Saturday, 13 May 2017

Socialism kills and impoverishes. Why does it keep popping up?

Learning the average Venezuelan has lost 19 lbs since Chavez and now Maduro took over, has got me thinking.  Why does socialism keep happening with popular support at first and why do we never seem to learn when it fails?  My tentative answer:
Nuclear family, shared DNA
It's baked into our DNA.  What works to manage a genetically-linked family doesn't scale up well to tribe and nation. Nations are the new kid on the block and strategies to prosper them are in their infancy.   The top-down guidance and distribution of resources for the good of the pack works for a reproductive pair and their dependent infants but fails for a nation. It isn't total failure but it fails.

Extended family.

Problems of scale and inter-relatedness
Top-down "for-your-own-good-kiddies" government will always be with us.  The impulse to look after our kids and to tell them what to do extends to a lesser degree to watch our for our kinfolk and even our tribe. It starts falling apart at the scale of the nation state that has multiple genetic backgrounds.    Because a treasure trove of resources is concentrated in centralized government, there will always be predators attracted to feed on the taxes. These rewards help perpetuate a bad governing trend.  People in government cream those goodies, doing well for themselves while believing, at first, they are doing good for others.  That and our tendency to go along with going along perpetuates a destructive governing style.  Until, that is, things fall apart, riots start in the street and millions starve.

Then what?  One approach recognizes we are genetically nearly the same, all one big family that can live in harmony. (The Kumbayah theory)  The other main approach recognizes that we are genetically varied and calls for competition and markets.  The flaw I see in Ottawa and Washington is that the competition is split into parties and only one party is in power at a time.    When you go downtown to buy groceries, you don't expect all grocery stores to be shut except one for the next four years. Let's find a way to encourage more internal markets within parties.

I have one at home: Kindergarten Math

First day on the job as a kindergarten teacher, he asked a little boy what 5 and 5 added to.  The boy froze.   The young teacher rephrased it more concretely to help the lad.  "If I give you five white rabbits and then give you five more black rabbits, how many rabbits will you have?"  The boy paused for a moment and answered, "Eleven".    "How can you come up with an answer like that?"  "I have one at home".

This was related by Paul O'Brien at a folk music evening in Sidney B.C. (Deep Cove Folk) and he heard it from his daughter who had just graduated as a teacher from Queens University and she heard it from the professor who says it was his own story.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Trump's Border Wall: Promise Kept For Free

The wall along the US-Mexican border is already built, stopping three quarters of the migrant invasion.  It's been done for free with a change of attitude from the top.  As we enter peak inbound travel season, the numbers go down instead of up.  See year over year chart.  Policy moved the needle more than money did.

While Congress won't release wall funds that were already kabuki-style voted, let alone add the new ones President Trump asks for, I think the voters are satisfied.  The illegal alien problem has been shrunk four-fold for free.

Canada can move the needle with policy instead of borrowed money, too.  For example, all citizens can be first class, not split into regular citizens and Indian Affairs wards.  All food bought and sold in Canada can come and go at the price consumers will pay at home and abroad instead of what the cheese and milk police and their friends say.  Remember how the world was going to end when the Wheat Board died?  It didn't.   The same goes for lumber:  While we sing the blues about the tariff attack by the US, we have protest dirges when people in China will pay more for our logs than mills in B.C. think the logs are worth.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Intimations of mortality in a chess game

The artist's sisters and mother at chess 450 years ago.
How can that bubbly girl with the impish grin have grown old and mouldered with her days done?

Sofonisba Anguissola, 1555

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Government trust plunged from 75% to 20%

 A PEW poll shocks me.  The question asks if you trust the federal government to do the right thing most of the time.  While Democrats and Republicans have swapped places several times for trustworthiness since I was a kid, the electorate is saying "a pox on both your houses".  The average respect has plummeted from 75% in the late fifties to about 20% now.  A marker of change can hardly be more bleak than this.  Trump will be but the first in a line of populist leaders.

Can this be part of the explanation? There is not a single congress person who writes legislation or laws. The people who hire the lobbyists do.  The number of congressmen divided by the amount invested in lobbying comes out at $5.8 million per lawmaker per year.

