Celebration of Cavewoman

Woman grinding seeds between two stones
Woman grinding seeds between two stones

My daughter and I were discussing innovation and inventiveness. Well, actually we weren’t but the subject got mentioned in the context of “what if….”. What if our caveman ancestor had not banged together two rocks and invented fire starting? My opinion was that it was probably our cavewoman ancestor who did it. Our caveman ancestor would probably have banged his thumbs together between the two rocks.

This started me thinking. Inventors are usually man. Rarely, in recent times anyway, is a great inventor a woman. Why is this? Is there really a gender gap in inventiveness?

Fire making tools
Fire making tools

Thinking back to the caveman and cavewoman days, it is likely that the woman was responsible for the invention of clothing. The caveman was probably happy to chase pigs through the scrub with his dangly bits flopping in the wind, while the cavewoman would be inventing the loin cloth, which the caveman would likely adopt with glee, as it prevented his said dangly bits coming in contact with the gorse and other spiky plants. For the cavewoman there was an advantage that it hid the dangly bits from her view.

Then when the woman in the next cave over, the blonde one with the big … assets, starting wearing that fitting badger skin outfit, cavewomen had invented fashion. Hmm. The charcoal from the newly invented fire really enhanced the under eyes, and the lighter ash really made the cheekbones stand out. Your move, blondie!

Fur Coat
Fur coat

And cooking too. Caveman probably dropped his slice of bear loin in the fire and discovered that it tasted great, after you brushed the burnt bits and the ash off. Cavewoman then got a stone, put it on the fire and sizzled her steak on that. With a few grilled veges on the side, for the healthy touch.

Of course when caveman was unsuccessful in bringing home any meat, the family had to subsist on berries and seeds. Crushing the seeds between two rocks probably made them easier to eat and that a short step from grinding them up, which is a small step from mixing them with water and then dropping them on the hot stone. Somehow I don’t imagine the caveman doing that. He’d be too busy describing the ones that got away.

Tibetan flour mill
Tibetan flour mill

Then when the caveman invited next door over for tea, then something special was required. So wrap the grilled meat pieces in the flat bread, add a few herbs and spices, and hey presto! Instant cuisine. I bet blondie couldn’t even boil an egg. Oh, wait a minute, we haven’t invented boiling things yet.

What if we take that coconut shell and fill it with water and balance it on the fire? Add a few leaves from that bush over there, and we’ve invented tea. A few ground beans from that other bush and we have coffee. Hmm, let’s domesticate a goat, so that we have an assured source of meat, and hey, we can put some of the goat’s milk in the tea.

A cave
A cave

My semi-serious point is that all these things that were developed in the dim and distant past were likely invented by the women. While the men were out chasing pigs, goats, and badgers and developing weapons and warfare, and all those men things, women stayed in or around the cave inventing, well, home.

When the men came home with pig-on-a-stick, the woman would break down the animal, with a stone knife probably invented by a woman to make it easier, remove the tubes and other gruesome bits, and set it on the fire to cook. She probably accidentally domesticated the dog by feeding it the bits she didn’t want. The cat was always there.

Miling a goat
Milking a goat

Of course, when you spend your days, sitting on the ground, keeping the fire going, accidentally inventing smoking of meat by hanging it over the fire, the ground begins to get a bit, well, hard. Animals skins help somewhat, but animal skins with dried grass under them were even better! But to keep the grass from leaking out from under the skins, woman had to invent sewing.

Of course, sewing helped the skins look a lot better. Take that blonde girl. What? You bought yours! You invented shopping? Go, girl!!

I’d bet it was a woman who invented agriculture. While man was out chasing deer and tripping over rocks, while he was gathering a paleo diet on the side from bushes and shrubs, woman was at home noticing that some of the seeds gathered last year were sprouting. What if she were to scratch some shallow lines in the ground and plant those sprouting seeds? What is she were to water and weed them and, well, let’s invent a word, cultivate them? Then they wouldn’t have to go so far to find seeds when that idiot man couldn’t find any prey! And if they did grow, she’d save some seed for next year rather than just eat it all.

Wheat in field
Wheat in field

Then when the cave gets too small for a growing family, it’s the woman who looks around, finds a bigger, better cave, and pays the occupants half an antelope for it. It’s the woman who invents real estate.

It’s the woman who sticks a few palm fronds in cracks in the rock to give them shade from the sun in summer, and who piles up some rocks to block the wind in winter, it’s the woman who diverts the stream away from the living area. Yes, this cave has running water! No need to go down to the stream to drink! It’s the woman who invents home improvement.

Cave entrance
Cave entrance

Of course, my hypothesis above, that from fire to home improvement, these things were invented by women. The women were, in general, left behind while the men went hunting. The men didn’t have time to invent things, but the women were able to put their minds to work on improving things around the cave, but people give them little credit for it. But when push comes to shove it seems to me that civilisation is the greatest achievement of womankind.

Sappho
Sappho

 

 

Spring is here!

