lehar's response to objections of this sort is that we do *not* understand how the brain works and therefore should concentrate on the phenomenal experience and simply work out a consistent mathematical description for as much as we can of phenomenal experience.

He talks about 'fields' of attraction to or repulsion from things within the volumetric representation and how these can act on the homunculus to make it move and thus operate the physical body like a marionette. This makes sense as long as we remember it is all an analogue system. I can see how emotions and physiological desires can attach to percepts, indeed this must happen. The dynamic nature of the overall system becomes apparent, including the way in which percepts can move around, indeed the whole phenomenal world moves in response to turning of the head and body. As I see it this sort of thing requires that the dynamic logical structures which constitute percepts are made of patterns of *variations in cell firing rates*. What this means is that neurons have a normal rate of firing to which they will return after being disturbed, but this normal rate can be increased by excitation from other neurons or decreased by inhibition. Dynamic logical structures

Another thing is that Steve Lehar talks about the brain converting the two dimensional stimulation of the back of the retina into the three dimensional volumetric model of phenomenal space, and he puts this in the form:

    "I propose to model the information in perception as a computational transformation from a two-dimensional colored image, (or two images in the binocular case) to a three-dimensional volumetric data structure in which every point can encode either the experience of transparency, or the experience of a perceived color at that location."

My problem with this is that from personal experience it is obvious that the system is built on the *basis* of binocular vision. Single eye vision is not the norm and it is problematic because depth perception is greatly hampered. The fact is that the brain creates two renditions of the visual scene and then builds a whole lot more 3D experience out of analogically measuring the differences and similarities between them.

At the moment I am running my own subjectivity experiment by going around and doing things with one eye shut. This simple change makes a huge difference in my competence at performing all sorts of tasks. Even typing seems much harder; presumably I should have been doing far more typing on the basis of the feel of where my fingers are on the keyboard rather than the surreptitious peeking that must be my normal style ;-) What I seem to be finding is that I rely more heavily on the memory of where things are, that is things that are now out of sight which would be visible with both eyes open, but also I rely heavily on what I *know* about things in the distance. [It would be instructive to hear from someone who has only ever had the use of one eye to see if they can identify situations in which they have to do things differently from the rest of us, although I can see how they might not be inclined to talk about it.]

Whilst using only one eye, I find myself noticing much more the process of parallax and occlusion resulting from the different relative speeds of progress across my visual field of objects at different distances. The main time I have to perform this experiment is when riding my bike to and from work. Luckily I commute along a cycle path for most of my journey which makes this relatively safe; I would not recommend anybody trying it on a bike on a main road or behind the wheel of their car! Another subjective effect is that I seem to notice much more the shaking and movement of the bike in response to accidental irregularities and the deliberate terracing in places on the cycle path. I suppose the main reason for this is that I am being surprised by the irregularities of the road surface which, with binocular vision, I would have noticed before hitting them. The movements of the bike must be the same but with monocular vision my ability to discriminate details of distance and depth is reduced.

As far as I can seem this simple experiment also shows the deep, intimate and inextricable connection between brain activity and consciousness. The location of viewed objects in space is a fundamental aspect of visual consciousness. To put the connection succinctly, the rendition of 3D in one’s view of the world is achieved by comparing two representations of the world in the brain – one derived from each eye – and using the similarities and differences to establish the distance [and shape, etc] of objects. The important point is that this process requires very precise feedback from the visual cortex to the musculature controlling the convergence of the eyeballs and accommodation of the lenses. The clarity and distance resolution of the visual scene is maintained by means of this binocular activity, which is effected through . Shut one eye and distance resolution is severely reduced even for objects close by. It becomes dependent on the occlusions of parallax motion caused by movement of the head and prior knowledge of the distance and nature of the objects being viewed.

Glen_swift should pay attention to this because it is something any theory about consciousness must address.

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  Wed 18 Feb 

Today was the third day of real heat here in Perth. Yesterday was a stinker - 40º+C and 80%+ for humidity - and today was a bit worse. Overnight last night was a tiny bit better than Monday night which at 28º+ was the hottest overnight temp since 1962. Luckily our ducted evaporative cooler worked OK and, even though it only reduces the temperature by a few degrees when things are very humid, the constant flow of air through the house allowed everyone to sleep. Of course the evaporative cooling works much better when the humidity is lower - which is more the normal state of the atmosphere here in Perth. The heat has been such that the electricity supply was in danger of crashing and Western Power, the state owned utility, apparently issued all sorts of threats to try and make consumers switch off their air conditioners. What a farce! and what a cheek! Everyone at work was sent home because the air conditioning was turned off. This meant that yours truly rode to work as normal, except that it was stinking hot and muggy, and then had to ride back again with the sun yet higher in the sky! Many industries had to operate with no air conditioning and many shops and restaurants lost food stocks through spoilage in the heat.

Somebody is going to have to take the rap for this shemozzle. I mean how can they not have expected severe heat in February? It happens every year, and sometimes for four or five days in a row. This time the humidity has made things worse and the overnight temp stayed up in the high 20s meaning that demand has stayed high for longer each day. Bad long term planning for the infrastructure and shorter term misjudgements to do with contracts for supply of natural gas and maintenance of the gas pipeline seems to be the basis for our problems. It's not good enough!

I was beginning to think that the caterpillars [Leptocneria reductor] elsewhere in the suburb were not doing their plague infestations trick this season but it may just be that they are generally a bit later this season. Quest: Why? I took some photos of some of the trees up by Guildford Road today as I was returning from work. There is one tree, visible over the roof of a panel beaters shop that appears to be denuded, which is the time scale as things were last year. But other trees there are just beginning to show damage. Some more photos next week I think! I have to create thumb nails of my other photos to put in the pests1 page.

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 27 Feb  

Today I experienced another instance of 'seeing' something that was not really there. In this case it was a fig. I was searching through our fig tree which is less than twice my height but is very bushy with many flexible branches that I can bend down so as to pick figs from near the branch tips. Because all the branches are thickly covered with leaves I have to stare up into the tree and move my head around a lot to see where the figs are and also to work out what state they are in. There are still a few new unripe green ones up there, but now the majority are purple and nearly ripe, just ripe, or quite overripe. Many also are now far gone because I missed a whole week of collecting and they have been pecked by silver eyes and are full of ants.

I had spotted two ripe figs up on a branch end and scrambled into the tree to pull that branch down. It was a bit of a struggle as I was holding a bucket in one hand and the scratchy leaves of the branch tip scraped past my face as I looked in amongst them and 'saw' a fig. I reached in to get it then realised I had been fooled: there was no fig at the spot where I thought I had clearly seen it. More scrabbling with the branch which was being held down against its desire to spring back up and I found the two figs. When I looked back to the place where I thought I had seen one, I could see where one of the lobes of a fig leaf, in the shadow, had sort of had a shape and colouring vaguely like a fig.

This sort of thing is no big deal, happens all the time to some of us! - but it is instructive in the context of UMSITW theory. [umC2] When we realise that everything we experience is a construction, it is what it is like to be the database of dynamic logical structures within our brains which represent self in the world at any given moment. More particularly conscious experience is what it is like to be the comparison between the current model and whatever new construct is being evoked by external or internal novelty.

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  part 4 - autumn 2004

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