Lesson about Nature and Evolution / My Pitiful Garden

These photos sum up “flora” in the big scrubland that is southwestern Wyoming and the other desert basins, which compose the “basin and range” geography the American West.

A “lush” scene of sage brush, snakeweed, bunch grasses and weeds in late summer, at just the right moment in evening, when the sun produces “color” in the landscape. I used to differentiate “weeds” from native plants, but just what is native to this place? The idea is a bit preposterous: any “blown in” in or tracked in seed that manages to establish a colony is legitimate: survival, not “social labels” become the measure of successful plant life (and people).

When I moved to town 22 years ago, the yard of the house was packed mud, as were many other “lawns”. I wanted to do something with this blank canvas, but didn’t have any money to spare or a place to by “real” plants, shrubs, trees and perennials. Any existing landscaping in the neighborhood was typical – lawns and lilacs; fir trees and spring fruit trees that bloomed like crazy but were not orchard varieties; no edible fruit produced. Chinese elms (now that’s a weed!) proliferate in town, along with renegade forms of domestic plants gone wild – planted many decades ago, the most rugged specimens have been selected by the merciless environment and are all but indestructible.

Up close, the countryside reveals some lovely plants; not at all like domestic garden types, but interesting. And of course, rocks; a never-ending supply of metamorphic cobbles washed down from the mountains during glaciations and rounded and polished to perfection, and slabs of sandstone broken out of deep outcrops by freeze and thaw leverage, and strewn about by gravity. These I dragged home, a few each day, as I wandered around getting to know my new homeland.

Metamorphic “texture” visible in a river cobble

Fossil rain drops prints – small puddles in sandstone

I learned that sage brush can be transplanted; necessity revealed how to do it. A single large sage brush is impossible to dig up. The roots extend for many feet – a tap root straight down into the earth and many more that travel under the surface horizontally. But, the small extensions that pop up around the main plant can be easily pulled from sandy areas with roots intact. I literally planted dozens of these, to ensure that one or two survived. I didn’t amend or improve the soil (there wasn’t any). The differences between “wild and domestic plants” was soon obvious; how much water would the sage and Artemisia, globe mallow and flax, and unidentified “others” tolerate? And which plants would simply not transplant at all, and require starting from seeds?

Shadscale leaf – flower – seed

A weed that I used to bad-mouth until I discovered that it’s seeds feed a host of small birds all winter.

I collected desirable seeds whenever they appeared; the desert plants have their own timing due to the sporadic delivery of rain, so I stripped handfuls – some plants produce seeds that look like small flowers or parts of branches. In imitation of “nature” I tossed them randomly about the lot and forgot about them. It was then a surprise to discover something growing at all.

Eventually a proper nursery opened in town, where I supplemented the donations of iris from neighbors, and I fell into the “domestic trap” of wanting cut flowers. At first, perennials thrived, especially ground covers rooted between cobbles that made up the “rock garden” and other traditional flower producers. But – plants that are perennials in less tortured climates proved to be biennials in most cases; even hardy iris, having their tubers or roots “freeze-dried” by our cold dry winters.

My questions about the ubiquitous limited landscaping in town were quickly answered: “It’s the climate stupid” so I replaced whichever plants died with those that didn’t, and with ever more rock and gravel, and with evergreen shrubs, which adapted well. Flowers became annuals in pots; waterproof pots. Traditional clay pots simply turn into tombs for the mummies of their once-living contents. I literally abandoned the front yard to vegetation that never needs additional water. It’s literally a “what grows, grows” plot just like the countryside. And, deer eat their choice of favorite vegetation.

I must mention that all of this trial and error gardening is only possible due to the city being a “hands off” regime; they do occasionally cut weeds along the parkway and alleys, but budget cuts have all but eliminated even this activity. Years ago an overeager teenage employee with a weed-whacker interpreted my parkway landscaping as weeds and reduced the area to a crew cut – pitiful! But one irate phone call to the city and a letter to the editor of the local paper produced a “vow” that no one would come near my house again. That’s responsive government.

This year, the “garden” is down to a few pots in the back yard, and even these typical annuals are struggling with two “fill ups” of water every day. The sun at 6100′ feet actually burns leaves to a crisp, and along with temps in the high 80s – 90s and 10-15% humidity, the wind sucks the moisture from every living and non-living substance. It’s discouraging. But it’s a lesson in reality that should be obvious to all human beings, now that the earth is changing dramatically; global warming and cooling are typical, and periodically extreme in climate history. Much of the earth’s surface is uninhabitable by humans: that’s a fact that has only temporarily been overcome by massive water management, diversion and reckless depletion. That inhospitable area is increasing and shifting latitude northward and southward and in ways that are unpredictable, given the complexity of the physics and chemistry involved.

When “visiting” my poor beleaguered pots of plants this morning, I realized that “adaption” to this harsh place has not been a matter of trying to bend it to my will, but to let it change me. That’s a good thing. The changes coming to earth are normal and inevitable; so is human stupidity, so I have no illusion that nature will move on, with or without us, just has it always does.



New Experience / Academic insanity meltdown

I’m feeling physically ill this morning; stayed up late subjecting myself to the content of  a “scientific” paper that is the worst pile of crap I’ve ever encountered – published in a serious British journal. The subject: Social evolution of humans. The “line of thinking” is so outrageous, so intellectually offensive, that I would call it pornographic: intellectual porn.

A criminal use of the human brain.

I intended to expose this paper, but it had such a disturbing effect that I couldn’t continue with a critique. My point is, that I’ve discovered this “feeling” in myself of “insult by intellectual attack” and I have no word for it. (I bet the Germans do)Something like a meltdown; an attack on sanity delivered by “thought pollution” and not by sensory overload. And I don’t mean a personal attack, but that the assumptions and assertions made and represented as “scientific” work were published by a top journal, as if no one noticed the absurdities.

I even thought momentarily that the paper was an intentional monstrosity, “planted” to test the (corrupt?) review process of some science publishers…so went looking for more papers using search words that were “ungoof- upable” even by google. OMG! The paper was not a “fluke”.

I did encounter a review of the paper and its ideas by a scientist in the same field and it was “politely” scathing – about as close to a tirade as a review can get. It should have made me feel better. It didn’t, because the paper’s writers are established “prestigious” academics, not “ancient alien” conspiracy crackpots – but crackpots within the sciences.

Am I overreacting? I would say not, because this paper served as the “trigger” for the cumulative response to a lifetime of encounters with “nonsense” as the prevailing trend in modern thought. That is, it is the difference between “studying” earthquakes and being in the zone of destruction when the earth “slips” violently – and suddenly, physically, viscerally one experiences the full meaning of danger.

It’s a “Bhuddist” moment for me.



Intuition as an Analytical Tool / It’s not “magic”

As an intuitive thinker, I have my own ideas about ‘what it is” and “how it works” and I agree with the author that the “split” between “analysis by logic” and “analysis by intuition” is imaginary; a product of the “neurotypical” fixation on black OR white, left OR right, male OR female, good OR evil, normal OR abnormal.

