The Intellectual Elite

To sustain longevity, you have to evolve.
Aries Spears—actor

Perhaps we are spending too much time trying to fix the schools, which fail to prepare graduates for college. Time may be better spent evaluating the product we receive from the colleges.

There is an interesting post today in a blog called hauntingthelibrary, see http://hauntingthelibrary.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/scientist-farming-causes-obesity-mental-illness-overpopulation-and-global-warming-says-eugenics-inevitable/. I seem to find myself at hauntingthelibrary more and more here lately.

In today’s blog, they comment on a BBC article http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10257679 on a new book by a:

Dr Spencer Wells is a geneticist, anthropologist and explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society.

While reading the above blog and article, I was rolling on the floor. Never have I read anything with such a lack of common sense. This man says mankind’s biggest mistake was agriculture. If not for agriculture, we would not have global warming, obesity, diabetes and many of the other health problems related to age that plague us today.

What he did not mention is, by remaining hunter-gatherers, we would have a life expectancy of around thirty years–if the species had survived at all. There would be no age-related health problems.

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Published in: on January 21, 2011 at 2:03 pm  Comments (2)  
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Cannot be Replicated

We don’t devote enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks.
Bill Watterson-cartoonist

Today in Watts Up With That (WUWT), Anthony Watts printed excerpts from a New Yorker article on the failure of scientific research results, see http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/01/20/it%E2%80%99s-as-if-our-facts-were-losing-their-truth/#more-32026. It had to do with the replication of research results. It seems that MOST research results, in every scientific discipline, cannot be replicated.

The actual New Yorker article, http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/12/13/101213fa_fact_lehrer#ixzz1BYjefYnF, is a relatively long read (five whole pages—doh), but it is worth the time. It is one of the best articles I have read in a long time.

I mention these items because of one of my pet peeves. We, the people, are too quick to accept any information from respectable-sounding organizations as the gospel truth. Somewhere along the line, we decided to abdicate our thinking to whatever authority was handy. It seems that the general population believes thinking is hard work, better to accept whatever junk is placed before us than do the work.

Well, thinking can be hard, or at least trying to find and verify data can be very difficult. For instance, I used to have a source I went to for information on health matters, see http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/ (still an excellent site to spend a few informative hours). It is a blog by Sandy Scwarc. She posted articles on the scientific medical studies we read about all the time: the ones on obesity, longevity, diabetes, junk food, cholesterol, and things like that. But she did it differently from most folks. She did not post her opinions; she went directly to the research papers and posted excerpts from the studies . . . including the study conclusions. Oddly enough, most conclusions are diametrically opposed to the results placed in the news releases. Then she showed how these studies were combined in dredge analysis reports to prove or disprove almost anything, oftentimes with the same report being used to prove both sides of an issue. For some reason, Sandy Scwarc has not made a posting for over a year. I fear for her health and hope she is okay.

The reason I point this out, is that we need to stop believing everything we read. Sandy only pointed out the inequities of the research so that the readers could make their own evaluations. We need to question authority. We need to verify the science before using it to make policy—in healthcare, global warming, on what is taught in schools, and anything else that is going to affect our lives or the lives of our progeny. We need to think for ourselves. When did we lose this ability?

Published in: on January 20, 2011 at 3:16 pm  Comments (1)  
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Let the Buyer Beware

Let the Buyer Beware.

I have a definite talent for convincing people to try something new. I am a good salesman. When I’m on form, I can sell anything.
Brian Eno-musician

There is a small article in the Winnipeg Free Press, http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/canada/around-canada-113127009.html (it is the second article), about a man suing the maker of a penis enlarger. After using it for 500 hours, he said it did not work. It was probably made in China; just cannot trust that stuff.

Published in: on January 19, 2011 at 12:09 am  Comments (1)  

Hi Ho Silver, Away

It is better to travel well than to arrive.
Buddha

For those a little dubious on the practicality of electric cars, there is no longer any need to be dubious. They suck. A British journalist took it upon himself to prove that battery-powered cars are practical. He felt his result while driving from London to Edinburgh proved that they are: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12189321.

Not everyone felt that way: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/8262095/London-to-Edinburgh-by-electric-car-it-was-quicker-by-stagecoach.html and http://dailybayonet.com/?p=7785.

The above Telegraph’s article comparing it to a stagecoach caught my eye. When it takes four battery-powered days to go 400 miles at the posted speed limit on sleek highways, and it only took two days to make the trip by stagecoach over dirt roads, it does not exactly seem like the battery-powered car is the ideal vacation vehicle.

