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Diary

 #4 Southern Autumn 2004


 

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  Tuesday 2 March 2004  3rd March  7 March  8 March  

consciousness [as usual]; HIV AIDS and chimpanzees;
the nac mac feagle 

   14 Mar  22 March  26 March 28 March 
5 April  11 April  
16 April  17 April 26 April 30 April 
1st May  7May 9 May 15 May 18 May  

bugs, volumetric modelling, 3D nudes, catching the brain in the act of visual dominance, invasions of ants and mice, the Meelup Mallee,

  

 Work in progress -  
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     to part 5 - Winter 2004

 Tue 2 March 2004

 The last couple of days it has turned quite a bit cooler - typical autumn weather in fact. I have been a bit slack about this diary. Pity, but no one has yet said anything to me about it. I have had quite a few things on my mind. including the following items.

  • I am trying to work my thoughts into the shape of another essay/rave about brains, minds, consciousness, emotion and behaviour. At the moment I am thinking in terms of
  1. Steve Lehar's gestalt bubble/analogue volumetric, model with which I have a few queries although generally I find it to be a really useful understanding;
  2. Bernard Baars, et al's global workspace;
  3. John McCrone's ideas about anticipation and prediction being key features of the brain's model of the world.
  • I recently tried out a 'test yourself for autism/Asberger's syndrome' web page to see what my Autism-Spectrum Quotient, or AQ, is and found mine to be a score of 26 on their scale in which the average for so called normal people is 16.5 and the average for Asberger's and autistic people is about 32. Food for thought.
  • It was beginning to look like the Cape Lilac moths were not going to be up to much this season, given that this time last year lots of trees were devoid of leaves by now. Very few trees have yet reached that state, however I have just this week noticed that things are picking up with the trees on Guildford road so I need to keep tabs on them and get some pictures of the progress of the damage.
  • All the kids are now back at school, pre-school or uni. This makes for a circus of logistics in the mornings, to say the least.

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  3 March   

I think I will try writing this essay on-line, just building it up as I go. I guess the worst that could happen is that someone might actually notice it

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 Sun 7 March 

I saw a documentary on SBS television last week, I think it was Tuesday night, on the subject of the origin of the HIV AIDS virus. The doco seemed to be quite carefully made and constituted a review of the process by which the British and American science establishments had apparently disposed of a claim - originating with Edward Hooper, an investigative reporter and author of The River: A Journey Back to the Source of HIV and AIDS -  that the HIV epidemic arose from the use of chimpanzee kidney tissue in the making of polio vaccine in the Belgian Congo in the late 1950s. I didn't write down the names of the main protagonists at the time but is seems that at least one of the main people involved lied to the world at a major conference on the subject in the UK in 2001. [I hope I got the year right, I was rather tired at the time of watching the program.] It seems the bulk of the science establishment is patting itself on the back because no trace of chimpanzee DNA was found in a batch of polio vaccine sourced from that time from one of the labs which supplied the vaccine for a wide spread vaccination campaign in the Congo. The documentary pointed out that all this proved was that this particular batch of vaccine was prepared from monkey kidneys, and that the batch in question was not used in the campaign.

What the SBS documentary revealed however is that at one of the labs chimpanzees were used as a source of kidney tissue, about 400 animals, and the African workers at the place were told not to speak of what they were doing. The African workers seemed to be fairly sure that the chimpanzee tissue did end up being used to prepare polio vaccine in the method developed by Dr. Hilary Koprowski, who denies creating his vaccine using chimpanzee tissue. What the workers reveled also is that the chimpanzees were routinely dissected whilst drugged but before they had died. I suppose this was an attempt to get really fresh kidney's! It was not ethical, whatever the rationale.

On a much brighter note - I have just finished reading The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. Once again he has produced a really good funny story with all sorts of original and mind bending rearrangements of ideas we think we understand and take for granted. The main character this time is a girl called Tiffany [!] who is going to be a shepherdess when she grows up but has a suspicion that may be she will be a witch as well. The pictsies - the bekilted, small, blue, hairy and ferocious nac mac feagles - feature prominently and persistently throughout the tale attacking just about anyone and anything in sight but they help to save the day and, as a reward, they finally get themselves a good, permanently pro bono defence lawyer.

