Tag Archives: News

If My Memory Serves Me

“White Crane Spreads Its Wings.”  “Repulsing the Monkey.”  “Grasping the Bird’s Tale.”

These phrases, in isolation, might give you a laugh, but if you’re familiar with Tai Chi, you’ll recognize these names right off as they refer to particular forms or moments that can be part of several different Tai Chi routines.  The words help construct an image of the movement that is not only descriptive but that helps you to memorize the parts of the form for practice.

In a multi-form routine, these word images help my poor brain remember what it’s supposed to do, and after a while, since this memory involves movement it can be incorporated into what’s called “non-declarative memory,” which requires no conscious awareness.

And thus, we have moving meditation 🙂

***

So, I’m back to studying about how our brains work and this time I’m reading about short-term memory.  Memory is kind of important for without it we might have died off as a species.

We learned that fire was great for preventing us from freezing to death and wonderful for cooking our food, but not so great if directly applied to our bodies.  We learned which berries were and weren’t poisonous, and how to hunt bison and mammoths without getting killed – probably by watching someone else die.  But then we remembered, passed the information on, and managed to propagate the species.

Although we might wonder a bit about the new wave of “flat-earthers.”

And I know the scientific community goes a little overboard with dissecting and labeling everything but here goes.

It seems we have two types of short-term memory, declarative, like being able to regurgitate specific facts like “sharks swim in the ocean,” and non-declarative, which is like the motor skills we use to ride a bike.  Declarative memory involves “effortful processing” or a lot of repetition.  Non-declarative memory does not require conscious awareness and is sort of automatic.  If we were asked, we probably wouldn’t list out every detailed step that goes along with riding a bike.   We just go through those motions once the brain locks on and our feet are on the pedals, and we use a simple phrase to embody all of those movements.

There are four steps involved in short term memory.  Encoding, storage, retrieval, and forgetting.  Encoding is defined as the conversion of external sources of energy into electrical patterns the brain can understand.  There are three types of encoding:

Semantic encoding – definitions,

Phonemic encoding – comparison of sounds – rhyming, and

Structural encoding – visual inspection of shapes.

The myriad of signals we receive from different sensory sources are registered in separate brain areas.  It’s a fragmented experience, called the “blender effect.”  There is no central storage or hard drive.  Parts of a single event are scattered and stored all over the cerebral cortex.  And a memory trace will lead you to the same parts of the brain where we originally processed the information.

The total number of brain changes to record an event or information is called an engram, and then comes the “binding problem” – how do we bring all of that sensory data back together from the various spots on the cerebral cortex where they were stashed to compose a complete memory?

While it’s counter-intuitive, it turns out, the more elaborately we encode, the more details and complexity surrounding the event, the better our retrieval of that memory.

Retrieval is also enhanced if we replicate the conditions where we experienced the event or came upon the data.  So, if I learned that sharks swim in the ocean while I’m swimming in the ocean, I will remember this bit of information best when I’m back swimming in the ocean.  How convenient.

It also seems that regardless of the setting where we encounter information, the majority of our forgetting will occur within the fist couple of hours that follows.  People usually forget 90% of what they’ve learned within 30 days of the learning experience.  Apparently, we discard what we don’t use quite quickly.

I know, I’ve forgotten much more over the years than I know right now 🙂

Spaced learning is more effective than massed learning and the more repetition cycles we have, the greater chance we’ll convert something to long-term memory.   Tai Chi again provides a great example because we are taught each form separately and then add that to the entire routine, which we then repeat and continually refine.

And something I mentioned before in the post Boring, teaching is more effective if it includes meaningful examples and experiences and emotion.  Real world situations familiar to the learner.  The more personal the example, the better the encoding because we are adapted to “pattern matching” the new information with what we’ve learned before.

So why am I writing about this today?  Because of the fascinating way we’re able to communicate and tell stories, of course.  When I tell a story I want to transmit my memory to you, the reader.  I use as many descriptive terms as I can think of to relay an experience – what I saw and heard, how something smelled, felt and tasted.  How objects sat in space in relation to where I stood or traveled.

We’re able to communicate because of that pattern matching principle.  I relate an experience to you and hope you’ve had enough similar experiences and gathered enough sensory data to “get it.”

Such is the challenge and art of writing.  If we can paint an image that others can see, detail the scent of a flower that the reader can smell, have someone salivating over a recipe or bracing for an explosive sound, or transmit the feel of the smooth, silky skin of another as we describe caressing their face, then we’ve succeeded.

A lofty goal.

And hopefully the experiences we relate will be as memorable to our readers as they were to us.

***

Photo: This is one of my daughter’s dogs, Harper.  He was over for a visit when I snapped this pic.  I etched out the bare patterns with the photo editor creating what I call the “Ghost Dog.”  Its an image descriptive of short-term memories.  We can hold onto basic concepts and sensations, but over time they may fade into the less distinct and more nebulous 🙂

Source: I used the book Brain Rules by John Medina as my source for this post.  Other posts of mine discussing the workings of our brains include:

Move Your Body, Move Your Mind

Writing to Survive

Wired

Boring

and,

Bailer’s Point

 

Like

I have to say, I really appreciate the WordPress community.  I learned about WordPress when I was looking at job postings for writers and started noticing that a number of them required WordPress experience.  So, I Googled it to find out what it was.

Then I met Laleh Chini on Twitter and was introduced to her blog, “A Voice from Iran.”

