Monday, June 29, 2015

The Unsinkable Ship: When Things Go Right

I learned something interesting this last week. In 1911, a ship launched on its maiden voyage to much fanfare. It was much larger than any ship before her; the largest luxury ship in the world with a swimming pool, gymnasium, fine dining, a grand staircase and luxurious cabins for the first class passengers.  What was it?  No fair peaking at the photo on the right.

Did you say Titanic?  Sorry, that's wrong.  It's the Titanic's identical twin sister the Olympic[1].  What surprised me was that the Olympic's maiden voyage was nearly a year before the Titanic's maiden voyage.  She also had a career for 24 years!

How come I had never heard this before?  The answer is simple: when things go right, we don't pay attention to them.  Next time you feel overwhelmed by everything that goes wrong, stop and ponder on everything that goes right.  You'll be surprised.




Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dear Ben & Jerry's


Dear Ben & Jerry's,

We've had a lot of fun together with your cute names and crazy mix-in's.  Unfortunately, I never felt like I was getting enough.  Before you, I'd never bought just a pint of ice cream yet you cost as much as the larger sizes.  Still, you were just too good to say "no" to.  Until now.

I've met someone new. It was just last night, but I'm pretty sure I've found what was missing. I'm reminded of the rich, creamy ice cream I once had at a dairy. And even better, the container is half a gallon (twice as much!).

They don't have cute names for themselves and the brand name is kind of weird: Tillamook (Where did that come from?).  But I'm sorry to say that I think this is the kind of love that will last forever.



Saturday, June 6, 2015

Whoopi on the Duggars: Remember "Rape-Rape"?

On the View, Whoopi Goldberg called the Duggar family hypocrites since they call LGBT practices "sin" while their own son has a history of inappropriate sexual behavior.   This brings to mind Whoopi commenting on the Roman Polanski scandal.

Let's compare:

A teenage boy inappropriately touches girls, feels bad about it, confesses to his parents.  The parents, who have made their views on chastity very public, intervene resulting in changed behavior and healing for the victims.  (The Duggars)

A grown man, 43 years old, gives drugs to a 13 year old girl, then rapes her.  He confesses and before being sent to prison flees to a comfortable life in Europe.  (Roman Polanski)  When he is at risk three decades later of being extradited to the United States to face his conviction, Whoopi Goldberg defends him on The View, saying "It's not like it was rape-rape".

I really don't see hypocrisy for the Duggars or for Whoopi Goldberg.  In the Duggar's case, they consistently stand for traditional definition of chastity (see below).  In Whoopi's case, she consistently shows tolerance for many forms of sexual expression (including rape-rape, no definition available).

Definitely no hypocrisy, only a striking contrast between what two groups see as sexually normal.

Traditional Definition of Chastity (non-religious)

In spite of his modern reputation as being self-indulgent, Benjamin Franklin strived to build his character by systematically developing 13 Virtues.  One of these virtues,  Chastity, he defines as
"Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation."
Venery is defined as "sexual indulgence".

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Species Diet

I came up with a diet called the Species diet.  With all the diets out there, why did I invent a new diet? It's because my whole life I've been a victim... of second hand dieting. From fake meat made with soy to brownies made with apple sauce.

What is a diet? The definition is "The kinds of food that a person eats". Our, in three words, "food people eat".

Why do we eat food? Imagine if your automobile used gasoline to create spare parts and put tread back on your tires. Besides providing raw energy, the gasoline would also need to provide raw materials.  It's the same with our bodies. We are continually regenerating cells, on average replacing our parts about every 7 years. We need food to do this. 

What if we could avoid the food provides the raw materials for the scars of life: wrinkles, gray hair, etc.?  Of course, that's a ridiculous idea.  However, that's what other diets are based on: the mistaken idea that you can be healthier by eliminating certain foods.

For example;
The paleo diet, don't eat grains, beans, peanuts
Atkins and South Beach - don't eat certain carbs
Vegan - don't eat meat or any animal protein
Jenny Craig - don't eat anything that Jenny Craig isn't selling.
Slimfast - don't eat anything that isn't a shake
Metafast - don't eat anything that resembles real food.

I say, forget all these restricting diets.

Remember the definition of diet: food people eat. There's a entirely different word for food you don't eat.  It's called Fasting. The definition of fasting is "To abstain from all or some kinds of food".  At least Slim-"fast" and Meta-"fast" got that right.

How do we make sure we get the raw materials we need?  In the early 19th century, William Prout, an English doctor and chemist identified the three principal constituents of food - pizza, diet coke, ... I mean protein, fat and carbohydrates.  Then Justus von Liebig, a German scientist added a couple of minerals and concocted the first baby formula. Babies fed exclusively on this first baby formula failed to thrive.

