Tuesday, May 27, 2014

On Camping

For a number of people camping is the favorite, and, sometimes the only way of relaxation. But is it easy to go camping? As the experience of those who enjoy this wonderful pastime says - not at all. As an outdoor activity, camping became popular in late nineteenth century and its idea was and still is to enjoy the nature and those of its places where human’s feet never stepped before. And there’s no wonder that it’s popular for such a long time: despite the fact that it’s interesting and intriguing (a lot of people have no idea how it feels to live in the open green for several days), it also affects health and strength of the body in a very good way. There is a variety ways to go camping, from survival camping with minimum equipment to motorhome camping, which provides almost country house conditions. In this essay, a case with standard, three-day camping in forest for a company of five persons will be described.
When planning the tour, the first thing to think about is location. It is important to thoroughly study the climate, weather broadcast, terrain, and the most important thing - reviews of the people who used to go camping nearby the planned location and know it well. Such reviews, as well as another important information, can be easily found in the Internet. At this point, anything can matter since camping is considered an extreme sport, because in case of emergency there is nobody but other members of the team to provide the first aid. It is not less important to know if anyone of members has a latent disability or a disease which symptoms can appear in such conditions as staying outdoors for a prolonged period of time. That person and a team must decide whether there is any sense for him to go and if there still is, which steps should be taken to prevent incidents. Naturally, all campers must have at least one first-aid-kit (which I will mention in the list of important things), but in some emergency cases it is nearly useless, therefore, rule number one for all campers is to be careful and aware of anything bad that can potentially happen.
For a company of five, a lot of equipment will be needed, but still all the things can be carried in hands and backpacks. First of all, each member and a group together should think on what they don’t need. As practice says, all the equipment can be placed in backpacks, one for person and in bags, also one or two for person. Take out anything fancy, unimportant, or those commonly-known things which might be used, and might not. Cut down on bathroom needs, taking only a toothpaste and a toothbrush. For an overnight trip, the number-one important thing is a tent. Tents usually accommodate two or three persons, hence for a group of five, one two- and one three- person anti-mosquito standard-size tents will work very well.
Security measures should be taken into account, too. Not that each tent must have its fire evacuation plan hanging inside, but a lot of important things should be considered. For example, if there is even a slight possibility of meeting a wild animal, a fire should never be extinguished during all the stay at particular place, and there must always be at least one person to guard others when they sleep and to wake them up in case of emergency. Also, somebody must always keep an eye on fire and never let it stop or damp. As practical experience shows, there were a lot of situations when a camp in woods was surrounded by wolves, who, afraid of fire, did not came closer or attacked people. For the fire, five or six pills of dry alcohol, newspaper and waterproof matches will be enough. Dry brushwood could be easily found in any forest even after rain (dead branches and sticks parch up very quickly after the rain stops). If campers choose such a kind of place, hunters’ weapons should be taken for better protection as well. For example, predators can attack people on their way to campsite or on their way back. During such a meeting, people must not panic. Weapon should always be ready to hand, and usually it is not important to kill the predator: in most cases animals run away scared with loud noises of shooting and too afraid to come closer afterwards.
The backpacks and bags themselves must be also chosen very carefully: before purchasing them, all the equipment should already be purchased and ready to pack, so it could be understood how big the bags should be for all the things to be placed in them. Only those bags which are designed for camping and made of special waterproof fabric, such as tarpaulin, should be chosen. Remember that a lot of things which should always stay dry will be packed inside, and even if the weather broadcast announces a sunny weather for all the next week, it can be wrong anytime.
Another important thing for overnight camping are sleeping bags, which are very convenient in field conditions. Sleeping bags should be chosen personally since there are no “universal” bags which are comfortable for everyone, however, they also must meet special requirements, such as, they must be light, take as less space as possible, be waterproof and nonflammable for security purposes since tents should be placed not far from fire, and despite the fact that there always is a person who watches the fire, security reasons must me among all (ignoramus who watches it can fall asleep).
After choosing the bags, it’s time to think about food. For this kind of activity, the best choice is canned and pre-pack food. The choice is huge: from dry spaghetti to half-staff puree, from canned meat to condensed milk. Potatoes and sausages can be cooked on the fire at campsite. Coffee, tea and sweat cookies is also a good idea. It is always important to know if somebody from a group is allergic to a particular type of food: even a “hidden” allergy can appear anytime, which is very undesirable in field conditions.
As it was announced before, one of the most important things to take is first aid kit. A standard car kit will be the cheapest and most optimal choice: there is no necessity to collect any medications, because everything necessary, with a clear instruction on how to recognize the symptoms and use the drugs is packed inside. What is more, there is no opportunity to forget something important. Such kits can be purchased in any pharmacy. Always look on shelf life and expiration date: overdue drugs can cause a serious damage to health and state of the body, such as stomachache, headache or vomiting, same thing with overdue food. Remember that on-field conditions is considered a severe pastime, and even if a team travels in a van, there is still nobody to help in case of emergency. A soap should be packed as well: it is a universal antiseptic. The best choice is a hand soap made for children.
While packing the things, think how the room inside the bag can be used in most convenient way. Nobody wants to carry a half-empty bag with a lot of air in it. To use the space inside the bag properly, put heavier and bigger things on the bottom, and lighter (or smaller) things on the top. This way, it will be easier to pack and to unpack a bag. Another smaller items, such as anti-mosquito body spray, camping tableware (for cooking on fire and eating), lanterns, pills or other drugs and ropes can be packed in person, depending on what each member of the group needs. Everyone should think on what he might need during the three-day hiking away from home, and thoroughly plan the weekend of visiting nature.
After collecting everything necessary, a company must decide how to pack it all and who carries what. Usually, members divide the equipment in equal parts and put them into backpacks and bags: each person carries one backpack and one or two bags. If nobody took anything extra, everything easily fits inside.