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 Mon 8 March  last night was the coldest night so far this year - down to about 10°C  

 Took a photo of bug damage to one of the Cape Lilac trees on south side of Guildford Rd this morning. Key words for searching for this info later: Leptocneria reducta. Seems like the bugs are less prevalent in that area this year. I took some photos of the area last month, about the 18th. It is just a disposable camera so the photos will not be fantastic. I must add the other photos I have taken to the caterpillars' page.

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Sun 14 March  last few days have been warmer again - 'Indian summer' this time I suppose. Hope it lasts 'til after we go down south

In the news has been that an old bloke, Alf Jenkins, who lived in Narrogin in the same street as my in-laws, died late last year and it has just been revealed that in his will he left about $11 million worth of Wesfarmers shares to the couple who were his neighbours when he still lived on his farm years ago. When he retired 30 years ago they apparently bought the farm off him and worked it but gave out the story that it was still his. Apparently they have been really good to him the last couple of decades, taking him out for weekend jaunts, helping him out when needed, having him out for Xmas and so forth. In fact it sounds like they were "real family" to him whereas his distant relatives by marriage of his now deceased sister's deceased husband never came to see him or have anything to do with him. To these latter he left just his bank account and some such worth about $200,000 [still better than a poke in the eye with a stick!]. He apparently remained a bachelor all his life [the reason why he didn't need to spend his money no doubt]. Seems like nobody knew he had all the shares which he bought years ago for $1 each which are now worth about $28 each. Cool!  My mother in law reckons there is all sorts of talk around the town about who should really have got the money and there have been reporters prowling the streets. Some of them knocked on her door and frightened my father in law so she just told them to go away!

Steven Lehar's theory about harmonic resonance is interesting. It would be good if he could point to a substrate such as the capacitance of neuron cell walls or capacitance across the gap between parallel axons made by the insulation of the oligodendrocites. As I see it any such harmonic resonance must be driven by depolarisation waves - so called impulses - travelling down the axons and spreading out along dendrites. A partial analogy for this is the effect of water dripping down onto the surface of water in a bath or bowl. The drips will cause waves to propagate away from the point of impact and reflect back off the sides. Adjusting the rate of the dripping will change the patterns of interference made by the waves in the surface of the water. Certain rates of dripping will coincide with and enhance the natural frequencies of the water waves, others will interfere.

Presumably harmonically oscillating electric fields would affect synaptic firing thresholds, tending to synchronise them which would in turn have the effect of synchronising other areas of the cortex to which the post synaptic cells projected. A question I have is whether long axons of individual neurons exhibit harmonic standing waves along their length or whether it requires bundles of parallel neurons for this to occur. [That assumes that harmonic resonance is a fact of course.]

Glenda had a garage sale the weekend before last - mostly stuff from her brother and his wife. Unfortunately there is still significant amounts of stuff left over and Glenda has just come back from her friend Pat's place with yet more junk! It looks like next weekend is going to be blighted by another garage sale. As far as I am concerned it must be the last .... ever! I now think that people should take their old stuff to the Good Sammies or St V de P. We must from now on. A certain amount of our clothing comes from Good Sammies. It ain't always in the best of repair but quite often is good quality stuff that has only been used a bit then discarded by people who thought it was out of fashion. Their loss is our gain.

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Tuesday 16 March  

*** deleted ***

An interesting item appeared on ABC Radio National's Catalyst program last Thursday. About switching of dominance and control between cerebral hemispheres. A link on that page will invoke a real player movie of the item and you can test your self for the rate at which your brain switches sides. There was an item about this on ABC RN's Science Show a year or so ago. I downloaded some animated gifs etc which illustrated this effect also.

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 Mon 22 March  more hot days. 40+°C today

Bit of a heat wave the last three days. It won't last though. Out the front of the**del** building is a heat trap in the form of a fore court. Light and heat energy is reflected down of the north facing windows onto the paving stones to augment the energy absorbed from direct rays of the sun. I reckon it was about 45°C at least out there before midday. The ideal place to stake out **del** cheats!

The bugs on our trees seem to be having a bit of a come back. I squashed about 30 this morning without having to search hard. Many of them were obviously disabled by the insecticide I spray on the trunk, but about a third of them were still frisky and apparently unaffected. This is not a good thing. They should all die after contact with the surface spray.

Have sent another message to Mind& Brain discussion group, talking about my problem with Steve Lehar's volumetric modeling of 3D space. There have been about 3 responses to my first message last week, one from Steve Lehar himself.

