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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Statistics were people, first.

Often statistics are numerically true but fundamentally dishonest. I stumbled on this blog post this morning and perused the statistics and the implied argument therein. Here's a short excerpt of it:
Comparing the CDC numbers to terrorism deaths means:

– You are 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack. You are 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack.

Wikipedia notes that obesity is a contributing factor in 100,000–400,000 deaths in the United States per year. That makes obesity 5,882 to times 23,528 more likely to kill you than a terrorist. The annual number of deaths in the U.S. due to avoidable medical errors is as high as 100,000. Indeed, one of the world’s leading medical journals – Lancet – reported in 2011:
A November, 2010, document from the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services reported that, when in hospital, one in seven beneficiaries of Medicare (the government-sponsored health-care programme for those aged 65 years and older) have complications from medical errors, which contribute to about 180,000 deaths of patients per year.
That’s just Medicare beneficiaries, not the entire American public. Scientific American noted in 2009:
Preventable medical mistakes and infections are responsible for about 200,000 deaths in the U.S. each year, according to an investigation by the Hearst media corporation.
But let’s use the lower – 100,000 – figure. That still means that you are 5,882 times more likely to die from medical error than terrorism.

The CDC says that some 80,000 deaths each year are attributable to excessive alcohol use. So you're 4,706 times more likely to drink yourself to death than die from terrorism.

Wikipedia notes that there were 32,367 automobile accidents in 2011, which means that you are 1,904 times more likely to die from a car accident than from a terrorist attack. As CNN reporter Fareed Zakaria writes this week:
Since 9/11, foreign-inspired terrorism has claimed about two dozen lives in the United States. (Meanwhile, more than 100,000 have been killed in gun homicides and more than 400,000 in motor-vehicle accidents.)
According to a 2011 CDC report, poisoning from prescription drugs is even more likely to kill you than a car crash. Indeed, the CDC stated in 2011 that – in the majority of states – your prescription meds are more likely to kill you than any other source of injury. So your meds are thousands of times more likely to kill you than Al Qaeda.

Statistics only matter to the people reading the statistics. They only matter to the actuaries who wager dollars with each other based on actuarial tables in some kind of ghoulish dead-pool. Who cares what you're likely to die of statistically? The only thing that matters is what actually kills you. If it's a heart attack or cancer, okay—yes that sucks—but see that's the luck of the draw. Likewise nobody likes losing at cards but all we can do is play the hand we're dealt. Except when there's a dirty stinking cheater sitting at the table. All you can do then is pin his dirty sneaky hand to the table with a steak-knife and grin while the blood and the aces pour out of his sleeve.

You ask why it's so awful to have Americans killed by terrorist attacks—why we make such a monumentally big deal out of them—when so many more Americans drop dead from everything else? It's because terrorism isn't just a violation of the law. It's not just a few deaths. From the person killed, to the family left bereaved, to the community left reeling, to the nation left in terror, it isn't just an accident. It isn't just a murder. It isn't just senseless violence. We've come a long way from the days we spent hiding in some hole while fiercer predators ruled the world. Terrorism hits us at the root of our pride, at the base of our ego, at our position on the top of the food chain. It hits us right in our humanity. We humans don't like being hunted as if we were still prey. It evokes a righteous fury all out of proportion to some statistical body count.

So what if we're more likely to die of cancer? So what? A family who has lost a loved one to cancer isn't afraid to leave their homes. A person who's watched in horror while EMTs try to save his friend during a heart attack doesn't fear going to the mall or the ballgame...or the marathon! The purpose of terrorism isn't just to kill Americans. It's to make us afraid. Its purpose is to put a big dirty boot on our necks and leave it there over the days and weeks and years while we wait and wait and wait in horrified anticipation...for the day when finally all the weight will come crushing down.

Herd animals quickly forget. When one of their number is culled it seldom registers. Life for them is eating grass and leaves and running from danger and then forgetting. People don't forget. We remember. We learn from our mistakes. We learn to identify our enemy. And once he's identified he's dead meat. He can run but he can't hide.