After checking out a few more blogs and seeing their beautiful formats, I decided to take the plunge.

One of the things that really amazes me it that we can meet people from all over the world.  And even if their blogs are written in different languages, it’s not much trouble to copy and paste something into Google Translate and read it.

I like looking at other languages and seeing how others compose their ideas.  I think the text is beautiful and I am awed about the whole concept of learning a language.  How do we master such a thing?  Other languages look so foreign to me, it’s hard for me to imagine how children in those countries grow up learning them.  And multilingual people fascinate me even more.

It is such a human trait.  Language.  It’s taken for granted.  And just look how much communication has evolved and the technology that we use now to share our stories all over the world.

I know we all love it when others in our community like our posts.  So here are a few examples of beautiful language from around the world from some of my blogging friends just using the word “like.”

Indonesian                           DisuKai

Turkish                                  Begendi

Italian                                     Mi piace

Norwegian                           Liker

Romanian                             Apreciaza

German                                Gefällt mir

Spanish                                 Me Gusta

Russian                                  нравится

Hindi                                       पसंद

Swedish                                Tycka om

French                                   J’aime

Irish                                        Cosúil

Japanese                               好き

Pakistan (Urdu)                  کی طرح

Nigeria (Yoruba)                 Bi

Phillipines (Filipino)         Katulad

Finnish                                     Kuten

Azerbaijani                            Bəyən

Portuguese                            Curtir

I’m sure you can all add to this list.

Another reason I like it when my blogging friends like my posts is that it reminds me to go check out their pages.  It’s hard to keep up with all of the good writing out there so that serves as a nice prompt.

Looking forward to liking more of your posts 🙂

***

Photo: A closeup of a cactus in bloom at a botanical garden in the southwest.  The feature image zooming-in is sort of other-worldly.  A friend described it as looking like an underwater organism – a sea creature.  An it does sort of look like a Sea Anemone.  The full view is below.  Amazing to see that flower with such exploding beauty thriving in desert conditions.  This is my analogy to the beauty of language in all it’s forms, unexpectedly breathtaking 🙂

Tohono Chul with Heather 4+C2

200th !!!

Back in June, I hit my 100th post.  And yesterday, with the posting of “Deployment Day,” I’ve made my 200th!  I think I’ll make a tradition of marking these milestones.  It’s good to take a few moments to reflect.

I enjoy writing about multiple topics but probably enjoy storytelling the most – telling stories of life.  And I’m happy to be getting some of these down on paper, well digitally.  You know what I mean.  Although they might seem rather random or scattered because they will involve both current and past experiences.  My mind constantly bounces around.   Nothing chronologically sequenced here.

I hope my daughter will be reading them and learning more about me too.  That was one of my regrets when my father passed away.  I would have liked to have heard more of his stories.  The ones he did share were quite amazing and I learned so much from him.

As you can see, on my Home page, I have a number of “pinned” articles at the top.  I rotate these periodically, usually highlighting articles that are the most popular.  Ones that received the most hits or most likes.  But that becomes sort of self-fulfilling.  By having them pinned to the opening page, they continue to get more reads.  So, I think I’ll start rotating other articles more frequently.  After all, we keep picking up followers and new followers might not have seen our earlier posts.

Writing is always fun and a challenge.  It’s kind of like a mental workout.  Like going to the gym.  The more you write, the stronger your writing becomes.  And over time, you start learning what your audience likes too.  It’s an experimental process.

I also find it challenging to pick photos for my stories.  I try to choose images that relate to the story itself.  A story within the story.  A symbolic representation.

There are things I’ve written that I think are ok, and others that I’m really happy with.  I’ll highlight some of my own favs  🙂

A big thank you to all of my followers.  I appreciate your visits and your insights.  I also appreciate your writing and continually enjoy discovering your wonderful posts.

I hope you all have a wonderful and peaceful day.

***

Photo: So I was struggling today to come up with an image representative of “200.”  Have to say I was at a bit of a loss.  Must be having a low creative energy day.  I settled on this crazy pic of a wine bottle label that I took at a rather unique shop in Oregon.  Sort of goes with the idea of something “vintage” or “aged.”  I didn’t sample the “Wild Squirrel Wine” while I was there, though 🙂

Squirrel Wine Label

Updates:  I do update articles occasionally, but I don’t think that necessarily pops them up in the WordPress Reader again so that anyone would know about them.  I last updated the article Balance on August 19th, but I just added an update to A Return to Tribalism today 🙂

 

 

 

 

Deployment Day

“Sorry Dad, I’ve got to go.  The alarms are going off again.”

All of our few chat sessions had ended the same way.  Since we were instant messaging, she couldn’t see my tears.  Have to stay strong.

“Love you, Kiddo.”

“Love you too, Dad.”

***

Time was passing slowly since that day back in January.  When hopes and dreams seemed to fade into darkness.  Way too slowly.

My daughter was seventeen when she joined the army.  I gave my consent.  That seemed to be the best decision at the time.  She was headstrong like me and had made up her mind.  I could sign the papers now or she could just wait a few more months and my approval wouldn’t have been necessary.

