Invisible Tools: Not Machines


Are you a tool?

Of course not.  You’re a living being.

It used to be that your average egghead thought only humans could use tools.

Then Jane Goodall watched chimps use tools to find food.

So then they thought only humans could teach other humans how to use tools.

And Jane watched chimps teach their babies how to use tools.

Since those eye-opening moments in science, the eggheads have learned that a LOT of animals use tools, and a lot of those teach others how to use them.

I keep harping on the eggheads because anyone who has kept animals long enough may have observed the same behaviors.  You can probably even find a video of a dog learning from a bird or a cat.  The idea that humans are super special is history.

In general, a tool is something that helps living beings get what we want.  We typically think of tools as being our homes, phones, hammers and nails.  Tools that have a physical character have a special name, machines.

But a tool doesn’t have to be made out of anything.  A tool does not have to exist in any form except as an idea and energy.  And that’s what we’re talking about today.

Language is a tool.  If you write it down using an alphabet it takes on a physical aspect, and it becomes a machine with a special name, writing.

This series on invisible tools is going to touch on behaviors we use to make our lives easier, helping us to get what we want.  There are lots of behaviors we take for granted that we use as tools, but never think of them as such.

The reason it becomes important to think about “tools” in general, whether they are invisible behaviors or manifest machines, is that we can appreciate them more and realize that we should be using them.

Many times I have seen someone use a hammer incorrectly.  It’s bad for the hammer, it makes that person’s job harder, but worst of all, it’s dangerous to that person and anyone standing nearby.  Some people don’t even think of using the right tool for the job.  They may not even know that it’s a tool.

So, here’s cheers for tools.  Let’s appreciate them, and make our lives better.


Layered Walking


Going for a lovely nature walk with your best friend is the ultimate in healthy exercise.


If you live in a climate that features “seasons,” then your behavior has to take on a whole new set of tasks.

Those of you living in steady, temperate climes, don’t know of what I speak.  No matter if your climate is constantly hot or cold, it’s the constancy that matters.

I quoted seasons above because many of my relatives are jealous because our year can be divided into the 4 seasons.

What they don’t realize is that many of our days feature 2 to 3 seasons within as many hours.

For instance: we may start our half-hour walk in water-freezing temperatures, and a light wind.  Later on, the wind ceases, and the sun comes out, and the temperature goes up.  Then a cloud shows up, it start drizzling, the sun is gone, the wind is up, and the temperature increases.  Finally, the rain is gone, the wind is gone, and a spot of sunshine makes everything steamy.

Here’s the challenge: What do you wear for your walk?

The answer is layers.  But even this is a challenge because you have to think, which shoes or boots?  Which sock, or socks?  Long underwear?  How many shirts?  Which coat, and do I need a scarf?  What about a neck warmer, and type of hat?  Gloves, yes or no? Thin or thick?

Now you’re ready for that walk.  Keep in mind that if you shed layers, you’re carrying stuff.  And if you’re already carrying your phone, tissues, fish food, binoculars, and anything else you might need, where does it go?

So, as behaviors go, this is one of my least favorite.

As some of you more astute readers may have noticed, I haven’t mentioned a single word about fashion.

Because I don’t have any.  Really.  Zero fashion sense.

So do all the above, and add on the fashion layer.

Now that I read this, it’s amazing I can get out the door!  On the other hand, coming back from a nice walk is rejuvenating.  Just enough so that I can peel off all those dang layers.

And then I walk it off.


Pride and Prejudice: Geology

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Jane Austen is such an incredible writer that she paints accurate portraits of her characters with a single deft stroke of her pen.

Which brings me to our topic of the day.  There’s a single line in the chapter where Liz is about to embark on her trip to Derbyshire.

She’s in agony because that’s the same county where “you know who” resides.

She considers the odds, and figures it’s safe to enter the county without seeing “him.”

And what will she be safe doing in Derbyshire?

Here’s her own words:

“But surely,” said she, “I may enter his county with impunity, and rob it of a few petrified spars without his perceiving me.”