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 Friday 26 March  v. v. early, when should be well asleep.

 Today will be my last day at work for 3 weeks or so. Good. I need a holiday.

I have been looking at stereoscopic pictures of tastefully underdressed women, and other interesting pictures courtesy of Boris Starosta who has explanations of stereoscopic picture making using at least three different methods, ie anaglyphs, lenticular images, and double pictures - aka stereo pairs. Read his sight about the first two. The last one, the stereo pairs is poor man's stereo, but as long as you can learn to cross your eyes for 5 minutes at a time it is very effective! I have discovered something rather intriguing though. A side effect of looking cross eyed at stereo picture pairs is that one can actually see one's brain copying a piece of one eye's field of view to the corresponding part of the field of view of the other eye. In a posting to Brain & Mind at yahoo groups I described it thus:
The thing that intrigued me though is that if you print one of these pictures and view it in the prescribed manner whilst standing up or sitting on a swivelling chair so that you can turn your body at will, the physical images disappear. By this I mean that when one is concentrating on the 3D composite image one can still be aware of the physical images in one's peripheral vision. But if, whilst keeping the page and one's head in the same relative positions, one turns one's upper body the effect is to cause this peripheral view of the physical pictures to just vanish. The area of paper of the page around the pictures may seem to remain in place and at first the impression is that the part of the page has become transparent where the physical pictures were!
Of course this is an illusion but it is very powerful - to me at least. What seems to be happening is that, for each eye, the part of the field of view which contains a peripheral view of the picture it is not focused on, is overwhelmed by the peripheral view of the other eye because this latter peripheral view is moving.
So the left eye is concentrating on the right hand picture and the left hand picture is seen in that eye's left side periphery and it is not being much attended to and it is not moving. The right eye is looking at the left hand picture and the scene to the left of this picture -beyond the edge of the page - is in that eye's left side periphery and whilst not being consciously attended to it is moving. If the eyes were not crossed then the respective fields of view containing these two peripheral views would more or less coincide and -I am guessing here -the detection of movement would take precedence so that the field of view of the eye detecting the movement dominates the other eye. What seems to happen in this situation with the crossed eyes is that the moving scene viewed in the left periphery [nose side] of the right eye is relayed to the left periphery [outer side] of the left eye's field of view creating the illusion that the left hand side of the page has become transparent.
Did you get that? Well maybe you had to be there to understand it. I am still trying to figure out what's going on but it does seem to be showing that the visual cortex at the back of each cerebral hemisphere can generate at least some of the scene which is actually being observed only by the other side.

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 Sunday 28 March 

Right out of the blue yesterday I received an email from Eric Usula who I have not seen or heard from since about 1978; the best part of 25 years ago. Apparently he was using google to find people he had lost contact with and found this site. I responded straight away.

I have been having some slight adjustments to my thinking about what is going on in the situation with looking cross eyed at the stereo pictures and having the peripheral image of one overrule the peripheral image of the other. I don't think anything is being 'copied across' it is just that the region of overlapping projections from each eye, that is to say the area of visual cortex in each occipital lobe in which the projection areas from each eye are interleaved or interdigitated, are much bigger than I thought. The picture here shows it schematically. They occupy most of the primary projection area of the retina. So the part of the field of view containing the page with the static picture that disappears and seems to become invisible is an instance in which the information coming from the one eye is simply ignored in favour of the information coming from the other eye. When viewing the images on the computer, I notice that the respective peripheral areas seem to compete for attention and alternate in a confused but not particularly prominent way. I guess the situation of moving around causes far greater stimulation from the inner - nose side - peripheral field of view of each eye which is projected and this suppresses the cortical representation of the still picture derived from the corresponding part of the field of the other eye.

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 Mon 5 April 

We went to Narrogin over the weekend to see Glenda's parents. Mother in law is bearing up pretty well in the circumstances although her kitchen is being invaded by ants. The ants in question are bigger than any we get in our garden here but they are not the biggest on offer in Narrogin - not be a long shot! I spent quite a bit of time trying to find their points of entry into the house but the house is big, old, made of wood ie weatherboard on stumps, and there are thousands of cavities in walls, under floors, behind and under cupboards, above ceilings and other places too. I found some likely looking trails across a wall outside on the veranda. I observed these creatures for a time and noticed some interesting behaviours. The little buggers are quite smart! I watched them running along a trail across a wall just above a half inch copper water pipe that crossed the wall horizontally. When I poked at a few the smaller ones, which I presumed were workers, ran and hid under the pipe! Very smart I thought. I assumed that ants would just run around and then race off on their way. These ants however, hid under the pipe and remained there until some bigger ants, which I assumed to be soldiers, came alone and found them. When this happened the worker ants came out and rushed off back the way they had originally come. Some food for thought there.

