SYW: On the Nature of the Universe and Balloons

Melanie gives us some philosophical questions for this week on Share Your World!

QUESTIONS

Is there inherent order in nature or is it all chaos and chance?
I believe there is inherent order, in terms of the rules of nature or of the universe, but also chaos, or randomness.

In nature, the main thing that establishes order is adaptability. Tree leaves and humans have visible veins, which are necessary because liquids and nutrients flow through them. There are some really fantastic creatures on this planet who have adapted to their environments in weird ways. In the universe, I believe there is order in terms of rules, although we have not discovered them all yet. It’s amazing how Einstein’s theories – particularly of relativity – have since proven accurate as scientists have developed ways to analyze celestial phenomena.

But there is also chaos. When a star explodes into a supernova, for example, its matter is flung outward in all directions, and where it ends up is random. Sometimes a supernova becomes a quasar. Also, several planets in our solar system have had wayward asteroids crash into them, including Earth, but I find it amazing, or sheer dumb luck, that an asteroid has never landed on a highly populated area. Now scientists can predict asteroid trajectories and may have ways of deflecting them.

Why have so few Milky Way supernovae been observed over the last millennium?
A supernova (Image from Google)

Another random thing that happened was the formation of our solar system and the development of life on Earth. By the method of accretion, the planets were formed (which likely is the order of how planets develop elsewhere as well), but why some matter adhered to one planet or another is somewhat random, and ultimately determined by gravity.

I have seen science programs about the evolution of life on Earth and how it all began. Earth has the right circumstances for life as we define it, due to its optimal position in relation to the sun. Astronomers call this the “Goldilocks zone.” It is located in a zone that the sun’s rays are neither too hot nor too cold for life to develop. At the same time. gravity had to be just right to develop magnetic fields around our planet, which protect us from damage by ultraviolet rays. Using this premise, astronomers a few decades ago (when I studied astronomy) estimated the likelihood of life as we know it developing in other solar systems by discovering whether a planet was in the “Goldilocks” zone.

Since then, however, I have learned that life on Earth got started by a somewhat random process. It is disheartening, in a way, for those of us who would like to know for sure that advanced life forms exist in other solar systems, that life could just as easily have failed to evolve. Fortunately, it did or I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this, and I do believe that whatever chance circumstances existed for life to develop or not, that there must be advanced life on other planets. There are millions of galaxies, all with their own groups of stars and solar systems, so it can’t have been impossible that we are the only “advanced life” in the universe. That is, unless you believe in divine creation, which I do not. (I believe in God, but not as an entity that formed the planets and different life forms. Perhaps “God” helped nudge the unlikelihood of life into the real possibility of life.)

What is infinity?
Infinity is something that human minds can not really conceptualize. If we believe the universe is “infinite,” that means that the universe is never-ending. Theoretically, scientifically, infinity exists, but it is not something that we can fully understand, because humans are limited by experience and the ability of our brains, all based on the finite-ness of life as we know it.

Infinity is most often found in mathematics. Pi, for example, is often expressed as 3.14 but the digits beyond that go on infinitely, with no end. Click on the image below for a link to an interesting article about infinity.

https://www.livescience.com/37077-infinity-existence-debate.html

Does observation alter an event?
It might. Someone may perform a dance or a song perfectly during dress rehearsal, which is supposed to mimic the actual performance, but not perform as well when an audience is looking at them. If we know there is police surveillance on a particular stretch of road, we drive more carefully and observe the speed limit. In physics, which I really don’t understand, according to Wikipedia: the observer effect is the disturbance of an observed system by the act of observation. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner.” The Wikipedia article goes on to mention a common example: when you check the pressure in a tire, you can’t help but release a little bit of the air in the tire, so the pressure slightly changes. No matter how negligible, there is still change. We can’t usually observe it, though!

Do you like balloons? 
Yes and no. Balloons are fun and pretty aesthetically; adding balloons to an event makes it festive. However, they are made of plastic and we have enough plastic pollution already to not justify people releasing a bunch of balloons into the air to memorialize someone, for example. Mylar balloons, in particular, are wasteful both in material and the helium used to make them defy gravity by floating above our heads.

Mylar helium balloons at my niece’s birthday party

However, I am not a curmudgeon. Balloons are not even in the top 1,000 products that produce plastic pollution. I say let’s continue blowing up balloons for fun and celebration! 

