Richard Stallman and Freedom

15 November 2017

Today (Wednesday, 15th Nov 2017) I went to see Richard Stallman give a presentation on Free Software.

He was being hosted by a California State project to re-write the Child Welfare website (including backend) using Free Software. Most of the attendees were state employees involved in the project. I was there because I had gotten an email about the event from the Free Software Foundation. Though rain clouds threatened, I went ahead and made the approximately 10 mile bike ride over to Natomas where the state government has a bunch of buildings in a nice industrial park.

Richard is about 1-1/2 years older than me. He was born in New York City (per Wikipedia) and acts like it. He became proficient in writing computer programs while in high school, and was working as a programmer even as he continued his education.

In his early years, he worked at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence laboratory, then funded largely through DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

As software and computing became more popular, Richard noticed that most companies were keeping their code (the higher-language representation of the program) secret. He objected to this on the grounds that in a free society, code should be published like other forms of literature, so it could be studied and learned from.

He started integrating his ideas into a coherent ideology with the birth of the GNU project in 1983. The NU in GNU stands for “not Unix” which was meant to emphasize that the GNU system was all Free Software, though it functioned a lot like Unix. Beyond that, the gnu is a native name for the African wildebeest, which is used as the project’s mascot.

At the presentation today, Richard went through his basic philosophy about Free Software and gave some examples of how proprietary software has been used against the higher cause of freedom in society.

Is it really all about profit?

Richard thinks that the existence of non-free or anti-freedom software can be explained by profit motive. This has been a common argument from “progressive” circles concerning many political and economic weaknesses. I think this is not an intellectually rigorous explanation.

I don’t say that because I’m so smart. I am simply aware of research that points to other factors.

But I will say this about profit:
In a political-economic context, profit is seen as necessary in order to retain investors. Who would invest in an activity that couldn’t repay the investment, with interest? Beyond the fact that this itself is a weak argument, I also see it as unnecessarily complex.

What a business has to do first to pay a profit to shareholders is to have more income than expenses. But that is just common sense. In a world of machines – and biological entities are a type of machine – you need to put more energy into the system than you will get out as work. The remainder is waste energy, which is used by biology but “dumped” by most machine systems.

If you can make more than you spend, you can pay investors a profit. Or on the scale of a single human being, you can save for a child’s education, or for old age. And by the way, did you include raising a family in your list of expenses? So, we have pressures on the producers in an economy to “make a profit” whether it’s their stockholders or their children that they are responsible to.

I believe this basically evaporates the argument of “profit motive.”

Criminality

What we have left, though, is something very obvious that the “progressives” don’t talk much about: Criminality.

As I am “musing” in this article I will opine on why the “progressives” have this problem. My theory – and not just mine, nor my origination particularly – is that an approach to life commonly referred to as “psychology” has infiltrated its way into American life, and the “progressive” movement in particular. It is not that there is something wrong with the study of the mind. It is only that the history of this particular brand of psychology we are seeing on Earth suggests it was financed and supported, if not actually created, by persons who wished to develop a sort of intellectual framework, or propaganda mechanism, that would serve to explain or justify “bad” behavior anywhere from mildly rude to morally reprehensible.

What has arisen from this effort is a jumble of loosely-related ideas, including concepts like Moral Relativism, and Situational Ethics. The bulk of these concepts are confused and under-developed, but when paired up with Psychology as our best attempt to understand human thought and behavior, they can establish a basis to justify almost any action, no matter how evil.

In short, the criminal – especially one in government or business – has a problem: How can I harm those around me while maintaining my supposedly legitimate position in society? And I am saying that one answer he has reached for was: Use Psychology.

In this wise, a criminal is explained as a person in a “bad” situation, or someone who was brought up wrong. In a company it could be someone being forced to make a profit, resulting in his making very bad choices. The answer is to be kind to everybody and make sure everyone has enough to eat, spend etc. This argument is warm and fuzzy, but I think demonstrably unworkable.

If the criminal is really a type of personality, like the psychopath of classic psychiatry (now called “psychodynamic theory”), then being kind to him will not change his behavior. He has a compulsive urge to harm secretly. Thus, my theory that modern “psychology” was produced by and for criminals, as it fails miserably to solve the problem of crime (when it addresses it directly at all).

Modern “psychology” totally ignores past lives and their influence on present-life behavior, even though this has been the most productive research avenue during the previous century that yielded new understandings about human behavior.

Self-correction?

A very major segment of the people I have been exposed to who are out there communicating ideas seem to believe that to make a person aware of a sub-standard behavior will lead to correction.

I don’t know why this idea remains so strong in people, as I see almost no support for it in the extreme cases where self-correction has been most needed and most lacking.

One example of this type of thinking is gun control. What gun control advocates seem to be saying is that if we make certain types of guns illegal or difficult to obtain, a person who wishes he could go out and blow everybody’s head off will become aware that this is wrong behavior and self-correct into some more acceptable approach. This idea is totally ridiculous.

Yet a progressive-oriented person like Richard Stallman, as fine and upstanding as his ideas are, thinks that if we just make Free Software more popular, those using anti-free software will eventually self-correct and see the error of their ways. If that were to really happen, purveyors of anti-free software might give in, simply on the basis that they could no longer sell their products to anyone. But what I am suggesting is that the criminals among them would not self-correct. They would just find alternative methods to perform criminal acts and protect their secrets.

What anti-free is really all about

Mr. Stallman, as well as many on the “right” who argue for more freedom, are not aware of the research I am aware of, I am quite sure. And while I may not be able to explain that research with total clarity here, I do think it is worth our while to at least be aware of it.

LRH began to speak of it in the 1950s, and continued to mention it now and again into the 1960’s. His famous training lecture “The Free Being” dates from 1963.

A free being is a being that doesn’t need a body to operate through. And such beings, unfortunately, have a history of acting somewhat inconsiderately towards people walking around in bodies. The free being didn’t realize these people were basically the same order of being as he was, except trapped in their bodies. So these societies of beings in bodies learned how to trap free beings. They saw it as a survival point. Aptitude in this activity was something to be proud of. And the free beings of this universe finally all became trapped in bodies, like everyone else, and being “free” the way free beings were became totally unacceptable. This was hammered into the populations by their managers as a primary rule of life! Free beings had caused them so many problems; nobody stopped to think that they might be spiritual brothers.

But there were always some in every society who insisted on working to be “more free.” Were these the ones who used to be free, their memories of past happy days leaking through the various mental trapping mechanisms? Perhaps. But what was important was that those societies couldn’t tolerate such people. And they would go out on programs to scoop them up and dump them someplace where they could do no harm to anyone, like Earth.

It seems this dumping operation was rather hit-and-miss. Perhaps it was carried out mostly as a PR campaign to impress populations. Because we sure have a jumble of different personalities and approaches on this planet now!

The point is that “psychology” never figured all this out. The ideas and methodologies that did figure it out have been around for over 50 years. They were rejected by psychology. Why? Probably because they could lead to greater freedom! But also because psychology was being influenced by criminals, who are extremely afraid of freedom. Not just mentally dull about it; VERY afraid of it. A free being – though it has some historic outpoints – can also see through any secret, rendering a criminal helpless. This may be the bigger reason that criminals are involved in anti-free technologies, software being just one of them.

