Latitudes and attitudes – it was cold outside this morning

St Paul MN is not in the Arctic, it just feels like it is. So just how far north are we?

According to Google Earth, my house in St Paul, MN is at 44.981692 degrees’ latitude. Which means it is about 0.9 miles south of half way (45 degrees) between the equator and the north pole. As a practical matter we are at 45 degrees latitude.

The latitude tells you how far north or south you are.

  • Equator = 0 (Zero) degrees’
  • North pole = 90 degrees’ latitude.

Each degree of latitude = ~69 miles (60 nautical miles)

How far north is St Paul, MN relative to other cities?

  • Moscow Russia = 55 degrees = 690 miles north
  • London England = 51 Degrees = 415 miles north
  • Paris France = 48 degrees = 205 miles north
  • Seattle Washington = 47 degrees = 140 miles north
  • Budapest Hungary = 47 degrees = 140 miles north
  • Rome, Italy = 41 degrees = 275 miles south
  • New York City = 40 degrees’ latitude = 350 miles south

To state the obvious, the earth is a sphere which spins counterclockwise (west to east) on the axis between the north and south poles. Both poles (high latitudes) are very cold and pretty much frozen year round. Whereas areas relatively close to the equator (low latitudes) are warmer and almost never freeze. Also affecting the temperatures is proximity to the oceans and their currents. Whether we live east or west side of a mountains makes a difference in the weather we experience.

Maybe not so obvious is that the mid latitudes have a freeze thaw cycle. A freeze thaw cycle increases the weathering (erosion) of rocks and boulders. A freeze thaw cycle also limits the spread of some diseases that are carried by various insects, fungus and bacteria because they cannot tolerate the freeze condition. In fact, life expectancies are longer in areas with a freeze thaw cycle.

Another maybe not so obvious thing is in areas where it freezes, human civilizations require some infrastructure. Tough to survive longer than a couple days of freezing weather without shelter with a heat source. A house in Minnesota that is not sealed against the elements is dangerous where in a warmer location the same house would just be annoying.

So let me get to the point. Humans all over the world adapt to where we live. Where we live changes what it takes to adapt. People who live in different places require different infrastructure. People who live in different places have different local customs often because they live in a different place.

Let us say the kids are driving you crazy and you need them to not. Send them out to play is the time honored solution around the world. In a warm climate, send a kid out in the back yard is a good way to get them out of your hair. If it is freezing outside for weeks on end, other solutions to getting your kids out of your hair are necessary. Living in St Paul Minnesota is different than living in Florida or central Africa or Paris France or Brazil or wherever. But different does not mean better or worse. What is common sense in one place is crazy in another place.

It is easy to make judgements about people in other places but unless you are there and understand the environment there, be careful how you judge. I can tell you from experience that if you want to not care about the weather, ever, St Paul is not your place. The weather matters in St Paul. Life here embraces the weather. It is a great place to live.

St Paul is half way from here to there. It is cold but there are some advantages with that. But we need to be careful about our attitudes about where people live. We need to remember many of the differences we see between people from different places are because there is in fact a difference in the climate. Just saying.

The only thing we have to fear is…fear itself


By all sorts of measures, we live in an amazing time of prosperity and health. Life expectancy has doubled in the past century. The number of people living below the poverty level was been cut in half since 1990 and continues to fall. Crime rates are generally down worldwide. Over 40% of the people on earth has an internet connection today, up from 1% 15 years ago. It truly is an amazing time to be alive.

Yet, on social media, negative and often false commentary is everywhere and gets repeated over and over again. For many people, the constant drone of the negative comments, affects them to the point where they have developed a sort of general, non-specific fear. They can’t specifically tell you what exactly they are afraid of other than with words like, them, technology, the government, un-named terrorists, and the like.

In the circumstance of an immediate, real danger, fear can save your life. But if the danger is not immediate or the danger is not real, you could start/continue living a life of fear and that is not a good thing. The question this post is looking at is if “the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself”
The actual quote is from the opening line of the short speech Franklin D. Roosevelt gave at his first inauguration in 1933:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

We were three years into the Great depression when Roosevelt was elected in 1932 and the end was not in site. Roosevelt got elected in a landslide on a message that fear was preventing action from being taken to get the economy going. Roosevelt’s New Deal, instituted unprecedented programs for relief, recovery and reform which led to years of economic growth.