This would represent the fourth generation of the family to have served.*

At the time, it seemed there were few worries.  She sailed through boot camp at Fort Jackson and was off for advanced infantry training at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

My little girl was becoming a diesel mechanic.  Working on the big stuff.  Heavy wheeled vehicles – HMMWVs, MRAPs, RTCHs, HETs, HEMTTs, LMTVs, fork lifts and cranes too – basically anything that would be transporting troops or supplies or be used in construction.*  Drive shafts and transmissions were her specialty.

Her duty assignment came later than some of her fellow soldiers and she was wondering what was up.  But when it turned out to be Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, we thought WOW!  Hawaii!  I remember telling her that maybe they rewarded the best with the best places.  The azure blue waters of the Pacific.  Endless sand beaches.  Palm trees and tropical fruit.  Sunsets over the water.

25th Infantry Division, “Tropic Lightning”; 84th Engineer Battalion, “Never Daunted”; 45th Corps Support; Alpha Company.

It didn’t sink in that Hawaii was where the major Asian-Pacific theater operations were staged.  And it should have.  My Dad was stationed at Hickam Field and was set for deployment to fight in Japan in WWII, but the A-Bomb interceded and bought that war to an earlier end.

So when her orders came for her to deploy to Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, I was stunned silent.  All I could see was my little girl.  Playing.  Flying kites with her.  Taking her to the water park.  She used to hook her hands together behind my neck and I would stand up and let her hang there – called her my little necklace.

And now she was going to a war zone.

The date was set and I flew in for a two-week stay so I could spend some time with her.  But the day I arrived, they advanced her ship-out date and we were only going to have two days.  And time would be limited as she had duties to perform.

That time evaporated and for being in such a sunny place, it sure felt dark and heavy.  Before I knew it, I found myself at her deployment ceremony.

The ceremony wasn’t held on an elaborate parade ground.  There were no podiums for speakers.  No gaggle of offices.  No dress uniforms.  This was much less formal and only for her company.  I image similar ceremonies were happening all over the base.

The sun set early, around 6:30 pm, after the various family members had gathered on a basketball court.

I remember seeing children.  A lot of children.  Running, playing, and laughing, for the moment, and being picked up and held by their parents.  Parents who were mere children themselves.  Children dressed in desert camo.  Gear assembled. M-16s and SAW Rifles issued.  Serial numbers recorded.  Three MREs passed out to each soldier.

My daughter, all 100 pounds of her, had a 110-pound rucksack on her back, a second pack around her shoulders, backwards, so it rested on her chest balancing out the weight.  A separate carry-on, and the MREs stuffed in the pockets of her camo pants.  I couldn’t have carried so much weight.  Not even close.  Plus, a rifle that looked bigger than she was.

The Captain gave a brief speech and buses began arriving to take her company to the airfield.  I held my daughter tight.  Other children clung on to their fathers or mothers crying don’t go, don’t go . . .

At the last moment possible all of us visitors released our grips and watched them board the buses.  Once they were out of sight, and as we turned to walk away, it began to rain.  The heavens opened and the sky was crying with us.

Rain drops mixing with our tears.  Disappearing into porous volcanic soil . . .

***

My daughter completed her year’s tour over there on an airbase located near the center of the country.  A base that received some 20 rocket attacks daily.  One was even launched from inside the base.  The locals had planned for their insurgency and had buried weapons before the invasion.

Their food was poisoned by Iraqi civilian workers in the mess hall.  Bombs were set inside living quarters for the many foreign workers that were imported.  An outdoor movie theater was rarely attended.  It was too easy a target.  The Base Exchange hit, as soldiers were exiting – having bought packaged food to avoid the mess hall.

While my daughter was on-base most of the time, they all had to “volunteer” for at least two convoys.  Two of her platoon members died on one of those.

News was sketchy, but I found the BBC to have more honest and timely coverage.  The generals didn’t want the public to know that they couldn’t secure their own base perimeters.

She sent me pictures of the graveyard for vehicles destroyed by IEDs.  The remains of which they stripped to place armor on the vehicles that were lacking it.

Probably the most disturbing image came from her staging area in Kuwait.  There she was in her desert camos with a bright swath of olive-green around her chest.  They had run out of desert camo flak jackets and given them woodland green.  And if that wasn’t making them stand out as a target enough, they had also run out of the protective plates that slide into and reinforce those jackets, so she had limited body armor covering her back.

Yes, I’m grateful she made it back without any physical injuries.  But I don’t know what she still has to experience in her mind from those days.

I hold her tight whenever I see her.

***

*Sorry for all of the abbreviations, but that was better than slowing the readers down with this list 🙂

Mine Resistance Ambush Protected (MRAP) Vehicle series; High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV) series; Rough Terrain Container Handler (RTCH); 6K Variable Reach Fork Lift; Heavy Equipment Transporter (HET) series with semi-trailers; Heavy Expandable Mobile Tactical Truck (HEMTT) series; Truck Cargo 5Ton series; Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV);  and 10 Ton Cranes.

Thanks: I wish to extend my sincere thanks to all of those who serve, and have served, and to their parents, spouses and other family members for having known what they endure with their loved ones are deployed.

*And I must add a footnote: For clarity, in my generation, it was not I who served in the military.  One of my brothers was in the Marines – Vietnam era vet.  I tried to join but was unable due to having asthma.  We do have an interesting family history.  My Great, Great, Great Paternal Grandfather, and his two brothers, fled Germany in 1852 to escape being drafted into the German military.  They were farmers.  They immigrated to America, and the generations that followed began the tradition of serving in the US military.  Ironically, we may have had family members shooting at each other in both World Wars.

