Something odd about today’s 7.1 earthquake in Mexico

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We have an overabundance of natural disasters happening here in North America at this time. These events are inevitable in the long run but random in the short one. Major hurricanes, extensive forest fires, and now major earthquakes don’t usually overlap but now they just happen to be doing just that. As PT would say, Sad.

Today, here in Bend, Oregon, we are having some rain and the first smoke-free day in months. The smoke was bad enough that I was wearing a 3M 8511 – N95 face mask a few times, although most people weren’t. The folks at the University of Puerto Rico are expecting a direct hit by an (M) major hurricane tomorrow afternoon.

Seventy miles south-east of Mexico City experienced a 7.1 earthquake today. I track these events because I wonder how people react to threats to their existential existence. — National Hurricane Center — EARTHQUAKES — FOREST FIRES — Perhaps my interest in these natural things was piqued by living on the Hayward Fault for fifty years. It is a major earthquake fault and it is past due for a major event. It was a small part of my motivation for moving to Bend six years ago, but nature caught up with me and felled a large Ponderosa tree on my house this April. Tata … so much for foresight.

One of my friends, visiting Bend last week, moved to a place within the shake zone of the quake below last year but went back in time to experience today’s quake. (Click the pictures for bigger views.)

7.1 quake Mexico 2017/09/19

USGS presentation of the quake lat/lon 18.548, 98.399

I went to the site of the quake on Google Earth and noticed the smooth round hill to the left, in this view the yellow push-pin at lat/lon 18.548, 98.399. It struck me as strange because all of the nearby hills were very irregularly shaped.

A Google Earth photo of today's earthquake site in Mexico

Note the smooth round hill to the left of the pushpin.

A Google Earth picture of quake area

A wider view of the area showing more eroded valleys.

An oblique view of 2017-09-19 quake

An oblique view of the area with distant Popocatepetl.

The bottom picture shows the area around the quake site as being covered with an eroded landscape. The hill to the left of the yellow pushpin is smooth with little weathering as is the one directly above the pushpin. Everything else is either flat as formed by ancient lakes or eroded hills from a distant past. What do we make of the origins of that smooth hill anomaly? My first guess is that those two hills are the beginnings of a future mountain. They are being pushed up by the forces that created the earthquake, and as they are aligned with Popocatepetl and the more distant volcanos these little hills might become volcanoes themselves.

Check back in a couple million years to see if I’m right.

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The Seven Sages of Ancient Greece – line 99

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Okay, I’m being outrageous by my modifying the sayings of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece in any way. Those sayings, or suggestions if you prefer, are usually only two words long and thus to my mind beg for interpretation. Line number 99 was  particularly challenging for interpretation, having something to do with glory and one’s personal relationship with an emotional response to that kind of public acclaim. Perhaps Alexander the Great, who spoke that same language and conquered most of the world known to him only a few hundred years after those things were written down at Delphi, would not have had a problem understanding what struggling with glory would be like. I don’t have that problem!

I’ve done things but never anything that would bring glory to me. In actual fact, the closest I’ve come to having to cope with glory recently was getting a bouquet of flowers last week, where I finally get an award. I have very little desire for acclaim or even attention and generally avoid even speaking up when there are more than a few people present. I avoid seeking or accepting positions of power or responsibility and generally reject them when about to be forced upon me. Thus it seems strange to me that I am writing this book Love Your Life which includes these rewrites of the Sayings of the Seven Sages of Ancient Greece. But that is what I am doing, so when I come to my own line #99 it gives me more of a mental pause than most of the others.

Do your work with skill and diligence. What can that mean to me? What does it mean to do the mental preparations which I recommend in preparation for the future activity? I have known people whom I would call skillful and diligent but I usually associate those qualities with old tradesmen. One of my old friends was a carpenter and I marveled at his scrap pile of the pieces of wood he threw away after cutting what he was making for the job. Even his discarded scrap pieces were beautifully formed. That demonstrated skill with a saw. I saw this again a couple of months ago when a lineman was working on top of the utility pole above my house. These two people were like master piano players at their chosen craft. When thinking of this trait in a social realm where you can see skill and diligence in action, on TV watch some of the old politicians or newsmen recover from difficult situations. These things require years of careful and dedicated thought and honing of skills.

