Technology’s Crutch – The Decent of Man – Part Two

What a rush!! Did that trip in the way-back-machine leave your head spinning? Well, buckle up you’re in for a doozy this time.

Maps. We’re going to talk about maps. Not Google or GPS maps but a large piece of paper covered in lines, symbols and names.

Using maps is how people got around for centuries. Men who make maps are called cartographers and for the longest time were held in the highest esteem.

Maps were especially critical for use on ships. The maps that ship’s captains used were call ‘rudders’ and were extremely valuable as ships followed coastlines, prior to the advent of celestial navigation methods, with all their associated perils (reefs, sandbars and shallow water).

When a ship was captured the first thing, yes – the first thing, the enemy did was to try and get their hands on the ship’s rudder. Gold and silver were secondary (except maybe, for the Spanish). Rudders were updated by the ship’s navigators with corrections and new data as coastlines are constantly changing due to storms and tides.

These maps used images associated with directions, tides and hazards as well as words because the majority of the crew, not to mention the population, were illiterate.

Can you read a map? Do you have a map(s)? It is probably a good idea to have some as a backup if your GPS fails for some reason. Here is a map question for you. What is a compass rose? Hint, it is not a plant.

Think Global – Act Local



Are We Listening?

When he sang about a generation that wasn’t allowed to vote but could die in a war – we listened.

When he sang at Yasgur’s farm and watched us slide in the mud – we listened.

When farms were fading into history he sang – we listened.

Now, like a drowning victim, our country pops its head above water for a breath – are we listening?

For those who remember, will his words be lost … like tears … in rain?



Technology’s Crutch – The Decent of Man – Part One

OK! Time for a trip in the way back machine. Don’t roll your eyes it’ll just be a short trip because I know for most of you under 30 your attention spans are about as long as a YouTube video. So here goes. So, just how did we survive for the last 50 years without electronic gizmos and gadgets telling us what to do and how to do it? For those of you who have less than 20 years under your belts, it must seem impossible.
Lets start with the basics – writing. Using a pen or pencil held in their hand people put their thoughts on paper in a structured fashion according to a set of rules. These rules are called grammar. The sheet was then placed in an envelope, addressed it to whomever you’re writing to, stamped and mailed. Your mail didn’t arrive at its destination with the speed of the light – it took a few days to get there. Because of this time lag the writer took great care in getting as much information and emotion as possible into each letter. So you could write clearly, I mean how the words were formed on the paper, there were classes in elementary school called ‘Penmanship’ – and why not? If the reader couldn’t understand what you had written of what use was the letter in the first place? Compared to the cold nature of a printed bill you might receive in an email, or snail mail, a hand written letter in much warmer and personal.
Your style, choice of words and their structure convey a message of feelings and care. It isn’t difficult to press the delete key on an email but it’s harder to throw away a handwritten letter. Electronic technology puts people at an emotional distance from what they are doing or communicating. In the social media realm it’s easy to ‘troll’ someone opinion or photos without consequences. Where as, if you did this face to face or in written form there could be multiple different results.

Equal opportunity vs. Unequal ability

After decades of working with college students of several generations from all parts of the US, it seems there’s a degree of confusion about what constitutes the meaning of equality.

As a few examples, equality means that all people have an equal chance to go to college, be employed and receive government services. Looking at individual’s intelligence, talent and skill levels people aren’t equal. If you disagree then you’re living in a dream world where someone with an IQ of 95 could successfully complete medical school.
There are ‘ recruitment windows ’ that all of us must qualify to pass through and then on to the next window and the next in every profession or trade. These windows may be as simple as being able to write your name correctly on an application form or as complex as passing the Mensa entrance exam.

Intellect and ability are forms of currency. Individuals must have enough of those currencies to pass through the recruitment windows in order to gain entrance into the area of their choosing. Without enough, they must look elsewhere.

Echo of The Future Past

If ever that was a latter day Aesop Rod Serling surely fits the bill.

I present to you a possible vision of our future, … or was it something we watched on the television last night?

You will have to decide. Decide with your vote, your will and vision of a future you want to live in.


Can Smart Make You Dumb?

Well, lately I’ve been looking at new cars from various manufacturers and I found that they all seem to have gotten “smart” to one degree or another. They all came with power windows, door locks and no key starting. Some had cameras looking out the back and front, lane wander warning systems and a few even braked and parked for you. One car maker boasted that it’s cars had eight air bags. All the cars had a feature that tells you when the tire pressure is low. What does all this do for the driver?

Don’t get me talking about the rolling music concert hall, GPS and Bluetooth that they come with. Hell, when I first heard some guy say he had just gotten Bluetooth I felt sorry for him because I thought he had some kind of dental problem.

GPS! What about maps and a compass. A compass is not an Apple web browser. If the navigation system fails or is out of satellite range what happens then?

Music? Look I’m not saying bring back eight-track tapes or anything but how does someone concentrate on driving when they’re more concerned about pairing a cell phone to the car’s music system or plugging a thumb drive into the aux port than staying in their lane. All that in between text messages. I still have a dent in head from my father getting my attention while driving and looking at a pretty girl at the same time.

All the “smarts” in newer cars are dumbing-down drivers and giving them the attitude that the car will do everything for them. That they don’t have to learn to do the basic maintenance checks that their car’s need.

