Crashing a funeral

For the uninitiated, “PVP” means Player vs. Player. It means that part of the game is attacking other players.

There is naughty language in this.

Saturday ~ April 25, 2020 by b

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Dark humor

About having a dark sense of humor…

So, I have a rather dark sense of humor. I’ve noticed other people who have it and I sympathize with them. A dark sense of humor is also known as gallows humor for good reason. It’s the jokes people tell about tragedy after they’ve become familiar with tragedy or the fear of it. Healthcare workers have it, emergency responders have it, soldiers have it, and even terminally ill people have it. Without going into detail I have it too, and mostly definitely not for any kind of heroic actions or personal sacrifice. On the other hand, some who are very familiar with tragedy have no sense of humor about it, and I completely respect that. I mean them no offense, and I’m not trying to pressure them to laugh. There are times for mourning, and I recognize that some people are simply living that indefinitely.

No one talks about where it comes from, or exactly how it works. It’s part trying to delay the mourning and fear, it’s part trying to deal with it, it’s part trying to balance out the bad feelings, it’s part abject denial, and probably has other parts like trying to find a way to “toughen up” when we know tragedy could strike again. Maybe we just need a break in the action. I suspect that deep down, quite a few of us already know that.

Over the past few weeks and days, it’s become apparent that I may know someone, or perhaps a few people, who’ve succumbed. They were all people I deeply respected, and I hope that one day I’m proven wrong. Some of them I simply didn’t know well enough to ever have my suspicions confirmed or proven wrong. That’s life. Maybe that’s part of the dark humor. Given the situation in the world, I feel (or really know) that it will happen again, perhaps to someone reading what I post.

It’s also possible that they simply couldn’t deal with what I post.

But I’m going to keep on posting jokes about what’s going on in the world. Not because I’m disrespectful, but simply because it’s how I deal. Feel free to unfollow or snooze me. I certainly expect that from people who don’t relate. Many of the people whom I share the sense of humor with aren’t in any other groups I belong to. But perhaps those who also have a dark sense of humor will recognize the way that I’m joking about it and understand it’s not demeaning. It’s certainly not because I don’t take this illness seriously or think it’s not tragic. That’s why you’ll see my attempts at humor alongside very serious pleas for our leaders and the people who elect them to take it much more seriously and stop being so damned calloused about, and evil toward, the people they allegedly represent.

But I don’t intend to stop. Some day I may have seen enough tragedy that I have no longer have a sense of humor. It will probably happen for at least a few days at a time. I hope that never becomes permanent, while still living a long life. In the mean time I’ll continue posting jokes about idiotic political decisions and the people making them, puns about deeply serious topics, and sometimes even about more tragic aspects. I don’t make fun of those who we’ve lost and don’t have some sort of social darwinist agenda. I’m sorry if you are offended, that was not my intention.

So if you can’t relate for whatever reason… perhaps you’ve either seen too much, or not enough, I completely respect any decisions to unfollow or snooze my posts. I consider everyone on my friends lists an actual friend, even if the context for that friendship isn’t one that’s been around for very long. So feel free to send me a direct message. If anyone wishes, I’ll be sure to configure my online messages so that you never receive anything humorous about serious events. I won’t judge you for it. I’ve already done similar for other types of posts without anyone complaining, out of respect.

Anyway, enough seriousness about humor. It’s bringing me down, and I don’t need that during my time to relax and recharge.

Saturday ~ April 25, 2020 by b

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ending an era

The final Space Shuttle mission, sts-135, successfully launched and currently flies above. For me, and perhaps most people younger who cared to notice space exploration, the space shuttle has been the definition of “space shot”. Actually, the vast majority of manned space launches of any sort have been Space Shuttle launches.

I’ve got mixed feelings. First, the Shuttle is a mix of aging (read: tested) and cutting edge (read: we just figured out how to the make the tools required) technologies. But at the end of the day, the Shuttle is no safer, statistically, than Apollo. About 2% of the launches end in catastrophic failure, and about 4% of the astronauts who suit up die as a result. It’s probably not a coincidence that the Shuttle was put on NASA’s plate during the Nixon administration, that it was allegedly “designed by committee” (read: the engineers sucked at basic tact and barely got along), that the fraction of parts thrown away each launch would label any airplane as “more disposable than a paper airplane”, and that it’s been described as being a flying u-haul even after considering the aerodynamics. Actually the phrase “flying brick” is more often used when describing its aerodynamics.