It was good to see Richard Stallman. I had heard a lot about him over the years. His heart is in a good place, but I don’t think his solutions will get society where he’d like it to go. He needs to understand it better first. Anti-free is more deeply entrenched in the minds of men – and particularly managers – than he realizes. The solutions exist at a deeper level than he is currently aware of. That they exist in any form at all is a minor miracle.

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Motors Demo

25 October 2017

motors-demo-20171025-2-cropped

I don’t use motors much in my projects, but they are everywhere now on our very mechanical world. So I am always running into them, and had a bunch set aside mostly from tearing down old printers. I have been particularly interested in stepper motors, as I had read about them a long time ago, and they are used a lot in industry.

Stepper Motors

This isn’t going to be a huge technical article, but: Stepper motors are used for positioning in all sorts of equipment, computer printers just being one example. They are designed to be moved an exact rotational amount (by counting the step signals sent to the motor) and to hold that position while energized.

The ordinary stepper motor is driven by two overlapping signals, as mentioned in my recent post about SerDes design. Finding new data about how these motors are driven inspired me to take another shot at creating a working driver. My previous attempt, based on sine waves amplified by audio amps, had not been successful.

Design by Numbers

Here is a rear view of my project, with numbers added to match the discussion below:

motors-demo-20171025-4-cropped-annotated

  1. AC terminals and connectors. I like to run my projects off AC-powered supplies. I get them cheap from thrift stores. Usually they are “wall warts” or otherwise portable / external power supplies, and I remove the plastic cover and use the board inside. Sometimes I keep half the cover if it helps for mounting purposes.The funny thing about all modern power supplies is that the first thing they do is convert your AC power to DC. Then they step down the DC (about 120V in the US, about twice that in many other places) to the power supply voltage. Most of these modules provide good regulation, because that’s built into the controller electronics, and it helps protect people and equipment.
  2. I stacked the two power supplies I used. The top one runs my control electronics. Most of it is 5V, but I also have some 12V relays.
  3. I used a 9 volt 3-1/2 amp module to run the motors. These are a little hard to find, so when I run across one I grab it for later use. 5V supplies are ubiquitous, as they are used now for phone chargers (phones generally have 4V batteries). But other voltages and power levels can be more scarce.
  4. Next in line is a board that monitors the motor supply for voltage and current output. You can buy panel meters with these features built in, but I built my own, as it’s not too hard. It then feeds generic panel meters. The hardest part to get right on this board was the current shunt. I used a bunch of SMT (surface mount) resistors in parallel.
  5. The motor driver module was purchased online from China. This particular one had some problems, and I basically had to repair it before I could use it. That sometimes happens with cheap stuff from China. They had installed the wrong part to function as a 5V auxiliary supply. It was supposed to be a fixed-voltage part and an adjustable-voltage part was installed. So I had to lift the adjustment pin off the board and add some components to get my 5V output.One of the drivers was also poorly soldered, so I went over the solder joints and added more solder as needed.

    The board uses a part that has been around for a long time (LM298). It is designed to drive stepper motors. It has four logic-level inputs (plus enable) and four power outputs. It can work up to 48V. I had planned to add a second higher-voltage motor driver supply to the project, but all the motors worked fine with 9V, so I left it out.

    You have to feed the driver the correct signals, and I made two more boards to do that. One board provides the four steps needed to generate the “quadrature” drive pattern and a pulse-width-modulated (PWM) signal to vary the amount of drive. The other board converts these signals to those needed to feed to the driver board.

  6. Another board just gets all the connections right.
  7. I used a four-position rotary switch to select between four different motors. Only one is a stepper motor. The ordinary DC motors are very easy to power on; you just apply power. You can modify their speed somewhat by changing the drive voltage or using a PWM signal which essentially does the same thing. I used one driver IC on the driver board to power the DC motors. I paired up the four drivers to make two. I can run the load in forward, reverse or braking mode.
  8. Here are the front panel controls for stepper speed, PWM, and forward – brake – reverse.
  9. Cheap panel meters from China indicate the drive voltage and total current being used. They have a nice auto-ranging feature which makes them usable up to about 50 volts input. Their electronics run on 5 volts. These digital meters only have three decimal places, but that was enough for this application.

Closing Comments

The biggest problem with motors is having them stall out due to mechanical overload, which can ruin both the motor and the drive electronics. As these motors are running no-load, that’s not a problem. You can grab the motor shaft with your fingers if you want to, and see what mechanical loading does to the current draw. But for real use, the electronics should include overcurrent protection to turn the power off if the motor stalls. Many industrial motor drivers also monitor motor temperature, which is another way to tell that something is going wrong with your motor.

I am very happy that I was finally able to get my stepper motor to run (both forwards and reverse!) and at a variety of different speeds. It turns out steppers are a bit sensitive to what speed you drive them at. Try to go too fast and they just won’t run. Go too slow and they use too much power (though there are ways around this). Most steppers have an optimum speed, and in most applications, you will see them operated at a constant speed, or maybe two, high and low (like in a scanner).

The driver module was designed for robotics hobbyists. It’s a neat design, but not well-documented. I had to look up the datasheets for the various parts used to get details. This is par for the course in hobby electronics.

It rains!

20 October 2017

I never thought I’d do a post just on account of some rain.
But per the records I’ve been able to find, it hasn’t rained in Sacramento since April. That’s six months with no rain! I didn’t even notice any foggy mornings.

But last night, as the weather guys predicted, we heard the soft pitter-patter of rain drops on the roof and in the yard. And this morning it was wet outside.

roses after a rain

Of course, people and other biological forms survive under conditions like this because of ground water and stored water upstream behind dams. Our garden stayed well-watered. Those who decided to continue the water conservation effort got very dry and brown lawns. However, most trees and even bushes did OK because of water in the soil.

We could leave even more water in the soil if we didn’t flush roof runoff into the drain system, but flushed it onto the soil instead. (That’s the permaculture way.)

When I took a photo of droplets in an old web under our pine tree, I found something interesting. Can you tell from the photo?

old web under pine tree

There is also sap (what amber is made out of) falling out of the tree and collecting on this web. The one darker blob is really obvious. This sap is quite messy. I got some on my fingers; it’s hard to get off.

In search of a better SerDes

17 October 2017

Oh no! Another dry technical article! True, true. Just pass it by if you’re not interested.

Serdes sounds like a Greek word, but it isn’t really. There are some people with the name Serdes, but it is uncommon. I learned it as an engineering acronym thus (lightly edited):

A Serializer/Deserializer (SerDes) – usually pronounced “sir-deez” – is a pair of functional blocks commonly used in high speed communications to compensate for limited input/output. These blocks convert data between serial data and parallel interfaces in each direction. The term “SerDes” generically refers to interfaces used in various technologies and applications. The primary use of a SerDes is to provide data transmission over a single/differential line in order to minimize the number of I/O pins and interconnects.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SerDes

Electronic Art

I am trying to work out some cool things to do with LED arrays that would respond to environmental or observer inputs. There are many pieces to such a system. This includes the possibility that the display itself may be some distance from the electronics that collects the input signals and decides what the display should do. The same way a computer monitor can be separate from the computer. And in this case, the two are connected with a cable.

