I always refer to my concept of right and wrong as a “moral compass.” It has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the Christian Golden Rule — or its Jewish predecessor: “Do not do to others what you would not want done to you.”

In Hebrew, the language is built on “roots” which are rearranged to mean words with a similar intent. So the word for “north” is “tzfohn.” The word for “morality” is “tzfohna” and “compass” is “tzfohneet.” Thus as a compass points north, your moral compass keeps you pointed in the right direction.

Hebrew doesn’t even have a word that means “good.” There’s a word for correct (as in correcting a test paper), but the closest you can get to good is “righteous.” The word for “wrong” is “unrighteous.”

I’ve concluded that “religiosity” and “morality” have little to do with each other because you either have a moral compass — or you don’t. Anyone can claim “God told me to do this (awful) thing” and no one can disprove it since God has been silent, but that moral compass is something most of us are born with.

Yet these purported “believers” can be bought for cash or equivalently purchased with promises to support his or her ‘bid” for election or re-election. What kind of moral compass changes direction for cash or power?

I find it almost impossible to accept anyone who considers themselves righteous — Jewish, Hindu, Christian, Atheist, or undecided — who would will his soul for cash or power. I don’t think I will ever understand.

Possibly, that’s just as well.


Did you ever wonder why dogs are the only other mammal that became universally domesticated and now lives with humans as part of their families? Well, there’s a scientific explanation and it’s called Oxytocin. The same chemical that plays a role in mother/infant bonding as well as in altruism and trust, is at work with humans and dogs.

There is a new study that shows for the first time, that there is actual hormonal bonding that goes on between humans and dogs. Dogs are the only other species with whom that occurs, which may explain why dogs are the primary animals that became household pets thousands of years ago.

Apparently, only the wolves who had this chemical bond with humans received care and protection and over time, they evolved into dogs. In exchange, the chemical reaction in humans decreased their anxiety and elicited a maternal bonding style reaction. This, in turn, improved the humans’ health and mental states creating a mutual gain in the evolution of the man/dog connection.

One of the effects of this special connection between our species is that dogs understand us in a way no other animals do. For example, if we point at something, a dog will look where we’re pointing. They intuitively understand that we’re communicating something to them. This may seem minor, but our closest genetic relatives, chimpanzees, do not do that! Another example is that humans and dogs look into each other’s eyes when interacting, which is a sign of understanding and affection. In contrast, wolves see eye contact as a sign of aggression and hostility.

The study involves a small sample but the results were definitive. Thirty pairs of dogs and humans and domesticated wolves with their humans came into a lab and had their urine tested. Then the owners interacted with their pets for thirty minutes, petting them, talking to them and gazing into each other’s eyes.

Me and my dogs

After the interaction, another urine sample was taken. It turns out that mutual gazing had a profound physiological effect on both the dogs and their owners. With the pairs who had spent the most time engaging in eye contact, the dogs experienced a 130% rise in Oxytocin levels and the humans experienced a 300% increase! The wolf-human pairs showed no Oxytocin increase and neither did the dog/owner pairs that had minimal eye contact.

The way Oxytocin works with mothers and infants is that when a mother stares into her baby’s eyes, the baby’s Oxytocin levels rise, which causes the baby to stare back at the mother. This then causes the mother to release more Oxytocin and a positive feedback loop is created.

The same thing occurs with dogs and their humans. This explains why service dogs, companion dogs, and emotional support dogs are so helpful for people with all kinds of issues, illnesses, and disabilities, including autism and PTSD.

As Oxytocin may help explain the domestication process with dogs, it might also explain the dog’s ability to understand pointing.

A while ago, I read another study contrasting dogs’ and wolves’ interactions with humans. The animals were rewarded with food whenever they pushed a lever. Then the lever was nailed down so no matter what the dog did, they no longer got a treat. The wolves continued to hit the lever for long periods of time.

With dogs, after a few unsuccessful tries, they would stop and look up at the nearby humans, asking for help. The dogs understood they couldn’t solve this problem but humans could and would help them deal with the situation.

I’ve always known that petting my dogs and cuddling with them as well as talking to them — even walking them — makes me feel a rush of positive energy and emotions.

When I’m down, I worry that I’m annoying my dogs by showering them with endless loving. I think I always understood that in some way, my affectionate behavior to my dogs is a form of self-medication. I’m sure there are times they’d prefer to be left alone. I also sense they know that part of their mission in life is to be there for me when I need them.

It’s gratifying to me to know that there is a scientific explanation to my crazy, over the top love for my dogs.

I’m an Oxytocin addict!

I ALMOST HAD IT – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Coherent

Early this morning, I woke from a dream I wanted to remember. It was full of people, but I don’t remember who they were or what they were doing or for that matter, what I was doing.

I sat up in bed for almost an hour trying to get a grip on it and I almost had it. I considered opening my computer and actually writing down something because I know that if I don’t write it down, it’ll be gone. Yet I hold fast to some idea that if I try really hard, I’ll remember at least a tidbit and be able to build a story on that.

You’d think I’d know by now. Dreams slide away faster than my memory of why I’m in the kitchen looking wondering and knowing there IS a reason. I will remember it about half an hour after I go back to the recliner and relax.

