Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Eliminate This Unnamed Word

The word that shall not be named.

I really hate this word so much it pains me to even type it out for this post because it only empowers its' use. This word has become so overused especially in reviews of books. Maybe people think it denotes some kind of intellectual superiority or demonstrates their vocabulary knowledge.

But, as in this post which will take you to the offending word that shall not be named, I am not the only one who wants to scream every time they hear or read this word. And, if you use this word in a comment to the post, it better be really funny or I will delete your comment.

If you are ever tempted to say or write this word, look for something better - there surely is a better way to express yourself than this horrible word. Thank-you for your kind consideration.

And, if anyone knows how to have stupid words eliminated from the dictionary, let me know. I wish there was a word arbiter that someone could appeal to that would review your claim and if valid, strike the stupid word from all dictionaries.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

How to Leave a Comment

Many people have a problem leaving a comment on Blogger when they don't have a Google account or do not want to sign in. Here is a procedure for leaving a comment with your first name (real or fictitious) or anonymously.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Global Warming is Anthropogenic

A leading scientist from the University of Berkley California who was one of the biggest skeptics of global warming and anthropogenic (human caused) global warming and previously funded by the Koch brothers has now reversed his opposition to both conclusions. I was one of those people who from looking at the data could agree that the earth was in a warming trend, but, thought there was scant evidence of anthropogenic causes. This new information is something that the educated voter and consumer should look at and decide on their own what to do.

What can we do? First, make up your mind about the data and conclusions. You don't have to be a scientist to look at data, analysis and conclusions written by a scientist. If the evidence is clear, you will be able to see this and make up your own mind. Don't let the "experts" make you think this is something beyond your understanding.

First, here is a video interview with Richard Muller the leading scientist who had previously been a big skeptic. His summary of the research is a nice starting point for the concerned person to have an idea where to get the new information and analysis just completed and why it is possibly ground-breaking.

What were Muller's previous concerns? These were also similar to my own.
There were issues of prior groups had highly selected the data. The U.K. using only 5% to 7% of the data, here in the U.S. using only 20% of the stations. It was a concern whether they had picked stations that showed warming and not the others. There were other issues, too, about the influence of urban heat islands. Cities get warmer, but that’s not the greenhouse effect. How do we estimate the greenhouse effect? There was the data adjustment, and then the huge computer programs that they used to make the attribution to humans; all of these things are deeply concern me, and I could not get the answers in a satisfactory way
What did he decide to do about his concerns? This seemed like an intelligent approach.
And the only way to answer this was to put together a program. So, we gathered a group of truly eminent scientists — people who were really good at analyzing data. These include Art Rosenfeld, who’s a hero in the energy conservation field, and Saul Perlmutter who, actually, last December, after working on our project for over a year was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics. Not for the work he was doing for us, but for prior work he had done astrophysics.
What did this group of scientists find?
We were able to show that the poor station quality — although it affected the temperature measurements, didn’t affect the temperature changes. We were able to use 100% of the data, not the 20% that others had used. We found the data selection bias didn’t affect things. We looked at the urban heat island. It came together — we concluded that global warming was indeed real. But then about three to six months ago, thanks largely to the effort of a brilliant young scientist named Robert Roady who we hired to do and use the best possible statistics in order to be able to use all the data — he was able to push our record back to 1753. That’s before the American Revolution, that’s back when the measurements in the U.S. were being made by Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. With that long record, we could look for the fingerprints, we could see how much was due to volcanoes, how much was due to ocean currents, how much was due to the variability of the sun. We could do this much better than people had done before. I got to admit, I was shocked when I saw the results. The was short-term variability that was due to volcanos, essentially nothing to to the solar variation. Theoretically, that’s not too surprising, but I was surprised nonetheless. But the remaining curve, the rise in that curve, was dead on to human production of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. At that point, the data had led me to a conclusion I would not have expected a few years earlier.
 Interesting information that no one should just take at face value. Pull the veneers off yourself and see what you find. Post back what you think.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What Do Hermits Say?

My passing interest in hermits led me to watch this documentary called Amongst White Clouds. If you have 5 minutes watch from minute 20 to 25 http://video.google.com/  This hermit talks about reality and nature and though he does not use the words of science like in the article below, I think the message is the same. Let me know what you think.