Fear is a feeling caused by a perceived threat. When you feel fear, your brain is designed to do one of three things:

  1. Confront the threat
  2. Escape from / avoid the threat
  3. In extreme cases freeze (paralysis)

If a threat is immediate and real, fear causes you to react quickly to save your life. Hey, there is a big hungry looking bear right over there: I have fear. My brain is wired to tell me to quickly choose one of these three choices,

  • Run away
  • Try to scare the bear away
  • Freeze in place and hope the bear does not see you.

In real life it is pretty rare for us to be in a situation where a split second decision between fight, flight or freeze makes sense.

In real life, we almost always have time to make rational choices from several available options. Yes, there is a big hungry bear within 20 feet but you are in a Zoo. You are safe so no need for a reaction based on fear. Even in cases where there is real danger, if you have more than a couple seconds time, you can choose a course of action which mitigates the danger rather than limiting your options to fear’s, fight/flight/freeze. That swing looks scary. Take a second to think about it. If you hold on tight, you will be fine and have fun in the bargain.

There are lots social media posts which are specifically designed to make you afraid. They want you to take immediate action and inducing fear is a way to get you to do that. After all, taking immediate action when you are in danger is the purpose of feeling fear. The trick for dealing with this attempt to make you feel fear is not to fall for the trick. You have time to consider your options, you don’t need to make a split second decision. Fear is an available option but you choose a different option.

Here are some reactions you might consider rather than fear.

  1. You glance at a post; it does not interest you so you ignore it. Don’t get emotionally invested in it. Just go to the next post.
  2. If you know or suspect that a post is false (a lie), don’t spread it around. It is bad form to spread shit around and makes you a bad neighbor. Let it die from lack of interest.
  3. You read the post and wonder if it is true or not. Check it out. Like any good researcher, start with the assumption it is false. Recognize that if you question if it is true, it probably is not true. Trust yourself. But if you care enough to check it out. Google it. Look it up in Wikipedia. Does it say it is a hoax? Check other places. Does it make sense. Make a rational choice to accept it or reject it.
  4. You might discover that it is true, but then ask yourself, even if it is true, does it matter to me. Do I care enough to support it? Lots of things are true but really not relevant to you. (Person you never met and likely never will meet, got caught cheating on spouse and they got a divorce)


Remember there are good reasons social media is so popular. The connection established with others can be a very good thing. Sharing with others is a good thing. It can be an interesting, productive way to pass time and still be connected with friends. So for what it is worth, here are somethings I suggest.


  1. Don’t hesitate to ask for emotional support from your online friends or give an online friend support. That is what being a friend is all about.
  2. Your social media friends are real people with whom you are connecting in a real way. That is a good thing. Don’t pretend they are not real people.
  3. Don’t hesitate to share honest stuff with others about yourself or about people close to you or on topics you care about. I assume you all like seeing stuff about my grandchildren and other people close to me. I consider it part of the deal that you share part of your life also.
  4. Feel free to give opinions but understand that online, just like in person, people actually do judge you by the opinions you post. If you want to express an opinion but are not sure about it, just say so. Maybe something like: I am not sure how I feel exactly but I sure wonder about the direction the local school board is heading.
  5. You are human and so are others. None of us are perfect and most of don’t even want to be perfect. Don’t expect perfection in yourself or others. The best we can do is the best we can do.


My point is not to tell you how to feel other than to say fear should be saved for an emergency. Next time you read some crazy ass thing, fear not, ignore it or investigate it. If you investigate it, decide then how you feel and what next steps, if any, you want to take.




Living in fear is not a good choice to make. I think Roosevelt was right: “… the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Humans – Us vs. them?

Nope, not so much. Them pretty much are, us. Or to say it another way, we.

None of us picked the circumstances of our birth or who our parents were. None of us picked where we were born. None of us choose the economic circumstance we were born into. At birth, many of the things about our health, looks, orientations, and other traits are given us. We can’t take credit nor do we deserve blame.

So we can’t be blamed for being born who we are. but the question is biologically / genetically just how different are individual people from other individual people?

Biologically this is pretty easy to show. Adult Humans of child bearing age from anywhere on earth can mate with other humans of child bearing age from anywhere on earth and produce fertile offspring. If our DNA were substantially different that would not be possible. All humans are the same species: Homo sapiens. By definition that means they can successfully mate with each other.

In fact, on average, 99.5% (more if you are a biological relative) of our DNA sequence is the same as any other individual human on the planet. In plain language, we all have skin, bones, organs and the like. We have brains and toes and eyes and a mouth and the list goes on. Genetically speaking, for about 99.5% of our DNA; just by looking at the DNA, you can’t tell one of us from another.