I have never ridden in a hot air balloon, although I had the opportunity a couple of times during my travels, and I don’t think I ever will. They don’t feel stable enough. They do look pretty, though!

I could have taken a hot air balloon ride in Tanzania. I opted out.

SYW: On Art, Freedom, Money, & Gratitude

It’s a new week, and here are Melanie’s new (?) questions for Share Your World. I do feel as though I’ve answered some of these before, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

QUESTIONS

What are you most proud of in the last year?

The artwork I have done. I wish I could say that during the pandemic lock-down, I did artwork every day, but that would not be true. I meant to, but didn’t do it…

Even so, I have produced a number of drawings and watercolors during the past several months, as the rules loosened and we could form a small art group again. I even gave my niece one of my watercolors for her birthday! She had actually asked me to paint “something green and with a waterfall in it,” so that’s what I did.

As a result, I am accumulating a decent portfolio of my artwork. The pieces I am most proud of I will gladly display for viewing if an opportunity arises.

Besides these free-hand works, I did a lot of really nice coloring pages. Maybe that sounds silly, but there are coloring books for adults and I set myself high standards! I’ve had many of the books for several years, but didn’t do much with them until this past year. I used gel pens, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, or markers, depending on the picture.

If you see a puddle on the ground, do you walk around it or give in to the child within and splash about?

I walk around it, although right now the rain puddles are welcome because we really need rain! We need enough rain to make puddles impossible to avoid! We have been down 8 inches of rain this spring compared to last year, and normal would be 6 inches more than we’ve had. It finally rained last night and today the sprinklers are on!

Do you feel free? Why or why not?

I do benefit from the freedoms afforded to me as a U.S. citizen, good health, and enough money to live on and to travel. So I do consider myself to be “free.” However, we all have our burdens, which hamper our freedom because they tie us down in some way. It’s very liberating when a burden is lifted from my shoulders!

I also feel that the freedoms given to us in the Bill of Rights are not completely unlimited. My freedom ends where another person’s begins. It is not a “freedom” issue, for example, to disobey a mask mandate, just as one has to obey traffic laws, or suffer consequences. Part of living in a society that provides us with many benefits is being responsible to other people living in that society. They have the same freedoms the rest of us do. I don’t have a problem with accepting these responsibilities nor do I think I am not free as a result.

To be totally “free”, perhaps one would have to live alone with no one around to impose rules. I don’t want to live like that.

What life skills are rarely taught but are extremely useful?

Money management. My dad tried to teach us how to manage money, but he didn’t succeed very well with me – probably because I wasn’t listening! However, I did learn on my own how to make a budget and make sure I had enough income to pay my expenses. Even so, I wasted a lot of savings because I didn’t plan for the future.

I think there are a lot of young people who never had a class on money management. But what if they win the lottery or get hired to be on a major league sports team? Suddenly they have a lot of money, but not necessarily the skills to make sure they don’t lose it! Some lucky people take having money for granted, and they blow it all on get-richer schemes or lavish entertainment. Tales of riches-to-rags are as prevalent as tales of rags-to-riches! For most people, having enough money takes hard work and sacrifices.


GRATITUDE SECTION (always optional)

Please share some gratitude with everyone!   There are lots of reasons just now I think!

I am grateful for my legs. Although I have arthritis pain in my knees, my legs can still take me where I want to go.
I am grateful for my arms, which finally can be used to hug people again!
I am grateful for my hands, which are used to take photos or create nice pictures, and to write.
I am grateful for my eyes, which, although severely myopic, let me read books and see the world.
I am grateful for my brain, befuddled as it is. I have put it to great use in all the intellectual pursuits of my life. Since I am expressing gratitude, I will not list its shortcomings!
I am grateful for my ears, which can listen to music, such as one of my favorite songs performed by Cat Stevens…

SYW: Money vs Love, Music, & Mythical Animals

Yesterday was Monday, and Melanie has posted a new set of Share Your World questions.

QUESTIONS: 

Which would you rather throw away: Love or Money?
Money, of course. This was the theme of the Beatles’ song Can’t Buy Me Love.

Do you believe you should do one thing a day that scares you?
No, what an odd question. Why should I do something I’m scared of every day? I’m retired and enjoying life. Scary moments will happen, no doubt, but I’m not going to put myself into a position to be scared voluntarily.