Yet even with all of its drawbacks, it was a flying success. The sheer volume of launches was astounding, even if ratcheted far, far down from original expectations. The science it carried out convinced many people (including hardened astronomers) that manned space exploration offers advantages unlike anything else.

And for more than a few young space geeks, the spaceshuttle program symbolized hope that shomehowhumankind is going to survive for a while… perhaps long enough to make it off this rock while we still have a chance. A chance to watch a big machine propel itself off the very planet at a deafening volume while creating an incredible amount of steam.

We all know the score. Being a test pilot is usually considered one of the most 10 dangerous professions anytime some group decides to list them based on some criteria. All astronauts are test pilots, handling things like flying themselves to the launch site as just part of the package.

Of course, our astronauts are all out of a job, so they’ll be going back to being engineers or piloting next decade’s war planes or whatever.

Monday ~ July 11, 2011 by b

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tornado alleyway

Recently my home dodged a tornado by perhaps 100-200 ft.

I wasn’t home at the time, so I didn’t see the twister. I came back later that day, early enough to see some of the damage in my neighborhood, but late enough that I did some work clearing the front yard after dark.

I grew up in a town that sees hurricanes blow through every few years. I’ve walked outside in the calm after a hurricane to see half the trees on my street down, smashing plenty of cars and houses along their way. Trees are very heavy and moving fast when they collide with things. You could hit one with a truck and it wouldn’t topple over. On one instance, I saw a tree bisecting a volvo, with the underside resting on the asphalt. Hurricanes spawn tornadoes. Most of the storm was below the threshold for a minor hurricane, some shingles and things that could be caught in unusually strong gusts.

When driving home, I passed what used to be a trailer park. Instead of trailers, there was a group of emergency services vehicles with lights on. In case it’s not obvious, never stay in a trailer or car during a tornado warning. Never. Lying face down in a ditch is far safer.

Tornadoes have unusual damage. This time, the top of one tree was sheared off just higher than the level of nearby (intact) telephone poles. A tree 30 ft away was missing one side of its top, and the other was fine. The branches weren’t all broken in the same direction. A house down the street had damage like a missing chimney, and the trees in that side of that yard were blown down in several directions. A telephone pole was pointed almost directly at the side of the house with the outline of a chimney, as if the wind had changed 180 degrees in a few feet. At a nearby construction site, sheet metal was bent around the metal frame like saran wrap and twistie-ties. A tornado is like a blender inside-out, with a debris field as blades.

This storm system was barely starting as I left on an hour-long drive south. Within 2 hours it was half-over.

Thursday ~ April 28, 2011 by b

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in praise of the comment box

The comment box has long been a mainstay of American political discourse, one that is quickly leaving us. We should find a substitute for in, in the digital world we’re building. I brook no nostalgia about some pieces of dead trees nailed to form a slotted box, to accepted yet more slivers of dead tree conveying an opinion. It served (very roughly) a purpose similar to public mailboxes.

A place where one is entitled to exercise free speech without proof of identity.

The right to vote is not the right to bitch. Voting is anonymous, and everyone doing it has exactly the same voice… regardless of how they yell away from the polling center. It’s never about fine-grained choice, and no one really knows why anyone else made their choice. It’s like underwear in the free speech world. Everyone has it in their own style, yet inform very few people about it. Fewer want it seen or published, regardless of how common their type might be.

In the world outside courthouses, we can say what we want. Regardless of whether we must give it to them, others may demand to know our identity before they will take us seriously. It can be damning evidence to not sign one’s name beside one’s cause. It might be considered weak or at least inexcusably impolite, perhaps a sign that one is not speaking truthfully with conviction. So the generally-admitted right to bitch may have one large caveat. Free speech places few demands upon the audience, by itself. That’s why we have far more than just the right to free speech when addressing our government.