A battery-powered car might be an okay for a second vehicle for a large upper-class family with no financial problems; it would be a dismal failure for a one-car family. By the way, the speed of the good, old American Pony Express was much faster, but still slow compared to fossil fuel vehicles.

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 2:19 pm  Comments (1)  

Reading Becomes Too Easy

In reading, a lonely quiet concert is given to our minds; all our mental faculties will be present in this symphonic exaltation.
Stephane Mallarme-poet

I have been thinking about getting an e-reader. So far it has not progressed past the research stage. Because of the research, anything having to do with e-readers catches my eye. In an article in today’s Mail Online http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1347058/Why-ugly-fonts-messy-handwriting-make-easier-remember-youve-read.html, was research information on e-readers making it harder to remember what one reads because the print is so clear.

My first reaction was that it was a load of crap, but after reading the entire article . . . I wonder. I found the article interesting because it postulates that the easier the reading, the faster the eye and mind pass over it. The study used harder to read fonts and found retention was higher. Apparently, when the eyes slow down the brain figures the information coming in is important and places it in a better storage area.

As a compulsive reader, I tend to read very fast. That is okay when reading for pleasure, but for details, statistics, names or dates I may want to remember and blog about later, I find I pass over them too quickly to truly commit them to memory. It would it be interesting if publishers (in e-book or paper format) changed up the fonts on the critical, you-may-be-tested-on-this, information. It would appear to be a win/win situation. If it works, more information is retained, if not, no harm done. I would volunteer to be a test subject.

Published in: on January 17, 2011 at 11:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Armed and Dangerous

An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.
Robert A. Heinlein-writer

I had another thought on the mass killings in Arizona, this time brought on by the gun control comments on the Op-Ed page of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. It appears that there needs to be a little education on the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

Most who read this blog know I retired as a cop after 37 years spread out over four police departments. I no sooner began my career than I realized that cops could not be everywhere. Some people believe that cops do not work, they just sit around and drink coffee and eat donuts all day. I wish! When I started on the St. Louis Police Department, the most common radio transmission we heard was, “Any car available, we have numerous calls pending.” Work consisted of going from call to call to call, throughout an eight-hour workday. The only exception was during the midnight watch. Calls fell off between 3 & 7 a.m. Even the bad guys had to sleep sometime . . .  of course, that was before the meth epidemic, now they can stay up for days without sleeping.

The bad thing about the workload was the real emergency calls. If every officer is out on a call when someone is kicking your door down with the intent to do you harm, how long will the response time be? In the latter part of my career, I had the pleasure of working on a department with a response time of less than five minutes. It was the exception to the rule. It all depends on the type of neighborhood one lives in. In a high crime area, all the cops are busy, it will take a while for one to return to service and receive the call. Then, response depends on the distance to the call. In rural areas, just the travel time might be 30 minutes. What are you going to be doing while waiting?

In my entire career, I have seen one apartment complex that used metal doors and metal frames. The fire department hated calls to that complex because if they had to force entrance, it was one hell of a job. Often, they put a ladder up to the little patio balcony and shattered the patio door. That was much quicker than using a battering ram or trying to spread the metal doorjambs with a special tool to get that front door open. All other doors I ever encountered could be kicked open in a few seconds. What kind of door do you have? If Mr. Bad Guy can kick your door open in a few seconds (like however long one kick takes), can search through your house thoroughly enough to find you in two minutes, and the police response time is ten minutes . . . . On real emergency calls, the cop’s job is usually to take a report and clean up the mess. The perpetrator is gone long before we get there.

Do you own a gun? There are many arguments against the possession of a firearm: I could never shoot anyone, the kids may find it, I do not know how to shoot, I might miss and shoot the wrong person, the bad guy might get it away from me and use it against me, what about shooting accidents?

On top of that, there is the rhetoric of the anti-gun lobby. Hunters do not need assault rifles; they are only made to kill people. High-capacity magazines are not made for hunting, they are for killing a lot of people. If you must own a gun, it must be kept in a locked safe or have a lock placed on it, or be kept unloaded and broke down with the ammo kept in another room. Concealed carry will turn our streets into the Wild West.

I have one response to all of the reasons to not have a firearm: Crap! Learn how to protect yourself and your family. Guns are not esoteric. They are easy to learn to use. A person with a room temperature IQ can figure out how to keep young children away from firearms. As they get older, children, who can download music to their iPod after thirty seconds of instruction, can easily learn firearm safety, and they should. If you make a decision not to have a gun in your house, what happens when Junior is at a friend’s house and sees a gun. Guns exist; you cannot insulate your children from them forever; better that they know about them.

