Category: consciousness

A repeat of my unchain the dogs post.

Independence Day should also apply to our beloved dogs!

This was first published four years ago but I wonder if there has been any real change. So it’s being published again for the 2020 Independence Day.

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So today is July 4th. One of the key days of the year in the American calendar, if not the key day.

Freedom and independence are the corner stones of a healthy nation. That ‘nation’ should include our dogs. Ergo, I have no hesitation in republishing the following that first was seen on the Care2 site.

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How to Help Chained Dogs in Your Community

3182140.largeBy: Natalia Lima June 28, 2016

About Natalia Follow Natalia at @TheNatiLima

The sight is heartbreaking: a sad animal, exposed to the heat or the cold, often without shelter, chained in a backyard. Sometimes all it takes to secure them is a thin rope tied around their collar on one end and a dog house on the other, in others it’s a thick metal chain that keeps the dog from moving away from a tree. Whatever the case, it’s enough to inspire any animal lover to change that dog’s life, but how? The answer is simpler than one would imagine: build a fence.

“Building a fence really changes the relationship between dogs and owners,” explains Michele Coppola, President of Fences for Fido, a nonprofit organization that builds fences in houses that have chained dogs so the dogs can run freely in the backyard. “Many times dogs who were outside 24/7 go on to become a family member, spending time in the house and outside because they’re no longer a location.”

Since 2009, Fences for Fido has been helping dogs in the Southwest Oregon and Washington state areas. People can anonymously nominate a house with a chained dog on their website or people can nominate themselves if they don’t have the means to build their own fence. According to the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, who helped Fences for Fido get started and has been building fences since 2006 in North Carolina, that lack of resources is the most common reason why people keep dogs chained.

“When we first started we thought we would build this fence and solve a problem but we quickly saw the problem is not chained dogs, it’s poverty,” explains Lori Hensley, Director of Operations at Coalition to Unchain Dogs. “No one wants to chain a dog. They just don’t have the means to build a fence.”

Other common reasons are not understanding that dogs are social animals that need to run around, an owner not knowing how to address behavioral problems and trying to keep the dog from running away, says the Humane Society of the United States.

“People chain their dogs for a variety of reasons so we always approach them without judgement because most times we’re not seeing the whole story,” says Coppola adding that those issues are addressed when building a fence for someone to make sure they’re educated on why chaining their dogs shouldn’t be a solution. “Maybe they didn’t have a fence to start with and someone, maybe a family member, dumped a dog with them and they’re keeping it out of the goodness of their hearts but they don’t have a fence. You don’t know.”

Between the two organizations, over 3,400 dogs have been freed from chains but since they only operate locally, they have created resources for people in other parts of the country who want to help. Unchained Planet, a Facebook group of volunteer fence builders, offers advice and tips to anyone looking to start their own fence building organization and a DIY tutorial is also available for free download.

From materials needed to step by step instructions, anyone can start building a fence to help chained dogs in their communities, though to complete novices, the guidance of a seasoned builder or a professional is encouraged.

“If you’re starting out for the very first time, it might be a good idea to pair up with a fence company who may be willing to help and even donate the materials,” suggests Coppola. “Or you want to find somebody who’s done a fence before and can kind of show you how to go about it.”

Photo Credit: ThinkStock

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Please, please help these poor dogs in any way that you can.

Summer solstice 2020.

As old as time itself!

holding-the-sunThe point at which the sun reaches its farthest point north of the equator is the Summer Solstice, well it is for the Northern Hemisphere. This occurs annually on June 20 or June 21, depending on your time zone.

Here in Southern Oregon, the moment of the Summer Solstice will be at 2:43 PM or 14:43 PDT on Saturday, i.e. today! For the United Kingdom it will be at 22:43 BST on the same day or 21:43 GMT/UTC.

A quick web ‘look-up’ finds that the word solstice is from the Latin solstitium, from sol (sun) and stitium (to stop), reflecting the fact that the Sun appears to stop at this time, albeit momentarily.

At the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge in Southern England, the prehistoric monument that took Neolithic builders an estimated 1,500 years to erect, for many years the Druids have celebrated the Solstice and, undoubtedly, will be doing so again.

AMESBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 21: A man stands on top of Stonehenge as the sun rises over Salisbury Plain on June 21, 2006 in Amesbury, England. Police estimated around 17,000 people travelled to watch the sun rise ove the 5,000 year old stone circle to start the longest day of the year. The all-night party to celebrate the Summer Solstice passed with only four arrests being made. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)
AMESBURY, UNITED KINGDOM – JUNE 21: A man stands on top of Stonehenge as the sun rises over Salisbury Plain on June 21, 2006 in Amesbury, England. Police estimated around 17,000 people travelled to watch the sun rise over the 5,000 year old stone circle to start the longest day of the year. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

There’s a good article over at EarthSky on this year’s Solstice. I would like to quote a little from it:

At the June solstice, Earth is positioned in its orbit so that our world’s North Pole is leaning most toward the sun. As seen from Earth, the sun is directly overhead at noon 23 1/2 degrees north of the equator, at an imaginary line encircling the globe known as the Tropic of Cancer – named after the constellation Cancer the Crab. This is as far north as the sun ever gets.