Signing our name to our complaint might be a very bad idea, however.

It’s pointless to requiring a signed complaint of whistleblowers: we’ve learned that the people we want making complaints won’t do so when it seems unsafe for them. We want people making complaints to have common sense. We want the logical people who have a heart to be changing things. As a result, anonymity may be the only power that a specific complainant possesses. It may be the only power they can usefully wield.

We know this and it’s woven into our society. There’s the ever-present suggestion box. Or the notion that one doesn’t need to give up their identity to return things. Or standardized tests that are graded without looking at someone’s name or identifying information. Or the fact that race is an optional requirement (nevermind that opting out labels one as a white male, a different discussion) on many forms. Or that so few things require a picture ID, even though nearly every adult citizen possesses a government-issued picture ID. Or that cash is always accepted, and accepted without identification for most things. Or that we consider it an encroachment of our rights (even if justified) to surrender our ID to government officials.

The basic right to free speech does not include giving up one’s identity, as a matter of course. That’s to protect the speaker, and allows the speaker to effectively voice complaints about government and society without punishment. It’s how citizens enforce the right to free speech when it is jeopardized.

On the internet, in general, it is not very difficult for a technically knowledgeable person to discover someone’s identity (or at least specific location down to the keyboard). The internet uses the equivalent of postcards with a return address to send all messages, only the government does not guarantee their sanctity as well as the postal service protects first-class mail. There are many instances documented of government intrusion, it’s not just a conspiracy theory.

But that information must be sought out. It does not exist as a license plate that other laymen on the internet can peruse as they see fit. Just like in the physical world where people must trust others to allow their rights to continue. The pollster handing out ballots reads names, even if there are watchful eyes… but it’s questionable whether ID is required so much as a way to prevent double-voting. Collusion would negate the right to an anonymous vote. It’s been alleged to happen in nearly every US Presidential election. The suggestion box and physical bulletin board could be monitored, and we know that. The business could ask to see an ID when not legally required. Our participation in society might require we “voluntarily” give up some identifying information.

There are many places where we give up our identity, the most immediately obvious being facebook. Sure, one can not give up one’s identity, but it’s against Facebook’s terms of usage. The Same with services like Twitter and Disqus (which exists solely for that purpose). Anything said while logged into one of those sites (including on other sites) is tagged with our identity. The suggestion box on the internet usually requires the equivalent of a picture ID. Imagine forking over an ID before going to customer service to make a simple complaint like “hey, your AC is broken”. Annoying, right? Now imagine need to do so before posting to college corkboards or to even discuss a company with other people. Kinda more than just annoying, it gets directly in the way of freely voicing an opinion without fear of retribution. Imagine not being able to talk about the news or protesting a business’ practices without giving them your ID. Kinda squelches out any chance that you might do so, to most people. With good reason.

The bill of rights exists to protect us from government. But the principles it applies come from American society. The idea of everyone contributing to volunteer efforts as they see fit. The right to speak in public while ignoring people who say to shut up. Some might say no one has a right to tell someone else to shut up, when looking around society outside government. We have the legally protected right to not be discriminated against based on race, religion, etc. at a public business. Leaders are expected to step down and be replaced periodically. We have the right to peacefully defend ourselves, with restrictions no different when they are about government. The press shouldn’t be restricted by bias from above; doing so is considered corrupt and perhaps fraudulent. No one can tell an adult they can’t drink in their own home, as the rule not exception. We have exceptions to all of these. I’d argue that the fact we consider them ‘exceptions’ shows us the general rule prevails most of the time. Most rights have some limits and exceptions.

The first response objections I usually get in return are telling: the right to vote is no long relavent, for some reason. Perhaps because the right to vote is purely held once a year or so, inside a box that the government invents for citizens as the limits of their acceptable opinion. As if a democracy somehow lives without a constant, living, influence. It exists and understands the will of the people, regardless of their understanding or level of acknowledged participation.

minor sniping

It’s interesting to me that taking even a skeptical stance on using animals – a stance that is the actual stance of many vegans – it’s interesting that one finds all sorts of places where people assume animals are objects to be used in the same way that religious figures can assume total authority on human morality. It’s not that they have no point. Even I can see that animal testing has potential benefits. But all kinds of really disturbing things our society rejects also have potential benefits. Like experimenting on humans in ways that damage them, even if the humans are rewarded.

