Dog years

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It’s been two weeks since Rover ( the family dog) died and I feel especially awful that I haven’t really written much about it. I know animals don’t live as long as man but when you have a pet you just sort of expect it to live forever or at least till you are old. One thing I have always wondered though is whether animals perceive time and events the same way we do. Some say that a year for a human is 7 dog years. With that idea does that mean dogs experience comparatively more things than we do in the short time they are alive? If they do, how are they able to comprehend our space and time when they interact with us for instance?

As usual I did a little research about the perception of time for animals. A study by William Roberts popped up (you should read it). According to him, dogs (animals) are ‘stuck in time’; they don’t perceive time entirely in the same way as humans do. They are only aware of the present and do not have the sort of episodic memories that man has. Dogs are only able to tell time through their internal processes like hormonal changes and neural changes, and perhaps physical changes in the environment.

Roberts study made me realise that animals are a lot different from man than we can imagine; Dogs have no memories of the past because they cannot ‘time travel’ like we can. It occurred to me that may be the only reason why they have a different memory type is for them to enjoy each experience, hence not noticing how short their lifespan is-probably the reason why they don’t mind fetching the same bone over and over again for an hour. Hence, when they live one year it is like 7 years for them because they are not robbed off the eccentrics of each events that déjà vu won’t let humans enjoy.

Lots of arguments have been made to counteract Roberts’ evidence. But this study best answers my questions about dog years. Does it answer yours?

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Baby Language

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I spent the day wondering whether it is indeed possible to understand Baby language. This thought came to me when I struggled to comprehend what my one year old nephew was babbling. Think about this. If parents or caregivers understood baby language, then there would be no need for all the unnecessary cries and sleepless nights. In fact, caregivers would generally have more time for themselves, because both parties can understand each other.

To understand baby language I propose some sort of translating device be created (small enough to be inserted into the ear) which interprets baby talk in the language understood by the listener. Ok, I know what you are thinking. I agree this sounds too farfetched but I think it is possible. The first step to understanding Baby language is to carry out research on babies-from different parts of the world (by this I mean different languages), both gender, and of course on babies who speak baby language. The truth is, for baby talk to be a language there has to be some stable characteristics found in this language (similar word sounds like ‘dada’) should be observed, and a level of communication should exist between babies . This concept reminded me of Rugrats. The babies understood and communicated with each other, even the older kids that could speak English like Angelica still understood and communicated in baby language; I thought this was awesome. I still wonder if that is how it works in baby world.

I did some research to be clear on the issue and I discovered studies have actually been carried out on baby talk and baby language mostly with emphasis on the linguistic aspect. One of such studies is a study by Ferguson (2011) who analyses Baby talk in six different languages. Unfortunately, this researcher found baby talk was not a universal language; he noticed that there were variations in baby language across six languages, making baby talk inconsistent. One of the reasons he gave for this was that baby talk was really an attempt for babies to replicate the sounds made by their caregivers, not an actual language. Apparently, the sounds created by babies are mere imitations depending on their oral development and their interpretation of sounds. Does this new evidence mean there is no such thing as Baby language?

I think at this point we need to be clear on what a language is. A language according to dictionary.com is a ‘body of words and the systems for their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation…’ So my argument is simple, if a community of babies communicate by imitating an existing language does that still count as a language? Most definitely yes. If sign language (which is a replica of a language) is a language, why can’t baby language be? A language is not necessarily an eccentric piece of words and systems; it might be an existing system that is expressed differently.

At this point I wonder if Babies who speak baby language should be referred to as lacking the ability to speak? I ask this because it is all too common to hear a parent say, ‘oh she is just 11 months old, she can’t speak yet’. Well I think that expression would undermine the concept of Baby language wont it? So, I propose that rather than saying babies can’t talk just because they can’t speak the language you understand, say ‘she talks but she is still learning how to speak my language’.