Complexity simply cannot be “grasped” by the polarized “social” brain. Hence, the insistence that “complexity” cannot be organized, analyzed or comprehended. “Intuition” is vital to dealing with complexity, but it is typically thought of as akin to “magic” – something that “happens” in the stomach or intestines (how gross and ridiculous) with bright ideas (usually signified by a lightbulb) – is there a lightbulb in one’s stomach or intestines?

This is how I arrange “thinking” –

Visual thinking is the primary “intuitive-instinctive” brain function. Images are the “units” of thinking; patterns and connections are the style. We can think of intuition as visual language. Humans “share” visual thinking with other animals. Some animals are “olfactory” thinkers or “acoustic thinkers” or “name the sensory apparatus the animal relies on most” thinkers. These are “instinctive” languages.

Verbal thinking is a recent function that is specific to humans: it is the “conscious” brain function. “Conscious” thinking IS USING WORDS TO THINK. Try thinking without words. Word thinking is generalized – social, and cultural. Structure for verbal language is present as “potential” in the brain, but word language must be learned.

Abstract thinking is “math and symbol systems language”. Are “maths” a human invention, or the fundamental code that “writes the universe into existence”?

I wanted to see what people in unrelated fields think about intuition – this article is from a business perspective.

One comment: In my experience, intuition is “naturally” necessary in “emergency” situations – like deadlines – when “automatic” (instinctive) analysis is by far the fastest – split second, result-producing function. For me, verbal thinking is a “dull, plodding chore” in comparison. The result is that I’m at my best (thinking-wise) in the “critical present” and useless in linear “planning”.  Business is simply “a bore” so let’s see what a business person has to say…


Forum: Intuition-based decision-making: The other side of analytics

March/April 2015

By Jay Liebowitz

In the fall 2014 issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine, Aneesh Chopra (the first U.S. chief technology officer) said, “When it comes to making major decisions, there are two camps. One consists of people who believe intuition trumps analysis – go with your gut. The other rejects intuition in favor of careful data analysis – where there is enough data, there’s no need for intuition. The ideal is a marriage of the two.”

I also feel that we need a complementary set of both analytics and intuition, and I would like to focus on the latter part, which hasn’t been discussed much in the analytics community and conferences.

According to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, “Intuition is something that occurs in the moment, and if you are open to it, if you listen to it, it has the potential to direct or redirect you in a way that is best for you.”

Said Albert Einstein: “The really valuable thing is intuition.”

According to Betsch (2008), intuition is a process of thinking whereby the input is processed automatically and without conscious awareness, resulting in a feeling that can serve as a basis for judgments and decisions. In experiments with shares in the stock market, Betsch (2008) found that most of the participants said they relied on their “gut reaction” or “intuitive feeling” when judging the shares. Similar conclusions were also reached in political judgment and other domains.

Many people believe intuition is an instinctive “knowing” without the support of logic, analysis or actual evidence (Liebowitz, 2014b; Dorfler and Ackermann, 2012; Greengard, 2012; Heskett, 2013; Hensman and Sadler-Smith, 2011; Williams, 2012; Woiceshyn, 2009). But in reality, intuition is founded upon the scrutinizing of failures and lessons learned. So, to characterize intuition, it typically is: experience-driven, holistic, affective, quick and non-conscious (meaning that it is difficult to trace a logic trail to the decision). (Meaning that it is non-verbal)

Intuitive decision-making is one’s ability to recognize patterns at lightning speed – a process that often happens unconsciously (Matzler et al., 2007). In an experiment to reposition 25 pieces in chess after examining them for a few seconds, the inexperienced chess players located an average of only six of the original positions. However, the chess master correctly replaced all 25 pieces. (Visual thinking)

According to Dane and Pratt (2012), intuition may be just as effective in decision-making as an analytical approach – and sometimes more efficient and effective, depending on the decision-maker’s level of expertise on the subject at hand. Dane and Pratt (2012) further state that if you’re working in an industry where you have risen through the ranks, your domain expertise will likely better serve an intuitive approach. If you gained your expertise in a different field, you may not have the background to rely as strongly on your intuition.

Perhaps those from MIT and Austria (Matzler et al., 2007) said it best: “For many complex decisions, all the data in the world can’t trump the lifetime’s worth of expertise that informs one’s gut feeling, instinct, or intuition.” In their research, they talk about honing an executive’s intuition. Specifically, cultivating instinct requires the following factors: experience, networks, curiosity, tolerance, emotional intelligence (from the leadership research, emotional intelligence is the key differentiator from successful leaders and those who are not) and limits (like any good thing, a reliance on intuition can be taken to extremes – executives should reflect on their intuitive decisions before they execute them).

According to Parkinson (2014), “We generally have good intuition about things that are similar to what we encounter every day, and are able to make ‘instinctive’ decisions (based on comparisons with our experience) that are generally correct. But we have poor intuition about things that are outside of everyday experience and very poor intuition about things that are totally alien.” (Instinct provides “evolutionary experience” – tremendous depth of time and testing go into “instincts” – packaged and “ready to work” for us. We tend to ignore this incredible resource)  

Certainly, intuition has its disadvantages. In speaking at the 2014 Canada’s Best Managed Companies Conference, Dr. Salman Mufti, executive education director at the Queen’s University School of Business in Canada, cautions us to perhaps start with your intuition, but validate or verify it. When I worked with some auditors, their credo was, “trust but verify” (sounds somewhat similar). Peter Drucker, one of the fathers of management, said that we shouldn’t be “hunch artists,” rather we should “believe in intuition only if you discipline it.”

Perhaps we should think of intuition being based on analysis and experience, and we should apply “rational intuition” (Heskett, 2010) to our management decision-making. I believe we need to educate “informed intuitants,” as I pointed out in a column in the SAS Exchange (Liebowitz, 2014a). The CEB (Corporate Executive Board)(2013) talks about the necessary skills as applied to analytics, such as problem-solving, intellectual curiosity, issue diagnosis, insight generation, synthesis of internal and external data, problem-framing, and synthesis of financial and qualitative data. But there are other skills integral to the informed intuitant (ouch!) (Liebowitz, 2014a), including:

§  collaboration abilities, such as team building, project management and interpersonal communications (oral and written);

§  creativity-enhancing skills to think outside the box;

§  business-speak, summarization and data visualization techniques for the analyst to explain their results to C-level executives; and

§  learning by doing or testing by learning methods to sharpen the analytical and decision-making skill sets.