Which bring me to the FDA panel review of a new, somewhat controversial weight loss drug. Now, I can see how some are very leery of trying such a drug themselves, when people like me won’t even test it on non-humans. Granted, the tests would look radically different, with the kinder and simpler human tests giving far better and more accurate results. That’s basically called the fancy field of statistical analysis, and it’s the gold standard for testing drugs. Animal testing is generally the backwoods cousin of science that the US government (uniquely in the west) mandates for drug approval. As a hint: the US doesn’t lead the forefront in getting new, effective drugs to market safely.

Here’s an interesting snippet:

Panelists also said they wanted to see more research on lorcaserin’s possible links to cancer. The drug caused a sevenfold increase in mammary tumors in laboratory rats. While the doses were far higher than human doses, experts said they were uncomfortable not knowing how to translate the findings to the human population.

The FDA’s own panel on drug acceptance does not feel comfortable with the results of animal testing, and wants to see clinical trials with humans first. Basically, rats don’t have a metabolism that overweight humans have. Which sounds right, because even skinny humans don’t have the metabolism and lose or gain weight the same way as an overweight human with heart trouble.

Tuesday ~ September 7, 2010 by b

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care & feeding of your vegan

So, when people who already know that I am vegan meet me for the first time, they tend to ask a couple of questions:

Have you always been this skinny (I’m on the thinner side of healthy)?

Yes, actually. I’ve been overweight exactly once since I was a toddler, and I was lacto-ovo at the time. My weight has become more consistent as I started being vegan, but that obviously could be other factors. I tend to think people form an opinion about this before they hear my voice, and that I can only change their perception of how I deal with it. Many think I mean diet in “cabbage soup diet” and not “my gazelle’s diet includes wild grass”. I mean the latter, really.
How do you eat without going to the same places as everyone else?
The same way you decide where to go. I pick what I’m willing to eat and compromise to gain group consensus. If there’s nothing I’ll eat at a restaurant, I’m not going to pretend that I’m going to dinner there.

It’s generally a good idea to check out eating establishments in some way before going. Much as I think it’s unreasonable (literally) to not serve vegan food at nearly any restaurant (it’s ridiculously easy for a chef), I recognize that we are not the majority. It’s a business decision that turning down that portion of their population is worth the space on the menu. That’s also a business decision guaranteed to earn more phone calls that cost customer service dollars than simply printing something on the menu once, if you’re considering opening a business.

Second, some clarification that may be useful. Many vegetarians will say they “cannot” eat somewhere. Personally, I choose to be vegan and don’t think of it as a disease. I make an effort to say I “will not” eat somewhere instead, to be clear that I’m not at all going to skirt some very strong ethical objections just to protect the carnivores of the world from ever seeing them. I will be unhappy and feel that a relationship has been damaged if I’m put in a situation without veg food and expected to cope, and that unhappiness will not go away with “at least they were trying”

Generally, consider that if you are going out to eat with a vegan at a restaurant he/she did no suggest at some point, that vegan is fairly open-minded and non-judgmental about the whole thing. That acceptance is not unconditional tolerance.

Some rules to maintain your own comfort and civility… Do not try to out-gross a vegan about anything vaguely related to food and/or animals, unless you are not vegan yourself and thus it’s a time-honored hobby. You will lose, and wish you’d gone to dinner alone. Vegans sometimes make extra effort to self-censor to maintain comfort for their thin-skinned non-veg friends. Don’t abuse that respect.

Let me be crystal clear about an important point to keep in mind: A vegan eating lunch with you is mainly concerned about eating lunch. He/she is just as interested in having a disgust-free meal as yourself. Said vegan may have done background research that you would not consider; asking “do you serve vegetarian food?” is just the beginning to getting a useful answer. Going to a reeking pulled-pork bbq restaurant may be disgusting to a vegan. A vegan pointing that out is not neccessarily trying to convert you, start a fight, stop you from eating a meal, striking back at the man, or anything similar. That vegan is stating a visceral response no differently than “ow that hurts”. We all use different language when unpleasantly surprised, and it’s not meant to be nice. Yes, we should hold our tongues. Frankly, a vegan making those remarks occasionally is probably holding their tongue most of the time and possibly not happy with the slip.