Reality doesn't exist; at least not in the way that we usually think of it. Dr. Jorge Martins de Oliveira writes,
 “Our perception does not identify the outside world as it really is, but the way that we are allowed to recognize it, as a consequence of transformations performed by our senses.  We experience electromagnetic waves, not as waves, but as images and colors. We experience vibrating objects, not as vibrations, but as sounds. We experience chemical compounds dissolved in air or water, not as chemicals, but as specific smells and tastes. Colors, sounds, smells and tastes are products of our minds, built from sensory experiences. They do not exist, as such, outside our brain. Actually, the universe is colorless, odorless, insipid and silent."  
Dr. Oliveira isn't a touchy-feely philosopher, a halfwit existentialist or the delusional leader of a religious cult. He's the Director of the Department of Neurosciences at an institute in Rio de Janeiro. According to Oliveira, each of us lives in a private world of our own perceptions. Speaking of this perceptual reality he writes, 
"Although you and I share the same biological architecture and function, perhaps what I perceive as a distinct color and smell is not exactly equal to the color and smell you perceive. We may give the same name to similar perceptions, but we cannot know how they relate to the reality of the outside world. Perhaps we never will."

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Legislate Spiritual Experience

In the recent NY Times Op-Ed by Maureen Dowd, Is Pleasure a Sin? which highlights the current discussion of "Just Love: a Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics,” a book by Sister Margaret Farley — a 77-year-old professor emeritus at Yale’s Divinity School, past president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and an award-winning scholar, we once again are confronted with organized religions attempt to control human activity that many argue is personal and not subject to religious laws. I would go further and say that this applies not only to sexual activity but the use of recreational drugs like marijuana, psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, etc that all at least mimic spiritual experience and many would argue, actually induce real spiritual experience.

Why does the United States have laws against sexual acts still on the books of several states? It is still unlawful in many states for heterosexual couples to engage in certain sexual acts even if married and in their own homes. In some states, the forbidden acts (sodomy, oral copulation, etc) are only illegal if performed by same-sex couples. I would argue as Sam Harris does in his book End of Faith, that this state of affairs is the logical extension of The Inquisition which though now less barbaric and intrusive on daily lives is still the attempt of a Christian society to impose control over personal activities that have no impact on society.  Read this rather long excerpt from End of Faith if you want to grasp the full extent of how religiosity in the United States is maybe the most dangerous phenomenon facing us as a society. Here is one brief part of this section in case you passed by the link above.  
Under our current laws, it is safe to say, if a drug were invented that posed no risk of phys­ical harm or addic­tion to its users but pro­duced a brief feeling of spir­itual bliss and epi­phany in 100 percent of those who tried it, this drug would be illegal, and people would be pun­ished mer­ci­lessly for its use. Only anxiety about the bib­lical crime of idol­atry would appear to make sense of this retributive impulse. Because we are a people of faith, taught to concern ourselves with the sin­ful­ness of our neigh­bors, we have grown tol­erant of irra­tional uses of state power.
Yesterday while reading a book on Chinese qi gong I came across this passage by Dr Yang Jwing-Ming. He nicely summarizes the differences in Eastern and Western thought and lends some credence to those in the west who have adopted Buddhist principles in their lives and strayed from Christian ideals.

However, if we reflect sincerely on our past, we realize that, very unfortunately, we have also been seriously abused by many religions which have misled us to continue killing each other. I deeply believe that this was not the original intention of the teachings passed down to us from those wise holy men. For thousands of years, religions have been used as an excuse for killing and conquering. If you step into any European historical museum, you will discover that nearly 80% of the arts created in the past are related to religion and war. Our spirit has been channeled and misused by religion to fulfìll the wishes of those in power. Glory, dignity, wealth, and power have been the symbols of religion. I believe that this was a wrong turn.
Maureen Dowd, Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, Sister Margaret Farley, and Sam Harris are all singing a similar tune that though the individual lines are different, it is part of the same song. Our irrationality born of blind faith is both killing us as individuals and our society as a whole. As Sam Harris points out in his book, we can see vividly what happens right now in the 21st century when faith overrides logic. The application of Sharia law in Islamist fundamentalist societies is abhorrent to westerners but is very similar to what was happening during The Inquisition. What is less apparent but no less important is how Christian faith has led our own society down an equally frightening path that since we are the frog in the pot of water with the heat turned on, we are less inclined to feel and  believe.