O'Rourke asks for a little bit of commonsense: Progress is a step forward.

"We’re told cars are dangerous. It’s safer to drive through South Central Los Angeles than to walk there. We’re told cars are wasteful. Wasteful of what? Oil did a lot of good sitting in the ground for millions of years. We’re told cars should be replaced with mass transportation. But it’s hard to reach the drive-through window at McDonald’s from a speeding train. And we’re told cars cause pollution. A hundred years ago city streets were ankle deep in horse excrement. What kind of pollution do you want? Would you rather die of cancer at eighty or typhoid fever at nine?"P.J. O'Rourke.

Attributed at Ace of Spades

Friedman knew how to create jobs

He was driving along in postwar West Germany in the late 1940s, ... when he spotted a large number of workers shoveling out a building site. Milton asked his German host, “Why don’t you get a tractor and some mechanized equipment for that?”“Ah, but Prof. Friedman, you don’t understand—this provides jobs!Milton .... responded: “Well in that case why don’t you give them spoons.”
Quoted by Stephen Hayward at Powerline.

Sidney has a lucky brick

In Sidney BC there's a lucky brick.  I had to retrace my steps because I didn't believe my eyes the first time.  

The evidence on First Street is here to check:

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Consciousness is an emergent phenomenon of matter.

Consciousness is an emergent property of matter, or more properly, of matter/energy/space/time. The building blocks of life from hydrocarbons and even an amino acid have been detected over and over in space.  The properties of long chain carbons, organic loops, the alcohols and sugars will appear whenever conditions permit their propagation.  The double helix is a possible solution everywhere in the universe. There may be a couple other replicating combinations which will show up in locations with different chemical feedstocks.  Locally we have a lot of oxygen, carbon, water, as well as temperature and light gradients that have proved propitious for the appearances of life on earth.   What's next, I wonder?

This line of thought predicts other non-earth life forms will show up and many of them will have properties that resemble our own. This is because DNA folding machines are likely to pop up elsewhere and trial and error in those environments will result in convergent evolutions.  On earth, eyes are formed from different tissue in houseflies, squid and marmots but because of the information available in focused light, have developed homologous shapes to resolve that data.  The underlying properties of light are driving the solutions.

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel,

Our amazement at how clever we are and our fierce individuality are compatible with being emergent phenomena.  "Individual" means that which is not divided.  If the source is undivided, the result can also be undivided.  Each of us fiercely advancing our cause and that of our near kin is reflecting the "character" of this emergent property.  Peculiar evidence is the name we call our selves to distinguish ourselves from background noise.  In English, it's "Me" and "I".    More than a billion of us use the same I.D.  

I bridge "individuality" to physical "law" with this thought:   Every particle/wave/string/thingy is constantly moving towards a new equilibrium, like the breaking crest on the surf.  They/it are always reacting totally in the now to unique tussles and sparks of action, being bumped, being pushed, being transformed, consuming, being consumed, burning, being burnt.   It's always everywhere about being individual but doesn't rise to the level of dinner conversation until noticed in ourselves.

Getting from DNA folding devices that copy bodies and make new ones..... getting from there to people who self-report having consciousness.... is a step not decoded.   But the next step beyond into A.I. is already being coded.  More activities that people consider human distinctives are being handed on to computing devices that do it better with less effort.

We (that are starting to be left behind but supported comfortably) are spending hours texting, Wall-E where devices seem to be looking after stuff and people are largely plump passive things like larvae in a networked cocoon.)
playing solitaire, watching groups fighting to control balls and pucks, developing skills of small value, because we feel like it.    (A movie illustration is the cartoon

We are even leaving ourselves behind, finding it unnecessary to reproduce, or just making one or two copies, not enough to keep our population numbers up.   We still use naturally produced DNA instead of superior custom-designed product.  We still mostly use wombs for the reproduction workshops because we didn't have superior safe places to get the job done.  This is changing.  This future won't eliminate old ways, just displace the ones that can't hack it.