What’s the last thing you do at night?
Read. I sit in bed in my nightwear and read a little or a lot from the book I keep next to my bed. Whether it’s a little or a lot depends on how tired I am and how engaging the book is.

If you could own a mythical creature (unicorn, phoenix, etc.), which one would you pick? (A nod to the soon ending 2021 A-Z Blogging Challenge, my topic this year “Mythical Creatures”) 
I would choose either a unicorn or a phoenix, because I could ride on either one. The phoenix would take me soaring through the sky; the unicorn would gallop through meadows, fields of flowers and on the beach. All along the way, I would take stops to pick a flower or feel the water on the beach between my toes.

On the other hand, SOME people prefer dragons.


GRATITUDE SECTION (Always Optional)

I am grateful for my husband, Dale, who has been so good to me the last few days! I injured my left big toe last week, and he said I should get it x-rayed because it hurt so much. Then it started to get swollen and even more painful so on Sunday he took me to an immediate care clinic, where they x-rayed my foot and found I had a fracture! So now I am hobbling around in one of those special shoes you get from doctors’ offices when you hurt your foot, and I have to wear it for six weeks, and keep my toe “buddy bandaged” with the toe next to it. Dale has patiently driven me to places I normally walk to, he changed the bandage after my shower this morning, and he sewed a button on a shirt I wanted to wear. (He can sew, I can’t or won’t.) Yesterday I had to have my heart defibrillator replaced because the battery drained very fast – it shouldn’t have had to be replaced for at least 6 more months. The procedure was excruciating because they didn’t sedate me completely so I could feel some of the pain from cutting me open. Afterwards, they gave me Fentanyl for pain, but then gave me an even stronger pain killer called Norco. Just as it was taking effect, I was discharged! I could barely walk and since my stomach was empty, I threw up multiple times. I was given some graham crackers, but I threw those up too. When I got home, Dale helped me to the front door, and right in front of the door I threw up again! He helped me go to bed and while I slept he cleaned up the mess. Then he served me chicken noodle soup and toast. What a guy!

He has health issues of his own, and I am patient with him, but not like he is to me. I am lucky to have met and married him 26 years ago!

SYW: Haircuts, Flowers & Weird Stuff

Melanie’s thrown me for a loop this week! But I’ll take a stab at her weird questions in this week’s Share Your World! (Thanks for the challenge of thinking “outside the box!”)

QUESTIONS: 

What would be the worst “buy one get one free” sale of all time?
Mastectomies.

Have you ever gotten a really bad haircut?  Do share!
Not “really bad” but let me just say…radical. I’ve had my hair long (a little past my shoulders) since I moved to this senior community a year and a half ago, and I was sick of having to wear a ponytail whenever I exercised (or afterward) when I get all sweaty on my neck. I usually have my hair cut before going on a trip, but since that didn’t happen last year, my hair just got longer. So I finally decided I would get a short haircut. I’ve had them often enough before and usually am pleased with them while they last. I figured it would be my Easter haircut.

I couldn’t go to my usual salon, where I knew some of the stylists, because it closed about 6 months ago with a change in management. Since I had a gift card for that chain, I went to another one, closer to where I live now, but that I’ve never been to before. I thought I could show the stylist a picture of me with short hair from my Facebook photos, but when I looked for them, only a few showed up. I looked in my cellphone camera archives – nothing. So I showed her a photo of another friend of mine with short hair! (Later I realized that – duh – I had my purse in my lap, and always have paper & pens in there, and I draw pretty well, so I could have drawn it but I didn’t think of it then.)

I always have to take my glasses off during a haircut because they get in the way, and I didn’t think anything was amiss until I heard the buzz of a razor being used ON MY NECK! By then it was too late, and now I have hair shorter than I have ever had in my life that I can remember. At first, my head felt cold – the weather was still chilly in late March, and I had to go around wearing scarves over my head. And every time I look in the mirror, I look like a boy! Now it’s starting to grow out a little bit and I’m used to it, so I just smile and say “thank you” when people compliment me (which almost everyone has done).

Here are before and after pictures…

Me about a year ago, which is about how my hair was last month when I got it cut.
A selfie I took the day I got my haircut – this is the “nicer” of the two selfies I took, because I’m smiling.

The best thing about my haircut is now I can wear my earrings again!

Isn’t Disney Land and Disney World (and all the variants) just a people trap operated by a mouse?
Allegorically, yes. They are definitely people traps!

