Sunday, 30 June 2013

I Could Be Purple, I Could Be Anything You Like

Slight deviation from the theme.

OK, there was this:

And today is of course 30th June, so here i am:

This photo is, incidentally, a complete mess.  Sorry about that.  Anyway, yes, the blank signifier.

Today is also unusual in that i haven't made a video.  This is because a video made a week ago was scheduled for today.  Here it is:

Click to tweet: .  This deals with two common features of what might be called New Atheism or Dennett's atheism, and yes, i know Dennett is a philosopher.  I'm not saying either is a universal claim among the Brights.

The first is the proposition that theists lack belief in all other deities and are therefore atheist for all other deities.  This is not in fact how theists generally see things.  Roman religion assimilated Greek deities to their pantheon and the Greeks said the Egyptian gods were in fact their own in disguise, hiding from the titan Typhon.  That might be expected among polytheists.  However, a somewhat similar phenomenon occurs in henotheism and monotheism, in two different ways.  If one is inclusivist, one is likely to go with Ockham's Razor and see the idea of God as embodying many or all of the other deities, perhaps as a high god, similar to the idea that the planet Venus is the morning and evening stars or that electricity and magnetism are both real and both two manifestations of the the single underlying force of electromagnetism (and beyond that the electroweak interaction and so on).  Alternatively, one could go with a Zoroastrian-style approach and call the other deities demons or creations of the Devil - not something I'm keen on but the option is there.  Either way, we theists do in a sense believe in Thor, Luonnatar, Jumala, Ahura Mazda, whomever.

The second, and i need to go into more depth than i have here, is the claim that atheism is the lack of a belief in gods rather than the presence of the belief that there is no God.  There are a number of problems with this belief, but i'm reluctant to criticise them.  Academic philosophy defines it as the latter:  a specific belief that God does not exist.  The former claim would be rejected by academics in the relevant fields, with the odd exception of Daniel Dennett of course.  Dawkins and Hitchens, for instance, are not insiders in this respect, but this shouldn't lead to the rejection of the belief that they are mistaken.  I would say it makes more sense to see atheists of this ilk as attempting to produce some kind of "outsider art"-style approach to the established way of thinking which may also be manifest in other ways, and as such it's admirable in the same way as, say, Forteans are admirable, and i say that as a Fortean myself.  However, i want to get back to this subject later as i feel i've not given it justice here.

This has, as before, provoked a few responses.  I would like to follow up the issue of assumption versus positive assertion, but there's a more pressing issue, which is the conflict between polarised sides and the apparent desire to see the other in extreme terms while not addressing the issue of the common naivete of the approach of both sides.  This is in general a one-dimensional discussion and also a discussion not characterised by people listening particularly closely or respectfully to each other, as well as one focussing excessively on belief systems rather than practicalities and interpersonal dynamics.

Yesterday's video was a bit crap due to my fatigue, but is here:

Click to tweet: .  Right, some explanation here is in order.  This is A hogweed.  It may not be giant hogweed - Heracleum mantegazzianum - but common hogweed - Heracleum sphondylium - but i wouldn't want to risk finding out by touching it or eating it.  I suspect it's just a young specimen of giant hogweed which hasn't been destroyed yet.

Giant hogweed is an umbelliferous plant native to the Caucasus which is an invasive weed in Europe and North America.  The problem with it, healthwise, is that its sap causes severe blistering on the skin if it lands on it and the skin is exposed to daylight without it being removed.  It can also cause blindness if it gets into the eyes.  This is because, like many other umbellifers (also known as apiaceae), it contains psoralen, a chemical which causes DNA to break down in the presence of ultraviolet light.  It's also, unsurprisingly, carcinogenic and a mutagen.

I have personally experienced blistering from giant hogweed sap.  It caused a huge blister to appear on my hand which faded to a dark brown stain which lasted two or three years.  I still have a scar, which i show in the video, but it's probably only visible to me. The same happened to various friends of mine.

If you come into contact with giant hogweed sap, you should wash the area thoroughly with soap and water and avoid exposing it to light for three or four days.

However, psoralens are widespread in the apiaceae/umbelliferae, including celery, parsley, parsnips and fennel, and they have a therapeutic aspect in the treatment of the skin diseases psoriasis and eczema.  However, they do also increase the risk of skin cancer.  The treatment involving them is referred to as PUVA - Psoralen Ultra Violet A.

Oddly, although hogweed is dangerous, common hogweed at least is edible.  I personally wouldn't want to risk it.

I'm currently wondering, though, if it's unfamiliarity with hogweed which has led to the fear current in North America, because poison ivy and a whole load of other species seem pretty dangerous to me.  It's a risk, to be sure, but i walked about eight miles last weekend through several thickets of the stuff and was just careful not to let my skin come in contact with it.

The main problem with this video is that it's not a giant hogweed in it but a common hogweed.  Giant hogweed leaves are palmate and bigger.  Anyway, that's all for now:  see you tomorrow.

Friday, 28 June 2013


There you go:  back to the old title scheme for now.

If you're here for my ed phil, here it is in full:

The advantages of school are as follows:  charismatic teachers who can enthuse children about their subjects, the acquisition of useful skills which children wouldn't otherwise learn, a gradual process of increasing independence which occurs without parental intervention and the ability to escape from a harmful family environment.  It's important not to be reactive to the school environment, but these are relevant issues and should be addressed.

I freely chose to have them and the option existed not to bear children.  Therefore, I am responsible for their long-term wellbeing and education, along with other aspects of their life.  It would be irresponsible of me to hand those tasks over to strangers, regardless of their outlook or personality.  It may also be my duty to protect children at school from my own children: to prevent schoolchildren from suffering at their hands.  For instance, a child who is not being approached in an individually tailored manner may become disruptive and disturb the learning or positive experience of other children, or cause distress to adults involved in their education.

My approach has a tendency towards autonomy but is not entirely autonomous, and in fact i believe that complete educational autonomy is impossible.  It is important to offer children a wide range of educational opportunities in order that they can find what interests them and pursue it, and to an extent, to encourage them to learn skills which would not normally interest them, although it is also important to make such things seem relevant and interesting to them.

I do not believe a set curriculum to be appropriate for most children, although it may be for certain children who are not neurotypical where they thrive on routine.  However, such an approach could be compromised by school attendance if the child is not already institutionalised, as this could be a disruption to their routine.

In the following, I refer to the curriculum.  By this, I mean something analogous to what children are intended to learn explicitly in lessons and through homework at school, as opposed to the "hidden" curriculum.  A literal interpretation of the content of the National Curriculum is an example of what I mean by the word "curriculum".  I acknowledge that there are other kinds of curriculum which all children experience, which are tacit and reflect implicit values and goals which may or may not be congruent with the children's, family's or society's long-term health.

