Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Al Fin: Abandoning Western Civilisation: Views of an Evolving Professor

Al Fin: Abandoning Western Civilisation: Views of an Evolving Professor

Interesting post that loyal Sojkas Call readers will find familiar. This one takes a while to digest unless you have previously read Professor Bruce Charlton or the French Philosopher Andre Glucksmann.  Al Fin highlights the suicidal tendencies existing in western society using the writings of Charlton and Glucksmann as background.  Sojkas Call readers have engaged in discussions pertaining to the insanity of government policies and how they are leading to an inevitable catastrophe either economic, social, or militarily.  

Glucksmann writes using Greek mythology and the rise and fall of the Roman empire as examples and to show how the thinking from that era still permeates western culture today.  Charlton, while to me not as persuasive intellectually, uses powerful religious arguments that did get my attention.

Check out the link to the Al Fin post and read the recommended background material.  The posts by readers on both Charlton's and Al Fin's blog help further illuminate the thesis.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Political Nexus

Let me start out saying I am not sure this blog title is a correct label for the discussion.  The readers of this blog have had many off-blog discussion threads lately about a cross-section of hot topics e.g. AGW, health care, social security, US deficit, Tea Party, etc. 

Those discussions have taken the typical left-right, point-counterpoint, data vs emotion form of argument most of the time.  Very seldom is anyone's mind actually changed by the discussions in spite of each persons conviction in their "rightness" and no matter what manner of convincing argument or data set they present.

In a previous post Sojka's Call: Democracy vs States Rights we discussed Spiral Dynamics and its relation to the current discussion.  A video of Wilbur was recently posted on a subject called Divine Pride.  Check the link to read the introduction and watch.  While I am having a little problem with his use of the term pride, I believe the concept he discusses is valid.

Where am I going with this?  Previous discussions usually just get all of us to state our own point usually in more and more emphatic ways.  We get more data or get more mad and use more capital letters and more bold letters and if we are actually talking start to raise our voice and take the Bill O'Reilly shout-them-down method maybe. 

Wilbur is proposing something different.  I am proposing something different. 

One of Sojkascall loyal readers always talks of a middle approach as the right way.  In a sense he is right but not exactly.  The real path is a holistic path.  We need to find the mind-set to look at the whole. 

What do you think?  Are we ready for this?  Please post your comment.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

1914 All Over Again?

I am reposting this Tom Coumans article from the Daily Reckoning. The new war???

1914 All Over Again?
By Ton Coumans

I am not one for art, statues or monuments. Most of these objects fail to touch me but every now and then I bump into something that sticks in my mind. Last summer I was drawn to the monument in the picture below, which stands on a square in Nevers - a beautiful city on the river Loire in France. I spent quite a long time studying it and I eventually took some pictures that, for some reason, I regularly review at home.
                                                            WWI Statue in France

You will have recognized that this is a monument commemorating the tribulations of the First World War. There is a lot of symbolism in the statue but it is the French soldier's sorrowful stare that won't let me go. What trauma has he lived through? France eventually battled its way to an armistice (not victory) in 1918 after having incurred 1.7 million dead (one in 28 of the population) and over 4 million wounded. Everyone will see something different, but for me this monument is whispering; my God, what have we done?

The uncanny thing is that before the outbreak of World War I, most Europeans expected the future to provide an endless stream of good fortunes, to the point of being bored by the prospect. In fact many soldiers such as the one represented by the statue, just four years earlier, were swept up by the bizarre spirit of 1914 that took hold of the peoples of Europe.

The "Spirit of 1914" which seems to have infected the passions of most of the European populations is described as a reckless urge for adventurism under the flag of nationalism. Young men in all countries volunteered to leave their prosperous lives behind and take up a fight with their European neighbors. It is difficult to comprehend the spirit of 1914. All those men lusting for adventure and the glory of battle and no one was sensing danger.

There were only a handful of people, too few to sway the opinion, that realized what lay ahead. A useless and long-forgotten quote by one of them reads: "If the scientific nations of Europe were to wage war on one another they would be thoroughly sick of it before it was finished". That quote is by Sir Winston Churchill who at the time was 37 years old and First Lord of the Admiralty. He had seen the power of artillery and machine guns in the Sudan and the Boer War and repeatedly warned against armed conflict in Europe, to no avail.

Europe had been at peace for 40 years and the millions of men that charged off to battle had no way of being able to imagine what war would be like, until they found themselves mugged by reality and stuck in the horrors of trench warfare "In Flanders Fields". That was obviously not where they had wanted the free market to take them, as Bill Bonner might assess. Nemesis, the Goddess of divine retribution, had finally found a way to sink her teeth into Europe, having waited patiently in the background during the 40 years of the Belle Epoch.

