Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What is a Recession?

Understanding an Economic Recession

There isn't a real definition for an economic recession. President Clinton used a standard guideline which states that an economic recession is 2 or more quarters of negative economic growth.

That sounds reasonable. Is it?

Not exactly.

Growth is an interesting phenomenon. Suppose a child grows an average of 3” per year. I realize anyone with kids knows this is crap, but, lets just pretend. If a child does not grow the 3” is there something wrong? Yep.

With kids these are called developmental disorders or failure to thrive. Children are supposed to grow so much at each stage of their development. When kids don't achieve milestones we go to doctors and discover problems. I won't go too much into that except as a metaphor.

So what is a recession?

Lets look at “tax cuts” or “spending cuts” as another metaphor. Budgets are planned out years in advance. Politicians argue with each other and with the Presidential administration until they figure out a budget. This takes about 4 years. Suppose the original budget raised taxes by 3% per year and then politicians argue some more and taxes only go up 2% per year. This is what is called a “tax cut” even though taxes went up because the taxes went up less than expected. Same thing with spending, if we say we will increase spending by 3% and then only increase spending by 2% this is called a “spending cut” even though spending went up.

Confused yet? Yeah, I know it sounds stupid but this is politics and it makes very little common sense.

What about recession?

Typically the economy increases at; a mean of about 6%, a modality of about 6%, a median of 2.25% and a standard deviation of 7%. Wow, what the hell does that mean?

Unlike taxes and spending we do not say “recession” when the Gross Domestic Product or GDP raises at a lower than expected amount. Why would a politician use the same rules for GDP as they do for taxes and spending? That might make actual sense.

We could say that a recession is anything below average growth. Guess what? The growth in the 1990's during the Clinton admin never went UP TO the average growth. The highest growth was 6.4% and average is actually 6.5%. During the Bush admin the GDP grew at 6.5% in 2003 and 2004.

Well, I think the economy was pretty good in the 90's and not so great in 2003 and 2004. I could fudge the numbers and make it come out differently and sometimes politicians and economists do that. I won't. You can download the GDP history at and use a pretty simple calculation to figure out the percentage of GDP increase (I use real dollars, not 2005 dollars). Essentially I divide the GDP of a year (CY or current year) by the previous years GDP (PY or previous year) divided by 100. So....cell=(CY/(PY/100)) or cell=(100-(CY/(PY/100))) which gives me a comparative percentage of change in the GDP from the previous year using the previous year as a standard.
Once we have that info we can calculate the average or mean, the median (Min +((Max-Min)/2)), the modality (You need to use the FREQUENCY function for this) and the Standard Deviation (stdev).

Guess what? That works okay and gives you the numbers we have discussed.

Using those numbers I would define anything below about 2% growth as a recession. The number is not exactly arbitrary but the math behind it becomes more complex. A more realistic growth mean of GDP is about 7.25%. The median is closer to 6 and the modality is still about 6. The standard deviation becomes about 2.5%. This gives us a normal curve running from about -1% to 13% that is skewed very slightly to the lower end. 70 of the 81 years of data fall within this range.

Ever been graded on a curve? Lets use a pretty standard curve grading procedure.

Lets grade the economy on a standard 4.0 grade. Anything over the mean + 2 standard deviations is a 4.0, outstanding. Between the mean and +1 std dev is a 3.0, Above Average, anything around the mean is 2.0 or average. Anything -1 std dev below the mean is a 1.0 or below average. Anything -2 std dev or more below the mean sucks or fails.

So essentially anything below about 2.25% growth becomes a recession or a failing grade.

This means that 2008 and 2009 were recession years according to the data from

Personally, I think most people can agree with that.

2010 is now longer positive growth since we have drawn our grading line at 2.25 to 4.75, it becomes a “D”, a “1.0” and if you consider a 1.0 grade passing I don't care much for your education, but, it reality many consider it a passing grade so lets give 2010 a passing year.

When were the last two years we received a “C” for our GDP? 1987 and 1988. How about a “A”? 1983. Clinton receives a “C-” for GDP with all years within the range of C-, Bush receives an average “D” with 3 years of C and 5 years of “D”. These grades run 1993 to 2000 and 2001 to 2008. We could argue that the mortgage deregulation in 1999 during the Clinton admin caused the mortgage meltdown, but, whatever. In reality Congress has a lot to do with the budget and it takes 4 years for a president to take over the budget so Clinton's numbers should run from 1997 to 2004, Bush 2005 to 2012. I could “massage” the data around but I am leaving it like it is, admin oriented.

Typically the average person feels the effects of a poor grade or a good grade on the economy a year or two later. This is a subjective and rather arbitrary observation of my own based on economic perception and consumer confidence indexes.

In conclusion I believe any annual economic growth of the Gross Domestic Product below 2.25% is a recession. Economic Growth below 4.75% is BAD or “Piss Poor”. Economic growth at 7.25% plus or minus 1.25% is AVERAGE or GOOD.

Calling this economic mess anything except BAD is just political bull and it wastes everyone's time.

communication and the end of science in the States

I like reading. I read a lot. Recently I have been on a fiction reading jag, John D. MacDonald, Rex Stout, Lawrence Block, J.K. Rowling, Jack Higgins, Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy.

Since the Mid-1990's I focused on reading papers I was downloading from *.edu websites. Thesis and published papers that were inside of faculty members campus computer storage. Over the years I have watched the security change so that it has become more difficult to reach published papers without accessing through specific libraries or campus computer security systems. You can still find a lot of papers out there though.