Get out of the pot. Read the Sam Harris book End of Faith. Open your eyes and try to see beyond the dogma we have been fed by society since infancy. You can be a self-proclaimed atheist and still carry around dogmatic beliefs without even realizing.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Farting Horse Never Tires

An old New England saying is that a farting horse never tires. Could it be true for the economy as well? I was reminded of this saying when reading the article below by First Trust Advisors.

Maybe the fits and starts and hiccups the economy is seeing should be seen as good news and we should change our focus. What do you think?

The Plow Horse Rolls On
Turn on the television, pick up the newspaper, search the Internet and you will find story after story about Greece, JP Morgan, austerity, the labor force, student loans, California, the G-8, or the Facebook IPO.  Just about every bit of the coverage is negative. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How to Fight

This link to an video interview with Dan Milllman has some very insightful words by Mr. Millman. In the past, certain friends have accused me of being a pacifist because of my opposition to various United States military operations in other countries. Try as I might to convince them that is not true, they continue to hold that mistaken belief. Mr. Millman summed up my basic philosophy at 6:40 into the interview. He stated the following.

Let me define the term Peaceful Warrior. All of us are seeking to live with a peaceful heart but there are times when we need a warrior spirit. If we have to fight, let’s fight for something and not against something.  There is a much different spirit in fighting for something than fighting against something, rebelling, angry – fighting against something.

I am not an idealist/pacifist.  In other words I would not let someone beat me to death, my family to death, because of my philosophy of non-violence. I believe in kindness whenever possible. But, if I were attacked, I would reflect back to the attacker the consequences of attacking another person. And, I would fight to the very best of my ability. So, I don’t advocate violence but I do advocate self-defense and having boundaries and self-respect for yourself because no one has a right to harm us or people we know and love. 
His distinction about fighting for something and not against is very profound. I have always felt that protesting different government actions was counter-productive because my actions actually empowered the oppressive activity. But what to do?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It’s Real Growth, Not Just Sugar

It’s Real Growth, Not Just Sugar 

Check out the link above, the data Wesbury presents and his argument about the role of new technology. My intuition says he is right but I have been fooled before.

Friday, March 23, 2012

No Man Is An Island

Politics in the US have gotten mean. It seems that more of the meanness is coming from the Republican side, but, then I see this study by Jesse Graham, Brian A. Nosek, and Jonathan Haidt at the University of Virginia that says most likely my liberal bias is blinding me to the caring nature of my conservative friends. They investigated the moral stereotypes liberals and conservatives have of themselves and each other and made an interesting discovery.
In reality, liberals endorse the individual-focused moral concerns of compassion and fairness more than conservatives do, and conservatives endorse the group-focused moral concerns of ingroup loyalty, respect for authorities and traditions, and physical/spiritual purity more than liberals do. 
They found out that both liberals and conservatives correctly identified the other groups values but exaggerated them. What a surprise?! The surprise was that conservatives and moderates were more accurate than the liberals. Liberals exaggerate moral differences the most.
The ideological “culture war” in the U.S. is, in part, an honest disagreement about ends (moral values that each side wants to advance), as well as an honest disagreement about means (laws and policies) to advance those ends. But our findings suggest that there is an additional process at work: partisans on each side exaggerate the degree to which the other side pursues moral ends that are different from their own. Much of this exaggeration comes from each side underestimating the degree to which the other side shares its own values. But some of it comes, unexpectedly, from overestimating the degree to which “typical” members of one’s own side endorse its values.
This shows that if people on both sides can just calm down for a second there are way more areas of agreement than disagreement. This study does not go into why so many people are wound so tight but I can put a couple guesses out there - our politicians and media. They are using these exaggerations to control people. So, take a chill pill and wake up folks.