All locations north of the equator have days longer than 12 hours at the June solstice. Meanwhile, all locations south of the equator have days shorter than 12 hours.

and

Where should I look to see signs of the solstice in nature? Everywhere. For all of Earth’s creatures, nothing is so fundamental as the length of the day. After all, the sun is the ultimate source of almost all light and warmth on Earth’s surface.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you might notice the early dawns and late sunsets, and the high arc of the sun across the sky each day. You might see how high the sun appears in the sky at local noon. And be sure to look at your noontime shadow. Around the time of the solstice, it’s your shortest noontime shadow of the year.

If you’re a person who’s tuned in to the out-of-doors, you know the peaceful, comforting feeling that accompanies these signs and signals of the year’s longest day.

Is the solstice the first day of summer? No world body has designated an official day to start each new season, and different schools of thought or traditions define the seasons in different ways.

In meteorology, for example, summer begins on June 1. And every schoolchild knows that summer starts when the last school bell of the year rings.

Yet June 21 is perhaps the most widely recognized day upon which summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere and upon which winter begins on the southern half of Earth’s globe. There’s nothing official about it, but it’s such a long-held tradition that we all recognize it to be so.

It has been universal among humans to treasure this time of warmth and light.

For us in the modern world, the solstice is a time to recall the reverence and understanding that early people had for the sky. Some 5,000 years ago, people placed huge stones in a circle on a broad plain in what’s now England and aligned them with the June solstice sunrise.

We may never comprehend the full significance of Stonehenge. But we do know that knowledge of this sort wasn’t limited to just one part of the world. Around the same time Stonehenge was being constructed in England, two great pyramids and then the Sphinx were built on Egyptian sands. If you stood at the Sphinx on the summer solstice and gazed toward the two pyramids, you’d see the sun set exactly between them.

How does it end up hotter later in the summer, if June has the longest day? People often ask:

If the June solstice brings the longest day, why do we experience the hottest weather in late July and August?

This effect is called the lag of the seasons. It’s the same reason it’s hotter in mid-afternoon than at noontime. Earth just takes a while to warm up after a long winter. Even in June, ice and snow still blanket the ground in some places. The sun has to melt the ice – and warm the oceans – and then we feel the most sweltering summer heat.

Ice and snow have been melting since spring began. Meltwater and rainwater have been percolating down through snow on tops of glaciers.

But the runoff from glaciers isn’t as great now as it’ll be in another month, even though sunlight is striking the northern hemisphere most directly around now.

So wait another month for the hottest weather. It’ll come when the days are already beginning to shorten again, as Earth continues to move in orbit around the sun, bringing us closer to another winter.

And so the cycle continues.

Indeed, so the cycle continues as it has for time immemorial!

Ruby has died!

Yesterday was a very sad day!

So soon after we welcomed Sheena, Ruby had a severe downturn.

Ruby had had one operation for the removal of a mast cell tumor back in February but we were advised by the vet that almost certainly it would grow back. Late on Saturday Ruby became very tired and went off her food and Jean and I were discussing having to take her to be put down on Monday (today).

Then overnight Saturday it was clear that her breathing was very laboured and on Sunday she was weak and struggling. It was time.

Being a Sunday we had no option other than to go to the Southern Oregon Veterinary Specialty Center, or SOVSC. We called them and they asked a few questions about Ruby and then told us to come straight over. They  are at Biddle Road, Central Point and it took us 45 minutes to get there.

A little bit from their website:

Outstanding Team

Our team includes board certified specialists and highly trained doctors and staff, who have been chosen for their skill and expertise, as well as their compassion and dedication to veterinary medicine.

Then a couple of photographs from us.

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Jeannie saying goodbye.

Ruby was the last of Jean’s Mexican rescues. She will be sorely missed!

 

A Cherokee legend!

A precious and profound legend.

I follow Colin’s blog Wibble. It ranges across a myriad of thoughts and beliefs and it’s a good follow.

On June 9th, Colin published a post regarding The wolves within, a beautiful legend from the Cherokees. Colin readily and promptly gave me permission to share it with you.

The content isn’t mine, but of course it’s fine by me, Paul. You’re too polite by half! 😀

Here it is.

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The wolves within: a Cherokee legend

Posted on June 9, 2020

An old grandfather said to his grandson, who came to him with anger at a friend who had done him an injustice, “Let me tell you a story.

“I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do.

“But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times.” He continued, “It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.

“But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger. The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing.

“Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently into his grandfather’s eyes and asked, “Which one wins, grandfather?”

The grandfather smiled and quietly said, “The one I feed.”

With thanks to White Wolf Pack.

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So let all of us feed that wolf!

There are some more legends here!

This COVID-19 pandemic.

How have you and your dogs been affected?

The idea for today’s post came to me from Amanda down in Australia.

We go back years and years and have stayed in contact with each other over that time.

In her latest email she wrote (my italics):

I started some classes at the beginning of the year, a family history research one and a writing one, which had to stop a couple of weeks short courtesy of the virus.  The family history class was essentially finished, but the writing class (How to Read/Write a Biography) is an ongoing thing, with the tutor being a published author.  I signed up for term two of the writing class as the tutor decided to trial conducting it on-line via Zoom.  Many people in the class are either writing a biography or just writing about their lives for their children or grandchildren, so the tutor encouraged us all to write a short piece about this COVID-19 outbreak; observations, feelings, how it’s affected us, or whatever we wanted.  There are only six of us in the class, but it was fascinating to hear the resulting six pieces, so utterly different in tone and content, but all really interesting.