In looking at some of the technical journal research, intuition plays a key role in decision-making worldwide. For example, Bocco and Merunka (2013) reported research of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Africa, where more than 300 managers and entrepreneurs at SMEs revealed that intuition is a key resource for managerial decision-making. Loechner (2014) reported a study where even people who think of themselves as data-driven decision-makers (i.e., “I collect and analyze data as much as possible before making a decision”), also place trust in their own intuition. According to the study, 73 percent of executives surveyed said they trust their own intuition when it comes to decision-making, and, even among the data-driven decision-makers, 68 percent agree with that statement. (Hmmm…this “self-analysis” can be faulty – if one “trusts one’s intuition” but doesn’t examine the results of one’s intuition-driven decisions, then intuition may not yield good outcomes) 

Interestingly, research from Dartmouth (Kyung and Thomas, 2013) showed that you couldn’t rely on your intuition if given negative feedback. In one of the experiments, the researchers gave false negative feedback to half the participants by telling them they were wrong even when their answers to some questions were correct. Subjects whose confidence had been disrupted by negative feedback lost the relative accuracy advantage from relying on their intuition (Kyung and Thomas, 2013). (Social typicals may therefore not be able to develop intuition, whereas “Asperger-types” are  not likely to be “swayed” by negative feedback and will stick to their answers or observations!) 

Some research is being done now to assess one’s intuition, such as the CEB’s Insight IQ instrument (CEB, 2013). They found that 19 percent of more than 5,000 managers in major global companies are “visceral decision-makers” who rely almost exclusively on intuition.

So, what can be done to improve our decision-making from a business intuition perspective? Dimitrius and Mazzarella (2008) offer some suggestions:

§  Recognize and respect your intuition, not following it blindly or rejecting it outright. (Either – or again – I find it to be more like “surfing” a wave)

§  Identify what your intuition is telling you. Follow the hunch, asking what is it?

§  Review the evidence by playing back the events in order to become more conscious of the signs.

§  Prove or disprove your theory. Gather additional information to consciously test your theory.

For some reason, much of the intuition in management research is being done in Europe (United Kingdom) and Australia. Not much in the United States per se. If we want to improve this area of research, there are some recommendations for advancing the current state-of-the-art, as highlighted by Akinci and Sadler-Smith (2012) and Sinclair (2014):

§  careful conceptual framing;

§  greater cross-disciplinary collaboration and integration;

§  increased methodological rigor and pluralism; and

§  closer attention to levels of analysis issues.

Here are some guidelines (Sadler-Smith and Shefy, 2004) to help further develop your intuitive awareness:

§  open up the closet (be amenable to count on intuitive judgments);

§  don’t mix up your “I’s” (instinct, insight and intuition);

§  elicit good feedback;

§  get a feel for your batting average (benchmark your intuitions);

§  use imagery rather than words;

§  play devil’s advocate; and

§  capture and validate your intuitions.

Intuition may breed innovation. If you are tied only to statistics and analytics, you may miss new and better strategies, opportunities and methods for your business to be more efficient, effective and successful. Use your informed intuition, founded upon years in business and inspired by trends in big data, to navigate the future of your business.

Jay Liebowitz (jliebowitz@harrisburgu.edu) is the DiSanto Visiting Chair in Applied Business and Finance at the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.

Debunking Left Brain, Right Brain Myth / Paper – U. Utah Neuroscience

An Evaluation of the Left-Brain vs. Right-Brain Hypothesis with Resting State Functional Connectivity Magnetic Resonance Imaging

Jared A. Nielsen , et al, Affiliation Interdepartmental Program in Neuroscience, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, United States of America (See original for authors and affiliations)

Published: August 14, 2013

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0071275 (Extensive paper with loads of supporting graphics, etc.) (Heavy going technical paper)


Lateralized brain regions subserve functions such as language and visuospatial processing. It has been conjectured that individuals may be left-brain dominant or right-brain dominant based on personality and cognitive style, but neuroimaging data has not provided clear evidence whether such phenotypic differences in the strength of left-dominant or right-dominant networks exist. We evaluated whether strongly lateralized connections covaried within the same individuals. Data were analyzed from publicly available resting state scans for 1011 individuals between the ages of 7 and 29. For each subject, functional lateralization was measured for each pair of 7266 regions covering the gray matter at 5-mm resolution as a difference in correlation before and after inverting images across the midsagittal plane. The difference in gray matter density between homotopic coordinates was used as a regressor to reduce the effect of structural asymmetries on functional lateralization. Nine left- and 11 right-lateralized hubs were identified as peaks in the degree map from the graph of significantly lateralized connections. The left-lateralized hubs included regions from the default mode network (medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex, and temporoparietal junction) and language regions (e.g., Broca Area and Wernicke Area), whereas the right-lateralized hubs included regions from the attention control network (e.g., lateral intraparietal sulcus, anterior insula, area MT, and frontal eye fields). Left- and right-lateralized hubs formed two separable networks of mutually lateralized regions. Connections involving only left- or only right-lateralized hubs showed positive correlation across subjects, but only for connections sharing a node. Lateralization of brain connections appears to be a local rather than global property of brain networks, and our data are not consistent with a whole-brain phenotype of greater “left-brained” or greater “right-brained” network strength across individuals. Small increases in lateralization with age were seen, but no differences in gender were observed.

From Discussion

In popular reports, “left-brained” and “right-brained” have become terms associated with both personality traits and cognitive strategies, with a “left-brained” individual or cognitive style typically associated with a logical, methodical approach and “right-brained” with a more creative, fluid, and intuitive approach. Based on the brain regions we identified as hubs in the broader left-dominant and right-dominant connectivity networks, a more consistent schema might include left-dominant connections associated with language and perception of internal stimuli, and right-dominant connections associated with attention to external stimuli.

Yet our analyses suggest that an individual brain is not “left-brained” or “right-brained” as a global property, but that asymmetric lateralization is a property of individual nodes or local subnetworks, and that different aspects of the left-dominant network and right-dominant network may show relatively greater or lesser lateralization within an individual. If a connection involving one of the left hubs is strongly left-lateralized in an individual, then other connections in the left-dominant network also involving this hub may also be more strongly left lateralized, but this did not translate to a significantly generalized lateralization of the left-dominant network or right-dominant network. Similarly, if a left-dominant network connection was strongly left lateralized, this had no significant effect on the degree of lateralization within connections in the right-dominant network, except for those connections where a left-lateralized connection included a hub that was overlapping or close to a homotopic right-lateralized hub.

It is also possible that the relationship between structural lateralization and functional lateralization is more than an artifact. Brain regions with more gray matter in one hemisphere may develop lateralization of brain functions ascribed to those regions. Alternately, if a functional asymmetry develops in a brain region, it is possible that there may be hypertrophy of gray matter in that region. The extent to which structural and functional asymmetries co-evolve in development will require further study, including imaging at earlier points in development and with longitudinal imaging metrics, and whether asymmetric white matter projections [52], [53] contribute to lateralization of functional connectivity.

We observed a weak generalized trend toward greater lateralization of connectivity with age between the 20 hubs included in the analysis, but most individual connections did not show significant age-related changes in lateralization. The weak changes in lateralization with age should be interpreted with caution because the correlations included >1000 data points, so very subtle differences may be observed that are not associated with behavioral or cognitive differences. Prior reports with smaller sample sizes have reported differences in lateralization during adolescence in prefrontal cortex [54] as well as decreased structural asymmetry with age over a similar age range [55].