This is called the reductionist view of nutrition:  break food down into the chemical parts.  And it doesn't work.

To illustrate this problem, let's consider the menu with two choices:

Choice #1
Filet of beef/chicken/fish with
A side of Asparagus spears sauteed with roasted pecan nuts
Garlic mashed potatoes
A fresh bowl of cut strawberries, pineapple and mango.

Choice #2
Filet of protein with omega 3 fatty acids and essential amino acids
A side of carbohydrates high in fiber with folate, antioxidants sauteed with roasted betacarotenes and lutein
A fresh bowl of carbohydrates with magnesium, niacin, potassium.

Choice #1 is obviously more appetizing because it's food that comes from an animal or plant species. Each species is highly evolved. Plants collect nutrients with their roots and animals graze and forage. The result is tasty food.  The more species from which you get food, the greater the variety of nutrients. Thus the Species Diet.

What are the rules?
  1. You get a point for each species that you eat.  You decide when to reset your points. For me it's every day.
  2. If it's not a species, then it's zero points.  You decide what qualifies. For me, the species must be recognizable without reading a label.  You can still eat it, you just don't get points.
The goal is to get as many points as possible.

Example:
Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, orange (3 points)
Lunch: Apple, ham. Only 1 point since you have bacon (the same species) as ham.  

Does the species diet make any sense?
The focus is on eating unprocessed foods and the most points are available from eating fruits and vegetables since there aren't as many choices for meat. Makes sense to me.

In conclusion,
I may not be the most qualified person to invent a diet, but hopefully I convinced you that there it is a fun, healthy, non restricting way to eat. You can do it however you want. Just don't go crazy. Like the guy that tried to get points by eating a bald eagle. Of course, he got arrested and was convicted. At his sentencing, the judge said "I'm curious. What does a bald eagle taste like?" The man replied "a cross between a spotted owl and a California condor"


Saturday, May 16, 2015

When the Free Market Fails Us: The Story of Toenail Fungus and Windshield Wiper Blades

I'm all about capitalism.  It's got its problems but has proven itself to be the best system at providing the goods and services we need to maintain the best quality of life possible.  One of the problems (and the inspiration for this post) is revealed in a recent experience.  I have an embarrassing condition (apparently not too embarrassing since I announced it in the title of this post).  So here's the story:

Toenail fungus makes your toenails thick, powdery white and sometimes brittle.  So I went to the doctor (who turned out to be a PA, NOT an MD) and he said he could give me a pill that I have to take for a year and that will damage my liver.  Oh, and it only has about a 50/50 chance of working.  Or, he found the most effective thing is to rip the toenails off.  He didn't actually say "rip".  Instead he made it sound like it was simple enough that I could play soccer the next day.  So I said "rip them all off".  He wisely had me do only one foot.  If I were a woman and had given birth, I could compare the pain to having a baby.  Since I'm not a woman, I guess for now on I'll just have to say "it hurts as bad as having your toenails ripped off".

While I was limping around work in recovery, someone asked what happened.  After my reply, they asked why I didn't get laser treatment.  Apparently it takes 5 minutes and is painless.  I really don't know how to explain my emotional reaction to this news.  After about 6 months of waiting for my toenails to grow back, only my pinky toe was better.  The others seemed worse than before.

Time to try the laser treatment.  I found a Groupon deal for $360.  They did two treatments.  In this treatment, the doctor shines a laser on the toenail till it heats up, then moves it over a tiny amount and repeats until he's done the entire toenail.  I learned after the first spot that you have to tell the doctor when its hot enough. He told me this after I yelled "Ow!".  Two treatments, I waited 6 months.  NO BENEFIT.

Then I spent about $20 in over-the-counter treatments.  An oil you brush onto the nail.  I was diligent doing it every morning and night for 6 months.  The nails looked good, but were not 100%.  So I quit.  And they started looking bad again.

At this point (if you made it this far), you're probably asking "What does this have to do with the Free Market?" (Be patient and thanks for hanging in there)

This is the point that I decided to cast my search far and wide.  The consensus was that there is no cure yet I found a website that compared several products.  The top product claimed a 94% success rate.  On Amazon.com, it had a high user rating.  I always read the 1-star ratings when reviewing products.  They confirmed my suspicion.  The product was a scam with a bunch of fake user ratings and fake websites reviewing the product.

Instead, I decided to try and discover my own treatment.  We have a bottle of Castor Oil that we purchased for $2  It's about 5 times the size of the $20 bottle of special toenail fungus treating oil.  I drenched my toes in Castor Oil and put plastic bags over my feet (for about an hour).  I also do the daily application.  After about a week, my toes look better than they have with any of the other treatments.  They aren't cured yet, but this is where I make my point about the Free Market.