I wonder if you could invite something similar from your readers?  Imagine the different perspectives and experiences of your readers in their different parts of the world!  Just a thought anyway .

So how have you and your dogs been affected. Your feelings, your observations, how it has affected you, and any other thoughts.

And I will close with a photograph that Amanda sent me years ago.

 

Other inhabited worlds, and the implications of finding one.

This is profoundly important.

Well it is to me and Jean and, I suspect, it will be to many other people.

I am an atheist. So is Jean. We have been all our lives. I think that many of you who follow this blog know that. The love that we have for our dogs, and all our animals, plus the beauty that is all around us in nature is enough. (Now I am not naive enough to realise that there are many, literally millions, that don’t have the same fortune in their lives.)

The Conversation recently republished an essay by David Weintraub that was first published in 2014. It is at the core of our existence and I am delighted to have the permission to republish it for you.

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Is your religion ready to meet ET

By
 Professor of Astronomy, Vanderbilt University

November 5th, 2014

Square away your personal philosophy now; proof of life beyond earth is coming. Stargazing image via http://www.shutterstock.com

How will humankind react after astronomers hand over rock-solid scientific evidence for the existence of life beyond the Earth? No more speculating. No more wondering. The moment scientists announce this discovery, everything will change. Not least of all, our philosophies and religions will need to incorporate the new information.

Searching for signs of life

Astronomers have now identified thousands of planets in orbit around other stars. At the current rate of discovery, millions more will be found this century.

Having already found the physical planets, astronomers are now searching for our biological neighbors. Over the next fifty years, they will begin the tantalizing, detailed study of millions of planets, looking for evidence of the presence of life on or below the surfaces or in the atmospheres of those planets.

And it’s very likely that astronomers will find it. Despite the fact that more than one-third of Americans surveyed believe that aliens have already visited Earth, the first evidence of life beyond our planet probably won’t be radio signals, little green men or flying saucers. Instead, a 21st century Galileo, using an enormous, 50-meter-diameter telescope, will collect light from the atmospheres of distant planets, looking for the signatures of biologically significant molecules.

Astronomers filter that light from far away through spectrometers – high-tech prisms that tease the light apart into its many distinct wavelengths. They’re looking for the telltale fingerprints of molecules that would not exist in abundance in these atmospheres in the absence of living things. The spectroscopic data will tell whether a planet’s environment has been altered in ways that point to biological processes at work.

What is our place in the universe? Woman image via http://www.shutterstock.com

If we aren’t alone, who are we?

With the discovery in a distant planet’s light spectrum of a chemical that could only be produced by living creatures, humankind will have the opportunity to read a new page in the book of knowledge. We will no longer be speculating about whether other beings exist in the universe. We will know that we not alone.

An affirmative answer to the question “Does life exist anywhere else in the universe beyond Earth?” would raise immediate and profoundly important cosmotheological questions about our place in the universe. If extraterrestrial others exist, then my religion and my religious beliefs and practices might not be universal. If my religion is not universally applicable to all extraterrestrial others, perhaps my religion need not be offered to, let alone forced on, all terrestrial others. Ultimately, we might learn some important lessons applicable here at home just from considering the possibility of life beyond our planet.

In my book, I investigated the sacred writings of the world’s most widely practiced religions, asking what each religion has to say about the uniqueness or non-uniqueness of life on Earth, and how, or if, a particular religion would work on other planets in distant parts of the universe.

Extrasolar sinners?

Let’s examine a seemingly simple yet exceedingly complex theological question: could extraterrestrials be Christians? If Jesus died in order to redeem humanity from the state of sin into which humans are born, does the death and resurrection of Jesus, on Earth, also redeem other sentient beings from a similar state of sin? If so, why are the extraterrestrials sinful? Is sin built into the very fabric of the space and time of the universe? Or can life exist in parts of the universe without being in a state of sin and therefore without the need of redemption and thus without the need for Christianity? Many different solutions to these puzzles involving Christian theology have been put forward. None of them yet satisfy all Christians.

Mormon worlds

Mormon scripture clearly teaches that other inhabited worlds exist and that “the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God” (Doctrines and Covenants 76:24). The Earth, however, is a favored world in Mormonism, because Jesus, as understood by Mormons, lived and was resurrected only on Earth. In addition, Mormon so-called intelligences can only achieve their own spiritual goals during their lives on Earth, not during lifetimes on other worlds. Thus, for Mormons, the Earth might not be the physical center of the universe but it is the most favored place in the universe. Such a view implies that all other worlds are, somehow, lesser worlds than Earth.

Bahá’í without bias

Members of the Bahá’í Faith have a view of the universe that has no bias for or against the Earth as a special place or for against humans as a special sentient species. The principles of the Bahá’í Faith – unifying society, abandoning prejudice, equalizing opportunities for all people, eliminating poverty – are about humans on Earth. The Bahá’í faithful would expect any creatures anywhere in the universe to worship the same God as do humans, but to do so according to their own, world-specific ways.

