Curiosity Over Pride (FYI: To comment, send an e-mail to

Monday, December 28, 2009

Pattern Recognition

My impression is that some religious folk believe that the opposite of their belief in all all-controlling deity is random chaos. Order as they know it or anarchy. In between these two black and white poles lies something fascinating, though. Order from unknown rules; cause and effect from unknown rules.....

Delicious! "I must know", you say! Me too!

What am I going on about, you ask? I have a weird sense that 2010 will be a great year. Hmmm, the skeptic has gone soft? Delusions of fate and psychic vision? No. But wouldn't recognizing the organic foundation of something that is going to bloom/evolve appear like revelation of the future? Pattern recognition.

Ridiculous! Yet I feel very enthusiastic. I read a lot of really good sci-fi while on vacation. I got a wicked cool box of electronica for a Mithrasmas gift. Maybe the martial arts will be involved in my New Year's resolutions. Sweet!!!

Hope y'all had a wonderful time last week :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

So the Keynsians tell us that we are supposed to keep lending

Any interest in any of you guys joining me in this?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

OMFG!!! This is so way cool

Between me and the boys, we have probably spent $20 tonight on new itunes songs as we just kept hitting the songs that streamed over this free internet radio.

Sometime the internet is just so freak-in cool!

Beware, it is addictive. ;-)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rattling the cage's bars

My last comment on the last post having been ignored, I am now going to sound off.
Is this problem that I'm going to deal with one more example, an illustration of Lacan's postulate that there is no such thing as sexual relations ?
Does it fit roundly into the box, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus " ?
I sometimes feel here as though when I post, some people (particularly YOU, Thai..) read, pat me on the head, and promptly continue on their orbital path, resuming the discussion at the point when I "broke in".
I hate being patted on the head.
For info, I do NOT consider that over there in the jungle, Hell pats me on the head.
He does not. He.. RESPECTS me, and my way of thinking.
I have already asked that you try to vulgarize some of the more technical aspects of the scientific docs that you throw down here, and I honestly try to engage intellectually with you, to the extent that I am capable of understanding these rather abstract subjects.
If you want to hole up in the corner, and have specialized discussions, by all means use E Mail, telephone or whatever.
I am not allergic to scientific thought when it is presented in a manner in which I can understand it.
But I AM allergic to the fact that YOU, THAI, make no attempt whatsoever to engage intellectually with the points I bring up EVEN WHEN THEY ARE CONCERNING YOUR SUBJECT (at least, recently, that is..).
And I am starting to feel like all we do on this blog is to talk past each other, while gratifying our own egos.
I don't have time to waste on that.
If I want to write, I will find a public to listen to me, and appreciate my writing.
I don't.. NEED you for that.
But... discussion, that's another matter altogether.
We are not discussing well enough for MY taste on this blog.
Can do better.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Hints of things to come.

By the way, I do not agree at all with his comment "there is nothing else like that in physics and certainly not in human experience...".

I will let you decide for yourself.

But as you think on this, and in particular if it has a relationship to cooperation, I thought you might also be interested to learn that the world wide web, a scale free network, also displays Bose-Einstein condensation properties.

In fact, many things display this property.

And I mean many. ;-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Science : Etymology

I checked out your site for the etymology of science and it was rather... indigent, Thai.
So.. I am deliberately cheating on this one, and giving you the etymology from my French dictionary.
I am doing this because the Grand Robert Historique is a little more succint than the OED, and is better at transmitting the historical evolution of the word. The OED has a purely analytical, descriptive approach, and the word's history falls by the wayside.
This piece is a translation of what I put on my loony forum in July. Complete with.. MY commentary on the implications of the etymology for us, at this time.

Here is a word whose etymology and history everybody should know at a moment when "science" has become our new.. RELIGION. In the following piece, I will stick my commentary between parentheses, in order to allow you to differentiate between me, and the Grand Robert.