I was also very encouraged by this , one of the studies authors gave this year. He is promoting his new book called The Righteous Mind.The TED talk gives a nice overview of the idea that humans have adapted to be social creatures and that our "spiritual" yearnings are part of that adaptive process. That was encouraging because he presented some good evidence that we are hardwired to cooperate so eventually the silly divides between liberals and conservatives will be seen as just that and we will fix our wonderful country and get back on track.

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.         - John Donne
This link will take you to a transcript and video of Johnathan Haidt being interviewed by Bill Moyers. Watching the video provides excellent context for this post.

Another article about the U of Virginia study........ link

Link to the site were you can take the questionnaire and see the results of how you compare..... http://www.yourmorals.org/explore.php

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When did our Politicians Stop Representing The Voters? Part 2

In When did our Politicians Stop Representing The Voters? Part 1 we discussed the Republican side and now in this Part 2 we look at how well the liberal side of the electorate is represented. To say that most liberals feel underwhelmed by President Obama is an understatement. Many feel downright betrayed. 

The Johnathan Chait article  in the New Yorker traces liberal disappointment with any Democrat residing in the Whitehouse all the way back to FDR! And, now it is not surprising to see the same disillusionment by the left with President Obama. There never really was a honeymoon for the President - the howling started before he was inaugurated.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

How To Decide Who Should Be President of the US?

My email friends and I have some very spirited exchanges about politics bordering on acrimonious and sometimes going over the line. About half of them will vote for whomever the Pubs put up, 40% want the best candidate and 10% will vote for Obama. Those in the Pub camp keep pointing to government regulations as their deciding factor. The rest want someone who will be good for the economy primarily. They asked me for my opinion.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

GDP By Country

Trying to compare GDP per capita by country and then include other likely drivers is difficult. On the one hand you have countries like Liechtenstein and Luxembourg near the top of the list who are not relying on natural resources to drive their economy. Then there are the various Arab states and Norway who are benefiting from oil.

My thoughts are to expand this into a matrix and include each country's debt as % of GDP, % of GDP spent on military, total population, health care as % of GDP, primary industry, form of government, and corporate tax rate. Then I would like to run a multiple linear regression to see if there are any attributes that are statistically valid determinants of GDP. Let me know if there are any other attributes you believe should be included.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Repeating History

Did you watch the debates last night? If you did maybe you were trying to remember the George Santayana quote "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". Ron Paul was one of the four who apparently learned from our Iraq mistake about bad intelligence and urges caution about dealing with Iran. Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich are either stupid or have ulterior motives like keeping the US war machine cranked up. I really would like to have a favorable opinion of Romney but he keeps giving me big reasons to take pause. But, attacking Iran at this point in time does not make me feel safer.

Over at the economic blog Angry Bear we find this little blurb and see a short writeup about the lunacy.  Last night Gingrich openly questioned how smart our Joints Chief of Staff General Martin Dempsey is in regards to future military adventures. Only the politicians know. What could the Generals know?

Ron Paul, Ron Paul, Ron Paul................

Sunday, February 19, 2012

When did our Politicians Stop Representing The Voters? Part I

Two interesting articles came to my attention. The first one by David Frum, former WSJ and Forbes writer, speechwriter in Bush II administration, and American Enterprise Institute (a Pub think-tank) policy writer. He wrote When Did the GOP Lose Touch With Reality?

The second was by Jonathan Chait, currently a writer for New York Magazine, on liberal disappointment with Obama called When Did Liberals Become So Unreasonable? He writes that if liberals are always disappointed with the Dem president maybe it has something to do with unrealistic expectations.

This subject makes me feel a little crazy. If the GOP has lost touch with reality and by extension, the far-right side of the population and if we see far-left liberals as unreasonable which is fairly easy for most folks to understand and when we look at our dysfunctional congress that abdicates its responsibility to the executive branch, refuses to tackle the real problems with deficits, executive branch war making, corporate take-over of the election process, and fixing the banking laws put in place during the depression that were subsequently gutted and allowed another banking crisis in 2008, then it makes you wonder if the whole world has gone insane.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Recession Coming?