Back at home here, we have a mice invasion on our hands. Unfortunately our kitchen - which is much messier than mother in law's - has even more places for mice and other creatures to hide than the Narrogin house. I have caught 3 mice with one trap so far. One body was waiting to be found when we came back from Narrogin, the second corpse was there in the same trap which I reset last night, and the third one was caught this evening. All this with the same bait of smooth peanut butter. The "Better Mousetrap", has a little platform on which the bait can be placed, and peanut butter is a good choice because mice seem to like it and it sticks to the little spiky teeth on the upper side of the platform. This platform is of course the trigger lever for setting the trap off. The whole thing is made of a nylon type plastic [but what would I know of that?] apart from the spring which is a stainless steel coil that wraps around the outside of the thing and tries to snap the rocker jaw which clamps down on the victim. This design of trap is really good because the back end of the rocker jaw is a lever for bending the rocker back so as to allow the body to fall out into a bin. This can be accomplished easily and without touching the little mousy corpse. Mind you I had to splat the last one with my thong to make sure it was dead.

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 11 April 

A couple of days ago I took some more photos of the cape lilac trees at Guildford Road. It is interesting that the damage is nowhere near as bad as it was last year at this time, at least for most of the trees. In a couple of places the trees have been skeletonised. With most of the trees however there is just a small amount of defoliation either at the very tips of the branches or on, say, just one tree out of a pair of small trees or one small tree out of a little group. A quick inspection of the dead grass round the bases of trees reveals larvae hiding there. I think maybe the season is just late for some reason, maybe because of the lack of rain/excessive heat this summer. On my own trees in the back yard here there seem to be a hell of a lot of larvae visible on the trunks each morning, though thankfully most of them seem sickened from the insecticide I have sprayed on each tree trunk. Some caterpillars seem completely unaffected however which means they can move very fast if poked with a finger [not recommended due to potential allergic reaction to the hairs] or with a stick[much better]. Anyway I have had the film developed and so will be able to scan the good photos and add them to my bug-damage gallery.

I have also now finished reading Terry Pratchett's The Monstrous Regiment. Yet again, another very funny book. The guy is a genius, no doubt about it. His way of story telling and his style of humour is very close to that of Douglas Adams. I have recently also finished a book by Jasper Fford: Lost in a Good Book. This also is very clever and very funny. Is story and plot is utterly weird though. It took me a few chapters to really get the hang of it. In his [?] world, 'reality' is whatever has been written about by somebody or other. Most of the characters in the book are actually characters from other people's works of fiction who make cameo appearances. Works of creative fiction exist as so many parallel universes and it is possible for certain people to jump from one book/setting/world to another. The main protagonist, I can't really say hero or heroine, is Ms Thursday Next who works for one of the many sections of the Literature Police Special Operations Branch. The ostensible role of the literature police is to make sure nobody interferes with the integrity of stories by rewriting plots and so forth. The way I got to wrap my head around this shemozzle is to see Jasper Forded's underlying assumption as this: so long as people are reading good books and, for the time of their reading at least, believing in the existence of the characters and plot then those characters and their plot are 'real". The cover of the paper back version I read is a strange pinky purple colour and it makes me wonder if Jasper Fforde is actually a woman. How many men would consent to such a pinky colour for their labour of love? And how many men have their 1st person singular narrative view point as a woman? Of course the colour may simply be a reference to Dream Topping, a substance that comes to have great significance within the story.

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 Friday 16 April - very early 

Yesterday evening we returned from a trip down south. We stayed 4 nights in Busselton a town on the coast of Geographe Bay. Here are some of my thoughts about how the area has changed since Glenda and I were down there about 10 years ago. The following is the text of an email I sent to Bob.