A vegan eating dinner with a carnivore is making a sacrifice, however common, which few people make with any regularity. Being vegan is not an academic exercise. They may be doing so out of desire to reach out, to have diverse friends, to break down the us v. them mentality we’re all told must exist, to demonstrate that we’re sane.

Telling a vegan anything like they should eat a hamburger, are too weird, should be on a pedestal with different ethics, aren’t healthy, aren’t doing anything useful, or just plain should not be taken seriously are all rude. Your intelligence might be judged as a result, friends who can usually kid with insults aside.

the welfarist position

First and foremost, I’m one of those people who thinks the philosophical idea of animal rights makes the most sense, for improving the lives and reducing the suffering of animals. I simply do not think that animals will be universally given the treatment they deserve until acceptable treatment becomes mandatory. Ownership necessarily means abuse is legitimate, and makes it inevitable. You can see this first-hand in the reactions of many to my sentiments: outcries that AR is inconvenient and impinges the rights of humans, because we should be able to do what we want to our animals.

I tend to take this view. It’s a large part of my stance on many things, from animal entertainment and zoos, to medical testing. I’m against both, and can provide the facts to back it up. I shouldn’t have to; we have the internet.

Another position is the welfarist approach. This approach doesn’t really address the issue of rights, but instead directly tries to improve the lives of animals of any status. Welfarist organizations include the ASPCA, HSUS, and perhaps groups like the Sierra Club to a limited extent.

Many believe the two approaches are compatible. Peta cooperates with the ASPCA to improve the lives of animals commonly thought of as pets. This is quite notable, as the ASPCA originally considered itself a radical organization that was trying to completely overturn the system. That is, until they were accepted by the government if they toned down the rhetoric and some specific actions. They were, essentially, a radical animal rights organization when they were first created, but are by far no longer the same. They are now almost the definition of a welfarist organization.

Some fraction of each of these two communities sees the approaches as incompatible. Welfarists might simply delay a real solution by supporting animal agriculture, and animal rights advocates might be pushing too far & too fast to make a meaningful difference today. It’s worth noting that isn’t everyone’s opinion, and many in the community are nearly oblivious to the distinction.

Wednesday ~ January 20, 2010 by b

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the disappearance of context

A friend and I occasionally have a discussion about one of the impacts of the internet. We both tend to think that once information is on the internet, it’s permanently available somewhere. As she’s put it “I wouldn’t post anything that I wouldn’t want my own mother to read”. The internet has made everyone a celebrity. Celebrities aren’t known for constant, well-secured privacy or abilities to remove information about themselves from the world.

Quite a few people learn that the hard way. You can put some sort of access control on information you place on the internet, but it’s easily just ignored by anyone who you allow to read that information. You have to place complete trust in everyone you open content to, because it’s trivial for them to pass it all along to someone you don’t trust. Possibly by an easy-to-make accident. Using digital rights management, like the music industry talks about, to keep control? Theoretically and practically impossible. It does not require breaking any codes or ciphers to obtain the hidden information. Unknowing friends may forward a link to their friends… and then forward a copy instead when the find that the link is “broken”. Controlling information flow on the internet is like controlling air.

Some sites actually require one to use an alias, for safety reasons. Romantic match-making and health care sites often strictly forbid posting (often as the most severe offense) of any personal information, including an email address. Your only method of contact is a username specific to that site, and some sites require it’s a new alias that you haven’t used elsewhere. Imagine that policy at a bank or doctor’s office. It would possibly be construed as illegal. Yet it’s almost a legal requirement for some places on the internet. I’d wager that most people care about a bit more than their physical safety.

