Blogging – how is it going?

blogging (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

When I started this blog, 60-odd posts ago, I had no idea where it was going. Of course I had some ideas on what I wanted. Philosophy, cooking and photography. As it turns out, there’s been a bit of philosophy going on, but it’s not been centre stage, as it were. There’s been a decline in the cooking posts, which I intend to remedy sooner or later, and the photography has been non-existent. That’s because most of my photography has gone into my Facebook page.

So what have I been blogging about? I looked back and, well, I’m surprised to note that my posts, were philosophical in tone, but not necessarily what I’d call “philosophically motivated”, but often triggered by events that have come to my attention either in my personal life or in the media. Some serious and some not serious. As an example this post has turned into a philosophical review of earlier posts.

P philosophy
P philosophy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what can I reflect on over 60-odd posts, apart from my apparent tendency to seek deeper meaning in the relatively trivial? Because I don’t consider my posts to be “deeply meanignful”.

Well one aspect of this one-a-week blogging thing strikes me immediately. I am a procrastinator and my previous attempts at blogging or similar have failed miserably. Currently I am up to 60-odd posts and still going. (Pats self on back). What is different this time?

English: Old gatepost Field openings used to b...
English: Old gatepost Field openings used to be closed by putting posts in the holes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, one of the factors I think is WordPress. As a confirmed technophile, I have tried many other solutions, and even tried the DIY approach. I can speak several computer languages like a native, and I can achieve passable programs in several others. I don’t care what language it is, if I want to learn it for anything, it doesn’t take me long. (Note to self: write an article about programming “in the zone” and “thinking in a programming language”!)

WordPress (Photo credit: Adriano Gasparri)

WordPress is different in that I don’t have to program anything. I just write my thoughts in a fairly forgiving editor, add a few images and click the “Publish” button. No doubt there are other similar systems out there, but I came across WordPress and it works for me. I can bash out 1000-ish words per week and cast them into the ether, or at least the Internet, and I have achieved my self-imposed goal.

cassini science targets
cassini science targets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What happens when it gets out there depends on whether my thinking resonates with others out there on the Internet. I get emails saying that so-and-so “liked” a post, which is nice, or that so-and-so is now “following” my posts, which is nicer, but comments on my posts are rare. Insert not-smiley emoticon. I’m not sure why. Maybe I should solicit and respond to comments? Insert smiley emoticon.

Smiley Rocks
Smiley Rocks (Photo credit: w3i_yu)

Anyhow, I like WordPress and it works for me, but there are probably, almost certainly, other blogging systems that would do as well, each with their own quirks and wrinkles. I wouldn’t presume to say that WordPress is the best or that WordPress is for everyone. But it works for me.

I aim to do approximately 1000 words per post (the editor tells me I’m just over half way there – helpful). I base this on the concept that if the post is too long, it won’t get read to the end, unless it is *really* interesting. I don’t aspire to be more than 1000 words interesting! I think that’s reasonable and I hope it *is* reasonable, otherwise I’m wasting my time.

English: This is a modification of File:200902...
English: This is a modification of File:20090211 thousand words-01.jpg, which I digitally cropped, to remove the title and the copyright notice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I started this blog, I decided that I would post on Friday or Saturday each week. That has slid out to Tuesday occasionally, but I’m pleased to say that I have maintained the once a week target since I decided to attempt it. Yay! There are personal reasons why Friday and Saturday are not conducive to blog writing, and Sunday is the day that I am (effectively) targetting these days. I’m writing this on a Sunday.

Who am I blogging to? I putting these posts out there, on the Internet, and presumably I hope that someone will read them. Actually, that not as clear cut as all that. While I love the idea that some people might find my posts (ruminations? ramblings?) interesting, I don’t think that I’d be disappointed if nobody read them. If anyone does, please comment with “Hey, Cliff, I read the post.” Extra comments optional!

Duty Calls
Duty calls.

Blogging is a narcissistic occupation. The blogger puts his thoughts out there, on the Internet, because he thinks his thoughts are of some value. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. It doesn’t matter to the blogger, or at least to this blogger.  If you figure out the millions of bloggers world-wide and the number of postings that they make per day, it is unlikely that any one blogger is likely to attract a lot of attention. Unless they happen to be President of the United States or something.

I’m always grateful when someone comments on my posts though. I don’t think that the blogging medium is particularly good for having a conversation or discussion though, as I don’t spend a lot of time on it, and I don’t get a huge number of comments. I do know that some people do end up with 1000s of comments on their posts, but those blogs tend to be specialised – political blogs for example. I don’t have such a detailed target, so I’m happy with the few comments and likes that I get.

Models of Blogs: Blog as Participant in Conver...
Models of Blogs: Blog as Participant in Conversation (3 of 3) (Photo credit: robinhamman)
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Flu (Photo credit: IK’s World Trip)

Today I am going to reflect on sickness. As an aside, my aim was to write something every Friday and post it here, but lately the deadlines have been slipping past and I didn’t complete the previous post until Tuesday. This Friday I was still suffering from the bug that I caught, and motivation and energy levels were low, so I didn’t start this until Sunday. The effects hang on, but if I don’t start now, I may not get a post done at all! So here goes.