But we have all noticed that some of us are taller than others. Some of us have different pigment color in our eyes. Some of our skin tones are lighter than others. Some are more susceptible to a certain disease than another person. These kinds of traits are controlled by the “0.5% of the DNA”. The traits we have from mom and dad creating a new person are 99.5% the same as everyone else but 0.5% are the result in the dominate and recessive gene combinations. Think of it this way, if the combinations of DNA in “the 0.5%” was not survivable, sadly, nature takes its course. Since we survived, we are essentially the same as any other human who survived.

All of our ancestors originated from central Africa about 200,000 years ago. We migrated from Africa to Europe and Asia (125,000 to 60,000 years ago) and Australia about 40,000 years ago. Then to the Americas about 15,000 years ago. Finally, to remote islands (Hawaii, Easer Island, Madagascar and New Zealand between 1,300 to 300 years ago.

Hey wait a minute! Have you seen the test your DNA commercials? We must be different from each other because they can tell who our ancestors are including what different regions our ancestors lived. Plus, people from different regions often look different from people in other regions.

No two humans are considered to be genetically identical. Human genetic variation results from the mixing of the genes of mom and dad and once in a while a mutation. But that said, all humans are very much genetically the same. So how can those DNA sample analyses stand up in court. How can those ancestry companies tell where your ancestors lived?

The current state of genetics looking at these differences one can determine a couple things:

  • If individuals are closely related (Is the deceased, your long lost multi-millionaire brother?)
  • Chromosomal crossover from combining mom and dad. Think recessive and dominate genes causing things like eye color, pigmentation of skin, height and other traits which can be seen and other traits such as pre-disposition to a disease, or pain tolerance, etc. which are not as readily seen.
    • Geographical and ancestral trending. Did the sample have characteristics matching ancestral populations known to have been in one continent or another (genetic distance) partially match this sample.

Note: Travel between the continents (ships and planes) over the past 300+ years have mixed the gene pool. Most people on earth have genetic indicators for multiple geographical and ancestral areas. When you see those ads for ancestral testing and the actor exclaims how surprised they were to discover their ancestors came different areas of the world, don’t be that surprised. Almost everyone on earth has ancestors that came from somewhere else. Most of us had ancestors from multiple other places.

So let me summarize.

All humans alive on earth are the same species from the same place 200,000 years ago. Over thousands of years, our ancestors migrated from continent to continent. Some minor differences between the genetic makeup of individuals from one continent to another emerged. But travel between continents over the past couple hundreds of years have mixed the DNA and made even these minor differences in the genes between individuals even less significant.

Here are a couple related points I feel should be made.

Skin pigmentation is determined by the genes of one’s biological parents. Until about 30,000 years ago all humans are thought to have dark skin. Then mutations of two genes caused lighter skin. Because some of these light skinned people were in climates with less ultraviolet radiation, northern Europe and east Asia, they were able to survive even with this light skin. As many people with light skin have discovered, exposure to excessive ultra violet radiation can lead to serious health consequences. From a genetic point of view, skin color is the result of small number of DNA pairs passed on by your parents and not an indicator of much else.

In a related note one of the benefits of the chromosomal crossover from different areas of the earth can improve our resistance to environmental factors such as the sun, cold, altitude, etc. Same is true for some diseases. It would be much easier for a single pathogen to wipe out an entire population if everyone had the exact same gene set. Our minor differences actually can help all of us.

So the final conclusion

At a genetic level, trying to distinguish between us and them is a fool’s errand. Pretending there is significant difference between populations of us and populations of them, is wrong factually and not good for the survival of the human species. I happen to believe it is also morally wrong but that is another story and we need to define morality before we get there.



I am listing the data below just to show some perspective (the name of this blog is Scale and Perspective after all) on how many humans there are and their current geographic distribution.

  • Human population on earth = 7.4 billion.
  • # humans have ever lived = about 108 billion. So about 6% of the humans who have ever lived are alive now.

Distribution of humans by continent

  • Asia = 4.4billion = 59.6% of total
  • Africa = 1.2 billion = 16.3%
  • Europe = 738 million = 10%
  • North and Central America = 579 million = 7.8%
  • South America = 422 million = 5.7%
  • Oceania = 39.9 million = 0.5% (Australia, and the islands of the tropical Pacific Ocean)
  • Antarctica = 1,200 non-permanent = 0.00002%

Plant trees – Your grandchildren will breathe easy and the water will flow cool and clear.