I've watched a grassland fire, seen the thin line of fire steadily advance across the field, consuming the consumables and moving on.  Today I think we are some of those consumables and tomorrow may be a place where the fire has moved on and left behind most of us and most of the robots too.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Grisly folk art

This grisly folk art is near White Lake in the Okanagan where Dean Gillette's body was found January 2017.

Family members point fingers, quote scripture and grieve while making a memorable and quirky showpiece.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Second Opinion Usually Changes Diagnosis

A Mayo Clinic study of several hundred patients who went for a second medical opinion, shocked me.  Two thirds of the diagnoses were significantly modified and another one fifth were changed completely.  Only 12% of the original diagnoses were confirmed.
Researchers at the Mayo Clinic examined 286 patient records of individuals who had decided to consult a second opinion, hoping to determine whether being referred to a second specialist impacted one’s likelihood of receiving an accurate diagnosis.The study, conducted using records of patients referred to the Mayo Clinic’s General Internal Medicine Division over a two-year period, ultimately found that when consulting a second opinion, the physician only confirmed the original diagnosis 12 percent of the time.
Who goes for a second opinion?  People with mortal diagnoses.  People who have doubts of their own.  People who have already done on-line research with Google.  People who don't trust everyone in a white coat and a degree.   My anecdotal evidence is of a neighbour whose husband was dying. She did some research and got a second opinion after he had been direct to a hospice.  The cancer was re-evaluated as a commonly treatable one in a bad spot and his life was saved.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

News from Outer Space, April 2017

Near Miss.  Most of the potentially climate-changing meteors have been found but a little guy, the size of a car, was discovered just the day before it missed us by a mere 10,000 km this week, flying below our geostationary satellites.  It would have made a nice fireball and a bang but little else.  Don't be too relaxed.  About once a month,'s chart of fireballs shows one that was travelling in a nearly straight line.  This may be space junk from outside our planetary system, not from the Oort belt, not something we will ever be able to predict.

Image published in the Daily Mail
Two young stars,viewed in the constellation Orion, spiralled into each other and "kaboom".  They were only a couple hundred thousand years old and only 1350 light years away.  Remember the dinosaurs?  They've been gone sixty million years.  These were baby stars.   The appallingly beautiful aftermath will be noticeable for another five hundred years. The energy released is equivalent to the total output of our sun for the next ten million years. Interesting pictures at the link.

A new type of cataclysmic event was
spotted a couple weeks ago.  A galaxy 3/4 of the distance to the other end of our universe disappeared in a ball of light that lasted for a few hours and was gone.  The galaxy location flared up 1000 fold and died back to a dot of light.  "No astronomical phenomenon that scientists currently know of can explain the behaviour.".

Then there are some puzzling bursts of radio light lasting milliseconds. Almost two dozen have been observed so far but their source isn't known.  The news is that a local on-earth source has been ruled out.  One has been localized to a single galaxy.

Earth's oxygen is raining down on the moon!  About 90 metric tons of earth's oxygen whisks daily out into the tear-dropped magnetosphere around the earth.  For about five days a month, the moon is positioned downstream of that magnetosphere and shielded from the sun's harsh bombardments. Some of earth's oxygen in the magnetosphere escapes downstream. About 26,000 oxygen ions per second per square centimeter are landing on the moon during that time.  This also explains why some oxygen isotopes were found on lunar samples that would have been appropriate as exhaust material from plant life on earth.  This doesn't add up to a fuel supply for lunar explorers but is still a WOW moment.

Amateur astronomers joined a crowd-sourced project and found four candidates for Planet Nine. Sixty thousand people took part after being given access to the raw data.  They analyzed five million objects to come up with the four candidates. The largest distant objects like Pluto are somewhat clumped which implies some other object much further out and about the size of Uranus and perhaps in a non-standard orbital plane has been interacting with them.  "We have achieved four years of scientific analysis in under three days".
Related, some Australian amateurs found four new exoplanets, after analyzing data made public.