Photo: My daughter, with her fellow company members, listen to the send-off speech from their Captain.

Night of Deployment #6

Trust Me, I’ll Feel Guilty

As I’m waking up most mornings, I usually enjoy a cup of coffee in front of the computer while scrolling through various social media sites, picking up the news, and marveling over the commentary.  A while back LinkedIn started what it calls its “Daily Rundown” where it features select tidbits of business-related news and solicits comments.  The skew is usually pro-business and pro-employer, although you will also see pieces that are neutral or pro-employee.

The other day they featured an article about some research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology titled “Who is Trustworthy? Predicting Trustworthy Intentions and Behavior.”  The study used several economic games to measure the personality traits that predict if you can trust someone.  And what they discovered was that “guilt-proneness” was a powerful indicator of trustworthiness.

They distinguished “guilt-proneness” from “guilt” by defining it as the tendency to feel guilty about wrongdoing, thereby avoiding that wrongdoing, versus the negative emotion experienced when someone actually commits some transgression.  The gist of the article discussing the research was that if you wanted trustworthy employees, look for people with a high level of guilt-proneness.

The comments that followed ranged from equating guilt to perfectionism, extreme self-awareness, or having a conscience to guilt being a toxic form of shame that destroys self-esteem.  Some spoke of religion using guilt to control people.

One gentleman said, “I don’t do guilt – such a loser’s emotion,” although later he said he was being “tongue in cheek.”  One woman said, “Then employers should hire more young, white men.  For 50 years feminism has portrayed them as being Guilty of Everything.”  Oh dear, no backpedaling from her.

Yes, the commentary can get a bit dicey to say the least.  And it’s important to note how most of us seized on the word “guilt” as opposed to “guilt-proneness,” and seemed to miss the distinction the researchers were trying to make.  I looked at the verb form of the word myself.

Semantics can muddy the waters of any communication.

I’m not sure how an employer would go about measuring guilt-proneness.  In fact, it seems you would have to entice people to do something wrong and then measure their reaction – avoidance or commission.  Which is what the researchers did.  How would you do that objectively in a job interview or in the workplace after hiring someone?

I do know an employer locally that requires applicants to take a personality test.  I think that’s a bit extreme, and having worked for that employer in the past I imagine the purpose of the test is to screen out any non-conformists.  They don’t want to hire anyone who might question authority or their profit motivations.  I think they will end up screening out the most creative and adaptive applicants and end up with a hive of drones, but hey, that’s just my view 🙂  They may measure “trustworthiness” as a completely different concept – “blind loyalty.”

It is an interesting article and context is important.  Like I mentioned, I looked at the verb as in “guilting.”

When I was a practicing RN, I did a literature review of nursing management journals.  Forty articles out of four hundred – 10% – were dedicated to describing methods for employers to take advantage of, or abuse, their staff.  One in particular was titled, “Manipulation, Making the Best of It.”  The article focused totally on using guilt as a means to take advantage of the staff.  Guilt is a powerful motivator for caregivers and management was encouraged to guilt their staff into working additional 12-hour shifts, accepting ridiculous patient loads, floating to units where they did not have expertise, not taking breaks, and even into not getting paid for their work.

One winter, after an extremely heavy snowfall, my ex was guilted by her employer into trying to go to work.  We lived out in the country and the roads were impassable.   She barely made it out of the driveway when she tried and had to put both of our cars in the ditch to finally absolve her of that boss-instilled guilt.

So while the article focused on how the propensity to feel guilt can be a reflection of the trustworthiness of employees, the question I would ask is if we can trust employers, or anyone else for that matter, not to use guilt as a weapon.  Maybe that’s a better measure of trustworthiness 🙂

***

Photo: I wasn’t sure what pic to choose for this one, but decided this innocent, young buck was a good one.  I was at a distance and made a slight noise to attract its attention.  He warily observed me, not knowing whether he could trust me not to do him harm.  Our eyes met for a spell, after which, he leisurely resumed his grazing.  I guess I somehow communicated that I meant him no malice.

Wavelengths

Have you ever noticed how you might be thinking about something, maybe even putting pen to paper to memorialize those thoughts, and then suddenly someone else says something that is exactly what was in your mind?  As if they had reached inside your head and grabbed it.

Or maybe, you had just read something that really intrigued you and suddenly material on that same topic starts popping up everywhere?  A friend recommends a book – same subject.  You see an advertisement for a TV documentary – same subject.  A billboard along the highway – same subject.  A blog post from a friend mirrors that same subject.

Affirmations from the world around us.  We’re on the same wavelength.

And none of this is related to some mainstream news cycle.  Maybe it’s about showing gratitude.  Or demonstrating generosity.  Or learning to smile at the beauty that surrounds us.

This seems to happen all the time, if we’re paying attention, and it happened again just the other day when my blogging friend Searching for Grady posted to her blog.  It’s a piece she calls, “Migratory Spirits” about the twelve virtues.

And it just so happens, I’m reading a book about the twelve virtues called, “The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living.”  The author, Joseph M. Marshall III, dedicates a chapter to each virtue.  Providing the Sioux word and pronunciation, and then telling some traditional stories to illustrate the concepts.