The question now is, do we stand at a similar point in history where we expect the future to provide expanding, effortless wealth, and have we been swept up by the spirit of 2006; flipping houses and living high on mortgage equity withdraws and debt? Does Nemesis have a special surprise for us and what could that be? We are in a global de- leveraging process, which is painful, but is it, in itself, truly destructive? I contend that if we are to "fall deep" there will need to be some kind of major breakdown of cooperation or even "conflict amongst peoples" resulting in a major lose-lose event that sinks the physical economy. What could that be?

In the run up to WWI, an influential book was written by General Von Bernhardi titled Germany and the next War. The book manifests Germany's frustration and militancy. Von Bernhardi proclaims that, with her scientific and intellectual achievements, Germany should have a more prominent role in world affairs, more colonial trophies with access to petroleum reserves. Germany's GDP had passed that of Great Britain and France and they now wanted more respect. France and Great Britain were maneuvering as best they could to keep Germany (a perceived threat) out of the game. Bernhardi's book also argues that war was not only a justifiable means to achieve that goal but even an obligation of Germany's leadership.

And now in 2009 we witness the wide distribution of a book titled Unhappy China, which expresses China's frustrations with their current position. The similarity in tone is uncanny. China is on its way to become the second economy of the world, yet China is not "embraced" as a member of the G8 and has almost no influence in the IMF and World Bank. China is frustrated with the West's meddling in internal affairs and with the humiliation endured by the Olympic torch run that was, in their perception, disgraced by demonstrations.

All the maneuvering by the West now is to keep China out of the game and treat them as a potential threat. Does this have automatic conflict baked into it? All out "kinetic" war does not seem realistic and more something of the past century. We have since organized the UN Security Counsel to regulate conflicts involving the use of force. But do we have adequate global institutions for monetary policy? I judge that today every government and their symbiotic Central Bank feels they have the right and obligation to use monetary policy to the advantage of their own short-sighted wealth preservation and power games. Could the conflict of the twenty-first century revolve around currency wars? Should we rephrase Churchill's warning to state, "If the financially developed nations of the world were to wage a war of competitive currency devaluation on one another, they would be thoroughly sick of it before it was finished". Could competitive currency devaluation be the bear market surprise mechanism that pits countries and peoples against one another?

The First World War is remembered for the senseless slaughter of trench warfare. Will this period be remembered for disruptive impoverishment of currency warfare? It does seem to have the potential to breed distrust and breakdown cooperation between the nations. It also has a runaway nature since it invites tit for tat exchanges. It is inherently instable because the currency that moves first and fast could have the advantage. But does it have the destructive power to sink our global physical economy? Let's hope that some years from now we will not find ourselves sorrowfully staring at the horizon and whispering; my God, what have we done.


Ton Coumans
for The Daily Reckoning

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Radical Change

In some personal discussion threads about the Tea Party and US government corruption and the current military entanglements we find ourselves in my personal philosophy of the proper role of government has been severely questioned by my friends and myself. In thinking about this problem and reading up on history of our founding fathers and their intent as codified in the Constitution, various economic theories, and using must plain common sense many things are starting to become clear.

My whole philosophy of what gov't should/shouldn't be is evolving radically right now. I have realized that as long as massive money and resources are concentrated for use by an entity (US Gov't in this case) it will be misused.

1. Our military is being misused.
2. Our treasury is being misused.

If they are radically smaller than they are today the level of possible misuse is reduced the same. What does that mean?

- a radically smaller military that is not capable of foreign intervention. If it is capable of being used that way it is certain that sooner of later it will be misused for that purpose.

- a treasury with vastly reduced tax receipts and a gov't with vastly reduced responsibilities. Again, if there is much less money there to start with, there is much less to be misused, stolen, etc.

What would be the outcomes?

- Federal Government assistance programs would be eliminated and become the responsibility of state and local governments to the extent they want/need to provide them.
- Our armed forces would be reduced to about 20% of the size they are today. The military would patrol our own waters, air space, and land. We would eliminate all foreign bases and all foreign aid.

I believe that once people realized they were responsible for themselves they would take on a completely different approach to life. They would embrace life for all it was worth much more seriously than today because in a real sense their life and their loved ones' lives depended on it. That would mean much more personal responsibility and much more personal liberty.

In my mind, any other approach to fixing the corruption in our gov't is doomed to failure. As long as power (through money and military) is concentrated in one area (Wash DC) it will be misused. I believe it has always been corrupt and the amount of corruption is equal to the size of the entity. Since the US gov't is now the biggest it has ever been in history we are seeing the largest amount of corruption ever.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Tea Party - Ideology Sources, Funding, and Network

 This article details the involvement of the Koch Brothers with the Tea Party. It is a long and very worth your time and effort to read and digest.  If you want to understand the Tea Party, where it came from, and how it is funded read this entire article.  There are some key names in here that show up over time.  Remember them and when you read other articles in the future make the connections. 

