Comment Archives: stories: Life + Outdoors: Field Notes

Re: “Bad Sea Rising

Great to be checking in on your Field Notes, Barry. I'll be subscribing.

Posted by GaryWhite on 05/17/2017 at 1:05 AM

Re: “Puzzling

4) theoretical, if he counted the seconds/minutes it took to walk from his house to his friend's, he could add that to the time he noted before leaving his friend's house

Posted by Emily Reinhart on 05/04/2017 at 11:18 AM

Re: “Myth of the Invisible Ships

PS: A further consideration.... If I were ever in some analogous circumstance, and if I were near others, I would probably do four things:
1. Question my own sanity.
2. Look around me to see if anyone else was seeing what I was seeing.
3. If nobody else seemed to see it, you figure out the rest.
4. Mayby, if I was brave enough, and a close family member had happened to be nearby when I thought I had the 'hallucination,' at the end of the day I might privately and carefully ask, "did you see what I saw?"

Kinda funny if you ask me :-)

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Posted by Scott Warren Perry on 04/23/2017 at 9:11 AM

Re: “Myth of the Invisible Ships

I think I might be able to somehow "imagine" their mindset. I would say that surely these people who believed in, and probably saw, spirits of all shapes on a regular basis, "saw" the relatively silent sailing ship, but they obviously must have initially considered it to be a spirit of some sort, and initially deserving of the same level of attention that other such "spirits" normally received. As with other such "spirits," they probably were hoping and praying that if they ignored it, perhaps it would simply "go away," and leave them alone in peace.

Hey, I must confess I have actually "seen" some of these in my own day, and that is exactly how I tend to respond to most of them. As in a zoo with the sign, "don't feed the animals," most folks, when confronted with something that almost appears as a hallucination, will tend to try to "not feed" it.

However, should the "hallucination" begin to deploy longboats (much easier for a native to understand), and to begin heading in my direction with strangely colored and clothed men inside of them, you had better believe it, I would suddenly realize that my first strategy was simply not working, and I had better do something better, and quick!

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Posted by Scott Warren Perry on 04/23/2017 at 9:03 AM

Re: “Bad Sea Rising

Please publicise the insane project in Queensland to let a foreign company with a poor record create an enormous coal mine called Carmicheal with free water access for 60 years though the local town is on water restrictions.

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Posted by Karis Sanderson on 04/20/2017 at 9:41 PM

Re: “Bad Sea Rising

It does behoove us. The current state of affairs of continued emissions will one day be viewed as an environmental crime against humanity. Just look at Glacier National Park: the glaciers are retreating, if you doubt global warming, or as it is commonly referred to, climate change. A succinct and insightful article. As an aside, I used to joke with one of my former employees who purchased a hybrid years ago. I scoffed that climate change was that serious. Since then, I've researched the issue and am convinced. Now, my wife and I both drive a Prius. Best car I've ever had and awesome gas mileage and lower emissions.

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Posted by Glenn Franco Simmons on 04/20/2017 at 12:31 PM

Re: “It's Nothing. Really.

Call me a quitter, but I gave up on boggling my mind by trying to envision nothing some time ago. There is always one contradiction or another to face. What is odd is how hard we try. Why?

Posted by Robert Lockett on 04/12/2017 at 7:14 AM

Re: “Shots, Shots, Shots

I have just been diagnosed with fibromyalgia on December 5, 2016. I had the symptoms for a long time and it became unbearable. I am a Head Start preschool teacher and my attitude changed, short tempered. It was time for me to retire. I am tired all the time and all I want to do is sleep. I don't sleep well at night. I stopped taking naps because I am able to sleep the whole night. I know that I have to take one day at a time. This is not a mind over matter in this situation. I had support from my doctors, family and friends. i looked further for an alternative treatments, and then a friend of mine told me about Health Herbal Clinic in Johannesburg who sell herbal formula for diseases including FIBROMYALGIA disease, I contacted the herbal clinic via their website and purchased the fibromyalgia herbal remedy. I received the herbal remedy through DHL couriers within 8 days and i immediately commenced usage as prescribed, i used the herbal remedy for about a month and 1 week, my condition has greatly improved, all my symptoms including Chronic muscle pain, Abdominal pain, nausea, I am fibromyalgia free! contact Health Herbal Clinic via their email or visit

Posted by Patricia Edwards on 04/04/2017 at 6:48 PM

Re: “Life: The Long Game

Talk about anthropomorphic projection. Reality is so suffocating. It is almost as if it were designed to cause us to surrender so as to be enabled by our desperation to actually hear God's voice. But never mind. By all means necessarily miraculous and fantastic, hold on to the dream...…

And a bonus track:…

Posted by Robert Lockett on 03/26/2017 at 9:13 PM

Re: “Kickstarting Life

Barry writes: "How did life start here on Earth? Ever since Darwin, scientists have been struggling with that question. (Before him, there was nothing to explain God did it.)"