Light years from Mecca

The pillars of the faith for Muslims require the faithful to pray five times every day while facing Mecca. Because determining the direction of Mecca correctly could be extremely difficult on a quickly spinning planet millions of light years from Earth, practicing the same faith on another world might not make any sense. Yet the words of the Qu’ran tell us that “Whatever beings there are in the heavens and the earth do prostrate themselves to Allah” (13:15). Can terrestrial Muslims accept that the prophetically revealed religion of Muhammad is intended only for humans on earth and that other worlds would have their own prophets?

Astronomers as paradigm-shatterers

Philosophers and scientists have forced worldviews to adapt in the past.

At certain moments throughout history, astronomers’ discoveries have exerted an outsized influence on human culture. Ancient Greek astronomers unflattened the Earth – though many then chose to forget this knowledge. Renaissance scholars Copernicus and Galileo put the Earth in motion around the Sun and moved humans away from the center of the universe. In the 20th century, Edwin Hubble eliminated the very idea that the universe has any center at all. He demonstrated that what the universe has is a beginning in time and that, bizarrely, the universe, the very fabric of three-dimensional space, is expanding.

Clearly, when astronomers offer the world bold new ideas, they don’t mess around. Another such paradigm-shattering new idea may be in the light arriving at our telescopes now.

No matter which (a)theistic background informs your theology, you may have to wrestle with the data astronomers will be bringing to houses of worship in the very near future. You will need to ask: Is my God the God of the entire universe? Is my religion a terrestrial or a universal religion? As people work to reconcile the discovery of extrasolar life with their theological and philosophical worldviews, adapting to the news of life beyond Earth will be discomfiting and perhaps even disruptive.

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Now I don’t really want to open up the subject of religion but I will say that WikiPedia have a great entry about the subject. My own view is that a few hundred years ago, when life was a lot more mysterious and uncertain, believing in life after death made some sense.

But we know a lot better now despite death still being a certainty.

Brandy!

Dogs don’t need religion!

A sailing memory, part two.

Again, this is for Pendantry.

I left yesterday’s post with the statement: “However, getting to Gibraltar was not without its challenge for we suffered a knockdown and this scared us both to the core.

This is the account of that knockdown.

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The knockdown

So this was it, the end of life. This is what that end felt like. A lifetime of experiences reduced to this stilled moment; all my hopes, dreams, pleasures, memories, everything shrunk to this tiny moment of now.

I knew, in some trance-like way, that if just one of those foaming, giant waves swept across us, so utterly over-whelmed as we were on our side, it would flood the cabin, and down Dave and I and the yacht would go.

Other sensations came to me. Feelings of quiet, of calm, even of peace. My world now reduced to close, intimate dimensions. To the yacht’s wheel, to which I so grimly hung. To the front edge of the port cockpit seat, now underneath me, against which I braced my feet. To the starboard guardrail, bizarrely above my head, and to those raging seas so very close that seemed to beckon, ‘Give up, give up now and slip away.’

Me and Dave, alone in this Mediterranean storm 10 days West of Cyprus, are going to drown, founder without trace in these vast waves and probably end up not being missed for many days. Our dream of sailing across the Atlantic snuffed out as easily as Songbird of Kent would sink the 5,000 feet down to the seabed. The futility of it all.

It was a strange, detached perspective that hardly registered the gusts coming at us like great padded hammers. This unimaginable gale that had Songbird of Kent, my floating home for the last 5 years, totally pressed down on her port side, even though the yacht offered nothing more to the winds than her bare mast and rigging.

From within the cabin, Dave could do no more than simply watch. Hunkered down outside, I could do no more than simply hang-on. Both of us transfixed in this stillness of life’s imminent ending. Dave would later say no words would ever properly describe what his eyes had seen.

My past life, rather ominously, started running before me. How one year, in the early 1950s, when I was 7 or 8 years old, my parents had rented a holiday villa in the French Atlantic coastal town of Arcachon. What a glorious summer holiday that had been.

Arcachon’s beautifully sheltered bay had enabled me to learn to swim. The buoyant sea-water helping me increase the number of strokes each day, until one afternoon I had swum out to a yacht anchored well off the beach. As I hung on to the anchor chain, panting hard, the owner looked over the guardrail. Next, me being rowed back to the beach in a dinghy and then everyone getting to know Englishman John Calvert, a solo sailor living aboard his yacht, Garrawog.

Next year we had holidayed again in Arcachon and found Garrawog moored in the small yacht harbour. I recalled fond memories of sitting in the cabin with my father and John Calvert, drinking lemonade, eating cream crackers and loving the cosiness of it all.

Then the amazing coincidence when the following year we had holidayed at the French Mediterranean town of Menton and Garrawog had sailed into the harbour. That had led to John taking us sailing along the coast, memories so vivid, all these years later, of helping to haul sails, steer Garrawog, even remembering the gentle nudge of the yacht into the waves.

I was clear how those memories had fuelled my romantic obsession with sailing. How as a young teenager growing up in London I had joined the Welsh Harp sailing club, based at a large lake, well a reservoir, just three miles from home, and learnt to sail a dinghy. All fuelling this fascination with the sea. Yet that romantic obsession didn’t revolve around idyllic meanderings along the Mediterranean coastline. No, my dreams involved ocean sailing. Not even as part of a crew, but sailing, single-handed, across the oceans.