To that point – I was getting my tires rotated and balanced two years ago and was talking with a few women in the waiting room who were having the same thing done. I thought – HUMMM? I asked the group of women did they know how many tires their car had? They all said, in harmony, four ‘you silly man’. I told them they were wrong, a car has five tires. The four touching the road and a spare. I then asked them when was the last time they’d put air in the spare and said that if they didn’t know the spare was either flat or very low and useless when needed. You’d have thought is was Halloween because they all turned white as a ghost. One even ran to the tire shop supervisor and very loudly insisted that he check her spare tire.

My point in all of this is that people are letting their technology do their thinking for them. Focusing more features than function, comfort instead of quality and thereby putting themselves out on the proverbial limb.

Is this how the descent of man begins?

Think Global – Act Local

Marine Biology: What it takes

After spending many years as a marine biologist I ended my career as the assist Chief of a southeastern state. Over the years hundreds of students, if not thousands, came through my lab. They ranged from grade and high school students to college undergraduates and graduates.

While I’ve never been one to rain on someone’s parade but all of them, except for the graduate students, had an unrealistic view of what it took to become a marine biologist and what kind of positions were available. Grade school and most of the high school students had a strong desire to work with dolphins, whales and sea turtles at marine aquariums. I told them marine mammal and turtle efforts were a small niches in the spectrum of marine biological work and that jobs were few. There are scientists with multiple graduate degrees lined up ten deep to work at places like Sea World for free or for a non-living wage. My work with dolphins and sea turtles was solely to answer calls about dead dolphins and turtles on the beaches, identify the carcasses to species and call our conservation enforcement officers to haul them away. I would then tell the students what it took just to get in the door as a marine biologist.

I came from working class family with no money to send me to college. So, I sat down and thought of a way to earn it (education and a skill set). With that as my focus, I dropped out of high school after the eighth grade (1965) with my father’s enthusiastic permission and started trade school for electronics. I progressed quickly from vacuum tubes and transistors to the first digital integrated circuit chips (one nand gate on a single chip!). Learned not only fix TV’s and radios but digital logic and circuit design. On graduation I joined the US Navy (at 17) and was assigned to communication intelligence for four years. My naval service provided me with the GI Bill (the old one) to fund college and kept me out of Vietnam.

Pausing for a moment, you can see that I worked on my backup plan first, electronics, so I would always (eat) have a career if I was unable to continue on the marine biology track. After the Navy, at 22, I started college earning an AA, BS, MS and PhD over ten years. Whew, what a rush!

The pursuit of letters after your name takes a lot time, money and effort. Economizing in every facet of your life to have the money for things you need to reach your goal rather than for things you want will become second nature. Included in these are vacations, new anything, a spouse, children and pets. Sounds rather draconian but that’s what I and a majority of my colleagues did. Remember, no Daddies’ money!

Work as a marine biologist encompasses a wide range of training, abilities and talents. As an undergraduate you’ll need to include courses most people in the sciences don’t take including public speaking, writing, statistics, accounting and personnel management. Don’t forget computer courses not only for use online but for doing quantitative analysis of data from your projects. Oh, there’s more. I don’t know of any state conservation department that doesn’t require an MS degree for an entry level position, so … grants and assistant-ships as an undergraduate and graduate student will come in very handy. Volunteering or working on your off time in an area that’s related to your interests in the field will come in useful later on. Sleep is optional.

Become a member of the American Fisheries Society – it’s our professional ‘club’. The contacts and friendships you’ll make there will be helpful throughout your career. Be very flexible in where you look for a job. I wanted to stay North of the Mason-Dixon Line but that was unrealistic given what was available at the time. Getting in the door is what matters.

In the beginning as a junior biologist you’ll be primarily involved in field data collection and may have your own specific project to work on. You’ll be supervised by a senior biologist and usually work with biological aides in the field – listen to them – they’ve probably been doing sampling for many years. Spending a lot of time in an open boat in all kinds of weather will be at the center of your operational wheelhouse. There are no rest stops at sea. If you’ve never handled a small boat, learn – there are courses. You’ll probably be using a pickup truck to haul boats on a trailer and be backing them down boat ramps. Never backed a trailer? Learn and don’t jackknife the trailer. It bends them and will bend your boss out of shape.

Let’s talk money. To be right up front about it you’ll be paid considerably less than if you had a master’s in other fields like electrical engineering, marketing or nursing. The only field where the pay is worse is teaching. Federal and state governments, which are by far the major employers, are short on funding so there will be freezes on raises and hiring. Medical and retirement benefits vary widely by organization. Do your research into each one because you and your health will change. The Winter of your life comes much sooner than you’d like to think. I’ve not been as emotional supportive as many might have liked in this article but I’ve given you the truth about a career in Marine Biology as I and many others have experienced it.

Where’s the up side? You’ll see and do many things that others have only dreamed about. They can include watching sea turtles hatch, dolphins playing around your boat for hours and seaweed glowing in the dark to name a very few. Once you start rising in the hierarchy within your organization and AFS there will be travel both nationally and internationally. Publishing professionally and for the public is something you’ll do. Public speaking will be part of your job and you’ll be asked to speak constantly. Ever been on TV? You will be.

I feel the most satisfying thing about being a marine biologist  is knowing that the work you did helped to make a difference in our world. And, that in the fullness of time as you lay dying, you can smile knowing you left the world a better place than when you arrived.

Good Luck!!

Think Global – Act Local!