George Washington or whoever you are, don't you dare preach statistics at me! Tell it to the victims. Tell it to their families. Tell it to their friends. Tell it to their community. Tell it to every American who now has to worry about inimical predators in addition to cholesterol and second-hand smoke. Finally, I don't know where the chances fall on your statistical wheel-of-fortune, but if you choked to death on a turd-sandwich you might not appreciate your sudden status as statistically highly improbable, but I bet somewhere somebody up in heaven would understand the cosmic irony.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I'm dubious

If you’re mixing up a cocktail and worried about how drunk you’ll feel after finishing it, you might be closely measuring the amount of liquor that you pour in. But recent research suggests that your choice of mixer—whether regular soda or diet—plays a key role in determining how that alcohol affects your body.

A new study, published by Cecile Marczinski and Amy Stamates of Northern Kentucky University in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER), indicates that drinking diet soda with liquor causes breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) to rise more quickly than if the exact same amount of alcohol was mixed with regular soda instead. Among the 16 participants who were tested as part of the experiment, those who’d been given diet soda as a mixer had their BrAC peak at levels 18% higher than those whose drink was mixed with regular soda.
The theory that the researchers proposed to explain this heretofore unknown alcohol-magnification-effect was that the human body treated the sugar in the regular soda as food and therefore slowed down the absorption process while allowing the diet soda to flow through unimpeded. Well, they always tell you to eat something before you start drinking so perhaps they have something there. Nevertheless, I'm dubious. You'd think they'd have used plain water to test their hypothesis but there's no evidence that they did so. Is it possible that something more interesting is going on? Is the alcohol and the aspartame in the diet Squirt reacting somehow with the acid in the stomach? Something's going on here and at first glance it seems to be something fairly major.

A drinker who regularly drinks a couple of bourbon and Cokes when out with his friends and never experiences any noticeable impairment while driving, will suddenly be DUI if he decides to go on a diet. I'd say this was major; wouldn't you? Unfortunately however, the study referenced above only had 16 subjects and there's no mention at all of a control group. I don't have access to the full study's details so I'm unaware what if any constraints they put in place to maintain ceteris paribus in the study. Were the experimental subjects each instructed to eat or perhaps not to eat for some predetermined period of time before the commencement of the study? An eighteen percent difference in BAC is massive. Imagine running 18% faster or losing 18% of your weight or getting 18% better gas mileage! The other thing this study is to me, is horrifying. What's going on here? If aspartame increases alcoholic absorption by 18% what might some other brand new-and-improved artificial ingredient do to us? I'm curious. You'd think they would have tested these artificial sweeteners with a variety of foods and drinks, including alcohol before putting them in practically everything.

What about you? Is this good news, bad news, or just news? Will it make you drink less, switch drinks, or happily get more for your money? My favorite drink—and believe me I've tried 'em all—is my own concoction. It's a jigger of vodka, three ounces of orange juice and six ounces of diet Mountain Dew. It's a cross between a screw-driver and a dew-driver, and it's far better than either one. It's also fairly low calorie. Today I found out it's also exceptionally efficient as in a little dab'll dew ya.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Wrapping things up

You only get so many meals so you should think of food as a treat and not a chore. It's been my experience that everyone has different tastes and that often people will try to get you to eat things that are dull, bland, or perhaps even disgusting. Many times they'll explain that this or that food is a delicacy and highly prized by this or that nationality, group, clique, or food critic. Maybe it is but you won't find me eating something that's disgusting just because Gordon Ramsay says it's a delicacy. No mollusks, larvae or roe for this fella. You can keep your funguses and moldy cheese as well. Cottage cheese, turnip greens, liver, Brussels sprouts? If it's gross I won't eat it just so you'll think I'm sophisticated.