Dreams are much more slippery. About the only coherent thought about the process is for about an hour, I remembered it. Then, blearily, I went back to sleep and whatever thoughts I had grabbed onto went silently into my sub-conscience where presumably they will permanently remain.

I have a question about this, actually.

Do we really remember the things we forget? Is there a place in our brains where the stuff we knew and were sure we’d remember are collected? Is the door to that area which is locked, but if we found the key, could we open it?

Would all those random thoughts about things there weren’t terribly important in the first place, come pouring out like the contents of our little memory boxes from childhood?

Those little wood or metal boxes that held the key to our roller skates, a postcard from a long-forgotten friend, a report card from fourth grade and a poem we wrote on our thirteenth birthday which we were sure was going to take the poetic world by storm? Except there would be so many more things in our brains. The Tylenol we forgot to take and the toast we neglected to toast. The time we didn’t water the plants because we came into the kitchen to water them but left with a glass of ginger ale?

These days, I forget more than I remember. I’m trying to figure out if there is a special place in our heads where all these forgotten pieces live in mental cold storage. One day, the door will fly open and it will all explode outward. I better hire a mental maid to clean it all up.

THE QUEST BEGINS – EPISODE TWO – Alli Templeton (Reblog)

Not only do I love the quest, but I’m in love with the matching deep blue sunglasses. Questing is wonderful, but so it matching!


Lighter me at chester.jpgHere we go! Leaving Chester Castle

We ride at dawn! Well, not quite. But my Welsh Castle Quest got off to a great start today, and knowing that I left Chester Castle at exactly the same time, and walked in the same direction as Edward 1st and his army did in 1277 made it all the more special.

We departed the castle and, just as Edward did (as you’ll see tomorrow) advanced out of the city towards the Dee estuary. Our walk took us along the tidal River Dee on the charming Wales Coastal Path, and as we left Chester behind and progressed towards Wales the cries of seagulls and the salty air became stronger with the rising call of the sea.

Dee startLooking along the River Dee to those foreboding Welsh hills beyond

Soon we reached the Welsh/English border, marked by two tall stones straddling the path, and so we…

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FOWC with Fandango — Productive

Yesterday was a productive day. I decided to write about the kind of writing I do which I guess would be considered “opinion” or “informational.”  Judy (in New Hampshire Judy as opposed to Mexican Judy) commented that I write editorials, which was startling news to me. It fits, but I never thought of it that way.

Overall, I write to convey information. I try to avoid writing merely to display how well I write. I try to avoid confusing readers. Lately, I’ve noticed most of the information I read online seems to create more confusion than clarification. It’s not that the authors aren’t trying. It’s just they’re weak on editing.

Just when you think they’ve given you the major points, the author jumps to an alternative explanation completely at odds with what he said.

I used to do this on term papers in school. I said what I needed to say in the first few pages. The rest was filler. They demanded 40 pages and I had maybe five pages of worthwhile material. I think technical writing was comfortable for me because I could write without filler.

Too many writers are wedded to filler and proving how well they write. Most of the time, it is not useful to read more than the first few paragraphs because everything you need to know is in the first few paragraphs. That’s where you get the who, what, when, where and how of the story. After that, information diminishes as the author speculates on other ways you could look at the same data, and apparently, feels obliged to name all the other authors and give clips of their opinions.

Why? If you aren’t clarifying your post, what’s the point?

To make posts even more anti-informative, authors feel obliged to offer alternative interpretations of the material. At the risk of failing to appreciate opposing opinions, not all alternative opinions prove your point or for that matter, have anything to do with your post.

If you thought you had a grip on the subject, by the time you get past 1000 words, you know much less.

This is not the way it’s supposed to work. Additional information should expand and clarify. It should give you some precise information and backup data. It should not be there to fill extra space.

well-stressed-4It’s why I suggest writers edit, edit, edit edit. Then, put the draft away. Look at it later. A day or two later, if it isn’t urgent, but at least for a couple of hours. Not only does it help you find those slithering typographical errors you usually miss, but it enables you to see if you have managed to stick to your original concept.

This assumes you had a concept and weren’t just writing off the hip. If it’s not a rant, data should support your story and you should have backups to your supporting evidence.

Sometimes I feel as if a dozen voices are ricocheting around my head. I find myself thinking about the subject, then thinking about everything else I’ve heard about it. Then I see if it fits into my discussion or distracts attention away from the subject

What was the main subject anyway?. Where were you going? Are you getting there?

Yesterday I took this post which ran a whopping 1500-words. It felt disjointed. I let it rest overnight. When I got back to it, it ended satisfactorily at around 650 words. It said everything I needed to say. The rest had been repetitive. Irrelevant.

How much does my reader need to know? How much should I be explaining? If that paragraph is elegant and beautifully phrased, does it serve a purpose other than decoration?

dilbert information overload

When you get serious about editing, adjectives will vanish. Adverbs will run for the hills.

If this doesn’t work, try your hand at fiction. You can meander in fiction and, best of all, you can use adjectives and subjunctive clauses — and it’s okay. Pity I have no talent for it!

TRUE BLUE – Marilyn Armstrong

Signs in blue

Looking for something different? Becky sent me the clue and I realized “Hey, I have signs too!”

So here are a couple of them. Square and unquestionably blue!

Paint a rock, take a rock. pass on your rocks …
And then, there are the hours at the pot shop!