We took a look at Margaret River on Monday with vague memories of what it looked like about 10 years ago. Oh my, has it changed! "Stirling Highway South" is how I think of it now. The whole place was chockablock with expensive cars and ever so carefully manicured people. OK so it was the Easter Monday holiday and school holiday time so of course it had to be a bit crowded but this was none of your common riff raff [except us of course:-]. It is a good half kilometre of wall to wall boutiques. We went looking for a park with swings and things because Glenda's sister in law had said there was a nice one near the centre of town. We found it eventually after doing much battle with the heavy traffic [1 car in 2 is ultra chic 4x4] - crossing the main drag at an intersection required a virtual wheel stand to get through a gap in the flow - but by then the little one was asleep and it was starting to rain heavily so we decided to head for the edge of town to eat our sangers on the edge of the bush.

Well were we in for a shock. Not your average country town this! We headed east because that was the side of town we were on and found ourselves driving through about a kilometre's worth of new suburb, and none of your economy project homes either. We eventually found a spot overlooking the river just up stream from a dam which backed up water for about half a k. as far as I could see [Allison and I went for a walk on a bush path and found a place where we could see a ways up stream that far.] Anyway, the houses at this place were all two storey, luxury abodes with complete reticulation and vogue magazine photo shoot background type gardens. It really made us wonder about how all this is paid for. We figure most people there are boutique owners from the Stirling Highway suburbs who have simply opened a branch in Margaret River. Some of these palatial homes may be time-share type arrangements and there must also be some very rich local builders, and related tradesmen plus road builders etc.

All in all, if you want the bush, don't go there!

Another mind blower is Dunsborough. "Nedlands On Sea" would be a better name for the place now. Not that I blame anybody for wanting to live there, it has the perfect aspect as far as lower west coast WA is concerned: protected from west and north west winds and storms by the hills of the Naturaliste peninsular, protected from the excessive heat of east and north east winds in summer by the minimum 40 km of sea that these winds must cross before reaching there, and just off the main traffic route to Margaret River, Yallingup, etc., so relatively quiet. Eagle Bay which is much nearer the cape and has even better climate/location is an order of magnitude more expensive. [Someone I know went there last year with her partner and friends and shared between them the AUD 6,000 cost of hiring a house there for a week.] All the blocks are on steep hillside so I imagine site works would be hideously expensive before the half mil needed to construct an edifice adequate to the beauty and prestige of the location. The bay itself is spread with an array of mooring buoys which must be for the house owners to park their yachts when they cruise down of a long weekend.

Meelup Beach, which is a few k. before Eagle Bay, was a lovely spot to spend a couple of hours - the kids playing at the water's edge and in the rocks and me bird watching, at which I managed to identify apart several birds for the first time: pied cormorant, caspian tern, crested tern. Another day I saw a female western spinebird for the first time.
[NB: Meelup is the location of the 'Meelup Mallee' (Eucalyptus phylacis) which is a grove of trees that are a single clone. I heard this info on the ABC Radio National Science Show a year or so ago. It was said then that the exact location of the trees are being kept secret but that it was hoped to clone samples artificially. The last sexual reproduction giving rise to this clone set was about 6,300 or [only] 3,600 years ago! The difference in age looks to me like a typo by someone so I will have to look up more info on this tomorrow.] My memory from hearing about the Meelup Mallee on the ABC RN Science Show was that the clone is about 6,000 years old.

Ah well, we did other things too, but there is not a lot you can do in 3 ½ days, particularly with small fry wanting food, wanting to stop at each public park with play equipment, getting bored with travel five minutes after starting, and so forth.

And ..... much later same day.

Apparently Meelup is Nyungar for 'place of the rising moon', on account of the fact that it faces eastwards and therefore it is one of the few places in the south of Western Australia where you can see the moon rising out of the sea. This is described in a slightly silly article on the subject. It's silly because the writer and friends didn't bother to find out when the moon was due to rise. They could have worked this out for themselves if they had been aware of the current phase of the moon.

Actually a funny thing about Meelup for me is that it was the only place where I got bitten by a mozzie during the whole 4 days of being in the region. The mosquito in question bit me while I was on the beach near the water's edge. I presume it came from a swamp or creek the other side of the hill behind the beach. The map shows some such feature, bit vague though. Or it could have come from some water related to the toilet block [very clean and in good nick it was] next to the carpark. I remember that the last time Glenda and I took the kids we had then to Busselton and we stayed at a place called Siesta Park, which is west of the town just past the Holy Mile I never saw a mosquito then either. [The Holy Mile is a set of beach-side camping grounds amongst the Peppermint trees [Agonis flexuosa] held on long term leases by most of the major Christian denominations in WA].