In this interview of economist, Lacy Hunt by Kate Wellin, the current world economic status is reviewed with particular attention to the U.S. The primary focus is current government debt levels and what those mean to future prosperity. The interview also goes into economic theory and comparison of the U.S. situation with Europe which is actually buying Uncle Sam some time. But, time is running out and if the latest budget proposal from President Obama does not scare the bejeezers out of you,

Friday, February 10, 2012

Must the Rich be Lured into Investing?

Link to Brin's blog here......

David Brin is just making so much sense lately. He slices and dices supply-side economics and trickle-down economics to pieces. We all knew on one level they did not make sense. It was like someone telling you that eating cookies will make you thin because all that sugar is going to hype up your metabolism and then your body will burn it off. Yea right!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

American Gridlock Part 2 - Why The “Left” And The “Right” Are Both Wrong

In this part 2 article, Dr Brock goes further into the 2008 economic crisis that still grips the world today. He also attempts to craft win-win solutions that are not partisan politic driven. I have not read the book yet so my notes are based on the two teaser articles written so far.  Understanding game/bargaining theory and the noted background writing of Mordecai Kurz would help the interested person more fully comprehend what Dr Brock used to build his model.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Societal IQ and Leadership

This post is based on the musings in a Bruce Charlton post regarding IQ and leadership in different societies. First consider IQ scores by country.  Then look at a map of IQ score averages.

First Charlton supposes what is the probable level of IQ needed for leadership. His reasoning is logical.
Suppose that the threshold IQ for effective leadership is about 105 (roughly the top one third of the population of England, when IQ is normed at 100 average and with a standard deviation of 15). In other words, by IQ 105 I mean a level of general intelligence (as measurable by capacity for abstract and systematic thinking, ease of memorising, swiftness of calculation etc.) which is somewhat but not much above average for European natives. (This is roughly the IQ of an effective foreman, police or Army Sergeant, or a master craftsman - somebody with potentially high technical skills, good practical reason and tactical nous.) I am suggesting that IQ 105 is the threshold for 'intellectuals' in a global and historical context - for those who take leadership roles in social domains requiring cognitive expertise (most obviously priests, sorcerers, sacred kings, law makers and judges, in military societies those roles where 'generalship' is required and so on).
 So, if you think back now to the IQ map and look at Africa, parts of South, Central and Latin America you would start to think there is no way those countries have enough leaders to function. Yet, some of those countries seem to be getting along (Brazil with a 87) while others not-so-well (Haiti with a 67). Yes, that is a 20 point difference and probably correlates well with Charlton's next point.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Super Bowl 2012: Everything You Need to Know About Watching It Online

Since I don't have cable I usually go out to a restaurant or bar to watch the Super Bowl. Hopefully, NBC's website will not crash or slow down to a crawl. Link to this post....
Super Bowl 2012: Everything You Need to Know About Watching It Online

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

American Gridlock

The following is an article from the John Maudlin website on the current political and economic deadlock in the US specifically, but, that is gripping most of the western world. It is most likely too much for most people to think about since it will take longer than 5 minutes to read and digest.

The comments on Maudlin's website are interesting as well. With a couple exceptions, the comments posted so far about the article display the very gridlock gripping our country that the book attempts to find a way through. Are the entrenched thought patterns most people have so comfortable that trying something new on for just a few minutes becomes painful enough that they must lash out emotionally?

Personally, I found the discussion about inductive and deductive reasoning very interesting. After working 30+ years in manufacturing plants mostly at an engineering and management level, i saw the problems of using data to solve problems. Over and over, in lengthy meetings, people would show the data that supported their predetermined judgements.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tai Chi - A Personal Breakthrough

After eighteen years of struggle, practice, stopping practice for a month or two, and some outward success with my Tai Chi, this fall brought a breakthrough. One morning, not initially more unusual than other daybreaks, there was a formidable sensation of energy coming from the thigh area and being directed by the waist and flowing into my arms. The feeling of power and control was initially mind-boggling. It was so beyond anything previously experienced I was in awe of what was happening. I just kept doing set after set and used the energy to answer questions of how a move should correctly be done. The energy was so real my mind’s eye could clearly picture it flowing from place to place in the body. By the afternoon of this day, I started to look for answers in my many Tai Chi and Qigong books. Was this chi?