Now the company is ready to go. Its members should leave urban areas early in the morning, preferably with sunrise, so there will be more time to find an appropriate place for campsite before the Sun falls and the dark comes. During the summer month, the length of the day is around sixteen hours, which for nearby camping is more than enough. On the way, the time should be spent wisely: each member should do his best to adapt to local environment and conditions. A short halt can be made every three to four hours. Obviously, be aware of swamps and marshes: the better the map of the terrain will be studied beforehand, the safer the hike will be. Usually it takes about ten hours to get to the chosen place (people usually choose the most distant place from urban areas to get full impression from camping), but it must be taken into account that some unforeseen circumstances can occur. Members of the team can have GPS or compass, but outside people’s usual habitat (actually, sometimes inside it too) anything can happen. Stay safe, and enjoy your camping!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Moscow Dreamflash

MOSCOW - Annual festival of happiness and sharing the positive energy, bubbles and cosplay parade commonly known as the Dreamflash, was held yesterday in the capital of Russia. This event, as usual, was very long-waited and marked the final coming of summer. Similarly to the previous one, this year's Dreamflash was held at the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy, and was meant to take place from the main entrance to the Industry plaza, which is still a very huge area; but subsequently spread among all the territory of the exhibition. The parade itself was held in Moscow for the eighth (from other sources, ninth) time. During this period of time it turned from a friendly meeting and flash mob into a massive international nonprofit festival, organized within sixty cities in Russia and ten countries of the World. As Business FM's official website writes, "Moscow's Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy became the headquarters of the event both last year and this one". Above all, it is now considered as one of main Moscow's attractions for both muscovites and tourists. The Sydney Morning Herald claimed this event as one of the "Best of the world" - which is the newspaper's column about international events. It is known as an event where people indulge in childhood, an event where your best friend is a person who you see for the first time.
As usual, the festival was characterized as a huge meeting of people who share their happiness with each other, and a depression prophylaxis. As usual, there were people dressed up in a variety of crazy costumes their imagination could come up with, but the dress-code was the only one: bubbles.
This year everything was organized properly and the majority of attendees felt very happy and took an unforgettable impression with them. It could be easily noticed that the Dreamflash becomes more popular, and its organization more complex. Due to similar location, it was very easy to compare with the same event last year, and the first thing that changed was the number of people who came. It could not be counted exactly, but to compare, in 2013 the crowd left the subway station by 15:00, while this year it was still crowded at 16:00 because all the people could not make it there (keep in mind that both last year and this one the event started at 14:30). Traffic, as reported, was very hard in greater Moscow area around that time (mid-day), which was not reported nor observed before. Some sources reported a crush between 14:15 and 15:00 while others did not confirm this information. The official web-site of Moscow subway warned of it in advance and suggested to use alternative routes of communication.
The main characteristics of the event were as following: in the beginning, a giant balloon was released in the air to announce the beginning of the festival. The festival itself this year was accompanied with symphony orchestra. According to The Village, anyone could become a participant of the festival freely, with a costume or without it. A variety of smaller events, such as concerts of Brazilian carnival music band "Samba Real", African-style musicians and dancers "Sofoli" (which impressed its audience the most), dancing and best costume competitions and bubble-blowing battles were also held without charge or asking for admission. Fairy-tale and sci-fi characters, stilts, movie and cartoon cosplayers, jumpers, brides and grooms were all there. The official web-page of the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy described the event as "many-thousand bad mood fighters' march".

Sunday, May 11, 2014

What is Knowledge?