Science : First appearance (I think) in the French language in 1080 in "The Song of Roland". Borrowed from the classic latin scientia, "knowledge", particularly "scientific knowledge" which starting at the classical period takes on the meaning of the Greek episteme, "theoretical knowledge", from whence "epistemology". (I shall add that the original meaning of "theory" is "a group of people sent to a religious performance, or to consult an oracle". In the word "theory" we hear the root theos, which means "god". In the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations we observe how religion and knowledge are linked together in our ancestors minds. We will see why later.)
"Science" at first refers to the know-how which is derived from "knowledge" combined with (manual) skill, and starting in around 1119, the corpus of "knowledge" aquired from studying an object. Before the XIVth century, the word applies particularly to knowledge as a practical object subservient to religion. Moreover... the word is used in a religious context in 1120, with respect to the "intimate knowledge of God and creatures", from whence "the spirit of science", "the spirit (esprit, difficult to translate...), essence of God insomuch as he gives knowledge to man (1553), and the transcendental knowledge of the creation that God has.
In the middle of the XIIth century the generalized opposition between theoretical and practical knowledge emerges. (I would like to remind you that this opposition marks the beginning of a separation, a compartmentalization which translates in the separation between head/brain and hands. Increasingly, the value of what is produced with the hands will be debased, while what is produced with the head will be... INFLATED he he. The problem being particularly, the separation of head and hands... We are still suffering terribly in our civilization from the result of this compartmentalization.)
XVth century : "avoir la science infuse" means "to have the knowledge that God gives by pure inspiration (the breath of God ???), in reference to the knowledge that Adam received from God (and not from biting that apple, careful...), the expression has taken on the meaning "to know... INNATELY (my capitals), and then, to claim to know everything. (1835) (Note the deterioration in the meaning, the mockery that arises ...)
During the Renaissance, "modern" thinkers came to understand that science must be founded on formal reasoning, i.e., on mathematics, on direct observation, and controlled experimentation (!!!! The Robert's prejudices are evident here...). Two types of knowledge vyed for preeminence : law, an emanation of divine thought and a framework for human life, and mathematics which also manifested a certain world.. order. The concept of "science" draws away from theology, and philosophy, and the idea of method begins to impose itself. (I remind you that this evolution corresponds to the rise of humanism in Europe. Humanism is an ideological approach which progressively evacuates a reference to a transcendence ideal and/or divine. The founding fathers were probably.. devoted to a reference towards an IDEAL transcendance, but not a.. DIVINE one. Transcendance can be inferred from the structure of language, as you have learned from my previous posts, right ??) Starting at the beginning of the XVIIIth century, "science" refers to "exact and universal, and verifiable knowledge expressed through laws". (Please notice how this definition of science corresponds to... the rise of our modern democraties, the rise of the value of reason. Please note also that... the word "law" is retained, but it has subtely changed meaning...)

(I would like to impart to you to what extent it is essential to understand this little topo. We retain the medieval root and meaning of the "science " in the expression "God only knows". This means... ONLY God knows. God, in the medieval topo WHICH WE REMEMBER IN/THROUGH OUR LANGUAGE is the garant of truth, and only through him does man receive... science/knowledge. The place of the garant, the person who... GUARANTEES, in other words is fundamental because.. we must RECEIVE knowledge from somewhere (someone ?) and.. HOW DO WE KNOW IF IT IS TRUE ???
Other EXTREMELY IMPORTANT OBSERVATION : the fact that... our modern judicial systems and ideological fascination for the.. LAW mask the fact that the latter emerged from a.. THEOLOGICAL context, my friends. This is... CAPITAL.

In the Renaissance topo (humanism, anthropocentrism, which still dominate western civilization..), man acquires knowledge/science himself through observation and experimentation, by formal reasoning applied to (personal) experience.
But.. the question/problem of the garant/guaranteer remains intact. CAN MAN BE THE GARANT/GUARANTEER OF HIS OWN KNOWLEDGE ? At the risk of usurping God's (symbolic !!!!!) place ?
I think that at rock bottom we have an innate knowledge that we receive our lives, our knowledge our words from... ANOTHER. (Levinas). Therefore.. a certain anthropocentrism/humanism is a delusion, a dangerous one for our species, that at this time has embarked on a frantic search for all powerfulness on everything that moves.)

I warned you that this would be long...

Friday, December 11, 2009

For Deb

I thought you would like the message, even if you did not like the message. ;-)

Thursday, December 10, 2009


This one's for Thai.