Last Monday I was feeling like I was coming down with something but struggled into work anyway. A couple of hours into the day it was obvious to me that I was rapidly getting worse so I headed home and put my feet up. I fully expected to be over the worst by Wednesday but on Wednesday morning it was obvious that I wasn’t recovered enough to return to work, so I visited the doctor who confirmed a flu-type illness.

Visit of the Doctor
Visit of the Doctor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The doctor didn’t prescribe anything apart from rest, which suited me. I must write a post about over prescribing of medicines by doctors as I see it sometime. So the rest of the week was taken up by lying around, drinking copious tea, coughing and aching. I believe that one of the symptoms of the sickness I am still suffering from is to make everything ache. Of course, the constant coughing results in aching of the chest muscles, but my arms and legs and head also ached. Not nice.

Add on on shivering fits and sweats and it all makes for a fun week. Did I mention a sore throat?

English: Hamlin's Wizard Oil, the greatest fam...
English: Hamlin’s Wizard Oil, the greatest family remedy for rheumatism, neuralgia, toothache, headache, diphtheria, sore throat, lame back, sprains, bruises, corns, cramps, colic, diarrhœa and all pain and inflammation. Sold by all druggists. Advertising for turn-of-the-century miracle cure, chromolithograph by Hughes Lithographers, Chicago. Undated, estimated to be from around 1890. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I think that I am suffering the attack of a flu virus, but obviously not a strain that was targeted by the flu jab that I had. Since it was presumably a virus there is no treatment possible, apart from alleviating the symptoms.

Speaking anthropomorphically, it is in the virus’ interest to not reduce the functional level of the organism that it attacks to the level where it quickly dies and so cannot pass on the infection, so viruses tend to merely make you sick. So infected organisms remain more or less functional. They still eat, drink, and interrelate with others of their type, which allows the virus to spread by coughs and sneezes which fill the air with the virus which can then be inhaled by well individuals.

virus (Photo credit: twenty_questions)

It is good strategy for the virus to irritate the nose and the the chest, increasing the possibility of the virus being passed on. I say “strategy”, though of course it is pure evolution in action – viruses which don’t cause you to cough and sneeze don’t get spread around so easily and so tend to die out. Of course there are other ways to spread a virus or other disease, STDs and diseases transferred by physical contact spring to mind.

When you think about it, sneezes and coughs are a pretty damn efficient way of spreading a virus. A cough or sneezes creates a mist of tiny virus-laden particles that can be inhaled or picked up from surfaces where they settle. It follows that viruses at least of this type would spread most efficiently in enclosed spaces such as homes and workplaces. A farmer could sneeze in the fields and not affect anyone, but a sneeze in a packed classroom could result in several pupils being missing in the next day or two, not to mention the teacher.

A man mid-sneeze. Original CDC caption: "...
A man mid-sneeze. Original CDC caption: “This 2009 photograph captured a sneeze in progress, revealing the plume of salivary droplets as they are expelled in a large cone-shaped array from this man’s open mouth, thereby dramatically illustrating the reason one needs to cover his/her mouth when coughing, or sneezing, in order to protect others from germ exposure.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the silly things about employment laws is that a person who takes leave from work because of sickness can be asked to provide a medical certificate, even if the employer doesn’t believe that the worker is faking the sickness. Usually there is a day or two’s grace to allow the sick person to obtain a certificate from the doctor. This usually means that the sick person has to go out into the community, sit in a waiting room which is probably a miasma of viruses, and talk to a doctor who is then subjected to the airborne virus! It’s possible that evolution will favour viruses which reach maximum infectiveness in 2 – 3 days!

The reason for the laws is to prevent people from claiming to be sick when they aren’t (known colloquially as “taking a sickie”). While this is obviously a problem it does mean that people may struggle into work when sick in order to avoid the expense of a doctor’s visit, and they may spread the virus around the workplace, resulting in more absences and more costs to the employer.

duvet day
duvet day (Photo credit: Βethan)

Viruses are amazing things, on the borders of death and life. They are simply little packets of genetic code for self-replication which utilise the organism’s own machinery against it. Of course all living organisms are packets of genetic code for self-replication, but viruses are the smallest possible, with the possible exception of things like prions. (Which, I’ve just read, don’t contain any genetic code).

The immune system of the body is triggered by viruses (which results in all the coughing and sneezing) and so the body is not defenceless. However viruses mutate quite quickly, so we have many ‘strains’ of common viruses. The common cold is, I believe, a particularly mutable virus which is probably why research into it has not gone far in combating it. The flu virus that attacked me is likely to have been a mutation of a strain of the flu virus that was targeted by the flu jab that I had.

And so the war goes on.

