Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 9th, 2023

Explaining out-of-body experiences

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I like Susan Blackmore a lot, and her book The Meme Machine is on my list of books that I repeatedly recommend. In 2016 she wrong an interesting essay that offers an explanation of out-of-body experience (OBE). It begins:

Out of the body?

I was just 19, and a first-year psychology student at Oxford, when a brief experience changed my life. Indeed what happened in those two or three hours subsequently drove both my intellectual and spiritual lives. I do not, to this day, know what caused it. Perhaps it was extreme tiredness from having too much late-night fun and getting up for early lectures, perhaps it was the Ouija board session we had just finished, perhaps it was the small amount of cannabis we were smoking or perhaps it was something else altogether.

Whatever the cause, I was sitting on the floor listening to music with my friends, Kevin and Victoria, when I found myself rushing down an imaginary tunnel of trees towards a bright light. I was beginning to drift and float, wondering what was happening, when Kevin asked: ‘Where are you, Sue?’ As I struggled to reply, my vision cleared and there I was, looking down on the room, seeing myself and my two friends from above. ‘I’m on the ceiling,’ I said, as I watched my own mouth open and close below me.

From what I know now, I guess the experience would have ended as quickly as it had begun had it not been for Kevin continually asking me questions: ‘What can you see now? … Have you got a silver cord? … Can you go further?’ I had no time to panic or worry; I just tried to answer. I zoomed up through the ceiling, out into the night and began to fly across Oxford, across the countryside, over the sea and to many other wonderful places. The scenes were vivid and glorious, the light exceptionally clear and bright. I felt vividly alive and well.

Twice I tried to come back, but it was hard. The first time, I was dismayed to find the room looking far from normal and my own body now headless and distorted. So I set off again into more adventures in ever stranger seeming worlds. The second time, I tried to get back to normal and to go inside the body, but found it impossible. First I was too small, then too large. Then I began expanding and expanding until space and time themselves seemed to lose all meaning. I was no longer a separate ‘me’. Indeed ‘I’ and the vivid, glowing universe were one. There was just this and this was perfect and right and there was nothing to be done ever.

There seemed to be a decision to be made: to stay in this bliss forever or to go back to ‘normal’ life. I came back. Eventually, and with a great struggle, I emerged from oneness into separation again. I persuaded myself that I had to go back inside the body and take it with me wherever I went, which seemed a horrible thing to have to do. But I eventually succeeded and after another two days felt relatively normal again.

So what happened to me? Kevin said I had experienced ‘astral projection’: that my astral body had left its physical shell and gone travelling on the astral planes. It was the only idea we had. I had never heard of tunnel experiences or out-of-body experiences and although I had been through almost every aspect of the now classic ‘near-death experience’, that term was not invented until five years later.

It is not surprising, then, that I jumped to false conclusions. As Thomas Metzinger puts it, after such an experience ‘it is almost impossible not to become an ontological dualist‘ – and I did. I immediately became convinced of the existence of spirits or souls that can leave the body and survive death, even though my body was clearly alive and well during the whole experience. Despite this conviction, I could see that this kind of dualism made no sense in the context of the physiology and psychology I was learning in my course. So the experience created a great challenge and I grasped it. Quite illogically (it now seems) I became convinced of such paranormal powers as telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition. So I decided to become a parapsychologist and prove all my closed-minded, materialistic lecturers wrong.

A body of evidence

That decision led to a PhD documenting years of fruitless research. I did dozens of lab experiments, investigated local poltergeists and slept in haunted houses, trained as a witch and sat with mediums, learned to read Tarot cards and throw the I-Ching. But I never found the slightest evidence of any paranormal powers.

So what about that experience? If there were no paranormal powers or ghosts or spirits, how was I to explain it? I could still remember the visions and feelings vividly but could still not understand what had happened. By then I had learned that it was called an out-of-body experience (OBE) and was related to, though different from, ‘autoscopy‘ – a usually pathological experience in which people see a duplicate self, or Doppelganger, but remain within their own physical body. Pulling together what I could of the classic astral-projection literature and the small amount of available research, I wrote Beyond the Body and later Seeing Myself: What out-of-body experiences tell us about life, death and the mind. From the 1960s to the 1980s very few parapsychologists were researching OBEs from a scientific rather than an occult or theosophical perspective. Celia Green, John Palmer and Harvey Irwin studied the phenomenology and psychology of the experience and defined it purely as an experience. My preferred definition is ‘an experience in which you seem to see the world from a location outside of your physical body’. As Palmer pointed out, this means that if someone describes such an experience, then, by definition, they have had an OBE. The question of whether anything actually leaves the body or not remains open for investigation. And that is, indeed, the big question.