The first serious space tourists are lined up to go.  Elon Musk has sold two SpaceX tickets to go round the moon once in 2018.  Stephen Hawking has accepted a free ticket on Virgin Galactic's ship to the moon, a few years in the future.    Blue Origin is offering rides to the edge of space and back for 2018 for about $200,000.

Ivanka Trump, role model and "Yi Wan Ka goddess" in China

President Trump's right-hand daughter is widely admired in China by upwardly mobile women. The New York Times wrote it up. This is true diplomacy and augurs well for peace between China and America.  Culture is senior to Politics.

Ivanka ("Yi Wan Ka") has a booklet of wise sayings that you have never seen but is read by millions of Chinese women.  It's on line.   See examples below.

What does the NYT say they love about her?  "elegant"
She's an elegant symbol of power and ambition.
She reflects Confucian values, converting to the Judaism of her husband.
She started her own fashion brand instead of focusing just on her father's real estate business.
She's called a "goddess" on Weibo.

Millions on Weibo watched her daughter sing in Chinese. (The daughter actually speaks  Chinese, learned from her nanny).
"A lot of people think Ivanka is the real president. We think she has the brains, not her father."
They seek to emulate her tenacity and  confidence.
They study her speeches on how to make a sales pitch.
And most shocking of all:
“She represents what we’re looking for—
to marry into a decent family, to look good,
and to also have your own career.”
This is true diplomacy.  We exported rock 'n roll to the world.  This is better.

Some of Ivanka's "Wise Words"


What did Trump and Xi Jinping talk about?

Can there have been any less news coverage of the top meet-up yet between Donald Trump and a foreign leader than there was for the 24 hours Xi and Trump spent at Mar a Lago. Crickets and a hopeful sign.. El Sisi, Abdullah II, Netanyahu, Merkel, May had bigger photo ops,and made joint public statements.  It was crickets, however, for the meeting with the leader of the second-strongest power on earth, leader of the world's most populous nation, leader of America's largest source of imports and leader of the country most able to position itself as a warring enemy or a respected competitor.
On top of that Thursday night, after the steak and before the sorbet,  president Trump told premier Xi that he's bombing a Syrian airfield.  I jumped out of bed Friday morning to hear the joint communique.

No communique.  Instead, intriguing bits of goodwill.  "Lots of very bad problems will be going away" was the extent of American verbosity plus a cute moment of the grand-kids singing in Chinese to the guests.      This reads to me as a peace indicator, not a warlike one.   Keeping things private and personal is the right setting to explore new ground. Everything public would be posturing, locking un-examined positions in place.

And what's with "Yi-Wan-Ka" and the Trump grandchildren singing in Chinese?  Another indicator for co-regency instead of war.   Ivanka is a life model to many Chinese women.

Two days later, a little information emerged.

Forget about world peace

An all-time great bumper sticker:
Forget about world peace.  Visualize using your turn signal.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

St. Joseph selling houses for New Agers

A gifted and agnostic friend wants to sell her house.  She heard a rumor that if you plant a statue of St. Joseph in the ground, upside down, this will bring you a buyer.

To cover her bets, she went to a Christian book store asking for a statue of St. Joseph.  "Which one do you want?  The one for selling houses?"

Canada's Ho-hum Birthing in the British House of Commons

The National Post has a wonderful write up on the passage of the British North America Act and the creation of Canada. 150 years ago this month,   The Colonial Secretary apologized for taking up their time. The order paper was shared with The Criminal Lunatics bill.  Voting in part of northern Ontario was amended from being open to "every British Subject" to being open to "every Male British Subject". Sir John A. McDonald, who observed from the gallery thought it was treated like a “private bill uniting two or three English parishes”. The next bill up stirred greater debate.  (“I see no reason why the duty payable for a greyhound should be reduced 75 per cent, nor why the tax upon poodles and pug dogs should be reduced”)

Detail from an engraving showing the British House of Commons in the era when it debated what would become the British North America Act. Enjoy.

Mark Twain: “If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you're mis-informed.”

As the tasks of civilization shrink, human nature goes obsolete.