One thing that crossed my mind now and again in the Busselton area and while driving back up the coast to Perth. What if the story about the west Antarctic ice sheet being capable of coming loose and sliding like one vast glacial avalanche into the sea turned out to happen? Six to eight metre sea level rise was what the guy on the Science Show reckoned. Now that would make life interesting!

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   Sat 17 April 

My dad Charles Peaty rang last night to tell of what happened yesterday to his dog Solo and himself. Well the story is that they were at some sawmill somewhere - possibly a mobile facility which he organises for the plantations he manges - and Solo was lying in the shade of a tree so was not easy to see and somebody reversed their 4 wheel drive over her and she was really badly damaged by not dead. Dad picked her up to try and help and Solo went ballistic ripping into his hands with her teeth so his hands are now in a really bad way. He didn't give Glenda the full gory details but it seems he and the dog went first to a vet who pronounced her unsavable, so I presume they would have put her down. Then Dad went to a hospital. I don't know if he drove himself or was driven there but they cleaned his hands up a bit and have wrapped them in burn type protective bandages. Apparently they couldn't do any stitching but gave him a tetanus shot and whatever else. He now has difficulty doing just about everything that needs the use of fingers. He phoned us so obviously can do some things but methinks he will need a fair bit of help in the next few weeks. At the age of eighty he has been still quite active in his forestry consultancy without the aid of a secretary or driver for that matter so his style is going to be well and truly cramped for some time.

My dad has always been a dog man. He had a dog since I first knew him, and I tend to think that his dogs often had a higher standing in his sight than we his children. That might be harsh but dad has never been a good communicator about things personal and emotional, he revealed far more to my wife than he ever revealed to me. His communicating with others about business, which is forestry in his case, has always been pretty good as far as I know. The only thing he has lacked in his business dealings really has been the willingness to retain a good accountant and good lawyer, and perhaps his choice of business partners. With his knowledge, imagination and drive he should have been a millionaire by now, instead of which he has a list of people who own him real money: hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there seems little prospect of recovering most of it. Anyway the dog Solo was a major link between him and the memory of Margaret my late mother. My guess is that things would be rather tough for him even without the damage to his hands. I spoke to my brother Adam last night about it and he and his wife, who live quite close by to my dad, will try to do what they can to help dad.

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 Mon 26 April  a public holiday - the day after ANZAC Day

I have never taken part in ANZAC Day memorial services or parades and so forth. This doesn't mean I don't understand the importance of the commemoration for many, maybe most, people who were born in Australia. I guess it's a tribal thing. It's the same reason I am not involved emotionally with any sporting team. As a kid I was moved from town to town and then round the world and thus never put down emotional roots anywhere in particular. Having a somewhat dysfunctional and centrifugal family dynamic didn't help either.  

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 Fri 30 April 

Had a really odd experience today. It was during a team meeting. We had dealt with the agenda items, such as they were, and were going round the table. C. complained about people from another area dumping calls into our queues. Y. mentioned a client who was dumped onto her. It was last Wednesday and the client had started yelling at her and generally abusing her and then had finally demanded to speak to a supervisor which is when Y. had put her through to me. When Y. said this I suddenly started remembering the call and how I had tried to explain to the woman what she must do: pay the money basically and ****, which is what Y. had been trying to explain to her for however long. As the memory came back to me I started to faint. Seriously, if I had continued to think of her and attempt to carry on the conversation about her right then I could have fallen off my chair. As it was the room started to look kind of pale and shiny and I felt very light headed. I was able to disengage a bit and move myself around in my chair to get out of it, but the feeling was very like that of teetering over into hysterical laughter. Everybody else started laughing as I described in general terms how incredibly stupid the woman was but I had to deflect my thoughts away from her and the memories of it by telling everybody how I was feeling and reacting right then.

From an analytical point of view I guess it was some kind of basal ganglia - brain stem process that I was experiencing. There was a palpable feel to it, a kind of locus to the reaction of weakness and collapse that seemed to develop around the lower part of my head and neck, along with a general loss of muscle tone all over. I really could have fallen off my chair! It seems to me that the last time I felt so close to hysteria was way back in 1986 in the incident with ****, one of my colleagues at the time. Then I didn't collapse but became consumed with uncontrolable, hysterical laughter at the surreal idiocy of what Stuey was saying. [He was telling me to ask an answering machine to wait for me, to just hang on and wait 'til I had finished saying what I needed to because as he said "They always wait for me!". The thing is I reckon he really did believe what he was saying.]