So we have:

Humility – Unsiiciyapi  (un-shee-ee-cee-yah-pee) to be humble, modest, unpretentious;

Perseverance – Wowacintanka (wo-wah-chin-tan-gah) to persist, strive in spite of difficulties;

Respect – Wawoohola (wah-wo-o-ho-lah) to be considerate, to hold in high esteem;

Honor – Wayuonihan (wah-you-v-knee-han) to have integrity, an honest and upright character;

Love – Cantognake (chan-doe-gnan-key) to place and hold in one’s heart;

Sacrifice – Icicupi (ee-chee-chu-pee) to give of oneself, an offering;

Truth – Wowicake (wo-wee-jah-keh) that which is real, the way the world is;

Compassion – Waunsilapi (wah-un-shee-lah-pee) to care, to sympathize;

Bravery – Woohitike (wo-oh-hee-tee-keh) having or showing courage;

Fortitude – Cantewasake (can-te-wah-sha-keh) strength of heart and mind;

Generosity – Canteyuke (chan-te-you-keh) to give, to share, to have heart;

and,

Wisdom – Woksape (wo-ksa-peh) to understand what is right and true, to use knowledge wisely.

Isn’t it amazing how these ideas seem to travel.  I don’t think it’s solely because of the Internet or modern communications either.  While we might look at these systems as being more dendrites in the collective nervous system, ideas seem to travel with or without exterior electronics.  We are all connected.  We may have just not realized how widespread collective thoughts manifest.

There are no coincidences.

I find it encouraging that at a time when there seems to be more division and hatred spreading like a cancer, that the twelve virtues have emerged.  Perhaps as the antibodies to defeat such infections.

May the thoughts and the actions from the virtues gain lightspeed 🙂

***

Photo: The sun rises over a rock formation in the Badlands.  A universal symbol.  The sun rising, a new day, new beginnings, a fresh start, we’ve embarked on a new journey.  These thoughts arise in everyone’s minds, synchronously, without the need to speak.  Perhaps a look into another’s eyes, the nod of a head.  Just knowing.

Sans Forgetica

As I was waking up with my morning coffee, I stumbled upon an article about a new, scientifically designed font.  The font intentionally makes reading the text a little more difficult.  And the reason it does this so is so you won’t forget the content.

“Sans Forgetica” means, you guessed it, “Without Forgetting.”

The principle behind the design is called “Desirable Difficultly.”  I guess I haven’t been keeping up with the educational research, or I’ve forgotten it, but this concept was credited to Robert Bjork back in 1994.  The basic idea is this: introducing difficulties into the learning process can significantly improve long-term retention of the materials learned.

Some examples of employing this technique in the classroom include: (1) spacing learning sessions apart – I guess that makes one review the material sequentially before the next lesson is given so you’ll know what the teacher is talking about; (2) more testing – although that seems old school; (3) generating – having learners produce the target material through an active process like making a puzzle; (4) varying – switching up learning environments; (5) disorganization – scrambling the material; and (6) fonts – making the material slightly harder to read.  Thus, San Forgetica.

I guess disorganization was part of the secret when I was in law school.  The instructors intentionally played “hide-the-ball” to force us to search out the answers.

Apparently deeper processing of material is better for us, and the long-standing approach to education of reducing material to its simplest form and spoon-feeding it to us has really been to our detriment.  The theorists supporting the theory of desirable difficulty go into a lengthy explanation of the differences between learning versus performance and retrieval strength versus storage strength.

I won’t go into all of that scientific analysis, but if you wish to read more, you can read this short article in Psychology Today – Desirable Difficulties in the Classroom.  And, here is link to a chapter of a book about learning authored by Elizabeth and Robert Bjork – Making Things Hard on Yourself, But in a Good Way: Creating Desirable Difficulties to Enhance Learning.

I guess this theory gives new meaning to the old adage of having to “learn things the hard way.”

And if you would like to download the font, you can find that here: Sans Forgetica.    I downloaded it, but apparently WordPress doesn’t support it so I can’t write this text in that font, but I was able to add it to my photo to give you this example.

Firework - Sans Forgetica

More fun for the world of writing 🙂

***

Photo: This pic is a one-second timed exposure during a fireworks display.  I just kept taking shots with the camera locked on a tripod and I eventually got some goods ones that froze that blink-of-an-eye flare of burning gunpowder 🙂

 

Framers, Federalists, and the Reality of the Administrative State

The Framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid the problems of the governments they were all running away from in Europe, so while they wanted a centralized government for certain functions, like taxation, printing a common currency and conducting wars, they also wanted less power in that centralized government to prevent abuses and more power vested in the individual states who theoretically would better be able to determine their specific jurisdictional policies and priorities.

They also wanted to form a Union, and concessions were required to get all of the states on board.

Of course, terminology in law is often stood on its head and “Federalism” has become one of those terms.  Federalism, generically speaks to the relationships between the federal and state governments and the original “Federalists” wanted some form of centralized government as opposed to those who did not.  But the term does not mean more “Federalization” of government, it means less.

The philosophy of the Federalist Society today advocates for a very limited federal government, for a strict constructionist view of the Constitution, and for strong adherence to the separation of powers doctrine.  That doesn’t sound so bad.

Except, “strict construction” and “strong adherence” are just as susceptible to legislative and executive manipulation and to judicial activism as is applying the “spirit” of the Constitution.  And laws and social policy are shaped and changed just the same by “textualists” as they are by “living documentalists.”

It is all a fight over words, definitions, and semantics, and it’s all highly partisan and politicized regardless of any faction claiming otherwise.