I wish to make these points regarding the curriculum in the sense outlined above.  It is problematic and inefficient in a number of ways:

There is a relatively narrow range of subjects.  Examples of subjects which are not covered include Philosophy, certain world languages and first aid. [Check this].  Philosophy is an innate human approach to apprehending reality and is implicit in all interaction.  It can be emphasised consciously but in a school setting this is often done in a relatively unreflective and formulaic manner.  Having said this, I would be in favour of P4C and critical thinking as part of this.  For example, Accelerated Learning is not Philosophy, nor is Neurolinguistic Programming or NVC.  This is not to criticise those programs, but there must be no confusion.
There is a presumption of inappropriateness for certain age groups and levels of development.
It is more difficult to exploit motivation if the curriculum is inflexible.
It is more difficult to present the subject matter of the curriculum at the appropriate level for individual children.  If it is pitched either too high or too low, it is likely to reduce motivation to learn and lead to anxiety, boredom or depression for certain children.
Children's own interests and talents are not easy to pursue.
It is more difficult for those whose task it is to deliver the curriculum to be creative or original within its structure.
It can be socially inappropriate.  For example, it may be more apt for a child to maintain or achieve competence in Gujarati as a second language than to do the same in French if their family has it as a first language.  Conversely, a situation where a child's family's mother tongue is French but the child is not permitted to pursue French at school because they have not been assessed as achieving a particular standard in an unrelated subject is plainly ridiculous.

As a result of this, I have no plans to include a formal curriculum in my educational plans for the children.  However, I do refer to curricula and syllabuses in order to ensure that they are learning in a relatively balanced way which is comparable to schooling, and I engage in retrospective assessment of the children's learning for the purposes of testimonial and the compilation of portfolios.

Social aspects of a relatively formal group learning exercise.

The appeal of school to many children is its social dimension, that is, the opportunity to meet friends and socialise with them.  This aspect is also widely acknowledged by adults in families associated with children educated otherwise than at school, and consequently my children participate in some formal communal learning.  The chief appeal of such an exercise may be the chance to interact with friends, and in such circumstances, children with an enthusiasm or aptitude for a particular area may be able to interest other children in them where a parent or other adult could not.  Moreover, a session undertaken with other children may be more interesting in itself than alone, and such possibilities as cooperative learning and role-playing  may emerge.  This is not so easy to reproduce at school due to its formal nature.  A common mindset among children at school is based on an opposition between adults involved in the learning process on one side and children on the other, which can lead to disruptive behaviour and the sense that academic work is boring and irrelevant.

My educational philosophy therefore includes the following ideals:

I aim to encourage my children to pursue their own interests in the full expectation that this will enable them to learn a wide variety of skills and acquire a similarly broad range of information in a motivated way during their childhood and prepare them adequately for learning as adults.  To this end, I facilitate their learning through conversation, activities and the provision of resources and opportunities, recognising that much of this is available in daily life where its application is clear and therefore easier to motivate and remember.  Their education is pursued in various environments, including home, workshops organised for children by organisations such as museums, libraries, leisure centres and art galleries, and activities arranged informally and formally with other families involved in education otherwise than at school.

The place of education for the children is emphatically not the home.  Whereas learning takes place in the home, it also takes place wherever the children happen to be.  The home is not a specific premise for education and this fact cannot be overstressed.  Family life does not end at the front door, nor does religion end at the church gate.  Similarly, education does not have a spatial location.

It should go without saying that I acknowledge the importance of social interaction with a wide range of other individuals in children's development.  This is often understood to be more difficult to achieve if a child is not at school.  To this end, I shall now set out a list of social situations in which my children have participated or still do so which provide such opportunities:

Interaction with relatives, friends and acquaintances who are currently going through school.

Youth clubs

Drama groups

Art groups


Martial arts

After school and out of school clubs

Attendance at church events

Musical activities

Participation in wider projects involving the general public, for example extras in film-making.

We never used it in anger because the LA never found out the children God lent us weren't at school.  This forms the doobley-do to the video, so i'll just post it:

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Jennifer, She Said

I really must change how i entitle these entries - it's getting very confusing!

In the meantime:

Click to tweet: ,  This is a response to Bryarly Bishop's video here: .  Basically, so far as i can tell, when i was "on the market" relationship-wise, there was no concept of the Friend Zone, but certainly it did seem to happen.  My attitude to relationships was totally different.  I decided that i needed to know someone really well as a friend first before i even thought about the possibility of a relationship with them.  This was because i couldn't see any way of deciding how i was compatible with them without this - otherwise it would just be based on physical attraction, which struck me as shallow (although there is a big but here which i'll go into some other time).  I also think people need to be comfortable with each other for a relationship to work, and that can best be achieved through friendship.  However, this strategy turned out to be an abject failure.  My first relationship was initiated after i'd known the person for about a year and a half, and it didn't work at all.  We both found it really stressful and horrible.  The next one was with someone i hadn't known before and was also pretty disastrous, partly because we didn't know each other.  Finally, my marriage was with someone i'd known for three years and has proven very successful.  So that last one is definitely a relationship that grew out of a friendship and has worked.

I can see that the kind of relationships which might develop between people who are friends could be problematic because they may be sibling-like or friendships and then need to be negotiated, but i still think it's worthwhile doing that.  It worked for us, so why wouldn't it work for other people?

This is the first time in ages i've deliberately made a response video.  I hope it stands alone because it's unlikely Bryarly will pick up on it and even if she does, it'll probably get swamped by all the other responses. I think i've probably just thrown away a day, but on the bright side i got it sorted before i even got up properly.  if you look closely at this:

it's apparent that i'm not wearing anything underneath the hoodie (and that i'm shaving my chest).  This is because i got up, pulled on a tracksuit and went and bought some coffee at an all-night supermarket immediately before making the video, meaning that it was all complete by 7 am.  This is also why the intro screen still has the "grow your own breasts" thumbnail on it.  This probably isn't going to help my chances of having my response approved one little bit.

Incidentally, i can't stand this hoodie because of the mock neck.  It makes me feel permanently uncertain about how much to zip it up, so i just use it as something to wear instead of getting arrested for indecent exposure.  It's equally annoying that it's branded "ELLE", because it just is unisex and sticking that pronoun on it is ostentatious genderisation, which is equally annoying come to think of it.

Anyway, enough of those trivia.  These trivia are more important to me:  i am either definitely developing breasts or definitely getting better at deceiving myself into thinking i have them.  I have a few concerns about all this.  Firstly, i'm wondering if it'll enlarge my prostate, cause obesity or lead to blood clots.  Secondly, i can't decide whether i ought to be wearing a bra.  I'm mainly concerned that shop assistants will think i'm the wrong kind of pervert.  I want to try wearing a bra because i think it might work in holding the things up, but also think bras are probably not a good idea in general for the physical health of the breasts.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013


Here we go:

Click to tweet:  .  According to Daniel Dennett, dreams are not experiences but more like false memories, and he links this to his general physicalist theory of consciousness.  My impression is that he feels that dreams are what the mind does with the junk in your head when you wake up, and that they are in fact false memories.  Whereas this is contrary to the common sense or received wisdom regarding dreams, it has a certain appeal to it.

A similar claim was made by Norman Malcolm quite some time before Dennett, as he is aware, and this claim was based on Wittgenstein's logically positivistic verificationist approach, which involved the concept that the meaning of a statement is determined by its use, and that if a claim is not verifiable or falsifiable it's meaningless.  Malcolm claims that because one cannot assert that one is asleep while asleep, dreams are not experiences.  This is of course problematic given that there are lucid dreams.  However, it certainly seems problematic to assert that an unrecalled dream is an experience as there would seem to be no way of checking this.  A sleep researcher might detect REM or an EEG trace characteristic of sleep, but that's not the same as an experience.