I had devoured every book written by those sailors who, totally alone, had journeyed the vast oceans in a small yacht. Joshua Slocum, who wrote of his solo trip around the world in his yacht, Spray, way back in 1895. Master English navigator, Francis Chichester, who conceived the idea of a single-handed yacht race across the Atlantic ocean, later completing a round-the-world solo circumnavigation in his yacht, Gipsy Moth IV. Eric Tabarly, Chay Blyth, Robin Knox-Johnston and many more.

I reflected how that dream had remained with me for years. All through nearly 20 years as a salesman and entrepreneur to the point when, quite suddenly, on a Monday in the Spring of 1986, uncharacteristically I had nothing in my diary for that day, or for many days ahead. I had just sold my thriving company in Colchester and there was no longer a job to go to!

Then not so long after I had taken a holiday in Larnaca and in wandering around the marina I had seen Songbird of Kent for sale, and had bought it! I had previously read about Tradewind yachts and knew how many had made world circumnavigations. Thus by the end of 1986, my new address had become: Yacht ‘Songbird of Kent’, Larnaca Marina, Cyprus.

A shout from Dave jerked me back to the real world.

Hey, is it my imagination or is that wind easing?

I lifted my head and turned my face into the weather coming full at us. The seas were just as terrible but, yes, something was different, some subtle lowering of the tone of the wind.

Dave, you’re right, it has eased back a bit. We’re not so pressed down, are we?

Don’t think so. What do you reckon?

Not sure what to do, frankly these conditions scare the shit out of me!

In the subtlest way imaginable, Songbird provided the answer. The yacht now showed some response to the waves rather than previously being so overwhelmed. A tiny thought entered my mind, something I hardly dared acknowledge: Songbird is not going to founder.

Those 3 tons of lead at the bottom of Songbird’s keel were, at last, overcoming the wind pressure on her topsides and with seawater cascading down from the mast and rigging, the yacht slowly righted and bestowed on me and Dave the continuation of our lives. A miracle of miracles!

I quickly helmed the bow round to point us downwind, putting the full force of the gale directly aft. Within moments, a wave slowly started to overtake us but I couldn’t do anything other than keep my eyes on the mast-head wind-vane that, against all odds, had stayed intact during the knock-down. Watching the arrow head that absolutely had to keep pointing directly into the wind. We may be upright but one slip of steering, one moment’s loss of concentration and I knew we would slew broadsides to the seas and go over again.

I couldn’t believe the size of this wave that lifted us up and up, as if we were in giant, invisible hands. Up to the foaming crest from which was revealed, all around us, wild, angry, jagged waves, huge crests covered in white foam, an Alpine-like scene of raging hell as far as the eye can see. A vista of utter desolation.

Then the foaming crest moved ahead of us and Songbird slid down that vast lee of the wave, down towards the trough that lay behind us. Our bowsprit pointed directly into the dark green water ahead, water streaked with spume, as down and down we went until the inevitable arrival of the next wave started us up to another foaming crest.

We had survived what we could never have imagined. Hardly believing it, we intuitively knew that surviving that first wave increased the odds of us surviving the next few. Then the next few, and the next few until, against all expectations, we knew we stood a chance of living through it all.

I spotted something in the water and shouted, “Dave, look, look there in the water, just to our left. That bit of sail, surely not from our mainsail?

As we ran before the weather, a scrap of white sail had surged past our side, a piece of sail bearing the number 33 and two palm trees, the symbol of a Tradewind 33 yacht.

Dave laughed, “I can’t believe that, Paul. It’s from the mainsail that blew out when the gale first struck. How amazing! It must be from us, can’t be too many other Tradewind 33s out here!“.

Imagine that, Dave, after all that we have been through these past few hours, we’ve just sailed by a bit of our mainsail, close enough to have grabbed it.

That triggered my mind as to when this terrible experience started. How long ago was that? I didn’t have a clue, though surely it couldn’t have been much more than an hour or so ago. Indeed, I struggled to think what day it was, then realised it was Thursday, October 8th, 1992. Just 24 hours since we had left the dirty, commercial port of Algiers for the last leg of our trip from Larnaca in Cyprus to Gibraltar.

Dave, hand me the log, it’s at the back of the chart table.

I read,

Thursday, 8th October, 1992.

08:20 Sea state terrible.

I recalled how the dawn had revealed banks of low angry clouds, skidding across the tops of a nasty swell, made even worse by a vicious cross-swell. The next entry after that read,

09:00 Sky extremely threatening. Wind NE F4. Just 16 miles east of Greenwich meridian.

Then we had approximately 3 hours of sailing to go before we crossed Greenwich. On to the last entry,

12:00 Sea extremely ugly, Wind NNE F5. Longitude 2 minutes East of Greenwich.

Just 15 minutes from crossing that historical navigational line. I recalled how we had chatted about sharing a glass of something to celebrate ‘crossing the line’! Then how my words had been torn away when, in a seeming instant of time, this huge squall had come out of the North, heralding this vast, cauldron of a storm. The mainsail, even tripled-reefed, was way too much sail. But it was far too dangerous to leave the cockpit to drop the sail, too much to do anything other than hang on.