Personally, I have mixed feelings about the Tea Party, the Koch brothers and the agenda being pushed.  I embrace many Libertarian values and much of their agenda.  However, we should all understand where the messages are coming from, who is crafting them, their goals, and who is ultimately behind these seemingly disparate groups that are tied together in many complex and interesting ways. 

Strongly recommended use of your time to read and understand. 

The billionaire Koch brothers’ war against Obama: newyorker.com

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Another Reason to Dislike GMO's

Your health is put at higher risk through GMO's due to lectins. What are lectins?

They are a plants' natural defense mechanism preventing over consumption by pests be they animal or insect. Grains and legumes are the best examples of plants with naturally higher amounts. That is why so many people have digestive issues with those foods and any food prep involving soaking, fermentation, and sprouting help lessen the lectins you consume. Oh, and you raw food folks - guess what? Cooking reduces lectins too.

Now we find out that part of the process used to make GMO plants less desirable by insects are making them less digestible by humans. Companies that modify plant genetics increase the amount of lectins for pest control.

There is an article at Mark Sisson's blog that goes into greater detail if you interested.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Video on Ultra-Marathon Race in Remote Mexico Copper Canyon

This video shows a little bit of the race being organized by one of the main characters in the Born To Run book. The vid gives the viewer a chance to see some of this remote area and see another of the main characters from the book. About 10 minutes....

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Throw Away Your Running Shoes Pt 2

Just finished the book Born To Run. As I mentioned in part 1, Mark Sisson's opinion that man was a long-distance walker and short sprinter was in contrast to this book's contrary opinion that man evolved as a marathon runner to run down prey. The evidence from Born To Run's sited sources was weak to me though I will not totally discount the possibility.

The one thing everyone seems to agree with is that running shoes are bad for your feet and legs. I am going to try the the Vibram Five Two shoes soon to see if running in those helps me run with less pain and injury.

Throw Away Your Shoes? Pt 1

A friend gave me the book "Born To Run" by Christopher McDougall yesterday. At the half-way point right now and I can say that it is a fun read. The book has great characters and weaves an interesting story from a equally interesting Beat perspective and is all purportedly a true story.

In the past 3 - 4 years I have become a regular reader of Mark Sisson's blog. He is also known as The Primal Man guy. Mark's research of current science yielded the conclusion that man evolved as a long-distance walker who can run short distances at high speed.

The Born To Run thesis is that man evolved as a long-distance runner to, for example, run down his prey by exhausting it death. Mark's take on the argument was posted on his blog last month.

In Born To Run, the book focuses on the elusive and little known Tarahumara tribe in Northern Mexico. They run in sandals and supposedly have created an idyllic society and lifestyle around long-distance running.

In a way, the argument about who is right regarding human evolution and whether we are long-distance runners by genetics and birthright are moot. The real take-aways for me are: 1) if you have back, feet, ankle, knee, etc problems, try going barefoot and see what happens. 2) Love what you are doing all the time - even the pain and exhaustion during extreme exertion.

Happy Trails

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What Every Manager Should Know

What should every manager know about motivation? The latest studies on what really motivate people.

This interesting video explains what motivates the two main groups in the workplace. That would be the people who perform repetitive type jobs and those who have to think.

The link is here.... >>> Click

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Proportional Voting - Could it happen in the US?

The current political situation in the UK has put proportional voting at the forefront of the USA's closest ally and political bellwether. As noted in the previous blog the Brits are in a political stalemate between the three parties (Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats). The Liberal Democrats have moved up in numbers and are now discussing changing current election laws to include proportional voting as a condition of their participation in a future government.

If the Liberal Democrats are successful in the UK, look for this to become a more visible issue in the US. Without proportional voting, there is little chance for a third party to develop in the USA. Proportional voting eliminates the feeling of "I wasted my vote".

Friday, May 7, 2010

British Election - Why Care?

Because British and American politics are intertwined. Elections in the USA and Britain have forecasted electoral sentiment in the other country many times. I will not go into the historical precedents for my statements and leave that to you, dear reader.

The recent British election shows a fractured electorate and no clear majority. Does this sound familiar? The only difference in the US is a real third party has not emerged like the Liberal Democrats in the UK.

Voter discontent in the US could show up in gains for the Tea Party, Libertarians, and Independents, though those groups, with exception of the Independents are too small and not cohesive. The Independents are just that without any platform, leaders, or unifying force or issue so they cannot hold any kind of power in the US.

Should be an interesting mid-term election and look for the power-elite controlled media to keep painting any group other than the Dems or Pubs as fringe crazies who cannot govern.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Anti-american Rhetoric

Come on Harry. This is what we did not like about Bush/Cheney when anyone who disagreed with them was un-American. Now, since you have the pulpit you are going to use the same tactics. Don't do it.

I believe in financial reform and like many aspects of the current bill. The bill or something close needs to pass, but, calling the Pubs Anti-American is not the way forward and not the way to keep yourself a job.