Petrified spars?  What in the world is she talking about?

Rocks, minerals, things of interest to people who like nature in pieces.

According to this, maybe it was a common touristy thing to do.  However, I think that Jane was showing us a deeper side to Lizzy that she hadn’t been able to do earlier.

I’m going to go out on a stalactite here and suggest that maybe Liz was deeper than most young ladies of the era.  Perhaps she had a genuine interest in geology, minerals, rocks in general.

And why not?  Girls can be geologists.  Even girls from 200 years ago.

So the next time someone suggests that all Lizzy does during P&P is sit around, needlepoint, practice piano, and fret about Jane, Bingley, and you-know-who, tell them they have rocks for brains.

They might take it as a compliment.


Love by the Numbers


The power of youtube and individual producers means that we are flooded with lots of meaningless catfalls.  This is a shoutout to an Aussie, Brady Haran, who’s done a fantastic job bringing so many academics into the spotlight.

One of my favorite areas is mathematics.  In the area of math (NOT maths, sorry Brits) there are many insights and puzzles to be found.  One of my very favorite things is the Mandelbrot set.  Please check it out.

Through Brady’s work, I’ve seen that many of these talented young academics are unattached.  Now, I’m not trying to play cupid, but I am going to make this observation.

We’re living in an exciting age.  The #MeToo movement is long overdue.  Women’s Lib of the 1960s followed Women’s Suffrage of the 1920s.  So perhaps #MeToo is also a “flash” in the pan of time.  I hope not.  But one thing is that there are a lot of wonderful young women complaining about creepy men.

Ladies, and Gents, consider this.  The kind of person who goes into studying math, or any of the natural sciences, can’t be your average slimeball.  Granted, there are always exceptions to the rule, but if someone wants to study arcane areas of knowledge for its own sake, how many other creepy thoughts can they have?

Wouldn’t it be cool if the people who were studying things like physics, or philosophy, and of course, math, were the “hot” dates?  Wouldn’t it be cool if everyone else, who was looking for a life partner who was a true romantic at heart, suddenly realized that only crazy romantics study crazy things like black holes, self-referential systems, and the microbiome?

So, if you’ve had a bad experience with a romantic relationship, consider this as part of your next selection process.  Don’t go for someone in sales, finance, or marketing.  Try an accountant, or mathematician, or librarian.  Those are the people who have hearts that believe in things that are good.  And if you can get one of them to believe in you …

… you might multiply together.


Pride and Prejudice: Where’s Jane?

Great Novel, Great Novelist

Ever wonder where an artist may hide themselves within their work?  In some cases, it’s pretty obvious, they are staring back at you.

In cases like P&P, the artist hides herself pretty well.

In truth, every character is a piece of the author, they can’t help it.

But for great authors, it’s easier to insert pieces of themselves into their works without us being able to notice.

So, for one of the greatest novels ever written, where do you think Jane Austen is hiding?

My guess is that she put most of herself into Mary, the bookish one who is always in the background.

Sure, she occasionally spouts some silly statement of deep insight that is fairly meaningless.  And that might be the smoking gun.

I can see the young Jane Austen, sitting at the table with her large family at supper.  I can see the table conversation being quite lively.  Based on how precocious she was as an adult writer, I’m also willing to bet that her father encouraged his daughters to exercise and expand their minds.

And what would this courageous introvert do during her most vulnerable teen years?

She would make an attempt to fit in every now and then.  She would try and show that she was an adult with great thoughts, fitting in easily into the conversation.  But she would obviously be awkward, inept in the social niceties of the time.


Because she lives in books.  She breathes the written word.  She’s a writer.

And that’s why Mary is her reflection.  She does nothing in the book but read.  She can only spout her insights at the worst times.  She has no redemption in the end of the book, that’s reserved for Kitty.  Both Mr. and Mrs. Bennet ignore her as well.  They think of her as beyond their help, and they are right.

Because she’s going to be a writer, living in her own world.  She doesn’t need them.

So the next time you read P&P, and you will, take your time going over the parts dealing with Mary.

And think of Jane.