Some of us remember the old printer cables. They were thick, had up to 25 separate wires in them, and couldn’t be much longer than 15 feet. I could probably use such a cable in my projects. But that’s a lot of bulk, and it comes with many limitations. Those cables connected a parallel port on the computer to a parallel port on the printer. There were usually 8 data lines plus a bunch of handshaking signals to make it so the computer would not send data faster than the printer could print it out. If you wanted to get a lot of data back from the printer, you could add another 8 data lines going in the opposite direction.

8 bits can encode into 256 different numbers (0 to 255). That’s enough for an alphabet – both upper and lower case – and a bunch of other symbols. Each symbol has a number “code” that stands for that symbol. Both ends of the line have to use the same code system.

An 8 bit parallel system could go pretty fast; millions of symbols per second. But try pushing parallel data through a long cable that fast and you will quickly run into problems. You would need to shield the cable so external signals won’t interfere with it, and so it won’t radiate signals into external equipment. And the wires in the cable, when they get quite long, resist fast signals going through them in at least three different ways (resistance, inductance and capacitance). So if you want to send data fast through a long cable, you have a whole hardware design challenge on your hands.

SerDes concept

Illustration of the SerDes concept. Original graphic by Grégoire Surrel – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The solutions to these problems usually involve reducing the number of wires carrying signals (ideally just one pair would be enough) and creating special hardware interfaces that alter the signals so that they will make it through the cable successfully, even though the cable presents various barriers to proper transmission.

A standard solution for many years was the “RS-232” serial cable. In this system the signal is amplified to make it more resistant to interference and cable attenuation. And the signal is “serialized” so it only has to use one pair of wires. That means each symbol of 7 or 8 bits would be transmitted as a sequence of bits that would have to be reassembled into 7 or 8 parallel bits at the receiving end. That was an early SerDes system. But we didn’t call it that in the old days. The acronym only came into wide use after the internet and its various forms of information exchange came into wide use. The term commonly refers to high speed data transmissions, but the basic concepts are the same regardless of data rate. My projects use quite low data rates just to make sure I don’t run into too many design problems and can use cheap parts.

The RS-232 standard could probably work for me, but I wanted to try another more modern data transmission standard, TIA-485. (RS = Recommended Standard, as published by the EIA, Electronics Industries Alliance, but now taken over by the TIA, Telecommunications Industry Association). This standard uses two wires for each signal plus a third wire used as a ground (zero volts) reference. The signal is transmitted in an attenuated form, differentially. That means a “zero” would be transmitted by putting maybe 3-1/2 volts on one wire and 1 volt on the other. And a “one” would be transmitted by reversing those. Smaller signals in a cable create less external interference and are easier to pass through longer cable lengths.

I have a connector that is used for MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) that has five pins, which means it can carry two differential serial signals (or 4 RS-232 signals) plus a ground reference wire. I wanted to use this connector and a 5-wire cable, but there was one problem:

SerDes Timing

Just as in the old parallel printer cables, where handshaking signals were necessary to tell the printer when a symbol to print was put onto the connecting cable, and tell the computer when the printer was busy, serial systems also need a way of at least telling the receiver when the transmitted data is good, how fast it is going, and when an entire symbol has been sent. This requires, minimum, clock and end-of-symbol signals for data rate and data synchronization. In the RS-232 system, the data rate had to be set at both ends in advance. And the end-of-symbol signal was coded into the data stream. It takes a computer to figure out how to decode this data stream, but if you send all three signals separately, you don’t need any computing at the receiving end. Deserialization can be done with one piece of hardware called a shift register.

But I can’t transmit three signals over a five-wire TIA-485 cable, only two. So I thought I’d figure out how to combine the three signals into two so that my system could work with the hardware I have. I devised a rather simple system to do this, and built an initial working system several years ago for my “Christmas” project (Christmas because it used strings of holiday lights for the visual display). Recently I have built two more systems that use this method.

Glitches

I like to re-design systems each time I build them. This is partly because I might not have the same parts available that I used in an earlier design. Or it might be just to explore different ways the problem could be solved. All the heavy work in my SerDes system is on the transmitting site. The receiver is very easy to make. And for this transmitter design I wanted to use counters to run ICs (integrated circuits, now often known as “chips”) called multiplexers. You put parallel data on the 8 inputs of a multiplexer, then tell it which input to put on the output using a counter. And if the counter repeats a regular pattern (as most do) then the parallel data at the inputs will come out of the output in a predictable serial sequence. And so you have achieved serialization.

In my first design I was getting “glitches” at the outputs of some of my multiplexers. This is because I was using “ripple” counters. In this type of counter, the counting outputs don’t all change at exactly the same time. They might be a little off (usually much less than a microsecond, but that’s enough time to cause trouble). In other words, when changing from count 1 to count 2 for instance, the ones bit has to change from one to zero, while the twos bit has to change from zero to one. If the twos bit lagged a little, both outputs might be zero for a split second, telling the multiplexer to go to the wrong input. Such glitches can be filtered out, which is what I did in the first design. But in the second design I decided to try a different counting scheme, where only one counting bit would change at any one time. This should make counting glitches impossible (it does). But it means the count is no longer in number sequence. In other words to do this with a 4-count pattern, you have to use the pattern 0-2-3-1 (or 0-1-3-2) to get a glitchless count. This different sequence is not a problem when using a multiplexer, though it is more confusing to design if you are used to using ripple counters that count 0-1-2-3 (etc.).

I looked at the waveforms associated with this kind of counting, and they were just two square waves offset by one count. I found a PDF online that describes how to implement this kind of counter. It’s called a “quadrature” counter, and it’s pretty simple to do. Getting a similar sequence of 8 is a little more tricky, but basically just interleaves a quadrature signal with a square wave. I built my second system this way and it works fine (though I had to scratch my head a bit to get the input sequence right, as it is sensitive to the place value given to the various counting signals).

quadrature waveform illustration

A four-count pattern implemented using a quadrature counter.

What form should the data take?

So I now have a hardware system that can be used with either 2 TIA-485 signals over quite long distances (if the cables are made well) or with 4 RS-232 signals (but not the RS-232 encoding system). The RS-232 version is much easier to build, but does have distance and speed limitations compared to the TIA-485 system.

The original intention of the system was to enable transmission of 8-bit-wide signals that would be used to control an array of LEDs. But it could also be used to transmit serial control streams of any bit length. This means a wide variety of displays could be controlled, as long as they didn’t have to change at a very fast rate. In other words, we’re not talking about full-motion video, like TV, but that’s not the sort of display I’m working with. My average display contains less than 100 LEDs, while a modern TV screen contains millions.

I have also tried transmitting analog data using digital serial techniques by using pulse-width encoding, which is very simple to implement in hardware. This gives me the option of using digital data transmission instead of long analog signal lines. This may come in handy in some of my projects.

To the Stars

13 October 2017

In 1950 L. Ron Hubbard wrote a short novel for John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction entitled “To the Stars.”