For ages people have wondered on this question, but officially there are still no particular definition for this term. A lot of different explanations (or, it would be better to say, attempts of explanation) on what it means that we know something, exist; but a particular answer was still not given. Many philosophers have studied this phenomena since ancient times, and formed a special branch, which they have called “epistemology”. The question of knowledge seems to be not less interesting then, for example, the question of meaning of life, origin of universe, or, finally, famous Shakespeare's “To be or not to be”. Literally, what does it mean that we know something?
Among all others, Plato’s definition of knowledge as “justified true belief”, which was accepted as a traditional definition of knowledge, seems to be more clear. What does it mean? From his “Dialogues on Knowledge and Forms”, it can be referred that “in order to know that a given preposition is true, one must not only believe the relevant true proposition, but one must also have justification for doing so” (from The Concept of Justified True Belief, which is the part of “Dialogues”). Let me try to explain what it means in more understandable words. Let’s imagine a person who knows something, in other words, he knows that some preposition (or statement) is true. However, we can claim that if and only if the preposition that the aforementioned person knows is really true, he believes that it is true and holds a belief, (or in one phrase, is justified in believing) that it is true.
The concept of justified true belief describes the three criteria of the propositional knowledge, which are Belief, Justification and Truth (which, obviously, form the standard definition of knowledge which was formed from the criteria and vice versa). Here is the life example: first of all, there must be a belief in something. Imagine a man, who was sleeping in his apartment, and suddenly woke up in the middle of the night from a knock on the door. However, a man cannot be sure if there really was a knock or he just heard a rat-tat in his dream. At this point, it’s only a belief, which can be whether proved to be a belief or not. Justification process comes as following: to justify the knock, a man can rush to the door to ask if there is somebody who wants to enter the apartment for one reason or another; or with an intention of telling or asking a man something. Otherwise, a man can wait for another knock, which is, however, not a trustable justification, because somebody who knocked, if there was somebody, can just go away with a belief that the apartment he knocked to was empty (which is another example of belief, justification and truth: in order to make his belief a truth, a knocker should knock the door several times repetitively in order to be absolutely sure that there is nobody in the apartment he wants to enter). And the last step is proving the belief, making it true by justification: a man will rush to the door to watch threw the peephole if there is somebody behind the door. In both cases whether there is somebody who knocked or not, a man will complete the process of receiving of knowledge by making a belief a truth (in case he will see somebody there), or proving that the belief was only a belief and cannot be true (in case there is nobody behind the door and he heard the knock in his dream). This case is universal, because it has only these two outcomes: even if a knocker decided to leave after he knocked for the first time, being sure that the apartment is empty, a man who lives in it will hear the footsteps and make sure that somebody knocked; or he will not hear them and will make sure that nobody knocked.
However, there is a problem with Plato’s theory of knowledge: some skeptics believe that he made a mistake in his statements. “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?”, a 1963 three-page paper by American philosopher Edmund Gettier and commonly known as Gettier Problem, had put this statement under doubt. In addition, Robert Nozick, also a famous American philosopher and a professor at Harvard University, claimed that “the justification had to be such that were the justification false, the knowledge would be false”.