Comparison of mechanisms of drug resistance am...
Comparison of mechanisms of drug resistance among viruses (Photo credit: AJC1)

Predicting the future

Future car!
Future car! (Photo credit: Little Black Cherry)

The farmer fed the chicken every morning at the same. The chicken realised this and ran up to the farmer every morning to be fed. One morning the chicken ran up to the farmer who grabbed it and chopped off its head. This demonstrates the dangers of inductive reasoning. The old turkey was a little more sophisticated however. When asked by a younger turkey when Thanksgiving was, he replied that it was on the fourth Friday in November. The younger turkey was incensed to find out that it was the fourth Thursday in November. The older turkey said to him “Boy, the humans celebrate it on the Thursday, but if I wake up on Friday morning, then I give thanks”.

Induction is looking at the past in a particular way to predict the future. Specifically, induction looks at a series of events in the past to predict the future. The sun has risen like clockwork every day, whether or not you can see it, for as long as anyone can remember and for as long as we can determine from reports from the past. Will it rise tomorrow morning?  I would put money on it because either it will, and I win, or it won’t and it won’t matter because we will almost certainly be dead. The argument comes down to “It has always happened in the past, so it will (or it is extremely like to) happen in the future.

Zabriskie Point at sunrise in Death Valley
Zabriskie Point at sunrise in Death Valley (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The alternative method of reasoning is deductive reasoning. The deductive argument is that the rising of the sun is a consequence of the rotation of the earth. As the earth rotates, the sun appears to us on the earth’s surface to appear from beneath the horizon and travel across the sky. Actually, it is us who move, a good demonstration of relativity (but maybe I’ll go there another day). The argument goes stepwise from fact to fact and leads inevitably or logically to a conclusion.

Horus, ancient Egyptian God, the Sun God, depi...
Horus, ancient Egyptian God, the Sun God, depicted on papyrus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The trouble with this approach is that, for all its logical stepwise approach it is built on two things, a theory and a set of past observations. A scientist has a theory or decides to check a theory, so he does an experiment, and the results of his experiment support or do not support the experiment. The scientist assumes that the theory is true and bases his predictions on this. Unfortunately there is an inductive element to this – if the theory is true for the experiment, there is no guarantee that it will be true for subsequent experiments, even given that ‘ceteris paribus’ (all things remain the same). Some other unconsidered cause could affect the result. The argument is deductive, proceeding in logical steps from the theory, but the practise is inductive – the data has always supported the theory in the past, so it will continue to support the theory in the future.

New Scientist
New Scientist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To be fair to the inductivists, todays’ inductivists tend to specify the results of their arguments in terms of probabilities: the probability of the sun rising tomorrow is close to 100%, given that it has always risen in the morning for as far back as we can see, but there is a minute but finite possibility that it won’t for known or unknown reasons.

Let’s consider the case of the sun rising each day and suppose that the fact that the earth rotates is not known. To make the argument more deductive we can postulate causes and so long as the cause fits the facts, we can tentatively label the cause as a hypothesis. Suppose we conjecture that some deity causes the sun to rise each morning. This hypothesis certainly fits the facts and predicts with accuracy that the sun will continue to rise each morning. Such a hypothesis would not be accepted today, of course, except by some individuals.

Mathematical induction can be informally illus...
Mathematical induction can be informally illustrated by reference to the sequential effect of falling dominoes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is there any great difference between the theist and the scientist? The theist says “all things happen because of God”. The scientist says “all things happen because of the laws of nature”. They both explain things on the basis of their fundamental beliefs.

It is possible that people in the future may look at our theories of the sun rising and other things and consider them naive and consider our view of everything happening according to the laws of nature to be a quaint misunderstanding, in much the same way as many people would consider the “deity hypothesis” to be today.

cubed earth theory
cubed earth theory (Photo credit: Joelstuff V4)

In mathematics the situation is different. Induction is a much more formal process and is applied on top of an axiomatic system. Proved theorems are the results of the applying the axioms repeatedly to another proved theorem or the axioms themselves. Unproven assertions can be proved and turned into theorems or disproved and discarded (or possibly modified so that they can be proved). If something is proved in an axiomatic system, it is true for all time, and cannot be disproved in that system.

Specifically an inductive proof would go something like this: firstly the theorem would be proved for a generic case (eg if statement N is true, then statement N + 1 is true) and secondly it is proved for a specific case (eg statement 1 is true). Then all applicable statements are true because, if statement 1 is true, the generic case means that statement 2 is true, and so on for all cases. Because of the rigor of the argument and the undeniable conclusion of the argument, mathematical inductive proofs are of the same order of reliability as deductive proofs, that is, they are only wrong if there is an error in the logic.

English: Mathematical induction as domino effe...
English: Mathematical induction as domino effect, with text in Esperanto Esperanto: Matematika indukto kiel domen-efiko, kun teksto en Esperanto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why the difference between scientific induction and mathematical induction? Well, I think that it is related to the fact that mathematics is axiomatic and therefore certain, whereas scientific induction is based on the laws of nature which are not and never will be, in my opinion, completely defined. If the basis of your argument is not certain, how can your conclusion be certain?

The End Of Certainty?
The End Of Certainty? (Photo credit: minifig)