Now, about that 2nd Amendment: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. Only those living in paranoia land will be able to locate anything about hunting rifles or high-capacity magazines in there. It is not about hunting. It is about the population being able to protect itself against a government that wants to override the Constitution and enslave them. You might also notice that it says, “to keep and bear arms.” To bear arms, one would have to carry arms; not keep them locked up in a nonfunctioning condition with the ammo kept separate so that they could not use them quickly.

Now, about being able to use them quickly; when that someone kicks down your door, perhaps you will want to start through the combination on your safe. If you can get it open in time, you can assemble it or remove the trigger lock. Time will be running out while you go to the secret location where you keep you ammo, and feeding shells into that magazine can be a little time-consuming, but not to worry. The police are aware of your problem. As soon as a car becomes available, an officer will rush right over. Maybe he will only be ten or twelve blocks away, but huh, it’s rush hour.

That call to the police is exactly what happened in Arizona. I do not know what the response time was, but the police got there in time to handcuff the killer by taking over from the unarmed people on the scene—thank God for them—but what would have happened if five or six citizens had been armed? Perhaps one of them would have fired wildly and injured an innocent person. That comes with the territory, but maybe the psychotic responsible would have decided he wanted to live more than he wanted to keep killing and run away. It may have saved lives, even at the cost of an accidental injury. Or maybe that first shot would have taken the killer out cleanly before all the carnage.

Police officers have a saying, “I would rather be judged by 12 than carried by six.” Think about that. Cops would rather be judged by a jury of 12 than carried to a grave by six pallbearers. Every cop knows that he or she can make a mistake, but as I said, that is part of the territory. Anything is better than standing there impotent while waiting to be slaughtered.

Published in: on January 13, 2011 at 4:08 pm  Comments (1)  
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Climate Challenge

The danger sensation is exciting. The challenge is to find new dangers.
Ayrton Senna-race car driver

No, “Climate Challenge” is not a new game show. It is the latest incarnation of, climate change, global warming, climate change (yes, we have gone through climate change twice), global climate disruption, and now, new and improved “climate challenge.” For some reason, we the people are too stupid to understand the threat of the constantly changing climate. Rather than confuse us with data, which does not exist or is so tenuous as to be laughable, the warmists have turned the whole thing over to the ad-men to prove their case.

Since the advent of newspaper, radio and television, the advertisement marketers have honed their craft. In the early days, things were simple. One only needed to go from Tide, to New Tide, to New and Improved Tide, to New and Improved Tide with a Springtime Fresh Scent, ad infinitum. The ladies of the households, who controlled the purse strings, were always looking for something to not only make their lives easier, but to improve the lot of their families.

That is all well and good, but when anthropogenic global warming came along, the problem was no longer how to make it sound attractive, it was to make it sound frightening and still make people want to buy into it. So how does one sell frightening? Ah, there is the rub, because it must be sold at great expense to a reluctant buyer.

A percentage of the population enjoys horror movies. It is easy to sell frightening to them, at a few dollars a showing, but what about the rest of the population. The early attempts to list the horrors of global warming lost all their meaning when extremists blamed everything on it (see an ongoing list of over 800 items, with links to publications, at http://www.numberwatch.co.uk/warmlist.htm). Many might be swayed by listing the ingredients and showing the proof, but when the ingredients are from a 180-year-old list, which is routinely modified with top-secret computations, and mixed within a computer program to pour out a proof that cannot be replicated, what then?

Then the only recourse is to keep changing the name in hopes that one of them resonates enough for the consumers to overlook the lack of data. That is the real “climate challenge.” Good luck with that.

Published in: on January 12, 2011 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Not-So-Thin Line

There’s a big difference between sanity and insanity.
Megan Gallagher-actress

There is a raging debate going on about the mass killing in Arizona. It can be found in the papers and the blogs. The debate revolves around how much the conservative rhetoric, leading up to and since the November elections, influenced Jared Loughner in his savage act. Many are trying to define the issue at to whether Jared is a bona fide right-wing nut, or if he is just a right-leaning dupe who fell for that rhetoric. Many are wrong.

First, Jared posted on his Facebook page that his favorite books were Mien Kamph and the Communist Manifesto; hardly sources sought out by right-wing scholars. Second, Jared’s irrational outbursts were getting him kicked out of class years ago.