The Theory of Knowledge suffered a significant setback when Roderick Chisholm’s 1982 book, “Foundations of Knowing” was published, in which the author, a philosopher who received his degree at Harvard University, disagreed that anything is known at all. This hypothesis makes a sharp turn in our understanding of knowledge. What if everything we know, we are just believe to know, but in reality we do not? Do we really know anything? More deep thoughts on this problem, which popped up so unexpectedly, can lead us whether to a psychiatric hospital or to a different point of view on the understanding of knowledge as a specific term.
A very good illustration of what Chisholm meant in his work can be illustrated by The Matrix, a Wachowski brothers’ 1999 film which explained the doubt of the existence of knowledge as a trustable source of statements which are generally true. This motion picture appeared in the list of greatest science fiction films not by accident: its complicated plot is, however, easy to understand for any audience and explains the whole philosophical theory: Thomas Anderson, who works for a very big corporation as a computer programmer and as a hacker under the pseudonym “Neo” on his own, is absolutely sure in it. However, it turns out during the film that none of the things he knew before were true. After watching several colorable hallucinations and dreams, and following the symbols seen in them in real life, Thomas meets Morpheus who tells him the terrible truth and brings into the disappointing reality. This is the example of the lack of complete justification, or, in other words, absolute certainty, which according to skeptics, surrounds us. When Thomas finds out that a human being is a source of energy for artificial intelligence and never even used his muscles, that it’s not the summer of 1999 and New York City is ruined, he gained what in philosophy is called, absolute certainty, i.e. he saw the things as they really are.
It should me mentioned that The Matrix is the first film of its kind, and brought the philosophical dilemmas into the common level of understanding. This movie brought people to Descartes dilemmas, to his “I think, therefore I am”. The Matrix perfectly illustrated his proposition of existence, as well as his complete idea that his senses could doubt him, therefore he could be wrong about everything but the fact of his existence. To bring it down, I will cite Descartes’ own words: “Would it be possible for me to believe that I exist, and this belief be false? Well, if I believed that, then I would have to exist, because anything that believes or doubts something must exist. So if I believed that I exist, then my belief would have to be true. No one could hold that belief falsely”. Interesting, isn’t it? Descartes’ explanation of the fact that anything that can doubt if it exists has to exist to doubt, is more than impressing. I would even say that it is as impressive as a Liar paradox (This sentence is false).
“There are known knows; there are things that we know that we know. We also know that there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know we don’t know”. This famous phrase was said in February of 2002 by Donald Rumsfeld, United States Secretary of Defense, as a response to a question at a United States Department of Defense News Briefing, and became the subject of much commentaries and jokes. The phrase, however, is very wise at a second thought. Is that what Morpheus wanted to tell Thomas referring to his understanding of the World and reality itself? Probably. Nobody can prove that such a scenario as in The Matrix, cannot take place in real life. Nobody can prove that everything that surrounds us it real, and hence, Descartes was right. But it’s not the main point. He was especially right about the thing that anything that can think, exists, even if the surrounding reality doesn’t. This could be understood by Thomas Anderson before he took the red pill, but would he, spending most of his time working and sleeping, even think about it? I doubt if he would. In his case, it all began with Morpheus, and in our case, it begins with a skepticism, a skepticism of reality which leads to the question on which we will never find the answer.