Plenty of people naively say they have no information they wish to control, because they have nothing illegitimate to hide. I wonder if those people actually have curtains and doors in their home, and don’t invite their entire family to every romantic date they go on. Or hide their valuables when they park their car at the mall. Or own dvds, books, magazines or any other (possibly digital) media that they don’t leave out in plain site in the living room 24/7, regardless of guests. They don’t hand out a complete list of websites visited in the past year when meeting someone. Or – probably the most accurate analogy – they probably wear clothing.

Concealment is a basic tool of social interaction. Without it, the words “focus” and “relationship” are meaningless.

So on the internet we use tools for concealment that may not be acceptable in other settings. We might have multiple email addresses or blogs, giving each out to a different group of people or companies. We might have more than one character in an online game. It’s easy to find one piece of information of an identity out, it’s quite another to link pieces of information to each other and describe a live human being in an accurate way. Hence why businesses like to use social networking tools to gather data about their customer base. We give it up for free, and act as if we should pay in some way by watching advertisements.

But moreover, in a practical way, we don’t want everyone knowing the same set of information about us. We don’t tell our parents about that last party we went to that got a little out of hand, we don’t tell all of our friends who we’ve been dating for a week, we don’t tell our coworkers the details of every medical problem. It might even be considered rude or oafish to do so. It would be awesome if we could talk about those things without bad fallout or being moral judgment. But people still, today, will hit someone with a brief “TMI” in response to some things.

So, I want to be able to post to a blog about animal rights, possibly without preaching to every human I know immediately. I like doing things gradually; biological organisms are inherently analog, not digital, and operate in shades of gray and a range of color (not all even visible to the human eye).

To do that, I compartmentalize and project the resulting pieces of our world into separate places, much more than elsewhere. Some fundamental structures of democracy actually require this. You can’t prevent trade unions from discussing some things privately, especially in the beginning – they’d never form and we’d still be working 80/7 work weeks from the age of 14 on. The 4th amendment (the one about searches and seizures without warrants being illegal), would be completely unenforceable. Remember, the government invented the internet. They have web browsers and know about google, too. Citizenry has the right to control information just like the government, for its own protection. That right’s more important than the 2nd – firing a gun at the officer arresting you for a nonviolent, but trumped-up, felony isn’t ethically better or more effective than stopping him from ever reading your sarcasm and in-jokes in the first place. You’ll just get shot by the SWAT team who responds, and they’ll sort out the mess later. Without compartmentalization, everything in the universe has exactly one context: the internet. There’s not room for subtlety or high-context language. Human discourse is blunted, neutered, and unseasoned… and eventually everyone finds subversive ways around the official way of doing things. Just like during Prohibition.

Freedom is not just freedom from illegitimate government intrusion. In fact, most restrictions on any individual’s freedom have nothing to do with government intrusion at all. But inalienable rights, by definition, are not open for negotiation and are ethically pursued regardless of any contract to the contrary. That is not an idealistic view. It is also a cold, hard, practical limitation on real contracts that any business law student knows about far more than myself. Coercion is accepting the trading of someone else’s rights in return for giving something they need (including the pursuit of happiness).

When you give information to someone or some company, you give that information permanently. It will outlive you. With near-certainty, it will eventually be sold, possibly meaning that more than one group “owns” it. It will be collated with any other information available about you, however slow the trickle (how long will you live?). It can be stolen; security is about managing risk, not completely stopping electronic break-ins. Currently, you have almost no rights concerning the disposition of information that you freely give out, and cannot easily ask anyone to destroy all records they have of you. It can meet with any of 100s of accidents and be released – and trust me, that’s almost certain to happen, too. Our practical, given, usable rights are still catching up to the digital revolution. It can be bugged, tapped, and re-recorded in the same way as a telephone call. Probably more easily.

There’s a principle in certain circles that several pieces of information that are very valuable when understood as a whole are nearly useless when viewed individually. Asking people to give up the whole is asking for a great deal. Any living cell in your body is practically meaningless and worthless to you.

Monday ~ December 21, 2009 by b

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human uniqueness

I cast a skeptical eye whenever someone makes a claim that presumes humans are uniquely capable of some task, based on what’s in our head.