There are a couple of things in common between fact based papers and fiction, one is the attempt to communicate an idea or group of ideas and the other is subjective and often inaccurate assumptions.

I worked for 6 years with a company that was developing a manufacturing process. The theoreticians pretty much ruled the roost and didn't understand the variability in the application. I would have arguments and be told things like "amplitude is constant" quite loudly and with very little respect for my expertise. After a year or two I would prove that process variability had a range. For example I claimed we were losing amplitude under force. It took about 18 months to fund the testing and prove my theory.

What I loved about that was once we discovered I was right and amplitude decreased as force increased people came up with a really neat linear equation to predict amplitude loss.

Just so people get this, every time you place force on an object you are essentially creating a spring. Grab a broom stick and put it between two chairs. Push down in the middle. The more force the more the stick will bend, BUT, as force increases the displacement per an amount of force will decrease. The first ten pounds of force will bend the broomstick more than the second ten pounds of force. This is just the way stuff works.

Now if you have ever graphed anything like this you know that the curve cannot be linear, it has to be curved.

It becomes even better, when I finally showed the variability in amplitude was skewed to the low side of the range some moron with a masters pulled out a statistics book which said "all distributions are normal distributions". If you know statistics you are probably laughing right now. It's no joke.

These are the kinds of assumptions that people writing papers make and the hard part in understanding them is identifying the assumptions.

One of Einstein's most famous incorrect assumptions was that the sun is a sphere. Duh, a plasma ball spinning deforms into a flattened out ellipsoid. If Einstein had thought about it he understood the issue and being unable to define the ellipsoid he reverted to a well defined sphere. When scientists could define the ellipsoid they did and discovered that the modification changed Einstein's results only slightly and not enough to invalidate the conclusions.

Did Einstein know his assumption was incorrect? Maybe. Maybe he didn't address the assumption because he didn't want to deal with whinny morons. Maybe Einstein ran the numbers with some various ellipsoids and while he couldn't define the ellipsoid he knew that identifying the sun as an unidentified ellipsoid would confuse the issue and create wasted argument. Maybe.

In reality a lot of scientists make assumptions where they know their data is not "exactly" correct, like the spring function,and they publish anyway. A shallow curve can be defined as a line segment and within a specific range of the curve a linear equation will closely approximate the curve. Yeah, tech speak for estimate.

The thing is, the author has to run the numbers enough to understand the curve. Was that done? Did Einstein do it? I know authors I have worked with have not done the homework behind the estimates and have made invalid assumptions.

When I read a paper I identify the assumptions, often writing them out as I read. Then I figure out where the assumptions came from.

The shear and tensile strength of a material is given as a number. This is an assumption or estimate based on statistical data from testing of materials within the standards. In reality the material breaking strength is a curve with a mean, a modality, a median and a standard deviation. If all four of these numbers are not available the data is an estimate.

People do not publish these four numbers in tensile strength testing data so all tensile strength numbers are estimates or assumptions.

Pretty crazy huh? Communication is beginning to seem like a joke even when dealing with "factual scientific papers" or "factual scientific data".

Of course what is happening is people are making simplifying assumptions about the data so that not every calculation is a probability equation based on other probabilities.

So what happens? The simplified assumption becomes invalid data. I wrote a recent blog about how Lawrence Block's character was whining about Batman killing people and how the original Batman had killed people. Ignorant assumptions based on insufficient data always make me laugh.

So some people take the em-PHA-sis (emphasis or Em-pha-sis) off the data and place it on the spelling, grammar and other assorted crap.

When people complain about spelling and grammar they are changing the subject from the data to the methodology or form of communication.

I like talking to and reading papers by people whose first language is not English. Typically people whose first language is not English are more interested in the content of the communication. People whose first language is not English often work very hard to understand regardless of the form of communication.

That is why people of other nations will surpass the United States in technology as long as the primary language of science is not their first language, they strive for understanding of the content while morons in the States focus on form.

You see this everywhere in the culture of the US, "You can't just do the job, you have to do it with style" and so people in the States ignore the work if it isn't stylish enough, pretty enough, "kewl" enough.

Just like Lawrence Block communicated his ignorant perception of Batman as being a mistake by movie producers more and more scientists in the States perceive things incorrectly because they focus on the form instead of the content.

By focusing on the form, the style, the "wow factor" the people in the US flawlessly present incorrect assumption built on incorrect assumption until they have developed a service based economy asking an uninterested world "would you like fries with that?" because some idiot has assumed that people want services from a nation who cares more about form than content. People who care about the Styrofoam packaging than the McBurger inside.

Imagine for a moment that you taste a standard cardboard burger for the first time and you hear the people in the nation which produces these things is complaining about the wrapper instead of the burger. Would you trust these people to do anything right?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Harry Potter and the KJV

A few years ago I was chatting with an internet friend about the KJV and the “Forbidden Books of the Bible” and how they originated.

I'll give you a quick review of how all the books of the Bible originated. Christ walked around. People wrote letters and anecdotal accounts of what they knew about Christ. Other people copied those books and gave other people the opportunity to copy them. Until the invention of the printing press no one cared about “copyright”, people cared if a book was stolen. Copy any book you want, just don't steal it.

Now, this may amaze you but people are all individuals and some copy more precisely than others. Some people leave things out or “enhance” details that they believe are important. Some people make up stories that fit the characters and sell those stories. Even today people will fake “ancient” copies of stories they just made up.