Wraps are my new favorite. Flour or corn tortillas stuffed with tasty and spicy food of one kind or another are the most common wraps but nowadays they're putting just about anything in them. A traditional tex-mex burrito is composed of seasoned ground beef, cheddar cheese, chopped tomato and onion, salsa, and sour cream. You can wrap regular sandwich meat like turkey or ham up in a tortilla with lettuce and cheese for something quick, filling, and fairly low-calorie. My wife gave me a recipe that she got from her Cuban friend that's truly special. Pan-fry strips of pork loin in olive oil and when cooked combine them with chopped tomato cucumber and onion. Serve on fried corn tortillas, but don't forget to drizzle on some lime juice before rolling these incredible little wraps up. Muy delicioso! My personal favorite which I concocted myself from the best of all things is this: a large flour tortilla warmed in the oven or microwave, some cream cheese spread thin, strips of rare steak, melted cheddar cheese, a strip or two of crispy bacon and finally a liberal helping of jalapeno peppers to set it all off. It is sublime.

On the subject of wrapping things up, I just finished A Memory of Light. It was the thirteenth and final novel in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. It was exquisite as Thom Merrilin says, but more than that. The first book in this series was published 23 years ago in 1990 and I've been a true fanatic ever since I turned the first page. You only get to read so many books, so if your book is dry and tedious and you've scheduled a certain quota of pages to trudge through today, I wonder why you're doing it?

With so many things... food, the arts, entertainment, and politics, people wrap themselves up in the expectations of others. Whether it's that NYT bestseller with all the excitement of drying paint, or that popular political talking-point that's antithetical to your religion, or perhaps oozing slime mold that some cook found under a rock and put on your dinner plate, if other people claim that everyone thinks that something is great we often either change our perception or sometimes only pretend to. This is the Emperor with no clothes paradigm. What the world needs is more people telling other people that stuff sucks regardless of how popular it is. Here are two examples of stuff that sucks:
  1. Ogden Nash
    A Caution To Everybody
    Consider the auk;
    Becoming extinct because he forgot how to fly, and could only walk.
    Consider man, who may well become extinct
    Because he forgot how to walk and learned how to fly before he thinked.

  2. Picasso

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The United States and the New-New Economy

Why do old-fashioned people think that high national debt is a problem? Why do they think it causes a stagnating economy? Don't they know about the New-New economic rules?

I remember well the thinking prior to the dotcom bubble-burst of 2001. As the NASDAQ soared in a meteoric rise that at one point passed 5000, the speculators and the babbling talking heads on television alike were manic. This was a new thing under the sun they told each other back and forth. Apparently there was some new rule or set of rules in effect that had rendered stodgy conservative economic indicators like P/E ratios and debt irrelevant. It was the "New Economy." As investors eagerly clamored for shares that were already trading at 50 to 100 times estimated future earnings, traditional value investors were left scratching their heads. Was there truly some new rule or set of rules in play that were unknown to conventional investors? What rationale could possibly justify this unbridled irrationally exuberant speculation? As everyone was soon to discover there were no unknown rules; there were in fact no new paradigms or foundations that exempted “tech” stocks from the same stodgy economic rules that constrain every successful business. Under the old economy's rules, if a company doesn’t have a product, or doesn’t make or profit, or is suffering under the burden of crushing debt, at some point its doors will shut, it will go bankrupt and its holdings will be sold off to the highest bidder. It doesn’t matter how awesome the idea is, the company either makes a profit over the long haul or it goes bankrupt. But see that's for the old economy. Technology companies don't follow those rules

...and then the bubble burst and with it went the new economy.

That’s the nature of free-enterprise and it guarantees efficiency. If the company’s business works it continues to employ workers and pay taxes and provide dividends to investors, but if it doesn’t work it just goes bankrupt. Unfortunately for efficiency of outcome, unfortunately for companies who successfully compete, unfortunately for citizens who must pay taxes, the government knows better than everyone else. Yes, a handful of government planners know what is better for us than do three-hundred-million American consumers. Electric cars are better than gasoline powered ones. Windmills are better than coal. Solar panels are better than natural gas. Sustainable is better than practical. It’s better to spend fifty cents recycling a pound of paper than twenty cents for the same pound of virgin paper made from a newly timbered pine.