The US forest service estimates that over 100 million trees have died from the effects of California’s 6-year drought. That is a lot of trees.

Replacing that many trees would require a huge effort by a huge number of people. They would be planted mostly in places where they had water available. Probably all over the US. Individuals, private groups, businesses, government agencies at all levels would have to be involved. The question is if the effort required to cause over 100 million trees to be planted can be justified (worth it)?

Hell yes, it is more than justified, it is critical. The goal should be much more than 100 million new trees planted. I think the goal should be over a billion new trees. Maybe no other activity is more important to maintaining life as we know it.

I am not very good at leading a call to action but I certainly am able to explain why action is needed.

Trees have special properties that will save life on earth.

The primary reason is photosynthesis:

CO2 + 2H2A + photons → [​CH2O​] + 2A + H2O

carbon dioxide + electron donor + light energy → carbohydrate + oxidized electron donor + water

In plain language. Trees use the energy from the sun and water to take carbon dioxide out of the air and store the carbon back on (in) the ground and in the process, releases oxygen back into the air. Want to reduce the amount of the carbon dioxide in the air that is causing global warming, trees are a major component of the answer.

Per Wikipedia “Photosynthesis is largely responsible for producing and maintaining the oxygen content of the Earth’s atmosphere, and supplies all of the organic compounds and most of the energy necessary for life on Earth.

Trees are critical to the earths water cycle, carbon cycle and oxygen cycle. Trees also are critical to the habitat of a huge number of species of plants and animals.

Besides all of the scientific reasons, forests are nice to walk through and kids think trees are fun to climb and build forts in. Trees add value to homes and property.  Planting a tree is a wonderful way to mark the years as your children and grandkids grow up.  It really does help the environment a lot.

So please plant trees and encourage those in your sphere of influence to plant trees also. Your grandchildren will breathe easy and the water will flow cool and clear.

What is at the root of the deep social divide within the USA

Like a lot of people, I have been thinking about what caused of the deep social divide within the USA (worldwide).
The social divide can be understood by thinking of the collision between the industrial age and information age.   Said another way, the information age brought with it fundamental changes in what is “normal” and many people are struggling with that.

Inherent in the industrial age is the concept of the zero sum game.  According to Wikipedia a “zero-sum game is …a situation in which each participant’s gain or loss …is exactly balanced by the losses or gains …of the other participants.”   In practice it means if one person gets richer, someone else has to get poorer.  If one group gets ahead another group, by definition, falls behind.

It gets complicated but in the industrial age, social constructs such as ownership, group membership, marriage, wealth, employment and even crime are ruled by this zero sum concept.  Contracts, laws, societal norms, organization membership are very often about the rules under which the zero sum game of “haves” and the “have nots” is enforced.  My point here is not to judge the realities of the industrial age as being good or bad rather to point out that we, as a society, created those realities and lived within them.

Also inherent in the industrial age is the creation of value by building and or owning physical things.  My dad was a bricklayer.  He passed over 45 years ago but I still see the value he added when I view things I saw him build. The point is for those of us who grew up in it or are currently influenced by the industrial age, there are assumptions and concepts (constructs) that we knew were true.  Work hard and build something that will last more than a lifetime is an example.

Those industrial age constructs are to us, normal.  They are good.   We believe that ideas like, “owning a home is a good life goal” are good ideas.  Something to be proud of.  Owning a cool car is better than just functional transportation.  There are hundreds of examples of ideas like these that form the core of the social constructs of the industrial age. Trying to change those constructs is to try to change our way of life.  In America we called it the American way of life.  We fought/fight wars to defend our way of life.

Before the industrial age was the agricultural age.  The agricultural age had its own societal constructs which were under attack when the industrial age happened.  The industrial age started in the late 1700s.  It took over a century for the industrial age to reach the point of being pervasive over the agriculture age.

Remember that wars were fought around the world and here in the US between the agricultural and industrial points of view.  Young men went to war to defend their way of life.  For one side that way of life was mostly agricultural and the other side that way of life was mostly industrial.

The start of the information age is roughly in the 1960’s.  But around 2000 to 2010 the interconnected technology that is the information age became pervasive worldwide.

Clearly, the world is beyond the tipping point between the industrial and information ages.  We are in the information age.  There are still farms and factories but the information age has fundamentally changed both farming and manufacturing.  The information age has changed how most everything is being done.  Libraries, shopping, entertainment, jobs, memberships in various organizations, crime, wars, relationships, and more have all fundamentally changed within the past 10 – 20 years as a result of the coming of the information age.