My own view on this is that it connects to the relationship between states of consciousness and reality.  Wakefulness is one kind of relationship with reality, which for instance involves linear time and a close temporal connection between events and their experience and the will.  Dreaming sleep involves a different relationship - there's a connection between the events perceived as linear by wakefulness and the mind, but of a different kind.  I don't consider any states of consciousness as having priority over each other, i think.  Hence research done while awake on a dreamer is merely research done wakefully rather than a clinchingly accurate judgement, as it cannot compete meaningfully with dreaming.  The same applies to research on one's own dreams while awake.  What would research on wakefullness while asleep look like?

I see there as being around five or six states of consciousness, none of which have priority.  In them, one has different relationships with phenomena.  Psychotic experience seems to mix them.

This was rather waylaid by not having finished Dennett's essay before i made the video.  I had further thoughts on the relationship between states of consciousness and time after i finished it.  So far, it has two views.  Two!  I can allow myself a factorial there since 2x1=2.  Maybe it's because i misspelt "wakefulness". It might pick up i suppose.

I think i need to go through the analytics and find out what's likely to be popular.  It generally seems to be gender-related stuff.  For some reason, the silicon-based life form video is a lot more popular than the other aliens vids though, so there's a different problem there, possibly to do with sharing or getting picked up by, what are they called, link aggregators?

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft

I keep thinking i've used titles before.  Come to think of it, i may have to come up with a new system.  Nonetheless, today's video was about our attempts, more or less, to call occupants of interplanetary craft, or should i say Carl Sagan's?

Click to tweet: .  There have been a number of attempts to send messages to aliens.  Some of the earliest involved the ideas of burning a message in desert sand with a giant magnifying glass and planting enormous fields with a pattern illustrated Pythagoras's Theorem.  A prize was once offered to the first person to demonstrate contact with aliens, although Martians were excluded as being "too easy"!

Carl Sagan seems to have been the first person to pursue the idea seriously, and as a result of his projects a total of five messages, including two duplicates, have been sent into space to this end.  These are as follows:

1 & 2.  The Pioneer Plaques.  These were launched with the Pioneer 10 and 11 probes in 1972 and 1973.  They include a drawing of a naked adult female and male in front of a diagram of the probe itself to indicate scale, a diagram of the Solar System with a schematic representation of the trajectory taken by the spacecraft, a star-shaped map of the distances to fourteen pulsars in the Milky Way for redundancy purposes, with their periods, and a picture of a hydrogen molecule to indicate the use of the "hydrogen line" of approximately 21 centimetres wavelength, which is used as a base unit for the other measurements on the plaque.  All numbers are in binary using a vertical line for a one and a horizontal one for a zero.  The Pioneer probes are currently heading in the directions of Taurus and Aquila.

3. The Arecibo Telescope Message.  This is a message sent via the radio telescope dish to a globular cluster M13 about 25 000 light years away.  It includes the numbers from one to ten, the elements present in DNA, the formulae of the compounds making it up, the population of the planet at the time, the number of bases in DNA, a graphic representing the double helix, a human figure and a picture of the Arecibo dish itself with the size underneath it.  The Arecibo telescope has since been used to send a genome sequence for a photosynthesis protein.

4 & 5.  The Voyager Golden Record.  This is a conventional gramophone record made of metal with recordings in sound and images of greetings in various languages, music and photographs of scenes from this planet.  It has an engraving reading "To the makers of music - all worlds, all times" on the playout groove.  It was common to scratch messages on the master discs of records at the time, but this almost got the record banned for some reason.  There are instructions similar to the Pioneer Plaque on the sleeve of the record.  The Voyager probes will both be relatively near two different red dwarves in the vicinity of the Sun in about 40 000 years, not because of their speed but because the stars concerned are both moving towards this solar system quite fast.

Finally, in 2008, a Ukranian radio telescope sent the contents of Bebo for one day to the star system Gliese 581, where it should arrive in about 2029.

Tags:  messages, aliens, extraterrestrials, ET, alien, extraterrestrial, carl sagan, voyager golden record, pioneer plaque, CETI, SETI, space, voyager, pioneer, binary, hydrogen line, arecibo, arecibo telescope, bebo, communication, signal, pulsars, pulsar, space travel, galaxy, sagan, gliese, ross, wolf,

This is quite possibly the worst thumbnail i've ever made.

I should probably say something about the pregnancy vlog, and the whole project in fact.  I ended up not making one last week and i think the reason is twofold.  Firstly, i feel inhibited doing it with other people in the house.  Secondly, every week it gets harder to do.

Right:  that's it.  Tomorrow's video will probably be on one of the regrets of the dying.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme.

Primarily the antepenultimate.  Something is affecting my mood, and that may be it.  I've run out of Trifolium pratense and have had to resort to the annoyingly antihidrotic Salvia officinalis.  Today's video has yet to be made, but right now i'm seeing things from the underside and it all seems pretty immaculate, to be honest. I feel like i'm putting in all of this effort and have nothing to show for it.  My hair and fingernails grow faster than my views and subs.  I feel like i'm trying to cross the Atlantic at that velocity.  Geological scales of time are necessary to detect substantial change.  Nor is it exponential.  There's just a very gradual linear progression, if that, and judging by yesterday's figures, the peak was last month and now i'm on the way out. I'm not sure if things work that way.  There is clearly a half-empty thing going on, but daily views are currently at the highs of six months ago, which sounds OK except that i have three times the number of videos and many more subs, so that's actually worse per viewer or video as a mean, although of course the latest videos are always more watched.

I need to know more about rhetoric.  For whatever reason, i'm currently focussing much more on the human interactions between people than the things.  I'd like to pin down what's going on in that it may be psychosomatic, or rather, psychopsychic, but it's there.  Rather more hinges on this than usual because the truth would almost certainly be relevant to difference feminism.  If i really am changing my perspective on the world pharmacologically through the stimulation of my oestrogen receptors, and if it really is becoming more anthropocentric, that's a major paradigm shift for me, or at least a vindication.  I also wonder about my endocrine system.

On with the videos though:

Click to tweet: . Drugs can be "recreational" or therapeutic, although the recreational variety can also be seen as self-medication. Recreational drugs can be further divided according to legal status. Because they are more widely used, legal recreational drugs cause more harm than illegal ones. These include caffeine, ethanol and nicotine. Drugs with more restricted legal status include heroin, Cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, LSD and other hallucinogens.

A purified drug works like a key in a lock, the lock being the receptor for the drug, which is rather like a sensor. They can be defined as substances which have an action on the body, although this is such a loose definition that it could be applied to a granite boulder falling on the head. Extending the key analogy, some drugs unlock the locks and others get stuck in the locks and prevent them from unlocking. Caffeine, warfarin and coumarin are in the latter category. Other "keys" work better than the real key, one example being heroin, which is more fat-soluble but would be digested if swallowed, rendering it no more effective than morphine, so it has to be injected. This leads to the major problems of the introduction of foreign insoluble matter into the bloodstream along with various substances which don't belong there and unsafe methods of injection.