For the past two days, I have been plugging away at Rousseau's Emile.
I can't remember when I got the idea of picking up Rousseau. Probably as a result of hearing so much flak about him.
Bitch, bitch, bitch. Everybody comes out with a sanctimonious statement about the fact that Rousseau abandoned his children to an orphanage. NOBODY comes out with the fact that he later publicly regretted it bitterly, and attempted to find them, to no avail. Nor that Emile was written as a form of reparation.
Nobody comes out with the fact that Rousseau led a hand to mouth existence for most of his existence, and let go a lucrative position as a wealthy banker's personal secretary because it entered into conflict with his personal beliefs.
In short, condemnation of Rousseau comes swiftly, and even in France, his writings are subtley disqualified by the powers that be, in such a way that yours truly ended up being curious, and decided to open him up to see what exactly could be the reason behind so much... pompous, self righteous disqualification coming from people who had never bothered to spend any time on his writing...
And I am not disappointed at all by Rousseau.
I have been laughing outright, and chuckling through his lush, incredibly rich prose.
Rousseau is an eccentric. He is an extremely irritating person, while being totally singular, unique (like yours truly, by the way, which is one of the reasons we get along so well).
He has passionate opinions, and he is a tissue of contradictions, when he is not driving you crazy through his desire to take things through to their logical conclusion.
His idea of education is a benevolent totalitarian enterprise, where his idealism infuses every page, and EVERYTHING IS CONTROLLED DOWN TO THE MOST MINUTE DETAIL.
And along with the idealism, if you read carefully you will understand TO WHAT EXTENT people like... Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin had an incredible debt to Rousseau, whose works contain, in seed form, the ideas that the two giants above will develop considerably later.
You will also understand, if you bother to read him... just why the establishment has taken so many pains to discredit and disqualify him. For... ITS own good.
Because, Jean-Jacques Rousseau is an incredibly astute observer of the arbitrary manner in which the social body (that's us..) decrees what is right, and what is wrong, what education should be, and shouldn't.
And... believe you me, there is NO SUBJECT as PRICKLY as the education of the younger generation, no subject more prompt to unleash sometimes smoldering, sometimes blazing passions in their elders (that's us).
Some of Rousseau's pedagogical positions are as contemporary as the French Revolution in May, 1968. And some of what he suggested is, EVEN NOW IN 2010, considered ill advised, RADICAL, irresponsible. (Yeah, well, remember that Socrates got axed for corrupting Athenian youth, at least in pretext...)
Because we oldies just can't accept the idea that our children are REALLY our equals.
No, not for one minute. And the older generation tries to hang on to its real or imagined power/authority for as long as possible. Rousseau advocates letting necessity fix the limits for children, and not arbitrary adult authority. Revolutionary...
As the grandaddy of all sociologists (psychologists ?), Rousseau is a must read. He knows the tattered rag and bone shop of the heart so intimately that you will laugh out loud at some of his priceless observations on human nature.
I am not sure how well he has been translated, as it is difficult to render him with any justice, and I will not attempt it here (too lazy...).
End of ad.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Big Brother is Watching!

Check it out yourself

Truly amazing what we now track on people

Monday, December 7, 2009

Thoughts on some viewpoints

Thoughts on Odd Thoughts

... And we all know there are a lot more viewpoints than just these.

I was reading the following article in the Washington Post today when a rather odd thought came over me. Thinking a thought to be odd is rather odd in its own right, at least for me. For I am a firm follower of our Red Queen's famous observation: "sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”.

Anyway, the article set my mind wandering down the path of that great zero sum paradox that parents and children have pondered for ages:

Who is the best person to decide on who someone's ideal life mate should be?

Thoughts appreciated.

Kudos to the best answer

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Willingness To Harm Others

Yesterday in Puget Sound a person with a long criminal history ambushed and killed four police officers in a coffee shop. Had I posted yesterday there would have been wild-eyed ranting about martial law and a truly excessive use of profanity. But the initial biochemical tidal wave has run its course so I feel safer in typing.

Violence is bad (I recognize that I'm not the first to notice this). On one level its bad because making people suffer isn't nice. On another level its bad because the population can't function to its potential.

Like the whole credit fiasco with debt creation where any reasonable person realizes it will never actually be repaid, society has been using temporary measures to stall having to deal with violent crazies. Like the whole credit fiasco, it seems the buffers are just about saturated.

Soooo...double jeopardy? Resentence the already incarcerated using a new legal standard? One metric: have you shown a willingness to harm others? If so, you either need to be kept away from others for the duration of your existance or incapacitated.

