The Pospers Erupt

I’ve decided to call them ‘pospers’. It’s a word that is a contraction of two other words, a bit like ‘blog’ is the shortening of ‘web log’, and ‘web’ is the contraction of ‘world wide web’, and ‘log’ is the contraction of ‘logbook’.

Now you’re probably wondering what these ‘pospers’ might be, because I haven’t said what they are yet. Nevertheless some of you may already have a few ideas what they might be. And most likely all sorts of different ideas.

This is the trouble with words. Until they are properly defined, nobody knows what they mean. And, in the absence of clear definition, people will imagine them to mean all sorts of things.

Take for example the word ‘tree’. It only means something once it’s been defined. And to show someone what a tree is, you have to take them to a tree, and point at it, and outline it (describe it) with your finger. You draw a picture with your finger, .and say, “A tree is one of those green things sticking out of the ground.  Green at the top, and reddish-brown at the bottom. Although sometimes they’re grey-green at the bottom, or even silver. But they’re all called trees.” And you might have to elaborate a bit more and say that the birds sitting on the tree aren’t part of the tree. And neither are the squirrels.

Until you’ve stated clearly what you mean by a ‘tree’, nobody will know what you’re on about. Some people may have gathered that they’re things that stick out of the ground, and think that lamp posts and telephone poles are trees. Other people may have learned that trees are green, and think that green fields and water lilies are trees. And, once they’ve found that trees branch, some people may think rivers are trees. And some people may confess that they haven’t a clue what ‘trees’ are. And some might even say that a ‘tree’ is an entirely imaginary thing, and that ‘trees’ don’t really exist.

Take ‘materialism’. Rick S wrote earlier today:

As I understand it, what Di Pierri means by “materialism” is the reduction of all human activity to observable, physical phenomena – i.e. everything is focused on the body and only its physical health matters. Psychological health is of no interest, and neither are abstract concepts like happiness and pleasure.

Is it that ‘materialists’ only see material things, and discount everything else as imaginary? Or is it that ‘materialists’ simply discount things that are ill-defined?

A human ‘body’ is something that can be defined with a pointed finger, just like a tree. You trace the outline with a finger, and you say “That’s a body.” And you may add that the bit sticking out of the top is a ‘head’, and out of the sides are ‘arms’, and underneath are ‘legs’. And so everybody knows what people are talking about when they refer to the ‘body’ with its arms and legs and heads. And if you chop up bodies, you can also say that they’re filled with veins and blood and bones and muscles and hearts and lungs and kidneys, pointing to each one of them with a finger, just like you pointed at the tree. And so everybody knows what they are too (if they happen to have chopped up a few bodies, that is.).

But when it comes to words like ‘alive’ and ‘dead’, it’s a bit harder. You have to get lots of live bodies, and live trees, and live birds, and point at them and say, “All these things are alive, because they’re growing and walking and flying around.” And then you have to show them a bunch of dead bodies and dead trees, and say, “All these things are dead, because they’re no longer growing and walking and flying around.” The living things all share certain characteristics, and so do the dead things. But there isn’t something called ‘life’ or ‘death’ that you can point at.

It’s harder with words like ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy’. An ‘unhealthy’ body is as alive as an ‘healthy’ one. But maybe there are some characteristics that ‘healthy’ things share, and those are maybe that they run around, and jump up and down, and glow a bit, while ‘unhealthy’ things keep still and stay in bed, and have a general feebleness and pallor about them. And so after a while you get to be able spot which things are ‘healthy’ and which are ‘unhealthy’, particularly if you spend most of your time chopping up bodies in a place half full of seriously unhealthy and very often dead bodies.