For these reasons, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that the USA—just like the 2001 tech bubble—is completely immune to the forces of economic rationality. We can do whatever we want because we’re a new thing under the sun. There has never before been a nation so wealthy so powerful so vital and energetic. We can easily survive debt that is equal to GNP or twice GNP and suffer no ill effects because … well just because. (It has something to do with the new economic rules that render America invulnerable to all harm.) We can’t go bankrupt because the world can’t afford for us to. Right, that worked so well for Hostess workers as I remember.

It seems obvious and intuitive that as a nation goes further and further into debt at some point some simple things begin to happen. At some point it no can no longer take in enough in taxes to maintain even the interest on its debt, much less the cost of the programs and services for which it was instituted in the first place. At this point it will be forced to start printing money to pay its debt. You see, it has already borrowed so much money that it is unable to secure sufficient loan income to pay the interest on outstanding debt. It’s a vicious cycle with only one possible outcome. But don’t forget about that whole new system of economic rules that supersedes all the old fashioned understanding of yesteryear. When a business can’t make a profit because it doesn’t have a product, the government will step in and offer a variety of subsidies and grants to allow that business to keep its doors open. When a business can’t turn a profit because its workers have unionized and demanded more pay and benefits than the product demand can fund or it has incurred too much debt to pay off, then Uncle Sam will step in and buy it out. And therefore likewise...wait for it...likewise when America can no longer sustain its own debt some larger entity will step in and save us just like we did for all those struggling banks, just like we did for GM. Just like we did time after time as we interfered with the market and instituted 2nd and even 3rd chances all around, kind of like a video game.
Why the Argument for Austerity Took a Big Hit Yesterday Reinhart and Rogoff have always been careful to note that just because high-debt countries have tended to grow more slowly than low debt countries, it doesn’t mean that high-debt definitively caused slow growth. Critics have a pointed out, quite justifiably, that the causation could be the other way around — that slow growth causes debt. But even though Reinhart and Rogoff’s research doesn’t prove causality, it didn’t stop them from writing as if it did. And proponents of austerity took their research as solid proof that high debt levels impede growth. For instance, Paul Ryan has used Reinhart and Rogoff’s research to argue for his deficit-slashing budgets, writing “Economists who have studied sovereign debt tell us that letting total debt rise above 90 percent of GDP creates a drag on economic growth and intensifies the risk of a debt-fueled economic crisis.”

What Hardon, Ash, and Pollin find is that countries with debt loads higher than 90% of GDP actually grow an average of 2.2% per year, rather than the -0.1% found by Reinhart and Rogoff. The details of the errors are technical, but pretty embarrassing for such respected and influential research.
Wow! According to TIME an excel spreadsheet error caused a colossal error that was a double order of magnitude off the mark. But then in my research I found this from SLATE magazine.
So this is huge. Or, rather, it won't matter even a tiny little bit but it ought to be a big deal anyway. You've probably heard that countries with a high debt:GDP ratio suffer from slow economic growth. The specific number 90 percent has been invoked frequently. That's all thanks to a study conducted by Carmen Reinhardt and Kenneth Rogoff for their book This Time It's Different. But the results have been difficult for other researchers to replicate. Now three scholars at the University of Massachusetts have done so in "Does High Public Debt Consistently Stifle Economic Growth? A Critique of Reinhart and Rogoff" and they find that the Reinhart/Rogoff result is based on opportunistic exclusion of Commonwealth data in the late-1940s, a debatable premise about how to weight the data, and most of all a sloppy Excel coding error.