About 300 A.D. A group of scholars was assembled and they reviewed all the books about Christ that were circulated. These scholars chose the books with the best accreditation and assembled them into a group of books they called the Bible. The standard used was not what Books gave the reader the most knowledge of Christianity. The standard used was which Books were necessary to help teach the Good News of the Forgiveness of Sins through Christ.

As amazing as this sounds not everyone agreed with the decisions of this group of scholars. Sarcasm does not translate well into writing and I am being sarcastic. Getting three people to agree on where to eat lunch is pretty difficult. Imagine getting any group of scholars to decide which are the best books to use to teach salvation.

What the group ended up with was a majority decision breaking the books into three groups. The books that the majority believed were most important to teach salvation. The books that were useful to teach wisdom. The books that were about as useful as tabloid articles, books like the “Infancy Gospel of Thomas” which while entertaining communicated no useful wisdom or instruction in salvation.

People argued and just as every University in the world has books that they refuse to add into their library the Catholic Church issued a decree that the tabloid article type books could not be used by priests for instruction or guidance.

So where did Priests get their Bibles? They copied them during their education. Priests in training worked as scribes and had a little time to copy their own Bible during their education. Guess what, Priests copied different books from the two groups of acceptable books and not every Bible copied by every Priest had every “acceptable” book. As time went on most standardized on a form called the Latin Vulgate.

Enter King James Version. At the time of the Kind James version there were several English Translations of the scripture. Just as Council of Nicea had standardized on the group of Biblical books the KJV standardized the English translation of the Biblical Books. The KJV standardized the translation of the primary and secondary group of books. The primary books became known as the New and Old Testament and the secondary group of books were called the Apocrypha.

If you buy a Catholic Bible it will have the New Testament, the Apocrypha and the Old Testament. Protestants decided that because the Apocrypha was not Canonized into the primary group of scripture by those original scholars back in 300 A.D. it should not be included in the KJV even though the scholars who originally translated the KJV also translated the Apocrypha into the KJV. Confused yet?

Everyday throughout the United States books are burned. People pitch them out, libraries toss them into dumpsters. The number of books that are destroyed on a daily basis astounds me. Go around to your local library, typically they will try and sell off books and then they will try donating them. Some books, damaged books, outdated reference materials will end up in the trash bin.

Of course these same people who pitch the favorite books of some people will scream at the top of their lungs when others pitch their favorite books.

The group who receives the bad press on pitching books depends a lot on the carisma and volume of the the screaming. One group is pitching or burning the “bad books” and the other group is “evil”. Yeah, whatever.

Getting back to a chat discussion with some friends on the internet I explained all of this and the response was typical. There were those who claimed that my reasoning was ridiculous, all the books selected for the Bible must be wrong since none of them were first editions AND all the “forbidden” books were just as real and important as the books selected for the Bible.

Okay, people have weird ideas. I get it and no one can prove things one way or the other so why can't they be just as correct as I am? Right? Not hardly.

In everything that we learn there is theory and application. Learning a quadratic equation is theory. Doing a story problem that requires the quadratic formula is application. Too bad most teachers hate story problems as much as the students. Me, I love story problems because story problems are application. I have worked with a lot of degreed engineers who have a lot of difficulty in applying their theoretical knowledge to application and I have watched millions wasted because people don't understand the application of the theory.

Trying to claim that the Bible is inaccurate because they didn't include the tabloid books or because the books that were used to standardized on were not first editions but were copies which were adpated to the use of language at the time of their copying is ignoring basic common sense application of theory.

Enter Harry Potter.

Those of us who enjoy reading have discovered a plethora of information available on the internet. One day, in this chat room where we had previously discussed the theory and application of Biblical books we were engaged in a discussion of Harry Potter's latest book 7.

Now some of you may know that any time you have a popular character, Jessie James, Buffalo Bill Cody, the Three Musketeers, writers will “steal” the character and write stories that do not quite mesh with the original authors stories. Dime novels, super market tabloids, movies, television shows, all these media sources use and twist characters to suit their own story telling skills. If you understand the theory and the application I don't have to explain that this has been going on since people started doing cave paintings and that it undoubtedly happened with religious figures like Christ.

So here we have Harry Potter, a popular character and someone or some group has produced an alternate book 7 that a couple of people had read and said that they liked it as well or better than the original by J.K. Rowling. Someone posted the link and I downloaded it and it sat on my computer with tons of other books.

With the excitement in the air over the last segment of the Harry Potter movies I re-read the books and thought once again of this “just as good” Harry Potter book 7 which, of course, could not be an example of the kind of authorship that developed books such the “Infancy Gospel of Thomas”. No, all the “biblical” books that have survived or not must have been just as real as the books selected for inclusion in the Bible and this example of Harry Potter was just some strange and unique “new” creation because of the internet.

Now personally I liked this alternate book 7. Ginny goes on the search for the horcruxes, pre-marital sex (not graphic), Dudley Dursley becomes a dark wizard, Snape is evil to the end and Draco helps defeat the Dark Lord. No Deadly Hallows, no Elder Wand, nada. Just the same seven horcruxes and different ways of destroying them.

Good story though even if it does not belong in the set of books that comprise the 7 Harry Potter Books. Of course I didn't read J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter 7 in it's original edition and “language”, I read some US publication edition.

Now of course this is some newly developed idea which could never have existed at the time of Christ and no one back then would ever have written a fake letter or a fake gospel or anything else just for the fun of it the way this author(s) did for Harry Potter.

