October 2015

October 2015 letter

Autumn is definitely here. We were given figs by the neighbours, Harry loves them a lot. And it was a good year for walnuts. I took up the garden and had some onions and green tomatoes but not much else. We have had all kinds of weather this month and the only unusual thing has been the amount of mist. Our first, and so far only frost, was on the night of the 14th. The cranes came over several timesm which always excites Harry.

I had a birthday, Ciara had one and there was a surprise Paul and Pam wedding. We are both well and got our flu shots early this year rather than into the winter.

Ginger was acting strange with lots of rolling in the dust – so we got her a flea collar – only a little improvement – so we gave her worm medicine – if anything it got worse – so to the vet with dog. She has fleas and the collar is not working – she may even be allergic to it – now she has to have a big pill each month to give her some peace. But so far she is still an uncomfortable dog.

Our neighbour and his father made a smoke house out of one of their buildings. They wanted to use stainless for all the metal bits. Harry went over with his plasma cutter and they made short work of some of the curvy cuts. And about neighbours, others, the pair across the street, buying the Cheval Blanc pub, after months of going through the motions of buying, and training, and signing papers, ended up withdrawing for lack of money the day before they were to take over. The cook they had arranged had already quit his job to come to them. The whole village was upset. They don’t have the phrase but the feeling is that he is a Walter Mitty character and not to be taken seriously.

The garage is progressing. Harry is doing the roof. Scary. There are pictures below.

Here is what I have this month: A quiz, Garage pictures, The Canadian election, Halloween is not what it used to be, The germs are out to get us – or – to save us, How we think.


A quiz

I had stopped doing silly quizzes but I got trapped into doing one last one, some sort of personality profile. I came out as ESTJ although that is a little misleading. My score for extrovert/introvert was almost equal so we can leave off the E. There was only a slight difference in sensing/intuition so the S could be a small one. I was heavy on the judging verses perceiving and on the thinking rather than feeling. So I would have scored it sTJ. The upshot was this description which would have fit well with my personality when I was working. I am much less driven in retirement.

Steward - Keeping things running smoothly and orderly – You are very practical and realistic. You are also firm and decisive. Once you make a decision, you will act immediately. You are good at deploying projects and mobilizing all resource and people to finish it. You hope you can achieve your goals in the most effective way possible. You can handle the daily details well. You have your own clear and logical standard and you will insist on it meanwhile you hope other people can achieve your standard too. You will stick to your schedule unswervingly.


Garage pictures

We bought the rest of the wood that we will need and it was delivered.

wood delivery

Ceiling joists cut, placed and fixed - sheets lifted on top of joists and then fixed to make a walk way - attaching roof rafters to lie flat before they are raised-

putting up ceiling joists

boards to walk on

arranging boards on joists

rafters in place to be lifted

counter weight for lifting rafters

north rafters before south are lifted

preparation for lifting the gable: gable up beside the wall and attached by lifting ropes and a counter weight - one rafter set needed to stabilize gable when it is lifted (south rafter lifted with counterweight until north rafter is at the wall and then it is attached to the ceiling joist) -

gable in place to be lifted

counter weight for lifting gable

first rafters raised

the gable lift - we got the neighbour over, he lifted the ends of the gable alternatively while Harry pulled the ropes tight and clamped them, there was a counter weigh so the lifting was easy, the lifted gable was stabilized to the bottoms of the raised rafter.

gable part way up

clamping one of the ropes

Sebastien balancing the gable

The gable up by the end of the afternoon.

Gable up


The Canadian election

The Canadian election is over. The sighs of relief can by heard around the world. But I still find things to say.

1. It’s good that Harper is gone but it still seems that so many comments miss the ways in which he was really bad news. He was more careful in what he said then the US republican candidates but his ideas were just as bad (neo-con and fundamentalist). He was both strictly ideological and smart, a dangerous combination.

2. Harper tried tactics that would have worked, have worked, in other countries. But enough Canadians were on the look out for tricks to notice many and resist them. They almost completely resisted the attempt to make them afraid. They did a fair job of resisting xenophobia – not completely but pretty good. And when the Moslem dress was used and worked against the NDP in Quebec, it actually was to the advantage of the Liberals not the Conservatives. The attempts to interfere with voter turn out only made many people more determined to vote. Canadians should also be praised for doing enough strategic voting as needed to block a minority Harper government.