Similarly, we saw no differences in functional lateralization with gender. These results differ from prior studies in which significant gender differences in functional connectivity lateralization were reported [16], [17]. This may be due to differing methods between the two studies, including the use of short-range connectivity in one of the former reports and correction for structural asymmetries in this report. A prior study performing graph-theoretical analysis of resting state functional connectivity data using a predefined parcellation of the brain also found no significant effects of hemispheric asymmetry with gender, but reported that males tended to be more locally efficient in their right hemispheres and females tended to be more locally efficient in their left hemispheres [56].

It is intriguing that two hubs of both the left-lateralized and right-lateralized network are nearly homotopic. Maximal left-lateralization in Broca Area corresponds to a similar right-lateralized homotopic cluster extending to include the anterior insula in the salience network. Although both networks have bilateral homologues in the inferior frontal gyrus/anterior insular region, it is possible that the relative boundaries of Broca Homologue on the right and the frontoinsular salience region may “compete” for adjacent brain cortical function. Future studies in populations characterized for personality traits [57] or language function may be informative as to whether local connectivity differences in these regions are reflected in behavioral traits or abilities. The study is limited by the lack of behavioral data and subject ascertainment available in the subject sample. In particular, source data regarding handedness is lacking. However, none of the hubs in our left- and right- lateralized networks involve primary motor or sensory cortices and none of the lateralized connections showed significant correlation with metrics of handedness in subjects for whom data was available.

Despite the need for further study of the relationship between behavior and lateralized connectivity, we demonstrate that left- and right-lateralized networks are homogeneously stronger among a constellation of hubs in the left and right hemispheres, but that such connections do not result in a subject-specific global brain lateralization difference that favors one network over the other (i.e. left-brained or right-brained). Rather, lateralized brain networks appear to show local correlation across subjects with only weak changes from childhood into early adulthood and very small if any differences with gender.



Debunking Left Brain, Right Brain Myth / Plos Paper – Corbalis

Left Brain, Right Brain: Facts and Fantasies

Michael C. Corballis, Affiliation School of Psychology, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Published: January 21, 2014

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.1001767 )open access. See original for more.


Handedness and brain asymmetry are widely regarded as unique to humans, and associated with complementary functions such as a left-brain specialization for language and logic and a right-brain specialization for creativity and intuition. In fact, asymmetries are widespread among animals, and support the gradual evolution of asymmetrical functions such as language and tool use. Handedness and brain asymmetry are inborn and under partial genetic control, although the gene or genes responsible are not well established. Cognitive and emotional difficulties are sometimes associated with departures from the “norm” of right-handedness and left-brain language dominance, more often with the absence of these asymmetries than their reversal.

Evolution of Brain Asymmetries, with Implications for Language

One myth that persists even in some scientific circles is that asymmetry is uniquely human [3]. Left–right asymmetries of brain and behavior are now known to be widespread among both vertebrates and invertebrates [11], and can arise through a number of genetic, epigenetic, or neural mechanisms [12]. Many of these asymmetries parallel those in humans, or can be seen as evolutionary precursors. A strong left-hemispheric bias for action dynamics in marine mammals and in some primates and the left-hemisphere action biases in humans, perhaps including gesture, speech, and tool use, may derive from a common precursor [13]. A right-hemisphere dominance for emotion seems to be present in all primates so far investigated, suggesting an evolutionary continuity going back at least 30 to 40 million years [14]. A left-hemisphere dominance for vocalization has been shown in mice [15] and frogs [16], and may well relate to the leftward dominance for speech—although language itself is unique to humans and is not necessarily vocal, as sign languages remind us. Around two-thirds of chimpanzees are right-handed, especially in gesturing [17] and throwing [18], and also show left-sided enlargement in two cortical areas homologous to the main language areas in humans—namely, Broca’s area [19] and Wernicke’s area [20] (see Figure 1). These observations have been taken as evidence that language did not appear de novo in humans, as argued by Chomsky [21] and others, but evolved gradually through our primate lineage [22]. They have also been interpreted as evidence that language evolved not from primate calls, but from manual gestures [23][25].

Some accounts of language evolution (e.g., [25]) have focused on mirror neurons, first identified in the monkey brain in area F5 [26], a region homologous to Broca’s area in humans, but now considered part of an extensive network more widely homologous to the language network [27]. Mirror neurons are so called because they respond when the monkey performs an action, and also when they see another individual performing the same action. This “mirroring” of what the monkey sees onto what it does seems to provide a natural platform for the evolution of language, which likewise can be seen to involve a mapping of perception onto production. The motor theory of speech perception, for example, holds that we perceive speech sounds according to how we produce them, rather than through acoustic analysis [28]. Mirror neurons in monkeys also respond to the sounds of such physical actions as ripping paper or dropping a stick onto the floor, but they remain silent to animal calls [29]. This suggests an evolutionary trajectory in which mirror neurons emerged as a system for producing and understanding manual actions, but in the course of evolution became increasingly lateralized to the left brain, incorporating vocalization and gaining grammar-like complexity [30]. The left hemisphere is dominant for sign language as for spoken language [31].

Mirror neurons themselves have been victims of hyperbole and myth [32], with the neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran once predicting that “mirror neurons will do for psychology what DNA did for biology” [33]. As the very name suggests, mirror neurons are often taken to be the basis of imitation, yet nonhuman primates are poor imitators. Further, the motor theory of speech perception does not account for the fact that speech can be understood by those deprived of the ability to speak, such as those with damage to Broca’s area. Even chimpanzees [34] and dogs [35] can learn to respond to simple spoken instructions, but cannot produce anything resembling human speech. An alternative is that mirror neurons are part of a system for calibrating movements to conform to perception, as a process of learning rather than direct imitation. A monkey repeatedly observes its hand movements to learn to reach accurately, and the babbling infant calibrates the production of sounds to match what she hears. Babies raised in households where sign language is used “babble” by making repetitive movements of the hands [36]. Moreover, it is this productive aspect of language, rather than the mechanisms of understanding, that shows the more pronounced bias to the left hemisphere [37].

Inborn Asymmetries

Handedness and cerebral asymmetries are detectable in the fetus. Ultrasound recording has shown that by the tenth week of gestation, the majority of fetuses move the right arm more than the left [38], and from the 15th week most suck the right thumb rather than the left [39]—an asymmetry strongly predictive of later handedness [40] (see Figure 2). In the first trimester, a majority of fetuses show a leftward enlargement of the choroid plexus [41], a structure within the ventricles known to synthesize peptides, growth factors, and cytokines that play a role in neurocortical development [42]. This asymmetry may be related to the leftward enlargement of the temporal planum (part of Wernicke’s area), evident at 31 weeks [43].

 In these prenatal brain asymmetries, around two-thirds of cases show the leftward bias. The same ratio applies to the asymmetry of the temporal planum in both infants and adults [44]. The incidence of right-handedness in the chimpanzee is also around 65–70 percent, as is a clockwise torque, in which the right hemisphere protrudes forwards and the left hemisphere rearwards, in both humans and great apes [45]. These and other asymmetries have led to the suggestion that a “default” asymmetry of around 65–70 percent, in great apes as well as humans, is inborn, with the asymmetry of human handedness and cerebral asymmetry for language increased to around 90 percent by “cultural literacy” [46].