Of course, in 300 years no one will be able to tell the real book seven from the fake book seven, well, maybe a group of scholars who have access to the earliest editions available and have studied the writing styles and language of the various writers. Even having studied these things some scholars could disagree on which is the “real” book 7.

Just for your information, there are bunches of fake Harry Potter books out there in the internet and I have heard of some of them. There are probably fake books that would end up causing totally different endings, except Harry Potter will always kill Voldemort in the end. Some will be obvious fakes to those familiar with J.K. Rowling's style. Others will probably not be and some people may prefer a fake book or two to the original books.

To me it was hilarous, “listening” to this chat where the same people who talked about this fake Harry Potter book had thought the idea of fake biblical books as being ridiculous.

In the end does it matter?

Of course it does. You might as well ask if it matters which of the two Harry Potter book 7's that you read. Does it matter if you read the “real” book 7?

In the end you are the only one who can decide what you like best and what has the best application in your life.

I believe that making that decision from ignorance is a lot like reading the fake book 7 and claiming that it was the “real” book 7. Someone can learn the theory and the application and make the decision which applies and someone can say, “Yep, I know this is not J.K. Rowling's book 7 but I like it better” or someone can ridicule J.K. Rowling's book 7 as the fake and claim the alternate book is the “real” book.

People can even claim that knowledge of this “real” alternate book makes them the “educated” people and others “ignorant”.

Just ignore me as I sit here biting my tongue as I try and keep a serious look on my face while inside I am laughing my head off at the ignorance of those who argue different sides of the same theoretical idea without ever understanding the application.

Friday, July 08, 2011

e-book reader 3, Kindle

I have to say that so far the touch-pad Android reader scores highest, the Kindle second highest and the Nook lowest.

What I like about the Kindle?

Excellent screen and power control.

You can read text files.

Other than that it has a lot of the same problems as the Nook, slightly better but not a real solution.

You can't really convert PDF files into something readable. I have converted PDF files and I have read them on the Kindle and it really sucks. Maybe it is because most of the PDF files I use have a lot of graphs and images, micro-sections of materials, etc and I have a lousy converter.

Maybe that is the problem with the Nook too. Maybe they just need a good converter and a file format that handles graphics better.

In the end, I kept the Kindle for reading books I downloaded from the web in text format ( for example).

If you get a Kindle be aware that Amazon has deleted books purchased legitimately from Amazon off of some Kindles, You can read about it by searching "incest" and "Kindle" on Google. That scared the crap out of me because one of my favorite authors, Robert A. Heinlein, has an incest thread that runs through many of his books where one of the characters is in a plural marriage with his own mother. I avoided confrontation by purchasing the 802.11 version and never turning the wireless on. Maybe Amazon will turn it on remotely and delete my books anyway. If they do I will post that.

DRM is a big deal because a lot of nations don't recognize the same copyright protections that the United States does. Suppose I purchase a book in Pakistan, is the book deleted when I enter the United States? DRM is pretty screwed up.

In my opinion DRM and Copyright should last 20 years, the same as a patent. Screw all the rest of the greedy arguments.

I still use my XO OLPC laptop for reading PDF papers such as the scientific papers I read for work.

I would really like to try the I-pad sometime, I think it will stack-up favorably or even better to the Android touch-screen tablet.

Right now, in my opinion;
A "hard" book scores 2 out of 10
Nook scores 1 out of 10
Kindle scores 2 out of 10 (txt file capability :-)
Android scores 4 out of 10
XO-OLPC-1 scores 4 out of 10
Palm scores 2 out of 10 (M130, Tungsten W)
Blackberry scores 1 out of 10 (7100, 8320, 8330, 8900)
Normal laptop, windows or Linux scores 1 out of 10
Full size "tablet laptop" with folding screen scores 2 out of 10
Normal desktop....

I really want something in the 7-9 out of 10 range. So far nothing I have tried comes close to that range.

I really want something that:
Reads many different e-book formats
Reads PDF files without conversion no matter what they were published with
Does not crap out on files without DRM
Uses a generic (PGP style) DRM instead of credit card numbers (which always change)
Lasts at least as long as a Kindle
Uses a touch screen and does not get so nasty with finger prints
Is lightweight and small enough to easily carry
Won't break when you drop it a couple of times
Allows me to transfer reading rights of a DRM protected book
Stores books on a server
Won't delete books I have because the company hates the subject
Won't delete books because the company isn't sure I have rights to the book
Does not take the "guilty until proved innocent" DRM attitude of Microsoft, the RIAA and friends.
Plays music
Reads TXT format books to me in various languages, translating on the fly (Yeah, I can dream... :-)
Has a full time *G connection to the internet
Can be used as a browser to read internet websites

Still looking for the "magic bullet" :-) I will write and post as I think about it to let anyone who cares know what I think about the various e-readers I try.

Suicide is painless

I have been reading mystery books lately. In a sense all books are mystery books, they all address the mystery of life. Sometimes we call them “romance novels”. Boy meets girl, boy gets girl and they live happily ever after. Where is the mystery in that? The mystery is in how the story unfolds.

A woman I know likes to read the end of a book before she reads the beginning. That way, if she thinks the ending sucks she doesn't have to waste time reading the book.

This tells me that she is avoiding two things, suck ass endings and “wasting time”.

Desire and aversion, the two greatest motivators in life.