The mainsail failed, ripped into shreds as it tore away from the mast-track and disappeared into the storm. The sounds of the event obliterated by the screaming noise of a wind that I had guessed was now more than 50 knots. The rain and spray had stung my face so hard that I needed to turn my head away just to breathe. Clearly something had to give; I expected the mast to fail.

But it didn’t! Instead, as the wind force grew and grew, it steadily pressed us further and further over until Songbird ended up fully horizontal to the sea. It seemed a lifetime ago.

I looked at my watch: 5.30pm. To hell and back in so few hours!

Dave, what’s our position?

Dave ducked out of sight to read the GPS, came back out with a slip of paper on which he had written our position: Eight minutes of longitude west of the Greenwich meridian. We were now in the Western hemisphere!

Come on, Dave, you take the wheel. I’m going to fetch a couple of beers.

I reckon a double celebration, Paul, crossing the Meridian and living to tell the tale!

We drank our beers, chit-chatted about nothing much, both aware that we had literally stared into the abyss of a dark watery grave, and sailed on.

Just before 13:00 on Saturday, October 10th, Songbird rounded Gibraltar’s breakwater, briefly rolled in the cross-swell, and slipped into the calm waters of the inner harbour.

Soon we were safe and secure in a marina berth, a few minutes walk from good food and friendly bars. Our experiences rapidly migrated into the private worlds of our minds, as if discussing it openly might replay it all with a different, more tragic, outcome.

I struggled through those first nights of sleep. Again and again I awoke, panic across my chest, clinging to the sides of my bunk, trying to lay all the nightmares to rest. Slowly, those October days resting up in Gibraltar shone a light on this sailing obsession. How, with the sudden death of my father in 1956, those memories of idyllic times in and around Garrawog had buried themselves deep into my hidden emotional world. How dreams of sailing had more to do with keeping the memory of my father alive than with anything else.

That gale expunged the obsession. I never sailed on Songbird again or, for that matter, on any other sailing vessel. Paid crew eventually returned Songbird to England, where she was subsequently sold.

I would never forget the stillness I had experienced in the midst of all that chaos, but one knock-down in a lifetime was more than enough.

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This is absolutely a true account of what happened. Yes, an intimate, personal account of what happened but accurate down to the last detail.

I am so pleased I kept a written account of the knockdown all those years ago for if I was to recall it today then much of the detail would have been lost. Maybe lost as a result of old age or lost as a consequence of not wanting it in one’s mind. Who knows.

Finally, there are no photographs because we just had more important things to look after – keeping ourselves alive!

Memories of the past.

Angela Stockdale and Pharaoh came to mind!

In the last twenty-four hours I was in communication with a person in Essex, England about dog training (and hopefully there will be a guest post from him) and it caused me to think of Angela Stockdale.

I then did a search on my blog for posts where I had mentioned Angela and came across quite a few in the early days of blogging. Then I thought it would be nice to republish one of them; Four Years Old.

So here it is again.

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How time flies!

Four years ago this day, the first post was published on Learning from Dogs. Here it is again:

Parenting lessons from Dogs!

Much too late to make me realise the inadequacies of my own parenting skills, I learnt an important lesson when training my GSD (who is called Pharaoh, by the way). That is that putting more emphasis into praise and reward for getting it right ‘trains’ the dog much quicker than telling it off. The classic example is scolding a dog for running off when it should be lots of hugs and praise for returning home. The scolding simply teaches the dog that returning home isn’t pleasant whereas praise reinforces that home is the place to be. Like so many things in life, very obvious once understood!

Absolutely certain that it works with youngsters just the same way.

Despite being a very dominant dog, Pharaoh showed his teaching ability when working with other dogs. In the UK there is an amazing woman, Angela Stockdale, who has proved that dogs (and horses) learn most effectively when being taught by other dogs (and horses). Pharaoh was revealed to be a Beta Dog, (i.e. second in status below the Alpha Dog) and, therefore, was able to use his natural pack instinct to teach puppy dogs their social skills and to break up squabbles within a pack.

When you think about it, don’t kids learn much more (often to our chagrin!) from other kids than they do from their parents. Still focusing on giving more praise than punishment seems like a much more effective strategy.

As was read somewhere, Catch them in the act of doing Right!

By Paul Handover.

As it happens, it feels a little like ‘what goes around, comes around’. Why do I say that?

Because just last Saturday, I sent off a selection of pictures and videos to Angela Stockdale. Stay with me for a while as to the reason why.

Angela trades under the name of The Dog Partnership and, frankly, what she doesn’t know about the behaviour of dogs isn’t worth bothering about!

Just take a peek at the page on her website under the heading of Teaching Dogs. Here’s a little of what Angela writes:

I consider myself so lucky for dogs alone to have been my teachers. I learnt from watching how my own dogs responded to another dog’s body language and vice versa their language. Watching, learning and working with Teaching Dogs was the only way I knew.

I was and always will be in awe of a Teaching Dog’s dogs ability to consciously adapt their body language in accordance to how the other dog was feeling. The result being, they could relax nervous dogs but at the same time maintain control of a problem situation. Remember, dogs talk dog far better than we do.