Read Mike Konczal for the whole rundown, but I'll just focus on the spreadsheet part. At one point they set cell L51 equal to AVERAGE(L30:L44) when the correct procedure was AVERAGE(L30:L49). By typing wrong, they accidentally left Denmark, Canada, Belgium, Austria, and Australia out of the average. When you fix the Excel error, a -0.1 percent growth rate turns into 0.2 percent growth.
So there you have it... or there you don't. TIME says the error caused the Reinhart-Rogoff data to be 2.3% off the mark while SLATE has the error at only 0.3%. It looks to me like Reinhart and Rogoff aren't the only ones having arithmetic problems these days. Regardless of which magazine you believe, the message is the same: Austerity is unnecessary. Countries should spend until they go into debt, and then keep spending and going deeper into debt. What could possibly go wrong? If you find it hard to understand all these strangely contradictory new-new economic rules, you should consider taking a course in Economics 101.2

Sunday, April 7, 2013

First come, first served, unless you're special

At the Babies R Us store they have several parking slots for expectant mothers. At hospitals they have all those slots designated only for doctors. At every single place you want to park, the best ones—the ones closest to the door—are designated for people with a handicapped plate, or handicapped sticker, or one of those little blue dinguses they hang from their mirror. This phenomenon grows ever more striking and annoying as the years go by. When do guys with three kids in tow get a designated prime parking spot? When does the male pattern baldness crowd get a special niche all for their own that nobody else is allowed to park in?
House of Eratosthenes

The more years I see come and go, the more impressed I am that weakness becomes a pattern of belief: A lot of people believe in weakness. They won’t admit it. But you can pick them out pretty easily; they treat things as the opposite of whatever those things are. They tend to shower lots of deferential courtesies on others who, in return, behave unkindly toward them. They treat mean people as if they were nice people, and nice people as mean people. They come up with ideas that have no history of working effectively, or that have very lengthy histories of botching everything up — and treat those ideas as if they were good ones.
This slippery slope of socialism has been thoroughly accepted and internalized in every area of our American society. From each according to his ability to each according to his need. We reward weakness in so many ways. Those who have trouble walking are given the choicest parking spots. They're provided with motorized scooters. They're allowed to board the plane before everyone else. They're escorted to the head of every line, at the bank, at the power company, at the phone company, at the post office. They get special checks from the Social Security Administration. They're given special consideration when they apply for jobs, loans, etc. Businesses who hire the disabled get special incentives and tax rebates.

I can understand that there exists a need for handicapped parking spots in some cases. If you've got a van and a side door from which a powered lift sets down a motorized wheel-chair, then that extra space each handicapped spot comes with is necessary. However, if you get out of the driver's side and walk with a cane, then I have to ask...what are you doing? Who do you think you are? Just because you have a blue dingus hanging from your mirror and a stick in your hand, that doesn't make you special. You're stealing that spot from somebody who really does need that extra space because they're in a van with a side door and a powered lift that will lower a disabled person in a motorized wheelchair. But they can't park there because some ass-hat with a cane and a blue dingus stole their spot.

I'm reminded of the Sneetches story by Dr. Seuss. Some sneeches with special stars on their chests are given special least until a guy comes along to give everybody a star. At some point I wonder when every American will in similar fashion demand their own little blue mirror-hanging dinguses from their doctor? I can see it now. They'll come limping in holding their backs and complaining that they just can't get around like they used to. Yes, when every American gets a little blue dingus to hang on their rear-view mirror we'll all be back to square one again. At that point I suppose they'll have to come up with some brand new—even more special—handicapped know for those who're really really handicapped.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

If there's one thing I hate more than hypocrisy it's sanctimony!

When I'm people watching I always check out the ladies. I'm a guy and guys are happy to enjoy the view. If the ladies are good-looking they know it, and they wear revealing clothing to flaunt it. They wear push-up bras with blouses showing off ever more revealing d├ęcolletage. They wear skin-tight jeans that cling snugly to every curvaceous curve from their butt all the way down. Even better than this, is when they wear those little skirts with hose and those stiletto heels. As they sway seductively with every step you can just look around and you'll see the heads of all the men turning like a flower following the sun.