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 Sat 1 May 

I become despondent when I think about how few people have responded to this web site. It would be so nice to here from somebody who just said: 'Yeah, I think ethics is important too!'

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 Friday 7May

 I took some more photos of the cape lilac trees up near Guildford Rd this morning. I had thought that the season was over for the catapillers because until the last couple of weeks there had not seemed to be much damage to most of the trees which had been denuded last summer. However there does seem to be much more evidence all of a sudden, which of course is just the result of exponential growth in numbers of the larvae. Some trees which I can only see at a distance have been skeletonised. Maybe things happened a bit later this season because it has been a bit hotter and drier than last summer. An intimation of things to come perhaps.  :-(

At work there has been a progressive drop in morale over the last few months. I think it is a product of the reduction of personal control which has come about through the implementation of global routing. Because the system is so limited in what it can do phone workers [CSRs] get stuck doing just a limited type of work for one, two or three months at a time. This means that people get put on **del**which means answering xyz queries such as 'How do I xyz?' or 'I did xyz so where is it?' or 'What is xyz?' or **del**?' day in and day out. People doing these kind of calls get inundated for most of the day, every day. Other people on other skill sets, eg 'zyx' sit around waiting for a call. The name of the overall system is miracle cure and supposed to be the bees' knees. Well maybe it has done ****del**, but the cost in human terms is being borne by the people who actually have to answer the phones all day.

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 Sun 9 May 

I have just finished watching a really good animation movie on DVD. It's is called "Waking Life", written and directed by Richard Linklater. Simply put, it is about a dream from which the dreamer would like to wake up but finds he can't, and so is forced to encounter characters in his dream who question the nature of consciousness, reality and dreaming from many points of view. At first I found what I thought to be the 'style' of the animation disconcerting, but when I realised that the whole thing was a rendition of a lucid dream it became much easier to look at. All in all it was well worth watching and hopefully I will have time to go over at least some of it again. I would like Gwyneth to have a look at it before I have to give it back, I think it will tie in quite well with her communications studies.

Yesterday Glenda wanted to go for a little 'holiday', which is something we just about never do, so we went to Trigg beach. Basically the two younger girls played and explored the small rock outcrop that locals there call Trigg Island and Glenda supervised them while I got side tracked observing sea birds on some nearby rocks with my binoculars. The birds were pied cormorants.

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Sun 15 May 

Yesterday went to my sister Ella's 50th birthday party. I think she enjoyed herself. Ella likes to rage, and dancing is one of her favourite activities. I guess she thinks of it as part of her calling. She goes street dancing in Freo with a group that calls itself The Sambanistas. Certainly Saturday night was meant to be at least 5 hours of dancing. Glenda and I passed on that one, being middle aged old pooh bahs. I would have been more able to get involved if I could have had a little something alcoholic to drink. Couldn't do that though because of needing to drive home on the wet roads. Glenda is always well passed anything energetic or mentally taxing by 9 pm so she could not have been my skipper. Anyway, all the guests had, by prior arrangement, contributed to the buying of a surf ski. Brother Adam and some of Ella's friends organised all that so that it was a big surprise. The surf ski was something that Ella had talked about wanting to buy but would probably have put off for years due to the amount of 'discretional' spending it would take... best part of $1,000 as far as I know. The cake was intended to look like a penguin and, from certain angles anyway, it did. It was virtually a big brown mud cake. Ella has had an affinity for penguins in symbolic form for a long time. I don't know why.

For many years we were off Ella's social map, something to do with how she and Glenda used to be close buddies but according to Glenda Ella read too much into the relationship. Ella is gay whereas Glenda is not. Since the woman Ella was living with for 10 years or so dumped [her for a man who she married soon after], we have seen more of Ella. I think my mother's death has made us surviving siblings more aware of the need to stay in contact. At the party there were about 30 women half a dozen men and a couple of teenage boys. Some of the women were partners of the men, although my dad was there by himself [his hands have recovered remarkably well from the dog bites], and all the rest were women from the Freo women's scene. I had met some of the women many years ago - a couple of them went to Armadale Senior High School which Ella characterises as 'built around a toilet block so what more can you say!'. Unfortunately for me, who has a fairly weak voice, the music was so loud it was hard to communicate, but I did manage to have a meaningful conversation with a women who is a neighbour of Adam's. Hopefully we can meet her and her husband some time at Adam's place.