The story was in the Space Opera genre and concerned the exploits of the spaceship Hound of Heaven which was rigged to travel near light speeds. For every hop the crew made around the universe, the people on the ground aged 100 years or more, leading to some very difficult circumstances.

In 2004 there was an attempt to turn the story into a film. The book was re-released (first released as a book in 1954) and Chic Corea recorded an album of the same name with some very kick-ass (and difficult to play) music on it.

“To the Stars” is a well-used phrase in the world today, but this article concerns the newest appearance of the term that I am aware of. Here is a screenshot of the new website related to this development:

to the stars home page

Tom DeLonge is a rock musician and UFO researcher born in California about 41 years ago.

He had considerable success with his band Blink-182 but by 2015 had become preoccupied with his other work and left the band. He released an album entitled To the Stars shortly thereafter. He also formed an independent publishing company of the same name.

Two days ago, DeLonge recorded and released a video announcing his latest venture: To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science. This venture is incorporated as a Public Benefit Corporation. It is for-profit but committed to serving the public good.

The venture’s mission, as stated on its website is:

To The Stars Academy strives to be a powerful vehicle for change by creating a consortium among science, aerospace and entertainment that will work collectively to allow gifted researchers the freedom to explore exotic science and technologies with the infrastructure and resources to rapidly transition them to products that can change the world.

They are focusing on science, aerospace and entertainment.
Subjects to be researched include: consciousness, telepathy and Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. They want to independently develop an “electrogravitic” propulsion system. And they want to produce feature films, as well as many other media forms.

The core group of this venture is comprised of:

  • Tom DeLonge, President.
  • Jim Semivan, VP Operations. Jim is retired CIA.
  • Hal Puthoff, VP Science and Technology. Hal is a laser scientist who was involved in Remote Viewing research in the 1970s.
  • Steve Justice, Director Aerospace Division. Steve worked at Lockheed’s Skunk Works for 31 years.
  • Luis Elizondo, Director of Global Security and Special Programs. Luis is a former U.S. intelligence officer. He was trained in microbiology and related fields and holds several patents.
  • Chris Mellon, National Security Affairs Advisor. Mr. Mellon has a varied government and private background including intelligence work and investing. He did his MA at Yale.

Consultants include: Dr. Garry Nolan, Genetics Technology; Dr. Paul Rapp, Brain Function and Consciousness; Dr. Norm Kahn, National Security and Program Management; Dr. Colm Kelleher, Biotechnologies; Dr. Adele Gilpin, Biomedicine and Law (licensed attorney).

Highlights of the 11 October video include:

In Mr. Mellon’s opening remarks, he told the story of a 2004 (14 November) encounter that the USS Nimitz had with a UFO. Our planes were unable to follow this craft. It did not communicate with the ship in any way, but was simply visible in the sky (and on radar) for some time.

Luis Elizondo remarked:

…by far the most interesting effort I was involved with was the topic of advanced aerial threats. For nearly the last decade, I ran a sensitive aerospace threat identification program focusing on unidentified aerial technologies. It was in this position I learned that the phenomenon is indeed real.

…We are also planning to provide never before released footage from real U.S. government systems, not blurry amateur photos but real data and real videos. And we’re inviting our government colleagues and friends in Defense to participate regularly with their own findings.

Steve Justice announced:

…one of the things I want to do is figure out what those technologies are in this observed vehicle and I want to build that.

I think this is a remarkable development in this whole field. It may seem limited to some, but they are obviously trying to creat something that will work with the general public, not just a few UFO nuts.

Friday the 13th

On this date in 1307 the king of France had hundreds of Knights Templar arrested, and later killed many of them and disbanded their organization in France. He had borrowed heavily from them and could not repay the loans. Here is an example of a senior government official – unable or unwilling to properly govern – committing crimes simply to protect his position and his own interests. That king died only 7 years later, at the age of 46.

That he acted on Friday the 13th may have been an attempt to lend supernatural legitimacy to his crime. However, the idea that Fridays that occur on the 13th day of the month are unlucky is not mentioned in any contemporaneous literature (per those who study such things). The thought does not seem to appear in literature until the late 1800s, a period during which many Europeans were reacquainting themselves with the original Asian origins of many of the world’s religious and spiritual systems of thought.

Bike Trip East

12 October 2017

I took this trip on the 24th of September. Got busy and almost forgot to write about it!

yellow asters

These hardy yellow asters thrive in an otherwise very dry landscape.

I have taken the American River Bikeway (also known by other names) west into Sacramento many times, but never east, so that’s what I decided to do one recent Sunday.

wild growing grapes

Here is another plant that grows in dry areas. But the fruit needs shade.

I have already written about the plants that grow along the river, but I never tire of photographing them – always hoping for a better shot than the last one. The jimsonweed with its huge white whorled flowers is always interesting to take pictures of.

jimsonweed

The trail east (towards Folsom) goes through drier land than that found downriver. And at one point the soil becomes almost 100 percent large gravel. This is a deposit from an ancient glacier, as far as geologists can tell. The stones are very worn and rounded. You will see these boulders in gardens; there is so much of it around here.

There is also an area of cliffs upriver. I took some pictures, but they didn’t seem very exciting and I didn’t really want to go on about geology, as it’s not my subject. There are also some really fancy houses up on top of those cliffs (other side of river). The views from up there must be pretty darned good.

Meanwhile, down on the trail a little group riding horses pass by. Horses are allowed along most of this trail, but they have their own paths they are supposed to follow, so they won’t interfere too much with the bike riders. These paths weave in and out along the river bank, sometimes using the bike path shoulder. This time of year you can often tell if there are horses ahead because their passing stirs up dust.

horse riders

Egret

egret by the trail

About a week before I made this trip, I saw a very large bird – probably a blue heron – land on the roof of a nearby house. It reminded me of seeing large birds following the creeks of Pullman down to wintering grounds closer to the big rivers, where it stays warmer and the water doesn’t freeze over.

But the fish eaters in this region don’t need to migrate. It never freezes here. Yet these birds do move around, and I am sure they are joined by more birds that summer at higher elevations were it does freeze in the winter. So there was one, one day, standing on a rooftop in Sacramento.

And then on this trip I saw this bird, an egret, by the trail. Myself and another photographer got pretty close to it before it took off. She had a fast camera and said she got a picture of it flying. It is really quite a large bird so seeing it in flight close to the ground is quite dramatic. My attempt to photograph it in flight captured only blue sky.

Lilacs

An another subject, there is the question of the “California Lilac.” Someone decided to call a bushy tree that somewhat resembles the traditional Lilac of the northwest, midwest and east coast by this name. The Lilac we are used to in “temperate” areas originates in the Mediterranean region (or Asia) and is in the Olive Family and rather closely related to the Privet (which does grow in the Sacramento area).

northern lilac flowers

Real lilacs are in genus Syringa

However, the plant found in drier climates named after the Lilac is in the Buckthorn Family, which has a somewhat unusual flower structure. Many of these species are native to California and are seen all over the place, including in many yards and urban plantings. They can be white, pink, violet (purple). A have seen plants that seemed to have totally red flowers, but those were perhaps a different plant, as Ceanothus flower colors apparently don’t include red. In gardens they do appear much like traditional Lilacs. However, the larger plants remind me a lot of mountain-ash (rowan). This particular specimen was hanging over a fence and getting dried out, but the shot shows its flower very well, with its showy frilled petals seated atop rather long slender stems. This plant was probably bred to have flowers this showy.

california lilac flower

California “lilac” is in genus Ceanothus.