Bursting buds
Bursting buds

It’s officially spring and things are starting to warm up. Funnily the temperatures have not changed much, but it feels a lot warmer. The chrome sharp acid edge of winter has gone leaving a more bearable softer edged coolness behind. Lyrical words for a lyrical season.

Spring in this part of the world means waves of damp weather coming from the west. A cyclone, a normal one, not one of the monsters that cause devastation, may throw off several fronts as it approaches or passes over us, and we receive several burst of rain.

Water on grass
Water pearls on grass

This year, we have had a wet winter and things are tending to be a bit boggy and muddy. It makes it much harder to keep things clean as the mud tracks indoors. This is particularly bad if you have a dog who think mud is for rolling in. Fortunately our pooch is not one of those.

The wet spring weather means spending time indoors, unless you are prepared to don wet weather gear and brave it. We look forward to the burst of spring sunshine between the bands of showers. Showery weather means clouds and while the sky may be grey, it is not the depressing slate grey sky dispensing drizzle that I remember from England.

Kereru
Kereru or New Zealand Pigeon

The intervals of blue sky should become longer as spring progresses but they are welcome however brief. The enable one to get out and about, to note all the buds bursting from the trees and birds, particularly Tuis, dashing about defending territories, chasing off other birds and generally singing their hearts out.

Some trees have already blossomed and are now presumably in the process of fruiting. I’ve watched fruit trees in the garden throw out blossoms only for the blossoms to fall almost before I can get into the house for my camera! Some flowering cherries have been masses of blossom and are now merely green.

White cherry blossom
White cherry blossom

The pale green of new shoots is a unique colour, contrasting strongly with last year’s foliage which is a much darker colour. This changes the character of the light for photography, but the effect doesn’t last long. The new shoots rapidly lose that unique tinge, even if they are not yet as dark as the last year leaves.

The grass also grows strongly at this time. Paths which were mere tracks are now corridors between rapidly growing walls of grass. Much of this new grass will shortly pause, flower, seed, then turn yellow brown and die back. Fortunately I don’t suffer from hay fever, but during the flowering phase suffers with curse the wind blown pollen.

Fir trees
Fir trees

It’s not just grass that lets loose a volley of pollen. There are no fir trees near where I live, but the wind screen of my car, the edge of the lingering puddles and other sheltered spots develop a yellow edging from the pollen of fir trees kilometres away.

There’s a surprisingly sizeable population of ducks in this suburban area. The reserve and parks all seem to host a few ducks, and they even visit gardens in the area. It’s breeding season for the ducks, with all the raucous clamour that that entails. It’s sometimes difficult to know whether they are courting or fighting.

No ducks!
No ducks!

Good spring weather brings out the lawnmowers. I’m not sure that the ground isn’t a bit too wet at the moment as things are still pretty boggy. In the reserve which I and the dog visit the mostly frequently, the grass cutting has resulted in a mess of tyre marks and some areas where the grass is damaged by the mowers. It looks pretty bad, but for experience I can say that marks will be undetectable in a week or two.

I’ve not seen many insects this year yet, but they must be around as I’ve seen the Welcome Swallows around twisting and turning and catching insects in the air. They are called “Welcome Swallows” because they appear at the beginning of spring, heralding the better weather to come.

Sacred Kingfisher
Sacred Kingfisher

I’ve not seen the kingfisher recently where I usually see him/her in our local reserve. He/she has been about in the last weeks though, so I shall probably see him/her soon. The full name for the Kingfisher is the Sacred Kingfisher. It’s called “sacred” because it is said to holy to the Polynesians.

I like the bird’s original binary classification name of “Halcyon sancta”. “Halcyon” can mean calm, peaceful, happy or golden. “Sancta” means sacred of course. “Sacred peace”. The drug halcion is used to induce sleep or relaxation and there is possibly a connection between the two words. Unfortunately the binary classification name of the bird has been changed and it is now the less appealing “Todiramphus sanctus”.

Winter clothing
Winter clothing

One advantage of spring is that we can start to discard the multiple layers of clothes that we are forced to don over winter. I hate piling on the sweaters and overcoats, changing shoes and so on that going out in the winter involves. Every layer that I can leave off is a cause for rejoicing. Unfortunately the fickle weather of spring with the occasional cold snap means that tomorrow I might have to layer up again.

Today the weather is a bit grey. It’s not too cold. Later on it is forecast to be showery again. That’s OK because I know that better weather is coming. The weather will be up and down for a while, it’s true but the ‘ups’ will get more up and the ‘downs’ will be less down, and before we know it, the t-shirts and shorts will be out, we’ll be looking forward to summer.

Grey weather
Grey weather

Spring is a turn around season, where we say goodbye to the fierceness of winter and look forward to the mellowness of spring. No more chopping of wood and lighting fires, cold draughts through small cracks and mounds of bedclothes to keep us warm. No more donning layer upon layer of clothes when leaving the house. It’ll be back to open windows, time in the garden and much lighter bedclothes, and just picking up the car keys when we leave the house.