Driving through Nevada last week my wife and I joked that I80 should be called the Harry Reid Highway. They are paving it out in the middle of nowhere and grading the medium and shoulders in areas that get hardly any traffic. We all know Harry got extra money for Nevada because he has the power. What has that got to do with his un-American remark?

I am not sure, but, if doling out money for stupid projects is American than maybe his Anti-American remark makes sense.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Al Fin: Memristor Update and Video

Al Fin: Memristor Update and Video

And Now This

As a Sojkas Call reader pointed out, maybe this was a plot by the Legalize Marijuana initiative org to draw attention to the ridiculousness of the current pot laws in California. A tongue-in-cheek comment, but, it highlights the absurdity of current laws and enforcement.

Tom Stienstra, an outdoor writer for the San Francisco Chronicle was busted at his home for possession of marijuana. Though he, his wife, and her son all hold medical marijuana prescriptions they exceeded the limits previously in place that had recently been struck down by the courts.

The local prosecutor sent the case back to the sheriff department for more investigation and seems reluctant to prosecute. That will probably change as a public uproar about selective enforcement will no doubt be the next media event.

Link to Bay Area news article here...http://www.insidebayarea.com/dailyreview/localnews/ci_14808743?source=email

Tom Stienstra is an excellent writer who has popularized outdoor activities in the far north of California. He is an avid hunter, fisherman, hiker and general outdoorsman. Putting him and his family in jail will not make society a better place or make him a more productive or less damaging member of society.

Take the poll on the top right corner of the blog to express your views on the upcoming marijuana initiative.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

CA Pot Legalization - The War on Drugs

"With (the penalty against marijuana consumption) merely being a citation, no one is paying any attention to it," said former Long Beach congressman and current California attorney general candidate Dan Lungren, expressing a common idea. "As long as we focus on sellers and not users, we're kidding ourselves. Unless we can do something about demand as well as supply, we will never make headway (in the war on drugs)."

Dan Lungren is stating the same thing that Sojkas Call loyal reader, Keith, expressed in his response to the last blog. So, with there a general consensus among the citizenry and public officials that the current marijuana law is being ignored anyways, why is there any discussion against legalization of 1 ounce or less? Legalization of 1 ounce or less would reduce the demand for the illicit drug from organized crime sources since it could then be procured or grown legally. Doesn't that satisfy Mr. Lungren? Apparently not!

In Berkeley, CA, Mr. Jame W. Smith is trying to push the city council for tougher enforcement of marijuana laws in spite of the fact it would take resources away from violent crime. Why do people have such irrational views about the current prohibited drugs?

Sojkas Call believes the brainwashing from the media who are supported by the pharmaceutical drug companies and organized crime has been very successful over the last 50+ years. Legal sleeping pills, anti-depressants, pain-killers, amphetamines, tranquilizers, and the list go on and on are all OK. But, a freely growing herb, mushroom, cactus, flower, leaf, etc that affects your mood must be horrible and banned or society will fall apart.

The hypocrisy of this argument is so obvious and the real reasons for keeping the current list of drugs illegal so transparent, it is beyond this blogs understanding how people can still be fooled so easily. Legalize all the drugs and eliminate organized crimes involvement. We can raise tax money, eliminate police, reduce the prison population, and spend more money on drug and alcohol rehabilitation. What is not to like?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Legalize It?

The state of CA has a qualified initiative that will place the question of whether to legalize 1 ounce or less of marijuana on the November ballot. The disinformation is already starting and look for entrenched money interests to spread that word.

Who are the interested groups?
  1. The medical marijuana establishment is first to express dismay. Why? Their industry is based on the current scarcity through prohibition. And, they make money selling through the tightly controlled sales network the current dispensaries provide. They will be out of business in most cases, but, the nimble proprietors will transition since those are places of business already established for this purpose.
  2. The California Peace Officers Association is next with grave admonitions like “It’s not going to better society. It’s going to denigrate it.” Alcohol has its' downside along with the abuse of prescription drugs, but we don't hear the prognostications about what those are doing to a future society. Why are they against it really? Less people to arrest will lessen the need for police officers unless we can find something else to make people worry about - should not be too hard my cynical side says.
  3. Humboldt County is worried according to the San Jose Mecury. Why? If prices decline it will negatively affect a local economy subsidized to a large extent by the now illicit cultivation of the weed and current high prices.
  4. MADD (Mother Against Drunk Driving) are against it for obvious and good reasons. Increased availability of testing for marijuana impairment should actually improve the ability of law enforcement to detect if someone is under the influence. This is probably the single best argument against legalization.
A list of medical pros and cons can be found here at this link >>> http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=000141

Personally, I will not smoke marijuana if it is legal. On the other hand, I find the current laws do nothing but make it expensive and corrupting of law enforcement and the legal system. The people that want to smoke it will do it anyways. Our National Forests are dangerous to be in during the growing season. And, organized crime is empowered by distributing the illegal drug.