Dependence, or addiction, is caused by the drug leading to the body becoming "lazy" and relying on the drug, a possible problem with Echinacea for example. This means that when the drug is no longer available, the body has trouble readjusting.

This is all rather a sketchy view of drugs, so i'll make a more complete one later. Sorry about that.

I think what i may have done here is confuse AQA IGCSE Science with Biology.  Also, this feels incredibly light and sketchy to me, but maybe it's because it's so much my home territory.  It feels like i'm saying nothing new at all.  I'll have to have another go at this because of its lack of substance.

Tomorrow, i think i'll add to the Aliens playlist.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Nobody Home

Or maybe, 'Is Anybody Home?'.

The channel has been on automatic pilot for the weekend.  This is a little worrying but it's also interesting to see how it performs without my intervention.  There's a two-day lag though, so the results aren't properly back yet.

So, the past few vids look like this:

(I hope that fits in).  The penultimate video on this list has eleven views.  The final one has two, which is annoying as i put a lot more effort into it.  'One God Fewer?' was recorded in a tent this morning and will be published on (8007).

This brings up the major issue of today, within the context of my own little world.  Today is (8000)!  Since this is the closest i currently have to a diary, that deserves commemoration here.  I should probably try digging out the first entry.

Someone else expressed surprise that my videos are so unpopular:

To be honest, time probably won't make much difference.  Here's the monthly trend since last July (or whatever it's called):

(The last figure represents an incomplete month).  At first, this looks like good news.  However, look at May.  It's fewer than June in spite of being a day longer, so whereas at first this looks like a cheerful slope upwards, it could also be that i've peaked and am now in decline.  Given current trends, i should expect 6885 (decimal) views this month - oh, incidentally i was wrong about the 8000 date.  April has 7515, May 7433, so given the decline expected between May and June, i should be completely unwatched by about July next year.  However, since i'll probably be dead by then it doesn't matter.  It's a shame my channel hasn't been more of a success, but death means letting go of everything, so i should probably let go of this as well.  It's still a shame i waste so much time on it though.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Harlem Shake

If i say much about this, it'll make it worse than it already is, so:

Click to tweet: .  Martin Heidegger was the foremost twentieth century proponent of existentialism and phenomenology, but is for some reason less celebrated than Jean-Paul Sartre.  It's impossible to do justice to him in a five-minute video, but i've tried to here.

Heidegger saw the fundamental problem in the history of Western thought from Socrates and Plato onwards as being the confusion of Sein and Seiende, or of Being and beings, in that there had been a universal mistake of identifying a single set of entities or a single entity with being or existence as a whole.  In order to ask the Seinsfrage, the question of the meaning of being, we need to be able to frame it appropriately.  Once this has been done, the answer seems to be that our life is given meaning by our limitation and the inevitability of our death.

I can, however, say something about the title of this entry, among other things.  Firstly, the Harlem Shake fad, which of course i ignored.  Though i had no interest in jumping on the bandwagon, i couldn't've done even had i wanted to due to the difficulty of filming myself over and over again and compositing it.  I simply have no idea how to use the necessary software and lack the time to learn.  This is one problem with uploading daily videos.

This has also been jokingly described as pornographic and has revealed that there's someone called Rachel Heidegger, of whom i'd not formerly heard.

I feel i have somewhat misrepresented Heidegger in this, but think that's almost inevitable. Then again, well, er...

Regarding the twerking, i'm sure it's rubbish but that probably matches the incompetence of what i'm saying about Heidegger anyway, so that's probably quite appropriate.  A bit of background music wouldn't've gone amiss.  This is also the longest-planned video on this channel.  I think i came up with the idea sometime last autumn.  However, as usual it's not well-executed.  I keep feeling i'm really close to making good videos and falling slightly short, and it's not even that i don't know what would improve them - i just don't do it.

There will now, of course, be a short intermission caused by our visit to Dovedale.  However, i'll be taking the camera, perhaps ill-advisedly, well wrapped-up, so there may be some videos from it and if not, well, there'll be a new camera presumably.  As to how that will happen, i'm keeping stumm.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


There are three videos in this blog entry.  Two of them are scheduled for the weekend and are therefore thus far unviewable.  However, here's today's:

Click to tweet:  .  This is a follow-up to my previous video on using the stethoscope, which is here: .  I wanted to address certain shortcomings in the previous video as well as talk more specifically about auscultating the heart.

The heart is not in a fixed position in the chest but moves around according to the position of the body and its internal movements and condition.  Consequently, it can be easier to hear certain heart sounds in particular positions, such as supine, lying on the left hand side and leaning forward having fully exhaled.  Heart sounds originating from different valves are also more easily heard in some places on the chest, although here there is a lot of overlap.  The tricuspid is best heard at the inferior sternum, the mitral valve on the left costal margin and the aortic along the right border of the sternum, particularly in the second intercostal space.  It's important to bear in mind that the heart can be enlarged or displaced, in which case the sounds may be best heard elsewhere.

A heart murmur is caused by turbulence, and they can be found in healthy people quite often.  It's thought that almost everyone has a heart murmur at some point in their life regardless of their health.  Physiological heart murmurs include a systolic murmur in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood and an aortic systolic murmur in people from middle age upwards.

This should not be used as an alternative to seeing your doctor or other healthcare professional.  If you're worried, go and see someone.

Midsystolic murmurs are usually semilunar in origin.  They occur after the first heart sound and before the second, with a gap between them and the sounds.

Pansystolic murmurs occur at the same amplitude throughout and bridge the gap between the first and second heart sounds.  They are due to regurgitation across the atrioventricular valves.

Late systolic murmurs start between the two and continue until the second, and may be preceded by a click.  These are associated with mitral valve prolapse.

Diastolic murmurs are the result of early regurgitant flow across incompetent semilunar valves.  Finally, mid-diastolic and pre-systolic murmurs are to do with atrioventricular turbulence, as are late diastolic ones.

This is a follow up to the previous stethoscope video, which was quite successful.  However, unfortunately it was the third video i made today and i was knackered (not in the testicular sense, sadly), so it's probably not as good as it might be.  It could have done, for instance, with a few diagrams.  Of course, it's also remarkable in that it displays my chest in various positions quite prominently, certainly in a gross way, but is still completely mysterious regarding gynaecomastia.  I mean, well, a picture is worth a zagier words.  Here's one from the start:

Then another from a bit later:

Obviously this has a rather nastily hairy cleavage, but for all i know i had one in that position anyway.  Finally, there's this:

Two things then:

  • A cleavage is like a lap, in that it disappears and is basically not a real part of the anatomy.
  • These could just be moobs.

Now for the video after next.  First of all, here's a sneak preview screenshot:

This will be Saturday morning's video, and here's the doobley-do:

This is why i hate holidays.  I just wanted to get this off my chest.  I can't make or upload a video this Saturday because i'm on holiday and i'm worried this will mean the channel will lose momentum.  As far as i'm concerned, if they're in England or Wales, they're a waste of money, time and really stressful.  I can't understand why anyone ever goes on holiday here.