In other words, since the late 1800's there is nothing to explain, "nature did it". Start with that assumption and then look for the evidence later. That is called the philosophy of materialism, not science.

Posted by Robert Lockett on 03/26/2017 at 8:48 PM

Re: “Dawn Redwoods: Alive and Kicking!

Fascinating history. Thanks for the informative article, Barry.

Posted by Glenn Franco Simmons on 02/08/2017 at 9:19 PM

Re: “How Sweet It Ain't

Actually, fat is a large part of the problem; the fat found in seeds. The Government's dietary advice to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated oils caused the food supply to be altered.

Posted by David Brown on 01/19/2017 at 6:52 AM

Re: “How Sweet It Ain't

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Posted by Sidath Maithree Jayampathy on 01/19/2017 at 2:39 AM

Re: “Language: Innate or Invented?

Recent interview with Noam Chomsky included this:

How do you account for your amazing stamina and energy level at age 87?

The bicycle theory. As long as you keep riding, you dont fall.

Posted by barryevans on 10/31/2016 at 1:05 PM

Re: “Candelabra Trees

Hi Rosanna, best person to ask would be Louisa Morris of the Mendocino Land Trust. I'm guessing 50-100 of these trees.

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Posted by barryevans on 10/17/2016 at 7:09 AM

Re: “Candelabra Trees

How many candelabra trees are there? Are they all approximately the same age?

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Posted by Rosanna Petralia on 10/15/2016 at 9:17 AM

Re: “Myth of the Invisible Ships

visible, or invisible, recognized or unrecognized, interesting or not, one thing was true. They could not imagine the imminent and clear danger they were in until it was too late. This is the lesson for us today. It is the same apathy, carelessness or ignorance about the destructive forces in our lives. for ex proxy wars that can turn into a nuclear war any day now, or irreversible damaging and depletion of natural resources like tropical forests, oceans,water streams or atmosphere. This is happening everyday we see or hear about it but, we go on with our business in the same manner everyday because we only care about our senses and convenience but not enough about our children's future or how we are going die one day.

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Posted by TC Artemis Aygen on 10/05/2016 at 9:34 AM

Re: “Language: Innate or Invented?

Dan Everett deals with the merge/recursion confusion--also whether a single counter-example of a language lacking recursion voids a language gene--in this very readable discussion:…

BTW, he's had to put up with a lot worse than "infantile and misdirected" over the years!

Posted by barryevans on 10/04/2016 at 11:41 AM

Re: “Language: Innate or Invented?

One in every three secondary school leavers failed in English, year after year, decade after decade. This seriously affected their career prospect in an age of global economy. I gave up a HK$2.5m directorate job in the Government, took early retirement and set up Le Beaumont Language Centre (2004-14) as a teaching and research base. We were the first ones to merge language study with neuroscience. I was particularly impressed by Charles Nelson's findings on the neurogenesis of the neurons in the Broca's area which peaked out at the end of the 9th month after birth. We admitted infants one month after birth into our multilingual playgroup. They embarked on a 5-nation tour, an hour a day, Monday to Friday, conducted by graduate teachers from England, France, Spain, Germany, Japan and or China. The babies all grew up into linguistic geniuses by the age of 3. They were super intelligent. We also observed how 12,000 kids of different ages acquired different number of languages for different durations with different outcomes, burning HK$112m in 10 years.

The Beaumont Study (2004-14) is probably the most important study after the classic Abecedarian Study (1972-77) in the past century. For 10 years, we observed at close distance how a large number of infants acquired languages.