Even if we really live in matrix, not necessarily like in the film but any kind of it, it is more likely that we will never wake up from it. Some people, however, believe that death is a total “wakeup” into reality. But again, is it true? And how can we know? I personally take a position that whether we live in reality or not, we certainly spend time in it, and the time is priceless anyway. I try to make my time more enjoyable, and do that by overcoming different life obstacles on my personal way to happiness. I also enjoy making the time of others more enjoyable. And I wish you, my reader, whoever you are, the same.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Victory Day

Today is the day when most countries in the World celebrate the sixty-ninth anniversary of the end of Second World War. The holiday itself was celebrated during last three days, and in most parts of the world the most remarkable event of May holidays. However, it happened that its celebrations became very complicated with time.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

We don't treasure each other

We don't treasure each other. And not only each other, but also everything that surrounds us. Most of all, people suffer from the loss of the personalities of their life, those who are close to them, who form their biography. And the biography itself, we don't treasure it too.On the second thought, we don't treasure anything at all. Some say that people are arrogant, that they treasure themselves, but that's not true. Why do we smoke then, drink alcohol or worse, drugs? We ruin ourselves, and somewhat more emotionally than physically, we destroy our nerve cells with huge emotions and feelings for something so small that is actually nothing. We argue with our relatives for minor things without any shadow of understanding why. But that is not what I want to convey.
I returned home at two today, later than planned, because I decided to go food shopping at the very last moment, when I was passing by the supermarket. When I finally made it to home, I could have a rest. Tuesday is that day when I can have a break from my university routine and get my breath, unless there is some unplanned work. Today there wasn’t.
I decided to watch one film, which had a very big influence on me the first time I watched it. When I was a junior school student,

Monday, May 5, 2014

Whatever we did, we could do differently. Or not?