Does pointing out these completely obvious and totally undeniable facts somehow make of me a sexist? If women aren't displaying their sexuality what is it that they are doing pray tell? You'll have to pardon my confusion because if that's not what they're doing then what's with the make-up? What's with that veritable tackle box-full of stuff designed to help them accentuate this feature and conceal that one? What's with the lipstick if not to make those lips look fuller and more seductive? What's with that mascara if not to make us stutter and lose our wits when they bat their eyelashes at us? How do fuller lips or longer lashes help the ladies perform their daily tasks more efficiently?

If the President of the United States is a complete boob, an utter moron, a lackluster unimaginative statist left-wing America-hating A-hole, he's still a guy. What? A man can't pay a woman a compliment? Grow-up! If you want to find things to criticize there's plenty to pick from. But picking on him because he said some lady was attractive is just nothing but pettiness for petty's sake. It's not just petty it's anti-conservative. Remember what we stand for: Men being men, women being women? Getting married, having babies, raising children, and making the world go-round, that's what we stand for. All this hysteria is unbecoming and antithetical to our conservative political ideology. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. Why throw a rock when he does?
To help you better understand the outrage by so many women, here are three reasons your "compliment" was so very far out of bounds:

1. You are basically her boss, Mr. President.

Yes, the people of California elected her, but she also oversees justice in your name as well. Bosses who flirt cross a line. Imagine if Hillary Clinton were president and she complimented the handsome attorney general of Maryland, Doug Gansler, not only on his outstanding service but for his good looks. Actually it is hard to imagine such a gaffe, isn’t it? Women bosses — 9 times out of 10 — unlike men know how to keep such thoughts to themselves.

2. Women want to be judged on their accomplishments and not how pretty or unpretty they are.

Men are not complimented on their hunkiness, unless they are a movie star or a model, but on what they accomplish. To mix the two compliments is to demean AG Harris’ capabilities. Being very pretty is great, but something she has no control over, the luck of the genetic draw. But being an outstanding attorney general, one of only nine women who hold that post in the U.S., means she worked hard to break the legal glass ceiling. Also did you wonder what the other eight women AGs thought when they heard your remarks?

3. You are the President of the United States, for Pete’s sake.

You are also the father of two girls, whom you want to grow up and be as accomplished as their lawyer mother, and you want them to be judged on their merits, not on their perkiness or cuteness. As the President of this country, you are also supposed to set a tone by what you say. Words have consequences. You are the leader of the free world, trying to move the world’s women out of the shadows of discrimination and into economic equality to give the world stability, so it is painful to watch you slip into male chauvinist rhetoric of the last century.
No no no don't bother standing there with your mouth agape at the immense stupidity of this screed from Catherine Poe. Maybe you respect her otherwise conservative credentials, perhaps you're thinking this is a shoe on the other foot tongue-in-cheek droll comedy, but I don't get that. There's not one thing in her article that suggests she's having fun being ironic or that this is satire of whatever kind. I think she's completely serious and therefore completely misses the mark.

If you want to dislike someone, dislike them for the right reasons not the wrong ones. If you're argument is that because of his position as "leader of the free world" that it's inappropriate to compliment a woman for her appearance then you need someone to knock some sense into that pointy little head of yours. Let's get one thing perfectly clear...good-looking women 1.) Know they're attractive. 2.) Work hard at maintaining their attractiveness. 3.) Like to be complimented on their attractiveness.

The life of a pretty woman is one of exercise, diet, hair-dressers, make-up, clothing, shoes, manicures, pedicures, etc., STOP STOP STOP!!! Do you think we men do any of that stuff? Well maybe just the tiniest little bit of it, but it's not central to our daily lives. The average guy doesn't spend hours getting ready for work. The average guy doesn't spend hundreds of dollars on getting their hair done or their nails. Go to your local news-stand. When you get there look at all the magazines for women. Read the names of the to make your man happy. How to attract a man. How to keep a man. How to make your lips look more full. How to shape the perfect butt. How to make your man buy that ring...on and on and on. If you ladies aren't fishing for compliments...what's with all the fishing magazines and all that lovely bait?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ice that took over a decade to form on the walls of my freezer thawed in hours!

