Googling Gives Us Answers—But Deprives Us Of Intelligence

The article I have provided a link for below is quite good even though its title may be somewhat misleading.  The deprivation of intelligence because of the ubiquitous use of search engines like Google is not what is addressed primarily in the guts of the article.  It is more a listing of the practical issues that the author sees with the current construct and use of search engines.

But I was drawn in by the title, which was something I have been thinking of for a while.  I realize that while I have access to a wealth of information because of the existence of the search engine, information that I am also able to freely share with others at the drop of a hat,  I am really not getting any smarter because of this.  It is questionable whether the amount of information that I can retain in my mind, and the kind of critical thinking that is crucial to my intelligence, have really been helped.  In fact, because of the easy availability of information, I might be less inclined to try to figure things out, and even retain information.  After all, why would I bother deriving the area of regular dodecagon when needed when all I need to do is look it up on the Internet.

via Google’s search algorithms act as our brains—but what are they trying to get us to think? — Quartz

If You Drive Slow, You Can Get There Faster (4/29/2013)

And the three men I admire most:,
The father, son, and the holy ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died


(In case you are curious, the song from which these lines are taken is not about religion.  It is about three well regarded musicians who lost their lives in a plane accident in the 60s – Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and JP Richardson.)

I had just stopped under a tree after I got on the trail at Williamsport on the C&O Canal this morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was out and a bird was singing away to glory, hidden in one of the branches.  As I was looking up, searching for it, a older lady, all wrapped up in warm clothes, came walking by and wished me good morning.  I gave up on the bird and started walking along with her.  She seemed to be grateful for the company.  She said that she usually walked a couple of miles, and she thanked me for walking with her.  She said that she was over 80 years old, and at that age, two miles was a good distance.  She looked fit and she was very chatty.  She had come across the river from West Virginia.  Apparently, her husband has big strides, and the two of them do not walk well together. So he goes in one direction while she goes in the other.  She informed me about the “happenings” along that section of the canal and about the work going on at the lock.  She only walked a short distance with me to the place where the woods began, and then turned back.  Sweet person!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI saw a homeless person on the trail today.  It is the first time in many years that this has happened.  The lady I had walked with had told me about him, and so I was not completely surprised.  Apparently he is from the town of Williamsport.  He was sitting on a branch beside the trail eating what looked like a donut.   He appeared to have all his belongings on a trailer that was attached to his bicycle.  He seemed to be OK.  I was wondering if he was perhaps happier in his own way than some of us who have more material belongings.

I listened to an interview on the radio this morning as I was heading to the canal.  The person being interviewed was a poet, and she happened to mention the line in the subject line of this posting during that interview.  It was apparently uttered by her young daughter while on a drive, when their car was overtaken by another.   It was a moment of Zen…  Eventually, they overtook the other car when they were both stuck at a toll-booth.  But it did get me thinking, not specifically about driving slow, but about driving in the wrong direction, or driving towards an destination that does not make too much sense in the big picture, or even getting distracted and focusing on the wrong destination.  All of these get you to your destination later than you intended.

There was another interesting point made during the radio conversation, where the poet talked about asking some kids a simple question – can you talk about something in particular that you observed this morning?  Apparently, this question stumps the kids, and it can take some time to engage them properly in conversation on this topic.   This is because their senses are not totally engaged in what they are doing.  They are not paying attention. Perhaps it is true for adults also….

I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
….

The Alligator And The Turtle

It was a very curious scene indeed!  We came upon it during our vacation down south in  the South Carolina Lowcountry, on Hilton Head Island, along the eastern shore of the US.  It is an area of great natural beauty, of woods and waterways, and of human habitation that tends to blend in with the surroundings.  The thick vegetation, and especially the old oak trees with the Spanish moss hanging off the branches, gives the place a unique look and atmosphere (especially in the fog).  Birds of different kinds, including egrets, herons and cormorants, abound. The squirrels are constantly creating a racket and startle you as you walk through the neighborhood.  It is a good place for a vacation.

Soon after our arrival we learned that alligators were quite common in this area.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving come from parts of the country where alligators are not a common sight, the opportunity to see a real live gator in its natural surroundings was something special to be hoped for and anticipated.  During the early days of our stay we did see a few of them with their heads and noses sticking out the water, but it was only towards the end of the trip that we got a good view of them out of the water.  (There are a couple of related pictures in my earlier blog about our vacation.)    But the big surprise was on the day before we departed the island, when we came upon this large alligator sunning itself on the shore on the other side of a canal.  Perhaps you did not notice it or pay attention to it when you chanced upon the relevant picture in my blog about our vacation, but there was a big turtle sitting next to the head of the alligator.

You have to picture the scene, where these two very dissimilar creatures are next to each other, and nothing is moving except for perhaps the head of the turtle that is turned to look at the disturbance that we are causing from the far shoreline.  The gator can perhaps see what is going on without moving its head.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is this huge gator that in my imagination (and to my limited knowledge) looks like an old male.  Here is this big turtle (which may be a yellow bellied slider) sitting next to it. Nobody is moving.  It is quiet. It is a very peaceful scene.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe human imagination wants to believe that these two creatures are two old and wise friends who are simply hanging out with each other.  But alligators can also eat turtles.  They are capable of cracking the turtle shells.