I ramble on but I do think that cultivating skill and diligence in your chosen activities is a worthwhile thing to do. Sloppy uncaring actions must lead to an uncomfortable relationship with other people and with one’s entire reality.

I reject things that don’t make sense to me.

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Isn’t it is fair and reasonable to reject ideas that don’t make sense to me? That seems like it ought to be at the core of all honest mental operations and yet there is a problem. Just because something doesn’t make sense at the moment doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t make sense if I pursue the background information and reasoning that leads to the idea. I remember in high school being confronted with the Pythagorean theorem that in a right triangle the sum of the square of the sides equaled the square of the hypotenuse. It was presented to us after we had worked through some other more elementary problems and I wasn’t comfortable with the details of some of those ideas. However, when I worked out the problem in physical drawings moving from the extremes at either end of the angular setups and compared them with the obvious 3 x 4 and 5 setups I then felt more comfortable with the intervening angles that were more difficult to compute.

I am wondering if this same process might not get me through many other ideas, perhaps non-mathematical ones. A big one for example: is it necessary for there to be an intelligence to create and maintain the processes of the Universe? When I think on the mechanical processes of the environment it appears that they obey the principles of mechanical laws. The processes of biology are much more complicated, but when looked at they too seem to obey their natural proclivities. Even mental processes which are more obscure in the details of their operations seem to obey the laws of nature and of their particular natures. Even complex human social activities are based on human mental operations, and those on animal proclivities, and those on natural mechanical processes. Those social things are based in beings that are impossible to dissect without destroying their functioning and so are difficult to make any form of absolute sense out of. But just because it is difficult to the point of impossibility to lay out their natural development to where we can totally understand its processes doesn’t mean or imply that those natural processes are not there. We don’t need to resort to fantastic and usually simplistic explanations to satisfy our minds.

Taking some social event as complex as say World War II and saying that it was God’s will makes it too easy to say that America’s response to North Korea’s provocative firing of potentially atomic bomb-tipped missiles toward us is also controlled by God’s will. Terrible events might be triggered by minuscule irrational miscalculations made by humans that might be easily avoided by a moment of rational thought and caution. But, if there are people involved in the decisions who make their decisions based on flimsy evidence and fall back on blind faith, then catastrophe is much more likely. Eventually, the attitude to risk that lets the dice fall as they may will be much to the detriment of the people involved. When the situation becomes too complex to think through all the possibilities, the best rational solution is probably to…

Choose to move toward everything that will bring health and happiness.

What makes us become responsible people?

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I see people doing a lot really foolish things and there must be an answer to why there is so much of that apparent stupidity. If we start with the premise that individual humans are not very smart, that they are not very observant and not very able to link cause and probable effects consistently, it would make sense. 

The counter-argument to that idea would be the challenge to look around and observe the wonderful things that we humans have created. It is obvious that we humans have collectively made many wonderful things, but as a challenge could you create this computer you are using, or even the data on this amazing screen you are looking at, or even the glass that supports the glowing field of information, or even a single glowing pixel of the millions you are looking at, or even have a clue as to how to make that tiny speck of the pixel glow? Can you do any of that, or even any part of any of it? As I look around my desk I can make that same challenge about everything I can touch or see or hear or smell. Yes, even smell. I have a collection of about thirty bottles of aromatic essential oils here, and of all of this stuff I only have an idea of how to create peppermint oil because I ran a peppermint still back in 1962, but even that was only a tiny part of the whole process of creating the smell.

My point is that we as individual humans are not very smart and we appear to be super capable because we have access to the combined experience, learning and skills and products of billions of not very smart people. In this moment I have only to reach over and pick up a small glass bottle, twist a plastic cap and sniff peppermint, or musk, or wintergreen or grapefruit or many other bottled odors. It’s amazing because my great-grandmother, whom I knew quite well, would have almost witnessed the first twist top jars, and that cap is a trivial thing compared to this computer and yet it is essential to the convenience of modern living.