Humans are animals different from the rest. That’s because we’re members of a distinct species that reproduces only with itself, and thus have traits that we’ve never shared with the rest of the animal kingdom. But biological – even whether you’re a modern evangelical Christian creationist – the same process was used to create us as was used for them. We’re not called “animals” just because we like the bad-boy/girl connotations.

We don’t know that we’re the first to ponder going up to the stars, or at least ponder what they are. Animals tend to flip out during solar eclipses, just like I’ve heard humans say they’re weird.

We didn’t invent war, or its twin sibling genocide. We’d seen that behavior in ants. And meerkats.

We didn’t invent compassion. We’ve seen it across mammals, at the very least.

We didn’t invent tools. Anteaters, seals, birds all have been reknowned for creating tools on the fly. The sticks anteaters depend on is a tool they’re constantly polishing and learning from at a very fast clip. They have technology.

We aren’t unique in liking clothes. I’ve seen pets drag out their favorite shirt and bring it to a caretaker to put on. When it’s a little chilly, often.

We didn’t invent food seasoning. There are species of monkeys who wash clean food in saltwater, in a way that looks like they’re doing it for the taste.

We didn’t invent the concept of “toy”. Cats will seek out and confiscate things for use as toys if they’re not adequately surprised. It’s very often considered “bad” behavior by a very confused human.

We didn’t invent language. Whales, dolphins, and elephants all produce language comprised of sounds that look incredibly like words. The great apes can spontaneously use sign language to satisfy their needs after they’ve been taught.

We aren’t the first to grieve our dead. A group of scientists recorded the voices of a pack of elephants at a zoo (actually sound they send into the ground, it travels farther). Ten years after one died, the voice was played back to a few of the remaining. They freaked out, and hesitatingly moved in the direction of the sound, clearly distraught and anxious.

We aren’t necessarily the most intelligent problem-solvers. We may be only the best at technology, thanks partly to our hands. Dolphins have a possibly more-sophisticated brain that has features human brains don’t. Their brains have 3 lobes, and only one sleeps at a time for 8 hours. We’re not necessarily very good at that whole navigation thing, compared to many species.

We don’t know that our societies have the most advanced culture. Dolphins have a tiered matriarchy that’s rather advanced and fluid in its structure. It apparently minimizes serious fighting and keeps good order.

We didn’t invent police. Some monkeys have a fraction of individuals who always seem to break up fights, not get too involved, pay attention, and generally protect the other individuals.

We didn’t invent the idea of taking a bath. Many animals know that water helps with cleaning themselves.

We certainly didn’t invent having fun playing like kids do. Pets who have no need to hunt, removed from the wild by several generations, will play with each other while respecting existing dominance.

We didn’t invent government. Just ask any animal that travels in packs. They all have organized social structures with rules.

We didn’t invent the unmistakeable bonds of love, as any pet owner can attest. This one always amuses me. Why would emotions, the most base of human thoughts that we know about and centered in the oldest part of our brains (evolving before mammals), be very different among other mammals?

We didn’t invent drug use. Catnip alone proves this.

We didn’t invent the concept of a home that we build from things in the environment.

We didn’t invent the concept of family. We’re not even particularly monogomous or prone to holding long-term relationships compared to some. Some birds of prey actually do bond for life, with nearly no exceptional individuals. They don’t remarry when a partner dies.

We didn’t invent homosexual behavior. It springs up in all sorts of animals. Carl Sagan has argued most mammals, and it doesn’t appear controversial within those species. It seems that most of the “unnatural” orientations and perspectives are simply labeled so by a few humans who don’t know enough about nature.

Modern humans didn’t invent religious belief. Cro-magnon or Neanderthal, possibly with a different intelligence from our own, appear to have buried their dead with various trinkets and tools.

We didn’t invent the concept of exile as punishment. Other animals will eject a member from the pack for doing something particularly egregious.

We didn’t invent the concept of a conversation. Whales, dolphins, elephants all have the unmistakeable marks of it, and when it’s appropriate for certain individuals in the group to communicate.

We didn’t invent tag, slap-fights, wrestling, or any other basic game that’s seen in human children.

Monday ~ November 30, 2009 by b

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