It came as quite a shock to me when I learnt about other approaches. It seemed foreign for people to have so much input in resolving what were described as ‘ behavioural’ issues. For me, working with these dogs was far more than resolving a behavioural issue. It was about improving the quality of lives of dogs who were not coping with everyday life. If they found dogs or people worrying, sometimes this was shown in displays of aggression. It is important to understand, these dogs were not aggressive, they simply displayed aggressive behaviour.

Now, I would like to introduce you to the world of Teaching Dogs and how these special dogs change the lives of less fortunate dogs, who never had the opportunity to really understand how to communicate with their own species.

Do read the rest here.

Back to why those photographs and videos had been sent to Angela. A couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed an evening meal with friends of friends, so to speak. This other couple owned a beautiful-looking male German Shepherd dog: Duke. Duke was 4-years-old. Our hostess remarked that he was very boisterous and had nipped a couple of strangers who had called at the house. She added that he seemed difficult to control. Duke had been there for about a month and he was a rescue so they had little or no knowledge of past behaviour.

Well, I’m no expect with dogs, that’s Jean’s domain. But there was something about Duke that captivated me. Something in the way he looked at me, his eyes linking so directly with mine, allowing me to see a dog that offered an honest openness.

More or less on impulse I stood up, held my right arm up at 45 degrees, looked Duke in the face and said, “Duke! Sit!”

Duke held my gaze and sat back on his haunches.

I moved my arm in a complete circle, around to the right, and said, “Duke! Lie down!” Duke lay down.

H’mm, I thought. Fascinating. This dog has been professionally trained at some point in the past, using the same ‘command’ system of voice and arm signalling as I had learnt with Pharaoh way back in 2003/2004.

The food was now on the table. I grabbed a small piece of meat off my plate and returned to Duke who had, of course, resumed his pottering around the room. “Duke! Here boy!” Duke came over to me. “Duke! Lie down!” Duke did so. I placed the piece of meat on the wooden floor about three feet in front of him. Duke’s eyes were riveted on the meat. “Duke!” Duke’s eyes reluctantly engaged with mine. “Duke! Stay!” I repeated the Stay command a couple more times as I backed away about 6 or 8 feet.

“Go on, Boy. Take the meat!” Duke gleefully grabbed the piece of meat. Gracious, I thought, this dog is magnificent. I wonder ……..

I took another piece of meat, “Duke! Sit!” “Duke! Stay!” I then backed off that 8 feet again, got down on my knees and placed the piece of meat just between my lips. I knew this was potential madness with a dog I had only met some 30 minutes previously, but there wasn’t an ounce of doubt in my mind. I voiced in my throat for Duke to fetch the meat. Duke came straight over and confidently and carefully removed the meat from my lips.

What a truly fabulous dog! It was a wonderful evening and once home both Jean and I were eulogising about Duke.

Then two days later, our dinner hostess rang me. “You know, I have decided we can no longer keep Duke. He is too strong a dog, I can’t control him. Is there any chance of you finding a new home for Duke?”

Without question, Jean and I would have offered Duke a new home; in a heartbeat. The only thing stopping that was me wondering if this strong-willed, male German Shepherd might be a Beta dog, as Pharaoh was. Or just might be too dominant a male dog to fit in comfortably with our dogs, especially Pharaoh who was at the stage of life where the last thing that should happen is for his happiness and contentment to be disturbed.

I hadn’t a clue as to how to answer that question. But I knew someone who would know: Angela Stockdale.

I rang her, caught up on old times and then explained the background to Duke’s situation. Angela said to repeat the exercise that I had witnessed when I took Pharaoh to her all those years ago, when I wondered if Pharaoh was an aggressive dog. My uncertainty with regard to Pharaoh followed a number of times when walking him in a public area with other dogs and he had been very threatening, both in voice and posture, towards some of those other dogs.

This is what Angela arranged. I took Pharaoh up to her place at Wheddon Cross, near Minehead in Somerset. When we arrived, Angela was standing just by a gate into a fenced paddock, maybe a half-acre in size. In the far corner were two dogs.

Angela asked me to bring Pharaoh to the gate and let him off the leash. It was clear that Pharaoh was going to be let into the paddock. I cautioned that Pharaoh could be quite a handful with other dogs and, perhaps, it would be better that I walked him into the area still on his lead. Angela said that wouldn’t be necessary. So as she held the gate open sufficient for Pharaoh to enter the paddock, I slipped the lead off him and backed away, as requested.

Pharaoh had hardly taken 2 or 3 paces when Angela called out, “Paul, there’s nothing wrong with him!”

I was astounded and stammered, “But, er, er, how can you tell so quickly?” “Because my two dogs haven’t taken any notice!”, came the reply.

Later Angela explained that in the paddock were her female Alpha dog and her male Beta dog. Ergo, the two top dogs in terms of status so far as dogs see other dogs.

In fact, Pharaoh was utterly subservient to these dogs, in a way that I had never witnessed before. Later on, as Pharaoh relaxed and started playing, Angela said that she thought that Pharaoh was a Beta dog. Mixing some of her other dogs into the group was later able to confirm that.

So back now to present times and Duke.

Thus last Saturday, as Angela recommended, we selected two of our dogs, Cleo our female German Shepherd and the most socialable of dogs, and Casey, a strong but not aggressive male (he had some PitBull in him).