I recognize that some defining of "harm" and "incapacitate" is needed, but I think the sentiment is clear.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cooperation on my loony forum

This morning I am totally cheating. On my last comment below, I said it was the last time I would comment, so... in order to avoid cheating I am writing a post, lol...
In December we will celebrate the second year of our loony forum.
It has about 20 members in it, some of whom come and go, is private, and accessible on invitation only.
Participation is variable, but at this time, it is really stunning, as almost everybody is at least connecting once a day to say how they're doing, and what they're up to.
Why am I talking to you about this ?
Because... my loony forum is an EXCELLENT example of sheer democratic cooperation at work, and what "tissu social" is. There is no really good translation of "tissu social" in English, but you might say "social network". I personally DO NOT LIKE social network, because it privileges a.. computer, mechanistic metaphor, whereas "tissu social" uses a... textile metaphor.
For me a textile metaphor (a piece of fabric is made by interweaving, sometimes in an exceptionally complicated fashion, separate threads to make a... collective work that is THEN used to create something else) is a LIVING, vital metaphor, whereas a machine metaphor, well, that is .. DEAD. That's my prejudice, I suppose.
My loony forum is NOT facebook, for example, and many people on it have their own facebook pages.
WE created this forum TOGETHER, and it has several, separate areas where any member can write a post : some chapters : psychological subjects, spirituality, I'm mad and I spout off, I'm not doing so well, and here's why, good morning, astrology, social themes, animals,etc. (There are others, but you get the idea.) Anybody can post anywhere.
There were about half as many chapters when we started up, but YOURS TRULY suggested that we create others as our needs evolved, and that's how... spirituality got added, for example (yours truly again).
Although there are two administrators who oversee the forum's technical functioning, and sometimes issue invitations for new members, I insisted, and continue to exist that... NOBODY BE EXCLUDED, and that the forum function in TRULY DEMOCRATIC FASHION.
Which it has done... since the beginning.
I think that the founding fathers would have been REALLY proud, you know.
Getting 20+ people who are extremely marginal, most of whom are not working, and surviving with handicap allowances to... cooperate, and give mutual support, is a BIG CHALLENGE.
And.. after two years of continuous BELIEF, and encouragment from yours truly, this challenge is panning out, and I can safely say that the anima, the spirit of the forum is exceptional in the way that it is supporting people to take risks, to dare to develop their underrated talents.
The forum is ONE of the most important factors helping them to emerge from a sense of despair, and feel that, although marginal, THEY have something to contribute to society.
And... this from people who have, for the most part, received psychiatric diagnoses (with which I am not necessarily in agreement, moreover...).
Now.. they are not running out to "contribute" to society by smoothly transitioning into "productive" 9-5 jobs, but then... maybe society needs other ways to occupy its members than those proverbial 9-5 jobs at this point ?? Maybe society can benefit from OTHER OCCUPATIONS than SALARIED work ? It takes all kinds to make up a world, right ?
By the way... I forgot to mention possibly THE MOST IMPORTANT function of the forum at this time : it is a place of continuing POPULAR education, as everybody contributes by posting his/her knowledge/expertise.
Continuing, popular education. This is the BIGGEST challenge that our societies are facing at this time, and WILL face in the future.
And... last but not least : FOR FREE

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


This little post is going to allow me to indulge some of my Bushie tendencies... Get ready...

The editorial on France Musiques this morning, presented by an excellent journalist, Thomas Cluzell, exposed the case of Rom Huben, who y'all must have heard about by now.

Rom only recently was discovered to be in full possession of his mental faculties although totally paralzyed following a car accident. For 28 years or so (or is this my confabulation ? my marriage has lasted this long, so I could be inventing...), Rom was considered to be in a vegetative coma, while he was hearing, and understanding EVERYTHING around him without being able to express himself.

Things are looking better for Rom these days since some white coat had the bright idea of checking out his mental state, and discovered that his brain was... totally normal. He has learned how to express himself in such a way as to be able to write a letter to his Dad who died while everyone thought he was a veggie (and he can't even cry... tough).
Rom is really an amazing person, the kind who can convince you that miracles really DO exist because... even though he STILL is totally paralyzed, he can express himself and enter into contact with his loved ones, and with the larger human world.
And JUST this, in a sense, is ALREADY a miracle, and a tribute to the human... soul ? spirit ?

This morning Thomas went on to NOT CASUALLY AT ALL mention the fact that diagnosing vegetative coma is definitely NOT the piece of cake that... all of the people living in liberalland who jumped on Georgie's case a few years ago would definitely LOVE TO BELIEVE...
It appears that there is up to 40% error in this kind of diagnosis, at this time.