It is more difficult to compare social things, like being responsible and cautious about random events and careful about the operation of everyday things like cars or bicycles  or walking on the streets. But all of these marvelous things require their special awareness and an appropriate caution by each of us in their usage. The problem arises because our modern devices have built-in safety features to prevent injury, but that very feature means that people don’t get feedback from minor pains and injuries. When what are now common things fail in even a tiny way the whole complex structure becomes useless. When we fail in a tiny way we sometimes become useless.

What we need is immediate feedback to our actions and our thoughts too. We learn from doing things and seeing what happens, and as we acquire experience with cause and effect we grow in knowledge, and with feedback to our knowledge, some of which isn’t very effective, we hone in to what works best. If we are paying attention and pondering over what we see and do, the cause and effect of our actions become obvious and we are able to project into the future the probable effects of the potential actions that we might perform.

We need positive feedback to see cause and effect to become responsible people.

Response times triggered to within a heartbeat

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This is speculative but I want to give some thoughts on how to improve athletic response times and some other things where a tenth of a second makes a difference. I can observe a phenomenon and I suspect you can observe it too if you do this experiment. It requires you to be sitting still in a place where you can see clouds drifting visually past some still object such as trees or utility poles. The poles should be about thirty yards away and the clouds should be drifting quickly directly across them. Sit quietly without moving for a minute and watch the sharp edge of a cumulus cloud drift behind the pole and reappear on the other side.

Watch carefully and you will see that the cloud doesn’t move smoothly but noticeably speeds up and slows down. It is impossible for a cloud to behave that way, and therefore it must be your perception of velocity and of time that is creating the phenomenon.

I have performed this experiment many times sitting in my living room and have realized that the speeding up and slowing down of the clouds is synchronized with my pulse. My pulse rate is usually about fifty-five beats per minute and that gives me ample time to see the phenomenon. Standard 35mm movies are shot at a rate of 24 frames per second (fps) because if they are run at a slower rate most people perceive a flickering effect. Some modern movies are shot at 48 fps and a few even faster.

My point is that the variation of the speed of the moving clouds is well within our ability to see if you have a fixed foreground reference point.

There may be a use for this knowledge. If our brain speeds up and slows down a perceptible amount, as I have observed, and the pulse can be monitored with an EKG machine, or a pressure detector as in a home blood pressure testing cuff, then it would be possible to gain an advantage over competitors in computer gaming situations. There may be a tenth of a second, and possibly a fifth of a second advantage if the stimulus of an event could be linked to the pulse. It has been observed that a human can react more quickly to a sound, like a starting gunshot that begins a foot race, than a visual flash. Apparently, this is because the brain has fewer operations to do between the stimulus and the signal to the body to react.

Although the variation of the speed of a moving cloud has been observed in the visual system the timing for initiating events for an action could be timed to the heart pulse and given as an auditory signal.

Response times triggered to within a heartbeat could gain a winning advantage.

Should we be concerned with truth?

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This evening our Socrates Cafe question was, “Should we be concerned with truth?” The other suggestions for the discussion were: “What is emotional intelligence?” “What is the antidote to greed?” Are the truths of, Science, Religion, Philosophy etc. circular.” “What does success look like?”

We had eleven people in attendance, which is a good number for having a conversation about such questions. The basic variations of truth were considered in some depth, the Big T Truths, and the little t truths. The varieties of truths from interpersonal ones, to public ones, to philosophical ones, but the most traction seemed to be on the religious ones because they were so compelling to so many people. The various religions have their truths which are often in direct contradiction to other religions truths and that leads to unending and unresolvable conflicts.

There was a little discussion of scientific truths and a bit of sentiment stated that those truths are constantly changing and therefore can’t be trusted. I countered that argument with a statement that the arguments that the public hears about are about details. There is deep agreement about most scientific wisdom. I spoke of comparing most people’s concept of time based on the year and the necessity of adjusting the clocks because of variations in the rotation speed. I then mentioned the ability of scientists working with time to measure it with to a trillionth of a second accuracy, which is far more accurate than Earth-based time.