Hasn't global warming already been debunked? I thought the science was warming is a foolish mistake or perhaps an amazingly successful scam, but in no way is it science. So, imagine my amazement to discover this alarming headline at the New York Times: "In Sign of Warming, 1600 Years of Ice in Andes Melted in 25 Years!"

The article goes on in depth to describe the awful tragedy unfolding in the Peruvian Andes. Apparently plants that were growing on this volcanic plain 18,000 feet above sea level, 6000 years ago, were frozen solid and then covered in ice for thousands of years. No that's not the tragedy; the tragedy is that this ice is now thawing due to the recent balmy weather we've been having the last twenty-five years or so. You see this ice thawing is supposed to be more proof of man-caused global warming. Except for the fact—which the beleaguered global-warming theory ignores—that according to the article—PLANTS WERE GROWING HERE 6000 YEARS AGO!!! And as far as I know humans weren't that much of a CO2 producer in those halcyon days of yore, when plants were growing here. You'd think that would kind of settle it, wouldn't you?
Global warming, which scientists say is being caused primarily by the human release of greenhouse gases, is having its largest effects at high latitudes and high altitudes. Sitting at high elevation in the tropics, the Quelccaya ice cap appears to be extremely sensitive to the temperature changes, several scientists said.

"It may not go very quickly because there’s so much ice, but we might have already locked into a situation where we are committed to losing that ice," said Mathias Vuille, a climate scientist at the State University at Albany in New York.
ZOMG! We might lose all this tropical ice and watch helplessly in stunned horror as this treasure-trove of frigid H2O turns into completely useless wet stuff that forms into large pools of useless ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

And now for something completely different....

I used to watch American Idol...back when I used to watch television. I remember some truly awful auditions, but when I stumbled upon this youtube video I realized I hadn't seen the worst, not even close.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Our future teeters on a knife-edge

  • Political turmoil
  • Human population explosion
  • Comet or asteroid hitting the Earth
  • Deadly new diseases
  • U.S. bankruptcy
  • Hackers, and computer viruses
  • Nuclear proliferation in Islamic regimes
  • Honeybee die offs
  • Ogallala Aquifer Depletion
On the bright side...

The good news for me—and perhaps for you—is that there's absolutely nothing any of us can do about any of them. I realize that this may not sound like good news but think about it. If you could do something no matter how difficult, no matter how painful, time consuming, expensive, etc., you'd feel honor bound to do it. What a bother that would be! Because you and I are powerless there's no point in even worrying about it. Take global warming for instance. Even if this threat was legitimate so what? We're not going to convince 1.3 billion cold Chinese people to stop burning coal, or convince 150 million Americans to throw their car keys in the ocean, or convince two billion cows to stop farting. Luckily for life on Earth, this planet is self-regulating. If too much CO2 builds up in the atmosphere it will stimulate more plants to grow which will convert that CO2 back into oxygen.

It's not just the balance of oxygen and carbon-dioxide that is self-regulating. When populations become too great there are mechanisms which regulate them as well. Through technology, humanity has so far successfully staved off most of these self-regulating mechanisms thus far, but a tipping point is at hand and I'm nearly certain that we will be rigorously balanced in the near future. When the population grows more quickly than the food supply, at some point the eminently possible becomes certain. When medicines no longer fight off infections, when insecticides no longer kill off insects, when wells dry up and fertile soil turns to sand... the overpopulation problem will solve itself. The simplest solution for the problem of too many people is simply to do nothing. Nobody likes that solution but so what? There's not very much you or I can do about a comet exterminating life on Earth either. Hollywood Blockbusters and Bruce Willis aside, at this point we can't land on a comet and begin drilling operations at this particular juncture...