Legalize it. Tax it. Control it.

What do you think? Take the poll in top right corner of this screen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Talk Meaningfully - Be Happy

So, those long discussions about the meaning of life, the politics of defense spending, and Austrian economic theory might actually be making you happier. Hard to believe?

Dr. Matthias Mehl, an assistant professor at the University of Arizona has been studying who is happier - the small-talk stater of the obvious, or, the deep-thinker who is engaged in meaningful discussions with their friends and colleagues.

The implications are not so obvious at first glance. Could the reports of life dissatisfaction, for instance, after losing a job, be more about the loss of conversing about subjects that the participants have a deep and personal connection to? Maybe.

The researchers recorded 79 people and thousands of their conversations over a four-day period.

Participants were equipped with a digital recording device called Electronically Activated Recorder, or EAR, that sampled 30-second snippets every 12.5 minutes. The EAR captured not only conversations but also other ambient sounds as participants went about their daily lives and thereby provided the researchers essentially with an acoustic log of their days.

Each recording was codified as to whether a participant was alone, talking with others and whether those conversations were superficial or more complex. Participants’ well-being was assessed with self and friend reports of life satisfaction and happiness.

This study measured participants while engaging in conversation. What about blogging? Is that the new substitute for people?

What Mehl and his team found was that, consistent with prior research, higher well-being was associated with spending less time alone and more time talking to others. Furthermore, and maybe more surprisingly, they found that higher well-being was robustly related to having less small talk and more substantive conversations. Compared with the unhappiest participants in the study, the happiest participants had roughly one-third as much small talk and twice as many substantive conversations.

Further studies will hopefully evolve to understand the deeper aspects of what constitutes conversation. For now, hanging out at the coffee shop and discussing the latest posts on Popular Science may be your best bet.

The initial indication, Mehl said, is that the happy life is social rather than solitary and conversationally deep rather than superficial. Although the current study cannot answer the question of what causes what, it raises the possibility that happiness can be increased by facilitating substantive conversation, a hypothesis he would like to see explored in future research.

Cut out that small-talk! Let's get on with Kant.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Federal Spending Adjusted for CPI by President

In a discussion with some friends we started talking about spending and which Presidents, Party, and time periods had the most and least. One of the factors I thought important was to adjust the total Federal Spending for inflation.

From the OMB the total outlay number was obtained. The CPI number was found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Then it was easy to adjust the total outlay number and reduce or increase it based on the CPI. Remember the US experienced deflation back in the 1920's and 30's.

The blue line is the inflation adjusted number and uses the right y scale. The purple line is the actual spending and uses the left y scale.

A few things were surprising to me. The US really cut spending back dramatically at the end of WWII. There was no delay at all!

Then using those same numbers, I took the amount of decrease/increase by President for their term. To be fair that number was divided by the number of years they were in office. These numbers were surprising to me. I always thought Reagan was going to be much higher because of the large deficits he ran, but, it shows his deficits were caused by tax cuts more than increased spending.

Carter, Clinton, Nixon, Eisenhower, Bush I, Coolidge, Truman, and Harding were the winners in keeping spending in check. W, Hoover, Wilson, and Roosevelt were the big spenders though Wilson had WW I to deal with and Roosevelt had WW II.

The increase in real dollars must stop. The graphs clearly show that even adjusting for inflation gov't spending is on an upward trend that is unsustainable. As much as I want universal health care in the US, doing it the way being proposed and increasing the deficit another trillion is wrong.

One item that neither party even talks about is defense spending. We must cut defense spending too! Why is defense spending so sacred?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

No Knead Bread Part II - Results

Here is part II with the results. The dough looked bubbly this morning and was very sticky. After rereading the recipe later I see the 15 minute rest after taking it out of the bowl got skipped. After shaping into a ball I let it rise for 2 hours. Then, baked it as recommended in the recipe with the lid on for 30 minutes except after about 7 minutes with the lid off I started to smell carbon and looked at the bread. It was starting to really brown so I took it out early. My oven always seems to cook things faster so that was not surprising.

Here is the dough after sprinkling with cornmeal and getting ready for its' second rise (the 2 hour one).

Here is the dutch oven I used. Over the years, I have not found much use for this so maybe it has found a calling.

The bread after 30 minutes cooking with the lid on. It looked done to me at this point, but, I wanted to follow the recipe exactly the first time.

Here are a couple pictures after I took the loaf out of the pan. It has a nice hollow sound, decent cracking on the top, and smells great.

But, how does it taste? Let's go cut the loaf. The bread has loads of big air holes. The crust might be slightly overdone, but, lots of people like bread this way. It has the wood fired oven taste to it. The inside is very light, yet moist and chewy. Definitely the best bread I ever made.

