“Country Gentleman” magazine cover, November 1922. The 19th Amendment giving all women the right to vote wasn’t ratified until August 1920. (from here)

We take ourselves way too seriously. We have these big brains. We drive cars, fly airplanes, and go to the moon. We’re organized! We cooperate! We like to think of our democracy as highly sophisticated. It isn’t.

When ants are confronted with information overload and face too many decisions — about where to live, for instance — they revert to the wisdom of the crowd.

Despite having a brain smaller than the point of a pin, one ant species uses an elaborate system of sending out scouts to look for new homes. The scouts report back, and then the whole colony votes, according to researchers at Arizona State University.

The ants use chemistry and crowdsourcing, wrote associate professor of biology Stephen C. Pratt and graduate student Takao Sasaki at Arizona State University, in the current issue of Current Biology. (continue here)

In “THE LAW” VERSUS A CLEAR CONSCIENCE — reblogging Your Sister is in Jail, we considered Kim Davis’ refusal to obey the dictates of our rogue judicial system. We considered all these holy than thou pronouncements that if she isn’t going to obey “The Law” she ought to resign. Of course, the folks making these pronouncements always carefully obey the letter of The Law, and they don’t support the appointment of judges who make “The Law” say whatever want it to say. But that’s another subject. This post is about ant democracy, not our own.

Can you imagine how ants decide where to put their nest or colony? Observation suggests they vote with their feet. The fancy word is quorum.

But the ants live in areas in which the potential number of possible nest sites is overwhelming. One ant can’t cope with making the decision. No one is in charge in an ant nest.

“They distribute the task among colony members,” said Sasaki.

That’s where the crowdsourcing comes in.

According to Pratt and Sasaki, the ants send scouts to check out some potential home sites. The scouts look at such things as the size of the entrance and how big the cavity is. If the ant likes what she sees, she returns to the colony.

She sends out a pheromone message, “Follow me,” and another ant will join her in what is called tandem running. She takes her colleague out to view the potential site.

If the second ant likes what she sees, she goes back and repeats the process, bringing back another ant. If she doesn’t like it, she merely returns to the colony. If enough ants like a site, the colony reaches a quorum, essentially choosing the new home. (from here)

Think about the choice of words, “the ants send scouts to check out some potential home sites.” Really? Nope! “No one is in charge in an ant nest.” For some reason (I have no idea what reason.), scouts “decide” to scout. After that, a nonviolent struggle begins. In a test of “wills,” “persuasive power,” and endurance, the ants pick their new colony. When we are lucky, we make collective decisions so well.

If you are curious, here are some other articles on the subject. Just remember one thing. We don’t understand how ants make decisions. We are not that smart. We can only model their behavior. Maybe, however, if we study ants enough, maybe we can learn from them how to run a democracy peaceably.



In a previous post, SO YOU LIKED MY POST?, I expressed considerable ambivalence about the like function. There is no restriction on its use by spammers and trolls and various other troublemakers. Thus, the fact that spammers now like everything they can get at does not surprise me much.

Nevertheless, I am still somewhat puzzled by people who like what I have posted when I in fact know they don’t. I suppose they do it for the same reason as the spammers. By pretending they are what they are not, they want to bring unsuspecting people to their websites.

There is also another possibility. Frustrated trolls may just want to remind me and their other victims they are still around. That thought actually caused me to chuckle. The gravatar of one of guys I kicked off my blog refers to an Egyptian pharaoh. It is long time since that pharaoh been around.

So what have I learned. Be wary. The Internet is a wonderful place except when it is not. If we don’t recognize the gravatar, there is a good chance that clicking on it will just take us where we did not want to go.

Anyway, while it is thoughtful to “like” what others post, we should not expect anyone to click on an unfamiliar gravatar. If we want a visit, we must now do what a spammer can’t do and what a troll won’t do. We must leave a thoughtful comment.


Here of late I have suffered from an aching neck. I sit too much at a desk, and I have a tendency to slouch. I thought about getting a better chair, but I am cheap.  You would think I would learn, but I have never paid enough to get a decent chair, one that would actually give my back proper support.  Grimly, I realized I probably never would. So I puzzled over the matter.  What about an inexpensive standing desk.

I looked at the bookcase we have in the basement. I bought it years ago at Lowes. At the time I thought it a clever design with unfinished wood.  The sides had slots. The beams that supported the shelves fitted snuggly into slots in the sides, and the shelves had grooves in the underside so that they rested securely on the beams.

Wooden pegs made the concept work.. Once I stuck each beam into a slot into the side, I used a wooden peg (hammered through a slot in the beam) to hold it in place.

So I bought what I needed, put it together, and finished it. It turned out to be an easy job, and has set there, trouble free, for years. So I hoped Lowes was still selling those bookcases. With a few modifications, I figured I could easily use one as a standing desk. Unfortunately, I did not have any luck.

So I tried something else. Searching for “standing desk,” I discovered A standing desk for $22.  Here is a picture of the design I copied.

Introducing The Standesk 2200

Since I wanted a contraption that would hold two monitors, I got a cheap coffee table and a longer shelf. So I suppose that makes mine The Standesk 2700?

Anyway, it may have been inexpensive, but finding the parts, putting it together, and convincing my lady I would not break anything took up most of the day.

Of course, I have now rediscovered why people like chairs.  I now need to rest my weary legs. So I now need a barstool that will cost more than The Standesk 2700.



intersectionSometimes a star gives light. Sometimes its twinkle mocks and teases us and leaves us in the dark.

When we interact, our lives intersect. Then we have a choice. Either we can fight over the same space or we can share the same space agreeably. In either case, we will see stars, faint twinkling lights.

Sometimes we will see stars from the collision of two hard heads. These whirl around about our us, reflecting our confusion, our hurt — sometimes our misery and despair. But sometimes, when we choose to share, we will see distant glimmers of hope that grow in brightness, sometimes as bright as the sun, which is itself a star, one that gives both light and warmth.

With respect to the practice of blogging, A Tribute to the HarshReality of Blogging by insanitybytes22 describes both kinds of intersections, the sorrow of fruitless argument and the joy that comes from sharing.

Biblical grace defined. Well, sort of by I 53:5 Project humorously considers the problem of intersecting with difficult neighbors.

Happy Caturday by bluebird of bitterness looks at the intersection of a cat and a dog.

It’s all about the place by ColorStorm considers how difficult we can find it to understand the meaning of those twinkling lights. When we make it about ourselves, we get it all so wrong.

Will The Great Victory Fade Away? by edge of the sandbox describes the lingering reaction of a great nation in the aftermath of great collision.

Love According to God-Part One by Wally Fry begins an explanation of how we should approach the intersection of our own life with that of another.