In one mystery book a detective buys a gun for a woman who has cancer and wants to commit suicide. The ruminations of the characters in the book made me wonder. The hero or protagonist doesn't make judgments. His friend is Catholic and discusses dying without confession or absolution. If you kill yourself the friend says, you can't confess and be absolved of your sins.

In Masada people couldn't kill themselves so a couple of soldiers killed them all.

That got me wondering. What is the difference?

Lets suppose someone gives you poisoned kool aid to drink and you drink it. Why would anyone give you poisoned kool-aid? Could you really believe it was poisoned? Suppose it really wasn't poisoned? Suppose some moron doing research just told you it was and it was really just a sedative that put you to sleep.

Some dork actually did an experiment like that. He wired a button to a scream machine and told people to push the button and make their friend scream.

Now personally I would have pushed the button down and held it down forever. I wouldn't believe that the button was hooked to anything that hurt anyone. I would be more interested in watching the behavior of the moron telling me to push the switch. How long would it take him to tell me to let go of the switch?

Stupid test. Why would anyone in their right mind believe that they were torturing someone? It would take an idiot to believe that.

Torturers get off on torture, not on watching someone else torture someone. Voyeurs like watching scummy things and I suppose some of them get off on making someone do something they don't want to do. By pushing the button down and holding it down I would take that away from an idiot who thinks he is making me do something I don't want to do because obviously I could care less.

Even when something is obvious people will think “it can't happen to me” and I am no different. If someone smokes and the smoking kills them did they commit suicide?

How about if someone crosses the street and is hit by a car? Did the pedestrian cross the street?

How about if a smoker is hit by a car crossing the street?

I get away from all those stupid judgments. I just figure that God will sort it out and I think God sorts things out based on the internal motivations of a person.

Desire and Aversion. If someone has a desire to die is it the same as having an aversion to living?

If you kill someone because you want them dead or because you don't want them breathing the same air as you does it matter?

I think it does. I think God looks inside each of us and determines our motivations. If our motivations are to control ourselves I think God looks at the situation differently than if our motivations are to control someone else.

Long ago a “witch” or psychic or whatever told me something that I have used throughout my life. She told me that some people believe that there is no good or evil. She told me that was wrong. Good was doing unto others as we would have them do unto us, making our own decisions for our own lives. Bad was taking away someone else's control over their own life. A love potion, she told me, was black magic because it takes away the control people have over their own life. Healing someone was white magic because it gives people control over their own life.

It is popular these days to think Good and Evil don't exist. That is crap and not just because of what the witch taught me, because of what God has taught me and life has taught me.

If the moron doing the torture test had gotten me as a subject I would have skewed his results to show that people would respond to authority even if they “knew” they were causing “harm”.

Yeah, right.

Sometimes I read that people don't believe in their mortality. I always new I would die. Sometimes I wanted control over the time and place. Sometimes I want to see it as a surprise. I am told that is “normal”. I am told not caring much is not “normal”.

I could take a different viewpoint. I could say that suicide is “wrong” because lazy “aristocrats” need plebeians or proletariat to harvest their crops and produce the things they need. If the common person took control of the time and place of their death it would make it hard to force them to live lives of “quiet desperation”.

When I was younger I used to laugh at times other people wouldn't because other people never got the joke. I still laugh at the “wrong” things sometimes. I learned that if I spent all my time laughing at people they thought I was weird. At some level I think I project the knowledge that everyone is hilariously stupid.

Essentially I am a monkey watching other monkeys and laughing at how stupid we are. People don't see that, they see someone looking “pained” (and you would be to if you spent all your time trying not to laugh at everyone) and think I must be “unhappy”.

Maybe I am “unhappy” in their “world”. Pretty judgmental, but, who cares when I am trying so hard to bite my tongue and keep from laughing in their face.

Laughing in peoples face is kind of rude, you end up spitting on them and usually people don't get the joke.

It used to bother me that people take themselves so seriously. People who were “bigger” and “stronger” would beat the crap out of me when I was a kid because I was laughing at them. I never cared much about that crap or people who were trying to get me into fights taking about my mother or other crap like that. I just figured they were hilarious idiots that couldn't get the joke.

Sometimes the frustration would turn into anger and I would find a way to react to their stupidity.

If people expect me to care what they think they ought to care what I think. Do unto others as they do unto you. People really don't care what anyone else thinks though. People don't really care what I think and I really don't care what other people think.

I do try and to encourage people to think in different ways and often people are insulted.

It used to frustrate me that no one cared what anyone else thought and that everyone was so stupid, making decisions without having educated themselves.

Some people use the phrase “paralysis by analysis” to describe people who educate themselves before making a decision. Not making a decision is a decision. People can make decisions without information and with information. The information can be correct or incorrect and people can second guess the decisions all they want.

In the end, ignorance is a way of life for everyone and thinking you can get away from ignorance is stupidity.

There is a rock with some runes on it that some farmer in Minnesota came up with called the “Kensington Stone”. Geologists who have studied it claim it is old. Archaeologists claim it is a hoax. Someone has to be wrong, some has to be right. In the end, who really cares? Maybe you do, maybe you don't.

Lets suppose the witch was correct. Let suppose that being in control of your own life was what matters. I used to study a lot of Zen. There is this guy, Thich Nhat Hanh, who wrote a bunch of books. Somewhere in the meditation and the study I figured it out. Life is about choice and all we should control were our own choices. In other words what the witch and the Bible both told me were true.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love others as you love yourself.