Comparing scientific controversy over issues to religious controversy over issues was discussed and came down to comparing questions of testable facts to statements of untestable veracity. Science is about natural reality and religion is about human projections of what projected reality might be.

Those arguments are probably fun to talk about and unresolvable. We all had a good time. Sometimes at the end of our facilitated conversations, we have an open discussion for a half hour and tonight we followed that with a round-robin one minute personal summary by each person.

My short statement was: “What truths are important?” My answer was those truths that will hurt us if we get them wrong. And, what would be those kinds of truths? If we do things that will injure our body or mind the violation of those truths about our physical and mental health will hurt us. Most people die of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Therefore, how to prevent or cope with those diseases are the truths we should be most concerned with.

My answer to big T Truth may not sound philosophical like “What is the meaning of life?” but it has more impact than endless words.

We humans can choose our ultimate purpose

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‘We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.’ This seems a little more human but it too isn’t living a life full of vigor but a groveling way to find a greater meaning than what is presented by the world we physically inhabit.” A quote from my post in Philosophers Squared – Henri Bergson.

The Universe is moving from a Big Bang to a Big Bust of some sort or another. But, that End Time is really a super-distant time in human terms. We as organic beings,  even much more highly more evolved organic beings, don’t have a chance to have any meaningful contact with that distant time. Or to be a more practical definition halfway to that distant ultimate end of time. I choose halfway because at the halfway point things are probably very much the same as they were at the quarter point and the three-quarter point, and thus the halfway point is typical of the entirety of the process.

Time had a precise beginning moment, the Big Bang, and will have a precise ending moment, the Big Crunch, and thus the halfway point would have a precise moment in existence even if it were unknowable and without any physically defining characteristics. Let’s call it the Big Actualizing, and that moment would probably be indistinguishable from billions of years before or after that instant.

We humans and our organic offspring need a constant renewal through sequential births to even exist, and that process of renewal is very turbulent, and thus the creatures that are members of that species process and are compelled to adapt to their environment to survive through the reproductive process. If we consider our present state of evolution of the Universe to be the halfway point, which it almost certainly isn’t, then to impact the ultimate moment of Big Crunch we organic beings would have to maintain some method of communication over some twelve billion years. That seems totally unrealistic for protean beings such as ourselves.

Therefore, if we are to have a meaningful impact on the Universe, it must be through our silicon-based brethren. If we are to survive our super weapons of organic destruction we must convert our intellectual selves into self-reproducing silicon-based beings. Those beings can be designed to be identical to their ancestors and can thus be transmitted over vast distances of time and space and can even be broadcast by radio waves to other similar silicon-based life on distant galaxies. And, once there, be reproduced in their ultimate original purity if that is considered to be beneficial.

I propose not a Brave New World but a Self Actualizing Universe.

Finally I get a reward

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I’ll be eighty-two in two weeks so it’s time for me to start collecting on the delayed gratifications. You know the kid in the psychology experiment that can get two cookies if he looks at a cookie on the plate in front of him for a whole minute while the researcher times how long he can resist eating it.

I love my life and have enjoyed every minute of it, even the ones where I am yelling at my iPhone for too often sending me instructions on how to get to local restaurants when I ask it a philosophically inclined question.

Sitting next to my left elbow is the flower bouquet shown in the picture below. It was given to me at a public reading from Clockwork Purple last week. It is the only physical gift I can think of that has been given to me by a public person. Oh yes, there was the time in 1958 when J. Robert Oppenheimer picked some strawberries from his garden and gave them to me for my hitchhiking trip back to college in Pullman, Washington. But that was a friendly gesture and wasn’t a payment for some act that I had done. And I was given a Darwin Award, but that was as a representative of humanity and the failed Earthark Project. On this blog, I have received a few thank you’s for saving people’s lives, but a lot more flames for being incredibly stupid than thanks. This morning our group of twenty-five thoughtful people was challenged with, “What should we be doing to solve humanity’s problems.” Most of the action that came down to was projecting love and treating our friends well because that would spread throughout the whole world. I listed several things that I have done that probably had a worldwide impact, and I challenged them to find and do some things too. But that went nowhere and I was given the cut-it-short sign by the facilitator. One person said she contacted her politicians daily with requests for action. That was it for public action.