If something leaves, then this soul, spirit or astral body ought to be able to see at a distance and some, including the parapsychologists Charles Tart and Karlis Osis, tried to find evidence of such paranormal vision during OBEs but their results were far from convincing. I tried myself. For several years I kept a target word, object and five-digit number on my kitchen wall so that people who claimed to have frequent OBEs could visit at their leisure and send me the answers. No one succeeded. I became ever more sceptical and, along with others, including Palmer and Irwin, developed a psychological theory of the OBE. But none of us had sufficient knowledge to make this work.

Then finally, in 2002, everything changed when, quite by accident, . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2023 at 9:51 pm

Car/highway propaganda video

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9 January 2023 at 6:00 pm

Making Go boards and Shogi boards

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9 January 2023 at 5:58 pm

The US does not understand transit

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It’s bad the the US doesn’t understand transit and worse that it refuses to learn.

Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2023 at 4:52 pm

Restoration The TANK of Watches – Polishing – Vintage Certina DS-2

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I was totally absorbed watching this video.

Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2023 at 4:37 pm

How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment

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Michael Waldman writes at the Brennan Center for Justice:

“A fraud on the American public.” That’s how former Chief Justice Warren Burger described the idea that the Second Amendment gives an unfettered individual right to a gun. When he spoke these words to PBS in 1990, the rock-ribbed conservative appointed by Richard Nixon was expressing the longtime consensus of historians and judges across the political spectrum.

Twenty-five years later, Burger’s view seems as quaint as a powdered wig. Not only is an individual right to a firearm widely accepted, but increasingly states are also passing laws to legalize carrying weapons on streets, in parks, in bars—even in churches.

Many are startled to learn that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t rule that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to own a gun until 2008, when District of Columbia v. Heller struck down the capital’s law effectively banning handguns in the home. In fact, every other time the court had ruled previously, it had ruled otherwise. Why such a head-snapping turnaround? Don’t look for answers in dusty law books or the arcane reaches of theory.

So how does legal change happen in America? We’ve seen some remarkably successful drives in recent years—think of the push for marriage equality, or to undo campaign finance laws. Law students might be taught that the court is moved by powerhouse legal arguments or subtle shifts in doctrine. The National Rifle Association’s long crusade to bring its interpretation of the Constitution into the mainstream teaches a different lesson: Constitutional change is the product of public argument and political maneuvering. The pro-gun movement may have started with scholarship, but then it targeted public opinion and shifted the organs of government. By the time the issue reached the Supreme Court, the desired new doctrine fell like a ripe apple from a tree.

* * *

The Second Amendment consists of just one sentence: “A well regulated militia, being necessary for the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Today, scholars debate its bizarre comma placement, trying to make sense of the various clauses, and politicians routinely declare themselves to be its “strong supporters.” But in the grand sweep of American history, this sentence has never been among the most prominent constitutional provisions. In fact, for two centuries it was largely ignored.

The amendment grew out of the political tumult surrounding the drafting of the Constitution, which was done in secret by a group of mostly young men, many of whom had served together in the Continental Army. Having seen the chaos and mob violence that followed the Revolution, these “Federalists” feared the consequences of a weak central authority. They produced a charter that shifted power—at the time in the hands of the states—to a new national government.

“Anti-Federalists” opposed this new Constitution. The foes worried, among other things, that the new government would establish a “standing army” of professional soldiers and would disarm the 13 state militias, made up of part-time citizen-soldiers and revered as bulwarks against tyranny. These militias were the product of a world of civic duty and governmental compulsion utterly alien to us today. Every white man age 16 to 60 was enrolled. He was actually required to own—and bring—a musket or other military weapon.

On June 8, 1789, James Madison—an ardent Federalist who had won election to Congress only after agreeing to push for changes to the newly ratified Constitution—proposed 17 amendments on topics ranging from the size of congressional districts to legislative pay to the right to religious freedom. One addressed the “well regulated militia” and the right “to keep and bear arms.” We don’t really know what he meant by it. At the time, Americans expected to be able to own guns, a legacy of English common law and rights. But the overwhelming use of the phrase “bear arms” in those days referred to military activities. . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2023 at 2:43 pm

Jazz Bagpipe

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You don’t often hear this.

Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2023 at 2:40 pm

Posted in Jazz, Video

How to cook pasta properly and save money

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I don’t eat pasta — I prefer intact whole grain to highly processed grain — but I am aware that there are those who do, so I thought a tip, by David Fairhurst, Principal Lecturer, College of Arts and Science, School of Science & Technology, Nottingham Trent University, published in The Conversation, would be of interest. He writes:

Italians are notoriously – and understandably – protective of their cuisine, as regular arguments about the correct toppings for pizza or the appropriate pasta to use with a Bolognese ragu will attest.

So it was hardly surprising that, when a Nobel Prize-winning Italian physicist weighed in with advice about how to cook pasta perfectly which seemed to upend everything the countries’ cooks had been doing in the kitchen for centuries, it caused an almighty row.

Professor Giorgio Parisi – who won the 2021 physics Nobel for “the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales” – suggested that turning off the heat midway through cooking pasta, then covering with a lid and waiting for the residual heat in the water to finish the job, can help reduce the cost of cooking pasta.

In response, Michelin-starred chef Antonello Colonna claimed this method makes the pasta rubbery, and that it could never be served in a high-quality restaurant such as his own. The controversy quickly spilled over into the media, with several food and science heavyweights contributing.

But for those of us at home trying to save our pennies while cooking pasta, is Parisi’s method really cost effective? And does it really taste that bad? Inspired by the thought of saving some money, students Mia and Ross at Nottingham Trent University took to the kitchen to cook pasta in different ways, helping to pick apart the tangled strands of this question.

What happens when you cook pasta?

The first thing to ask is . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2023 at 11:55 am

There Was Something Positive in the Speaker-Vote Debacle

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James Fallows has an excellent take on the recent lengthy process of electing the Speaker of the House:

There is a category of jobs for which the greatest day is the day your appointment is announced. It all gets worse from there.

Being an NFL coach in Washington D.C. is one of those. Ambassadorships generally are another. Many (though not all) university deanships and presidencies. Marrying into a royal family, apparently. Others you can think of.

And then we have Kevin McCarthy’s new job, of which his very greatest moment occurred in the wee hours of Friday night, when enough of his opponents finally agreed to vote “present” to let him squeak in. But even considering the 15-ballot ritual humiliation he had just been through, the bad part for McCarthy has only now begun.

He can be speaker. What he can do in that job… we will see.

That’s for next week, and next year. For now I’ll mention what happened after the final vote, when two leaders said—and didn’t say—things that were interesting.

Hakeem Jeffries uses the moment.

In the case of Hakeem Jeffries, who had mainly sat silent as Rep. Pete Aguilar and other colleagues nominated him ballot after ballot, the attention-getter was his presentation once all the voting was done.

The speech was 15 minutes long; you can see it on C-Span here. Most press attention has been on its final 90 seconds, which I will get to. The whole thing worked, in my view, as an upbeat, happy-warrior-toned declaration of a party’s values, from a man who knew that every single Representative from his party had backed him on every one of the endless votes.  1

Jeffries, who is the first Black leader of a party in the House, following the first woman Speaker, naturally cast his own story as an example of The American Story. 2

It’s worth realizing that . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2023 at 10:45 am

Shave Shop Fragrances

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Shaving setup: A long-bristled boar brush with silver-colored handle, a tub of Mike's Natural Soaps Barber Shop shaving soap, and TOBS Shave Shop aftershave all lined up. In front a black plastic slant lies on its side.

It’s always a pleasure to use my Omega Pro 48 (10048), and today’s traditional shave uses traditional fragrances: first Mike’s Natural Barber Shop shaving soap and at the finish TOBS Shave Shop aftershave.

The lather seemed particularly good — the combined effect of soft water, a good shaving soap, and a good shaving brush, leavened with some experience — and I greatly enjoyed the feel and result of my vintage Eros slant — a rather extreme slant, but of a kindly disposition.

I added a couple of squirts of Aion Hydrating Gel to the TOBS splash, and both my skin and my nose are pleased.

The tea this morning is Murchie’s CBC Radio Blend: “Ceylon and China black teas, Jasmine and other green teas with a touch of citrus.”

Written by Leisureguy

9 January 2023 at 10:40 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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