What if Batman got bitten by a vampire?   What would happen? 
The vampire would get Covid-19 due to the exchange of body fluids, since the virus originated in bats.

What do you want your final words to be if you could choose?
I’ve done everything I wanted to do in my life and I’m satisfied. I love you all!

GRATITUDE SECTION (as always optional)

Please feel free to share some gratitude! 
I’m grateful for spring flowers. These photos were all taken within the last two days.

SYW: Knowing Tangerines & Potato Chips, and other Musings

Melanie asks some profound questions this week for Share Your World!

QUESTIONS: 

What is knowledge?
Google’s online dictionary has two definitions for knowledge (definitions are from Oxford Languages):
1. facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.
2. awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.

Being smart is not the same as knowledge, but “street smarts,” for example, is a type of knowledge from definition #2. However, I usually think of definition #1 when thinking about what knowledge is.

How do you define consciousness (self awareness)?
Consciousness is being cognizant of your surroundings, who you are, and what you are doing. It’s also possible to be conscious without an awareness of one’s surroundings, such as the things you do without thinking – your mind is elsewhere. Often when we drive, we do it so automatically that we don’t think about it as we are doing it – but an unusual situation on the road will usually bring us back to that awareness. (If not – and this happens often enough – likely one will get into an accident.) It is difficult to be aware all the time – this is called “mindfulness,” distinct from consciousness in that we are constantly aware of our senses in the present.

Mindfulness takes a lot of training in self-control to keep one’s mind from wandering. I would like to be more mindful – appreciating the sensations, for example, in eating a tangerine: how it looks and smells, the sensation in my fingers as I peel it, and then really noticing it when it’s ready to eat: each section has little sacs in which the juiciness resides; there is some stringy residue of the peel still clinging to the outside. Smell it, taste it, be aware of how wonderful it is to eat a tangerine. We don’t do this enough. I tend to eat without even thinking about it, and then when I’m done (I eat too fast), I look at my empty plate and realize I didn’t have an appreciation for what I ate. The food is gone and I ate it without awareness.

So often consciousness involves one part of the brain paying attention to one’s surroundings as the person goes about doing routines automatically, while another part of the brain is distracted – thinking about something else altogether. Mindfulness, existing in and appreciating the present, is a richer experience than consciousness, I believe.

Is it possible to prove that other people besides yourself have consciousness?
Of course – they are conscious if they are engaging in the world around them, whether they are being mindful of it or not; it’s still consciousness. If you ask your partner, say, if he is asleep, and he answers “yes,” then he is probably lying. Sleep is our brain’s rest from consciousness. But are dreams simply a different level of consciousness?

Would you be able to tell if time had been altered in some way?
You mean, like a time warp? Yes, if I got into a blue English phonebox called the Tardis, and emerged from it in medieval Europe, or in a futuristic world, I would definitely be able to tell time had been altered!

We alter time twice each year, when we go on and off Daylight Savings Time. (Personally, I’d like to stay on DST all year.) It is then that I realize that time is an artificial construct that we impose on our world to establish order, a conformity that everyone in society lives with. Time is, of course, related to the cycles of the moon, the rotating and orbiting of Earth around the sun. Either it is light or it is dark. We behave differently and have different expectations of ourselves and others at night than during the day. Some people say they have trouble adjusting to going on and off DST, but I think, really? It’s just an hour, and during that hour – or missed hour – we are usually sleeping anyway. It is noticeable, sure, when we are used to leaving for work in early daylight, but suddenly, it’s dark out when we leave our house at 7:00 a.m. That’s a drag – and I’m very glad I’m retired and no longer have to worry about it!

Another time when we notice time changes is when we get into an airplane and fly halfway across the world. Our bodies continue on the time zone we were in when we got on the airplane, and yet when we get to our destination, it is a completely different time of the day. We may be tired, because back home the night was just beginning, but where we are now, everyone is very much awake and going about their daytime activities. In 2022, we are going to Australia and New Zealand, so we will cross the International Date Line and – presto! – although 12 hours have gone by, it’s the next day over there!! And we gain that day back when we return: It was Tuesday when we departed Auckland, and now we get to live most of Tuesday again at home on the other side of the world!