The link is here, though it won't work until the day after tomorrow.

This is just a brief rant of course.  The more serious video is Sunday's:

Link (live on Sunday) is here.  Doobley-do here:

Click to tweet:  .  According to existentialists, the most distinctive thing about human life is that we are aware of our own existence and ask questions about it (or is it just that we philosophers do that and prioritise that over other important aspects of human existence?).  We find it hard to be detached about our existence and its end.  It's a protest against the view that we are merely things, and a demand to take personal experience seriously.  Existentialism is at base an attitude towards human life which emphasises immediate, real-life experience along with encountering others and understanding our finitude.  Kierkegaard stressed the importance of individual decision and an awareness of the limits of human existence, for example.

Heidegger made a distinction between inauthentic and authentic existence.  This was taken up by Rudolf Bultmann in his theology.  He contended that the gospels reveal the Christ of faith, i.e. the Christ myth developed by the early Church, and not the historical Jesus.  He contrasts Historie with Geschichte.  The former is the objective, factual account of historical events, the latter the meaning that people choose to give to those events.  Bultmann maintained that the New Testament needed to be demythologised - stripped of its prescientific imagery - before its significance can be personally interpreted.  Biblical hermeneutics is an enquiry into the reality of being.  Bultmann's central concept was Kerygma - the essential message and proclamation of the New Testament regarding the significance of Jesus Christ.

The New Testament recognises inauthentic existence - an attempt at self-sufficiency which it calls "sin" in English translations.  Authentic existence is the abandonment of security and self-sufficiency.  We abandon faith in this transitory world and embrace our finitude and the inevitability of death.

Tags:  Christianity, god, existentialism, atheism, authenticity, inauthenticity, heidegger, freedom, death, finitude, faith, theism, kerygma, Kierkegaard, Bultmann, historie, geschichte, sein, seinsfrage, christ, christ myth, church, salvation, sin, Jesus, historical jesus,

Click to tweet is of course missing, but i'll get that sorted in a second.  This once again misses the point somewhat, i think, and it is of course also rather unfortunately my first video on existentialism, but doesn't include a dance.  Therefore, it looks like tomorrow's video is going to have to be 'Twerking To Heidegger' at last.  Yay!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013


Today's video:

Click to tweet: . Today, 19th June, is International Sauntering Day, which is supposed to be a day for slowing down and taking time to smell the flowers, as Wikipedia puts it. I am myself a very lazy person, but find this very hard to do, which sounds contradictory. It was invented by someone in the 1970s as a reaction to the frenetic activity of jogging. I feel ambivalent about it, to be honest.

This is obviously a blatant attempt at cashing in on a current event, although a rather obscure one.  Nonetheless it is mildly interesting.

I now have a problem:  i'm going away at the weekend.  However, i think i also have a solution:  two scheduled videos.  I was originally going to make videos while away but come to think of it i could just do that instead of, or as well as, making videos while in the Peak District.  One of them will definitely be about hating holidays, i think.  I won't be able to post them, share them or anything.  Apart from my subscribers, people won't watch them, and it's all because i have to go away.  It's a real bummer.  I hate holidays so much! AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Sugar Hiccup

Click to tweet: .  The endocrine system, along with its hormones, is one of three systems particularly closely associated with activating, controlling and integrating.  As usual with IGCSE and GCSE secondary school-level stuff, we're expected to oversimplify and tell half-truths, so that's what i'm doing here.  Examples of what i've not mentioned include the other organs that produce hormones, such as the stomach, kidneys and heart, various hormones produced by the body generally such as the eicosanoids, and several hormones produced by the glands mentioned that i've not gone into.

A hormone is a substance produced by an organ in the body which has an effect at tissues distant from that organ.  They are produced by "ductless glands", which are distinct from glands such as sweat, breasts (mammary) and salivary, which empty their secretions into the external environment because instead they release them into the bloodstream.  Several of the glands are really several combined organs rather than simple glands with one function, and they may or may not occur in pairs.

The gonads are part of the reproductive system and maintain fertility and secondary sexual characteristics.  It's been fairly common for medical texts to regard the male body as standard and only to refer to the female body where there are significant differences linked directly to reproduction.  I've chosen not to do this here, so you've just got this ugly hairy bloke instead.  Both kinds of gonads secrete testosterone and oestrogen (estrogen) but in different quantities relative to each other.  Progesterone maintains pregnancy and oestrogen the secondary sexual characteristics as well as leading to the changes of puberty and sexual differentiation in the foetus towards the female pole (though not all the way - the most feminine individuals are genetically male), and testosterone does the opposite.  Masculinity is determined by the addition of testosterone, which causes deviation from femininity, which is the "norm" for the human body.  All these hormones are steroidal.

The adrenals are a pair of glands sitting atop the kidneys and are in fact each a pair of glands:  the cortex, which is on the outside, and the medulla in the centres.  The medulla secretes the well-known flight or fight hormone adrenalin, also known as epinephrine, which triggers the fear response.  It's also, like some other hormones, a neurotransmitter found in the nervous system, which is also derived from the same types of cells as endocrine glands.  Adrenalin is an amine - it has an NH2 group on its molecule.  The outer cortex is responsible for the steroidal hormones including the one most often referred to as "steroids", which is anti-inflammatory and also enables one to deal with longer term stress in a broad sense which includes disease and climatic extremes as well as the emotional type.  These are the corticosteroids.

This is annoying.  Here's my video:

Slightly above and forward of the adrenals is the single pancreas, which is also the source of most digestive enzymes.  The pancreas secretes insulin (which i talk about here: ) and also glucagon and gastrin.  All of them are involved in the movement of nutrients.  Insulin is a peptide hormone.

The thymus is over the heart and calcified in adults.  Its original role is the activation of T killer cells but it stops working during childhood.

The thyroid and parathyroids are in front of the throat superior to the breast bone or sternum and i mention the former here: .  Like the adrenals, this is a case of two glands in the same place but unlike the adrenals they're considered to be different organs.  The thyroid secretes and stores amine hormones which are in fact unusually-structured amino acids containing iodine which basically regulate how fast processes take place in the body.  There are several thyroid hormones which also act as a circulating store of thyroids, including triiodothyronine, T2, and thyroxin, which is the most active.

The head contains two endocrine glands.  The pituitary is at the centre of the head and has a front and a back part.  It mainly secretes peptide hormones, including growth hormone and various hormones which regulate the other endocrine glands, which it is itself stimulated to secrete by the hypothalamus, part of the brain just above it which secretes its own hormones and is sensitive to changes in the levels of other hormones in the bloodstream.  The back of the pituitary secretes antidiuretic hormone, which stops the kidneys from excreting too much water, and oxytocin, which is connected to labour and breastfeeding.

Finally there is the pineal gland, so called because it looks like a pine cone.  This is a former eye, but is buried deep inside the head.  The pineal, like the thymus, is often calcified in adults and is rather mysterious, although it seems to regulate wake-sleep cycles and secretes melatonin.