Baked in human behaviour for mating and resource capture is going obsolete.  This is not just for culture but for the human life form itself.   Life-time sex pairing doesn't mean the same when a lifetime is twice as long and none to two children with near 100% survival rates are reared.  Seniors' mates are chosen from a different pool than young singles use.   Sexual norms don't mean what they used to mean, now the food supply allows girls to reach menarche before 12 instead of closer to 18 and boys can impregnate much younger,too. In the past, kids weren't in a position to have their own to raise until they themselves were adults and "marriageable".     Even the pleasures of sex evolved to ensure successful propagation of our genes in the next generation.  The next generation is way less important than it used to be but sex just as much fun.  This helps explain the Gender vs Sex battling.  Again, because specialization has produced a welfare state to look after many needs, we don't need children to look after us in our dotage.  The result is we have consumed now and put debt onto future generations that matter less to us.  Hello deficits and governmental debt.  Indenturing someone else's offspring with our current consumption is a genius benefit of prosperity and specialization.

In resource capture there is food for calories and protected territory for hunting and gathering.  Who needs it when a day's office work can provide a week's good food and the problem is obesity, not hunger?  Most of us don't have neighbours who will kill us, steal our cattle, burn our fields, rape or kill our spouses.  We don't bother to put up fences around our homes and stone walls around our towns.  Men and women don't need to divide the survival tasks up by hunt/fight and gather/care but our baked-in nature still does.  

The etiquette of civilization is going obsolete as the tasks of civilization shrink, are delegated to specialists or simply passed onto software and automated devices.  The near future brings loss and unexpected change, though rewards will accelerate for many.  Our baked in human nature can't keep up but our tech-driven potential will surge, with or without us.   We're coming up on a world with many surplus but nonetheless well-fed and fairly content people on the sidelines of life.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Dumbing math down to the feelz

math teaching .jpg
Copied from who copied it from someone else.  It's been around for years.
Copied from ace

Mauldin on Men Without Work - an out of the box view.

Four keys from John Mauldin's March 28th  letter and the underlying book being reviewed, "Men Without Work" by Eberstadt.    Canada has an advantage.

Male participation declining for 60 years.

Work age males have been steadily leaving the paid work force for 60 years. Who knew? The loss of male workers was masked by the many females who entered the workforce from 1970 to 2000. Net participation is on the decline again.
Male and female joint participation rose for 30 years
and has been falling for 20 years

At the same time, life expectancy for white males in the 45-54 (top earning) range has been increasing in most developed countries but has not in the United States. This is noteworthy because Canada next door has not taken part in the U.S. stagnation. The chart is in deaths-per-100,000 people.

The U.S.A. has about 20 million people with felony records and more with dismissed felony charges. These are mostly men, their population has quintupled since the sixties thanks to policy change, and they have a hard time getting hired.  There is no door back in for them.

Lastly, who is most likely to be full-time in the work force?  It's not race and education. It's who is married and who is a first generation immigrant.   These are the males most likely to be at work this morning.  They are the most motivated groups.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Print your house

Apis Cor, a San Francisco startup, is perfecting the printed, insulated concrete house. The video released in February 2017 shows big improvements over video from last year.  Structural voids formed with polymer concrete can be foam insulated, the exterior finish is smooth enough to apply paint with a roller.  The shapes are wonderfully flexible, accurate, and can be put together in a day. That includes a flat roof and extra man hours to set windows into place and completed for 70% less money.  I'm in the business of fabricating roof trusses and before seeing this video, had been spouting off earlier today about looking ahead to some decades of a similar market before the roof truss business joins cooperage at the roadside of life.  NOT.

Caution:  There's a blitz of cutesy promotion near the front end of the video but lots of detail follows. For example, they put up a tent and build the show home in 24 hours in -35C weather.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Precision death bombing takes out Al Qaeda leader

The story is the picture, not who died.  From above came perfectly targeted death, penetrating a moving vehicle.  No explosion.  No kaboom.
No nearby building collapsed.  A smart, massive bullet steered itself to within inches of its target.  Feeling safe at home in your favourite chair? 
The story about the late Mr. Masri is in the NYT and the photo at a twitter feed linked therein.