Have you ever thought on the question whether we did, we could have done otherwise; or there is a plan and we are fated to do what we are doing? How many times, being late somewhere, we hate ourselves for taking shower too long or eating too much for breakfast? But could we actually manage that, did we have another choice? Or was there a certain plan how the things were to be done, and what we live, and what we choose from two or more, and all our deeds, good and bad, are foreordained? Could the history of the entire Universe be considered as a sort of a very complicated equation, where everything could be counted and predicted in the way we do not know?
I personally disagree with this point of view and think that we always make a choice, and our choice can be done and always done by us and us alone, nobody else. My main argument is the following: imagine what will happen if I'll go kill some people, rob a bank, do some more serious crime, and then just say that it's not me; it's the destiny - I was predestined to do what I did? Right, my fate is to be sent to prison forever. But for what, if I actually had no choice in the past and could not do anything different but to kill, to steal the money, or anything else terrible that your imagination can bring up. At this point, all the imprisoned are spending their time locked up without any reason, right? There is something wrong with it, and I wonder how fatalists will comment on this argument. For those of you who don't know, fatalists are the people who believe in fate, and that is where the word "fatalist" itself comes from. They believe that there is no choice.
But I do disagree and I think that we always make choices, all the time. We can do good as long as bad. We can help somebody or decline it. We can donate money from charity or we can steal the same money. We can kill and we can give life back. We can give and take. We can decide, and we always do.
But that was all about the big, serious decisions. Let's take a look at the smaller ones. Imagine another situation: you walk along the street and accidentally step on a mouse, killing it. Let's consider that you were walking in a poor neighborhood with a lot of mice, and killed one of a thousand. From a lot of science fiction works it can be referred that this small occasion can lead to a tremendous changes in the future. But the question is: what if you didn't killed it? And was there actually such an option? What if it didn't die, ate something that the bird could eat or bring to its chicks, the bird died and, hence, its chicks, which could grow into big birds, those birds didn't do what they could, and so on, just because some barefaced rat didn't die and ate their food?
At this point, a lot of people will come up with an example of a pretty famous series, "Final Destination". Bad example.
I invoke you to think logically. You probably all know what the movies are about, but there is one problem with them, which is lack of logic. Honestly, it is completely missed. According to them, the survivors of some cataqulisme, whether natural or artificial, after avoiding it thanks to deja-vu, are fated to die anyway, but somewhen. Not necessarily when exactly, tomorrow, the day after, in a month, in a year, in ninety years, somewhen. But I am calling you to think of some things. First, all living organisms including cells and bacteria are fated to die. Second, if we will follow the logic (if we can call it "logic" of the series, the survivors are fated to die, okay, but at this point they should have died at the moment of disaster, not somewhen after. Just after they escaped plane, bus, whatever, they should have died altogether with those who didn't. Honestly, the only thing I and likely you all enjoyed about the movie are those wonderful deaths. Beautiful, aren't they? Just face it: we are people and we can't enjoy anything more than watching scenes of complicated mechanisms and ways of killing somebody. I know you're smiling reading this.
There is another motion picture that illustrates the situation I am trying to explain in a very good and understandable way. The film is called "Run, Lola, run" (which original title should have been correctly translated from German as "Lola runs"). The picture is, obviously, about some Lola who runs. But it's not that simple. She has three identical runs during the film, which she always reconsiders trying to stop on the one which would be the best, when finally stops on the third one. The idea is the following: Lola receives a call from her beloved that he left the bag with a lot of money in subway where some homeless, and most likely very smelly guy happily picked it up. Her beloved, however, carried the money in a bag not for a simple reason just because he felt like; he owed them to some very unfriendly guy from mafia who didn't like to mince. At this point, Lola had to run in twenty minutes from her home to the place where her fancy was about to meet the mafia, and on her way to him get the required amount of money, otherwise the beloved will be... won't be anymore at all. So after hanging up the phone, she makes it to him in three different ways: in the first run she is killed by a policeman, on the second he is hit by a van, and on the third run she wins the exact amount of money in a casino (just right the amount she (I mean, he) needed), while he finds the smelly guy and returns his money, so at the end they meet and go away happily with a lot of money in a bag.
But it's not the movie review. Let's return to the rat. What if it wasn't impudent enough to thrust under your foot, or clever enough to avoid it, or not in such a rush to notice it, or you were more careful not to step on it (usually such situations occur when both run somewhere not paying attention on what happens around). Was it fated to die, or it was just an occasion? I believe in the second of two, but what arguments do I have? Actually, not a lot, and those which I do have are not convincing enough. But if I believed the opposite, were my arguments strong? Not at all. I just believe that there is no fated scenario for my life, and everything else, because I just want to think that I always make my choice myself: that's all. I don't blame fatalists, they can be understood. But returning to the very beginning, how many prisoners there are spending their time under the lock in terrible conditions - for different crimes. At this point, my main argument against fatalists is, why are they sitting there if they had no other choice than to commit a crime, if they were fated to do what they did? The answer is - all, well, most of them, did it consciously, in other words, made a choice. They knew that what they were going to do is a crime, and they chose to did it.
We came to a dilemma. A talk about the imprisoned, or about the mouse in both dead and alive scenarios, can continue without an end or even glimpse of it. The truth seems never to come, and the time spent in a debate just thrown away into the basket at the door over there. We will probably never know, but the majority don't feel uncomfortable about this. Unless we live in matrix (well, who knows), making a choice, or at least the illusion of making a choice affects the mind in a good way. I stopped thinking on this topic at this point, but it's not solving it. I suggest you to just live with it, coming to the goals only you choose for yourself.