Electronics Design Case Study – ADSR

23 September 2017

ADSR module homemade

This is a technical article and if you have no particular interest in electronics design feel free to skip it. It will get into some terminology that won’t all be explained in the text…

Music Synthesis

My interest in synthesizers goes back to my early days studying electronics. I always wanted to make my own synth.

But by 1983, MIDI had come out, and I was in the Sea Org.

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. Musical instruments were an early target for embedded controllers (software-controlled electronic circuits) for many reasons. This ended (mostly) the era when synthesizers were controlled by analog (continuous) signals. Voltage sources were terrible when it came to keeping all the electronic instruments in an ensemble in tune with each other. So tuning was an obvious feature to turn over to the digital world, where crystal-controlled oscillators could stabilize pitch to within a few parts in a million.

The advent of digital signal processing meant things like voltage-controlled filters and unusual effects like ring modulation could be implemented with algorithms instead of hardware.

Voltage-controlled amplitude, however, is so straightforward in the hardware realm that it remains somewhat popular. A basic part of synthesizing a real-world note or sound is approximating its amplitude envelope. This envelope has long been analyzed by acoustics engineers into four parts: Attack; Decay; Sustain and Release. If you play a note on a stringed instrument you can easily see each of these parts in action. How hard and fast you hit (or pluck) the string determines the initial attack and to some extent how that attack decays. Then if you don’t damp the string it will continue to ring until it is damped or played over. This is sustain. And when it is damped, the sound will die out, which is the release phase.

There are many many possible ways to imitate this amplitude envelope with electronics. The most common methods use parts that I had run out of (1 Meg-ohm potentiometers) so I decided to try an alternative design of my own creation.

Design Requirements

Most traditional ADSRs take a “gate” signal from a keyboard which tells the electronics how long the key is being held down (“note on” in MIDI). My electronic art projects use sensors, not keyboards, so I couldn’t rely on a gate signal to determine how much sustain the sound would have. I also kind of wanted a circuit that could be adapted so that each part of the envelope could be controlled by a separate sensor. That means it couldn’t just use pots, like the super-simple designs do. I also wanted to try straight-line segments rather than the traditional curved segments you get using just resistors and capacitors, even though this is less “realistic” for decay slopes.

I had a front panel I was reusing from an earlier project, and originally loaded it with just three pots – all that seemed to fit – which is two less than you need to control the five main parameters of the envelope. But I thought I could skip setting a sustain level, and use one pot to control both decay and release slopes. This panel had to fit into a eurorack-style chassis I had put together earlier, with power coming in the front.

The unit was also to include the voltage-controlled amplifiers, using an IC I had never worked with before.

First Try

I decided to use an op amp integrator at the core of the design, as it would give straight-line slopes and could be dependably controlled. However, I wasn’t sure how to set up my 100K pots to imitate a wider range of resistance. I used three comparators and a couple of flip-flops to detect voltage levels and turn the various slopes on and off.

Mounted at the bottom of the front panel was a backplane board that has become standard in most of my designs. Circuit boards then plug into this backplane, which ideally handles all the interconnects. Front panel parts that could not be mounted directly on the backplane board would be wired down to the backplane using jumpers.

I made the envelope generator board first and then the VCA board. The VCA datasheet was confusing at first, but by wiring an actual circuit I was able to figure out what was going on. This VCA could accept a wide range of control voltages (0 to 30 roughly), but they were referenced to the negative voltage rail! So I needed both an amplifier and offset for my envelope, as it would go from 0 to 5V only, my standard range for control voltages. I realized at this point that I would need a sound source to test this with, and it would also be nice to monitor the envelope waveform on an analog meter. I then spent about a day creating an oscillator and a meter for these purposes.

An incomplete design with too many questions about “will it work this way?” resulted in my running out of room on my envelope module. To solve this I piggybacked an extra module onto the main one. I got some sort of envelope out of this design, but the pots worked only over an extremely narrow range of their total rotation. I had to decide whether to stick with these pots and basic design, or start over.

Second Try

I looked around at what my alternatives were. I had a nice set of six quite small 5K pots from an old piece of audio equipment. They would all fit into the panel if I drilled new holes for them. So I decided to go for it. Five of these pots went onto a new backplane board. I modified this board to hold circuitry and figured the majority of my new design would fit on this board, with the rest put on a new plug-in module on the original backplane.

Now that I was beginning to recognize that this was a challenging project, I went to a build a section and test it approach to my work. 5K pots could only yield 1:100 output variations (comparable to using a 1Meg pot in series with a 10K resistor) by using the turn-on “knee” of transistors to stretch out the transfer curve. I have used this before so didn’t bother to work it out in complete detail, or plot the curves graphically, but below gives you a graphical idea of what I’m referring to:

transistor turn-on graph

Using a curve found on the internet, note that a 0.1 change in input voltage produces a ten-fold change in output current. Extend this input range a little more and you can squeeze out a 1:100 input/output ratio, or even more.

I built my current sources and sinks using discrete transistors. This gives worse consistency and stability than using matched pairs or some specialized IC, but usable for my purposes. I built one and tested it. I gave me a range of 50 to roughly 1500 microamps. This was good enough. I put the rest on the board, then added a dual timer (LM556) and some inverters and connected it up to run continuously (astable mode). I powered up and checked with my oscilloscope. This part of the design worked fine. The timers have two comparators and a flip-flop inside each of them, so this decreased my parts count.

I thought that I could get the timers to stop after just one cycle using some sort of edge detection scheme. But it didn’t work. I was using two timers so that the attack-decay and sustain-release cycles were separate and could be put in sequence. But my difficulties in making the circuit cycle just once and stop caused me to rethink this approach.

The next day I rewired the timers for one-shot (monostable mode) operation. Now the timers could be triggered by my sensor, fire – producing the envelope waveforms – and would then stop, waiting for a new trigger. I used two control flip-flops with NAND gates (CD4093B) to lock out new trigger signals until the current envelope had finished. I really needed only one flip-flop, but the package (CD4013B) has two in it, so I used one for each of the timers.

Next I had to get all the analog levels of the envelope right. I put this circuitry on the new module board. I only needed 8 wires to connect the new envelope module to this analog module. It has six opamps and a comparator. The comparator detects when the envelope signal goes to zero, and resets the flip-flops so they can allow in another trigger signal. This circuit wasn’t working at first. What was wrong? The envelope waveforms were only going down to 0.5 volts, not to ground. I had the comparator set below this, so it was never firing. I was powering my envelope generator with only ground and +12V. The current sinks (set up as mirrors for my current sources) could only pull the load capacitors down to 1/2 a volt. I compensated for this by adding some offset to my summing opamp. I set the output to go a little below ground so the comparator would for sure fire. I had to find a missing wire on the envelope board before I got the unit totally working. It’s not perfect, but it now works as it was designed to work, and will serve it purpose in helping me develop electronic art that uses sounds.