The following are our key findings.
1. The brain is made up of billions of neurons and trillions of synapses. A memory is formed when 2 neurons connect in a synapse. The brain is a huge memory base.
2. Language is made up of 2 components, a sound database developed from interaction with people during the first 9 months after birth, and a matching software inherited from the genes. The sound database and the matching software form the voice recognition system.
3. The voice recognition system is at the 'developmental' mode during the first 9 months. It can recognize the sounds of whatever language the infant interacts with and input them into his voice database. The baby is only interested in sounds, not in meaning. Grammar does not come into the picture.
4. The voice recognition system is at the 'application' mode from the 10th month onwards when the baby begins to imitate sounds. He 'recognizes' the sound he hears by matching the incoming soundbites with those in the voice database.
5. You 'hear' what the matching software can find in the voice database. If the incoming sound cannot be found in the voice database, its looks for the nearest sound in the voice database. This is what you 'hear' and what you imitate. This minor distortion of sounds gives rise to ascents.
6. All languages are built on sounds made from mouth. Sounds made with mouth opened are called vowels. The mouth can only make limited number of shapes, flat or round, wide opened, half-opened, or relaxed. It gives rise to the 5 cardinal vowels, which were first recorded in Latin, now shared by languages from English to Japanese. You can find the 5 cardinal vowels in practically all languages in the world.
7. A language is the outcome of a natural developmental process, based on the manipulation of our data from our memory, or learning process. Language starts from the memory of sounds to form phonemes in the first year, the association of sounds with objects and actions to form vocabulary in the 2nd year, and the application of the memory of patterns of usage to form grammar in the 3rd year. We have observed our polyglots compressing the time scale in the 3 processes involved. But the sequence is the same.
8. Even IQ is the application of the database of dynamic memories acquired during interaction with people, in games, in life experience and in problem solving.

The Beaumont Study discovered the following,
1. A biological basis for language development, i.e. the language neurons, which are designed to record voice. The timeline of the developmental path was first identified by Charles Nelson. Joan Stiles pointed out that language neurons used during the first 9 months were fed and kept and those not used were deprived of nutrition and perished with time.
2. The brain is but a huge storage space of gargantuan proportion. The contents are input from the child's interaction with the outside world.
5. Like the computer, there are 2 types of memories,
a) Memories in the Central Processing Unit forming the Operating System. The developmental process of this type of memory is time sensitive. It is related to the exponential growth of functional neurons in the early years, viz. the first 3 months for vision; the first 9 months for language; and the first 3 years for cognition.
b) Memories in the hard disc, which is not time sensitive.
6. Language acquisition is a deceptively simple process in memory. The only thing we inherited from our genes is a simple matching mechanism for the operating systems, for vision, language or cognition. It is void of any contents. Chomsky's grammar genes is an adult's postulation of a much simpler process in the language development of a baby.

Sam TS Chow
Founder, Le Beaumont Language Centre (2004-14)
Love to hear from you!

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Posted by email on 09/29/2016 at 6:17 PM

Re: “Language: Innate or Invented?

No, merge works recursively. Merge is just a computational operation whereby two syntactic units are combined together to form another syntactic object (for example, "the cat was killed" and "when it was hit by a car" produce, when operated upon by merge, the sentence "the cat was killed when it was hit by a car"). Merge is recursive because it is an operation that can be applied to its own output (in the last example, the inputs were "the cat was killed" and "when it was hit by a car", the computational operation was merge and the output was "the cat was killed when it was hit by a car"; via the application of the same merge operation, this output can then be combined with yet another syntactic unit, like "that was traveling at sixty kilometers an hour" for example, to form another linguistic unit: "the cat was killed when it was hit by a car that was traveling at sixty kilometers an hour"). So merge works just like any recursive function does in the theory of computation, which is why merge has the property of recursion. There's no "downgrade" from recursion to merge, you just didn't understand the theory.

Moreover, Everett's argument is fallacious in the most vulgar sort of way. Chomsky's claim is roughly the following: (1) if humans acquire recursive languages, then humans must have a genetic capacity that allows them to mentally process recursive languages. Anyone who knows their logic is aware of the fact that this conditional does not imply the following proposition: (2) if humans have a genetic capacity that allows them to mentally process recursive languages, then humans must acquire recursive languages. That is, in general, "if A then B" does not imply "if B then A". In finding an example of a human language that does not feature recursion, all Everett has done is to disprove proposition (2), but this proposition is not implied by Chomsky's actual claim, and so Everett's (very much disputed, if not refuted) discovery is irrelevant as far as the viability of Chomsky's program is concerned.

As for a younger generation of linguists abandoning ideas of innate grammar, well that might be partially true. At the same time, there are academics trying to argue that there are no such things as genetic programs, and that all talk of information being encoded in DNA is meaningless. In both cases, this doesn't represent the majority view, which is fortunate because in both cases it simply demonstrates a shocking lack of understanding of theory of computation. As far as I can tell, dissent from this basic view of Chomsky's amounts to an infantile and misdirected fear of genetic determinism (of course, many people, like Pinker for example, dissent from Chomsky in the finer details, and that's where the media coverage should be concentrated; at the moment, what the media is doing is analogous to claiming that the general theory of relativity has been disproved instead of focusing coverage on the more subtle disputes--the ones of actual importance to physicists--that exist between scientists who accept general relativity).

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Posted by rationalistpaladin on 09/29/2016 at 4:07 PM

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