This is annoying.  YouTube wouldn't accept my tags or the length of my doobley-do, or my thumbnail, for no apparent reason.  For what it's worth, here's my thumbnail as a JPEG:

This is not a particularly good thumbnail but it's better than nothing.  I may repost later to see if YouTube has mended its ways.

On the subject of YouTube, the creator academy course is now over and i'm none the wiser as to how i was supposed to participate, so that's that really isn't it?  I've probably blown it in some way but to be honest i don't think anything can save this channel from obscurity, which is a bit of a bummer considering how much work i've put into it, but anyway.

Slightly more positively, yesterday's video on logical positivism and post-structuralism, which has understandably been misunderstood, provoked a lot of debate and interest.  Here it is if you've missed it:

Click to tweet: .  One of the frustrating things about debates concerning religion is the naive level of discussion that passes for intellectual discussion.  This is not an elitist view - the normal philosophical basis of argument about religion is based on completely different principles than the terms of debate assumed by both Dennett-style atheists and fundamentalists describing themselves as Christian.  Here, i'm presenting two ways of looking at it familiar to people outside the popular debate which are unaccountably ignored by those within it.  I happen to disagree strongly with both, but the point i'm making is that people don't even look at the questions in interesting ways.

Logical positivism is an outmoded view in analytical philosophy which claims that statements are cognitively meaningful only insofar as they express analytic truths, are axiomatic or empirically verifiable.  Wittgenstein tends to have a lot in common with its views, though he's not himself logically positivist.  In terms of logical positivism, a statement regarding religion on either side is meaningless, i.e. nonsense.  It may be grammatical and include only words in the dictionary, but so does "colourless green ideas sleep furiously".  Therefore, a proposition such as "God does not exist" or "God exists" is simply meaningless, not false, or true.  We can't argue about whether colourless green ideas sleep furiously or not.  I suppose there's a nod to this in the invisible pink unicorn.

The other view, and i would maintain this is only another example and there are plenty more where these came from, is poststructuralism.  Religion and scientific realism are both totalising discourses - grand narratives which attempt to give accounts of everything.  The terms within them are defined by other terms and there is eventually a circle.  It's impossible to step out of the system, choose between the systems or construct a separate system which is more objective or has a higher standard of truth.  Therefore, once again the debate is futile and naive.

Tags:  atheism, debate, religion, christianity, god, logical positivism, naive, theism, wittgenstein, meaningless, nonsense, post-structuralism, structuralism, grand narratives, totalising discourse, meaning, definition, philosophy, invisible pink unicorn,

This video was adversely affected by pressure of time.  It was originally supposed to be a review of Don Cuppitt's horizontal theology but i ended up only having about half an hour to do the whole thing, so instead of that i chose to summarise two philosophical positions which clearly cut across the oddly one-dimensional discussion taking place between the two groups of people i mention here.  This proved to be confusing because it was interpreted as my advocacy of the positions i mention whereas my intention was really to illustrate the narrowness and, in my view, naivete of the current popular debate, which strikes me as about jejune celebrity positions rather than the ideas, and the argument frequently seems to be about the fierceness and aggression rather than dialogue.  So, i uploaded this.  The fact that i disagree with both positions strongly helps my point:  i decided to attempt to describe them fairly because there's too little of that around.  The result was that it was misunderstood, i think.

Tomorrow, i might just make a video about breasts.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Happy Birthday

(The Altered Images version of course).

The following video was made a couple of minutes after i got up and before i had my daily caffeine fix:

Click to tweet:  .  This is a webcam video, unfortunately, for National Diabetes Week.  Sorry, it's Sarada's birthday today and i ran out of time.

That should explain why it's like that.  Yes, today Sarada is four dozen and eight so i have but little time, though i'm also aware of the need to talk about diabetes during National Diabetes Week and this is the only chance i have to cover that, so here it is.

I will very probably return to the subject soon though.  Tomorrow has to be a spirituality vid, so that's what it'll be - probably on something around the subject of the Sea Of Faith, with which i disagree quite strongly but at the same time admire as an intelligent approach to contemporary issues of religion, as opposed to the joint approach of Dunnett-style atheism and Christian fundamentalism, which basically agree on most things.

Here are a few of my plans:

8020 (i think):  Something around the Sea Of Faith movement.
8021:  A Big Science biology video.
8022:  Dunno.
8023:  Webcam Wednesday.
8024:  Something crammed in around the pregnancy vlog (geddit?)

And more specifically on subjects, there's Sanskrit, more detailed information on cardiac auscultation, the long-awaited (by me!) twerking to Heidegger video, and so on.  Right now, everything has fled my mind, but it's all in there.  Oh yes, something on arthritis.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Exquisite Corpse

Took me ages to think of a title for this and even now it's obscure!


Click to tweet: .  Whooping cough (pertussis) is an unusually straightforward infection which nonetheless needs to be treated differently from most other acute respiratory infections.  Usually, coughs need to be helped in one way or another as the body's natural way of ridding itself of pathogens, but in the case of whooping cough, or pertussis, the problem is the cough itself, so the cough, unusually, needs to be suppressed.  This happens with some other respiratory conditions, such as pulmonary tuberculosis, but among acute complaints it's unusual and in other cases would risk the patient developing pneumonia because the microorganisms would then be more able to move downwards into the lungs.

Most of what happens in pertussis is down to the cough itself.  Diphtheria pertussis produces a toxin referred to as pertussin which triggers the cough reflex.  Unfortunately, it does so in amounts which do so excessively, thereby increasing the probability that it will be distributed to other respiratory systems via droplet infection.  This excessive coughing is particularly harmful for children and smaller adults because their respiratory passages are narrower, causing friction, damage and complications such as asphyxiation, pneumothorax, anal prolapse, subconjunctival haemorrhage and brain damage.  Therefore the answer is to repress the cough reflex.

This can be done using wild cherry bark, which is anti-tussive because like many members of the Rosaceae such as apples, almonds and apricots, it contains cyanogenic glycosides - compounds which release cyanide groups when digested.  This suppresses respiration, i.e. the process whereby energy is released from glucose, in this case making the cough reflex less sensitive.

Other options are Inula helenium - elecampane - which stimulates the mucociliary escalator and clears the lungs, and the relaxing expectorants Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice/liquorice) which raises blood pressure and should therefore be used with caution, Verbascum thapsus, also known as mullein, which is a more straightforward relaxing expectorant, and the Schedule Three herb Lobelia inflata.

Tags:  Whooping cough, pertussis, cough, respiratory infection, complications, droplet infection, treatment, contagious, pneumothorax, anal prolapse, lung damage, sleep, exhaustion, pertussin, toxin, diphtheria pertussis, pathogen, germs, bacteria, mullein, cherry bark, cyanide, glycoside, herbs, herb, remedies, remedy, Prunus serotina, licorice, liquorice, Glycyrrhiza, glabra, verbascum, thapsus, lobelia, inflata, natural, health, cure, problems, illness,

This video was the result of a request after my stethoscope one, which has proven relatively successful at six dozen and two views so far.  I could go on to upload videos on each of the common childhood infectious diseases spread by droplet infection in the developed world, but i probably won't.  A more pressing issue is the fact that it's national diabetes week and i've completely missed it and am likely to continue to miss it due to other commitments such as Sarada's birthday and making a video on religion or spirituality for Sunday.  Even still, there is presumably someone who now has a video on whooping cough, which she wanted, though whether she can use it is another matter.