I don't know about you, but those figures look REALLY alarming to me, in the face of Rom's experience. Here I ask you to use your imagination a little bit...
Imagine... the white coats sententiously getting ready to unhook life support for somebody who is TOTALLY CONSCIOUS of what is going on, and cannot express himself ?
Let's up the ante a little bit..
And if that person were.. YOU ?

Since I like to get on your case sometimes, Thai, and I can be a rather agressive kitty, I realize that all that medical care, the life support, etc etc, is REALLY EXPENSIVE...
But... how would YOU feel, being the person who pulls the plug in these circumstances, and in the light of Rom's experience ??

(Next post is NOT going to be about medecine. Next post is NOT going to be about medecine. Next post...)

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Problem of Bias...

I am sure you have all been reading about the following:

By the way, I am not saying that the global warming scientists have been exposed as frauds. I am saying that emotion/morality filters everything and imparts a bias on all information. This is (usually) not a problem when we are make decisions for ourselves (I will avoid the obvious problem with this statement), but it is most certainly a problem when we make decisions for everyone else- particularly where others may not share our values.

Anyway, the only reason I bring this up here is that it mirrors what I said in my latest post concerning the US health care system... Ok, ok, along with fractals, I'll also admit my obsession with health care is also beyond redemption.

Read for yourself if you are interested.

What most struck me was the following passage:

"Ms. Sebelius’ own culpability in issuing this grossly erroneous statement can be interpreted in three ways. Perhaps she’s just lying. Perhaps she’s ignorant of the role her own panel has already begun playing in determining which medical services are to be covered and not covered. Or, perhaps she’s displaying a Clintonian facility with the English language (here, as it happens, employing a variation on the classic “depends on what the meaning of is, is”), and accordingly she’s reporting the currently truthful statement that the USPSTF’s “recommendations” have no effect on present policy, while simply neglecting to mention that those selfsame “recommendations” are indeed going to become policy very soon, the moment healthcare reform is passed."

Issues of aspect, or viewpoint simply never go away ;-)

Trust and faith are tough

Dink, please post away.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Rose by Any Other Name...

I am not sure how much you have followed the latest solution du jour to fix our health care woes- reforming physician compensation models.

My punch line- "there are lots of way to compensate physicians and they are all bad".

So what stuns me most about the level of dialogue in this debate is the notion that the people who work in the trenches are really that stupid. Economists are an odd lot.

I think all of you know my position on rationing so I needn't discuss it again, but I want to take you for a walk for a moment down memory lane...

In the 1990's, HMOs, trying to keep costs down, actually paid some physicians more to do less testing, etc... this saved the HMOs, and therefore their members, lots of money.

Sadly a few instances arose- I am not sure how frequent these were and in truth I suspect they were rare- where it was found that the financial incentive to not perform testing negatively influenced patient care. Again, I suspect this was probably rare (though I don't know for sure) but the instances made headlines and juries reacted with massive economic damage judgements against the providers. In short order these compensation models vanished (at least as far as I know).

Fast forward to November 2009. This is the state of where we are today.

I want to highlight a small passage for your consideration:

The Finance Bill proposed automatic reimbursement reductions for doctors who order up the most care for Medicare recipients with similar medical and demographic characteristics. That was meant to respond to the research showing big disparities in spending on medical services for similarly-situated patients in different communities. But, Democratic sources say, that proposal ran into charges that it would promote rationing-and even function as "a death panel by proxy"-by compelling doctors to arbitrarily reduce care. So the final bill takes a less direct route toward a similar end. It requires Medicare to begin studying the utilization patterns of doctors participating in the program. And then it establishes a "values based payment modifier" that would, in a budget-neutral manner, increase reimbursements for physicians found to deliver high-quality care at lower cost, and reduce them for physicians at the other end of that spectrum. "It will, we believe, have the same net effect [as the original proposal]," said the Democratic aide. "It should change behavior around that threshold."

Does a rose by any other name smell as sweet?

As I have said many times before and will probably say again, the most expensive thing of all is the loss of trust. What does this do for your trust when eventually learn about it and realize that physicians are now paid by the government to do less testing when they see you?

Forgetting the obvious truth that HMOs are out to kill you but the federal government is here for your protection (as long as your protection is not less important than some other person/agenda that faction of the government is also trying to protect), do they really think physicians/attorneys/nurses, etc... are really that stupid?