I am a strong believer in the existence of baby language and I still believe that a translating device can be created to translate baby talk. It would be a good idea if I just go ahead to make a design first and get an engineer or someone who has the technology to invent it so you guys would know I’m serious. I’l probably call it “The Baby Translator”.

Reality

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What is the ultimate reality? This question popped into my head when I re-watched The Matrix a few days ago. Up until then I just assumed the movie was all about exaggerated fighting and the legendary backwards bends when Neo  dodged bullets and weapons from enemies. In fact I had this habit of confusing  The Matirix with Men in Black and Kong fu Hustle (it’s not my fault they have similar props) . Beyond the seeming comedy and extra effects in the movie I discovered something else. The plot. The movie to me has a fantastic plot which borders on the issues of what reality is. I am not much of a movie person but I noticed a similar theme when I watched Tron. There is this quest to understand reality better; by  questioning the present reality and  going a step further to propose that there is a different or  alternate reality from the existing reality we live in. Both Tron and Matrix propose that this alternate reality can be deciphered through the digital world- programming. While the latter suggests that the present reality is in fact controlled by computers, the latter believes that an alternate reality is existing synonymously with the present. Now this raises a funny question to me.  If there is another reality from what there is now, so what? Why does it matter.

According to Morpheus, the other reality is where man is free. Free from control, free from ‘evil’ and free to choose. The last time I ever thought so much about the concept of freedom was when I read Orwell’s  1984. In that book Orwell depicted a society where the masses were extremely controlled, the only people who were not under Big Brother’s control were the Proletariats. Yes, there were the poorest but they were the freest. So Orwell contrasting two classes of people in one society helps the readers to contrast two worlds and to make a choice for themselves as to which is better. What does Orwell’s story have to do with the Matrix?

It is simple. There is a direct relationship between freedom and the perfect reality. A reality that is different from the present. Script writers, movie directors and even book authors have published countless of literature on this issue to suggest to readers the possibility of an alternate reality. So is there an alternate reality? One thing I have noticed from the climax of all the movies and books that write on this reality issue is that the alternate reality is just as bad. In the Matrix for instance those characters who had escaped to the alternate reality Zion were still unsafe and threatened. In Tron evil had somehow sipped into the alternate reality and threatened to destroy the city. And in 1984, the proles had their own fair share of bombs and attacks from the other class. What is my point? The alternate reality would forever be dependent on the protagonist who will free the escapees from the conflict in the ‘perfect world’. Deciding to believe in the existence of an alternate reality is entirely up the reader eventually.

Hmmmmnn just had a brilliant idea. May be I should write about an alternate reality too… you know in the African scope. Any ideas what it should be called?

about writing

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I know I said I’ll never write about writing, but  I have to bend my rules a little. I have spent close to a month bickering about not writing my best, and suddenly it just hit me. I spend longer  thinking up a plot to write a perfect story (which never comes out right) forgetting they are more things to write about than fiction. There are just too many things to talk about than ideas and imaginations; hence, I think I have wasted my time not documenting my thoughts about things around me.

On the issue of non-fiction versus fiction which is better, I really don’t know. I think the writer of the genre will decide for himself/herself which they prefer. For me, I used to think I was very good at making up stories and just telling them from raw imagination. But what good is making up a story that takes twice as long to create? Writing is all about passion. If you can’t find passion in writing, then your write ups would suck!  Passion is a weird feeling. It is waking up at 4am and writing in this stream of consciousness all that is in your heart. It is knowing you have the best plot on your first draft. It is smiling in your heart when your story is criticised by others. It is writing a story that makes you feel more confident.

It has been a while I have done passionate writing. These days I feel I write out of compulsion. Compulsive writing is simple because it is easier to settle for whatever story (regardless of the errors) just to get that guilty feeling off your chest. But what good is writing when you know it is below your standard.

From the little experience I have, I think writing takes time and commitment. It doesn’t happen in one day. It is more of an acquired skill that over time gets better through practise. The more you write-no matter how lame the topic- the better you express yourself on paper. So for me, I think I’ll do some non-fiction for a while and see how that goes.