Like it or not, the information age is here.  It did not take a century and devastating civil wars to reach the point information technology being pervasive.  Even a walk in the woods is often accompanied with a digital camera (your phone).

Whereas the underlying concept of the industrial age was the zero sum game, it is not the underlying concept of the information age.  Information is not zero sum in nature.  Just because one person has a piece of information does not mean another person cannot have the same information.  In fact, the underlying concept of the information age is exactly about the sharing of information.

In the information age, large manufacturing facilities do not employ large numbers of people.  A big farm does not employ far more people than a small farm does.  In the information age, membership in a group is often a virtual thing.  We pay bills online.  We purchase tickets for the big game online.  Much of our entertainment is streamed.  Not to mention the prevalence of online shopping.  We connect with each other electronically.  The list of examples demonstrating we are in the information age goes on and on.

I feel like there is no need to convince anyone we are in the information age because we all live in the information age every day.  What I think is not as clear is that the societal constructs (what is normal) of the information age are changing rapidly and they are different than those of the industrial age.

Let me give you an example.  Most of us have directly or indirectly been the victim of a cyber related crime.  Our credit card numbers, identities, accounts, have been hacked.  Many of us get called by people with scams trying to get our private information some of which are even sponsored by foreign governments.  Terrorist organizations are using online tools to recruit members.  People are spreading fake information, some of which is dangerous.  These types of information age crimes (cyber-crime) are rampant.

Fighting cyber-crimes, not surprisingly, requires understanding and use of information age tools and weapons.  One has to understand information age technology to defend us from the bad people who are attacking us by using that technology.  Which calls into question the balance between focusing on physical crimes vs focusing on cyber-crime by the various levels of enforcement agencies.  It certainly calls into question some of the focus we as individual citizens have on security.  The volume cyber-crime is skyrocketing.   Some of us need to focus more on our online security.   Point being, what is “normal” has changed from what it was in the industrial age to what it is in the information age.

Information age jobs are not threatened by immigrants willing to work for a lower wage.  In fact, most information age jobs are about skill in using information age systems.  Experience has shown that the age, gender, race, national origin, sexual preference, previous income level, sports achievement level, and the like have little or no bearing on a person’s ability to use information technology.  Training does help.  Access to the technology does.  Willingness to put in the time and work hard at it is probably the thing that helps the most.

So with all that background here is the point of this post.

It is very understandable that many people feel that something is basically wrong in the world because so many things they grew up knowing to be true are now, not so much.  The rules of the game have changed and nobody asked their permission first.   They don’t feel as grounded.  Things are just not right and something needs to be done about it.  It is not like it used to be.

On the other hand, many of those who have embraced the information age can’t figure out why everyone else feels so threatened by things that seem to be so beside the point.  From the information age point of view, getting everyone connected, is the goal not the thing to fight against.  From the point of view of the information age, only 4.4% of the world population lives in the USA and the goal is to interconnect the whole world population.  Because then they can market to not only the USA population but also those in the rest of the globe. From their point of view, the USA may actually be in danger of falling behind.


The deep social divide within the USA is understandable because with the coming of the information age, our way of life really has changed.  Accepting change in a way of life is tough.

I’ve spent what seems like a lifetime working on new system projects.  Some were very small projects, some relatively big.  Here is the reality when people have to adapt to a new system.  You cannot tell people how to feel about what is happening around them.  None of us can stop the information age from coming, it is already here.  But how you feel about it is your own business.

All we can do is reassure people that when things change they will still fit in.  They still belong.  They will not be left behind.   Most of the time whether that change is good or bad has nothing to do with what is actually changing.  What it has everything to do with is feeling like you fit in.  The problem is most often not so much that there is something new rather will this old thing that is me, still be relevant.

Worry not.  If you are reading this, you already fit in.  This post is in a media that can only be read if you are part of the information age.  So we move forward because that is what we do.

Thanks for reading my first post.

Why call this blog Scale and perception?


Perception changes with the scale.

If you look at earth from space, you see no humans.

If you look at eyelashes  through a microscope,

you see no humans.

Yet look around, you probably see all sorts of people.

The scale changes what you perceive.  The reality does not change.  Humans were present when these images were taken.

This blog is about looking at the world from different points of view before we conclude too much about what is real and what is not.

I wanted a title that indicated the blog would be about observations and ideas (perception) from various point of view (scale).

Thus: “Scale and perception”.