As for the eminent bankruptcy of this nation, again there's nothing you and I can do about it. I know you think voting for this politician or that one may avail but as the most recent elections have shown, those who want government hand-outs outnumber those who want to rein in our unimaginable national profligacy. It's already too late to not go bankrupt. So there's no point crying over spilt milk, or for that matter perfectly good milk that was just inexplicably poured down the drain for no reason at all. Why ask why? At this point reasons and explanations don't matter at all. It seems like everyone who suffers from whatever malady either natural or deliberate always asks "why me?" The honest answer is: if not you, then who is it you'd wish your bad fortune upon in place of you? People when they trip over something like to look around and see what caused their stumble. To what purpose I ask? Even if you find a suspicious banana-peel, patch of oil, or even a string tied across the path, etc., it won't turn back time and let you unfall.

When you fall, you get back up and keep going. Learn to be more aware, watch for obstacles accidental, incidental, and deliberate. It doesn't matter how careful you are you are, however, you and I are still destined to fall again and yet again. It's the nature of gravity to bring us down, and its pull is unrelenting and merciless.

One thing seems certain however and that is that regardless of what happens in the future it's in everyone's best interest to prepare for civil unrest. All the problems listed above—with the exception of extinction level events—will entail massive civil unrest.

Like you I wonder why the Department of Homeland Security needs 1.6 billion rounds of hollow-point ammo. The common excuse for this unimaginable hoard of ammunition is that they need it for target practice. The thing is that the DHS doesn't need hollow-point ammo for target practice. Standard full-metal jacket ammo is cheaper and shoots cleaner and more accurately than hollow-point ammo. The point is that they're not shooting these 1.6 billion rounds at paper targets today; they're preparing to shoot them at us tomorrow. There are about 200,000 DHS employees. According to my calculator that's 8000 hollow point bullets for each employee of the Department of Homeland Security.

The typical rebuttal for the startling and frightening facts above is that not all of this ammo is hollow point, or that the DHS is buying in bulk. My friend Grant maintains that this insanely irrational gargantuan stockpile, this Mt. Everest mountain of ammunition is for some external threat such as an invasion by China or Russia. This begs the question why give them to the Department of Homeland Security instead of our armed forces. No. That excuse is as asinine as is the one that claims they're for shooting at paper targets. Any person with the barest modicum of common sense should be able to immediately spot the target of all this ammo. Us. Americans.

Couple this existential threat—enough ammo to shoot every American, men, women, and children five times—with the recent push to outlaw privately owned guns and 2+2 starts looking more and more like 4. In case you've forgotten the government does engage in conspiracies, conspiracy theorists notwithstanding. Operation Fast and Furious was just such a conspiracy and its self-evident purpose was to distribute guns to drug-cartels and then "discover" those weapons at the scenes of murders. The USA conspired in the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of human beings both Mexican and American and then when they got caught they just made it all disappear. In terms of the severity of illegal and unethical conspiracies, it makes Watergate look like a kindergartener copied his buddy's spelling test in comparison.

So Obama and his buddy Eric Holder got caught. Then they got away with it. Then Obama got re-elected. Today Fast and Furious has been forgotten by most. My buddy—the one who thinks the DHS is stocking up on ammo to combat some imagined Mongol Horde—doesn't believe there was such a thing as fast and furious. He thinks it was a movie about some car thieves, that or a FOX publicity stunt. So here is evidence of a massive conspiracy and America yawns.

Here are some questions: Is brainwashing somebody possible? Will a man purposely kill another man or twenty men or even twenty children to further a political agenda? Did Fast & Furious accomplish its goal of providing an excuse to outlaw semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines? Was another shot in the arm necessary to accomplish this stated goal? Was Adam Lanza acting on his own? I don't know. I'm just a crazy conspiracy theorist, but just because I'm a conspiracy theorist, that doesn't mean there isn't a conspiracy. There are more than 200 million privately owned guns in the United States. The Department of Homeland Security may have billions of rounds but they don't have millions of guns...they don't have millions of employees either. The only way they could effect a takeover and "put-down" civil unrest and impose martial law is by first confiscating all those privately held firearms. That is their goal; that is their plan. If the Obama administration succeeds in its aim, history tells us what the future is going to look like.