Again, I am not necessarily opposed to this- though if I were czar I would do it differently- as I do understand the predicament we are in (at least I think I do).

But my point is that it was always trust in the system that was always the most important issue in the first place. Do you think most Americans understand this issue? When they do, will it help them feel more secure? If you are a conservative suspicious of government involvement to begin with, what will you think?

What has happened to this collective? We will send our children off to die to protect us (may or may not be a good idea) but we cannot accept small levels of personal insecurity so that we all personally benefit?

Like the issue we are seeing with vaccinations, where heroes of mine have created the following blog, this issue is clearly a mirror of things like the credit crisis, etc...

The most expensive thing of all is the loss of trust and all when a rose by any other name...

FYI- here is an article dated 2000 which basically discusses the same thing.

Forgive me if I have to let it slip once again: the more things change, the more they stay the same... ;-)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The problem with strep throat

I read the following opinion in the WSJ today and was reminded of a rather simple issue I see every day which is a kind of "fractaloid" mirror for the issues this post raises.

As you might imagine, I treat a lot of sore throat. I mean a lot. You might think illnesses like sore throat are simple, that all the issues around them are known, that something as trivial as sore throat should not raise any eyebrows. And as long as you cover over most of the details of the issues, you would be correct. But of course, the devil is always in the details. Further every detail can be approached from almost any viewpoint, and we all know this makes all the difference.
What is true for information as a whole, is just as true for the rabbit hole which is sore throat.
So let me jump to the answer for a moment: I do not think strep throat should be treated. While I would not say "ever", I would certainly say "most of the time". But let me also add that I always treat strep throat. In other words, knowing what I know, I continue to practice in a manner contrary to what I believe best. It is a most frustrating catch 22 for which I have no answer.

Let me explain by first stating a few "facts" everyone agrees on:

1. 90-95% of pharyngitis is viral
2. Except for a very few viruses, there are no specific anti-viral medications for viral pharyngitis
3. The sensitivity of rapid strep testing is about 80% (meaning 1 in 5 people with strep throat will have a falsely negative test even when they have strep pharyngitis)
4. Throat cultures are very sensitive (>90%) and considered a gold standard in diagnosing strep throat.
5. Throat culture results can take 3 days
6. If someone has strep pharyngitis, they can (should?) be treated with antibiotics
7. The antibiotic we use should usually be a penicillin derivative like amoxacillin (unless the patient is allergic).

Using these simple facts, which the medical profession unanimously agrees on, we of the medical cloth have developed decision/treatment algorithms any emergency physician/mid-level provider worth their salt knows backwards and forwardsfor. These algorithms represent a so called "standard of care"/"best practices"/"evidence based medicine" approach to care we should all follow accordingly. Hence I still treat strep throat. ;-)

So far I hope I have said nothing controversial.

The problem of course is that there is a problem. Lots of details were ignored by the people who made these recommendations- I do not suggest mean to imply this was done for nefarious reasons, they had to do it. And of course if you think about it much, points 6 and 7 are not really facts act all.

So if you look at points 1-7, a couple of thoughts should come to mind:
A. From whose viewpoint were these algorithms developed?
B. What were the assumptions that went into the observation/analysis/recommendations?
C. Why should we treat strep throat with antibiotics anyway?

This is a rabbit hole and the post would get very long if I dealt with even a few of these details/issues. As we are all busy, I will simply focus on points 6 and 7 the following way:.

Assume you have strep throat, a test has confirmed this and we believe the test results. Should you be treated with antibiotics?

My bottom line is "no".


It is VERY clear from data that the risk/harm of treating someone with antibiotics is one (maybe two) orders of magnitude greater than doing nothing at all. And yet the medical profession still treats strep throat. Indeed I still treat it stating what I believe to be true.


The Rise and Fall of Empires

Hat tip Paul Kedrosky of Infectious Greed...

Visualizing empires decline from Pedro M Cruz on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bad Analogy or "The Time of the Fractal" (thoughts on symmetry)

First I want to say thanks to Street Dog for helping direct me to the following wiki: renormalization. I must say I am having a hard time following most of it, and am hopeful he will give us a simple translation, but it is where my latest inquiry in understanding fractals has arrived. It has generated the following thoughts on the drive home from work this morning.


Fractals are formed when chaos is broken and symmetry (or cooperation) is created (and/or vice versa)- hat tip SD. Further, this time or moment or space (or whatever you want to call it) of fractal formation- what I will hence forth refer to as "the time of the fractal"- is a very special time/moment/space/event/period/epoc/region/etc...