Friday, March 19, 2010

No Knead Bread

My neighbor has been making this bread and gave me some yesterday. It was fantastic! I started a batch tonight and will bake it tomorrow. The recipe is at this link.

There is a video also of this on YouTube.

I will update the blog tomorrow after baking a loaf.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Do you eat crap?

Funny vid on the food we eat...

What do you think? Do you like this kind of food? Do you eat this food?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Aeropress and Tirra Frothing Wand

I am getting ready for a trip and will need to say goodbye to my Anita espresso machine and Macap grinder for a couple weeks. On a rafting trip last year I brought the Aeropress manual coffee press but did not have a milk frother. So, I recently purchased the Tirra milk frother at a kitchen store going out of business sale.

Today in trying to figure out the right Aeropress grind for the coffee I am bringing on my 2 week trip, I put some milk in a mug and microwaved it for 40 seconds and then frothed it with the Tirra. Then I did a double with the Aeropress right on top of the frothed milk.

People - this was excellent!!! It is better (I'm drinking it now as I type) than 95% of the caps you buy out there in retail coffee land. I cannot say enough about how good this is. For a large majority of the cap and latte crowd this little combo with a good grinder would give them everything they need.

Wow! I am blown away. I'm sure the Pacific Bay Colombia organic "Mesa de Santos" is a big part of the equation, but, still - a press and battery powered frothing wand producing something this good puts me in a state of disbelief.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Reprogram Your Genetics

There is research supporting the theory that lifestyle and environment can change how our genes express themselves. Studies show that the genetics of identical twins can change significantly due to lifestyle choices.

The implications are that making healthy eating choices, exercising, clean air and water, and having parents that made the same choices can have a dramatic effect. Do it for yourself and do it for those children you are planning to have.

Check out this Q&A link. Evidence shows that smoking and exposure to chemicals affects our genetic expression. Take care of those genes!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Byron Wien Announces Top Ten Surprises for 2010

According to Stephen Leeb and a couple other blogs I checked out, Byron Wien has been pretty accurate with his forecasts. For example, he predicted Obama's Presidency before the Iowa Caucuses. I would not bet the farm on his prognostications, but, he should be considered seriously along with other sources you trust and your own analysis.

His US economy forecast for the beginning of the year fits my contrarian hunch at this time - everyone I know is so negative about the economy they must be wrong!

Blackstone Group's Byron Wien Announces Top Ten Surprises for 2010

2010-01-04 18:08:56 -

Byron R. Wien, Vice Chairman, Blackstone Advisory Services, today issued his list of the Ten Surprises for 2010. This is the 25th year Byron has given his predictions of a number of economic, financial market and political surprises for the coming year. He started the tradition in 1986 when he was the Chief U.S. Investment Strategist at Morgan Stanley. Byron joined The Blackstone Group in September 2009 as a senior advisor to both the Firm and its clients in analyzing economic, political, market and social trends.

The Surprises of 2010

1. The United States economy grows at a stronger than expected 5% real rate during the year and the unemployment level drops below 9%. Exports, inventory building and technology spending lead the way. Standard and Poor’s 500 operating earnings come in above $80

2. The Federal Reserve decides the economy is strong enough for them to move away from zero interest rate policy. In a series of successive hikes beginning in the second quarter the Federal funds rate reaches 2% by year-end

3. Heavy borrowing by the U.S. Treasury and some reluctance by foreign central banks to keep buying notes and bonds drives the yield on the 10-year Treasury above 5.5%. Banks loan more to corporations and individuals and pull away from the carry trade, thereby reducing demand for Treasuries. Obama says, “The suits are finally listening”

4. In a roller coaster year the Standard and Poor’s 500 rallies to 1300 in the first half and then runs out of steam and declines to 1000, ending where it started at 1115.10. Even though the economy is strong and earnings exceed expectations, rising interest rates and full valuations present a problem. Concern about longer term growth and obligations to reduce leverage at both the public and private level unsettle investors

5. Because it is significantly undervalued on a purchasing power parity basis, the dollar rallies against the yen and the euro. It exceeds 100 on the yen and the euro drops below $1.30 as the long slide of the greenback is interrupted. Longer term prospects remain uncertain

6. Japan stands out as the best performing major industrialized market in the world as its currency weakens and its exports improve. Investors focus on the attractive valuations of dozens of medium sized companies in a market selling at one quarter of its 1989 high. The Nikkei 225 rises above 12,000

7. Believing he must be a leader in climate control initiatives, President Obama endorses legislation favorable for nuclear power development. Arguing that going nuclear is essential for the environment, will create jobs and reduce costs, Congress passes bills providing loans and subsidies for new plants, the first since 1979. Coal accounts for about 50% of electrical power generation, and Obama wants to reduce that to 25% by 2020