If we take that as the ultimate law, Mother Theresa might just end up in hell.

Why? Because she treated others better than she treated herself. She sacrificed so others could have. Did they have have more than she did? Did she really treat them better than she treated herself? Did she sacrifice any more than the people she worked with?

No suppose we feed ourselves but we don't feed everyone else. Do we go to heaven or hell?

Mother Theresa sure didn't feed everyone else, just the people she did feed.

I don't worry about it because God knows and I don't.

Embracing ignorance?

No. I just know that no matter how much I try I can never have all of the available information to make a decision.

That is the difference between God and people. People will always make decisions in ignorance and God will always make decisions having all of the available information.

Ignorance is amazing, isn't it?

When I was younger everyone used labels, on themselves and on others.

Once I was talking with this gay guy and he was being a real jerk. He was trying to get a rise out of me by being outrageous. You probably know the kind, they want to label you and more than that they want you to label yourself.

This guy is coming on to me and grabbing my crotch. He said something like how do I know I wouldn't like it if I hadn't tried it. I said how did he know I hadn't. He asked “did you?” and when I said it was none of his business he started calling me “gay” and a “self hating homo-phobe”. I told him he was an “asshole” and he said I was “gay” again, as if that was a dirty word. I said, “no, I'm just me”. He said I could be me, and that me was gay. He just went on being an asshole, as if everyone had the responsibility to explain or defend or force their own sexuality on everyone else the same way he did.

The guy couldn't accept that I was just me and he was just him.

It always feels good to beat the crap out of a judgmental, self-hating asshole which is what I considered that to be. Getting frustrated, letting the frustration turn into anger, letting the anger turn into action of some kind designed to influence or effect some person in which the frustration is embodied, self satisfying, it is kind of like jerking off.

That particular little experience taught me a couple of different things. People were just people. Stupid losers were always going to try and label everyone into little boxes. “Gay”, “judgmental”, “self-hating asshole”. Some people have more boxes and some people have fewer boxes.

To me, people became huge three dimensional “stars” composed of an infinite amount of “number lines” Imagine a number line with desire at one end aversion at the other. You are a “star” with your position on that number line in the center. A longer “ray” sticking out in one direction and a shorter “ray” sticking out in the opposite direction.

In reality, what I envision is much more complex because things are not really one of two choices, there are an infinite number of three dimensional points in each “ray” and everyone is composed of an infinite number of “points” in an infinite dimension of possibilities. Kind of like each “position” on an issue is a “star” and a person is composed of an infinite number of “stars”.

Stars twinkle, the “rays” always changing and really they are all the same clouds of gas. People became kind of like peas, some with slightly different shades of color.

The number line simplifies the concept, the infinite number of points in the finite set of numbers between zero and one for example, if you can conceive of such a thing. The infinite contained within the finite.

So, getting back to the suicide in the book, is suicide a sin? Is suicide wrong?

Good question. I don't know. I think it depends.

You could argue that life is choice and all we control is our own choices and that any choice taking us away from God's will is “wrong”. So if we go outside with wet hair and catch pneumonia and die we go to hell. Maybe we went outside to save a child's life? Maybe we went outside to save an animal's life? Maybe we went outside to earn a buck?

You could argue that life is choice and all we control is our own decisions and God will be happy with any decision we make that does not either control or take control away from another person's free will. So then deciding when to die is “good”.

If God believes we have the right to make our own decisions and we stop someone else from committing suicide is that sinful?

I think that sometimes it is, based on the individuals intentions. Not the expressed intentions, the internal intentions that no one can ever see.

Is suicide a sin?

I think that sometimes it is, based on the individuals intentions. Not the expressed intentions, the internal intentions that no one can ever see.

People justify the dumbest crap. We can't know what their intention really was or is.

We remain ignorant. Always.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Reading, fiction and non-fiction

I do a lot of reading. I read non-fiction and fiction and opinion. In the end what amazes me most is the ignorance of various writers. Non-Fiction writers are as bad as fiction and opinion writers. We all end up making decisions with insufficient information and then we become emotional invested in our decisions.

One of my political positions is being pro-choice. That is not just an abortion issue to me, it is abortion, gender identity, gambling, prostitution, alcohol, recreational drugs, just about everything.

Why am I pro-choice? Because God is pro-choice. God invented choice. God gave people free will and people have the right to use their God given gifts.

I believe that is a pretty simple argument. People argue that God gave people the responsibility of enforcing his laws and there is some Old Testament justification for that. Of course many of the 615 commandments in the Old Testament focus on sacrificing in the Temple in Jerusalem and there is no temple in Jerusalem, not one we can sacrifice at anyway.

Anyone trying to justify the enforcement of the Laws that people make by saying that they are based on God's laws is being pretty lame in my opinion, unless they try to enforce the laws about sacrificing at the Temple just as hard as the enforce the laws regarding a Woman's fruit, which they don't. In Exodus it tells us that the punishment for causing a woman to lose her fruit should be decided by the Judges and the woman's husband, but, I guess that interferes with the idea that abortion is murder and that screws up the entire idea.

You could always try using Paul's commandments to obey the law of the land and accept the rulers God places over you, as long as those laws are not against God.

But God invented choice and free will so anything that inhibits free will is against God's gift of free will. Now you could argue that the Golden Rule, “Love Everyone as you Love Yourself” or Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” could be legislated forcing people to a specific standard of love or respect. Yeah, somehow I don't think you can force a love standard or a respect standard.

People try though, they behave as if they have the right to force everyone to believe as they do.