Variations in Asymmetry

Whatever their “true” incidence, variations in handedness and cerebral asymmetry raise doubts as to the significance of the “standard” condition of right-handedness and left-cerebral specialization for language, along with other qualities associated with the left and right brains that so often feature in popular discourse. Handedness and cerebral asymmetry are not only variable, they are also imperfectly related. Some 95–99 percent of right-handed individuals are left-brained for language, but so are about 70 percent of left-handed individuals. Brain asymmetry for language may actually correlate more highly with brain asymmetry for skilled manual action, such as using tools [47],[48], which again supports the idea that language itself grew out of manual skill—perhaps initially through pantomime.

Even when the brain is at rest, brain imaging shows that there are asymmetries of activity in a number of regions. A factor analysis of these asymmetries revealed four different dimensions, each mutually uncorrelated. Only one of these dimensions corresponded to the language regions of the brain; the other three had to do with vision, internal thought, and attention [49]—vision and attention were biased toward the right hemisphere, language and internal thought to the left. This multidimensional aspect throws further doubt on the idea that cerebral asymmetry has some unitary and universal import.

Handedness, at least, is partly influenced by parental handedness, suggesting a genetic component [50], but genes can’t tell the whole story. For instance some 23 percent of monozygotic twins, who share the same genes, are of opposite handedness [51]. These so-called “mirror twins” have themselves fallen prey to a Through the Looking Glass myth; according to Martin Gardner [52], Lewis Carroll intended the twins Tweedledum and Tweedledee in that book to be enantiomers, or perfect three-dimensional mirror images in bodily form as well as in hand and brain function. Although some have argued that mirroring arises in the process of twinning itself [53],[54], large-scale studies suggest that handedness [55],[56] and cerebral asymmetry [57] in mirror twins are not subject to special mirroring effects. In the majority of twins of opposite handedness the left hemisphere is dominant for language in both twins, consistent with the finding that the majority of single-born left-handed individuals are also left-hemisphere dominant for language. In twins, as in the singly born, it is estimated that only about a quarter of the variation in handedness is due to genetic influences [56].

The manner in which handedness is inherited has been most successfully modeled by supposing that a gene or genes influence not whether the individual is right- or left-handed, but whether a bias to right-handedness will be expressed or not. In those lacking the “right shift” bias, the direction of handedness is a matter of chance; that is, left-handedness arises from the lack of a bias toward the right hand, and not from a “left-hand gene.” Such models can account reasonably well for the parental influence [58][60], and even for the relation between handedness and cerebral asymmetry if it is supposed that the same gene or genes bias the brain toward a left-sided dominance for speech [60],[61]. It now seems likely that a number of such genes are involved, but the basic insight that genes influence whether or not a given directional bias is expressed, rather than whether or not it can be reversed, remains plausible (see Box 1).

Genetic considerations aside, departures from right-handedness or left-cerebral dominance have sometimes been linked to disabilities. In the 1920s and 1930s, the American physician Samuel Torrey Orton attributed both reading disability and stuttering to a failure to establish cerebral dominance [62]. Orton’s views declined in influence, perhaps in part because he held eccentric ideas about interhemispheric reversals giving rise to left–right confusions [63], and in part because learning-theory explanations came to be preferred to neurological ones. In a recent article, Dorothy Bishop reverses Orton’s argument, suggesting that weak cerebral lateralization may itself result from impaired language learning [64]. Either way, the idea of an association between disability and failure of cerebral dominance may be due for revival, as recent studies have suggested that ambidexterity, or a lack of clear handedness or cerebral asymmetry, is indeed associated with stuttering [65] and deficits in academic skills [66], as well as mental health difficulties [67] and schizophrenia (see Box 1).

Although it may be the absence of asymmetry rather than its reversal that can be linked to problems of social or educational adjustment, left-handed individuals have often been regarded as deficient or contrarian, but this may be based more on prejudice than on the facts. Left-handers have excelled in all walks of life. They include five of the past seven US presidents, sports stars such as Rafael Nadal in tennis and Babe Ruth in baseball, and Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci, perhaps the greatest genius of all time.





Archaic H. sapiens – H. sapiens sapiens / Testosterone

A composite image shows the facial differences between an ancient modern human (Archaic Homo Sapiens) with heavy brows and a large upper face and the more recent modern human (Homo sapiens) who has rounder features and a much less prominent brow. The prominence of these features can be directly traced to the influence (reduction) of the hormone testosterone. Photo Credit: Robert Cieri, University of Utah

2238323698Archaic vs Modern

Read more: http://www.zmescience.com/science/archaeology/civilization-testosterone-skull-04082014/#ixzz3eYaNNQr0

“It is important to note that lower testosterone is associated with tolerance and cooperation in bonobos and chimpanzees, and with less aggression in humans. It seems very plausible that as humans started to group up in larger and more interconnected settlements,

they needed to find less violent ways to sort out their problems – and in the long run, the non-violent path won.”






Bitch Fest / Modern Life Sucks

How did we get here?

and by “here” I mean the state of American life.

Case in point. INSURANCE CORPORATIONS are strangling the life out of average citizens. Have you checked recently how much all your types of insurance are costing you each month? What percentage of your income is automatically “deleted” from your budget by insurance premiums? And what “value” are you “getting” for your premiums?

My house was built in 1923. It’s a cabin really; a tiny frame structure on a concrete foundation, with a crawl space. It’s not “falling down” – it has a roof less than 15 years old – new water and sewer lines, not paid for by the city, but by me – and new sidewalks which I also paid for. No garage, swimming pool or hot tub, but just fine for one not-fussy little old lady and her dog. I made all these improvements, and many more, so that I could upgrade my property insurance to a large national company, one that could be “trusted” to stay in business and provide decent coverage. I have paid year after year, on time, without a single claim – and carry a large deductible, so the coverage is really only “any good” if a plane falls out of the sky and destroys the house.

If I didn’t have a mortgage, I would not even purchase insurance. The money I have paid over the years to “big insurance company” could have rehabbed the entire property. I am now “stuck” with this company because due to Wyoming’s low population, most insurance providers no longer operate in Wyoming. They used to- but the greed for obscene profits has left us abandoned. Even the “online” insurers and brokers, who advertise great rates and coverage in Wyoming, find a way out, by exclusions: profiling, is what they practice. Now, this would be “fair” if the applicant was evaluated on his or her own property-owning behavior, but instead we are dumped into  a “statistical category” and judged on a “demographic” pool that the individual may or may not fit.

That is, one’s personal behavior is no longer a factor in obtaining insurance. The insurer simply compiles a list of (supposedly) high risk threats to their mammoth profits. These items are rarely high risk; they are “traps” for increasing premiums based on a “statistical bias” that multiplies profit. So, discrimination of every type is literally “legal” due to race, ethnic background, income, age, location, and on and on. Legality is easily skirted: the company may insure you, but you will pay exorbitant rates for their “tolerance” of your “class and type”.