On a slightly related note, for some reason i use the American spelling for licorice.  I suppose the Commonwealth spelling annoys me, but pulling at that thread would have me use American orthography for more or less everything.

On reflection, i think tomorrow will be a webcam upload about diabetes mellitus.  It's better than nothing and since it's Sarada's ybirthday on the morrow, it'd be wise so to donne.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Start Me Up

It so happened that yesterday's video has turned out to be quite popular.  I'm going to conclude from that that medical examination and physiology videos do well.  In the meantime, someone has asked me for one on whooping cough, so that's tomorrow's.

Here's today's:

Click to tweet: .  Microsoft, XBox One, XBox 360, Sony, Nintendo, Wii, Apple, Windows, Vista and all other brands and trademarks appearing and mentioned in this video are the intellectual property of their respective owners and no infringement is intended.  Fair use justification is their inclusion for review purposes alone.  This video is not monetised.  The rumours about the Microsoft XBox One have worried a lot of gamers.  Specifically, it's said that current plans include no backwards compatibility, being online all the time to prevent games being rendered permanently inactive, not allowing games to be passed on more than once and a Kinect sensor which detects facial expressions and heartrate along with a microphone, all of which could hypothetically be used to invade privacy and target advertising.  This really reflects Microsoft's drift towards a licencing model for software, where software is not owned by its users but merely rented.  However, i feel the rumours may be disingenuous on their part as it may be presented in order to make people feel that their real position is more acceptable.  It really comes to something when Microsoft are more controlling than Sony.

Unlike most people, i actually quite like Windows 8 because its system requirements are lower than 7's or Vista's.  My impression was that Microsoft had made this decision because the recession meant people were less likely to buy new or more expensive PCs or tablets but might consider buying a new O/S.  In that sense, it was quite a sensible decision.  By the same token, the decision regarding the XBox One seems very unwise.  Breaking backwards compatibility, insisting on a reliable internet connection, not allowing games to be passed on and charging over £400 for a console during a recession is very silly and surely must fail.

This whole thing is also a form of usury.  Thomas Aquinas saw the moral repugnance of usury as being based on the fact that it involves charging for the use as well as the purchase of something, which is what this does.  This is also practiced in banking and is a good reason why that might be considered immoral.

Tags:  xbox, microsoft, xbox live, xbox360, 360, one, xbox one xboxone, xbox 360, gaming, gamer, windows, windows 8, sony, playstation, ps4, usury, wii, open source, control, privacy, kinect, unfair, ownership, licensing, licencing, licence, rent, computer games, recession, operating system, o/s, price, money, greed, compatibility, lending, spying, expensive, sin, thomas aquinas, church, scholastic philosophy, philosophy, ethics,

I've never mentioned gaming before, even in deleted videos.  The closest i've come is Windows 8.  I also feel this video has left a lot unsaid, so there may be more, but not before one on whooping cough, which is rather pressing.  I'm annoyed with myself that i said Augustine instead of Thomas Aquinas.  I probably didn't make the best of the XBox 360 either, and i've gone in a weird direction with it.

I eventually managed to make a pregnancy video today but i feel sort of inhibited about it.  It has yet to be uploaded and i may give it another go.  Somehow i can't quite hit the spot because of self-consciousness and it gets quite uncomfortable.  I'm also getting notes together on male breasts because the question of whether or not i have gynaecomastia is currently doing my head in completely.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Doctor, Doctor

I should probably explain this video because it's clearly quite unpopular:

Click to tweet: .  Stethoscopes are - well, oddly named for a start for an instrument you're not supposed to look through.  But besides that, they have a history involving increasing distance between doctor and patient while the casual distance between members of the public was shrinking elsewhere, and a minor subculture of their own rather like a dress code.

Leaving all that aside though, they are useful diagnostic and educational tools, used for the auscultation of the heart, respiratory and digestive systems, thyroid and elsewhere.  They can be used to assess thyroid dysfunction, borborygmus, heart murmurs, other heart problems and diagnose a host of other health problems as well as auscultation of normal, physiological phenomena such as the mammary and placental souffle, sinus arrhythmia and splitting of the heart sounds.

Two views so far.  I made this for two reasons.  One was that the lung volumes video is quite popular (this one:

) with six hundred views.  The other is that like this video:

it was basically the only video i could really make in the circumstances.  Lack of time meant that my immediately prior activity was getting ready to examine and actually examining a patient's cardiovascular system, so it was at the front of my mind, in spite of which i somehow managed to forget the other positions than supine while i was making it.  Nevertheless, i think it's worthwhile along the lines of it being educational for people who want to learn how to perform physical examination.  One of the reasons i'm putting such videos up is to overcome medical mystique and help people to help themselves.  I realise i haven't gone into much depth on the cardiovascular side of things, but one thing at a time, eh?

Tomorrow is of course our china wedding anniversary, so it'll be on marriage.

Monday, 10 June 2013

As Girls Go

Today's video:

Click to tweet: .  Living things have up to seven characteristics in common which non-living things usually lack.  This is a "family resemblance" definition au Wittgenstein rather than a set of necessary and sufficient conditions, but on the whole, living organisms tend to have all of them and non-living physical objects tend to lack all of them.  Hylozoists would of course disagree.  They also pertain as much to plants and bacteria as to mammals, though not to viruses to the same degree.  There is no definite border between life and non-life.

Here they are:

1. Nutrition:  Living things consume matter to fuel their processes and construct and maintain their bodies.  In the case of plants, most of this matter is synthesised using energy from daylight to combine carbon dioxide and water to form the sugar glucose in a process known as photosynthesis.  Animals generally consume matter which has already been synthesised, in a process known as eating, although they do synthesise quite a lot of compounds themselves.  Exceptions include moths without digestive systems and certain bryozoan zooids.

2. Reproduction:  Organisms create copies of themselves, often by exchanging or transferring genetic information to other members of the same species, which increases diversity and therefore fitness to survive in a changing environment.  Again, there are exceptions.  Most individual social insects have no offspring although the queens in their colonies reproduce, which is apparently because they're unusually closely related to each other due to their method of sex determination.  Some colonial hydroids are also non-reproductive and specialise in other functions such as defence.  My personal belief is that this kind of phenomenon refutes the idea that homosexuality is unnatural in humans, because clearly homosexuals make socially useful contributions and are therefore involved in reproduction on a societal level.

3. Excretion:  The elimination of waste from the internal environment which would throw the organism out of homoeostasis is another feature of organisms.  For humans, the most obvious example is urination but another is the exhalation of carbon dioxide.  Defaecation is not a clearcut example, however, as most of a stool has never been in the internal environment - for example bacteria, roughage and water - although a small part of it is genuine excreta.  Some animals have no real excretory systems because they don't live long enough to need to excrete.  Mammals are unusual in that they are land animals which excrete waste products dissolved in water, which seems a puzzling waste of water.