Answers to Drugs

22 September 2017

Yesterday I attended a public information session concerning the increasing use of marijuana and other drugs. This session was organized by Bishop Ron Allen who heads the International Faith Based Coalition. This is an anti-drug-abuse group. (Not an anti-drug group, though.) He had this session video-taped for use in his outreach work.

Two of the presenters were with the Colorado National Marijuana Initiative. They were there representing the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.

From official websites:

A component of the Executive Office of the President, ONDCP was created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 [which extended an act by the same name passed 2 years earlier]. The ONDCP Director is the principal advisor to the President on drug control issues. ONDCP coordinates the drug control activities and related funding of 16 Federal Departments and Agencies.

ONDCP also administers two grant programs: the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and Drug-Free Communities (DFC).

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, provides assistance to Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States.

The National Marijuana Initiative (NMI) is one of three national initiatives within the HIDTA program.

Other presenters

Another presenter was with the California Dept. of Justice Advanced Training Center.

The first presenter, who did not sit on the panel, was the ED of Omni Youth Programs, a non-profit, non-governmental “agency” operating in Sacramento County. She is college-trained with a background in both traditional and non-traditional therapies. She is assisted at Omni by a trained Family Therapist.

She explained to the audience that Omni’s approach to drug abuse is to target correlated factors such as child and family violence. These factors are linked to drug abuse (alcohol abuse in particular) by many studies (I assume mostly done by sociologists). These factors are addressed through group training programs. Omni trains the trainers who then go out and train groups. If this training is like other methods I have heard about, it focuses on changing “undesirable” behaviors into more desirable ones. We can assume that this work is moderately beneficial, but it uses technologies that can also be applied to more sinister forms of social control, and involves no real therapy on a personal level. Measures of the effectiveness of this work were not stressed in her short talk, but the website indicates positive results in 6- and 12-month follow-up studies.

Criminalize it

The federal approach to the drug problem is to criminalize drug production (where possible), trafficking, and use. About half of all Federal prisoners are there on drug trafficking charges. This is about 100,000 people. There are only about 250 people in federal prisons for possession only, but in state prisons there are roughly 50,000 more. There were roughly 160,000 drug traffickers in state prisons in recent years.

These figures must not include many major in-country producers, as drug production figures show no sign of heading downwards. However, many of these drugs, even Meth and LSD, have significant non-US sources, and most illegal drugs are majorly produced outside of the US.

The law-based approach to drug abuse control gives a lot of people a lot of things to do, but gives no particular sign of being effective. As is the case with most lawmaking, anti-drug laws are on the books because they are demanded by popular opinion, or give the government the feeling they are “doing something,” not because they are effective at dealing with social problems.

The federal people at this event argued for a continued legal and regulatory approach to the problem, bolstered by information campaigns, which have shown some effectiveness.

If marketing is effective, why bother with criminalization?

My take would be to trash the legal approach and continue the information campaigns. This might seem hypocritical to some, but passing laws about things just doesn’t seem to work. Private corporations, which have no direct ability to make law (though they do lobby abundantly, per all reports), have grown strong on marketing alone. Marketing and propaganda can breath life into a failed idea or kill a successful one. I think the effectiveness of marketing stems from its stress on giving people reasons to do things rather than reasons to stop doing things. Starting remains more popular than stopping in this society and probably always will. The stoppers are doomed to a minority status, even if they gain control of government or industry for a time. One of the greatest paradoxes we live with today has been our success at starting wars. Wars have always been seen primarily as stops because of their destructive results, but we have become convinced that they have “constructive” purposes in society, so they are now broadly supported (at least in the US).

That wars are constructive is of course a lie. So what we have in the US is a situation where the public is being lied to broadly and believing most of it. This is a sad situation, and is the road to a totally out-ethics (self-destructive) nation, which we are rapidly becoming. Drug use is a part of this greater overall picture.

Hubbard’s approach

What LRH has discovered about drug use is summarized in the informational booklet, “Answers to Drugs.” This booklet is part of both the Volunteer Ministers program and the Scientology Online Courses program.

Hubbard believed that the only way to ultimately solve the huge social issues of our times was to take individuals and bring them up to a point where they would become willing and able to take effective actions at a social level. He saw no way to accomplish this only at the level of the group. Individuals were the building blocks of all groups, so individuals are the target of Hubbard’s work. Scientology organizations are dedicated to handling individuals. However, when individuals get to the point where they feel ready to take action on the group level, they may do so through several programs sponsored by church members, but designed to operate independently of church organizations:

Narconon handles the drug abuse problem by operating rehabilitation facilities across the planet.

The Truth About Drugs program backs up this work with drug education materials and activities.

United for Human Rights seeks to empower victims of criminal abuses by informing them of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Way to Happiness program distributes a secular moral code across the planet in about 100 languages.

That booklet is also used by Criminon, which is a criminal rehabilitation program.

Applied Scholastics seeks to improve study skills, as laid out in LRH’s Study Technology, through its international teacher training center and in schools across the planet.

Hubbard College of Administration similarly teaches Hubbard’s management technology.

The Volunteer Ministers are organized to assist in disaster relief, often working alongside the Red Cross and government groups. Volunteer Ministers can also get trained in all facets of Scientology so they can help friends, neighbors and strangers more effectively.

And the Citizens Commission on Human Rights seeks to put ethics in on the psychiatrist-lead mental health system.

Here are some excerpts from the Answers to Drugs booklet used to train Volunteer Ministers and anyone else interested in this subject:

The hard, solid fact is that until now there has been no effective psychotherapy in broad practice. The result is a drug-dependent population.

Drug addiction has been shrugged off by psychiatry as “unimportant” and the social problem of drug-taking has received no attention from psychiatrists–rather the contrary, since they themselves introduced and popularized LSD. And many are pushers.

Drugs essentially are poisons.

The mind is not a brain.

You can see from this short selection that Scientologists face real challenges in convincing non-Scientologists who have been educated in other “solutions” that our approaches are worth taking a hard look at. They are going to have to change some of their basic stable data about the problem and about society at large.

Drugs and Psychotherapy

The connection between drugs and psychotherapy might not be apparent to some, so let me clarify: People seek therapy usually due to experiencing some “mental problem.” They quite often don’t make this move until they are acutely suffering. Traditionally the therapist talks to the person (now often called “talk therapy”) in the hopes of giving the person some helpful realizations. This sort of therapy is no longer popular; it is not covered by many forms of medical insurance, and it takes a lot of time. So if the talk therapy doesn’t work or is unavailable, drugs are resorted to. Usually some drug can be found that will alleviate the symptoms. It will do nothing about the underlying cause. That means that drugs can “hook” people, because the symptoms return if drug use stops.

So we see drug use as a result of ineffective psychotherapies, as well as lack of access to any therapy other than drugs. Drugs are seen by beginning users as therapeutic, and in the past have often been sold that way. For instance, laudanum – a strong opioid drug – started as a pain relief medicine. So did the modern forms of opium, morphine (still used), heroin and cocaine. To that list add “legitimate” drugs prescribed by psychiatrists, and we see that whole profession falling into the pit of hiding symptoms behind a drug fog, rather than treating root cause. And: As long as they continue to believe that the mind is the brain – a widely disproved misconception – they will continue to fail in their assigned role in society, if they even care what that is.