3. I think the NDP made a error in promising a balanced budget. A lot of people in governments all over the world believe the economist’s myths but ordinary people all over the world are more inclined to believe in the Keynsian theory. Austerity was not popular. Look at Greece, Spain, Ireland, Iceland, and much more of Europe. Look at South America and Asia. Look at Corbyn leading Labour in the UK and Sanders storming in the USA to see how receptive the general public is to ideas that the elites find ‘mistaken’. Mulcar and Harper went with austerity and not raising taxes while Trudeau went with spending on infrastructure, taxing and deficits. Mulcar was also careful not to say he would tax the rich while Trudeau said he would. The Liberals ‘passed on the left’ because of that NDP decision to stand with the neo-con theories. Trudeau sounded more like Douglas, Broadbent and Layton then Mulcar did. (Personally if I had been voting in Canada, I would have found the NDP financial plan very hard to swallow.)

4. The First Nations are not getting the praise they deserve for defeating Harper. Their campaign was relentless, well planned and based on sound demands. They have changed the political landscape in Canada.

5. None of the parties except the Greens was willing to start seriously closing the tar sands projects. Trudeau said he favoured the pipeline to through the States because there should be some way to move the oil. Harper, of course, was all for enlarging the tar sands and having all the proposed pipelines. Mulcar was with Notley and wishy-washy on exactly what to do but certainly not just start to close the thing down. So NDP and Liberals were better than the Conservatives but just not as good as the Greens. There is some hope from Trudeau taking May from the Greens with him and the Premiers to Paris, but that is small change. The way to stop the tar sands is to not build pipelines and stop the subsidies.

6. The one thing that the Liberals must be held to, no matter what else they do or don’t do, is the introduction of a better voting system, some form of proportional representation. The NDP, Liberals, and Greens had it in their platform. IT MUST BE DONE.


Halloween is not what it used to be

When I was little I loved the treats but left the tricks to others on Halloween. In my teens I did a few tricks and didn’t collecting treats. The only trick I remember was changing street signs around in a group of similar teens without any costumes. It didn’t appeal to us to vandalize some particular person’s stuff – but the city’s was fair game.

However, every year when I was young I heard the same stories about the great tricks of years gone by. Many tales had to do with taking apart the wagon. They varied in what was done with the bits. Often the parts were reassembled in a ridiculous place like on the roof of the barn. Or you could put all the bits in a pile except for one bit that you hit in a hay stack. It was great fun for a gang of teenaged boys. Another type of trick was knocking over the outhouse privy or better still just moving it a few yards off its hole. I have seen old men getting so much amusement over their remembered tricks that they laughed until they cried.

Times change and Halloween is not what it used to be. Of course, it has always been so, always not what it was in my youth, ever since the days of the Druids. I remember hearing a old Cornish man complaining that Halloween wasn’t the same since they started making the jack-o-lanterns out of pumpkins rather than turnips. Whatever happened to dunking for apples?


The germs are out to get us - or to save us

When I was young and learning about infectious diseases in the 50s, everything was known it seemed – all the pathogens and all the diseases. Well things are never that simple. The new diseases that were in the news from time to time were a shock but not that much of a surprise. Then came the news that stomach ulcers were caused by a germ living in the stomach. It was not a new rare disease but a common one that had been known for ages. No one had really looked for a bacterial cause because – well, pathogens cannot live in stomach acid, can they? It keeps happening. There is some evidence that gum disease affects the heart – that the germs from the gums travel to the heart. Who would have guessed that.

Now in the news is the idea that Alzheimer’s is cause by a fungus living in the brain. It has not been clearly shown so we will see if it turns out to be true. The researchers look at a smallish number of brains in autopsy, some with Alzheimer’s and some controls without the disease. All, every one, of the the Alzheimer’s brains had lots of fungus in them and the controls, every one, had no fungus. Also a bunch of living Alzheimer’s patients had antibodies in their blood to the fungus. That would be a turn-up for the books if the cause was a fungus. Time will tell.

Also it appears that those cured of Ebola may not be cured. The disease lingers in the eyes, brain and genitalia. Not good news. Somehow the world does not feel as safe.