4. Respiration:  This is not the same as breathing although humans need to breathe to live.  Respiration is in fact any process whereby energy is released from food.  It's a misconception that plants breathe "backwards":  they breathe in the same way as animals but also generate their own oxygen.  We need oxygen to release most of the energy, so we need to breathe to remove the carbon dioxide and supply oxygen so that the reactions can continue.  Some organisms use no oxygen at all for this purpose, for instance tetanus and gas gangrene bacteria.

5. Growth:  This seems self-evident to me.  However, it's worth mentioning that there is a whole group of animals which don't grow by cell division at all once they hatch, and of course the growth of mammals and birds is rather limited, although it still occurs when we're injured.

6. Movement:  Organisms generally move, even plants, whose flowers, if they have them, may open during the day and close at night, or whose leaves follow the sun.  On the other hand, some animals, such as sponges, move very little - their flagella beat, but not much else.

7. Sensation: Every living thing responds to changes in its environment.  Humans are primarily visual, but other animals may be more oriented around other senses such as smell or even sensitivity to magnetic fields - woodlice and pigeons, for example.  Even plants have senses.  They grow upwards, away from the force of gravity, seek out light from the sun, and so on.

Some of these characteristics are also found in non-living, non-technological objects such as the photoelectric effect (sensation), crystallisation (growth) and so on, but if all these features are found together, the object concerned is alive.

I assume this is on the IGCSE syllabus.  Even if it isn't, it still should be, so i'm going to do it anyway.  I will take a look at the actual AQA IGCSE syllabus eventually.  I feel this is much closer to my home territory than the chemistry, although presumably in the other branch of the time line extending from my decision whether to take chemistry at O-level, it would be the other way round.  The seriously original plan was, of course, to become a biochemist.

OK, so here's what i really want to talk about, and probably i should put some kind of vid together on this too.  As i must've mentioned, i've gone back on the phytoestrogens.  After the technicolor yawn i experienced a few weeks back i shifted onto the alleged motherlode - Trifolium pratense:

I'm avoiding Humulus lupulus because of the depressant effect and in fact think it's a waste of space, not because it doesn't work but because of the contraindications, which rule it out much of the time.  Since i started taking it, i've experienced a change in my perception of interactions between people.  I'm curious about whether this is placebo or a pharmacodynamic effect, but one thing's clear:  it's the result of the project ("The Project"?).  If it's the former, my behaviour and experience probably reflects my stereotypes of femininity, which is a bit disturbing as it brings my sexism out, or could do if it's not accurate.  If the latter, it means it has psychotropic action, though this could be due to something other than the phytoestrogenic one.  IIf this could be disentangled though, it suggests that endogenous oestrogens are also psychologically significant.  Here i'm aware of treading carefully because of the tendency to see the female as the deviation, when it's clearly the other way round, at least embryologically, more or less.  So the oestrogen doesn't so much have an effect where there would otherwise be one lacking as have an effect along with other steroid hormones having others.

I would describe some of the changes in my experience as finding certain behaviour more concerning and perceiving it as more aggressive than i previously would've done, and that i'm somewhat more focussed on the interactions between people than the subject of their interactions, semantically speaking.  All of that's uncertain of course.

What's more certain is the mastodynia, which is, however, very mild.  This is more pronounced on the lateral aspect of the right breast but there's also bimedial pain at the level of the sixth intercostal space.  This peaks a few minutes after taking the Trifolium.  There's also pain over a wide area superior to the nipples.  There may or may not be gynaecomastia - it's impossible for me to see my upper chest objectively and if there is, it may have crept up on me.

Incidentally, if there is, this will be the third time this has happened to me.  It happened, as it does to many boys, during puberty, then later on around the time Daniel was born, which i egged on again using phytoestrogens, though not Trifolium, and now i'm doing it again.

Yes, i am most definitely a man.  Yes, i most definitely hate being a man.

See you tomorrow.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Cheer Up Charlie

Not that Charlie!

Anyway, so where was i?  Um, hold on while i check...ah, it's this:

Click to tweet: .  This is an unusual pranayama (Yoga breathing technique) which has often been met with incredulity and scepticism, but which i've been practicing for more than thirty years.  It also happens to be one of the methods i'm using in making the male pregnancy vlog.  Since many people have shown interest in how it's done, i've decided to make a video on the main channel to teach it.  I tend to take it for granted because i've been doing it so long, but people seem to find it difficult.

It's basically swallowing air.  You take a deep breath and exhale via your windpipe and oesophagus down into the stomach and colon.  One reason i can do this is that my peak expiratory flow is unusually high - 700 litres per minute.  However, i also think there's a knack to it which ends up "clicking" after a while.  It's said to be useful for weight loss (i've lost five kilos since i started the pregnancy vlog), clearly useful for relieving hiccups and constipation and kind of massages the abdominal organs.  Aversion - dvesha - and attraction - raga - are also involved because the urge to belch and to avoid the unpleasant sensations of bloating and nausea are quite strong.  Other benefits are said to include relief from intestinal parasites and the ability to float on water, and it's good for all the abdominal organs which are in fact most of them.

I'm also willing to teach this in person if anyone's interested.

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So, there it is - that thing i do.  There's a lot to say about this but let's keep it simple.  For some unknown reason, i am incredibly healthy and i do this regularly, so is that the reason?  If so, how does it work?  I think of it as a kind of internal therapeutic massage.  Obviously you shouldn't go too far.  It reminds me of the kind of stretching in asanas, and the question of aversion is definitely relevant too, and it must increase control over what are normally automatic body functions.  Since health is often adversely affected by a runaway drift away from a stable state, being able to control those could put that in check.  There are some obvious effects.  It would clearly help mechanically with at least mild constipation, and trivial though this might be, with hiccups.  Intestinal parasites wouldn't do very well out of it either.  Colonic irrigation also comes to mind.


Click to tweet: .  Rhetoric is the art of persuasion and is often analysed into logos (rational argument), pathos (eliciting an emotional response or sympathy) and ethos (the reputation of the speaker or what they represent).  Christian authority is analysed in a somewhat similar way, where it can be seen as arising from reason, Scripture, the Church or the Holy Spirit.  These have interesting associations with each other, which i address in this video.

This could be more coherent, to be honest, but i'm trying to come across more spontaneously by not writing a script.  There are interesting parallels.  Another thing i'd like to do with religious authority sources is to place them in a non-religious context and see what happens.  I would also like to know a whole lot more about rhetoric.

Finally, and sadly, there's this:

Click to tweet: .  Iain Banks, also known as Iain M Banks, has just died aged 59, of gall bladder cancer.  Obviously i'm gutted about this as he's the closest thing i've got to a hero.  As well as being known for his SF, Iain was an excellent mainstream author, and i've been a fan of his for nearly thirty years.  The Culture series i've talked about elsewhere on here but another good science fiction novel of his is 'Against A Dark Background', which includes the Lazy Gun and a gang of solipsists.

My condolences go to his family and friends.

It's happened earlier than i expected, even after hearing the news.  Now i'm really going to start reading 'The Algebraist'.  Sad, but my sadness is nothing compared to that of people who knew him.  Also, i sort of did all the grieving already.  I met him once.  That's something.  What a great guy.