The result of the failure of psychotherapy to deliver relief where it is most desired has resulted in the current drug situation. The only real solution is to start providing a psychotherapy (or whatever you choose to call it) that really works.

None of the panelists at the event I attended suggested this.

Intelligence and Social Experience

10 September 2017

The lower the IQ, the more the individual is shut off from the fruits of observation.
– LRH
(HCOPL 7 Feb 1965, KSW)

It was determined at some point when I was young that I was “smart.”

I didn’t think much about this in my younger years. I did not feel that I was getting pushed in any particular direction (because of my intelligence) by anyone exterior to myself. And no one ever brought it up with me.

Yet, I had an abiding sense of being “different.” Not a lot different, but different to some degree. And though I explained this to myself in various ways over the years, it never particularly occurred to me that intelligence had anything to do with it. Until one day a senior of mine who was in a position to know such data told me that by test I was one of the more intelligent people in our group. Though I made no particular connection at the time this comment was made, it intrigued me in light of the above quote, and in the light of my social experience.

Electronics

I took up a study of electronics around my last year of high school. I had always enjoyed my work in the arts throughout my younger days in school, but it occurred to me that I had no idea how to make a living as an artist. Beyond that, I had not figured out what art was “good for” outside of keeping myself and others involved in the field amused. I thought I’d better sort these points out before I committed myself to a life in the arts, so I chose a fall-back study, electronics, as I was already running into it through my interest in music and audio equipment.

my electronics bench

My electronics bench in its beginning form, 1972.

Practical electronics is basically an engineering study involving multiple subjects. To build equipment you must be able to make design drawings, construct objects from wood, plastic, or metal, choose, purchase and assemble parts that include hardware, passive electronic parts, and active parts like transistors or ICs. These days you also have to know how to write code (computing software). Electronics design further involves a knowledge of physics, mathematics, and materials sciences.

As I moved along in my study of electronics, I occasionally noticed that many people around me had no clue about any of these subjects. My father, for example, having studied mainly in the humanities, did not really know physics, chemistry or engineering – though he had used a computer to help him compile data for his doctoral thesis. I was living in a society full of people who did not know that much about the technologies they were using every day.

As I bought and read engineering and hobby books covering these various subjects (as well as studying the basic science and math in high school) I knew that a technically-savvy community existed and that I had become a part of it. It didn’t really occur to me that there might be large numbers of persons who were not up to this level. After all, I had been introduced to the basics in high school.

This subject, by the way, extends deeply into the subject that has been the center of my attention for some time, Scientology. Besides the fact that auditors use an electronic device in their work, electronics has been a repeated – if somewhat esoteric – aspect of the research path starting right out of the gate when LRH chose “bank,” a computer engineering term, to help him describe the mind. According to the more esoteric research conducted by LRH in the early years, electronics has been an important human technology for a very long time. Among the most famous stories to treat “high” technology as a thing of the past is Star Wars. But this has been borne out by research done by numerous persons, not just Hubbard.

Blank Stares

However, when I got into social situations and people would ask me, “What do you do?” (which is a crazy question, by the way), when I would answer “electronics” I would often get a blank stare. The more socially adept would recover quickly, acknowledge my answer, maybe say something like “That sounds really interesting!” and then change the subject.

But, as I have since come to recognize it, I had given them a Misunderstood Word, basically cutting the communication line.

Could other words I was using be causing similar effects?

Per even an average understanding of what it means to be “smart,” a higher-than-normal vocabulary is one agreed-upon characteristic. The subject is mentioned here http://thecommonroomblog.com/2013/02/vocabulary-and-intelligence.html in relation to childhood education. There are some IQ tests based entirely on vocabulary (knowing the meaning of words, and knowing when you don’t know their meaning).
The LRH study method is based on gaining conceptual understandings of the meanings of words. For some words, you might have to go out into the world and find the object or experience the action referred to by the word in order to get a really good conceptual understanding of it.

IQ

The term IQ comes to us from the field of psychology and is intended to be a measure of relative intelligence. In other words, the 100% score (or “average”) could mean a different intelligence – in either quality or quantity – now than it did 100 years ago. However, measuring intelligence this way has only been done for a relatively short amount of time compared to how long intelligent people have been writing down their ideas and experiences in the hopes that others might benefit from it. So we might imagine that a baseline measure of intelligence would be valid and comparable whether it was done today or 50 years ago.

A simple and well-agreed definition for intelligence is: mental ability. How best to measure mental ability depends to some extent on what we think the mind is for. If it is seen mainly as a storage device, then testing it might consist mostly of testing one’s ability to remember with speed and accuracy. If it is considered a thinking device – the more common belief – then it would be tested by posing problems for it to solve. This is the ordinary approach of most intelligence tests.

The fact that many studies have shown that IQ scores correlate with our ideas of what mental ability should be able to do for a person indicates that we have at least some grasp of the subject of human intelligence and how to measure it.

Experience of Others

I found relatively few articles on the internet addressing this subject directly, and none of them scholarly articles. However, some of them did refer to studies that had been done by psychologists or sociologists. Some articles I saw dealt with how to improve your intelligence, while others focused more on advice about how to cope socially if you are extra-smart.

To summarize:

  • Being smart has a certain isolating effect on people. They know and use more words, they can do very well at certain jobs – and are therefore sought-after for such positions, they tend to feel that the help they provide is vital – even if not well reimbursed – and so are willing to work extra hours, and they tend to have so many interests that it may be hard for them to stay focused on the activities of any particular group.
  • Their curiosity may “get them into trouble” on occasion.
  • Similarly, they may notice things – including flaws in data or logic – that others miss and therefore be seen as “picky” or disagreeable.
  • They may develop interests that others can’t grasp or fully participate in due to the breadth of knowledge required to be involved with that subject.
  • They may inadvertently say things or do things that make others feel “stupid.”

My Own Experience

Though my own experience aligns well with many of the above points, I am particularly interested in certain aspects that have been amplified by my Scientology studies:

  • Misunderstood Words. It is hoped that a person, through study alone, would be able to acquire enough conceptual understanding of most unusual (or even common) words or symbols that these would fully become a part of their working vocabulary. But I have found – particularly in the case of engineering subjects (including math), or other specialized vocabularies (botany, biology, law, medicine) that this is not always that easy to attain. Though people are generally “excused” for not knowing technical words, when these words are constantly used in their environment (such as computing terminologies are in this day and age) a mental dullness could result that could only be resolved with a dedicated study of the subject. I may not do well at limiting technical terms in my own writing and conversation, but when these things extend into general marketing – such as the list of side effects that drug advertisers are required to include in their ads – things have gone too far. I don’t see any good reason why “homicidal ideation” (thoughts of killing others) needs to be a household phrase in this world.
  • The need for multidisciplinary understandings. A common term for this sort of person is the “polymath.” He has always been considered to be someone a bit special, but anyone who wants to be an electronics engineer has to become a polymath of sorts, just to learn that subject well. Hubbard has made the point that if a person wishes to live well and fully, there are 27 different “hats” he must learn to wear, at a minimum. With the introduction of so many “advanced” technologies in recent years, this becomes even more essential. A very smart scientist can fail utterly as a human being if he has not learned the basics of Ethics and Public Relations. And who is teaching that to scientists? (My church is!) So the challenge of the brighter ones among us these days is in persuading others to join them. We face a very dire future indeed if too many insist on remaining ignorant of subjects they MUST know!
  • Tone level. I have mentioned this subject before. Its basics are here: http://www.scientologyhandbook.org/tone-scale/SH4_1.HTM . Though one can learn to move around more on the tone scale, the only known way to fully free a person on this scale is through auditing. Hubbard designated 2.0 as the make-break point on this scale. Above it, one seeks to survive, below it one seeks to succumb. If a person can’t get above 2.0 on this scale and stay on that side of life most of the time, it doesn’t matter how smart he is: He won’t make ethical decisions.
  • Recall and its control. Ron has discovered that the mind basically functions as a storage device. But it doesn’t just store data – though that can be important in more contemplative moments – it stores complete actions or what could be called “learned behaviors.” Such a behavior can be brought into action by various mental processes and will immediately manifest as either a body reaction or an actual body action. Though some of those mental processes are analytical or “intentional,” many others are not, and most people do not understand how they work or how to control them. This is very much linked to Tone level above, and has a similar resolution. Further, auditing can assist a being to access past-life data. Though this is not its emphasis, we could sure use that ability these days, as current circumstances are quite similar to past circumstances we have only experienced in past lives. It would be great to have more of that data available to help us resolve many of our current situations.

Beyond Intelligence

I did not totally expect this “musing” to turn out this long. It remains to be known what really makes some people seem smarter “out of the gate” (so to speak) than others. But in the context of my comments on past lives above, it could well be that some of us have a keener awareness, as soon as we arrive on this planet (no matter how many times we have been here before) that there is an urgent need for positive action on Earth. And this could be what drives them to push for a higher level of intelligence. That this push then tends to isolate them socially is an unfortunate result. But it points out that the solution lies beyond the subject of mere intelligence. Above mental ability lies spiritual ability. If I did not know this I would be very despondent indeed. Knowing this gives me reason to hope. Yes, it’s “good” to be smart. But in the long that’s not enough. I’m glad I was “smart” enough to at least find that out.

American River Parkway Introduction

7 September 2017
american river parkway map

Parkway on-site map

The American River is the waterway that flows down from California gold country and joins the Sacramento River at Sacramento.

Due to the fact that flood protection is necessary in these areas, levees have been erected on both sides of the American River. I would guess they are maybe 25 feet high. Anyway, on the river side of the levees you just can’t have houses (not normal ones, anyway) so it is all parkland. There are paved bike trails that extend from the Sacramento River up to Folsom.

I have been spending a lot of time on a particular section of this bike way, as it is on the way to downtown, which I visit often. I get on at Watt Ave, and exit to the north and east at Fair Oaks Blvd. Between Watt and Howe – the next big street before Fair Oaks – is an old oak grove that the trail goes through.

parkway grove evening

Oak grove illuminated by the evening sun.

At first for me this was just a picturesque spot. Then one morning at about 11AM, two deer (bucks with three-point antlers) showed up along the trail, nibbling on underbrush. Later that day I saw them again. The next day I saw a doe with one of them, as well as three turkey hens at another spot. This got me more interested.

These were very tame “wild” animals. Humans don’t bother them that much. A lot of squirrels are the same way. The turkey may even be escapees from a domestic flock. But the point was that these animals were showing up in what otherwise is considered a very urban area.

deer buck

Buck wanders through his temporary home.

I can only guess that the hot weather extending out for many weeks has been pushing some animals towards waterways, and a few ended up in the parkway. So I started looking at this section of the park more closely, as it seemed to be providing adequate shelter for these larger animals as well as countless other smaller ones. I spent most of my time on the north side of the river, where I spotted the deer.

elderberries

Elderberries are seen everywhere along this trail.

The land itself in this area is of some interest. On the north side of the bike trail, undergrowth consists mostly of dry grasses, not counting small trees like elderberry. Something on that side is preventing other plants from taking over there. On the levee itself the grass is being mowed, but not down here. Maybe the soil is just very poor.

forest understory

River-side forest and understory.

On the other side of the trail, the land is “foresting out” as I call it. The grasses that dry as the summer progresses are being replaced by plants that are staying green. It is more or less obvious that the soil is more moist there. Tree cover, presence of mulch and its thickness, understory plants, as well as the structure of the soil layers themselves all contribute to soil water content.

forest floor mulch

Forest floor mulch; this found right by the trail.

In any case, plant diversity and greenness increase as one gets closer to the water, but seeing it so starkly just across the width of a bike trail was a bit unusual for me. Seeing rushes growing is evidence of much wetter soil. I noticed these in only a few places.

parway rushes by trail

Rushes indicate a spot with wetter soil.

The area is also undergoing a “second flowering” at this time (early September) which sometimes happens when the weather has been a bit unusual, and seems to be up to individual plants or even individual buds. I saw a huge lily plant reflowering, plus some of the elderberries – which I know of as spring-only bloomers – and possibly some of the asters, which are known as late summer bloomers (think sunflowers), but I was seeing evidence on some of them for one bloom cycle already done this year.

asters in a field

Aster family plants grow tall in this field; very sun-tolerant.

There are a few other plants in this area that are persistent bloomers, such as the Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium) and a few others with very good heat tolerance. Jimsonweed is native to Mexico and is dangerously toxic, though has been used for a long time for medicinal purposes. It is related to tobacco, nightshade, tomatoes and potatoes.

jimsonweed flower

A jimsonweed flower beginning to wilt.

Sharing the canopy with the oaks in this region are the walnuts. California black walnuts are native in this area, but do not produce nuts as edible as the cultivated English walnut. I have also seen some cottonwoods, but not many sycamores, which are widely planted along the streets and in parks.

walnuts fruit and nut

Walnuts look like fruit; the nut is inside the husk.

There are also areas of the park “infested” by grape vines. The grapes seem to the casual observer to be a problem, as they grow over and seem to smother other plants and trees. But ecologists are hesitant to control them as a weed, because they do produce food for the animals. Humans could eat these grapes, too (I tried one), but I don’t think many do.

grapes

Grapes hide under the shade of their leaves.

blackberries

Blackberries dry out quickly in the summer heat.

peas drying in the sun

The weather is too hot and dry for these peas; they bloomed in the spring.

Blackberries are also widely seen in open areas and in the understory, and I even saw some pea vines which came from goodness knows where. So animals that venture here can be quite well fed. I have managed to photograph some of them.

turkey hens

These turkeys seem happy here.

rabbit

I found this rabbit further up the trail.

quail

Quail are more skittish than some of the other animals, so a bit harder to photograph.

rose hips

We know rose hips as a source of vitamin C. I have not seen them eaten much by animals, though.

Though this section of the parkway is an important commute route for me (and for many others), it has also developed into quite a rich habitat that supports a lot of different life forms.