2020 Review, Because I Like to See These Things in Coming Years Even if Only Like Five of You Actually Care to See Them

1. What did you do in 2020 that you’d never done before?

Stayed home from everything because I was in quarantine…? Ooooh, I have a pet spider! Her name is Drummer, she’s a regal jumper (Phidippus Regius), and she’s lovely. So that’s new.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

This year has been going on so long I don’t remember when it started or what I did or didn’t do. But I’m guessing no I didn’t, and no, I won’t.

Continue reading 2020 Review, Because I Like to See These Things in Coming Years Even if Only Like Five of You Actually Care to See Them

The Insulation of Expertise

I’d like to make a connection here today between two areas of interest for me. I imagine the following parallel I draw could be made using a wide variety of examples, but I’ll stick with the one I’m familiar with.

I must preface this by saying that what I’m about to get into should in no way be read as a denigration of education, experience, or qualification. That would obviously be absurd. In hitting on this subject though, one could easily drift into the sort of anti-intellectual battleground one can often find where science/research/theory meets the practical, and start throwing dirt at “egg-heads”, or playing on the stereotype of the arrogant book-learned-but-naive expert. I’m not here for that, but there is a caution to be aware of.

As I’ve shared in a few recent posts, I’ve gotten into several of the nature sciences over the past few years, having revived an old childhood interest with a new vigor. I’m fascinated by arthropods in particular, and can spend hours searching for and photographing them. I used to be fairly terrified of them, and still am to an extent, but I’ve overcome this fear to a degree in the course of practicing my hobby. I’ve learned more about them in study, observed many in the wild, and even started to handle a few. The balance has largely shifted from terror to fascination, though there are still plenty of exceptions.

Continue reading The Insulation of Expertise

Concerning Consciousness

I briefly touched on human consciousness in a previous post, and upon further reflection after seeing an old argument surface, I’d like to put more focus on the subject. I will have to treat this with a brevity directly proportional to my general ignorance on the subject, but I might at least be able to dispose of a few misdirections (sincere or otherwise) which functioned as key supports for the beliefs I held in my former religious society. I have no pretence I’m adding something profound to the discussion, but perhaps I can at least trim a few of the errant branches obscuring someone’s view.

Now certainly the “But the Bible says…” approach was foundational to what we believed on the subject, but that falls into a much larger conflict, or at least one with a lot of noise around it already. One can find elsewhere better treatment of this topic than I could ever attempt. The argument I want to look at here is, essentially, the supernatural vs the natural.

Continue reading Concerning Consciousness

A Brief Examination of “Crazy”

If you haven’t heard a person describe someone in their life as crazy, then I could reasonably assume that you’ve only recently taken up habitation on planet Earth. There must be some coding in our DNA which urges us to make this assessment at some stage in our processing of conflict. [citation needed] .

I’m not going to dive into every implication here, including how it’s representative of ableism. But this is where my mind goes when I hear someone describe another as crazy (usually dudes talking about women they’ve associated with): I assume they haven’t done the work of understanding the person they label as such. “Crazy” can easily indicate the mindset of the describing party, a word with which it rhymes: lazy.

I know someone close to me who I’ve probably described in the past in this way. But crazy doesn’t really tell anyone anything. It’s a featureless void down a poisoned well.

If you had to distance yourself, make boundaries, or otherwise protect yourself from someone, it is worth understanding and expressing exactly why, to the best of your ability, for your own sake and others’.

The person in my example is not crazy. But they are emotionally abusive, blindly and rabidly defensive, petty, and manipulative. They have proven they cannot take criticism, but instead will deflect blame back on the offended party. They’ve exchanged their own autonomy and critical thinking for a blind loyalty to a system. They have bullied those around them into silent acquiescence. They cover for their own ignorance on many key points by employing loud ad hominem attacks. And there will be peace with them only as long as you conform to their whims to their satisfaction.

But they are not crazy.

Precision in our language is about more than “political correctness” or some other convention. Precise language gives proper weight to its subject. Precise language is “STOP: Bridge Closed” instead of “Caution: Reduce Speed”. Accurate character or behavior assessments not only provide the necessary cautions, but are also the only basis for any real change in thinking or behavior. And if you can’t delve any deeper into someone’s character than to dismiss them as crazy, maybe… it’s not them who is the problem. Maybe you missed sign after sign, hint after hint, invitation after invitation to go deeper and truly understand them, and they lost all patience, trust, or hope in your ability or desire to see them. Just maybe.

We are often unable on our own to untangle the mess others have put us in. Therapy, counseling, time and distance, and the wisdom of friends are all needed sometimes. We owe it to everyone involved to try to do better than “they are crazy”. We’d be crazy not to.

A Few Half-Baked Reactions from my Microbiology Explorations

So I’ve found it hard to read anything long-form over the past few years. Perhaps due to depression, burn-out, social media rewiring our brains, all of the above. I’m not sure. Take your pick. But fairly recently, I noticed I tended to wind my brain down at night by digging into histories and scientific analysis of natural history, geology, and biology – anything from tectonic plates to octopus brains. This isn’t exactly a new fascination for me, but it had been kind of muted for awhile.

One reason I hadn’t given much investment into this interest was because of the nature of the evolution vs creation battle, and the side I had been on since I could say the word “frog” without pronouncing it “fwog”. It was fascinating to learn about these things, but there was always this wall that would come up – a sort of angered, mocking sense of superiority and defensiveness whenever some variation of the phrase “millions of years” would appear in the given scientific treatise or media.

Continue reading A Few Half-Baked Reactions from my Microbiology Explorations

Psychological Trauma and Compassion

I’ve struggled with my own PTSD, and most of my friends and family (the ones I’m close to and have named their struggle, at least) have as well. I’m assuming everyone who might read this (if I know my audience at all) gives weight to the effects of psychological trauma on the mind.

I might be out of my depth a bit talking about this, but I don’t intend for this to be a scientific/medical treatise as much as it is a friendly one. And it probably won’t be news to anyone anyway, but sometimes we need to hear things said again. I know I do. I’ve noticed a disconnect at times in my own mind regarding what I should reasonably expect out of myself in response to past trauma, and maybe talking it out here will help someone else.

Also, while I know this is more general information anyone might benefit from, I want to aim at men here. Partly because I am one, and also because for a number of reasons I don’t believe we always give proper weight to what I’m about to dive into.

Physical injuries require a healing process. Often, the more severe the injury, the longer and more intensive the healing process must be.

Continue reading Psychological Trauma and Compassion

Capturing Freedom

When my wife suggested I put her largely unused DSLR camera to use on something she correctly identified as a passion of mine, it just made sense. I have been taking pictures of critters and plants and weird things for about as long as cell phone cameras have been a thing. But I had never invested a penny into it. So I went hunting for a decent entry-level lens (her old lens wasn’t the right specs for my particular area of interest), and started making time for it. Two years later, I’m still going at it, and it has been very rewarding. But just how rewarding is why I’m writing this.

Continue reading Capturing Freedom

Negative Space

That great tome of knowledge, Wikipedia, defines negative space thusly:

“Negative space, in art, is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the “real” subject of an image.

Example (from the Wikipedia article):

The image on the right is of the vase, but the mind also sees two faces squaring off in the black.

Another example humorously depicts how negative space can be used in text:


My wife is very knowledgeable about art, and I’m pretty sure I first heard this term from her years ago. This sort of thing is just not my area of expertise, and it was new to me, but this concept lodged in my mind recently. I wonder how much our minds are defined by negative space. Often, even though we’ve changed our minds on this or that, our positions can still be defined by our old belief system – the negative space, as it were.

Continue reading Negative Space