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 Tue 18 May 

It's funny isn't it. Every single time that I start to feel that our home network is working OK, something happens. I think the reason is that it is never working optimally and I blame Bill Gates's creations for this. Win 98 is just a bastard to set up, and no matter how I try, the computers in our house cannot each see all the others in the network. The ones with WinXp can see each other, but the Win 98 machine keeps stuffing up. Use of the XP system disc to install networking achieves some benefit, so my machine can see the printer on the 98 machine but that got stuffed up the other day when I tried to set things so that Lewis's machine could see the old one. Bill Gates's empire seems hell bent on extracting the absolute maximum of surplus value out of users which all gets added to Bill Gates's net worth. But things still stuff up. And because the business community has, by and large, taken the conservative line of least resistance, the vast majority of us are stuck with using Microsoft products whether we like them or not.

Enough of that, with any luck there is a special karmic black hole somewhere waiting for Senor Gates.

Meanwhile, I came across a really fascinating article at about.com. Brains, Tumors, and Morality  The gist of the story is that a man who used to exhibit a seemingly insatiable and virtually uncontrollable sexual lust which got him into all sorts of trouble. Eventually he was found to have a tumor in his brain situated right next to his right side frontal cortex. After an operation to remove the tumor he ceased to have this problem which had caused him to just about wreck his marriage and to lose his job.
[a brief precis is below]. The article goes on to talk about the implications for how we understand ethics, responsibility and free will. I think it is well worth a read. If any interested person out there can't find the article, then email me at the contact address given below [remember to take out the '.nospam' bit] and I can send you a copy of the text. The article does not give source references.

An older article which appeared in the on line version of New Scientist Magazine on 21 Oct 2002 may be closer to the source of the original study. Here the article talks about uncontrolled pedophilia as well as other excessive sexual desires. It describes the man as becoming sexually deviant to the extent that his wife gained a court order to evict him from the family home and him eventually taking himself to a psychiatric hospital where a brain scan revealed a tumor. After removal of the tumor he came good - back to his old self, but months later he relapsed and when another brain scan was done it was found that the tumor had returned. After a second operation his behaviour reverted to his previous normal state. The article doesn't say if his marriage was saved or what his long term prognosis is.

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Wed 26 May  

I can only smack my forehead and groan in dismay to see the news of what the US armed forces personnel have been doing in Iraq. How can they be so bloody incompetent! Whatever advantage the higher command must have thought they could gain through use of torture [provided nobody admitted it was going on], that has all been lost by the damage to their credibility. This is the 21 Century when all educated people ought by now to have heard of how easy it is for pictures taken in private to get onto the Net.  If the US military had really wanted to get the people of Iraq on side when they finally quelled Saddam's army, then what they should have done was to very publicly get the last of his victims out of that jail then line up a squadron of Abrams tanks and blast the place into rubble! By using the very jail where Saddam Hussein's torturers maimed and killed so many victims, the Americans have provoked the very real suspicion that they are just going to install another despotic regime like Saddam's.

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 27 May 

The weather is getting colder now. Tonight the forcast if for about 4ºC. I haven't ridden my bike to work for over a week due to having a cold.

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   to part 5 - Winter 2004

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Footnotes

 10

 "In a bizarre case reported in various news outlets, a man who suffered from sexual urges he didn't understand and couldn't control was "cured" through brain surgery. His situation had reached the point where he made sexual advances towards his step-daughter, causing his wife to leave him and putting the Virginia schoolteacher in jeopardy of going to prison on charges of sexual molestation. Then he had a previously unknown brain tumor removed from his right frontal lobe.

"After surgery, everything changed for him. Not only was he able to stop making sexual advances on others, but the urges to make those advances in the first place also disappeared. This carries profound implications for the nature of free will, criminal justice, and even traditional religious ideas about the nature of morality.

"In this case, it is thought that the man's tumor had grown to a size where it was able to draw or squeeze enough blood away from the frontal lobe that it was essentially asleep. He had lost the ability to control his impulses or to anticipate the consequences of his action. His brain was, in essence, functioning abnormally - but what does that say about free will?"

Go to the article at about.com for the details 

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