8. The improvement in the U.S. economy energizes the Obama administration. The White House undergoes some reorganization and regains its momentum. In the November Congressional election the Democrats only lose 20 seats, much less than expected

9. When it finally passes, financial service legislation, like the health care bill, proves to be softer on the industry than originally feared. There is greater consumer protection, more transparency, tighter restriction of leverage and increased scrutiny of derivatives, but the regulatory changes for investment bankers and hedge funds are not onerous. Trading volume and merger activity increases; financial service stocks become exceptional performers in the U.S. market

10. Civil unrest in Iran reaches a crescendo. Ayatollah Khameini pushes out Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in favor of a more public relations adept leader. Economic improvement becomes the key issue and anti-Israel rhetoric subsides. Talks with the U.S. and Europe begin but the country remains a nuclear threat. Pakistan becomes the hotspot in the region because of the weak government there, anti-American sentiment, active terrorist groups and concerns about the security of the country’s nuclear arsenal

About The Blackstone Group

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Friday, February 5, 2010

CNN Interview with Sensa Founder Dr. Aubrey de Grey and The Blues Zones author Dan Buettner

Dr. Gupta interviews SENS founder Dr. Aubrey de Grey and The Blues Zones author Dan Buettner. Mr. Buettner researched where centenarians live and looked for behaviors that were common to the long-lived people.

Dr. de Grey is researching how to solve age-related health issues like cancer, heart disease, dementia, diabetes, etc and to arrest and prevent them and ultimately reverse the aging process. His research focuses on the cellular and molecular level. Dr. de Grey speculates that his foundations research has a time horizon of 20 - 30 years before mainstream therapies could be available.

Mr Buettner on the other hand has focused on the lifestyles that can be adopted today to promote longevity.

Derek Sivers: Weird, or just different? | Video on TED.com

Short vid on how to think differently. Get outside your box!

Derek Sivers: Weird, or just different? | Video on TED.com

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Why do we get fat?

Short video explaining why we get fat.   Go Primal!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ron Paul's State of the Union

Here are a series of three videos by Ron Paul primarily concerned with the US economy.  He provides some history on The Great Depression.

Less than 20 minutes of your time to watch these videos by maybe the only politician left who espouses conservative values. The third video also speaks to our personal liberties and the limitations being unconstitutionally implemented in the name of terrorism.

He offers recommendations on economic, foreign, and monetary policies at the end of Part III. He also talks about what needs to be done to restore our personal liberties. Many people believe it is too late - I hope Ron Paul's message is listened to and his ideas implemented very soon.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Anthropogenic Global Warming

There is another excellent post over at Al Fin on human caused global warming.  The mounting evidence that, we, the gullible public, have been completely duped on this subject has become overwhelming for me.  I have changed my opinion 180 degrees and now believe the evidence for AGW is scant to non-existent.

The interesting thing to me is the rabid reaction of friends who still believe.  It is almost like you are trying to kill their first-born or accusing their mother of a crime.

The emotions of belief in AGW are strong and people treat me different when I now say that the evidence is not there to support this position.  AGW is the new religion and people don't want their God/Savior messed with.

Monday, January 25, 2010

If you are not prepared to be wrong you will never come up with anything original

A video from the TED series by Ken Robinson who talks about how many schools are killing creativity.  He talks about education goals and that they may be misplaced at most universities.

If you have a problem with English accents then put the subtitles on.


This video is from a Yale teaching session by Professor Barry Nalebuf.   He gives many examples of how to think creatively easily. The techniques are deliberately simple to show that technical expertise is not required for many great ideas.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mount Shasta Storm Disaster

Just got home. The major news orgs are missing a great story in Mount Shasta of a mini-disaster. The power has been out for 3 days, trees are down on houses and power lines, the grocery store and schools have been closed for 3 days and people are leaving their houses because of trees getting ready to go down. My yard has a couple doze...n trees down. We have had 6' of snow in about 4 days. Police chief declared a state of emergency.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Christmas Day Terrorist Attack and Rogue US Intel Group

Is it possible that the terrorist who tried to blow up the Amsterdam to Detroit flight was deliberately allowed to board with his explosives?  This article and a Richard Wolf MSNBC report seem to lend credence to such a scenario.

Three possible explanations were floated:  First, a turf war inside the intelligence community.  The second explanation was that the attack meant to embarrass Obama and his administration.   The third explanation of the plot was a rogue network inside the US government desired to unleash a new wave of Islamophobic hysteria to rehabilitate the discredited "global war on terror.

Entire article can be read here.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Investment Ideas and 2009 Review - What Now? Pt 3

Now, we get to specific ideas for 2010.  I am long gold and feel very nervous about it since so many other people are too.  Currency trades have screwed me every time I make them. 

What are you going to do?

Investment Ideas and 2009 Review - What Now? Pt 2

Wish I had listened to this guy in March 2009. 