Getting information to the public is expensive.  Google and Facebook are mega billion dollar companies because of all the money other companies spend trying to connect to the public.  No one is going to get rich selling $2 bottles of Castor Oil to treat toenail fungus.  I'm sure there are many other cheap alternatives to our everyday needs, but companies aren't interested in providing cheap alternatives unless they can make good money.  Selling expensive lasers to podiatrists and selling tiny bottles for $20-$30 at Target or online is what makes money.

Years ago I bought a set of silicon rubber windshield wiper blades.  Best windshield wiper blades I ever owned.  They worked great for years.  The only reason I no longer have them is that I sold the car they were on.  The company that sold them is out of business.  You don't stay in business by selling something that lasts forever.  You stay in business by selling lousy windshield wiper blades that last for a year or two and then need to be replaced.

Conclusion

Skip the cures with the painful side effects, sexy technology, scamming self-promoters.  Just give me the simple pleasures.  I wish our Free Market system had a way to promote the truly economical solutions to life's needs, but instead I'm worried that these ideas are the endangered species in our competitive society.




Friday, May 1, 2015

Social Jenga

I was thinking about recent news events and the image of a Jenga game popped in my head.  If you already understand Jenga, you can skip to the next paragraph.  In the game, a tower is made of alternating layers of tiles stacked on each other.  The players then take turns taking tiles from the lower portion of the tower and placing them on the top of the tower.  At first, the "easy" tiles are selected: tiles that don't seem to be supporting the tower and can easily be slid out.  As the tower gets taller, it gets less stable and there are fewer "easy"tiles.  But the game must continue until the last tile is removed that causes the entire stack to collapse.

This reminds me of the social engineering that is taking place in politics.  At first we admire the stable tower built on hard work, discipline, and time proven principles.  The benefits are comfort and stability.  "What about the people that aren't included in the tower?  Wouldn't it be nice if they had some of these same benefits?"  So we take from the bottom of the stack to make the tower taller (i.e., add more people to the middle class).  Other voices warn that doing this makes the tower less stable.  "Non-sense!  We're just taking the excess and redistributing it so more people can benefit."

Specifically:

  • More people should be homeowners.  So we put allow for risky lending practices putting our financial institution at risk.
  • More people should have college educations.  So we use debt to pay for it, to the tune of over $1.2 trillion. [12
  • The government should provide more for more people.  So we borrow $18 trillion dollars from what used to be a stable system to make the tower taller.  [See debt clock
  • More people should have healthcare.  So we mandate that everyone pay for healthcare, including the young and healthy, hardworking people just trying to start out.  We fine them 2% of their income if they don't.[See Individual Mandate]
  • The joys of sex shouldn't be limited to marriage.  So we make it easy and acceptable to have cheap sex.  We provide financial support for unwed mothers.  There are record numbers of single parent families and we take the lives of over a million fetuses a year in the U.S.  These "benefits" no longer demand the commitment of marriage, so a stable "tile" is removed and added to the top.
  • This last Tuesday, the Supreme Court was arguing about removing another marriage "tile" so the stack could be larger.  
Is it possible to go in reverse and put the pieces back to restore stability?  or Do we continue playing the game until the stack collapses?  


Thursday, April 16, 2015

3-D Printers on Mars and Your Faith in God

Scientists are investigating using 3-D printers in space.  The idea is to use raw materials found on the moon or Mars to build shelter and other structures needed to sustain life [see article here] .  The 3-D printers can stuff or they can make other 3-D printers that can make more stuff.

3-D printers can already self-replicate, sort of.  They can make many of the parts, just not the electronics and other key elements [see article here].  These would have to be supplied from Earth.

But there are already self-replicating machines that are microscopically small, called nanobots (Nano for "very small" and bot for "robot").  These nanobots create a variety of tiny structures that can be assembled into larger machines that can perform almost any task.  For example, these machines can search for the raw materials they need by:

  • Digging in the ground
  • Autonomously roaming around on the ground
  • Self-propelling in water
  • Flying in the air
They use the raw materials they collect for energy or to make other machines (via the nanobots).  It's amazing that these nanobots already exist and scientists have absolutely no idea where they came from.  What are they?  They're called "DNA".  DNA is a microscopically small "machine" that makes cells (tiny structures) that together form various living things (plants, animals and us).  The living things can dig, walk, swim, fly.  And they can make copies of themselves with no extra spare parts required.

Once again, scientists have no idea where DNA came from, but many do know one thing for sure: there is no God.  I'm not sure how they know that when they have no idea where something as amazing as DNA came from.  But they do.