The diseases we fear tend not to be the communicable diseases but the others like: dementias, inflammatory and auto-immune diseases, cancers, heart and kidney disease. We do not think of these as having anything to do with bacteria. But why have these diseases become more frequent. There are a great many reasons but amongst them is that our microbiome, the organisms that live on and in us, is not protecting us as it should. “Normally, a robust microbiome would be part of our inheritance, a legacy passed, largely maternally, from generation to generation. But recently that chain has been broken, usually more than once. The increase in cesarean deliveries, the reduced prevalence and duration of breastfeeding, overuse of antibiotics both as prescription drugs and in agriculture, modern urban living surrounded by sanitizers, and a general tendency to limit contact with the environment have changed our relationship with the microbes that are an integral part of our biology.”- J&R Dietert.

We are not in direct connect with our environment because we are surrounded and covered by our microbiome layer. What we touch, breath and eat passes through that layer. Entities from the environment can be blocked, concentrated, or chemically changed for better or worse by the organisms in the microbiome. The exact nature and amount of our microbiome controls our exposure to the world. And it is our exposure to the world that controls many systems in the body. This is especially true of the immune system and the digestive system.

It is also true that manipulating the microbiome may be the cheapest, safest and easiest way to deal with many health problems. There isn’t the knowledge about the microbiome that would be needed to take real advantage of this form of treatment.

But we do know a few things that definitely harm the microbiome. Antibiotics is one. We need effective antibiotics to held with really serious infections – there is no question that they can save life. But every use of antibiotics has to be measured against the harm they do to a healthy microbiome. Antibiotics indiscriminately kill many different microbes and disrupt a functioning microbiome leaving the patient open to pathogens. Unless antibiotics are really needed, they are a negative influence on health.

Another negative is lack of contact with sources of useful bacteria. Hyper-clean homes, sterile and preserved processed foods, lack of contact with natural environments (garden soil, woods, animals and the like without a lot of pollution with industrial and agricultural chemicals).

This may be less important for adults than it is for young children. The microbes that they are exposed to in early childhood will probably affect their health for the rest of their lives. The presences of some will cause harm and the lack of others will be dangerous too. A strong balanced immune system depends on exposure and accumulation of a good microbiome.

How do we think

Here is a curious thing: some people think in full sentences and some never do. I do sometimes and not other times. I also sometimes think visually and sometimes in concepts/metaphors without necessarily bothering to clearly name all of them or clearly visualize them either.

Here are some quotes about how people think from a post October 10, 2021 by thebrainbank.

This sparked my curiosity since, as far back as I can remember I’ve always thought in complete sentences, often to the extent that I have conversations with myself inside my own head – I just assumed that this was a pretty normal thing to do!”

“I think in pictures like I’m watching a silent film. In order to submit things to memory I have to have visuals as i struggle to remember audio descriptions. So most of my memory is made up of pictures and that’s how my thought processes work!”

“I sometimes imagine a highly adapted version of something I’ve read or watched – featuring me – and tailored to my real life situation of the time. Less actual words, more images, but like I’m an outsider observing myself observe my situation.”

“I think I only think in words when I’m either a) questioning something (“why’s that there?”) or b) making a decision to do something (“cup of tea!”). I often say such things aloud too when I’m alone.”

“I was wondering about my very minimal inner monologue after talking to my husband about it earlier this week. I find it incredible how most people seem to constantly be thinking in words/sentences. It sounds exhausting to me. I think in actions, visualizations, feelings, impulses and only really have a proper inner monologue when reading or writing. I never know internally what I’m about to say out loud (unless I force myself to do so, or if I’m nervous about talking in specific situations). Often my mind seems blank with no thoughts. I find meditation very easy.”

“I have narrated my life for as long as I remember. Sometimes, when something is particularly challenging, I sort of Parkinson interview myself, as if the problem is now in the past, and I’m discussing how I overcame it….I’ve done that since I was a teenager!”

This answers some questions. First, I have wondered at the people who say that thinking is not possible without language or that someone cannot have a concept without a word for it. I have always found these ideas not just wrong but somewhat silly. But if there are people who only think in language and no other way then it explains the not too common but very regular occurrence of these comments.

Second, I have wondered at the people who say that language is composed of sentences by its very nature. An utterance that is not a sentence is somehow not correct language or not language at all. I have always found this silly too. I think I have encountered people who have never spoken a well formed sentence in their lives – but they communicate in words and phrases so that we understand. If there are people who actually think in sentences – well, wonders never cease.

To the extent that people may have choices in how they think, it would seem short-sighted to restrict the form used. The more ways and forms that someone can use to think, the more widely and deeply their thoughts can go.

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About Janet Kwasniak

Retired pensioner, raised in Canada but UK citizen living in France, interested in Science and many other things.

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