Clockwork Purple Volume One

Charles Scamahorn holding a copy of Clockwork Purple

I get my rewards, of course, but not from the public.

 

A special day? Not really, but I’ve now done 3,600 blog posts.

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Here below is a cut and paste of my very first blog post:



Two years ago when it was time to think up a new New Year resolution I thought it would be helpful to Google the phrase but strangely there didn’t seem to be much beyond the usual silliness. It seemed the logical thing to do was to start a fresh new list of good habits; so my resolution became:

Create a new good habit everyday

Practice it seven independent times

Write it down on a list

That turned out to be a really challenging thing to do but it was interesting and sometimes a bit weird. Over the course of the year there was a general migration to simple practical things which were easy to practice and to types of observational things and ways to relate to the world.

Click here to go to my good habits list of 442 habits



What is interesting to me is that I listed the 442 habits that I had created and practiced seven times in an effort to make those actions into automatic habits. Presently, while working on the 7 Sages of Ancient Greece I was only vaguely aware that I had done that similar list back before 2008. Presently I have been writing and rewriting the 147 sayings of those 7 Sages into modern English as rendered by me. This new list is similar to that ten-year-old one in that they are brief sentences with the intent of honing one’s personal behavior. The earlier ones were created out of my imagination and the 7 Sages ones are based on 2,600-year-old Greek sayings formed at the very beginning of Western civilization. That time period is called the Axial Period because so many people prominent to later civilization were active at that time. It seems obvious that what happened was those people created phonetic alphabets for their languages and thus were able to read and write. The Phoenician alphabet was a beginning, but it was the Greek language that was the first fully written spoken language. If a person could speak Greek they could quickly learn the alphabet and write out their thoughts, and they could then communicate across vast distance and time. Instead of translating pictographs into words, the words could be written down and communication could be more specific and more accurate. The Greek empire soon spread from Italy to India. These 147 suggestions have been greatly reworked for the book Love Our Life.

Probaway’s 442 habits are similar to the 7 Sages’ 147 suggestions.

Have normal people lost contact with reality?

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Most of the people I encounter appear to be normal and sane and yet I routinely encounter what appears to me to be irrational behavior. I am shocked at how many new expensive automobiles there are downtown, and yet the public refuses to vote for money to pave the streets properly. Also, when building new houses even the concrete turns to gravel within a few months of occupancy. And, on the 4th of July when there is a clear and present fire danger created by hot dry weather people are setting off fireworks. There is presently a fuss over a teenager who was seen tossing firecrackers into the brush and caused a fire that burned about twelve miles of forest along the scenic Columbia River Gorge. That isn’t close to my home but the smoke from the forest fires has been such a health hazard that some people are publicly wearing face masks. I have a high-quality one in my pocket and have worn it when the smoke is particularly bad.

Those are just a few of the many self-destructive behaviors that the local public seems to tolerate or even encourage. Our city of Bend, Oregon, is largely forested with old-growth ponderosa trees on the west side of town and junipers on the far-east side, and the houses are built in such a way as to preserve the trees. It makes the town look very nice, but a massive city fire is inevitable in the long run. The city is as flammable as the forests to the west of town, and they have had multiple fires this summer. If those fires can’t be stopped there is the probability that those same kinds of forest fires here in town will be just as difficult to put out. I was almost a victim of the Oakland, California, fire of 1991 which burned some 3,000 homes. That fire wasn’t put out by the firefighters but by the fact that after burning for five days a heavy fog finally blew in from the ocean and moistened everything.

I have complained, on this blog earlier, that people were rolling through STOP signs at fairly high speeds. Earlier today I saw a personal friend, whom I love and respect for his good sense, do that. In an unrelated event this morning a guy came out of a restaurant parking lot driveway right in front of me at a goodly speed. Obviously, he hurried a bit so we wouldn’t collide and I only had to slow down a little. Of course, he politely got out of my way by turning at the next intersection. I don’t confront these actions in the slightest, only note them in my tally of questionable behaviors.

I sometimes hear people proudly proclaim that they don’t obey laws.