The experts tell us that these creatures are not capable of thinking the way human beings do.  I am sure people who study these particular creatures more closely have a logical explanation for the scene that was playing out before our eyes.  Indeed, for all we know, such a scene may not be uncommon to the locals. But for those of us who are less informed, we will have to use our imagination. The turtle and the gator must simply be good old friends. It is really a moment of magic that defies our natural instinct based on what we have been taught all our lives. Indeed, for some us, the opportunity to simply see an alligator in its natural surroundings is in itself a magical moment!

Pictures From a Vacation

Our extended family gathers quite regularly during Christmastime.  It does not matter where we meet or what we end up doing.   It only matters that we are there to spend time with each other – to renew, reconnect, share, and support each other every day from sunrise to sunset, and beyond. We take pleasure in simple activities and in celebrating milestones.  There is rejuvenation, comfort, and joy and laughter, in activities that tend to repeat themselves every year. We celebrate the young ones in all age groups. Over the years some have grown up into young responsible adults who are discovering the world on their own, while others are in the process of coming into their own.  The numbers increase and the process continues to amaze and never become stale.  Our gathering is a celebration of existence, of life, and of simply being there.  Here are some pictures from this year’s gathering.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYBODY!

In The Still of The Day

I was driving on the road from the parking lot at Pennyfield Lock.  I was driving quite slowly.  It was not just the numerous potholes in the road that were slowing me down.  It was very quiet and relaxing out there and I was in no hurry.  Besides, there was an older gentleman walking briskly in the middle of the road in front of me with headphones covering his ears.

I had observed this older gentleman on the trail at Pennyfield lock a few minutes earlier where I had stopped to check out the fall colors.  The colors in our neighborhoods (except for that red maple that we planted behind our house) seemed to be somewhat muted this year relative to other years, but things seemed to be getting better a the tail end of the falling of the leaves.  I drove to the parks in spite of a weather prediction (that turned out to be accurate) that the sky would become cloudier as the morning passed by and that there was a chance of some rain.

In any case, the gentleman was walking with a purpose.  He looked like he did this kind of stuff regularly.  He was proceeding quite briskly in his yellow coveralls.  He had a backpack and I saw a camera hanging from a strap attached to it.  I did not see his water supply, but I am sure he was carrying some.  He had his music.

As the car got closer to this gentleman, I began to wonder if he realized that I was there.  The combination of the headphones he was wearing and fact that I was driving  a Prius that was in its quiet super-efficient mode because of my speed, could have made me difficult to notice. Since he was in the middle of the road,  I decided to drift off to the side of the road and get closer to him at a slower pace.  I was not about to honk the horn.

I got a response from him.  He shifted the position of his head as if to acknowledge me, and I was not sure if he was irritated by my approach.  All of a sudden he started crossing the road in front of me, to the side I was trying to pass him on.  I had not wanted him to change his position on the road just for me, but I figured out that this was what he was doing.  I reacted by turning the wheel so that the car moved back towards the middle of the road.

The guys raised his hands and signaled, it seemed somewhat aggressively, for me to stop.  As I halted the car, he broke off a stick from a fallen branch beside the road and walked with it across the road right in front of me. Soon he was pushing something that was on the road off of it.  I then saw it.  It was a small turtle and it looked very familiar!  After he had moved the turtle, he signaled for me to proceed. My mind quickly rewound to the incident many years ago when I had also moved a turtle off  a road. That incident had  motivated me to start writing about random stuff, and in some way led to the existence of this blog!  It felt, in a very irrational way, that there was some kind of connection being made across the different times of my life.  Weird!

As I eventually passed the gentleman in my car, I told him that he had done a very nice thing.  He was wearing his headphones, but he nodded to acknowledge me, and continued with his brisk walk.

Here are some pictures from yesterday.  I need to get out today to find out if I will find better conditions for fall photography.  It actually looks much nicer in some spots than I expected, but I also need better lighting to try to bring it all out.

 

An American Tragedy – The Story of Kalief Browder

This is probably one of those postings which justifies the use of the tagline “Anything Goes” for my blog pages.  You should perhaps not continue any further if you are concerned about becoming unduly disturbed by unpleasant stuff.  In case you continue, please realize that what happened in this case was not an isolated incident.  This story points to systemic issues at many different levels. It is a result of the society, the politics, and the way of life, that we are willing to accept, for not just ourselves, but for everybody around us.
http://www.democracynow.org/2015/6/8/traumatized_by_3_years_at_rikers

If you are looking for more in-depth reporting on the case, and getting an better understanding for how truly screwed up our criminal justice system is, you can find it in the following articles.
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/10/06/before-the-law
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/kalief-browder-1993-2015

I heard this story while watching a documentary about the 13th Amendment on Netflix.   I recommend it!