And it’s even harder to put your finger on what’s meant by words like ‘happiness’ and ‘pleasure’. How do you tell if someone’s ‘happy’? How is anyone to know what ‘pleasure’ is? Maybe you could say that ‘happy’ people have ‘smiles’ on their faces. But then you have to define what a ‘smile’ is, by showing a bunch of faces, some with smiles on them, some not, and point out which is which. After which, you might confuse things by saying that happy people don’t always have smiles on their faces, and unhappy people are perfectly capable of smiling, particularly if they’ve just been handed $200,000. So it’s not obvious who is ‘happy’ and who is ‘unhappy’, and whether they’re smiling or not isn’t a perfect measure of someone’s happiness. And so, if you spend all your time in a hospital, you might be pretty good at telling who’s alive and who’s dead, and who’s healthy and who’s unhealthy, but you’re maybe not too sure who’s happy and who’s unhappy. But it doesn’t really matter, because your sole concern is to keep people alive and healthy. And if you’re a lunatic doctor you’ll think that the whole world is a hospital.

And it’s even harder still to describe what’s meant by ‘freedom’ or ‘justice’. We’ve just been having a spot of bother defining or identifying a ‘happy’ man, so what about a ‘free’ man? And a long time ago I read a book called “The Four Just Men”, and the whole time I was reading it I was wondering what a ‘just’ man was. Maybe it was that they were just men in the usual laddish sort of way men often are? They certainly behaved that way. They killed off rather a lot of people, if I remember rightly. What was ‘just’ about that? How do you tell if someone is ‘free’ or ‘just’? And is ‘freedom’ something different from ‘liberty‘?

And what about ‘God’?

The less well described or defined things are, the more people are likely to say that they either haven’t a clue what’s meant by them, or that they’re imaginary things which don’t really exist. And lots of people don’t believe there’s a God. And why should they, if the only description they have is of a bearded old man in a Roman toga sitting on a cloud? And so also ‘justice’, ‘freedom’, ‘happiness’, and so on. For some people these words are also so ill-defined as to be meaningless. And therefore non-existent. So they don’t think about them, and stick to things that are well-defined, like trees and bodies and kidneys.

So materialists maybe restrict themselves not so much to material things, but to things that are well-defined (as material objects usually are). A materialist maybe wouldn’t object to abstract concepts like the number 2, or the square root of 2, just so long as these are well defined, even though nobody ever tripped over the square root of 2.

If abstract words are to be used, then they must be carefully defined. It’s very important to define terms, because if you don’t, nobody will understand what you’re talking about, and will eventually conclude that you’re talking a lot of nonsense. It’s no good just hoping that your idea of ‘happiness’ or ‘freedom’ is the same as everybody else’s, because it probably isn’t.

Anyway, about my ‘pospers’.  I had better describe them. And my ‘pospers’ are the ‘possible peppers’ that have erupted out of my seed tray today. They’re already quite big. When they first appeared today they were already bigger than any of the tobacco seedlings that emerged a few weeks back. They have pointed leaves, shaped like spears, curling over at the tip. They’re coming out of the pots that I planted pepper seeds in, but I’m far from sure that they actually are peppers. They might be seeds that came in the GrowBag. Hence the ‘possible’ bit, and my uncertainty about naming them. After all, they might be turnips.

About Frank Davis

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23 Responses to The Pospers Erupt

  1. reinholdfrombavaria says:

    :-) Classic.

  2. Im still with Jethro over here at the cement pond…lernin cyphering! Elle Mae isnt much on teaching but she shorr iz eye candy………………

  3. Wiel Maessen says:

    OT: Frank, prepare for an important press release on Monday… It’s about the plans of Horecaclaim Europe.

  4. waltc says:

    This seems to be relevant to the discussion about pleasure and the brutal materialism of Public Health. This interesting quote is from the 1986 Surgeon General’s Report about secondhand smoke, page 32

    “The significant benefits of smoking occur primarily in the area of mental health, and the habit originates in a search for contentment. Since no means of measuring the quantity of these benefits is apparent, the Committee finds no basis for judgment which would weight benefits against hazards of smoking as it might apply to the general population.”

    Does that nail it or what? The inchworm, unable to measure the marigold, douses it with paraquat. Or look at it this way: Just because mental health and contentment (acknowledged as “significant”) can’t be measured , they can therefore be forbidden by legislative act.

  5. smokingscot says:

    Grown Turnips & Swedes for years. 1st leaf stage looks like a 4 leaf clover.