Do you like potato chips (they’re called ‘crisps’ in Europe I believe)?
Four “profound” questions that require real thought, and now you ask whether I like potato chips?? How mundane!! Yes, I do like them, but I try to avoid eating them, because like the commercial says, “so good, you can’t eat just one!” I make allowances on special occasions (noshing at a party, for example) or when I have only a small portion of chips on my plate and cannot eat any more!

GRATITUDE SECTION (always optional)

On this side of the world it’s coming into Springtime.   Celebrate Spring by sharing an image or anecdote that shares “Spring”!   Alternatively, it’s coming into Autumn on the other side of the world.  Please do the same for Autumn!   Thanks! 

Daffodils, the heralds of spring, are blooming everywhere!

Daffodils alongside the east wall of my house
Daffodils blooming along the fence separating our old house and the neighbor’s. Those weren’t there two years ago, when we moved, but I’m glad the new neighbors decided to plant these lovely flowers!

Truthful Tuesday: More on Reading Preferences

Truthful Tuesday continues this week on the subject of books and reading.

  1. Are there any books that you can read over and over again, and never seem to tire of?
    Yes, but not too many times and usually there is a space of several years between readings. I have read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice three or four times, and some of her other novels twice. Like I said, I have to be in the right frame of mind, so it doesn’t happen a lot. There are just so many books and so little time!!
  2. Have any of your favorite authors written any books that you just didn’t care for?
    Of course. No author writes a masterpiece every time, and of course, what constitutes a masterpiece is a matter of opinion usually. One of my favorite authors is Barbara Kingsolver, and I will usually buy and/or read anything she writes that I come across, but occasionally it doesn’t interest me much. Not all of Jane Austen’s novels are great, but the worst is the one she didn’t finish, and the version I have, the author who finished it for her wrote a very dull tale. Sometimes an author will write a trilogy or a series of books about the same topic, or set in the same place or with the same characters, but then I decide to read something else he/she has written, and don’t care for it. This happens especially with mystery writers who then write something else. I’m sure there are other examples but I can’t think of them right now.
  3. When it comes books, do you prefer reading fiction or non-fiction? The genre is unimportant.
    I like both fiction and non-fiction. I actually got on a non-fiction jag for awhile, but non-fiction books often take more time to read so fiction is easier. But you know what they say: Truth can be stranger than fiction!

    Also I am in some book groups so I read whatever the book selected is, whether fiction or non-fiction. I like book groups because I get out of my comfort zone and read something different, and often it is wonderful!

    My favorite genre is historical fiction, where I can learn about a time and place and at the same time enjoy the story. The only problem is knowing which parts are true and which are not. But usually I don’t care too much.

SYW: Bugs, Inspiration, & More

I’m starting off the new week with Melanie’s Share Your World.

SYWHandpaintedPL

QUESTIONS: 

If not now, then when?
This is the story of my life: Procrastination!

Can you describe your life in a six-word sentence?
No, I don’t think I can.

Do you remember that thing people used to say, about how you swallow eight spiders a year while you sleep? It’s not true, but do you think you’ve ever swallowed any? What bug do you think you’ve eaten the most of by accident?
Yuck! I hope none! Although I probably have inadvertently swallowed a gnat, since there always seems to be one around me.

I have eaten bugs, but it was intentional, sort of. In Oaxaca, Mexico, I was dared to eat chopped up fried grasshoppers that had been served as a complimentary appetizer at a restaurant! I did take a very small bite, and lived to tell the tale, although I don’t remember how it tasted. I don’t want to ever do it again! But the people I was with cheated me – they said if I tried it first, they would all then try it. But they didn’t. How gullible am I???

What’s the best approach to resolving conflict?
Calmly.

Where do you find inspiration?
By inspiration, do you mean inspiration to do something creative? Or do you mean spiritual satisfaction? If to do something creative, then I say in nature mainly. But sometimes something just comes to me and I have the urge to be creative – like certain books make me want to write. But for spiritual satisfaction, I am inspired by singing, mainly as part of an ensemble like a choir. Appropo here is a song that I have posted before, but it is definitely worth repeating: (Lyrics below)

“How Can I Keep From Singing?”

My life goes on in endless song
Above earth’s lamentation
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear its music ringing
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars
I hear the truth, it liveth
And though the darkness ’round me close
Songs in the night it giveth

No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I’m clinging
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?


When tyrants tremble in their fear
And hear their death knell ringing
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging
When friends by shame are undefiled
How can I keep from singing?