Finally, as a cop, I met many psychotics on disturbance calls. While some of them kept a TV or radio playing in the background, to drown out the voices in their heads, the electronic messages meant nothing to them. They lived in the bubble world of their own minds. The voices they heard, telling them to harm someone else, could not be controlled by a TV or radio volume knob. Perhaps they could be controlled by medication, but universally, at least on the cases I handled, they did not like the way the medicines made them feel, so they quit taking them.

Insanity is insanity. By definition, it does not conform to the rules of society. To try to blame, or excuse, the actions of Jared Loughner, on what anyone else said, would at the very least be a lesser form of insanity.

The United States, and perhaps the world, does not know what to do with the insane. No one wants to face the problem. Keeping them locked away in mental institutions is too expensive, medications also are too expensive, and do not work unless there is a way to insure they are taken. Their existence varied from the shameful family secret, kept locked in the attic, to the homeless, panhandling on the corner. Over the centuries, they have been cast out, imprisoned, and killed. Mostly, they are just harmless shadowy figures, lurking in the background . . . until a Jared Loughner comes along. Then, for as long as the press cycle lasts, they are monsters to be feared and used for political gain.

Published in: on January 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Michael Vick, Roll Model

One shouldn’t be afraid of the humans. Well, I am not afraid of the humans, but of what is inhuman in them.
Ivo Andric-writer

I enjoyed watching Michel Vick lose to the Green Bay Packers in the playoffs the other night. I only hope he keeps losing until the NFL can no longer find a place for him.

In case you haven’t noticed, I have a problem with Michael Vick: I’m a dog person. Oh, I know, he has done his time and the law says he can go on with his life. Sorry, I don’t feel that way. In my world, there are some things that can’t be made right . . . can’t be forgiven. Child molestation and cruelty to animals are two of the more flagrant examples of the unforgivable. Vick hasn’t molested any children, but his training of dogs to fight to the death, or simply killing any surviving losers, falls well below the humanity index, making Vick more of an animal than his victims.

Vick was graced with a God-given athletic ability. He was accepted as a top-tier quarterback in the NFL and is paid mega bucks for that ability. He had the wherewithal to set an example, to be the ultimate role model, but he squandered all that to stoop to the lowest level of human debauchery. Just because he has been released from prison and gone back to his multimillion-dollar salary, nothing has changed to erase the stain on his soul. He can never be a role model, and he is only an example of what is ugly and evil on this earth. If I had my way, Vick would spend the rest of his life in some obscure alcove of Hell, too ashamed to show his face to anyone in full possession of a heart, but that is just me.

Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Another Civilization Gone

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Robert A. Heinlein-writer

A once-prosperous metropolis of over a million inhabitants came to end recently, allegedly due to global warming. It was a sad demise for a well-organized center of civilization, which started out very, very small in a corner of the Serengeti desert.

During its genesis, there was adequate water for a large population, so the population grew. Thousands of farmers collected the crops for a hungry population, a standing army protected the city and employment was near 100%. No one could have predicted the disaster ahead.

Everything seemed fine until a few years ago. Atmospheric testing was done around the city, testing revealing extremely high CO2 levels, but CO2 had no meaning to the uneducated masses. They ignored it—at their own peril.

As time went on, the water supply began to dry up. Even then the residents stuck stubbornly to the only city they had ever known, but as the water level went down, the effects became apparent. The birth rate dropped off. Lower food availability placed a stress on the weakest. Workers would go out into the countryside and not come back. It quickly became an empty pile of mud, just like many of the other termite mounds in the Serengeti.

The saddest part is that the rains came after the last termite had died. Even the Serengeti gets occasional rain. It is a normal cycle of the climate. The CO2 the mound gave off had nothing to do with it.

There is a lesson that can be learned from this loss in the insect world: adapt or die. If it gets hot, find a way to get cool. If it gets cold, find a way to get warm. If it gets dry, drill for water or move to where it is. The one constant is that all survival strategies require the expenditure of energy, and when speaking of billions of people, massive amounts of energy. Without the energy, we become the insects, waiting to die because we do not control our destiny. With the energy, we shape the earth to our needs. Adapt or die.

Now tell me why we are working so hard to avoid using the cheapest, most abundant forms of energy available; instead favoring the most expensive, ineffective, intermittent forms. At best, the alternative forms of energy will allow the prosperity of a small fraction of humanity.

As it says in the song, “Something’s happening here.”

Published in: on January 6, 2011 at 2:44 pm  Leave a Comment