And, the reason I bring this up is because how this all intertwines with what has become the modern “Administrative State,” and the massive amount of power being wielded by federal and state agencies that weren’t created in the Constitution.  This seems not to have been contemplated by the Founders and certainly seems opposed to what modern-day Federalists all talk about.  So how did this come to be?

And again, standing language on its head we have the “Non-Delegation” doctrine flowing from Article I and the Separation of Powers doctrine.  So we have three branches of government that are supposed to stay put in their respective arenas, provide checks and balances, and not run around giving their authority away to the other branches or interfering with the authority of the other branches.

For example, Congress can’t pass a law that would allow the executive branch to pass legislation – they can’t delegate that authority away.  But the Non-Delegation doctrine has been stood on its head and has become a means of defining the opposite.  It is used to define just what authority Congress can delegate away and who gets to control that authority.

And while Congress largely gives away authority to the executive branch, it will at times, muck around with the authority of the courts by tinkering with structure and jurisdiction, and by dangling the power of the purse over the heads of the judiciary when they get upset over an unconstitutional law being struck down.

Turns out, the Constitution, over time, probably to the chagrin of the Federalists, has been interpreted to allow Congress to create executive branch level agencies.  They create agencies with what we refer to as “Organic” or “Enabling” statutes and while the agencies’ powers are limited by these statutes, Congress gave agencies a little boost by allowing them to promulgate “rules.”  And, gee whiz, rules, if properly promulgated, have the same force and effect as statutes.  Lawmaking.

When you think about it, Congress expanded the executive branch big time.  They created much more of it than the Constitution originally did and much more of it than people probably like.  And, then they delegated away some of their legislative power to the executive branch (rule-making), but we call this quasi-legislative authority.  And what the Legislature (Big “L”) giveth, it can taketh away.  Although changes may be slow.

This is true at both the Federal and State level and we have Administrative Procedures Acts at both levels to give agencies some guidance and fill in the gaps in the agency-specific Organic statutes.  And these procedures allow agencies to intrude into the Judicial branch too!  They give agencies quasi-judicial powers to hear and decide contested cases, subject to judicial review of course.

And guess what, since the executive branch enforces the law and agencies are by nature regulatory bodies, we naturally have executive prosecutorial functions as well.  So agencies can make the law, prosecute under that law, and convict you (so to speak) under that law, all under one roof.

Agencies do a little more than licensing and maintaining files of annual reports.

Of course, the legislature generally did not delegate any authority to agencies to run around imprisoning people as punishment for any types of violations, so once the agency “convicts” you, the only penalties agencies can implement have to be found in the statutes themselves or you have to go to court for yet another judicial proceeding.  The Sixth Amendment is still alive, for the moment.

Federal and State legislatures can’t be experts in everything and there is so, so much to regulate that we have evolved into a “Administrative State” that has multiple layers of regulation that come from authority delegated out to the Executive Branch by Congress or by State Legislatures.  And the executive agencies’ regulations and decisions are given considerable deference by the Courts because the agencies are the “experts” in their respective fields.

So while many people focus on the acts of the legislature, which is a good thing to do, they should also pay close attention to what’s happening at the state and federal agencies, because there is much more law and social policy setting going on there that has a much more immediate impact on the populous.  You can look at current environmental policies for example.

There, I just kind of laid out the framework for how agencies evolved.  I’m not trying to address how different administrations have used the agencies to implement particular agendas or the merits of specific agendas.  At least not today 🙂

***

Photo:  My pocket Constitution.  These things are good little tools to have and it might be wise to read the Document once and a while.  The Constitution is actually pretty short.  And pretty amazingly well done.  The development of the Administrative State has shifted major powers to the executive branch, and that is partly why administrations do receive so much attention – because of the dramatic effect they can have on people’s day-to-day lives.

BTW: On a personal note.  Federal and state agencies have administrative law judges to preside over the quasi-judicial functions and trials at the agencies.  For part of my legal career I was a state Regulatory Law Judge.

About a year and a half ago, I applied to make the registry of qualified applicants for Federal Administrative Law Judges.  My understanding is they get 12,000 applicants when they open the registry, which is only opened about once every five years.  And they whittle that number down to 200 with an objective examination process.

They have been doing this since 1920 to ensure they get qualified applicants and to minimize the politicization of the process.

The competitive application process consisted of a series of examinations conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  I made the list, scoring in that top 1.67% of the applicants 🙂 !! This didn’t guarantee me a position, but I could have been selected when there was a vacancy, subject to another interview process.

I recently received an email from the OPM informing me that our president, by executive order, terminated the competitive application process and eliminated the list of qualified applicants, thus doing what no other president has done since the registry’s creation and injecting politics into the selection process.  Selection by one, with no standard for qualifications.

Kind of sad, because the checks and balances set up by the Framers, and even those originally put in place by the independent branches, have been slowly getting whittled away, bit by bit . . .

 

 

A Question for the Women

I’m really not interested in getting into shouting matches or debates regarding a lot of political topics.  We all have views formed over time based upon our education, our individual experiences, and our peer associations.  We can agree or disagree, and do so civilly.  And we can also talk about more positive and enlightened subjects 🙂

But I am curious about a broader topic right now that was brought into the spotlight with the Senate confirmation hearings of Kavanaugh.

What I’d like to hear from the women out there is how you see the proper way for men to enter the discussion about credibility, double standards, and the elephant in the room – sexual assault.