    Hope you understand you’ve got all the search engines royally pissed. It used to be for possible perspectives and someone has the URL for it. Google it and there’s our Frank page 1, no. 2 for this post!

  6. Rose says:


    That’s a brilliant find, it does explain a lot.

    Here’s Murray Jarvik struggling with the same thing in 1964, after reading it I felt altogether differently about him trying to poison me. It’s a very long letter and well worth the read. Interesting theories on “pleasure centres”

    Murray Jarvik (co-inventor of the nicotine patch)

    Re: Possible Virtues of Cigarette Smoking – 1964

    Alexander Holtzman
    47 Plaza Street
    New York

    Dear Mr. Holtzman,

    I have decided to sent you my latest thoughts on possible virtues of cigarette smoking in the form of a letter because I feel this form is less formal than a separate presentation and I feel less inhibited.
    As I see it all of the emphasis during the past few years has been on the dangers of smoking and practically nobody has been interested in studying the beneficial effects.

    It may be because this is harder to do, but it also stems,I believe from the interests of special groups.
    The American Cancer Society is interested in cancer and the American Heart Association is interested in cardiovascular disease and, rather naturally, they tend to be rather narrow in their interest in a problem. THe Public Health Service Commission on Smoking and Health was primarily concerned with physical health and that is why they devoted less than two pages to psychological effects of smoking in their recent report.

    I think that there is little doubt that smoking is more likely to have a deleterious rather than a beneficial effect on physical health.It would be difficult to find evidence that it directly prevents somatic disease although there is a survey of such uses (Larson, Haag, and Silvette pp736-796)
    For example tobacco infusions have been successfully used a vermifuge but the dangers are great and much better treatments are available. It has been used in the treatment of such conditions as asthma, croup, nasal polyp, tuberculosis etc etc but there is little acceptable evidence of efficacy. It appears that one must seek the desirable properties of tobacco use primarily in psychological effects rather than in physical actions. There may, however, be psychosomatic effects which are highly desirable and could be ascribed to tobacco.

    The reason people will give for smoking is that they derive pleasure from the habit. It is most difficult to define pleasure and psychologists have struggled with the concept for a long time.”

    “It is interesting that the use of these agents has been severely condemned by groups and individuals.
    Prohibitionists actually succeeded in outlawing the sale and production of alcoholic beverages for a while.
    It is difficult to know whether the movement was motivated by a concern for health or for moral righteousness.
    Much of the fervour for restricting pleasurable activities can be traced to antiquity and has been interpreted as a form of sado-masochism by psychiatrists.

    Almost all of the major religions of the world have severe restrictions upon activities which are enjoyed by other religions and include strictures against eating beef, pork, animal foods, against coffee, alcohol, smoking and against sexual intercourse ( only in selected individuals )

    In some cases isolation and the infliction of physical pain have been considered virtuous.
    In our country such attitudes have come to be known as our Puritan heritage although the sources are really more diverse and they have had a profound effect upon behaviour and the nature of the laws that govern us.

    Psychiatrists and theologians sometimes do not see eye to eye in their evaluation of such restrictions.”

    Reading that letter reminds me of this article 30 years later.

    “And, he says, the new findings about carbon monoxide and nitric oxide have taught neurobiologists an important lesson: “It makes you think that when people are evaluating whether a given chemical is a candidate neurotransmitter, they ought to be very careful about applying the rules of ancient days.”

    Anti-tobacco are still stuck in the “drug” mindset,but I think if Jarvik had been starting now, he might have found his answer.

  7. Rose says:

    Frank, your peppers puzzle me, I wouldn’t have thought that the seeds in a green pepper would be mature enough to sprout. I hang the top end of a ripe pepper complete with a little flesh to continue maturing for a couple of months before I harvest the seed.

    But if you are using a grow bag there shouldn’t be any weed seeds in it.

  8. Frank Davis says:

    Have they got the right shaped leaves, though? I’m far from convinced that they’re peppers. And if they are, I don’t know whether they’re sweet peppers or chilli peppers.