Surrey woods near Walton on the Hill
Surrey woods near Walton on the Hill

Thinking my Thoughts

Swirling thoughts
Swirling thoughts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thoughts. We pump them out like a sausage machine pushes out sausages.Some of them we even push out onto paper or a computer screen and some pass on to other people by way of speech.

Thoughts are private to us and are never visible to the outside world. Each of us has their own thoughts, unless you are all zombies and my thoughts are the only ones that exist. Most people, I would guess, have thoughts that they would rather that other people do not know about, which would embarrass them if made public.


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Descartes believed that since he thought, that he must exist. One can chip away philosophically at that belief, but there is no doubting that Descartes exists and that he thought. We all do, solipsistic philosophy aside, even if Descartes’ argument is not correct.

The difficulty comes when we look at where thoughts come from and, indeed, what thoughts are. We may think “Did I leave the gas on?” or “I must change my library books”. Thoughts seem to happen unconsciously at first, and then move into the consciousness, at some level or other.


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The type of thought that I mention above about the gas and the library books spring right to the front or top of the consciousness, sometime surprising us. Other thought don’t impact so much on the consciousness, such as the thoughts that occur during a conversation.

For instance, suppose that you were chatting to friends, someone might question how you all got onto a subject. You are having coffee and find that you are discussing Amazonian Army Ants. How did you get on to the subject? On thinking back you piece together a chain of thought, that goes back to some totally unrelated topic, like the quality of fruit in the supermarket.

To be sure, I’ve suggested a conversation between several people, but similar happens in one person’s brain, as you can verify for yourself. Just grab a passing thought and work backwards from there and you will see what I mean.

Thoughts tend to be like cetaceans or some varieties of fish that live beneath the surface but sometime broach the surface before sinking back into the depths. It appears that the actual generation of thoughts happen below the level of consciousness, and then sink back into the unconscious. Memories of past thoughts can however be retrieved.


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Although we do not perceive thoughts being created, the thoughts passing through our consciousness and things happening external to our minds play a part in creating our thoughts. If I think of the first few digits of π, it is because I am looking around for an example of prior thoughts affecting current ones – I consciously decide to think of an example, and immediately became a past thought and so I thought of the first few digits of π.

I suggested that we pop out thoughts like a sausage machine pops out sausages. Unfortunately that analogy breaks down somewhat as current sausages are not influenced by prior sausages unless you really stretch the analogy by saying that the delicious taste of past sausages leads you to create the current sausage!


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The analogy does help a little though. What comes out of the sausage machine depends on what is put into the hopper. You won’t get pork sausages by filling the hopper with bits of beef of course, and in much the same way you will only get certain thoughts coming out if you have certain inputs going in.

The type of thoughts that we have can be changed by various methods, including repetition and example. We can learn by example and it influences what thoughts we have. If we see people standing for others in the train, we think to do this on other occasions.

English: Seat on Hoist Point A very smart new ...
English: Seat on Hoist Point A very smart new seat in a dramatic position with astonishing views (see 1511570, for instance). At the risk of being thought churlish, however, I have found more comfortable seats on which to rest aching legs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A group of people will often start to think similarly, as the group forms and develops. A team that works well together may act as if they are reading one another’s minds, simply because they have learned to think in similar ways, and the team is said to have gelled.

It’s possible to force someone to think the way that you want them to think, by repetition and making things uncomfortable for them. This is called brainwashing and is for obvious reasons frowned upon. A fictional example come from the end of the book 1984 where Winston Smith is brainwashed into loving Big Brother by O’Brien.

Big Brother (David Graham) speaking to his aud...
Big Brother (David Graham) speaking to his audience of proles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When people live closely together they tend to start to think alike as in the sports team mentioned above. Another example would be the cases where hostages have come to espouse the aims and objectives of the people who have taken them captive, such as the heiress Patty Hearst who was kidnapped by a terrorist group but came to support their cause even to the point of taking part on in armed robberies.

Thoughts can be directed by a person, but only to an extent. One can concentrate one’s thoughts on study, but it is difficult to know how that happens. The experience of study (or the loosely related one of computer programming) can an in depth totally encompassing one, leading to a condition known to programmers as “being in the zone“. This can also apply in other fields of human endeavour too.

Often though, without the person being aware, the zone drifts away and the person ends up in the day dream state, thinking of things other than the topic that is supposed to be being thought about. This usually happens when the person has difficulty in concentrating on the topic as it bores them or they don’t understand it.

Some thoughts are completely below the level of the conscious, such as those that one has when one is asleep. Like all thoughts they soon fade into the depths and mostly leave no impression on the memory. Occasionally though, some dreaming thoughts survive in the memory through the process of waking, but they often seem bizarre or irrelevant to anything to do with our conscious lives. Sometimes though, they can be source of inspiration, as in the case of one of the inventors of the sewing machine, Elias Howe.

Sewing machine, type Calanda 17
Sewing machine, type Calanda 17 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)