Duke arrived and was allowed freely to nose around the large grassed area some way from the fenced-off horse paddock that we were using for the ‘introduction’.

Duke pottered around and then caught sight of Cleo and Casey in the paddock.

First sighting of Cleo and Casey.
First sighting of Cleo and Casey.

Then the meetings began!

Hello! My name is Duke. Do I smell OK? Mr. Casey?
Hello! My name is Duke. Do I smell OK? Mr. Casey?

And play didn’t seem to be too far off the agenda!

You lead, Cleo, I'll chase!
You lead, Cleo, I’ll chase!

So all the photographs and videos have been sent to Angela, and we will see what the conclusion is!

As Angela put it, “Remember, dogs talk dog far better than we do.”

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Yes there’s no question that dogs talk dog far better than we do!

Hubble into music.

Back to the space telescope!

I cannot stop engaging in Hubble stories and republishing them in this place.

The latest is an account, published here, of how scientists turned an image of a galaxy into music! Or rather added music to the video.

Here it is!

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Cool! A Hubble photo translated to music

Posted by in | May 10, 2020

There’s no sound in space. But – working with NASA – musicians and scientists turned a Hubble Space Telescope image of a galaxy cluster into music.

We stumbled on this video via a May 3, 2020, re-post at ScienceAlert. Matt Russo and Andrew Santaguida of System Sounds in Toronto – which calls itself “a sci-art outreach project” – created the video. It’s part of NASA’s Astrophysics Visualizations series. NASA explained the video this way:

Space becomes sonified in this visualization of a cluster of galaxies imaged by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Time flows left to right, and the frequency of sound changes from bottom to top, ranging from 30 to 1,000 hertz. Objects near the bottom of the image produce lower notes, while those near the top produce higher ones. Most of the visible specks are galaxies housing countless stars. A few individual stars shine brightly in the foreground. Stars and compact galaxies create short, clear tones, while sprawling spiral galaxies emit longer notes that change pitch. The higher density of galaxies near the center of the image – the heart of this galaxy cluster, known as RXC J0142.9+4438 – results in a swell of mid-range tones halfway through the video. Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys and Wide Field Camera 3 acquired this image on August 13, 2018.

Cool!

Here’s the original Hubble image of galaxy cluster RXC J0142.9+4438, later “sonified” by Russo and Santaguida. NASA wrote: “Galaxies abound in this spectacular Hubble image; spiral arms swirl in all colors and orientations, and fuzzy ellipticals can be seen speckled across the frame as softly glowing smudges on the sky. Each visible speck of a galaxy is home to countless stars. A few stars closer to home shine brightly in the foreground, while a massive galaxy cluster nestles at the very center of the image; an immense collection of maybe thousands of galaxies, all held together by the relentless force of gravity.” Read more about this image, which is via ESA/ Hubble & NASA, RELICS.

Here’s the original Hubble image of galaxy cluster RXC J0142.9+4438, later “sonified” by Russo and Santaguida. NASA wrote: “Galaxies abound in this spectacular Hubble image; spiral arms swirl in all colors and orientations, and fuzzy ellipticals can be seen speckled across the frame as softly glowing smudges on the sky. Each visible speck of a galaxy is home to countless stars. A few stars closer to home shine brightly in the foreground, while a massive galaxy cluster nestles at the very center of the image; an immense collection of maybe thousands of galaxies, all held together by the relentless force of gravity.” Read more about this image, which is via ESA/ Hubble & NASA, RELICS.

Bottom line: Musicians and scientists turned a Hubble Space Telescope image – of galaxy cluster RXC J0142.9+4438 – into music.

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That is so lovely.

It’s only just over half a minute long but is still precious!

And I learnt a new word: sonification!

Golden Brown

A musical classic!

We were listening to the radio early on Tuesday morning and the BBC News played a tribute to the recent death of Dave Greenfield. Here’s a little bit of that BBC News piece:

The Stranglers keyboard player Dave Greenfield has died at the age of 71 after testing positive for Covid-19.

Greenfield died on Sunday having contracted the virus after a prolonged stay in hospital for heart problems.

He penned the band’s biggest hit, Golden Brown, a song about heroin, which went to number two on the UK singles chart in 1982.

The Stranglers bass player Jean-Jacques “JJ” Burnel paid tribute to Greenfield as a “musical genius”.

He said: “On the evening of Sunday May 3rd, my great friend and longstanding colleague of 45 years, the musical genius that was Dave Greenfield, passed away as one of the victims of the Great Pandemic of 2020.

“All of us in the worldwide Stranglers’ family grieve and send our sincerest condolences to [Greenfield’s wife] Pam.”

Drummer Jet Black added: “We have just lost a dear friend and music genius, and so has the whole world.

“Dave was a complete natural in music. Together, we toured the globe endlessly and it was clear he was adored by millions. A huge talent, a great loss, he is dearly missed.”

There’s more to read but I wanted to republish one of the photographs taken:

(Left to right) Dave Greenfield, Jean-Jacques Burnel, Jet Black and Hugh Cornwell of The Stranglers in 1980

Then to close my tribute to Dave here’s a beautiful rendition of that most famous song – Golden Brown.

A classic, a real classic.

The loss of Dave Greenfield. A loss to us all!