    If they are, they weren’t matured at all. They went straight from the chopping board into the seed tray, each buried about half an inch under the soil. I now have 7 of them.

    I don’t see why it should be necessary to dry a seed, except for long distance transportation. It would seem to me that if peppers were to grow in the wild, they’d stay inside the pepper pod after it fell off (if they fall off).

  9. Frank Davis says:

    It’s a very interesting question, Rose, whether in the wild peppers (or any other fruit) make themselves tasty and sweet so that they will be eaten (and have their seeds distributed far and wide). But when I look at these things, they look to me like they are stores of energy (in the form of sugars) and water which will nourish the seeds that germinate inside them. In a dry environment, the seeds will not germinate unless they are also given some water – so you get things like coconuts which are full of sugary water. In a wet environment, this may not be needed. It’s a bit like there’s an air sac inside hen’s eggs so that chicks can breathe before they break out of the eggshell enclosing them.

    Another thing about many of these fruits is that they can float on water. Apples float. So do oranges. And with their air chambers, peppers will float too. And coconuts float as well. (But tomatoes don’t seem to). And this means that in floods or next to rivers, these fruit will be dispersed tens or hundreds of miles. And even cross oceans.

    • Rose says:

      Try it.

      Put a ripe pepper in a saucer and leave it for a month to see what happens, my bet is that you’ll grow a nice collection of moulds but nothing else.

      How are seeds and fruits dispersed?

      Seeds and fruits are dispersed in four main ways.

      by animals
      by the wind
      self dispersal
      by water (not so important in the British Isles)

      • Frank Davis says:

        Maybe I will. But a saucer in a kitchen isn’t in the ‘natural world’. I’d prefer to half bury it beside a stream. In Kenya.

        • Rose says:

          You could put water and compost in the saucer.

          Btw if I’m not mistaken, I’m sure I saw that the chilli seedlings in trays were in at the local garden centre along with the tomato seedlings, I couldn’t be sure as I was hurried past having been banned from buying any more plants or seeds until autumn at the earliest.
          They are much cheaper and more fun than waiting to buy the plants, as I suspect that your seedlings are sweet peppers.

  10. Wiel Maessen says:

    OT 2: Press release has been postponed to Thursday allowing time for translation in other languages.

  11. Latest NAZI claims……………. UK

    Smoking ban ‘is improving health’
    Mar 26 2012
    Scotland is continuing to gain the health benefits from the smoking ban introduced exactly six years ago, according to an anti-smoking charity.

    Legislation outlawing smoking in enclosed public places, such as pubs, restaurants and almost all workplaces, came into force in Scotland on March 26, 2006.

    The law was introduced to protect people from the health risks of passive smoking, and is enforced by local environmental health officers, who have the power to enter all no-smoking premises to make sure the law is being complied with.

    Ash Scotland said the ban has proved popular among smokers and non-smokers with 83% of adults supporting it, including almost half of adult smokers. The charity also said health figures, such as a reduction in the rate of child asthma admissions by 18% per year since the ban, support its implementation.

    There has also been a fall from 25.4% pre-ban to 18.8% in the number of mothers who smoke, according to research.

    Ash Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “Six years on we can clearly see how Scotland’s smoke-free law is benefiting people. That law was opposed by the tobacco industry who sought to delay and derail it, much as they are doing with current legislation.

    “Tobacco smoke is a toxic substance and poses a threat to health, particularly to children’s health. We need to continue to strive for people’s right to breathe clean air.”

    Earlier this month a study showed that complications in pregnancy have fallen as a result of the ban. Researchers found there had been a decrease in the number of babies being born before they reached full term and a reduction in the number of infants being born underweight.

    The research team, led by Professor Jill Pell of the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing, looked at more than 700,000 single-baby births before and after the introduction of the ban.

    Dr Pell said: “These reductions occurred both in mothers who smoked and those who had never smoked. While survival rates for pre-term deliveries have improved over the years, infants are still at risk of developing long-term health problems so any intervention that can reduce the risk of pre-term delivery has the potential to produce important public health benefits.”

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