Two is a number humans can really deal with.
In languages we usually have special bits of grammar for singular versus plural, one versus more than one, but quite often we have the dual, as in a whole different verb conjugation for "you two" or "us two", or "them two". Arabic, Hebrew, Proto Indo European, Khoi-san, Inuktitut, Tagalog, and American Sign Language, among others, have grammatical duals. In English we retain a little of the PIE dual in the word "both". Nothing goes into grammar that humans aren't extremely good at, so we must be super good at dealing with Two's.
Well, Yes. Because, No. No asserts a two-ness, where some Yes is its scope, is the thing considered first, and No is not that, not that first, which now gives us how many? Two. Every two year old practices No a lot; they are contemplating the existence and value of the counterfactual difference: (1) that which comes toward them, and (2) No, not that. Wanted, and Not. Yes and: No. No brings us pretty far. We enter the realm of classification, where "difference" also means "two". One over here and another over there, and they are different, in some way that matters, and how many does that make? Two.
In statistics, and science, finding a difference that makes a difference, that is to say a real difference, needs two two's (in the experimental design) to prove a difference, a two. Entirely the same idea within the structuralist method: when a difference is shown to make a difference, that establishes (the first) difference as being a real difference. And that's how science proceeds, creating a model of everything by establishing categories which are just categorical differences, essentially, things that can be distinguished, things across some boundary, things that are of two kinds.
But I have always hated 2's. They are so predictable, so 2 dimensional, so square.
In Sanskrit, the original language of yoga philosophy, the dual is a sort of code for emotional suffering. The idea is that if you do the work of establishing and maintaining an emotional difference, a distinction that means something morally or emotionally to you, that is, a difference that matters, and then you identify yourself as being on one side of this boundary, then this amounts to you carrying an emotional burden that is an form of ultimate suffering. Thus Hinduism is called Monism, the rejection of duality, the transcendence of emotional differences in the oneness of all being.
They'll say, You are caught in the net of Duality! Give up Duality! So that's where the goodness is, not in saying here's good and there's bad and I'm good. That's a lot of work and rejection and pretense and anxiety and misery. So maybe just let go of it when you don't need to use it all the time, and then you can finally relax. Not just relax, but contact divinity through inner surrender. If All is One is the goal, then Duality, difference, two, is the misery we are stuck in and must escape. So I'm not the first to dislike 2.
In geometry, "two" is as in two dimensional. And the simplest thing in two dimensions is the square. But square means: boring. And it is, super boring! Squares are a rather poor spatial packing arrangement. Circles pack in a hexagonal grid, not a square one. Hexagons and more-closely-packed N-dimensional spheres are just nicer. (Did you know a unit square (cube, hypercube) in 36 dimensions has a diagonal of length 6? Just apply Pythagoras 36 times, that's what you get. As you increase dimensions the corners get pointier and pointier. And the greatest amount of added pointiness is going to two dimensions. Indeed, because max (sqrt(N)-sqrt(N-1)) is 1.414-1.0=0.414 with N=2, with every larger number the difference gets smaller and smaller, parabolically. That is, two is the worst.
On the other hand, smooth and round and curved are nice. Pointy and angly and sharp are really not so nice.
Round maybe wins when there's nothing you have to live with on the other side, so you can just blob out and be round and pooch out into space that way, concerned only with the amount of surface you will need to hold yourself in and not caring for stuff on the other side, and it's still efficient. That's why cells and piping-walls and urban sprawls and minimum-surface-area shapes are all basically round.
But when there are multiple things of importance, we put flat, planar-type walls between them, things with how many sides? 2.
It turns out every line (in a plane) has how many sides? 2. Every curve, every plane, every surface, every boundary has exactly two sides, no more, no less. We tend toward squareness.
As an idealist architect eternally seeking for the more beautiful shape or design, I wriggle and struggle and finally I have to admit, square or at least square-like (square-cornered, or rectangular), shapes are what we have to live with in our 1 and 2 and 3 dimensional worlds. Otherwise, suppose you cut the corner of this square, architectural design of a house plan for a bedroom, for example, to make it more more round or different or at all more aesthetic in its shape, well, then you suddenly can't quite so nicely put a bed or a bookcase against that wall, there is a pocket or a cavity or a curve or a bump out, and it just becomes less functional, and the other side has a discontinuity, a problem, to deal with, suddenly, too.
So No!: planar, or in general, rectangular, is fundamentally the shape that wins in architectural planning. It's the relationship in which both sides win.
Then BOTH sides of the wall can have a whole bed headboard up square against it. Or a whole nice long straight bookcase wall against it. Both sides face a line, and a line is the ideal boundary, doesn't have bump outs or bump ins, you can trust a line and just build against it, considered from the inside. And the other side can too.
The vertical wall of any rectangular room is a page, it is a space for coherent doing, you can write on it, paint it, make a defined piece of art on it, do anything you want on it, and nothing impinges or detracts, it is clean. So do your architecture with rectangles. Square corners. Rectangles win. Wriggle and struggle all you want, but you will have to get used to it. I know, square is boring to the point of painful, right? Because a square (exponentiating to 2) has unpleasantly sharp corners, excessive regularity and predictability, it's all right there for you to see, no mystery, no flow, just a box of a box. Ugh.
On the other hand, it takes two to tango.
But before biology let's do math. 2 is like a special case of a prime number. First, it's the first. Because somehow 1 is defined to not be a prime number, so the next bigger, which obviously has to be prime, is 2, so 2 is the first.
And second, 2 makes half of all other numbers into non-primes, because every even number is divisible by 2. So it's merciless, and ever so boringly boring, bam bam bam bam every other one it's not even worth thinking about (when you're looking for prime numbers) because it's simply even, and you can apply your algorithm or Eratosthenes' sieve and rule out the next even number but really as a person with a human brain we don't even have to think about it, because it's just the next every other one. There's no fun puzzling part, there's no mystery. Somehow our brains just know, with twos.
Don't get me started on binarity. Binary digits, bits, nats, counting by even numbers (+2's) or by doublings (*2's) or by squarings (^2's); well the latter two are fun, okay I'll admit that.
But all this really just a special case of the fact that
two is in essence the first number.Not zero? Not one? Zero anchors the number line, it's the center from which counting emerges, isn't it the first number? No, when you have zero you haven't counted anything yet so it hasn't given us the recognizeable essence, the essence of numberness, no, I don't think so. But one is the first number, surely, it's the unit that we count with, the universal differences between any number and its next or its previous. It's the one that matters most in numbers and counting. No! when you have one, you don't have a number of anything: everything is one, look around you, there's one of this and one of that and one of every imaginable kind and one of every unimaginable kind because you can't even imagine all the things that you see when you just open your eyes, there are so many and so diverse, and each of them is one. Nothing has gotten counted when you have one of it.
It's only when you get to two that you have a number. Two means that you have decided that two things are similar enough to each other that they can count as being the same, and so you have two of them. That's the essence of counting, and numbers, and math: it is calling some things the same. It's the first, lowest, least, minimal form of abstraction, to assert "Same!". Same means first that they are perhaps sort of the same in some way, they might not actually be the same, certainly they are not identical since: what is? after all, nothing is!
But we do tend to abstract. As organisms, we must abstract, so we can apply an appropriate single member of our finite, discrete vocabulary of responses to this particular chaotic and unique circumstance, and it better be good enough or we won't survive. And since organisms can only do a limited number of (types of) things, they have to abstract.
Abstracting means, even though in the details these might be different, we are going to pull out some essence or some similar functionality or interoperability or utility by which we can consider these the same. And when they are the same, then we have two, not one, but two, and then pretty soon more than two since once you have found a sameness between two things you can keep on going with that sameness thing you have and you can find other things with that sameness, and indeed that is what counting is.
Counting is continuing the application of your abstraction of sameness to more (and more (and more (..))) stuff. It's asserting the mental operation of abstraction over the infinitely variable and chaotic world. I will call it mental but organismally perhaps we should call it cognitive, as in a cognitive biology, in which the logic machine which every organism must essentially be, or be equivalent to, in order to make its needed decisions to carry out its necessarily limited range of (types of) responses, in order to survive. Because survival is a logical problem, hello people, hello biologists, in that small matter of organismal survival an organism either survives or it doesn't.
There's no partial apoptosis, people, wake up! Survival imposes BINARY, LOGICAL problems, because it is a binary logical problem. Be as sad and emotional as you want, the fact is it's either life or death, and sure it'll be death later for sure anyhow that's why we have reproduction, but at least until then it had better be life, or we have nothing. Not point 2, or nine tenths, but nothing. Maybe your carbon and water atoms get recycled, okay, but Essentially nothing, from the perspective of really having life, nothing; logically, nothing. Logically means we squeeze things into general kinds of categories which might not be perfectly tight or smooth or exceptionless or internally uniform, no, imperfect, but we do it because we can reason about the categories (and organisms in general operate by an interaction of general mechanisms, which is exactly analogoous to, which is a mechanical implementation of, reasoning with their categories, their general purpose mechanisms, their abstractions). Life is logic, dude. Essentially. Meaning that maybe it's not exactly so in fine details of ignored inputs or uncontrolled chaotic outputs, but it's close enough to get the idea right, it's close enough that the system is able to work effectively enough that ultimately it can survive, and systems (organisms) like it can keep using it in essentially the same way over and over and over through evolutionary time to reliably continuously survive. And that's what it means to be alive today, is all those hundreds and thousands and millions of previous generations used their general purpose mechanisms to abstract over their inputs, solve logical problems in a consistent and correct (survivable) way, and actually, concretely, survive, because hello they are here now, actually, concretely, in reality, and they couldn't have (survived that long to get to now) if they hadn't (been effective abstraction machines).
Sorry that was a bit of a rant. I think I might have a slightly different view of life and biology and cognitive science than others might have, so I wanted to draw it out a bit for you; I seem to presently be the Avatar of this Meme and now you have it.
But let's get back to Today, Two's Day, which happens to be a Tuesday on 2/22/22, to-day, too.
So as I was saying, Two is the first beginning of Counting, which means it is the beginning of Abstraction, because without abstraction, or being able to count different things as the same, you aren't actually counting yet. Putting stuff into categories, is actually GROUPING stuff into categories, you haven't got one until there are at least TWO things in your pile; before then there's just random stuff on the table, and you don't know which ones are together and which aren't. But once there are two, you have a group, and you have some kind of an abstraction.
It's like in set theory, a set of one item is a kind of degenerate mathematical object. Doesn't "set" intuitively mean "group", as in, there's more than one thing in it? A set with one member is hardly a set, we could have just as well referenced the thing itself, unless we're so in love with our concept of sets that we do allow singleton sets too. However you build a set, you can enumerate set members, or have a function that generates or filters or picks out set members, that's fine but without two you don't have set members, so one could say, sort of concrete-mindedly, you don't have a set yet. So set theory, which is pretty foundational to logic and math and everything, also has its limits before there are TWO.
To summarize, two has its nature, its count, and its power. Its nature is that the being of two is the existence of a difference. Every category has the two sides of its boundary, declaring In or Out of the category.
The count of two means you're on your way, you've got two already, you have a machine to start labelling things (i.e. a category), now you can start counting things in the two categories of In or Out of your category, and you're counting. Because "number" itself means the counting of things, and numbers haven't been counted until you've counted to two.
And the power of two means the square, the ugly, necessary, divine and eternal shape. It's also the first of a sequence, namely the sequence of all the powers, all the geometrical dimensions.
So putting these together, we have the foundation of abstraction which means logic and thought and survival-sufficient behavior, and we have the foundation of complex human thought, of geometry and math itself.
So here's to 2's Day, February 22, 2022. Let's celebrate!
And more: Since we have counted now to Two, we can keep on going, that's the whole point, we can relax in the ongoing flow of things, because now it's just going to be more of the same, now that we have counted to two. Pretty soon there will be more, and it will be more of the same. That's the message of two. And Two's Day.
Respectable thinkers have been hyperventilating about how completely worthless bitcoin is, has to be, must be, although it obviously isn't, ever since someone paid 10,000BTC for 2 pizzas in 2010:
2011 The Atlantic: "Bitcoins are nothing";
2013 Business Insider: "The Fair Price of A Bitcoin is Zero";
2014 Arxiv: "False Premises and Promises of Bitcoin";
2015 Cato: "Bitcoin will bite the dust";
2017 WSJ: "The Truth: It is probably worth zero";
2018 SEC comments: "mathematically guaranteed loss";
and Warren Buffett's "Probably rat poison squared"; ... all the way down to
2021 Nassim Taleb: "BTC is worth exactly 0".
The basic argument is, No intrinsic value, no value. But BTC certainly embodies intrinsic value in terms of cost to acquire, whether by purchase or mining, because you can't actually just create it out of thin air. Not Satoshi himself could do that. It costs money to buy, and electricity which costs money to mine.
Then, in terms of intrinsic future value, what commodity's value is free from the whims of future social convention? Is there a guaranteed stable market for anything in the future? Is there a guarantee that gold will continue to be equally popular for jewelry? Or that mining asteroids for metals will never flood the market and destroy their intrinsic values. I don't think so. Guarantees don't protect other stores of value either. More, is it the belief that if interest wanes noone will mine, thus producing vulnerability to bad actors? This implies that the holders of crypto will never defend their holdings by supporting sufficient mining activity to keep them safe. Would you not insure your holdings by paying for their protection? Yes. So No, I don't think so.
To this lofty and grand debate between these edifying and satisfying assertions that No It Can't Be, and the markets in which It Obviously Is, I offer a teeny, tiny, little, point for your thoughtful consideration.
Yes, you may say it is in principle worthless and without value, and that may be so, but I say whatever its value is, it is greater than the value of fiat currency.
Why? A true measure of value, that a rational human would want to put their savings into, so that their children can have it, would be something that cannot be destroyed, poof. Yet fiat currency can be, and is, printed indefinitely, destroying its value. (Every deficit-spent dollar fractionally eats up every dollar of earnings or savings by every worker and saver. My grandparents' unbelieveable family bequest of $800 from 1933 has indeed gone poof, from the 5 months of schoolteacher salary which it represented then, to a roundoff error today.) Therefore fiat is worth less than bitcoin. That's my point. Get it?
Can we both be right? Yes, maybe both fiat and crypto all go to zero in some future limit: that's compatible with both our views, that bitcoin is worth zero, and that fiat is worth even less than bitcoin. But the idea that we should keep and hold and worship all our fiat while throwing all that worthless bitcoin in the trash, is just a stupid idea, because bitcoin is simply stronger than fiat, it can't be indefinitely printed and that intrinsically makes it more valuable.
In summary, more valuable than sh*t might still be worth sh*t, okay, fair enough, but we have all been hoarding dollars for generations, and this is worth more than that.
Next, the Big Question. What is the future stabilized market cap for bitcoin? There exists after all real market demand for cash-equivalent savings vehicles that may be subject to speculative ups and downs perhaps but are free from inflation. Inflation-safety has great value, because it makes an asset more valuable than printable or fiat currency in general. Indeed from this, a certain rational upper limit can be put on the market capitalization of bitcoin or its equivalents, as follows.
Savers need to save in some medium of savings that is better than fiat. (Don't be like my grandparents!) Therefore a truly inflation-safe asset, such as bitcoin, is a better place to put your money, your value-in-savings. That represents an actual market need, a form of economic demand, a real utility function. Doesn't this demand represent a maximum total achieveable market value for bitcoin? That would be the total value of all cash-equivalent savings on the planet: the amount people would want to keep in something like cash, but inflation protected. Suppose to make this slightly concrete that everyone in the world would seek to save USD105 in an average lifetime, while holding USD106 more wisely (per Buffett, and I agree with him) as investment into productive assets, and suppose that there are 10B (1010) people, then USD1015 would be the total addressable market, or maximum future value for such a liquid-but-inflation-protected savings medium. (Everyone remembers, 103 = 1 thousand; 106 = 1 million; 109 = 1 billion, and 1012 = 1 trillion.) That is, 1015 = 1,000 trillion USD = USD1Q. Q for Quadrillion.
You think I'm crazy, heck *I* think I'm crazy, but it already has USD1012 = USD1T in value, and I made essentially the same calculation in 2017 when I bought a curiosity-level, throwaway investment, my bit of BTC. The thesis, the nature of the bet, was (a) that it would be used, and (b) that its value would be proportionate to its use. I wasn't too clear on how use would translate to value, but I could fudge that in the low probability of the whole proposition. In that proposition, anyway, that meant maybe a billion people using it, and some multiplier of value per user, by which I then calculated that BTC might go to a million bucks over 3-5 years, at a probability not less than 1/100. By the indexing rationale, whereby you invest in all alternatives, each in proportion to its probability of success, I should have invested proportionately, 1%, into BTC then, but I was chicken, also everyone I listened to pooh-pooh'ed the idea, so I underbought like an idiot. But now look, BTC is up 60x in 4 years, more or less pretty much on schedule. And now I have to say the evident probabilities of success have gone up quite a lot, even if they are still low, still this estimate of the equilibrium utility upper limit is much, much higher than I called it in 2017, based on this argument from demand for an inflation-protected savings vehicle.
Consider the nominal market cap of BTC on Pizza Day, 2010: ($50 of pizza / 104BTC paid for it) * 21*106 total BTC = USD105,000, round it off to USD105. Then the appreciation so far is $1T/$105000 or 1012/105 = 107.
A 107 multiplication in value, which Bitcoin has already achieved, is a much bigger hill to climb than a 103 multiplication, which would get us from 1T to the above-predicted equilibrium maximum 1,000T. That is, we are 7/10 of the way there already, on a log scale (which is what we're travelling on) so don't say it's crazy. Read some of those early links above, and you'll read people saying it's crazy in the same way. Those hyperventilating naysayers had no business saying it's crazy when it actually happened, or at least (it's happened to me too), they were wrong.
Well, that's one way to look at it. Go ahead, tell me (I'm predicting it!): I'm wrong!
So we suddenly got a lot of fleas on someone's legs in the house, maybe the cats need flea treatment. The doctor offers Bravecto which is a chewable, so we don't have to jam it down the poor kitties' throats. A little research shows some controversy about Bravecto, so I read the Snopes article. The summary? I'm disappointed.
A) Written by Snopes Staff, consistent with it being a paid project. Imagine that. Okay, fine.
B) Primarily emphasizes one veterinarian's support for the medication, who says both he and Merck care about your dog (isn't that what you say when you're on the payroll of Merck?), and who denies the consistent neurological findigs (seizures etc.), that led to the FDA's warning requirement (see next point): this vet says "virtually all adverse reactions" are gastrointestinal. Dude, neurological events are not normally what you would call gastrointestinal. The vet then says the active ingredient works by inhibiting the nervous systems of insects but "does not have any effect on the nervous system of animals", which hello, obviously they do! -- read the next point.
C) Snopes reports but minimizes the actual finding that your dog may have "tremors, ataxia, and seizures" despite the fact Merck had never mentioned this, and the FDA had to go back and tell them to put Warning Labels on their product, pointing out "neurological adverse events".
D) Finally, look at this. It's an issue of methodology, and it's as obscure as it is manipulative and deceitful. Here's how they tell you their product is 100% effective, and no fleas survive in 14 types of treatment cases in their study. They count the fleas on a bunch of animals in the test, and they take the "geometric mean" of the counts -- so you think they didn't find Any. Sure enough 14 results in two tables show Group Flea Count of zero, for a rating of 100% effectiveness. But hold on. See footnote (a): "Flea counts are geometric means and % effectiveness is based on geometric means." What does this mean, Hello?! (It is a sucker move, a head fake, for those who don't know what it means. Bullshevik.)
A geometric mean of counts for a group involves multiplying all the counts together (and taking the nth root of the product), that's the geometric mean. So what if just one of them is zero? Say you have 10 animals, each has 100 fleas except for one which you didn't look too hard on and didn't happen to find any, then the geometric mean of the flea counts for the entire group is 0. Zero. Why? Because 100*100*100*100*100*100*100*100*100*0 = 0. That's what the geometric mean does, it makes it seem like the average is zero, only because ONE of the counts was zero. Unbelieveable. See tables 1 and 6 here.
In short, yes, you can do manipulations to exaggerate your findings, and guess what, they did. I hardly care if the thing is 90% effective versus 100% effective, the picture we see has BOTH exaggerated benefits AND minimized drawbacks. Which is what corporate hack PR is expected to do.
That's what I've got. I thought Snopes was all about skepticism, but these are indications that Snopes is willing to do paid corporate PR, passing on self-serving exaggerations and minimizing and skewing adverse findings. So in this one case where I actually went into the details, I found myself not impressed.
On the positive side, Snopes did share enough links to the original research and reports so that I can actually figure out what I think by myself, so that was helpful. Thanks for that. But, please, do better, Snopes.
So this spring it's tax time for last year and my CPA says, What's this check stub? Give us a 1099R form from Met Life so we can put it in with your tax return to prove it's not taxable. So I call and of course Met Life doesn't make 1099's for these things, so okay. Here's where it gets interesting.
I asked them, "Where did this payment come from?"
Met Life said, "It was a life insurance policy, you're one of the beneficiaries."
That's how it works, you give them some money now on someone's name, and they give you, the beneficiaries, what it accumulates to later, after that person dies. It's sold as an investment. Ask your insurance company, What's my cash out value today? It gets a little bigger over time. So they want you to believe that. So I said, "Okay, so who bought it?"
They said, "We don't know, but it says here they paid $800."
Which means now it must have accumulated over time up to being worth $4131.56, because I have three siblings, so divide that by four, and that's my check.
"When did they buy this life insurance?", I asked.
It's a sweet, really an amazing gesture, for my grandparents, if it was them, to give a gift like that, so far into the future to the children of their child, who grew up to be my mother and to have me and my sisters, and grow old and finally while I'm getting old myself, for her to pass, a gift on that occasion, to comfort the crying grandkids who lost their mom, a gift from her parents down through the many decades! A gift personally to me and my siblings, across 86 years: we love you! Unbelieveable. Come to think of it, I recently heard that an LA policeman in the 1940's made $150/month; Gramma Margaret was an LA School District elementary school teacher, so she probably made less than that; making $800 was more than 5 months of Gramma's full-time salary. Now that is a Gift! Thank you Grampa Bill, Gramma Margaret, thank you.
That's such a beautiful side to this story. So touching.
But there's also a side of the story that you can get something from in your own financial life, your life of keeping your sh*t together. Let's think about what happened, and what it meant.
So their original $800 turned into $4000+ after 86 years! Isn't that great!?
Or is it?
Let's think a little deeper about it.
You might say the alternative was cash under the mattress: that would still be $800 today. So my grandparents were at least a little bit responsible, with their careful pennypinching ways. I'm glad they didn't just put an envelope in the bank deposit box for us. Good job!
But what was that money actually worth back then? I looked up inflation from 1933 to now and it is almost 2000% (1,954%), so the $800 they put in at the beginning is actually worth $15,634 in today's money. That much better than insurance, and vastly better than cash under the mattress, we'd have had almost $16,000, almost four times more than Met Life paid us.
So let's get this straight, Met Life gets my grandparents' money from the depths of the depression, when they were working their tails off at two jobs -- and lucky to have them -- as a bookkeeper and an elementary school teacher, and they hold it for 86 years, and the insurance company only paid out 1/4 of the value it started with. Does that seem like a good idea to you? Yes, it could be worse. But no, No! It wasn't a really good idea.
Okay suppose my grandparents had bought gold? That would protect against inflation. An ounce of gold in 1933 ran you $26.33, so that would be about 30 ounces, when they wrote those checks gold was at $1514.75 an ounce, so that would be about $45,000 (30*1500) in the end. Yeah, $11k checks for the four siblings, that would have been a much bigger celebration day.
Is that the way to look at it?
No, not really. Actually, the money they put down was an investment. They wanted a safe investment. And we now know that the safest investment method with a time horizon of 7 years or longer, is to invest zero in bonds, and 100% in everything else, each different investable asset in proportion to their different values. This is the intellectually responsible investment method, and to be succinct, it's also called the S&P 500 Index. If you're not continuously dumping all your long term investment money into an S&P 500 index fund then, well let's say it like this: you better know what you're doing.
An $800 investment in the S&P 500 Index made in 1933 would be about $10,000,000 today.
Sure, I could feel bad, I'm not suddenly a gazillionaire, despite all good intentions from my careful, hardworking, pennypinching grandparents. It's okay, I can still plumb, I'm doing all right. I'm not resentful, exactly.
But it is hard not to avoid the conclusion that the insurance business is actually an evil scam.
Do you think the insurance companies are not making safe and responsible investments with your money? Of course they are. Do you think they did a lot worse than that most basic of all investments, the S&P 500 Index, that everyone with or without a brain should be putting all their long term investment money into? Heck no. Of course they did that well or better. So they had a deposit from us that, if they don't beat the market, they're as dumb as or dumber than everyone else, still goes to $10,000,000, and out of that they give us four checks for $1000 (0.04% of $10M).
So, what Grampa actually bought from the insurance company was what the insurance business calls "safety", in trade for a -99.96% return, measured against the dumbest of all responsible investments.
I think that's what you ought to call a scam. Just an evil scam.
So what might you take from this? Well, remember the story, everyone can learn from it, you can share it too. Keep your money safe, but don't just keep cash in the mattress, don't hold gold for very long, do invest in the broadest investable index, i.e., the sum of all good business.
And self-insure wherever possible, and certainly never in long term policies for a long term "investment".
Because from this story, your mind should now be clear. Don't give them that kind of an unconscionable margin. It's un frickin' conscionable.
So I was watching Sabine Hossenfelder discussing herd immunity. She mentioned a certain network asymmetry and a light went on in my head. We might be closer to the end than we think. I think I can explain it nicely.
Consider the social network of all humans. On average, yes, people have the average number of connections, but it's just an average, it's not actually uniform. Some people are connected only to a few, others are connected to many. Let's call them the popular and the isolated, as a short-hand, but we are actually referring to "relevant network connectivity", where the links between people are not facebook friendships but, in this case, links for the potential transmission of Covid. Of course people can be more or less "popular" or "isolated", it's a range, but let's just call it two tendencies so as to reason simply about the basics.
Theorem: Most disease transmission events will, over time, be FROM the most popular folks.
Proof: Assume the opposite: suppose NONE of the transmissions are from the popular folks. But then the popular folks are the RECIPIENTS of most of the transmissions because they are the most connected to everybody, so whoever's giving it, the popular ones are the ones mostly getting it. Then, since the NEXT round of transmission goes FROM the recipients of the previous generation, now the recipients in the previous generation, who are the popular folks, become the majority transmitters in the next generation. QED.
For example, suppose we have an 80-20 popularity rule where 20% of the people are at one end or the other of 80% of all the connections between people. Then once the popular 20% is immune and no longer transmitting, then that 80% of all connections can no longer transmit the disease. If it's 90-10, so much the sooner, if the most popular 10% have immunity and cannot transmit, then 90% of the transmission opportunities in the species are shut down.
Since the majority of transmissions involve the popular minority, once that group gets immune, whether by vaccination or infection, and therefore no longer is transmitting the disease, most opportunities for transmission are ended.
Another rule is that almost never, but sometimes, a zombie can become a human again, and if they happen to get shot, they can get a gun somewhere and shoot all its bullets out before becoming a zombie a second time. (We do have some exceptions like this that we hear about in the news: Covid patients who supposedly got better and supposedly got immune from the Covid bullet (got zombified), but later they got sick again. But if exceptions are so remarkable that they are in the news, then instead of having millions and a significant trend, we have a handful, which in the scale of things is approximately zero. If so, then to a good first approximation, once you got it, you're immune. (Once a zombie, always a zombie.)
So now, in your mind, run the game. Start with no zombies at all, and everyone milling around having their lives. Then the excitement starts with an unexpected but actually predictable event, let's say, when some poor 9-year-old accidentally shoots their NRA gun safety instructor (because "guns don't kill people, people do"), who starts being zombified and shooting other people, too. Immediately the whole thing starts off, just like a pandemic. We hear a few pops, then a poppety-pop-pop rattle, then it rises to a roar, eventually it slows down and finally stops, or maybe it becomes a constant background noise. Just like a fire in a fireplace or a forest, or any other exponential growth process bounded by limited resources.
We can do a bunch of cool math about this kind of scenario. Everyone knows R0, right?:
In fact, if you change either R0 or H, then the number of brand-new zombies goes up or down after each round, each generation of transmission.
Once you have R0*H<1 then the low proportion of humans, or the high proportion of zombies, cancels out the number of shots: most bullets have no effect, as if they were blanks, because they only hit zombies who are immune to bullets, who don't even care. You will still get some humans, but on average you'll get fewer and fewer after each round.
Okay this is the ZDRR (Zombie Double Russian Roulette) model of Covid transmission. Infectious persons are the ones that just got shot by someone themselves turning into a zombie. "Humans" are the paranoid, wandering, decreasing minority of the uninfected: vulnerable AND potentially dangerous. And zombies, the living dead, can no longer be infected or infect others, they've transitioned to a new state of the formerly "human" species. They're actually harmless, but you can't hurt them either.
And the dead dead, the ones we actually care about and are trying to reduce in number, if possible, do not continue as zombie or human in this game. The number of dead, dead zombies is the count of all the ones that transitioned from human to zombie, multiplied by lethality L in the second gun, which is the proportion of zombies who shoot themselves, or in Covidworld, the real world, the actual humans that actually die after getting sick from Covid.
So everyone has (I have) been thinking, Covid might have R0=3, so H has to be down to 1/3 to stop the acceleration of disease spread (Z==2/3), or rather more to make it actually slow down and stop. That's why they say, Z=75% will bring herd immunity.
Here's the way I think of it. Take your network of links, with a few very popular, highly-connected members (machine gun carriers), and a lot of more isolated, less-connected members (cap gun carriers). Explode the graph into just a list of links, a spreadsheet sorted by the popularity of the link's most-popular member. No matter how dense or interconnected the network is, if there are any differences in popularity or connectedness, then a minority of members will have a majority of the connections. Therefore in the spreadsheet, the list of links, more than half of connections will include less than half of the members. Most links involve the more-connected members. It can't be otherwise.
Now here's the point: each link is a potential transmission site.
What's going on with the potential transmission sites? I don't care about the details of who individually had it and gave it to whom. I see the whole state of the epidemic as just a bunch of random sparks, random transmission events, on this list of potential transmission sites. Now we can reason simply and straightforwardly. Most links have more popular people on them, because the more-popular people are by definition the ones that are on more links. Ok, then just like in the theorem above, right away, it is the popular ones who, first, get it, and second, transmit it, and third, hey, did you notice? they also become immune and non-transmitting.
At the beginning the minority of popular humans, let's call them the NRA gun safety instructors, because in this crowd they are the connected ones. These are the most vulnerable because whoever has it will give it to them, because the popular are the most connected. And even if they avoid it once or twice, they will keep getting hammered because whoever else has it will still give it to them because they are still popular, they keep going around the room, and connecting with all their former students and fellow instructors, and odds are they are going to get popped. The more popular they are, the more certain it is that they are going to get it.
Okay, then!, then for a fixed and short time, they become like Patient Zero, superspreaders giving it to congregations and choirs and rolodexes full of contacts. But finally, and forever, or as long as immunity lasts, they become the Defensive Line, blocking most potential transmissions with their own personal immunity.
Because the majority of potential transmission sites are blocked after the popular minority becomes immune.
I hope you won't mind: let's look at with math again! You already know how it works; it's the same, but we will change the names of the variables for different degrees of connectedness or popularity in the network.
Remember R0: we already know that R0 changes depending on how many masks are on, how much people reduce their contacts with others, and how big are people's network in the first place. Some highly-connected, big-network, machine-gun zombies are out there at the start, with very large transmission multipliers, call that Rp for Popular, Rp>>1. And some cap-gun zombies are out there too, with Ri for Isolated, Ri≤1: they are staying home, shooting very few. R0 is some population-weighted average of the Rp's and the Ri's. Now let's have labels for the fractions of humans and of zombies based on popularity, too, as Hp, Hi, Zp, Zi, which are the proportions of the [p]popular and of the [i]isolated which are [H]human or [Z]zombie.
Now among the popular crowd, once again, at first, Rp*Hp>>1 not just because Rp is large but also because Hp is high, because even the popular folks haven't gotten it yet. But once they are getting it, getting Covid, and become zombies, no longer catching it or giving it, then Zp more-quickly goes up, Hp goes down, Hp then gets to be small, and Rp*Hp<1 because there are so few non-zombies left in the popular crowd to get it or give it any more.
The machine-gun zombies have been deactivated.
In the isolated group, on the other hand, which are the majority of the people (but not the majority of the potential transmission sites, which are links not people), they are certainly getting it (mostly from the popular people), but they don't have a lot of people to give it to, so it dies out quicker among them, and most of the people they give it to are the more-popular people anyway, who after a phase or two are immune and not getting it anymore. As far as the effects on the population transmission of the disease, we can almost disregard the isolated group.
In summary, the highly-connected network nodes not only pass the disease the fastest at the start, they also block the disease the mostest at the end, because they take the most of the links out of the network by their immunity. The question will be, whether the actual effect is 51-49, or 80-20, or 90-10, in the real world. Self-report on an internet survey should give us a reasonable first estimate. The odds are, even after self-quarantining and masking up and shutting down, that some proportion of the people are still going to be the Patient Zeroes and Typhoid Marys, and once they get immune, that huge tailwind for the pandemic spread will go away.
The machine-gun zombies will be protecting us all.
I sure hope I'm right because if so, it looks like
Costs and benefits need a little more mental clarity, folks.
First, Agent Orange's F grade: The lies. The public health obstruction. We should have had testing everywhere and Much more data. The Ostrich says, Let's close our eyes so the situation won't be as bad. We hear that more *tests* increases *cases*. Such idiocy would be acceptable in the patients of a memory care facility.
Second, all this right-wing noise about fraud and stealing the election. If they get what they want it WOULD BE fraud and theft: By Them! Wow. Have you detected alcohol on their breath? Denial is the typical behavior of alcoholics.
Third, amazing: "Car Seats as Contraception", by Nickerson and Solomon, July 2020. Their abstract:
"Since 1977, U.S. states have passed laws steadily raising the age for which a child must ride in a car safety seat. These laws significantly raise the cost of having a third child, as many regular-sized cars cannot fit three child seats in the back. Using census data and state-year variation in laws, we estimate that when women have two children of ages requiring mandated car seats, they have a lower annual probability of giving birth by 0.73 percentage points. This effect is limited to third child births, is concentrated in households with access to a car, and is larger when a male is present (when both front seats are likely to be occupied). We estimate that these laws prevented only 57 car crash fatalities of children nationwide in 2017. Simultaneously they led to a permanent reduction of approximately 8,000 births in the same year, and 145,000 fewer births since 1980, with 90% of this decline being since 2000."
Fourth, a year or three ago I invented a gene therapy algorithm which would eliminate the human species in perhaps 50 generations. The same algorithm, deprived of certain lethal characteristics, was later published as a now-proven method for eliminating the mosquito, to prevent malaria. So this idea and its ilk are in fact a practical and existential threat to our species, not just to mosquitoes. Needless to say I haven't been sharing the details with too many people. But obvious to conclude, gene therapy manipulations should be done only by a regulated central service and not by random technology-minded geeks in their parent's basements, some of whom, like the various teen mass murderers we have had in recent years, might have an ax to grind against the entire species. It's not a tolerable risk: it needs to be Regulated.
Fifth, look, the future can't pay us for saving it. If we don't save the future garden earth, them grateful and happy and us wise and happy, but instead we cover it with a pool of radioactivity or cyanide or organic mush, unfortunately the future can hardly bribe us not to, with anything that could actually reach us. Just can't pay the past from the future, no matter the service rendered. If we do things to benefit the future, no, we simply cannot receive current payoffs for that benefit. Why then ensure the continuation of our species or any other, past the point of egoistic payback? Well because it's the right thing to do, that's why, and if you can't get that in your head I'm sorry.
Sixth, look again because the car seat regulations are homologous to my genetic apocalypse. In both, the future has no impact on us today; we pay no cost for ruining it, and we gain no benefit for protecting it, except the moral cost and the moral benefit.
The car seat contraception time scale is short enough to directly see both sides of this teeter-totter. Since 1977 we have changed the world as it would have become to a new and different world in which every additional life that is not lost costs 141 lives that are not even given a chance to be lived. (Multiplied by 8000 or so.) If instead of 1:141 this tradeoff were 1:1 or 1:2, that is, one tragically killed baby versus one or two unborn babies skipped, babies never allowed to live, then sure, I'd go for the safer laws and pay for the reduced trauma at the cost of maybe a couple birds in the bush, after all they would never exist neither to suffer nor to be happy. But when it gets to 1:5 or 1:10, I fall right over to the opposite side of the argument. Better to have lived and had some suffering than never to have lived at all. When it's 1:141 as these economists have estimated, the pro-safety argument becomes utter bullshit. We have killed, essentially, we are killing by omission, by prevention, many thousands, every year, by stopping their lives from ever occurring, in order to achieve our relatively tiny reductions of tragedies today. These laws are therefore immoral and should be rescinded. They trade small satisfaction of conscience for huge loss of potential life. I say potential life needs to count for something. As opposed to, for nothing. It is the same as destroying the future in a gene-therapy apocalypse.
It is like bequeathing the future a lake of cyanide instead of a garden of eden. Noone will be there to experience the bad place, by then noone apparently will care. But it's the wrong thing to do, and if we can't get that in our heads, I'm sorry. Did you hear that? I'm repeating myself. If we can't get that in our heads, then I'm sorry.
No, we have to actually accept that life includes some unpreventable, even desireable, quantum of suffering. Just as you need some bad to know how good you have it. Just as the perception of humor includes the perception of pain (Veatch, 1998). Just as stress and difficulty and challenge to the system brings antifragile self-development and strengthening to human genetic systems. Life cannot be pain free, and if it is then it is actually not a life worth living. Utter safety purchased by utter immobility is NOT desireable.
So let's be brave, my beloved ones. Don't let's hide in our basements, not for too long at least. Sure, don't be stupidly uncareful, but do be brave, and go live the greatest life you can. And some of you, a very few of you, maybe 1 in 141 of you, will indeed die in unfortunate accidents, but much more life will be lived than if you all stayed in the basement. What would you rather, listen to fear? Or take our lumps like the random creatures we are in the random wilderness that we do in fact inhabit, for the possibility of greatness, of life. Live! It's a miracle! Live!
And leave the world a better place than you found it.
Yes, finally, I'm getting around to Covid costs and benefits.
Yes we are rightly worried about the 1/3 million dead Americans. That is a very big cost, and if folks have to wear masks and eat in, those are tiny costs to reduce the carnage. 100 people wearing masks for 100 days each may well save a life or two. It's worth it at twice that cost, at 100X that cost. Still we are taking very costly measures. Kids losing their education. Workers losing their work. Suicide rates are up. Depression is up. Liz has a busy practice as a counselor, busier than before Covid. Overdose rates are up. The number of people who have lost their health insurance has gone up directly with the loss of employment. Non-covered patients often get care late or never and suffer worse diseases or even death, so loss of insurance has a non-zero death rate. Isolated people die younger and sooner. How many sad and lonely institution-dwellers gave up and died this year, Covid-free? Yes loss of connection and community can be measured in deaths. In these ways, Covid safety measures with all their public health benefits also have their costs. We have to be rational about it, not irrational.
If you game it out, and we have another year before vaccines stop it, what is the best set of public health measures? Probably vaccinate the teachers and get the kids back in school ASAP. Vaccinate the front-line workers and the at-risk, for sure, everyone in the institutions which seem to be the primary transmission grounds of Covid. But also it is a public health measure to get people back to work as soon as possible, because that will save lives too. It is a public health measure to tolerate or encourage some degree of social gathering to give people life-giving connection despite some traded-for cost in Covid lives lost: there is a balance and the balance is not all the way to the side of complete immobility and completely safe practices. Only by having this balanced discussion can the best path be found and followed. Let's not give 141 desperate solitary suicides for one covid death saved, for example. So wake up to both sides, folks, it's not just one side or the other. We need to have the numbers, and to let balanced science lead us.
Liz and I went to Mount Rainier yesterday, it was great. $30 gets your carload an amazing hike. Here's John Muir:
"... the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings." - John Muir, conservationist, 1889
No exaggeration. Paradise is not named wrongly. Walk up the hill for an hour or two and there's unbelieveable richness, there's niche water features dripping over sculptured granite with hanging mosses, OMG, and the screams, was that an eagle I didn't see or was it the marmots, bumbling over the rocks and chewing up the greenery, they're even eating the dirt! And holy cow an enormous white mountain goat sitting on the snow, looking wise and sad, with equal angle, equal length, spiky ears and horns, tucked up cloven hoofs, just watching the hikers go by. Spend the $30, it's better than Disneyland, it's extravagantly beautiful.
On the way up we're driving and some guy in his Laramie has a bumper sticker: "Trump for America: Fuck Your Feelings". Thought-provoking. Me and Liz had an argument. She's a psychotherapist, a couples counselor, she's amazing, she often keeps couples together which means their kids get born and get raised better, and grandkids and the whole future of civilization, all in the wisdom of her twinkly crinkly eyes. Yes, go to lizhuntercounseling.com or your own local one; pay the rate. The future is worth a little investment.
So I say to Liz, Laramie guy must be speaking a different language from me, because I say EVERYTHING is feelings. Liz argues for him, saying, I see men all the time who can't access their feelings. I counter, you mean one type of feelings, call it FeelingsU: those are the Unacceptable feelings. (Then there are FeelingsA which are the Acceptable feelings, and both kinds are Feelings, don't pretend otherwise.) So sure, men can't access those FeelingsU. True. But then there are the acceptable feelings, the FeelingsA, the devotion of getting up early and going to the job and working your ass off and bringing home the bacon so the love of your life, your wife, and the light of your life, your kids, can have what they need. Those are feelings too. Those are feelings you would work a lifetime to support. You would die for. Soldiers who die for their country are living some very admirable feelings. As Lincoln himself at Gettysburg described it: "the last full measure of devotion". Is devotion not a feeling? To say so would be simply false.
Actually everyone always operates in a motivated frame: here's my goals, here's my commitment and aspiration, I'm going to engage in the activities of my life with the emotional depth of my committed feelings toward this outcome, and push that rock up that mountain with feeling, and those, guess what, are perfectly acceptable feelings, and men who certainly have them certainly do feel them. So you can't say Men don't have feelings. Maybe they have been trained not to express socially unacceptable feelings like vulnerability or grief, but that's not the only kind of feelings they have.
But this Trumpista in his truck, he's with you, Liz. He's saying Feelings Don't Matter. F your feelings. First I'm offended, like, Really, he doesn't care about my feelings, about me? But from his side he's saying Men like him don't get to access and express their socially unacceptable feelings, their FeelingsU, so others shouldn't get to either. I recognize this from being around plumbers. Keep your damn feelings at home, bud, be professional. Wow, that's such bullshit. Sure, FeelingsU, that makes sense. So, well, not just truck driving Trump fans think this way. But actually, everything we do is in the motivated frame of going toward the goals we are connected to by, guess what, our Feelings. So don't put down feelings, except if you want to put down your own self, because you have them too, you are nothing but a big old quivering ball of feelings, a big softie, pushing your rock up your mountain. Vulnerable as heck, but keeping a straight face and making the best of it. Don't squirm, I know who you are. And you're okay, and it's going to be okay, with your acceptable FeelingsA and your unacceptable FeelingsU too, with all your feelings, we're going to respect each other and work it out. Because that's what we do.
Hair, the original decoration. Humans have obviously evolved both long hair on heads and no hair (to speak of) on most of most bodies. The latter supports the Aquatic Ape theory, that we spent time in a wallow like a water buffalo, except maybe the boys went out hunting on the land and their hairy backs and fronts were maybe better protected by keeping a bit. Have you seen the Indian water buffaloes with pink bodies and blond mats of head hair, thick on the tops of their heads, and only on the tops of their heads, in the field on the left side of the train from Delhi to Chennai, as I have? Water wallowers, water buffaloes, and us. (Listen to Elaine Morgan make the case, which still doesn't point out the human having of swimming pools, nor this water buffalo observation.)
But we also evolved the latter: long head hair.
Footnote: An expert says horses evolved long manes by breeding, since donkeys, zebras, and true wild horses have short manes, although perhaps the domesticated ones are the ones which could be caught - by their manes and tails, so that long manes preceded domestication.
In our case, it suggests selection for decoration (in a species with fire or good cutting tools, because you might not evolve it if it just gets in the way unmanaged). And what is decoration but some confusion between posturing for others and posturing for oneself? I'm against it in either case; don't you prefer reality over pretense? Wouldn't it be better if the better that things might be were real instead of pretense? So make goodness real for goodness' sake! Enough with the pretense and the pretenses and the endless fakey fakey faking fakes.
So as an expression of personal priority, I rather enjoy putting the #2 on my Wahl electric razor (1/4") to buzzcut myself. Yes, occasionally there's a flyaway that Liz has to point out, but I'm almost independent. See, the best thing about hair as far as oneself is concerned is the fuzzy feeling of friction over a short-haired scalp grown halfway from shaved to the furry pelt of hair leaning over (white guy, weak thin straight hairs). An actual shave brings a wierd, wet leatheriness to this skull, then after a few short hours it's sandpaper again, in neither case protective, nor particularly fun to rub. Then after a couple weeks the prickles get long enough to bend over under a stroking hand, and for maybe a month after, they keep that slightly stiff, fine, fun fuzziness that, maybe you know what I mean. Once they bend on their own and hair turns to pelt, then the pleasure is no longer my own but that of my hairdresser or audience, which, well I like you but really? Who sees me? And do they really see me? So I say why not, my haircut is for my own pleasure, it's as better than for any other. So.
It's a little bit like the face. The face is a signalling instrument, painted on a convenient side of the body, and made visible to everyone always. It's not a face, not your true being, not a revelation of the inner self, not the light of insight. One might think it's that, but that would be confusing the signifier with the signified. Don't be so ignorant, go take Linguistics 101: the sign has two aspects, the more or less arbitrary indicator, and the intended meaning that it stands for. The pronunciation "tree" is not the same thing as a tree, can't you tell the difference between a pattern of vibrating air and a 40 foot plant? Just so, the face is a signalling instrument, but we take it for what it indicates. We swallow the pretense.
Actually there is a stronger onomatopoetic relationship between signifier and signified when we consider the eyes; the reasoning chain is tight. The eyes tell everyone where the eyes are pointing, because as you may know the whites of the eyes are not white for gorillas, and even relatively recent versions of related humanoids did not have white colored whites in their eyes. Whites frame the circle of the retina, and a normal vector, i.e., the direction, of the orientation of the retina can be calculated by exactly how elliptical the darks of the eyes are against the whites. Ellipse major axis horizontal means the person is looking up or down; a perfectly proportioned circle means it points at you, their eyes are pointing at you, their attention is directly on you. It's a signal. From a certain ratio of major to minor axes of the ellipse you can tell what angle to the side the eyes are pointing. Here is an amazing case of geometric calculations implemented in evolved perceptual circuits (is it not?), for the purpose of making the awareness of others, the direction of their attentional focus, available visibly for each participant to know, for the purpose of signalling, and getting on the same page socially. Because if we know who is looking at us, or we know where everyone else is looking, that's a lot of good information for a social species like this.
Face signals are numerous. Pay attention to the upper lip. When someone laughs or smiles sincerely, the upper lip draws back. It's not under conscious control. That's why I hate Bruce Willis and Natalie Dormer, actors with a smirk, it seems like they're smiling but then it turns out their upper lip is pressed most firmly down, because they're not actually smiling, the smile doesn't reflect their inner experience, they're just pretending to smile by doing the consciously-controllable lower-lip curls that count as smiles only if you haven't learned to detect bullshit yet. Start looking around, pay attention. You can tell what's real. Like for example, tickling makes people produce sincere smiles. Well that's another story, tickling is violence often enough. But the smiling has the quality of sincerity in the signal, because you can't control that upper lip. When you start watching, you'll be truly disappointed how much of of the world is full of fakers, pretending to smile, trying to communicate to you that they are smiling when actually they are not. Hopefully Kim Jung One doesn't figure this out because all his people praising his greatness and smiling for him are doing it because they have to not because they are sincere. If he were to kill all the fake smilers around him there would be noone left. Maybe it's a good thing to be ignorant of the pretenses, sometimes.
Liz says, Sorry, but what's your point?
Thanks Liz. Well the endless falseness of things, is my point. Today is just an instance of forever. Today it seems hard to get to the truth of things. Idiots are out there trolling with the simple algorithms of their simple mean minds. Alcoholics and politicians, denial machines, reverse the plain, wise, loving truth because it's personally uncomfortable, for themselves or their audiences. Hardly anyone cares to explore what's really going on; who do you know that you can actually talk to about it? Anyone? Instead we get Selling Sunset and facial plastic surgery and botox, and everyone is a climber on some very short tree, their own dominance hierarchy of valuation of whatever they value, youtube makeup channels, TikTok cat videos, wow. I'm disappointed in us. Come on folks, let's filter the bullshit from the quality, and go as deep as we can into WTF is actually going on here. Selling Sunset indeed: You are the one who is being sold.
Hair is a provocative example, because of its evolutionary depth it is itself a compelling statement about the nature of our species: we are a species of pretenders, decorators, symbolizers, posturing fakers. It goes along with human things like language, and clothing, and the counter-factual abilities to plan, negotiate, grieve, and lie. It's not all bad, but buzz-cutting with a #2 is just my one little re-prioritization, to get away from always and only pretending for others and to at least be real a little bit, for my own self. It's a tiny thing, but I know I like it.
So my point is, keep your eyes open, maintain your innocence and curiosity, be brave and humble so you can actually learn, question your own thoughts (which probably got implanted into you by others who themselves are tools of their ideology): Be careful, trust and prioritize your own original observations and thinking. Everything else might be fake.
Please someone make me a Covid Mask that says "You're Welcome!"
There are two mask messages. Either I'm protecting myself from you, or, I'm protecting you from me. One is suspicious and anti-social, and the other is pro-social. When I went through my transition from yeah yeah I'm not so sure about this mask thing to Okay I'll wear one, I experienced those two messages. And part of what held me back is the first message, the anti-social mask message that the wearer broadcasts to others, saying You are Diseased and I need to Protect myself from You and Your Disease. In short, You are my Enemy. It's a bit unfriendly to be the default message to someone walking by on the street, and I don't like being a jerk all that much.
But then I realized that the opposite message is actually intended when most people are wearing masks. You have no reason to trust that I am disease free, and I might even be a symptom-free super-spreader, so what I'm going to do protect you by wearing a mask just in case. I'm your Friend. Different.
So all this political conflict about mask-wearing might be resolved if people just wore masks saying "You're Welcome". Because then the other folks that see it will understand that the wearer is their friend, not their enemy.
The term Improvised Explosive Device or IED is basically racist. It helps us think we're better than our adversaries if our weapons are "manufactured" while theirs are "improvised". It's baloney. If IEDs include shaped charges, explosively formed penetrators, if they are created in identical large numbers, if they are shipped in boxes from Tehran to Baghdad, the only difference between an IED and a mine or between an IED and a bomb is that we want to look down on the ignorance and unsophistication of our adversaries. It's Jingoism.
"Improvise" means you just grab whatever is at hand and slap it together and hope it works. That might have made sense for the first year or two of the 21st century wars, but after that, it's just bullshit. If Iran is supplying these manufactured weapons to our opponents on the ground, then the only reason we keep calling them "improvised" is to pretend that their makers and users are not actually organized, not actually able to engineer successful replicatable designs, they are backward and technologically undeveloped, they don't have their shit together at all enough to make a bomb or a mine on purpose or according to a plan, all they can do is slap together an improvised explosive device. Bull Sh*t.
What's actually true is that we like to fool ourselves in ways that make us feel better about ourselves. Everyone likes to think their little group is better than every other group, and the continued use of this term particularly in the American military context is just meaningless except to support this particular and false self-deception. Please get over it.
When I hear in the news about an IED, the message I get is that the speaker thinks the adversaries are some kind of disorganized backward subhumans. Instead, what I want to hear is what actually happened: was it a booby-trap, an explosively shaped charge, a landmine, a vehicle born bomb. Use descriptive terms that aren't primarily a carrier of condescension. Because if you're going to fight your enemies, then first respect them, understand them, and then if you have to, fight them, but don't disregard them as members of the modern world by implying they and their whole civilization is incapable of manufacturing anything, while then just blowing them away without regard for their humanity. Okay? Thank you.
The argument between pro and con is resolved by a little linguistics. Let's put our thinking caps on!
Everyone believes all lives matter, of course. Don't we?
Everyone therefore also believes Black Lives Matter, of course, it follows, duh.
Another way to say the same thing might be, Black Lives Do Matter, or, Black Lives Don't Not Matter. These ways of saying what seems to be the same thing aren't quite the same. They use the contradiction marker "Do" to make it explicit that there is a contextual presupposition being contradicted, which is the point actually being made by Black Lives Matter. Isn't it?
What it seems to me the outraged "innocent" white folks don't recognize is the unspoken, linguistic-pragmatic background to the statement that gives it sense. The background, the context, is the infinitely-evidenced counter-view, seen in endless police brutality episodes, differential access to health care, yes hello the slavery, going back 500 years, where if you read the facts of what has happened you cannot fail to conclude that for such a society, which is continuous and unruptured in its descent to our own society, in that society it is obviously presupposed that black lives do not matter. It is in that context that Black Lives Matter is spoken. In that context, it is a contradiction. It is revolutionary.
White pollyanna ignoramuses evidently forget or ignore that obvious and primary context, complaining, How prejudiced of you, Why don't you say All Lives Matter, Cop Lives Matter too, and White Lives Matter too. Which is all true but totally misses the point. In their imaginary context of perfect ideal equality "Black Lives Matter" sounds like a rejection of everyone else's significance, a rejection of the value of blue lives or white lives or any other lives. But that's not so, because of the context.
In the field of linguistic pragmatics we learn how the context governs the communication. If I say "It sure is cold in here" I may mean, "Please close the window", so that the literal meaning of the words is very different from the intended message. One is an observation, the other a request. In the case of an unmarked contradiction, the context tells you what is being contradicted. If it were marked as in "Black Lives DO Matter" or "Black Lives Don't NOT Matter", then the listener can directly infer what proposition is being contradicted. Unmarked, everyone can understand the contextual presupposition of black lives having been treated as though they do not matter: that's a pretty strong context and to me it's obvious that anyone can empathize with it if they just think about it a bit.
So I say, all you haters on all sides, please please just go take a class in linguistics, and get on the same page. There's no actual argument here, people. Because I don't really think anyone is saying, Black Lives Don't Matter. That is history; I don't see anyone arguing for it today except teenage tantrum-troll types who could use a spanking, a time-out, and some Jordan Peterson lectures on responsibility. Okay? Okay. Thank you.
In this time of Covid we're remodelling Liz's bathroom. Picking out materials would be easier if we could use my sweet old House Color Scheme Tester -- if it were a little more functional. Picking out colors could be easier, so today I added a color triangle with a brightness slider. Now you can easily fool around with the slider and clicking on the triangle to pick any color you want, then just copy-and-paste the generated RGB for door, siding, trim, roof, etc. "OK" gets you a new display of what those colors look like together. Incidentally, HCST now also remembers the last few color schemes tested, so you can go back a bit too. Have fun!
We have some issues with pronouns, you and me.
"We, our, us" vs "they, their, them": When I hear people using any of these my skin crawls.
These pronouns encode a required dimension in English which imposes on your circumstances a reference in-group that is yours, and a reference out-group that is not yours. "We" are in "our" group, it's "us", and "they" are in "their" group, it's "them". Ugh. F that. It's functional if your society is designed for mob action, but I think we're kind of beyond that historically, and I just want to point out to the emotionally intelligent that this is bullshit and let's all please stop, or at least be a little less stupid and mean about it.
When some prestige-group member refers to members of some minority group as "them", it just repeats the outgroup assertion. "They" are over there, in a little minority, huddled, separate, and silent, while "We" are over here having "our" conversation without "them" participating, at most maybe "they" can listen while "we" talk. "They" is a group that doesn't have the right to respond in "our" conversation.
A tiny bit of diplomatic skill or emotional intelligence consists in this: Use your pronouns inclusively, unless you actually mean to communicate the exclusivist disempowering separating point that your pronouns actually communicate. Or are you being stupid and unfriendly on purpose?
"He, She, It": If you want to use a pronoun unspecified for gender, we have a solution in English: "it". In Hindi the wife refers to her husband as "my that", because the Hindi pronoun, "woh", is unmarked for gender and animacy. If you want gender-unmarked pronouns in English, we have some: "this", "that" or "it".
First draft posted today. It's super fun. Somebody please ask me to put in some parameter controls to refine it.
My job is to make it possible to find what you want here. Suggestions? Here are some ways.
Titles: short and memorable, might not reveal enough content to pull readers to their content. I'm drawn to the idea of a TL;DR index, with a short paragraph rather than just the title, maybe a twitter announcement of it. I'll use this blog for that in future. (Implemented 12/27/2021)
Recency: a sidebar. I pander to you here, because the recency bias is stupid, loses signal for noise, as if the moment's news is more important than really learning something significant for generations, millenia, even evolutionary or cosmological time. But it's there. (Implemented 7/2020)
Favorites: another sidebar. For now, this is also weakly informative, as the choices are more about my momentary mode while writing rather than your mood now. (Implemented 7/2020)
Genres & Media Types: my primary outline structure. This seemed the best for quite a while, but my list has gotten long and even types of stuff like Projects or Services have become large and noisy. (This was original; now overwhelmed by volume.)
Sciences: I was tickled to notice most of my essays fit into the subject tree of all sciences. See Deep Thoughts -> Mine. (Implemented 7/2020)
Google: Wow, they actually sort of solved this. Google "tomveatch.com Gravity", and you'll probably get what you actually want. Hmm.
Suggestions welcome. (I'll need more to go beyond the 12/2021 version.)
I've been thinking about galaxies again and I figured out: how spiral arms get sucked into the end of the bar of a bar galaxy; how the spiral arms are separated from the faster-spinning galactic core; how Doppler has higher energy as well as higher frequency; how spiral arms rotate so much more slowly than expected. See Gravity is BS.
I happened to be studying some Korean history where I found out that double entry accounting was invented there 500 years before the Italians figured it out. You know my interest in this so I clicked on double entry accounting in Wikipedia and Yes indeeed, they still have the inscrutable unexplained list of what's Dr and what's Cr which you have to memorize to be an accountant. This is the essence of the professional obfuscation that keeps the rest of us ignorant of their mysteries. Read Sweet Accounting if you want to (a) become one of them, or (b) never be flummoxed by one again, or simply (c) get the simple idea of it.
I thought I'd clarify how why the alternative explanations of galaxy spiral arms, namely standing waves and dark matter influences, are bad ideas. See Gravity is BS.
You know the Golden Rule: Do to others what you would have them do unto you. But do you know the Iron Rule? Don't do for others what they can do for themselves. The Iron Rule applies to children in development (so they can develop), to old folks in decline (so they can not decline so fast), for volunteers in a volunteer organization (so it can multiply its powers), for every disabled person. Where else?
First burn the herd, then you'll have herd immunity.
Sorry, I'm not very PC. Actually I'm a great big snowflake, but also a plumber by trade, and cursing and sexism in language are par for the course in the trades, so get over it. Do you need your toilet fixed or not?
Truth be told: Cursing is a sign of intimacy with the listener, because when you don't curse, you are carefully not expressing passion, not revealing your true feelings, which is appropriate with remote strangers when you have to put on a good face. Therefore, consider it a good sign if someone is comfortable enough to curse in your presence.
Young man, listen to me. You're looking at someone, I know. And before you get her, it's Look, Don't Touch, and maybe for you, yes for me growing up, skinny looked hot. So if you're still 14, I understand.
But once you get her, you're more grown up and you got her, now it's Snuggle Time and you need Squeezable, not all bones. I mean, are you not a mammal? We are mammals; we snuggle.
So yes, squeezing and holding and nuzzling up and being close is WAY better than Looking, hello, so get your priorities straight.
So no, it's not about Skinny for very long, unless you're some loser that can't make a relationship work.
Just one (Cis/Man) opinion.
Think about Jefferson, yes he aimed at a place higher than where he stood, he wrote that all men are created equal while his brother in law was in the next room serving him as a slave. But consider how far we have come, and how much farther to go.
The original Roman laws said a man by right can kill his own son and it is no crime; worse yet, he can sell his son into slavery, the son can work himself out of slavery, he can sell his son into slavery again, and the son can work himself out of slavery again, and he can then kill his son, and it is still no crime. Only after three times selling his son into slavery does killing the son become a criminal act. Now THAT is patriarchy, THAT is an unjust society for a society that considered itself to be a democracy.
Did the Romans consider themselves a democracy? The Roman law said that if someone planned to become the king, then it was no crime to kill that person, without any further evidence than your belief that they have planned it. Because we don't tolerate anyone trying to be the king here where we have a democracy, and we are ready to fight, to kill, and to die for it. Yes it was a democracy. But no, not everyone had voting rights, not to start; the people who created the right to vote against tyrants and enemies all up in their faces gave themselves the right to vote first, and yes they had to establish the thing, and fight off those tyrants and enemies, and only after it became nice and safe and stable they started to let other people in from outside their small in-group of tough, mean, ready-to-fight, heartless, slave-keeping fathers who were very touchy about their rights.
We have come a long way since Rome, folks. Jefferson brought us a long way forward already, even just for having the idea of universal equality. And we have a long way to go still. Once we fix the bullshit of prejudice on the basis of race and gender, we are still far from done. Still we have severe, deep, prejudices when we call people fat or ugly or stupid or even foreign with negative intent and negative effects. Does disrespect on any of those dimensions hold water? F no. Humans deserve respect no matter what.
So yes, Black Lives Matter, let's move to a better future, but we can also recognize that even the Romans, those bastards also helped, by bringing us forward out of tyranny. Jefferson helped, bastard though he was and made of his own children, by writing the very words of the Declaration. Lincoln helped, bastard though he was, emancipating the slaves, even while thinking the slaves should all go back to Africa. Wilson helped, bastard though he was, pushing for a League of Nations. Johnson helped, bastard though he was, signing the Civil Rights act. And the whole society, backward though it was, has ultimately helped by gradually moving in the direction of justice. Let's all be some bastards that are helping, and seek the better Way, despite our flaws. As so many have done for thousands of years.
But if you can't tolerate in your allies in progress any trace of the flaws of our time and our culture, you're probably not going to have a lot of allies. Pick your battles, and win them. Then please, let's not forget to get to work afterwards against anti-fat, anti-ugly, anti-stupid, anti-foreign hates and prejudices.
Imagine a competent normal person by day, who enters a Narnian wonderworld of out-of-control nightmare every evening when lying down to sleep, where you can't even scream out in your pain, you can't escape your miserable trap, all you can do is hang in there like a suffering dog through the long night until enough rest has been collected that you can awaken again, shake off the immobility and stupidity, and find the normal daytime powers of perception and logic once again at your service, so that unreasonable fears can be banished and fantastical disasters detected as false. Seems like a temporary problem, wouldn't you think? Yet every night once again I lay myself down to sleep, I enter that world again. It's called "hypnic headaches". No wonder I don't like to go to bed.
Cop = Social Worker + Gun.
Don't hire Anger Management problems.
Is the issue police racism or police personality and character? If you hire people that share a character, don't be surprised if their culture has that character. If you hire cops for their concrete-minded, hard-headed, happily-punitive personality, don't be surprised if you have an unchangeable cop culture that is is emotionally and socially unintelligent.
Not All, but ... Plenty ... of cops are ex-military looking for a gun-toting civilian job, to maintain their gun-toting identities with as much opportunity to practice and use their gun-toting skills as civilian life can offer. Plenty are street bully characters who seek a legal outlet for their violent instincts. They would love to put the neck crank or the billy club on a deserving individual, subject to their authority and whim, and they especially love it that doing so is imagined as the right thing to do because the deserving individual is some low life criminal. Very satisfying! Such temperaments are frankly anti-social.
But the job of policing is MOSTLY calming disputes, settling social conflicts, guiding people back into the lanes of pro-social behavior. Convening and facilitating, not being quick on the draw. This is a job that requires social and emotional intelligence.
But those are sophisticated skills that are harder to teach. Better to hire social workers, and teach them to shoot, than to hire covert predators and try to teach them social skills which others learned in kindergarten.
The answer is simple: Every police candidate should be tested for social and emotional intelligence, and should be rejected, not hired, if Below Average in Social/Emotional Intelligence.
A valuable, potentially fragile, and presumed-innocent public deserves to not have emotional retards as the go-to professionals who come to calm and help resolve our local social conflicts. So instead of Defund the Police, I say:
EQ-Test the Police!
Another invention to improve the world: Make a small device, size of a pill, swallowable, with one side open revealing a length of sterilized mesh tape, containing a reel-to-reel tape mechanism, motor to turn it, power source to last the duration of transit, perhaps electronic logic to control speed, turn it on and off on a schedule, even open/close the window. Turn it on, swallow it, and wait for it to pop out the other end. Rinse it off, take it to the lab, pull the tape out, cut it into short bits each containing what sloshed into it during the moments it was exposed inside; the populations of what's there at each point give a map of the microbiome along the length of the gut.
In yesterday's news I read that some cancer researchers have just discovered that toxicity of cancer drugs can vary 100x from tolerable up to ultra-toxic based on small differences in nutrition, adding a single amino acid to an animal subject's food. Presumably the gut biome is involved, some bugs flourish and interact with the body system with huge effects like this. I had this invention in mind some years before October 2018 when I mentioned it to a micro-biome researcher that I met at a class reunion. I haven't heard anyone doing it still, so here I share it with the world. Somebody move on this, please. It should enable better study of what is going on inside, and one may hope can contribute to science and medicine.
Everyone is so Attached to their Self-declared Identity, whether sexual, ethnic, national, or otherwise. What bullshit! We are all wandering around like ducklings in the story, Are you my Mommy? Are you my Mommy? But instead we ask, Is this Me? Is this Me?
All identities are false, humans! Male, female, trans, black, white, whatever. For example: Yes I "am" a straight white male, I've had my own share of oppression, go fuck yourself. Really, that's what I'm supposed to do? How was that for you? It wasn't so pleasant for me either, though the identity-bound (i.e., the ignorant) will look at each statement and consider it all "true".
No, I am against all identities whether it's about you being gay, man, woman, whatever, the whole identity capture process, which is what we go through psychologically when we make such a claim, is fundamentally all about being fearful, tightly grasping, socially posturing like an over-performing semi-member, a joiner. False, false!
Your true identity is distinction-inclusive, non-finite. You are, and have the right to be treated as, a divine spark from heaven. You have no business occluding that brightness with some attachment game that prevents you seeing your true nature.
Blogs are repulsive, to me, being, imagine it, a time sequence (Time! Feh!) of what may randomly occur to click-bait writers as clickable at the time. Historians may be interested in blogs as historical data, and current readers may indeed click the bait, but it is increasingly and painfully evident that clicking some bait brings no improvement in your understanding, yourself, or the world. Really, the internet, which is to say, all this technological support for learning and intellectual growth, was suddenly made available to the entire world beyond the university library customer and now what we get is cat videos and intellectual mush. Really?
The essence of a log is to record what's happening now, to be a log of it, to be specifically relevant to today as opposed to any other time, and therefore is irrelevant to tomorrow. Don't you hope, don't I aspire, to have a more lasting significance than that? - To learn what won't change, what will be widely relevant, what can be understood without reference to current news or people's false thought that the micro changes of the current historical micro-instant have changed everything and made everything suddenly so significant and suddenly requiring complete reinterpretation of everything? Whereas, actually, as Borges pointed out, all places are "here", all times are "now" (and all people are "me", and I am you too, to an excellent first approximation). So the fact the entire web of people basically organize their thoughts calendrically means their thoughts lack an better alternative organization or you might say, any actual content. Yes Now is the time to Be, but Speech allows abstraction, generalization, saying things that are True, significant beyond the current moment, so why would you essentially assert the universal meaninglessness of what you have to say by sticking it in a log, a web log, a blog? This is why, for 20 years, I refrained.
Even so, here I begin my own blog. A log of data points, of small or hopefully at least concise thoughts or observations, tidbits which have no home, yet. A reader interested in what's going on Here, Now, with Me can peek here for the fun of it. Have fun!