This happens with governments too. China has been industrializing and has currently surpassed the United States in the total amount of pollution they have produced (according to one study, others have them just behind the United States). China claims they have the right to pollute as much as the United States did. I see the difference as being that the United States and western industrialized nations did not know how much environmental damage they could cause and as awareness of the damage increased so did legislation requiring environmental protections. Not in China and Mexico though so businesses moved production to those nations because it was “cheaper”.

How do you figure costs? How can anyone understand the real “value”?

The people making these decisions all base their decisions on specific information, essentially on information that tells them what they want to believe.

We all do.

I was reading a book by Lawrence Blocker about a detective called “Matthew Scudder”. The detective has a conversation about Batman, talking about how Batman never killed anyone in the comics, the movies just screwed it up.

Yeah, well, people (like me) who have read Batman know that is crap, Batman has gunned down his enemies and killed more people than John Wayne Gacey (sic?). In the sixties and seventies DC low balled the old vengeful Batman into a peace-love-non-violent kind of super hero who just locked up the bad guys, no “capital punishment”.

Things change and the “Batman” Lawrence Block knows is not the “Batman” the more “comically educated” of us know. Block writes a few lines out of ignorance based on his perception of “Batman”. His readers nod and read on, knowing the the “Detective” is “always right”.

I can't tell you how many papers, opinions and articles I have read where the comments were so totally groundless that I can't even begin to describe how hilarious they are.

Yep, hilarious. I spend my entire life biting my lip and trying not to laugh out loud at all the moronic stupidity. I tell people this and they get mad at my arrogance, as if I am claiming to be better than anyone else.

Am I smarter than 98% of people? Yep and I have IQ test scores to prove it. Am I more educated on some subjects than others? Yep, anyone who has read my blogs knows that. Am I a handsome guy? You bet, I have had plenty of women tell me that over the years.

Does that make me any better or any worse than anyone else?

Being a unique pea in a pea-pod means that you are still a pea and you'll never be anything but a pea in a pod.

When someone tells me that I think I am better than everyone else do you know what it tells me? That the person I am talking to believes that people can be better than other people, more of a pea in a pod and I want to laugh in their faces.

Back when I was 25 I had a goal, to have a nice boring life just like Archie Bunker. Was he opinionated? Yep, just like everyone else. Archie let his son-in-law mooch off of him for years even though Archie had no respect for the opinions or ideas of the son-in-law. Now would the son-in-law character do the same for Archie? No, in fact the character ran off with one of his students and dumped Archie's daughter.

Of course that is fiction, but, there is a lot of reality in it too. I don't believe very many people would support a person with such a diametrically opposed ideology who spent a half hour every evening ridiculing, humiliating and generally denigrating them all in “good fun”.

The thing I hated about the character Michael was that he was constantly making rude comments that went over Archie's head. I see a lot of semi-educated liberals doing things like that, trying to make jokes that go over over my head. I really like it when they try to use words they think I have never heard. Sometimes I will ask them to explain. Often they are incorrect about their understanding of the definition and I spend my time laughing at them inside.

One time a guy tried to get me to stop using the word “irregardless” which is not, as it sounds, the opposite of regardless. It is a non-standard usage of the word regardless. The first time he tried to correct me I let him have his little “verbal victory” and the second time I e-mailed him a link to the definition at Miriam-Webster.

I have little to no regard for grammar or spelling. Communication is about taking the time to understand what the other person is saying. In my opinion grammar and spelling complaints are made by people who are too lazy to try and understand what the other person is trying to communicate. As dumb as this sounds I communicate better with people whose first language is not English than I do with people whose first language is English.

When someone complains about grammar or spelling they are saying “You have to communicate on my terms” and that is the basic “Ugly American” complaint. “Do it the American way”, or if you prefer, “Do it MY way or hit the highway”.

How would you react to an ultimatum like that?

It isn't opinions or ideas that separate people. It is the intolerance people have for others, issuing ultimatums like “communicate MY WAY (or OUR WAY) or we will ignore you!”, “THINK MY WAY (or OUR WAY) or we will ignore you”.

In the end, the people that have been ignored will rise up, break down the castle walls and guillotine everyone in the castle.

Morons will always build castles to protect themselves from the “ignorant” and people will always tear them down.

Ignorance is a choice. It is a choice we all make and usually without even considering the consequences.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Making choices and having empathy

I just finished reading a very good book by an author named John Connely called “The Book of Lost Things”. It is a very good book and well worth reading.

The book documents the personal battle between Good and Evil that takes place in the heart of a child. The story begins in the setting of WW2 era England. As in many other books the child finds its way into a world of fantasy where a character called the “Trickster” or the “Crooked Man” offers the arrogant and selfish child the opportunity to trade the life of his younger half brother for a throne.

The journey that the child takes in the fantasy world teaches him to be understanding and generous.

The story is a good story. It is about facing your fears, putting away your selfishness and becoming a better person.

One of the child's mentors is a soldier who is in love with another soldier. The book basically does everything except call them a homosexual couple. The mentor is a strong, valiant man who takes good care of the boy as he helps him learn to put away his arrogance, hs selfishness and his fear.

The basic idea of the book is that evil exists in everyone and fear can be used to manipulate that evil.

Everyone is motivated in two basic ways, by desire and by aversion. Some people are motivated primarily by aversion. Some people are motivated by desire. Imagine that everyone has a number line on their forehead. At one end of the number line is desire. At the other end of the number line is aversion. Everyone makes decisions in their lives based on where they are on that number line when they make the decision.

