Can I Keep My Free Will Now?

An interesting study from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute indicates that many of our decisions are influenced by past experiences (which is the leading cause for determinism) but also points out that random choices (or what I might perceive as a bit of free will, otherwise touted as compatibilism) might be benefecial at times.

A couple of notable quotes from the article: “Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus have shown that the brain can temporarily disconnect information about past experience from decision-making circuits, thereby triggering random behavior.” and : “in certain circumstances, random behavior may be preferable. An animal might have the best chance of avoiding a predator if it moves unpredictably, for example. And in a new environment, unrestricted exploration might make more sense than relying on an internal model developed elsewhere.”

The article here:

Shows how rats were able to switch between these modes of thought, predictably, by using different ways of presenting food/reward scenarios. There was noted an interesting side effect, notably the possibility of being stuck in the random mode of thought once it was initiated. They did figure out how to reverse that behavior by suppressing a stress hormone in the study animals, which I thought was pretty cool.

Now, admittedly I am extrapolating a bit here, moving this new information to the free will argument realm. But this study seems to show that having the ability to randomize our actions can be beneficial. What is free will if it is not the ability to make a random decision? I contend that yes our past experiences influence our decisions greatly, but that we do have the ability to occaisionally make a random choice if we want to. I don’t feel like EVERY decision we make has to be influenced by our past, and that yes, we do have a modicum of free will. Although it may be a small part of our makeup.

I just cannot buy into the determinist camp as of yet, and yes I’m probably grasping at straws here. But I remain a compatibilist for now. I know it’s not feasable just yet to be doing a happy dance for free will, but in this article I’ll take what I can get. 🙂


I hate to admit it, but this is how pathetic my life is.

I have been an amateur astronomer for a long time now. When you get the astro bug as I have, you want to enjoy a few of the astro goodies that are available to enthusiasts.There is an online astronomy buy and sell web site known as Astromart. It has been a great boon to guys like me, you can save a great deal of money buying gear used as opposed to paying the full new price. I also briefly ventured into a small side business making and selling parallelogram binocular mounts.

Astromart began as a free use site. Then I suppose the cost of upkeep for servers, and at least an IT guy or two, eventually meant that the site had to start charging people for the service. It started off if my memory serves well (and it is suspect) there was discussion of the cost being 5 bucks per year, then by the time the for pay fee was implemented it jumped to 12 bucks a year. There are also other levels of support that cost more for the added benefit of some perks. A guy like me that was in effect a small manufacturer was considered a Blue Dealer, I don’t even honestly remember the rest of the support level structures they have, but there are several.

Now as I mentioned early on the site was free, and slowly progressed to a pay site. The Blue Dealer, which I was, had a built in loop hole. In that you bought a block of ads for a certain fee, and as you used up your ads you just bought more. Having these ads in your pocket from the Blue Dealer status secluded you from the ever pervasive “Support Astromart” push. Let it be known I did not set up the system as such. Note that while you have a paid subscription, the powers that be constantly pester the already paid account holders for more money. It is apparent the motive here is greed pure and simple.

Well, I only needed to use a few of the ads I had purchased. Once my binocular mounts started selling they were hot for a while. I had more business than I could honestly keep up with. As I am a family man, and was working full time as a commercial diver. What spare time I did have was dedicated to being in the shop sweating with these mounts.

At some point I decided to quit making them. If I placed an ad, I’d get more work than I could honestly handle, plus over time the cost of steel and hardware kept going up, or in some cases became no longer available. Toss in the fact that my shop is not air conditioned, and there is a lot of cutting, welding, and slaving over each and every part, being built from scratch. I finally decided to not post anymore ads, though I would still make a few by request, as word of mouth turned out to be a pretty good seller. I did not sell a lot more mounts after I decided to formally quit, but the requests did trickle in here and there.

Anyway, my interest in the site waned. I pretty much have all of the necessary items I need to enjoy my time under the stars. I am no longer interested in being a dealer. I no longer have any use for their forums. Many an online community requires the existence of moderators, and moderators tend to generally rub me the wrong way with their authoritarian Barney Fife tendencies. So I was reduced pretty much to a bystander, with access to the site, because of my Blue Dealer status. I did not in any way profit from or benefit from their site. I would drop in from time to time and browse. That’s it.

I tried to login yesterday and it was refusing my pw. So I used the online chat system to see what was up. Apparently they had decided that guys like me, that had the Blue Dealer status, were gaming the system. A system that they themselves had put in place.