The point is, the rate you must pay is no longer based on the property itself: you are paying for that small percentage of people who do stupid or reckless things, and / or, (most outrageous) for the “usual and expected” accidents and damage that life supplies – incidents for which no one has predictive powers or can control, but which are “counted against” the insured, as if we are all capable of stopping the universe from causing any adverse event.

Think about it: You are “responsible” for preventing the very circumstances of “chance” loss that insurance is sold to “cover” – and, if you make a claim, you are punished for foolishly believing that covering the unforeseen is what insurance is for.  And that travesty of logic is a slick deal for insurance companies.

Premiums are “boosted” by every lifestyle choice, personal behavior, statistical “lie” and irrelevant connivance that can be concocted  – and by “inspections” now performed via “google earth” images of your house and not a “qualified and trained” inspector. And in the end rates are set by “profiling”.

I think that Americans suspect all this, but just don’t want to know how badly they are being screwed. Worse, as a population we have given in to the inevitability of being screwed.  An Asperger can call it what it is: “extortion” and it imprisons the poor under an avalanche of stress. Getting screwed has increased the number of working poor, who must choose (literally) between paying a mortgage or rent, food or transportation, but can’t maintain, from month to month, the total funds that provide a place to live, food and also mandated insurance coverage, taxes, etc.

Even if one pays cash for (an old vehicle), which MOST people need to get to work (outside of major cities, public transportation may be non-existent or so impractical that it’s useless), insurance must be acquired, registration paid, and the vehicle kept in running condition. Is it a surprise that many drivers have no registration, insurance or a driver’s license? Once one falls into this trap of “driving illegally” it’s not long before the tickets and fines literally “sink” a person – their license is suspended and financially, there is no way out.  How many people are working that extra job (or two) or overtime, simply to “pay for” the penalty of predatory policies and laws?

Is it surprising that so many Americans “live in” a car or truck that is parked somewhere near their job, just to keep a job? Chronic homelessness is the new norm – a growing and permanent demographic.

Oh yes? What prompted this rant? My insurer has demanded that I “improve” my property, from nit-picky complaints (in a snotty tone that implied I’m a “bad” homeowner) to replacing the perfectly good 15 year-old roof. None of these supposed defects are covered by my policy; none are hazards or safety issues. This is transparent “social” aggression. An infringement on my time, effort and limited finances and home ownership.

“We like our properties” the agent said, to “look a certain way.” THEIR PROPERTIES! It’s as if they have appointed themselves as a home owners association! It’s ludicrous, since the entire section of town that I live in is old; an old railroad worker community that has dozens of houses just like mine. They even want me to “chop down” my native xeriscaping because it looks “wild” IDIOTS! That’s the point. We live in a desert. I’m saving WATER. The city is not involved in any of this. Tey understand that “old and poor people” gotta do what they gotta do to live.

Gee whiz! There was a “ruckus” when the city council passed an ordinance which reduced the number of non-operating vehicles one could park in the yard from “unlimited” to FOUR. Like 99% of city ordinances, it’s never been enforced, because no one pays any attention to the city anyway. This is the Wild West. I’m a good citizen; both of my trucks run!

The bottom line is, the cost of this arrogance and overreach by “big insurance company from out-of-state” is easily in the $20,000 -$30,000 range, which I would never sink into a perfectly presentable and livable not worth the investment property, especially at my age.

I’m assured that if I don’t “comply” my policy will not be renewed. No amount of reason, reality, or common sense is allowed. OBEY – you worthless peasant!




A Favorite Childhood Story / The Original Ugly Duckling

Contrary to the Dogma of psychology, empathy is rare in human beings, And is not normal. AS A Neuro-complex child, this story Helped to free me From pain inflicted by social humans. Empathy and clarity are found in artists, not in Psychologists. Any parent who has a child who is Exceptional, Please read them this story.  
The Hans Christian Andersen Center il_340x270_704940769_dt0z

The Ugly Duckling

It was so beautiful out on the country, it was summer- the wheat fields were golden, the oats were green, and down among the green meadows the hay was stacked. There the stork minced about on his red legs, clacking away in Egyptian, which was the language his mother had taught him. Round about the field and meadow lands rose vast forests, in which deep lakes lay hidden. Yes, it was indeed lovely out there in the country.

In the midst of the sunshine there stood an old manor house that had a deep moat around it. From the walls of the manor right down to the water’s edge great burdock leaves grew, and there were some so tall that little children could stand upright beneath the biggest of them. In this wilderness of leaves, which was as dense as the forests itself, a duck sat on her nest, hatching her ducklings. She was becoming somewhat weary, because sitting is such a dull business and scarcely anyone came to see her. The other ducks would much rather swim in the moat than waddle out and squat under the burdock leaf to gossip with her.

But at last the eggshells began to crack, one after another. “Peep, peep!” said the little things, as they came to life and poked out their heads.

“Quack, quack!” said the duck, and quick as quick can be they all waddled out to have a look at the green world under the leaves. Their mother let them look as much as they pleased, because green is good for the eyes.

“How wide the world is,” said all the young ducks, for they certainly had much more room now than they had when they were in their eggshells.

“Do you think this is the whole world?” their mother asked. “Why it extends on and on, clear across to the other side of the garden and right on into the parson’s field, though that is further than I have ever been. I do hope you are all hatched,” she said as she got up. “No, not quite all. The biggest egg still lies here. How much longer is this going to take? I am really rather tired of it all,” she said, but she settled back on her nest.

“Well, how goes it?” asked an old duck who came to pay her a call.

“It takes a long time with that one egg,” said the duck on the nest. “It won’t crack, but look at the others. They are the cutest little ducklings I’ve ever seen. They look exactly like their father, the wretch! He hasn’t come to see me at all.”

“Let’s have a look at the egg that won’t crack,” the old duck said. “It’s a turkey egg, and you can take my word for it. I was fooled like that once myself. What trouble and care I had with those turkey children, for I may as well tell you, they are afraid of the water. I simply could not get them into it. I quacked and snapped at them, but it wasn’t a bit of use. Let me see the egg. Certainly, it’s a turkey egg. Let it lie, and go teach your other children to swim.”

“Oh, I’ll sit a little longer. I’ve been at it so long already that I may as well sit here half the summer.”

“Suit yourself,” said the old duck, and away she waddled.

At last the big egg did crack. “Peep,” said the young one, and out he tumbled, but he was so big and ugly.

The duck took a look at him. “That’s a frightfully big duckling,” she said. “He doesn’t look the least like the others. Can he really be a turkey baby? Well, well! I’ll soon find out. Into the water he shall go, even if I have to shove him in myself.”

Next day the weather was perfectly splendid, and the sun shone down on all the green burdock leaves. The mother duck led her whole family down to the moat. Splash! she took to the water. “Quack, quack,” said she, and one duckling after another plunged in. The water went over their heads, but they came up in a flash, and floated to perfection. Their legs worked automatically, and they were all there in the water. Even the big, ugly gray one was swimming along.