You can tell where people are on the number line because they either talk about what they want or what they don't want. Ask someone where they want to have lunch. Do they answer with “I don't want ...”. That person is motivated by aversion or avoidance of something they don't like.

Before you go off with your new found knowledge understand that individual motivations are complex and can switch between desire and aversion.

(I used to use fear and courage but people have strong emotional ties to those words so now I am using desire and aversion. Just semantics :-)

The child in the book wanted things to go back to the way they were. This is a desire motivation and yet the author had the child overcome its fears to put away his selfish desires.

You really can't motivate someone with fear who is primarily motivated by desire. If one makes things difficult for someone who wants something they will often understand that they are being manipulated like a mule with a carrot on a stick. As soon as you move the carrot away a little they realize that the motivation s just a game and that there is no way to get the carrot.

If you try to motivate someone who is primarily motivated by desire with aversion therapy (beating the snot out of them) they will learn to lie, cheat and steal to get what they want because they know that they will only be punished if they are caught.

If you try to motivate someone who is primarily motivated by aversion with rewards they will learn very little and often never achieve anything.
If you listen to someone try to manipulate you, you can learn how they think. If the person is always talking about “You don't want that to happen because....” or “They only did that because they didn't want ….” you learn that the person is motivated by aversion.

If you listen to someone talking about “You want this because it will get you this and this and this....” or “They only did that because they wanted …...”.

Suppose someone steals food. Did they do it because they wanted to eat or because they didn't want to starve. Ask them why and they will tell you what their motivation is.

Here is the kicker. If they are a manipulator they will give you both answers. “I wanted food because I didn't want to starve”. Then the manipulator will listen for clues and change their speech to match the questioners motivation.

When I was young people kept telling me what terrible things would happen f I didn't do things their way. I did not care. Then people tried manipulating me with carrots that they kept pulling out of my reach so I quit letting other people control the rewards for my actions.

I think that most children are motivated by desire and most old people are motivated by aversion.

There is the real generation gap.

If a child has any empathy for others encouraging them to achieve goals that helps others as much as it helps them is important. Christ told us the most important commandment was to do unto others as we do or would want done for ourselves.

That means we shouldn't treat other people better or worse than we treat ourselves.

Suppose this world is a place where we make a choice between Good and Evil. Then the sorrows we go through make a lot more sense.

Suppose there was no sorrow in this world and you made a choice for Good and went to Haven. Suppose someone you loved made a choice for Evil and went to Hell. The choice belongs to the individual. If we had never learned that we have to let people go even when we really don't want to could we ever enter Heaven or would we insist that we stay with the person who had made the choice, giving up our own personal choice?

Having lost a child I know more about sorrow than most people. Being someone motivated by desire I seek out how I can become a better person, I seek out what I can learn from the sorrow in my life.

I married a woman who was incapable of loving herself or anyone else. As much as I wanted her I wanted a specific kind of life style more and I couldn't have that life with her so I divorced her. She leads the life she wants and I lead the life I want.

She held a carrot out in front of me that I realized I could never have. The people holding the carrot and the stick always claim “if they had tried just a little harder they would have gotten it” and as soon as I hear those words I know that the person is a manipulative liar that would never have given up the carrot.

In “The Book of Lost Things” the child is supposed to over come their fear of change and embrace the potential for great love even with the knowledge that great sorrow will happen.

The “Gay Soldier” in the book derides the Church and God because God allows bad things to happen, as if God should make slaves out of everyone and never give us the chance to learn how to let those we love go when it is time to let them go.

Many people make the same argument, God should make everyone into a slave and should never let anyone break any of his commandments and no one would go hungry or ever hurt and there would never be any sorrow.

The promise in all religions is that when we make the right choice we will eventually have these things. I think sorrow will always be there. I believe that God can only wipe away our tears of sorrow if we have them.

This world gives us the opportunity to choose to desire or avoid. We can apply the lessons we learn to our own lives or we can try to force them into the lives of others.

We can be motivated primarily by our sexual desires, by our desire for music, by our aversion to the cold or the wet, by our desire for company, by our aversion to loneliness, by our desire for solitude or by our aversion to people.

Something else we learn in this world is self control. We learn not to kill everyone that annoys us. We learn to cherish the people around us even when we have differences.

We learn empathy for other people. We learn to feel sorrow when misery occurs to others. We learn to feel joy when others are cheerful.

Some people are always miserable. Some people are always joyful. Some people are joyful on the outside and miserable on the inside while others appear miserable outside and are more joyful inside than we can know.

We can never truly know what is going on in the mind of another, even with tricks like desire and aversion, semantics like fear and courage.

In the end we make individual choices made with insufficient information and we hope that our choices keep us from harm and help us achieve what we want.

We can never force others to do anything other than make a choice and in forcing that choice we can only encourage hatred and anger. If someone holds a gun to your head and tells you “do this or die” you make a choice. If someone is tortured and they do whatever it is the torturer would like they have made a choice.

We have to take responsibility for our choices no matter what circumstances we make them in, no matter how desperate those choices are and no matter if anyone else understands the desperation in the choice.

When we judge the choices other people make, pretending to understand the mental processes, the desperation and the desire we pretend that we can understand each other.
The truth is that while we are all pretty much the same we are all different. None of use can ever really understand any other person even if we are empathic and we listen carefully for motivational hints like desire and aversion.