Enter Herb York. The owner of the site. I have seen many an altercation with this guy on the site. He is somewhat a cross between a brutal dictator and a Clint Eastwood itchy finger. Also, though I have never seen the guy, he demonstrates much of the “little man” syndrome. I’ll bet you a cold beer he stands around 4′ 4″ tall. There is no dialogue or reasoning with the man. He is as cold and unforgiving as the Arctic ice. Perhaps the biggest case of a sorry, petty asshole I have ever seen.

They did not try to fix what they perceived as a problem. There was no attempt to notify or intent of discourse, they just deleted the accounts in question, and that was that. I know better than to even try to reason with the guy. With Herbie there is no rational discourse. Unless you are the getting down on your knees and begging for forgiveness type, or willing to wag however much $$ he is demanding today, to access his site under his nose. I am willing to do neither.

I repeat, I did not in any way profit from or attempt to profit from this site after my decision to quit being a dealer was made. I may have been open to some sort of change of strucure, or new system, but was denied the opportunity.

Herbie, being the dictator with a Clint Eastwood itchy finger, as most are, is always quick to eliminate any dissent at his site, and refuses to allow audience with his immortal self. So, while I was suffering just a tad from the sting of being deleted and dumped, all of my ratings being forever gone, I realized that “I have a fucking blog” I have a voice. All I have to do is use it.

Right or wrong, I was aware that I was able to avoid the yearly taxation they wanted. I figured at some point they would change the system to accomodate that, but I was never notified of any such intent. I am sure much better people than me were cleansed from this site. I am also sure I have been dumped by better people than Herb York in my life. It took me all of two seconds to delete the website from my browser, I will miss Astromart, a little, but it will pass.

I’ll bet there is a Herb York support group out there somewhere, I will have to Google that.

Herbie, I have been done with you and your site for some time. I was just unwilling to admit it.

Oh, and Herbie… stick it where the sun don’t shine. I don’t feel much better, getting that out of my system, but at least I was able to have my say. And that is something.


I have never had as much trouble with getting paragraph spacing just so, as I have had in this post…it was initially a copy/paste job from word pad, so that could be the problem.

EDIT: Just for shits and giggles I Googled “Herb York Astromart” Here is just a bit of what I found:

There are many more, but these few trend towards my experiences and what I have seen of others. Turns out there really is a Herb York support group out there. It lives in the blogs and posts of those who have run afoul of ole Herbie.

Nuther Edit: I just had a look at ole Herbies Twitter feed. Sickening bastard. I should have known from the way he handles his business, he is a RWCRFM. (Right Wing Conservative Republican Fundamentalist Moron)

Well Duh!

Researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Michigan have concluded through a study that a woman’s happiness is More Crucial than the husbands,  thereby benefiting the relationship.

Fucking Duh!

I respect the need for research, even for subjects that appear to be of trivial consequence. You never know during an investigation what you might find, or develop along the way, such as new ways to observe and gather data. But when you have a subject like this, I really think a comedian with a microphone interviewing people on the street will come to the same undeniable conclusion. ANY man who has spent a reasonable amount of time with a woman, is going to make this simple, universal observation.

…you weren’t really sure I was serious were you?

Next Time You Bait A Hook With a Worm…

Consider this.

This study suggests that our earlier ancestors, pre fish I assume, may have been from the worm family. So many relevant details in the article, I’d have to darn near copy/paste them all. More efficient to just click the link, I think. If you are inclined that is.

There is a video there, but if there was a narration it was not present for me.

In a nutshell:

  • Notochord (1st vertebrate skeleton) probably evolved from muscle
  • Evolutionary origin of notochord likely older than assumed
  • Marine worm has muscle with same genetic signature, in same place


More than 5,000 dead in C. African Republic

…In the Central African Republic. Muslims and X-ians on murdering sprees, ruthlessly killing and mutilating each other. Every death a tragedy. At this link there is a story of a young lad who escaped his home and hid in the bushes, while his family was murdered. A horrific tale.

If only people could see each other as human, instead of a member of another cult. If only that harbinger of doom, that polarizer of men, that monstrosity that makes people feel as if they were just more special than everyone else would die its deserved death. But no, religion clings to the hearts of those in its bondage and spreads through their children. A plague upon man more deadly than all of the infectious bacteria and virus across the globe.

The sad truth about this story, it is nothing at all new. Men have been murdering in the name of their religions since the first shaman made claim to being in contact with the spirit world, and every death lies at the feet of priests, and kings.

Inspiration Strikes When You Least Expect It

I took up playing guitar when I was 16, have written and composed many songs through the years. Even have been involved in some recordings at a very well equipped studio. Over time you learn to recognize an inspiration when one sneaks up on you.