“Why, that’s no turkey,” she said. “See how nicely he uses his legs, and how straight he holds himself. He’s my very own son after all, and quite good-looking if you look at him properly. Quack, quack come with me. I’ll lead you out into the world and introduce you to the duck yard. But keep close to me so that you won’t get stepped on, and watch out for the cat!”

Thus they sallied into the duck yard, where all was in an uproar because two families were fighting over the head of an eel. But the cat got it, after all.

“You see, that’s the way of the world.” The mother duck licked her bill because she wanted the eel’s head for herself. “Stir your legs. Bustle about, and mind that you bend your necks to that old duck over there. She’s the noblest of us all, and has Spanish blood in her. That’s why she’s so fat. See that red rag around her leg? That’s a wonderful thing, and the highest distinction a duck can get. It shows that they don’t want to lose her, and that she’s to have special attention from man and beast. Shake yourselves! Don’t turn your toes in. A well-bred duckling turns his toes way out, just as his father and mother do-this way. So then! Now duck your necks and say quack!”

They did as she told them, but the other ducks around them looked on and said right out loud, “See here! Must we have this brood too, just as if there weren’t enough of us already? And-fie! what an ugly-looking fellow that duckling is! We won’t stand for him.” One duck charged up and bit his neck.

“Let him alone,” his mother said. “He isn’t doing any harm.”

“Possibly not,” said the duck who bit him, “but he’s too big and strange, and therefore he needs a good whacking.”

“What nice-looking children you have, Mother,” said the old duck with the rag around her leg. “They are all pretty except that one. He didn’t come out so well. It’s a pity you can’t hatch him again.”

“That can’t be managed, your ladyship,” said the mother. “He isn’t so handsome, but he’s as good as can be, and he swims just as well as the rest, or, I should say, even a little better than they do. I hope his looks will improve with age, and after a while he won’t seem so big. He took too long in the egg, and that’s why his figure isn’t all that it should be.” She pinched his neck and preened his feathers. “Moreover, he’s a drake, so it won’t matter so much. I think he will be quite strong, and I’m sure he will amount to something.”

“The other ducklings are pretty enough,” said the old duck. “Now make yourselves right at home, and if you find an eel’s head you may bring it to me.”

So they felt quite at home. But the poor duckling who had been the last one out of his egg, and who looked so ugly, was pecked and pushed about and made fun of by the ducks, and the chickens as well. “He’s too big,” said they all. The turkey gobbler, who thought himself an emperor because he was born wearing spurs, puffed up like a ship under full sail and bore down upon him, gobbling and gobbling until he was red in the face. The poor duckling did not know where he dared stand or where he dared walk. He was so sad because he was so desperately ugly, and because he was the laughing stock of the whole barnyard.

Theo Van Hoytema

Theo Van Hoytema

So it went on the first day, and after that things went from bad to worse. The poor duckling was chased and buffeted about by everyone. Even his own brothers and sisters abused him. “Oh,” they would always say, “how we wish the cat would catch you, you ugly thing.” And his mother said, “How I do wish you were miles away.” The ducks nipped him, and the hens pecked him, and the girl who fed them kicked him with her foot.

So he ran away; and he flew over the fence. The little birds in the bushes darted up in a fright. “That’s because I’m so ugly,” he thought, and closed his eyes, but he ran on just the same until he reached the great marsh where the wild ducks lived. There he lay all night long, weary and disheartened.

When morning came, the wild ducks flew up to have a look at their new companion. “What sort of creature are you?” they asked, as the duckling turned in all directions, bowing his best to them all. “You are terribly ugly,” they told him, “but that’s nothing to us so long as you don’t marry into our family.”

Poor duckling! Marriage certainly had never entered his mind. All he wanted was for them to let him lie among the reeds and drink a little water from the marsh.

There he stayed for two whole days. Then he met two wild geese, or rather wild ganders-for they were males. They had not been out of the shell very long, and that’s what made them so sure of themselves.

“Say there, comrade,” they said, “you’re so ugly that we have taken a fancy to you. Come with us and be a bird of passage. In another marsh near-by, there are some fetching wild geese, all nice young ladies who know how to quack. You are so ugly that you’ll completely turn their heads.”

Bing! Bang! Shots rang in the air, and these two ganders fell dead among the reeds. The water was red with their blood. Bing! Bang! the shots rang, and as whole flocks of wild geese flew up from the reeds another volley crashed. A great hunt was in progress. The hunters lay under cover all around the marsh, and some even perched on branches of trees that overhung the reeds. Blue smoke rose like clouds from the shade of the trees, and drifted far out over the water.

The bird dogs came splash, splash! through the swamp, bending down the reeds and the rushes on every side. This gave the poor duckling such a fright that he twisted his head about to hide it under his wing. But at that very moment a fearfully big dog appeared right beside him. His tongue lolled out of his mouth and his wicked eyes glared horribly. He opened his wide jaws, flashed his sharp teeth, and – splash, splash – on he went without touching the duckling.

“Thank heavens,” he sighed, “I’m so ugly that the dog won’t even bother to bite me.”

He lay perfectly still, while the bullets splattered through the reeds as shot after shot was fired. It was late in the day before things became quiet again, and even then the poor duckling didn’t dare move. He waited several hours before he ventured to look about him, and then he scurried away from that marsh as fast as he could go. He ran across field and meadows. The wind was so strong that he had to struggle to keep his feet.

Late in the evening he came to a miserable little hovel, so ramshackle that it did not know which way to tumble, and that was the only reason it still stood. The wind struck the duckling so hard that the poor little fellow had to sit down on his tail to withstand it. The storm blew stronger and stronger, but the duckling noticed that one hinge had come loose and the door hung so crooked that he could squeeze through the crack into the room, and that’s just what he did.

Here lived an old woman with her cat and her hen. The cat, whom she called “Sonny,” could arch his back, purr, and even make sparks, though for that you had to stroke his fur the wrong way. The hen had short little legs, so she was called “Chickey Shortleg.” She laid good eggs, and the old woman loved her as if she had been her own child.

In the morning they were quick to notice the strange duckling. The cat began to purr, and the hen began to cluck.

“What on earth!” The old woman looked around, but she was short-sighted, and she mistook the duckling for a fat duck that had lost its way. “That was a good catch,” she said. “Now I shall have duck eggs-unless it’s a drake. We must try it out.” So the duckling was tried out for three weeks, but not one egg did he lay.

In this house the cat was master and the hen was mistress. They always said, “We and the world,” for they thought themselves half of the world, and much the better half at that. The duckling thought that there might be more than one way of thinking, but the hen would not hear of it.

“Can you lay eggs?” she asked


“Then be so good as to hold your tongue.”

The cat asked, “Can you arch your back, purr, or make sparks?”


“Then keep your opinion to yourself when sensible people are talking.”