Women are certainly justified with being outraged with men’s behavior and especially with the fact that men’s morally reprehensible and even criminal behavior appears to be accepted and, at times, even reinforced or rewarded.

I support women’s issues.  I support women professionals.  I helped to raise a strong daughter, although she came into this world with her own fire so I can’t take much credit there.

I’ve always tried to be respectful of all.  And I recognize that women do not “need” men to fight their battles.  They are fully capable of doing so themselves.

So, the question is, how would you like for men to help and support you?

Comments I’ve read have given me pause about even engaging in the discussion.  And I don’t think that is helpful because men do need to be involved, not only to control their own behavior and serve as examples of what it is to be a “good man,” but to influence what is and what is not going to be socially acceptable treatment of over half of our population.

Some of the comments I’ve read recently include:

“We don’t want men speaking up for us, that’s just another way for them to try to control us.”

“Just being a good man is the equivalent of doing nothing.”

“Any man who defends himself as being good, and not like the others, is insecure with his manhood.”

“You (men) should probably just sit this one out right now.”

 

Your thoughts and perspectives would be appreciated.

***

Great Blue Heron from the Net

Photo: The Great Blue Heron.  I found this picture on the internet in the public domain and could find no further attribution for it.  It was much better than my picture of a Blue Heron 🙂 I chose the Heron for this post because it symbolizes self-determination and self-reliance.  It also represents balance and the ability to progress and evolve.  I believe we all have these strengths and can use them together to the benefit of the community.

BTW: With Kavanaugh, it’s been pointed out that in our representative government, the Senators voting No for his confirmation to the court represented 182 million people, while those that voted Yes represented 143 million.  But we can save the discussion on the functioning or non-functioning of the system for another day 🙂

Bailer’s Point

Not so long ago, I read where the average American attention span was 8 seconds, or one second less than that of a goldfish.  Now clearly those of us who write would like for people to hang on just a little bit longer.  Below I attached some research I complied on the way people read materials on the web.

And when they reach their bailing point.

If you don’t find statistics interesting, you better stop here, but you might be just a little curious being a blogger how some may make it, or not make it, through your blog posts.

I’ve been trying to learn to write better to capture the reader’s attention, but the following is a bit academic and dry, if I do say so myself.

If you boiled it all down, you’d get the impression that our posts shouldn’t exceed about 170 words.  But I have faith that us bloggers do hang on and read, especially if we find the material of interest to us.

And that was 168 words – time to bail 🙂

***

In 2008, Professor Harald Weinreich, Ph.D. of the University of Hamburg published a study analyzing the way people read web articles and interact with web browsers.  The study concluded that the average attention span for humans viewing web pages was 8 seconds – that is 8 seconds before jumping to the next page.[1]

Internet browsing statistics demonstrated that: (1) 17% of readers would view a web page for less than 4 seconds; (2) viewers would only read 49% of web pages containing 111 words or less; (3) readers would only read, at maximum, 28% of the 593 words on an average web page, i.e. 166 words; and, (4) only 4% would view a page for more than 10 minutes.

The ten minute category is believed to be from those who left the browser open while doing something else.[2]

While these statistics certainly grab one’s attention about the lack of human attention span, detailed studies reveal more specifics on how people view and read materials – especially web-based materials.

The Nielsen Norman Group[3] has conducted extensive evidence-based research on human reading and human-computer interaction.  Their findings[4] expand upon the data collected in the Weinreich study and further reveal:

  • For each 100 words added to the initial 111, a highly literate (proficient) reader (reading 250 words per minute) adds only 4.4 seconds of viewing time, or only reads 18%, or 18 words of each 100 words, of the added verbiage.
  • Articles with less than 200 words are viewed for 30 seconds or less.
  • Articles with 1200 words are viewed for 80 seconds on average (a proficient reader (only 13% of the U.S. population based upon literacy studies) would read only 254 words).
  • On average, web page users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit – if they devote all of their page-viewing time to reading; 20% is more likely.
  • Studied readers only would read 10% of what they agreed to read.
  • Web readers spend 80% of their time looking at information “above the fold” – no scrolling to read the bottom of the page, and it is rare for users to read an entire page.
  • Readers attention – 78% focus on text initially, while 22% focus on graphics.
  • Generally, readers are drawn to headlines, article summaries and captions.
  • Readers will alternate reading between multiple web sites using interlaced browsing.
  • Users read fewer words on other sites than they do on newspaper sites.
  • Those readers who do read a “full” article only read 75% of the text.
  • Readers will spend 69% of their viewing time on the left half of the screen and 30% on the right.
  • Only 1% of a reader’s attention will be spent scrolling to view information not visible on the right-hand side of the screen.
  • Attention diminishes with each successive paragraph. Readers scan pages in an “F” pattern – following navigation bars and picking paragraphs to read. Thus, 81% of readers will scan the first paragraph, 71% the second, 63% the third and only 32% the fourth.  Twelve percent of users will scan the bottom of the page.[5]

The point at which a reader quits reading is often referred to as the “bailer’s point” or the “kick-off point.”[6]

***

[1] Wienreich, et al., “Not quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use,” ACM Transactions on the Web, Vol. 2, No. 1 (February 2008).  A 2013 Associated Press article citing to this research, and to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, reported that the attention span of a goldfish was 9 seconds. http://www.statisticbrain.com/attention-span-statistics.

[2] Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, the Nielsen Norman Group, “How Little do Users Read?” May 6, 2008.

[3] The Nielsen Norman Group is a business training, consulting and research group that tests computer interfaces, and researches user interaction with those interfaces. It focuses include internet design, interface design, application design, E-commerce design, information architecture, human-computer interaction, web writing and content strategy and intranet usability.

[4] Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, the Nielsen Norman Group, “Eyetracking Study of Web Readers,” May 14, 2000;  Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, the Nielsen Norman Group, “How Little do Users Read?” May 6, 2008; Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, the Nielsen Norman Group, “Scrolling and Attention,” March 22, 2010; Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, the Nielsen Norman Group, “Horizontal Attention Means Left,” April 6, 2010.

[5] Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, the Nielsen Norman Group: “Website Reading: It Sometimes Does Happen,” June 24, 2013 and “How People Read on the Web: The Eyetracking Evidence,” http://www.nngroup.com/ reports/how-people-read-web-eyetracking-evidence/; How People Read on the Web, National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities – citing to the Nielsen Norman Group, http://nichcy.org/dissemination/tools/webwriting/reading.

[6] Research various and attempts have been made to determine how interest level affects reading behavior.  In 2008, the Poynter Institute (journalism school) reported its eyetracking research that indicated that people will spend a maximum of 98 seconds per article they select to read, and read, on average 62% of the story.  http://www.poynter.org/extra/Eyetrack/keys_01.html.  A 2010 study, however, demonstrated that 57% of news users now go to digital sources to obtain news, but only 44% of Google News readers will read any text beyond the headline for the story.  Source: Outsell Research and Advisory Group, http://techcrunch.com/2010/01/19/outsell-google-news.

Photo: You might be wondering why I chose my picture of the Roadrunner.  Well, besides being beautiful and reminding me of tiny dinosaurs running around, they are very curious bids and they will hold their attention on you.  I think I had a little more time than 8 seconds to take this pic, so it’s attention span also exceeded the Average American 🙂

Roadrunner

Note:  In a former life, I prepared a rather extensive research study on a similar topic for a not-so-grateful employer.  Seemed a shame to waste it all so I tracked back to related data to use here 🙂

Link Rot: I can’t guarantee that any of the links to internet sites will actually take you to those original sites as time progresses.

 

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo set sail some 50 years after Columbus, leaving Mexico to discover a route to Asia and the Spice Islands.  On September 28, 1542 he sailed into what is now the harbor of San Diego.  He called the area San Miguel.

He would be dead some three months later, allegedly the result of infection from wounds sustained fighting with the Chumash Indians on Isla de la Posesion.  His mission unfulfilled.  He was considered to be the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States and this monument honors him.

Included in the monument is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse; World War II defense bunkers and gun batteries, and the Point Loma Tide Pools, which are host to an amazing ecosystem.  Point Loma is also passed by migrating gray whales every year, a round trip of 12,000 miles beginning in their Arctic feeding grounds for their return to the Baja California Sur Bays, their breeding coast.

While I was there, I hiked the Bayside Trail giving me a nice look over the Bay and many vessels navigating it.  I also headed down to the tidal pools, but the waters were too rough to really be able to see the marine wildlife.

The major contrast I saw between this area and the city life I’ve described in my prior two posts was that of calm.

The level of self and technological absorption really was significantly less.  Actual human interaction was up.  People were in awe of one thing.

The Ocean.

Yes, the ocean has that power over people.  It can slow their brains and sooth their souls.

Everyone just found a spot, had a seat, and it took it all in.  It really was quite amazing seeing the transition.

The Power of Mother Earth.

***

Title: I’m sure you noticed I’m using different languages for the word “Chapter.”  I was just having a bit of fun since I am coming across blogs of people speaking different languages.  I find the text to be beautiful even if I can’t read it.  I simply plug it in to Google Translator.  I wonder how the human mind internalizes a given language as we grow up.  Fascinating.

Prior Chapters: Contrasts – Kapitel 1 & Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Galleries:  And now a few photos from the day. 

Cabrillo 9 + C1

 

 

 

 

 

Diversity

I’ve always been amazed by the beauty and diversity of species in the world.  But as more information is gained, the more we find out just how similar we are.

With more DNA genomes being fully sequenced, we find that we share 44% of the same DNA profile with bees, 50% with bananas, 60% with fruit flies, 65% with chickens, 69% with rats, 70% with slugs, 80% with cows, 82% with dogs, 90% with cats and mice, 96% or more with chimpanzees, and 99.9% with the person sitting next to us.

And not so long ago a research team confirmed that a frog’s genome has between 20,000 and 21,000 genes, including more than 1,700 genes that are very similar to genes in people that are related to conditions like cancer, asthma, and heart disease.

There is even enough of a genetic overlap between humans and oak trees to show a common ancestor.

Yet we display such huge differences – not only in appearance but in behavior.

I believe the Native Americans have had it right all along when referring to all of Earth’s Creations as being All of Our Relations.

***

Photo: A Green Tree Frog that came to visit and shared my back porch for a while 🙂

 

 

 

 

Skyline

Nature is by far my most favorite place to be.  It is there I feel like I belong.  Like I am myself.

But there is beauty in everything if we choose to see it.  This photo is of the city-scape of San Diego from when I visited.  And it is mesmerizing in its own way.

***