Investment Ideas and 2009 Review - What Now? Pt 1

The first video was a mailbag review.  Are people pissed enough to elect someone or some group of people to really do something about the bank giveaways?   Should the bank giveaways be stopped?  Does Bernanke and Geithner need to go?

My opinion is the the US electorate is still asleep at the wheel and too dumbed down or anesthetized to do anything.  Hope I am wrong.

Then Yes, Yes, and Yes.

Picture of Mount Shasta and Lassen with The Milky Way

This is an amazing picture of Northern California mountains with The Milky Way as a backdrop. 

The picture can be purchased at http://astrophoto.com/LassenShastaPano.htm 

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Keep Your Brain Young

What are you doing to keep your brain young? It may be as easy as saying yes.

More and more it seems that people I know in their 40's, 50's and beyond get into habitual living and activity ruts. They blame it on their bodies (stiff, sore, too hard, etc) or they say it is not fun, or it is too scary - they might get hurt. It used to really drive me nuts and now I'm getting better at living and let live. But, it got me to thinking why the impulse to try new activities is always there for me and I get restless with the same old, same old.

Maybe my brain just wants the exercise and is prodding me on to do new things. New activities stimulate our brain and help it continue to develop even into middle age and later.
As it happens, yes. While it’s tempting to focus on the flaws in older brains, that inducement overlooks how capable they’ve become. Over the past several years, scientists have looked deeper into how brains age and confirmed that they continue to develop through and beyond middle age.

Many longheld views, including the one that 40 percent of brain cells are lost, have been overturned. What is stuffed into your head may not have vanished but has simply been squirreled away in the folds of your neurons.

One explanation for how this occurs comes from Deborah M. Burke, a professor of psychology at Pomona College in California. Dr. Burke has done research on “tots,” those tip-of-the-tongue times when you know something but can’t quite call it to mind. Dr. Burke’s research shows that such incidents increase in part because neural connections, which receive, process and transmit information, can weaken with disuse or age.

So, listen to those urges that say to try something new like kayaking, learning Arabic, ski racing, or cooking octopus Korean style. Don't be afraid to talk with and actually try to understand your stupid right-wing or left-wing friend.
The trick is finding ways to keep brain connections in good condition and to grow more of them.

“The brain is plastic and continues to change, not in getting bigger but allowing for greater complexity and deeper understanding,” says Kathleen Taylor, a professor at St. Mary’s College of California, who has studied ways to teach adults effectively. “As adults we may not always learn quite as fast, but we are set up for this next developmental step.”

Educators say that, for adults, one way to nudge neurons in the right direction is to challenge the very assumptions they have worked so hard to accumulate while young. With a brain already full of well-connected pathways, adult learners should “jiggle their synapses a bit” by confronting thoughts that are contrary to their own, says Dr. Taylor, who is 66.

Teaching new facts should not be the focus of adult education, she says. Instead, continued brain development and a richer form of learning may require that you “bump up against people and ideas” that are different. In a history class, that might mean reading multiple viewpoints, and then prying open brain networks by reflecting on how what was learned has changed your view of the world.

“There’s a place for information,” Dr. Taylor says. “We need to know stuff. But we need to move beyond that and challenge our perception of the world. If you always hang around with those you agree with and read things that agree with what you already know, you’re not going to wrestle with your established brain connections.”

When I have gone off into unknown fields and learned more about something previously off my radar it seems to feel good in the way your body feels after a hard workout. You may not have enjoyed that workout but a couple days later the now stronger or more elastic muscles feel better.

Such stretching is exactly what scientists say best keeps a brain in tune: get out of the comfort zone to push and nourish your brain. Do anything from learning a foreign language to taking a different route to work.

“As adults we have these well-trodden paths in our synapses,” Dr. Taylor says. “We have to crack the cognitive egg and scramble it up. And if you learn something this way, when you think of it again you’ll have an overlay of complexity you didn’t have before — and help your brain keep developing as well.”

Jack Mezirow, a professor emeritus at Columbia Teachers College, has proposed that adults learn best if presented with what he calls a “disorienting dilemma,” or something that “helps you critically reflect on the assumptions you’ve acquired.”

Dr. Mezirow developed this concept 30 years ago after he studied women who had gone back to school. The women took this bold step only after having many conversations that helped them “challenge their own ingrained perceptions of that time when women could not do what men could do.”

Such new discovery, Dr. Mezirow says, is the “essential thing in adult learning.”

“As adults we have all those brain pathways built up, and we need to look at our insights critically,” he says. “This is the best way for adults to learn. And if we do it, we can remain sharp.”

Next time someone asks you to do something that immediately makes you want to recoil, hit them, or tell them "hell no", that may mean the suggested activity is just the ticket to help your brain continue to be healthy and strong. If you are a vegetarian, eat that pulled pork sandwich. The cowboys in the crowd could take up ball room dancing and eating sushi. Have fun with this one.