The duckling sat in a corner, feeling most despondent. Then he remembered the fresh air and the sunlight. Such a desire to go swimming on the water possessed him that he could not help telling the hen about it.

“What on earth has come over you?” the hen cried. “You haven’t a thing to do, and that’s why you get such silly notions. Lay us an egg, or learn to purr, and you’ll get over it.”

“But it’s so refreshing to float on the water,” said the duckling, “so refreshing to feel it rise over your head as you dive to the bottom.”

“Yes, it must be a great pleasure!” said the hen. “I think you must have gone crazy. Ask the cat, who’s the wisest fellow I know, whether he likes to swim or dive down in the water. Of myself I say nothing. But ask the old woman, our mistress. There’s no one on earth wiser than she is. Do you imagine she wants to go swimming and feel the water rise over her head?”

“You don’t understand me,” said the duckling.

“Well, if we don’t, who would? Surely you don’t think you are cleverer than the cat and the old woman-to say nothing of myself. Don’t be so conceited, child. Just thank your Maker for all the kindness we have shown you. Didn’t you get into this snug room, and fall in with people who can tell you what’s what? But you are such a numbskull that it’s no pleasure to have you around. Believe me, I tell you this for your own good. I say unpleasant truths, but that’s the only way you can know who are your friends. Be sure now that you lay some eggs. See to it that you learn to purr or to make sparks.”

“I think I’d better go out into the wide world,” said the duckling.

“Suit yourself,” said the hen.

So off went the duckling. He swam on the water, and dived down in it, but still he was slighted by every living creature because of his ugliness.

Autumn came on. The leaves in the forest turned yellow and brown. The wind took them and whirled them about. The heavens looked cold as the low clouds hung heavy with snow and hail. Perched on the fence, the raven screamed, “Caw, caw!” and trembled with cold. It made one shiver to think of it. Pity the poor little duckling!

One evening, just as the sun was setting in splendor, a great flock of large, handsome birds appeared out of the reeds. The duckling had never seen birds so beautiful. They were dazzling white, with long graceful necks. They were swans. They uttered a very strange cry as they unfurled their magnificent wings to fly from this cold land, away to warmer countries and to open waters. They went up so high, so very high, that the ugly little duckling felt a strange uneasiness come over him as he watched them. He went around and round in the water, like a wheel. He craned his neck to follow their course, and gave a cry so shrill and strange that he frightened himself. Oh! He could not forget them-those splendid, happy birds. When he could no longer see them he dived to the very bottom. and when he came up again he was quite beside himself. He did not know what birds they were or whither they were bound, yet he loved them more than anything he had ever loved before. It was not that he envied them, for how could he ever dare dream of wanting their marvelous beauty for himself? He would have been grateful if only the ducks would have tolerated him-the poor ugly creature.


The winter grew cold – so bitterly cold that the duckling had to swim to and fro in the water to keep it from freezing over. But every night the hole in which he swam kept getting smaller and smaller. Then it froze so hard that the duckling had to paddle continuously to keep the crackling ice from closing in upon him. At last, too tired to move, he was frozen fast in the ice.

Early that morning a farmer came by, and when he saw how things were he went out on the pond, broke away the ice with his wooden shoe, and carried the duckling home to his wife. There the duckling revived, but when the children wished to play with him he thought they meant to hurt him. Terrified, he fluttered into the milk pail, splashing the whole room with milk. The woman shrieked and threw up her hands as he flew into the butter tub, and then in and out of the meal barrel. Imagine what he looked like now! The woman screamed and lashed out at him with the fire tongs. The children tumbled over each other as they tried to catch him, and they laughed and they shouted. Luckily the door was open, and the duckling escaped through it into the bushes, where he lay down, in the newly fallen snow, as if in a daze.

But it would be too sad to tell of all the hardships and wretchedness he had to endure during this cruel winter. When the warm sun shone once more, the duckling was still alive among the reeds of the marsh. The larks began to sing again. It was beautiful springtime.

Then, quite suddenly, he lifted his wings. They swept through the air much more strongly than before, and their powerful strokes carried him far. Before he quite knew what was happening, he found himself in a great garden where apple trees bloomed. The lilacs filled the air with sweet scent and hung in clusters from long, green branches that bent over a winding stream. Oh, but it was lovely here in the freshness of spring!

From the thicket before him came three lovely white swans. They ruffled their feathers and swam lightly in the stream. The duckling recognized these noble creatures, and a strange feeling of sadness came upon him.

“I shall fly near these royal birds, and they will peck me to bits because I, who am so very ugly, dare to go near them. But I don’t care. Better be killed by them than to be nipped by the ducks, pecked by the hens, kicked about by the hen-yard girl, or suffer such misery in winter.”

So he flew into the water and swam toward the splendid swans. They saw him, and swept down upon him with their rustling feathers raised. “Kill me!” said the poor creature, and he bowed his head down over the water to wait for death. But what did he see there, mirrored in the clear stream? He beheld his own image, and it was no longer the reflection of a clumsy, dirty, gray bird, ugly and offensive. He himself was a swan! Being born in a duck yard does not matter, if only you are hatched from a swan’s egg.

He felt quite glad that he had come through so much trouble and misfortune, for now he had a fuller understanding of his own good fortune, and of beauty when he met with it. The great swans swam all around him and stroked him with their bills.

Several little children came into the garden to throw grain and bits of bread upon the water. The smallest child cried, “Here’s a new one,” and the others rejoiced, “yes, a new one has come.” They clapped their hands, danced around, and ran to bring their father and mother.

And they threw bread and cake upon the water, while they all agreed, “The new one is the most handsome of all. He’s so young and so good-looking.” The old swans bowed in his honor.

Then he felt very bashful, and tucked his head under his wing. He did not know what this was all about. He felt so very happy, but he wasn’t at all proud, for a good heart never grows proud. He thought about how he had been persecuted and scorned, and now he heard them all call him the most beautiful of all beautiful birds. The lilacs dipped their clusters into the stream before him, and the sun shone so warm and so heartening. He rustled his feathers and held his slender neck high, as he cried out with full heart: “I never dreamed there could be so much happiness, when I was the ugly duckling.”

Adult Rationality and Logic are LEARNED


“Psychologists have suggested that for little children, the boundary between reality and fantasy is blurry. The imaginary life of kids is powerful and sways their perceptions of the real world until they master adult rationality and logic. (And when does this supposedly occur? In most Americans, this never comes to pass…)

The famous pioneer of developmental psychology, Jean Piaget, said that kids in the preoperational stage of cognitive growth (ages two to seven) use magical thinking until they learn the properties of physics and reality a trial and error process that takes years. (In most Americans, this means NEVER…)

Or we could educate our children in math and science as a means to teach “how the world works” but then we would create adults who can think independently, question social dogma, insist on facts instead of accepting lies, abandon supernatural explanations for phenomena, and who use common sense, logic and critical thinking skills in making life decisions, instead of remaining dependent on infantile emotions, magical solutions, and “big daddies.”


The one absolutely necessary requirement for becoming an adult: