Malthus, S-Curves, Rabbits, Construction, and Software Design

“One of the most widely used chemical compounds is zinc oxide. This policeman, this farmer, and this housewife don’t realize it, but they all depend on zinc oxide in their daily lives.” – Kentucky Fried Movie

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The Alaska range at dawn.  Not pictured:  sexy farmers.

Thomas Malthus was a very, very gloomy guy – so much so that the term after his name, “Malthusian” has come to describe dismal, teeming masses of poor hungry people.  He did the math and saw that food production produced arithmetically, and there were limits of how much food a single acre could produce, and a limit to how much food could be produced overall.  People reproduced geometrically, and could reproduce much faster than the food supply.  Probably because farming was and is much less fun than sex.

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Looks like Pastor Malthus would be more of a party guy, and less of a “we’re all doomed” guy.  Via Wikimedia

Pierre François Verhulst was modelling populations based on his reading of that gloomy Thomas Malthus, and (after a bit of tinkering in the math world by some other folks) they ended up with:

N(t)=K/1(+CKe^-rt)

Math sometimes solves multiple problems with the same solution.  And one of those solutions is the S-Curve (or “Logistics Function”).  Originally, Verhulst found it.  What irritates me about Verhulst is that his middle name has that French curly-cue thingy hanging off the bottom of a perfectly useful “c”.  So, we’ll just call him Pierre for the next sentence until we’re entirely done talking about him.

Pierre_Francois_Verhulst

Here is Pierre – and he approved this picture, which kinda makes him look like offspring of a parrot and a serial killer.  – Via Wikimedia

If you think back to an earlier (relatively popular) post (LINK) r is the rate of population growth, and K is the carrying capacity.  If you maximum mating as your evolutionary strategy, you’re an r critter, like a rabbit.  If you have a few offspring, and guard them like the crown jewels, you’re a K critter.  If you go back to the post linked above, you’ll see how this equation determines the fate of nations . . . but this post is about more than that.

The equation above is (kinda sorta) what I graphed to make the following curve:

S-Curve

It’s called an S-curve (or sigmoid curve) because it looks like an “s” that’s been stretched out.

So, you can imagine that as a population of bunnies gets dropped on an unsuspecting continent with no natural bunny predators, the population will skyrocket, as happened when rabbits were introduced to Australia.  In 1859, a dozen or so escaped from a hunting compound, and instead of forming the rabbit version of the A-Team they started reproducing, because rabbits like sex more than farming, too.  That’s the beginning of the curve.  Small growth, numbers wise, at first.  A dozen rabbits, two dozen, a hundred, two hundred . . . .

As the numbers of rabbits increase, they reach a peak of maximum growth – they’re moving outward and taking over more and more territory. At the end?  Growth slows as numbers peak.

In 1920, there were estimated to be 10,000,000,000 rabbits in Australia.  Ten billion.  In sixty years.  Right now, it’s estimated that “only” 200,000,000 rabbits survive in Australia.  The rabbit population growth followed the S-Curve until people figured out ways to, well, kill billions of rabbits.  If they stopped killing rabbits, you’d see 10,000,000,000 in just a few years – the rabbits would shoot back up the curve.

Austrailian Rabbits

Rabbit – it’s Australian for girlfriend, and these rabbits are drinking from the beer ponds of South Australia.

But it’s not just the population of Foster’s® drinking rabbits that this equation is used to predict.

Innovation

In many ways, the curve itself is a mathematical model of innovation or novelty.  If you look at the adoption of a technology, for instance, it’s very well described by the curve.  The adoption of the automobile, the Internet, (by population) television, radio, and even language elements are all explained by the S-curve.

My parents were, in many ways, really late stage adopters of stuff.  Ma Wilder never had a microwave during when I lived at home – even though every one of my friends did.  Video tape players?  They got one when I was in college.  They may have been the last “new” VCR purchasers.

Why?  Don’t know.  Pop Wilder had (generally) a really awesome income.  It’s not like he was out of money – and he bought all the fancy stuff like VCRs and televisions with remote controls after he retired.

But this measure also applies to adoption of any new technology.  And it shows that companies must continually innovate or their income streams will stagnate.  Apple™ has made tons of money on the iPod© and the iPhone® and the iPad™ . . . but innovation has slowed, greatly.  And nearly every phone is now an iPhone© or an Android™.  When Jobs was a live, it really was the Steve-curve, rather than the S-curve.  Now it’s the $-curve.  Wonder how long that will last them?  If they get in league with the forces of darkness and evil, maybe they can put together the NecrinomoPhone©, kinda like an iPhone™ but used to put you in league with Demons.  Or Facebook®.  But I repeat myself.

Construction

S-curves are tools used by construction companies to measure progress on construction jobs.  When you think about it, construction starts slow.  There isn’t a lot of work that can be done on a house until the foundation is in.  And then framing can start, and then, once framing is complete and the building is sheathed?  Lots of people can come and do their work at the same time – plumbers and electricians can do work with the drywall crew following closely behind.  There is a great amount of work that takes place in a short time, provided there’s enough Copenhagen® and Bud Light™.

But finishing is hard – the last 5% often takes 20% of the project’s schedule.  That’s because the available places for work drop off.  And the last bits of work have to be done sequentially – you can’t put the carpet in until you’ve textured the ceiling, unless you like crunchy carpet.  The S-curve is awesome at predicting the average construction time of a project.

Software Projects

Software projects are similar to building a house, except half of the houses completed would immediately burst in to explosive flame as soon as you tried to lock the front door.  Oh, and you’d be locked inside.  Inexplicably, every month your bedroom would mysteriously appear on the outside of the house, but in a different place each time.  Sometimes you would flush the toilet and the light would turn off.  Unless the switch for the fan was on, and then it would flush, but be refilled with goat’s blood.

We should be glad that contractors don’t hire software engineers.  But the S-curve still defines the progress to the exploding houses that software engineers create.

Crop Response

If you don’t water a plant, it won’t grow.  If a plant doesn’t have a vital nutrient, it won’t grow.  If the farmer is having sex for reproductive purposes, well, the plant might grow if he remembered to water it and fertilize it.

But the responses to water and these vital nutrients is . . . an S-curve.  Too little of that stuff?  Low growth rates.  Just right?  High growth rates – but maybe you want to avoid maximum growth rates if the incremental fertilizer is expensive.  Sometimes maximum isn’t optimum.  Just ask Gary Busey.

But crops respond with that same S-curve response to the addition of a vital nutrient, or, if you gradually add in an inhibiting factor like salt, it forms an inverse S-curve – a little salt won’t hurt the wheat, but eventually it kills it and no production is possible.

There are other physical things that S-curves apply to – such as learning a foreign language (interesting), machine learning (complex) and tumor growth rates (ugh).

S-Curves also show up in seemingly unrelated things . . . like names and Chicken Pox.  Source – XKCD.com

But Malthus has (at least for the last 225 years) been wrong.  Food production increases have been amazing – we’ve gone from famines caused by crop failures to the only famines that currently exist are entirely political in nature.  Food production has been increased through farming mechanization, nitrogen fertilizer production, food genetics, pesticide application, and better irrigation.

The continued S-curve of food innovation has saved billions of lives.  And birthrates in most of the world are falling – leading to a real possibility that Malthus will be forever wrong, except about the “farmers like sex” thing.

12 Rules For Life:  Return of the Jordan (Final Part of the Review Trilogy), Charles Atlas, The Simpsons . . . and Being a Man, The Definitive Review

“No. Not yet. One thing remains. Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.” – Star Wars:  Return of the Jedi

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The Boy in full Vader get up.  He looked at me and said, “You are my Father, John Wilder.  Can I have more cake?” and then force-choked me when I said no, three pieces was enough.  So I cut off his hand.  That’s good parenting where I come from . . .

As promised, this is the final part of my book review for Dr. Jordan Peterson’s new bestseller, “12 Rules for Life.”  You can find the first part here (LINK) and the second part here (LINK).  Quotes, if not otherwise noted, are Peterson from the book.  Sorry for the delay – the flu was busy attempting to eat my lungs.  I’m better now.

 

I strongly recommend this book – and get no money if you buy it at this time – in the future, who knows?

Rule 9:  Assume That The Person You’re Listening To Knows Something You Don’t

If you listen, most people are really not boring.  Okay, some are.  But they are mainly parents of children who haven’t graduated from high school and anyone from Iowa.  Everybody else is interesting.  Dr. Peterson talks about how he sat down with a woman, and within minutes she was telling him she was a witch.  And not only that, a witch whose coven regularly got together and prayed for global peace – a world peace witch.  By day?  She was a minor bureaucrat; I imagined a driver’s license lady.  Not who you’d size up to be a witch.  Oh, wait.  EXACTLY who you’d size up to be a witch.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve interviewed lots and lots of people for my job.  I was never bored once.  But I had people blurt out amazing things in the interview.  “I got fired for stealing.”  I was hiring for a position that had lots of financial responsibility, and maybe kinda lax oversight.  No job there.  “I hated my co-workers.”  Yup.  Big points for working well with others.  Again, people will tell you amazing things if you just shut up and listen.  Dates were interesting, too.  Had one date where the girl’s plan was to go off and find herself in the Peace Corps after she’d just gotten out of a relationship with her husband who had buried a bus so he could grow illegal weed.  Yeah, that night was an early exit.

But few enough actually listen (I’ve been guilty of that myself, lots of times) without responding – i.e., defining the problem for the speaker.  Even worse is defining the situation for the speaker – Peterson discussed a woman who was unsure if she had been raped after continually getting drunk and going home with guys.  He could have defined it as “yes” or “no” for her but that would have prevented her from sorting it out herself, which was crucial to helping her.  He used this example to point out that being too intrusive in a conversation often warps it in a manner that changes the framework for the other person . . . and prevents them from getting better.

Peterson listens, because his theory is that people talk to simulate their reality.  Humans are the only critters that do that – simulate entire worlds with our words and model the results of present actions into the future.  When we run these simulations, we often simulate the words and behavior of others – I know I have a pretty accurate simulation of The Mrs. running.  It’s over 98% accurate.  The Mrs. likewise has one of me, too.  We have tons of conversations with each other without even speaking to each other, because the other just our simulation.

Honest listening – turning off the simulator – is required for real conversation.  Our filters and feedback contaminate the discussion.  Once we get to that honest listening stage, we can have Real Conversations – Conversations where we truly hear each other and can create new knowledge, and sometimes solve our own problem.

Rule 10:  Be Precise In Your Speech

Dr. Peterson begins with a discussion of the coming obsolescence of laptops.  Most of our laptop experience is located outside of the laptop – it’s only a “single leaf, on a tree, in a forest . . .”  Our laptops feed from all of the other computers out there – from the Facebook© servers to the wonderful servers that bring you Wilder, Wealthy and Wise and that Japanese cooking site you don’t want your wife to see that you’ve been to visit after she goes to bed so you can dream about sushi.  Those exist outside of your laptop – and your laptop only pulls information from them.

But we don’t inhabit that forest.  We inhabit a simplification of that world.  In our world where we give objects purpose and meaning – we don’t let them simply exist – we give a car purpose – it must take us from one place to another.  A light switch ceases to just exist – it gives us light, and in a blackout part of us is shocked (pun intended) when the switch doesn’t bring us light.  Peterson feels that precision is required so we down drown in the vast amount of detail that surrounds us.

Our model gums up when violated.  I used a light switch – Peterson uses a cheating spouse – inviting Chaos in.  Peterson then pops some Yeats in the CD player for good measure:

The Second Coming, by W.B. Yeats

 

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Speech is required to sort this chaos out, to make sense of it, to dispel it.  A night light might also be nice to scare the rough beast away?

“Say what you mean so you can find out what you mean.  Act out what you say so you can find out what happens.”

Rule 11:  Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding

Skateboarders are pretty talented, and Peterson spends some time discussing their skill, and the methods by which they optimize risks, which is crucial, Peterson felt, to growing as a man.  Unfortunately (in Peterson’s opinion) there are adults who what to spoil all the fun by putting in features that make skateboarding impossible while also looking ugly at the same time.

Those adults are then (at least by proximity in the chapter) compared to a friend that Peterson had.  Peterson’s friend (also discussed in earlier chapters) had a problem:  he hated mankind.  He came to no good, making himself a victim at every turn, and learning to hate beautiful, successful people.  They seemed to make him even madder.  Dr. Peterson then followed up with a description of a TEDx talk by a professor . . . who also hated the human race.  These self-appointed judges spoil the fun . . . and the risk.

And the result?  Boys are being pushed out.  25% of college degrees granted are in the fields of healthcare, psychology, education, and public administration.  80% of these degrees go to women.  Peterson feels that this is Not Good.  If projections hold, there will be very few men in non-STEM fields in the next few years.  And this is bad for women.

Huh?

How many college-educated women consider, say, a plumber a great catch?  Some, to be sure, but not many.  When it comes to marriage, women tend to marry someone either at the same social/economic status or of a higher status.  As those guys disappear?

Marriage becomes something for the rich.  The rest of the girls get hookups in their twenties, and a basket of cats when they hit 33.  If they have kids, the results are similarly grim – because single parent families are statistically inferior in every way to dual parent families.  So those rich kids?  Yeah, life will be better for them.  Because they have two parents.

Maybe patriarchy isn’t so bad?  Feminism is a creation of Marxism (per Jordan), and between that and post-modernist thought – we’re trying to fundamentally remake civilization in ways that may not be as stable as civilization created over the last 11,000 years or so.  And Marxism led to Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.  And that idea became the most deadly idea of the entire 20th century – killing more people, primarily their own citizens than any other idea.

Peterson REALLY doesn’t like Post Modernism, either, since it’s a philosophy that says there’s no truth and makes the claim “that logic itself is a merely a part of the oppressive patriarchal system.”

Boys are boys, but society is trying to force them to be girls, per Peterson.  Which is really, really wrong.  Biology is a huge part of what makes a boy act like a boy, and a girl act like a girl.  Then, a large amount of (enjoyable) discussion about ancient gods and Disney© animated movies.

Then we get back to Peterson, talking about when he worked on a railway crew.  Peterson uses these (amusing) stories about men and how they want particular behavior from other men:  Do your job.  Don’t whine.  Don’t be a suck up.  What to men want and value from other men?  “Be tough, entertaining, competent and reliable.”

atlas

The above ad is from comic books, literally all comics books, of the 1950’s and 1960’s.  I sent away for as similar set of books.  You, too can learn Karate for only $19.95.  If you can learn karate by yourself from a book.  With a poor work ethic.

Peterson (really) feels that the Charles Atlas ad captures a lot of human sexuality in seven panels.  Women want tough men.  It’s here that he combines The Simpsons and Fifty Shades of Grey in the same hilarious paragraph.  Lisa Simpson doesn’t want Milhouse, dude, she wants a kinky billionaire.  Or that bad kid from Springfield Elementary.  Or a dude that will keep you safe on the beach.

Because women want men.  Tough men.  And you get men through risk.  Through . . . skateboarding.

Rule 12:  Pet A Cat When You Encounter One On The Street

Peterson baits and switches here – starting with a discussion on dogs.  But he brings back to cats, and also to the theme of the chapter – human suffering.  It will literally suck to be a human.  People die.  People suffer, sometimes horribly and inexplicably.  But, somehow, Superman™ needs Kryptonite© – this suffering makes life, well, not interesting, but certainly not fake.

It’s a worthy chapter, and my summary is short because I’m not one to use Peterson’s tough times, and I rarely write about my own.  I’ll give you my bullet point summary:

  • Dogs are Happy
  • Cats have Terms and Conditions for Love
  • Enjoy Both Dogs and Cats – They Have Purity of Being
  • Because Life Sucks

CODA:  Not The Led Zeppelin Album

Peterson caps it off – again, buy the book.  I’ll just ask you – what do you want for yourself tomorrow?  What about next year?  Who could you be if you really tried?

So, that’s it.  It’s a pretty long review, and I’m glad you stuck it out this far.

Pluses of the book?  Amazing philosophical content.  Easy read.  Original thoughts.

Downside?  Chapters could be more evenly edited to tie the content together, and follow the old rule – tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em, tell ‘em, tell ‘em what you told ‘em.  There are several chapters that I read a second time after about a week to write this review, and being prepped with the previous read and knowing what to look for, I enjoyed the chapters much more.  Maybe this review will act as a guide you can use when you go through it to look for more content that sparks your interest.

I have a sneaking suspicion that Peterson also dictated this book – many of the passages sound like speech turned into text, though I might be wrong since I’ve heard a LOT of Peterson speaking but very little of his written stuff.

Overall verdict:  totally recommend it.  Best way ever to confront Vader.  And then the Ewoks burned my copy – because they stopped making Star Wars® in 1983.  Wonder what would have happened if they had made a sequel or two?  I’m glad they never did.

Climate Change, Solar Output, Ice Ages, The Planet Vulcan, And Old Guys With Beards

“That’s the human body raising its core temperature to kill the virus.  Planet Earth works the same way.  Global warming is the fever. Mankind is the virus.  We’re making our planet sick. A cull is our only hope.” – Kingsman:  The Secret Service

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Pugsley and sand.  Yup.  Hot day.  Probably the influence of planet Vulcan!

The calculations proved it.  The planet Mercury’s orbit wasn’t quite right.  It was really, really close.  Really close.  But not quite.  How close?  If my calculations are right, Mercury was 28 miles from where it should have been.  Given its orbital velocity, that was one second.  One second in 88 days.  And this error was found in 1843.  According to the accepted physics theories, this was proof of . . . another planet!

Schwabe

Samuel Schwabe:  Though not commonly known, all astronomers in the 1840’s were also expected to play linebacker at a moment’s notice, hence, Schawbe appearing in full shoulderpads.

This was just the sort of proof that German astronomer Samuel Schwabe was waiting for.  In the previous 17 years, Schwabe had dutifully recorded the sunspots on every clear day.  He wanted to be able to pick out a new planet that people believed was inside the orbit of Mercury.  Heck, they were so sure it was there they even gave it a name after the god of fire – Vulcan.

spock

Not this kind of Vulcan, silly. 

But Schwabe never lived long enough to see the discovery of Vulcan (although it was reliably spotted several times in the late 1800’s) because it doesn’t exist.  But Schwabe did notice (for the first time) that the number of sunspots varied over time.  After 17 years, he predicted that the Solar Cycle was about 10 years in length.  He was close – but it’s closer to 11.  This discovery was picked up by Swiss astronomer Rudolf Wolff (what a cool name, right?)

rudolf wolf

Rudolf Wolff:  Is it just me, or does he have the beard and hair of an NFL assistant coach?

Wolff began counting sunspots as well, but also gathered information on sunspot activity from all over Europe, as far back as he could – 1610.  Wolf also looked at the data and determined that Sunspots impacted Earth’s own magnetic field.  Wolff’s work validated Schwabe’s theory, and Schwabe was honored with the Royal Astronomical Society’s Gold Medal, the same one that Einstein and Sir Fred Hoyle (LINK) would later win (I’ve got two in my closet somewhere, I think).

Sunspot_Numbers

CC-SA:3.0 – Robert Rohde

So, a dude named Gustav Spörer discovered a period nearly zero sunspot activity – naturally, they named it the Maunder Minimum after the NEXT people to talk about it, Edward and Annie Maunder.

Edward and Annie aren’t that interesting, but the Maunder Minimum was – especially since we discovered other things . . . like the impact the great thermonuclear reactor in the sky has on temperature.  High sunspot activity correlates to higher solar output.  I wish it correlated to me having more hair.

Solar_Activity_Proxies

CC-SA:3.0 – Robert Rohde

Which makes sense if you look at other data, like this from the IPCC’s first report:

little ice age

Clearly, it was colder when there were fewer sunspots.  Is that enough?  No, there are some pretty other significant adders to the climate picture (though none are larger than the input from the Sun).  Other things that really matter?

Well, CO2 has been increasing – that’s for certain.  And, CO2 is a greenhouse gas.  That’s for certain, too, otherwise the Earth would be too cold for life.

And as the temperature goes up, (maybe due to, say, solar output?) then the ability of the oceans to store CO2 goes down.  Cool us off with, say, a new Maunder Minimum?  Yeah, then the CO2 that can be stored in the oceans goes . . . up again.

And the CO2 balance isn’t very far off from balanced.

ipcc flux

But climate is determined by a batch of things – such as the current oscillations of the North Atlantic current, the amount of Bavarian-produced PEZ®, and our Sun’s output.  The mere fact that no one can explain why we have ice ages should tell you that climate science is exceptionally incomplete – it’s as if physics couldn’t explain why STOP signs are octagons.

In the last 500,000,000 years of the existence of the Earth, the climate has been pretty steady.

All_palaeotemps.svgCC by SA 3.0, Glen Fergus

And as I looked at the graph, I noticed two data points at the end, showing projections via a mathematical model.  Certainly, they’re still in the realm of habitable.  But are they real?

Probably not.  Climate predictions have systematically overestimated the amount of global warming over time.

modelvreality

Via https://judithcurry.com/2015/12/17/climate-models-versus-climate-reality/

But when I hear people on NPR® talking about climate, what I hear is a lot of panic.  It’s as if the world sits on a global climate hill, and the people of Earth, dressed in clown suits no doubt, are nudging it downslope, where it will go out of control and fry us all.  But 500,000,000 years of climate history says that won’t happen.  And the resources that are to be diverted?  What could they do to make all of humanity wealthier with all of the money being spent on Global Warming?

Back to Vulcan.

It doesn’t exist.  At all.  The 28 mile gap?  It’s real, but the reason it exists is because of the gravitational well that bends space time – Einstein hadn’t yet explained that mass bends space . . . and time.  So given the mathematics and theories of the day, there had to be a planet.  The observations that showed a planet?  Maybe it was aliens or asteroids?  Godzilla?

So, a strong consensus of astronomers had a belief in Vulcan.  No other ideas made sense.  So, one could say that there was a strong scientific consensus, but it was based on ignorance of physical facts.  And, congratulations to the New England Patriots, Super Bowl LII champs by consensus!  Point spread was 4.5 in favor of the Pats, so they won, right?

My concern remains that there is a group of people, with almost religious fervor, who feel mankind is the source of all that is wrong in the world, the source of all that is bad.  The end point of their philosophy is a hatred of mankind.  We are all that is wrong with the world.  The irony is many of them are atheist, just replacing one religion and sin with another.  And many see climate change as a method to extract political power (and money) from the world as a whole.  I do recall that in the 1970’s that the next thing we’d see was . . . another ice age.

ice

But we are not.  All light, all love, all beauty has been either made by us or recognized by us.  There’s no evidence a badger ever stopped and said, “Hey, beautiful sunset.”  Nope.  Without a human recognizing it, it doesn’t occur.  Badgers have notoriously poor aesthetics.

And large amounts of the CO2 went to feeding humanity.  Who decides who will suffer, sacrifice, and die so we can spend money to be carbon neutral, when there is some evidence that solar output is declining and might lead to a climate that’s actually colder, longer term (LINK)?  I’m sure somebody will be able to pin that on people.

Solar_Cycle_Prediction

You can see that solar output is declining.  Perhaps it’s a conspiracy?

Besides, our robot overlords after the singularity (LINK) won’t be all that tied to temperature.  They’ve got air conditioning . . . maybe solar powered?

12 Rules For Life: The Peterson Strikes Back (Book Review Part II, Episode 5)

“Search your feelings, Lord Vader. You will know it to be true. He could destroy us.” – Star Wars:  The Empire Strikes Back

DSC04363

The Boy and Pugsley engaged in an epic Lightsaber® battle.  At the end, The Boy cut off Pugsley’s arm and said “You are my brother, Pugsley, join me and we’ll rule our parent’s house . . . together.” 

As promised, there is the second part of my book review for Dr. Jordan Peterson’s new bestseller, “12 Rules for Life.”  You can find the first part here (LINK).  The third and concluding post is here (LINK).

You can bet I won’t call it “The Peterson Awakens.”

Rule 5:  Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything That Makes You Dislike Them

Children, are, perhaps the only legacy many people will leave on this Earth after they die.  Some parents are horrible and provide no limits to their children, creating tiny toddler tyrants, rather than children people like to be around.  You have seen these children.  You despise them.  Yet they exist.  Why?

Increasing divorce rates since the 1960’s increases the severity of this problem, creating fractured families.  Peterson blames a LOT on the 1960’s:  “. . . a decade whose excesses led to general denigration of adulthood, an unthinking disbelief in the existence of competent power, and the inability to distinguish between the chaos of immaturity and responsible freedom.”

See, I told you he was Dangerous.

This is the opposite of the nihilistic (at its core) “if it feels good, do it” philosophy that stems from Aleister Crowley’s “do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”  Which was written by this guy:

crowley

Wilder Rule #56:  Hats make the man!

Here are some takeaways from this chapter.

  1. Order is required – children want limits.  But there can be too many rules as well, and parents are the key to sorting that out, as their interactions with their children determines the future of society.  Parents seem to have difficulty imposing their will on their children.
  2. Peterson: “Two year olds, statistically speaking, are the most violent of people.”  This cracked me up.  But it’s true.  And you have to tame them, either with rewards or punishment.
  3. Is physical punishment acceptable?   But only the minimum amount required.  The world is filled with physical punishment – just check out any middle school fight.
  4. You need two parents because being a single parent is a tough, tough job. Single parenting isn’t preferable – Dan Quayle was right, Murphy Brown was wrong.
  5. Understand your weaknesses, your dark side as a parent.
  6. Parents are simulators (for their children) of the real world. Use your efforts to make them “socially desirable.”

Peterson must be an interesting parent.  But I assure you, growing up at his house wasn’t boring.

Rule 6:  Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize the World

This is, so far, my favorite chapter (though the next one might be even more impactful).  Although I expected this to be based on an outward focus, this is Dr. Peterson adapting and providing a more generalized version of his “clean your room” lecture.

“Clean your room” is Dr. Peterson’s advice to those who have issues.  And, it’s literal, not just a silly metaphor or slogan.  He wants you to clean your actual room.  Why?  A variety of reasons – but it’s a way to start you off realizing you can make the chaos in your life go away, if only you try.  And cleaning a room, making it better, is something anyone can do.  It’s not hard.

But in this chapter, Dr. Peterson starts at the basics of broken people.  It’s a dark path.  “Everyone is destined for pain and slated for destruction.”  He takes us from mass shootings to serial killers to a suicidal Leo Tolstoy (The War and Peace author dude) who wouldn’t be around rope for a period of time, since he was pretty sure he was going to hang himself.  Peterson takes us to these places, because it’s important to understand what brought them to this state.

  • A belief that the world lacked meaning.
  • Suffering (in some cases) horrific abuse at the hands of others.
  • A belief that God or the human race was evil.

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Tolstoy, looking for all the world like a garden gnome wearing dominatrix boots.

Although Peterson starts with mass shooters, the same beliefs that led them down the road to hurting others causes some people to destroy not outward, but inward.  Those beliefs are poison for the soul.

But some people, when confronted with a great evil, turn and face it right back, like Alexandr Solzhenitsyn.  Dying of cancer, released in the nick of time for surgery to save him, Solzhenitsyn did what every good Soviet citizen did:  he wrote critical articles and, eventually, a novella critical of the Soviet state.  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was actually published in the Soviet Union.  The Gulag Archipelago was published in the West.   Solzhenitsyn won the Nobel® Prize© for his writing – writing dedicated to making his home country better by showing the true horror of the Soviet state.  He turned what could have been bitter resentment into something that changed the world and toppled a totalitarian state.

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Solzhenitsyn, looking dapper in his Soviet prison outfit, circa 1950.  (image from http://www.solzhenitsyn.ru)

I went through a similar situation with my first marriage.  It was constructed on mutual mistrust, and was painful for both of us.  I used that experience to reflect on who I wanted to be, and used that experience to reflect on who I wanted to be, and used that . . . sorry, stuck.  I figured out who I should be as a husband, and as a result?  I became better than I was.

I got a better life out of my difficulties.  Solzhenitsyn’s work helped end the Soviet system and made nuclear annihilation less likely and won a Nobel®.  To-MAY-to, To-MAH-to.

But Dr. Peterson has a sure-fire (seriously) way to fix this:  clean up your life.  There are a large number of questions in this section that Peterson asks that you really think about.  I’ll not repeat them all here, buy the book, cheapskate.

Peterson:  “Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong.”  Start to . . . because starting is the hardest part.

And how do you know if it’s wrong?  Seems like if it feels good, you should do it, right?

Peterson:  “Do only those things you can speak of with honor.”

And after you fix one thing?  Another thing to fix will become obvious.  And another.  And another.  After a while?  You’ve fixed yourself.  You’re useful.

Peterson:  “You will be then left with the inevitable bare tragedies of life.  But they will no longer be compounded with bitterness and deceit.”

Rule 7:  Pursue What Is Meaningful, Not What Is Expedient

There is a LOT of philosophy in this book.  And there is a LOT of the Bible.  Peterson feels that the Bible itself is an “emergent” document – one that has properties that exceed its sum.  It’s the distillation of thousands of years of stories culminating in the crucifixion and resurrection, honed and explained and shared until they have literally changed the way the Western world thinks (and paved the way for pesky things like science, freedom, liberty, and the abolition of slavery).

One emergent property is the idea that instead of instant gratification (which would allow you to lie, cheat, steal, and kill in the extreme) is replaced by delayed gratification.  This delayed gratification can be Earthly in the Christian world, or it can be Heavenly.  This ability to delay gratification is a significant difference between animals and humans and a defining part of Western civilization (though not exclusive to Western civilization).

Dr. Peterson explains that the delay of gratification can be compared to a bargain with reality.  I can do something now-like lift weights-to create a future that I want to exist-being strong so I can drive my enemies before me and hear the lamentations of their women.  No single weightlifting session makes me strong, it’s the sum of them that create the future state.  But my actions, like magic, create a different future.

Honestly, Conan the Destroyer was better than this one.  But the music was sublime.

As we begin the religious parallelism – the future is a “judgmental father” that wants you to sacrifice now, for a potential future gain.  Sacrifice what, exactly?  What limits are there to the sacrifice?

Maybe everything?

Peterson:  “If the world you are seeing not the world you want, therefore, it’s time to examine your values.  It’s time to rid yourself of your current presuppositions.  It’s time to let go.  It might even be time to sacrifice what you love best, so that you can become who you might become, instead of staying who you are.”

Powerful.  And think to the parallel construction of God sacrificing Jesus to transform the human race.  Just as Cain and Able had a sacrifice war, as Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his son, God swaps the equation and makes a sacrifice for us, so that we might be saved.

But, Peterson returns to Cain.  Cain sacrifices.  And sacrifices.  And sacrifices.  And God says:  “meh.”  So Cain kills.  And that is the tragedy.  Cain was not necessarily evil before he became a murder, but Dr. Peterson observes: “. . . convictions must die – must be sacrificed – when the relationship with God has been disrupted.”

In this battle between the now and the future, proper action must be based on honesty, and generosity that is aimed at producing actions that make the world better – actions with meaning.

Rule 8:  Tell The Truth, Or At Least Don’t Lie

I’ve mentioned (in some other post) before about The Mrs., and how I promised her (and, more importantly, me) that I would never lie to her.  It gave me the power/ability/responsibility to bet truthful.  “Do these pants make my butt look big?” is a question that she’s never asked me.

It’s almost as freeing as a superpower – the freedom to always be honest.  One time in the B.C. (before cellphones) I was late coming home from work.  Really late.  It just so happens that the governor of the state of Alaska (not Palin, Murkowski) was next door talking to my boss.  And there were at least three television stations broadcasting.  I stayed until they left, and then went home:

The Mrs.:  “Why are you late?”

John Wilder:  “Governor, television stations, all next door talking to my boss – and I didn’t want all the ladies in Fairbanks to come knock down our door chasing me?”

The Mrs.:  “Okay.”

No questions, no disbelief.  Just . . . “ok.”

And, as I’ve said before, if I told The Mrs. that aliens took me time travelling to go dancing with Marilyn Monroe, Gary Busey and Cleopatra, well, she’d at least believe that I believed that.  She might think I was as nuts as Busey, but she wouldn’t think me deceitful or doubt my sincerity.

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Dr. Jordan Peterson:  “What should you do when you don’t know what to do?  Tell the truth.”

Peterson is a Truth absolutist.  He believes (in opposition to Post-Modernist thought) that there is Truth.  All things are not shades of gray.  There is Truth.  Additionally, speech that’s spin – meant to manipulate you?  It’s a lie, too.

Life sucks.  It’s going to be hard.  But to make it Hell?  You need to add lies.

Why not lie?  It contaminates everything.  Small lies become big lies.  Which infect and overwhelm everything . . . it gets to a situation where “. . . lies have destroyed the relationship between individual or state and reality itself.”

The pain from lying isn’t all outward – if you lie, your character is injured, and when life gets rough (as it will) you won’t have character to support you – only lies.  And lies hurt you in a different way – they create a victim mentality in you.  You believe that the world should conform to the lies that you have even begun to tell yourself, and when the world doesn’t?  You blame the world instead of yourself.  You create a victim narrative to explain it all.

What’s the benefit of telling truth?

Peterson:  “Truth reduces the terrible complexity of man into the simplicity of his word, so that he may become a partner.”

And that’s a pretty good reason to tell the truth.

And the truth is?  Peterson likes Trailer Park Boys, but probably not as much as I do.  Here’s a bit of Bubbles doing Bowie.  Enjoy.  Next Friday we’ll conclude this review, and maybe dismember some Ewoks®?

Jordan Peterson’s Cannon Lobster and 12 Rules for Life Review

“This is Peterson, your new replacement.” – Idiocracy

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The Texans had a cannon, the lobsters did not.  Therefore?  The lobsters lost control of vast swaths of Texas very quickly.  Except the Alamo.  The lobsters won there. 

Here is the first of three posts on Dr. Jordan Peterson’s newly released bestseller, “12 Rules for Life.”  The second post is here (LINK). The final post is here (LINK).  There’s a link to the book on Amazon down below.  I don’t (as of this writing) get anything if you buy it there, but that might change over time.  Regardless, buy the book.  Jordan Peterson is amazing.

Peterson puts more ideas into a five minute YouTube video excerpt from a lecture than most college courses do.  Dr. Peterson is unfailingly moral and gutsy.  He is willing to share uncomfortable facts and naked truth, which is anathema to those that would prefer the safety of soft and pretty lies.  He is unfailingly polite.  And blunt.  And I’d be fascinated to see him with a glass or two of wine in him.

Dr. Peterson’s work is based on decades of study combined with a keen intellect and countless hours of work as a clinical psychologist helping people with everything from addiction to performance measurement and enhancement.  He has earned his wisdom.

Jordan Peterson is Dangerous.  He’ll make you think new thoughts, and question your basic assumptions about who you are, and who you can be.

We need a thousand more like him.

I’ve only read a third of the book as of this writing (it was released on Tuesday), but that’s enough to get the first four rules.  By observation, the book is already in thirds – the first four rules are about an inward focus.  Rules 5-8 are about obtaining and creating control in your own life.  Rules 9-12 are about facing outwards, so my strategy of breaking this review/discussion into thirds makes sense to me.

Rule 1:  Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back

This is also the first lesson in super hero school, except they add “and put your clenched fists on your hips, and stare up at a waving American flag.”  See, Dr. Peterson and I just saved you $75 in superhero school tuition.

This is actually awesome advice, even as weird as it sounds, since adopting this pose will immediately make you feel better, more powerful and more in control of your own life.

Huh?

Yeah.  And the secret is buried 350,000,000 years back into the past.  As Dr. Peterson notes, that far back there weren’t even trees on land.

But there was serotonin.

How do we known this?  Crunchy, tasty lobsters whose life diverged from ours 350,000,000 years ago.  Turns out that lobsters have social status, and those who have good status produce more serotonin.  And a big lobster that wins the big lobster fight?  A big boost of serotonin.  One of the same, powerful brain chemicals in humans.

The loser?  The loser of the big lobster fight, well no serotonin for him.  He has to settle for having his brain melt so it can rewire itself because it literally cannot cope with his new, lower status.  And you thought you were depressed after losing the annual Christmas Monopoly game to your snot-nosed nephew who still has a lisp.

Serotonin, winning, losing and social hierarchy have been around forever. Prozac® works on lobsters to make them less depressed.

But the winning lobster wins even more and becomes more dominant.  If he were a person, he’d be setting himself up for a successful career.

Because loser lose. And they pay for it.  They’re sicker, they die earlier, and they have a lower likelihood of producing offspring.

Dr. Peterson then references Price’s law – Price’s law pertains to the relationship between the literature on a subject and the number of authors in the subject area, stating that half of the publications come from the square root of all contributors.

Winners win.  He brought up classical music.  Half of classical music played is from four composers:  Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky.  And only a small number of the songs from those four are the most beloved songs in classical music.  The same principle explains why Jeff Bezos is planning to create an Amazonian Interstellar Empire while you can’t afford to pay your car insurance bill this month.  Winning is awesome.

It’s so awesome that if you win?  You live longer.  You’re healthier.  You enjoy life more.  You’re confident.  And you have all the serotonin and PEZ® that you could want.

And we can’t all be Bezos.  But we can stand up straight like a hero.  It will make you feel better, stronger, and just adopting that confident pose will help spike your serotonin and stop your lobster-brain from melting into loser configuration.

Back to Peterson:  “To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open.”

And back to Wilder:  “I want to go out of this world as I came into it – screaming and covered in someone else’s blood.”  (This apparently is from Sniper: Reloaded, per the Internet, but I’m going to pretend I wrote it.)

Rule 2:  Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping

This chapter has a fairly long digression on Order and Chaos.  Interesting, philosophical, but Dr. Peterson could have anchored it more firmly to the Rule.  I’m not complaining, but I’m not going to talk as much about it since it was rather obliquely tied to the rest of everything going on in the chapter.  This chapter probably could have used a bit more ruthless editing.  Again, great stuff, just needed to tie it all up in a bow.  Dr. Peterson:  I volunteer if you need a hand next time!

Back to the Rule:

Think of how you talk to yourself when you look in the mirror or have just screwed up.  It’s horrible.  And if a friend talked to you EVEN ONE TIME as much as you berate yourself?  You’d cut them out of your life pretty quickly.  But it’s much messier when it’s you treating you like that, because you can’t tell you that you never want to see you again.  Just not practical.  Unless you’re an old timey vampire and your reflection can’t be seen in a mirror.

I digress.

Other takeaways:

On “protecting kids” from this chapter . . . you can’t keep them away from the evil of the world so . . . “It is far better to render Beings in your care competent than to protect them.”  Why anything less for yourself?

Peterson has several powerful questions at the end of this chapter, an example:  “What might my life be like if I were caring for myself properly?”  And no, I won’t list them all.  Buy the book.

Rule 3:  Make Friends with People Who Want the Best for You

Thoroughly enjoyable chapter, with all of the backstory that you’d expect in a superhero origin movie.  Reading Peterson’s version of his adolescence brought memories of mine back, as we both grew up in rather small, remote, cold places.  And, no, that doesn’t refer to our father’s hearts.  It ends with a friend that couldn’t be saved – because the friend didn’t want to be saved.

I’ve had a great friend walk down the drug path, where they’d do and say anything to get more money to buy more drugs.  Did I want the best for him?  Sure!  Did I try to help?  Absolutely.  But the last night he was in my car was the night he snorted coke in it.  And the reason why I didn’t lend him anymore money was he never paid me back the $75 that I lent him.  Oh, he paid me back, he said.  Left it under my front door mat.

I didn’t have a front door mat.

And friendships are reciprocal.  I was promoted at work (years ago) and placed in the partially uncomfortable position of managing the people who had been my peers, sometimes for years.  One of them was Willie.  Willie was a certified genius.  When he was a summer college intern, he (and all the other interns) were offered 3% of anything they could save the company.

He saved them three million dollars.

They gave him a cool computer and a check for several thousand dollars.  But not $30,000 to an intern.

So, I’m in the position where I’m supposed to lead Willie.

He kept coming in late to work.  It made sense because the people that he mainly worked with were several timezones west.  He’d get in later in the morning, and stay until 7pm or 8pm.  Makes sense, right?

Not to the company president.  “He’s late again.”

Oh, man.  First time leading a department and Willie was going to sink me.

“Willie, you’re killing your career.  The president of the company is on my back.”  The president was six layers of management above me.

“I don’t care.”

“Willie, you’re killing me.  They’re going to fire me if you keep coming in late.”

“Oh.”

And Willie was never late again.

A friend?  Absolutely.  We still talk to this day, even though we haven’t worked together in well over a decade.  If I needed to borrow silly amounts of money?  Yeah.  I could do that with a group of at least seven friends.  Find those people.

Surround yourself with people who will not stand for you hurting yourself, and would do anything to avoid hurting you.  Avoid those who you are friends with only out of loyalty, and whose motives are suspect.  Lies?  Deal breaker.

One of the things I love about Dr. Peterson is that he’ll quote Homer Simpson.  And Dostoevsky.  In the same chapter.   And he does it in this thoroughly enjoyable chapter.

Rule 4:  Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not Who Someone Else Is Today

The Internet makes it easy to compare any aspect of yourself to the best of seven billion people.  And you’re not one of them.  Someone is smarter.  Someone is richer (unless your name is Bezos) and someone plays better guitar than you.  If you get caught up in making these comparisons, you’re always going to lose.

And we’re not wired that way.  We’re wired to know about 150 people really well and trust them.  We can get to trusting larger numbers (through various means) but the competition for best storyteller was once a village-wide event, not a world-wide event.  It’s not really hard to be strongest out of 150 people.  It’s not really hard to be one of the best singers.

But today?  At the touch of a button I can make myself feel inadequate by comparing myself against tons of different people.

Peterson:  “Who cares if you’re the PM of Canada when someone else is the president of the United States?”

But the only real competition for me is me.  Am I getting better?  Am I pushing myself to be the best Wilder I can be?  And are the people really happier?  Was Tom Petty (LINK) happier than me?  In a hobby, I sometimes look to see what happened to famous people who I envied in my youth.  Almost universally, I turn out ahead of them.  And many of them are dead, youthful, untimely deaths.  Tom Petty or me – who has it better?  Me.

Realize that you can strongly influence your daily progress.  Do you want to be CEO?  Really?  Probably not.  80 hour weeks every week probably aren’t your thing.  Understand how your talents can best be used, and then work like hell at being the best you possible, because competing against seven billion?  That’s going to kill you.

So will fighting a giant radioactive lobster with a cannon . . . more on Peterson next Friday.

I’ve written more about Peterson’s ideas here (LINK), here (LINK), and here (LINK).  Click on them if you love Truth.

The Flu, Fred Hoyle, Creation of all the Elements in the Universe, Panspermia, and You

“You’re from Pittsfield.  Know what happens to scholarship students caught cheating on exams?  You had the flu that day, didn’t you, David?  You didn’t take the exam?  You missed the test. And since you were ill, why not write me an essay instead?  Go get started.” – Dreamcatcher (Flu obsessed Stephen King)

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Pictured – Cosmic Background Radiation left over from the Big Bang.  Maybe.

Winter is flu season.

I know, I’m being so topical.  I promise I’ll get off being topical in two minutes and take you someplace you’ve never been before.  Promise.

First, let’s get to basics:

What exactly is the flu?  The flu is a virus, from the Latin word . . . virus.  It literally means “Poison” – but it’s been a long time since Poison had a viral video . . .

Hmm, that was way, way cooler in 1988 before Bret Michaels discovered carbs.

Anyway, the flu virus isn’t poison – it’s a cellular invader.  A virus can’t reproduce by itself, it can only reproduce inside a cell.  And since it doesn’t have any cells, it needs a host critter that does have cells.  The flu picks . . . you.

Once it gets inside of you, it spreads as fast as it can, by attaching to a cell wall like a stripper on a billionaire.  After injecting part of itself into the cell, the cell cooks up millions of copies of the virus.  So, the virus uses your cell as a copy machine.  But it’s really awfully hard on the machine.  It’s like you sent a copy of your taxes to your printer and it exploded, but left you two million copies of your taxes splattered all across your basement.  Because the virus, in order to reproduce, makes the cell explode.  Thankfully, you don’t have to drink toner to get better.  (Although I’ve heard that toner solves the problem so quickly life insurance companies will not pay off – they don’t like tonercides.)  But still?  The cells explode.

In this case the cells are located in your respiratory tract.  You know, the place that provides life-giving oxygen so your Twinkie® and ice-cream eating body can live another three minutes?  Yeah, that place.

Your body has groups of virus hunter cells who look and dress exactly like mid-level late 1990’s programmers.  These virus hunters isolate the virus, and, once isolated, they extrude flagella that look exactly like baseball bats and destroy the invading virus.

Yes, I know that’s not the original song.  The Boy subscribes to this blog.

That’s how you get better, really, from any sickness this planet tosses at you – programmers attack it with baseball bats.  And your immune system keeps those geeky programmer guys around – so you don’t get the same virus again.  But the flu comes in all sorts of strains and mutates every year so the geeks don’t recognize the next virus.

How is the flu deadly?

Two ways.  The first and most psycho way is a cytokine storm.  A cytokine is a chemical signal that brings the cells with the baseball bats to destroy the copier.  (I apologize if this is getting too technical).  But let’s just say that your body releases too much cytokine?  In a really bad design flaw, all of the guys with baseball bats come from everywhere in your body and start trashing the place, even when they’ve run out of copiers.

In a cytokine storm your immune system trashes everything.  And can kill you.  So when you hear that a 205 pound (that’s 650 kilograms for you in Canada, or, as I like to call it, America’s hat) 22 year old bodybuilder with 4% body fat died two days after getting the flu?  Cytokine storm.

Medical hint:  If a medical science describes something as a “storm” it’s generally not a good sign, unless it happens to a really rich relative that liked you.

So far, I haven’t had at cytokine storm.  Since I’m breathing and all.  But the second reason flu kills people is the one that gets me in trouble:

All of the cells (copiers) that explode?  Well, all of their parts are everywhere in your respiratory system.  Your respiratory system is beyond inflamed – it’s covered in cell debris.  Which looks just like food to normally harmless bacteria that live, well, everywhere in your throat.  They sense the food?  Yeah.  Bacteria food fest.  And they don’t necessarily stop at the cell debris.  And then your already psycho baseball bat wielding immune system comes along, and . . . pneumonia.  Nothing fun about that.

That’s the one that gets me to get on the phone to my Internet doctor and pretend I have strep throat to get some amoxicillin.  It only happens every 11 years or so (this is important for later) so it’s livable, and also defines then interval between doctor visits for me.

But let’s get to the REAL point of this post, the one I’ve been teasing.

Flu, or “Influenza” comes from the Italian word . . . wait for it . . . “Influenza.”  Yay!  It’s easy when English just coopts the whole word.  But in Italian, influenza means, literally, influence.  Influence of what?

Influence of the stars.

So, you and I would just chalk this up to fate, karma, or some random encounter with some grimy plague covered dude.

But not Fred Hoyle.

Fred Hoyle, excuse me, Sir Fred Hoyle was a British dude.  And not only was he a British dude, he was a British dude who was smarter than Stephen Hawking.  Yeah.  I’ll stand by that.  He was (essentially) cheated out of a Nobel® Prize™ for the discovery (solo discovery) of how heavier elements are formed in stars and supernovas.

Yeah.  That smart.

Why was he cheated out of the Nobel©?  I’m thinking it was one of two things:  first, he berated the Nobel® committee for not giving the award one year to the grad student who actually did the work and made the discovery.  Hopefully she appreciated that.

Second?  He wasn’t shy about giving his opinion.  On anything.

Ever hear of the “Big Bang”?

Sir Fred was the guy who came up with the phrase.  He came up with the phrase while describing a theory that competed with the leading theory of the day – steady state.  That means the Universe didn’t start with a singularity – it has always existed.  Sure, we need more matter.  Hoyle speculated that the matter itself was being continuously created – he postulated that was no crazier that the idea that the Universe came from nothing.  His point when the background radiation was found by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson was that the radiation they found, if it were 10 times more or 10 times less would still have been proclaimed the background radiation from the Big Bang.  The conclusion was fixed – the evidence could change.

Other crazy things.  Carbon.  Hoyle looked at carbon and the physics for carbon formation in stars and supernovae.  He found that it was crazy unlikely that carbon would be present in the quantities that it is.  (HINT:  we are made of carbon.  And if there were less of it?  No us.  There are literally millions of carbon compounds – it’s a crazy versatile atom.)  He felt that the physical constants that governed carbon atom formation were so unlikely, that they were tweaked to make carbon since it is so important to  . . . us.

Did I mention Hoyle was an atheist?

Yeah.

He also felt that life was so unlikely (the analogy of life being as likely as a “747 being assembled by a tornado throwing parts together in a junkyard” was his) that he was a major proponent of panspermia – the idea that life was seeded here from interstellar space.  Because the idea that even single celled life occurs . . . is amazing.

Hoyle was also a fan of the concept of abiotic oil.  Abiotic is just a word that means “no dinosaurs died in making your gasoline” – the petroleum is a result of natural forces bringing it together.  If I didn’t have my next 18 blog posts planned out?  I could just start with Hoyle and get a dozen.  The man had ideas.

Yeah.  He wrote novels, too.  The one I read (The Incandescent Ones) was not particularly memorable.  I read the synopsis and . . . oh, yeah, I guess I remember that.

But the biggie for this post has already been alluded to:  Hoyle, in 1989 and in 2000 brought up . . . the flu.

Hoyle’s thesis was that the flu was not from Earth.  The flu came from outer space, and incidents of significant flu outbreaks were tied to the Sun.  See my link here (LINK) for other Sun linked things, and there will be (it’s currently scheduled for sometime in the next six weeks) another Sunspot linked post.

Did you catch that?  Hoyle felt that the flu came from space (queue echoey space music) and the solar cycle correlated to when we would have flu outbreaks.  The previous times Hoyle brought this up were at solar cycle peaks, in 1990 and 2000.  And the Spanish flu that killed 50,000,000 and infected 500,000,000.  (500,000,000 of a total population of 1,800,000,000.  25% of everyone on Earth got the flu.  The same flu.)  Yeah, that happened at a solar cycle peak.  Going back to the origin of the word “flu” or “Influenza” or “influence of the stars”?  Yeah.  Most scientists thought he was wrong.  Which is how every scientist feels about a new idea until they die.

solar cycle

Did I mention that Hoyle felt that life outside of Earth, began in space?  Yeah.  I did.

The Universe as depicted by 1978.  Note:  No Cylons were injured in the creation of this film.

The flu is dangerous.  A minor modification could make that cytokine storm much more likely.  Another minor modification?  Near universal death.  Call it a full flu.  But that’s a sad thought.  Not one that anyone has ever had.

Yeah, The Stand was an awesome book by Stephen King.  Read it!  It’s what a full flu would do to you!  (Note, not an instruction manual for the Anti-Christ.)

So I’m struggling for the moral to the story this week.  Don’t allow the flu to turn your immune system into baseball bat wielding dudes who will kill you?  Avoid crazy ideas since you won’t get the Nobel™ Prize®?

So an atheist that knew more about science than you or I ever will was convinced that not only the Universe was rigged in favor of life (carbon atom formation) and that life was so improbable that he speculated it came from space . . . .

Yeah, that’s the moral.  The flu can be more than a virus.  It can make you flat-out think.

Be like Hoyle.  Allow one crazy idea a day to enter your brain.  Figure out where it leads.  And take vitamin C (LINK) if you get the flu.

Believe me, you don’t want the one the aliens came up with this year.

 

Did I mention that my buddy John Apollo has a birthday this weekend?  Yeah, he does.  Happy Birthday!  Leave a comment and let him know that you care.  Or don’t and make him wallow in horrible sadness.

Scams, Your Momma, and Cheap Speakers

“You were right about that computer scam.  That was a bad idea.  I’m going to take the blame for it, I decided.” – Office Space

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I’d like to report this sign for false advertising.  The town was not made of Cuervo® nor did they make Cuervo™ there.

Back a few decades ago . . . .

I was in a college classroom, after class.  A bunch of us were sitting around talking and Joe jumped in.

“So, guys, the most incredible thing happened to me,” said Joe.  “I was at a Burger King® and I had just finished eating.  I was walking back out to my car, and this guy in a van stopped me.”

I think I jumped in with something to the effect that very few good things happen when a guy from a van approaches you in a Burger King™ parking lot.

Joe ignored me and continued, “He had these speakers in the back of his van.  He had dropped them off at a rental, and he had mistakenly signed two extra out.  If he took them back to the shop, they would have fired him for checking the extras out.  These are $1000 speakers! Each!

“I got them for $300 for the pair!  They sound totally awesome with my stereo!  I had to run to the bank to get the cash, but I got them!”

I smiled.

I had just read in the local newspaper that there was a scammer group operating around the metropolitan area of Moderatelylargecity, East Westeria near where we lived.  They were selling speakers worth about $50 a pair out of the back of trucks at fast food restaurants.  Cash only.

I thought to myself – “Hey, Joe likes the speakers.  He really likes them.  And if you tell him it was all a scam, he’ll hate the speakers and feel stupid.  Is it hurting anyone to let him think he got a deal?”

Joe was a nice guy, and I successfully held back my inner jerk (on that far distant morning).  I’m betting Joe has no idea to this day.   Maybe I should call him and tell him?

And of the bunch of us talking, Joe was by far the nicest guy.  Probably the most moral.  If you read this blog you KNOW it’s not me.  (Yes, I know John Wilder’s halo is firmly askew – but it’s in a roguish Captain Mal Reynolds way.)

The world is full of scammers.  Many of the scams are legal, just like the one your mom pulled on your dad.

And how do I know so much?  Yeah.  I got scammed.  More than once.  The first big scam occurred when I signed a contract when I was pretty young (20??) that wasn’t a good one (for me) but it only cost me $1000.  For a membership in a buying club.  To buy things at factory cost.  When I had no money to buy things at factory cost.

Thankfully, it was financed with monthly payments of like $50, which was a lot back then.  But looking in the rear view mirror?  That $1000 was cheap, and the payments made it better.  I got to feel stupid not one time, but EVERY SINGLE MONTH when I wrote out that check.  Now?  I try to look through my lens of past stupidity to evaluate every single deal.

Recently I responded to an email from a “group” that appeared to be tied to a professional association that I am a part of.  Mistake.  Set up an appointment and it turned out I could join this “group” for only $200 per month.  This would be awesome!  This would help me advance some professional goals that I was interested in.  Well, $200 per month plus a $250 startup fee.  I was discussing the opportunity with them on the phone:

Me:  “Well, how often does this actually work?”  (I was expecting 95% or something.)

Jim Q. Salesdude:  “You can understand that we don’t keep statistics on our success rate.  But most members are active for more than a year . . . .”

And I’m sure he’s telling the truth.

The average person that would be wanting this kind of opportunity could afford $200 a month.  And the process would likely take months.  So, yeah, I’m sure he’s telling the truth, because he has people who can afford it buying . . . hope.  I looked up the company online, and saw very few positive reviews – most indicated it provided them no help whatsoever.  Heck, I can just go the bank and get $200 in ones and at least be able to make a fire out of it.  Why should I give them $2650?

But what are the signs of a scam?

  1. Hard sell/won’t leave you alone. – This is often the number one sign. The salesman has money on the line – you money.  If you sign up?  They get money, and it’s likely that they’re morally flexible in the first place.  With this opportunity listed above, the salesguy is getting sort of clingy.  He’s very insistent – like a psycho ex-girlfriend level insistent.  As long as he doesn’t come to my house in the middle of the night and shave my dog completely bald and then take a magic marker to him, I think I’m okay – nobody wants that to happen to them twice.  He called me today even after I told him I wasn’t interested.  Even sent me an email to reschedule on my calendar after I ditched his call.  When in full hard sell mode, they make high school sophomore girls who just got dumped in public look stable.
  2. Implication that this is special, or maybe kinda illegal. – In my case, this was supposed to be a backdoor link for “special access.” I was approved after describing my experience in a single sentence, and then told how special I was.  Alarm bells!  This is also an incentive for you to be quiet after the scam is over – not everyone gets special access!  I’ll give you a heads up:  there is no Secret Nigerian Prince and no one has picked you to get a special offer because of what you’ve done.  You’re not that special.  And your kindergarten teacher doesn’t even remember your name.  Mine does.  But that’s because of the knives.
  3. Payment for things that aren’t usual. – Back (farther) in the past The Mrs. and I attempted to get an agent for a book we’d written. We found one who loved us and loved our book!  This agent also wanted to . . . charge us.  We believed in our book.  A bit too much.  Thankfully, we were only out several hundred dollars on that one.  There’s no way you should pay an agent, and no way that you should pay people for “super special professional opportunities.”
  4. Too good to be true (threats and promises). – One salesmen talked about how people who bought “Brand X” (his competitor) often got fired. I liked the guy, but made sure that I’d never buy that particular product.  I respond poorly to threats.  I respond much better to treats, which is nearly spelled the same way.  Treats are better:  Like sausage.    Wine.  Beer.  Some mixture of wine, bacon, sausage and beer.  In a smoothie?
  5. Quick response required. – If you don’t act today, you can’t get this deal! If someone tells me that?  I walk.  No deal is that good.  Have to act tonight?  Hmmm, I’ll pass.  If it’s a good deal where both parties will benefit, it will be available tomorrow, like your mom.

Nigerians and internet scammers look for stupid people.  Why?  You can keep them going forever.  That’s why the emails from the “Nigerian Prince” have spelling and factual errors.  If the person reading the email has enough brain cells momentarily clear the fog and do a Google® search for “Nigerian Prince” – well, that’s way too bright for the scammer.  They want them stupid (certainly) and rich (would be nice).  Since most things in the third world can be bought for about six dollars and handfuls of the wrapping paper the locals call money (sometimes including the local parliament) – you are rich if you live in America.  Even if you make minimum wage.

Scammers sell empty hope, which makes them equivalent with your state’s lottery board.  Last night I dreamed I was talking with my brother.  And mentioning how Steve Martin (yes, that Steve Martin) and I were friends.  Heck, I even had Steve’s phone number in my phone.

And I woke up, and was briefly sad that I really wasn’t friends with Steve Martin.  See how sad that was?  I bet you’re crying and sobbing that I was so disappointed.  That’s what selling empty hope is.  That and assuming that your parents really loved you.

I’ll leave you with this:  You can’t scam an honest man.  If you stick to honest reward for honest work and honest value?  You’ll never be CEO.

But you’ll never be scammed, either, if you also remember never to trust a five year old or a dude selling speakers out of the back of a van at Burger King®.