I was driving this morning, through the rain, on a road I travel frequently and there is this enormous field, must be at least 200 acres. It was a corn year in west Tennessee this year, more corn than I have seen since my last trip through Iowa. Anyway this enormous field had been recently harvested and the memory of the once proud field of corn stood in stark contrast to what the combine left behind, and this hit me.

I promise this won’t happen often 🙂 I doubt this effort would get a C- on a high school English project, at least it is short and sweet,  but here it is:


The Harvest

Only recently, so full of life.
Now barren and cold.
The measure of your bounty
counted, and sold.
Now you may slumber
through the dark winter’s cold.
As beside the fire,
tales of men are told.

A Fantastic Resource!

At the suggestion of a noble friend, /waves @ Mak, I started a journey into Robert Ingersoll’s world. Starting at that point where we all tend to, the mighty Wiki I found a link to what is called “The Open Library” Therin a compilation of Ingersolls works of which I hastily gobbled up 40 pages before I realized this resource must be shared. With no further ado: Edit: This next link takes you directly to the series I have been reading and commenting on.

This one is worthy of a bookmark high on the bookmark list! So far there have been no attempts to pry any $ from my pockets, no credit card requirements, I do hope that remains to be the case. Although I already feel a little guilty for taking advantage of the resource. Not so much yet to want to open the wallet, but hey you never know.

Edit: After my initial enthusiasm for this site, in freely reading Ingersolls works, I thought I’d try a search for something more modern, and quickly found its limitations. It appears that only really old stuff is made easily accessible. Or that which has been perhaps released by the author or publisher to hit the free market. Still trying to figure out what’s what here, but it is still promising, at least for a while 🙂

There are indicators such as “Daisy”, which looks like audio recordings for the deaf. “Borrow”, for books that you can actually borrow for a couple of weeks, and precious few “Read”, which are instantly available.

 EDIT : This post and its comment content are kind of a carry over from the Quote of the Month, so it might be more contextual to take that into consideration. I must apologize for such a post that required so many edits. But when you venture into a new area of study, in a new and strange land, it takes you places you did not see coming.

Quote of the Month

This month let’s visit this quote by the unsung free thinker of his time, Thomas Paine.

“The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion.”

As true then as it is today. But the lure of a wisp of justification to support ones belief in the non existant sells many books today. Fills many pews.

This one fact remains regardless. Only those who have bought the magic beans cannot see it.

We Are Part Of Something Bigger

I don’t mean that in some ass backwards magical woo woo way of thinking. I mean that in a grand cosmic sense. If that makes sense… We are the atoms that make up the matter that makes us. We interact with and manipulate all kinds of other objects and conglomerations of other bits of matter every day. We are material things in a material world (damn I said that?) Our world as we know it is a huge complex and diverse system, where all of the parts make the whole. All that we know is contained on a tiny little planet, in a tiny little solar system, in a tiny little galaxy, in a tiny little galactic cluster, that… whew! Is part of an enormous super cluster.

If you have been around the web in the last couple of days, you have probably seen this video.

That is an amazing video, with some incredible science.

What gets me is, for a long time we suspected a huge gravity well at the core of our galaxy, now we know it is there, (black holes) and we strongly suspect they are at the core of every galaxy, as well as spread out here and there throughout the universe. Now what this finding shows, and it concerns my little mind a little bit, is there is some kind of enormous gravity well that is attracting most of the galaxies in our super cluster. Now what in the heck could be the source of that gravitational attraction? One so large it is pulling much of an entire super cluster of galaxies to its center?

…and the grander question, is this entire scenario a small part of something much much bigger? Where does the infitismal accumulate to the exponential conclusion, that point to where there is no going beyond? Where does it end exactly? What is the end of the line of that always growing place in our understanding, of that which we are such a small part of,  which could be infinite?

I guess if it is infinite, we will never know. But dammit I want to know where it goes from here. 🙂



Duck! Near Earth Asteroid to Miss Us by 25,000 Miles!

Holy cow that’s close!

25,000 miles is 1/10 the distance to the moon. Considering how big space is that is a razor close shave.

This asteroid was discovered by the Catalina Sky Survey at the University of Arizona over the weekend. It is estimated to be around 60 feet in diameter, and is supposed to pass over New Zealand when it comes through. The article points out it will not be possible to see naked eye, but a telescope should resolve it. I am sure someone will get a good pic of it that will make its way to the internet.

You never know when you get up in the morning, what kind of day it will turn out to be. Imagine if that thing were to hit close to home. Man I am sure glad it is a miss…this time.