For if you think about it, this time of the fractal has been called many things by many people in many languages from many viewpoints since language and thought was first introduced.

If you are not following me, a few examples may jog your neurons: phase transition(s), boundary condition(s), time of change(s), moment of transformation(s), point of conversion(s), etc...

Are you getting the idea?

Anyway, as additional background, we know the conservation of energy implies that in a closed system, everything is connected to everything else. For discussion purposes on this post, we will pretend the universe is a closed system... Yes, yes, I can already hear some of you complaining, especially with the universe expanding at an accelerated rate and all. I want you to know I hear your concerns (these are simply thoughts after all), but we need to create some boundary conditions to the discussion in order to even have a discussion so let's keep it to a static universe just to make it simple.

Further, if you think about it, everything connected to everything else also implies a kind of infinite network between everything and everything else. Of course the links in this (infinite?) network are hard for most of us to see...

So anyway, we have an infinite network in a closed system, and we further have smaller boundary conditions within this network, and then a change happens from at least one viewpoint- voila! We have fractals!

And this is where we get back to the theory of renormalization.

For if something changes in a closed system- e.g. symmetry is either broken or created (really can be either and probably the creation of one means the creation of the other), a break in symmetry must be felt everywhere else.

Really another viewpoint on zero-sum so nothing special here, but here is where I am going:

Does this mean the newest element in the periodic table, humanium, is subject to the same laws as every other element in the periodic table?

When humanium moves from one boundary condition (or phase transition) to another, will it display the same wave-particule duality we see with every other element in the periodic table?

Does humanium display quanta properties? e.g. individual properties?

Does humanium display wave like properties? e.g- collective/cooperative properties?

Neuroanatomist Jill Taylor suggests it does

Thoughts appreciated

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Some (insane ?) ramblings on the city

No, I am NOT talking about that hyper chic ghetto in London where the bankrats are glued in front of their screens getting instant gratification in the form of $$$$$££££€€€€€ SIGNS (he he) while mindlessly pressing buttons in Pavlovian fashion, I am talking about the... city.
The place where lots of people live (together), more or less peacefully.
Goody, now I get to don my rabbi's hat. (I am no less contradictory than anyone else here... Judaïsm taught me how to think. The rabbis have always been the world's greatest thinkers. And Jewish rabbis' thought is on a parr with Greek philosophy, although in an entirely different direction. (And by the way.... Herbert was steeped in monotheistic religious tradition. His books are like... textbooks in monotheism. I hope that he knew this, as he was a really smart cookie, smarter than us street rats, I think.)
So, on to the cities.
And back to Genesis (where it all started for us, by the way).
The first mention of cities in the Bible is right after... the first murder. Cain kills Abel, God says to Cain : because you have spilled your brother's blood into the earth, the earth will no longer.... COOPERATE with your efforts to cultivate it, so... In other words, we could say, Cain was just no longer cut out for farming, and he was going to have to find ANOTHER form of subsistance. (By the way, simplistic thinking likes to intimate that God... PUNISHED Cain for the first murder, but this is not true. God didn't NEED to punish Cain for the first murder because.... he knew that Cain would do the job just fine for him. We could say that Cain's restless wandering/nomadism on the earth is an attempt to flee what we moderns call his.. conscience. Abel is gone. Nothing will bring him back again. I think that Thai will appreciate that the temptation to turn what IS into what SHOULD BE is sometimes overwhelming. Because we are just itching for God to punish Cain, we attribute our own desire to God. Not good. )
So. It is in THIS context that the descendants of Cain start to huddle together in places called... cities. The first cities were inhabited by descendants of Cain.
So. I will interpret that the Genesis author thought that men who inhabited cities were estranged from agriculture, and the earth to a certain extent. (Careful, I too am not saying that this is good or bad, I am observing.) And it seems obvious to me that at least the way that our cities are currently organized, this estrangement is quite evident. (We could diminish it by creating... tracts of land FOR farms right in the center of our cities, by the way... This would be a good idea, I think.) The Genesis author also posited that people living in cities felt a certain... rootlessness, too.
Lots of people now living in liberalland would just LOVE to pretend that since they don't believe in God... the Bible has no importance whatsoever to them in their daily lives.
This attitude, in my book, is extremely.... STUPID. It is a little bit like being in a car, driving along in it, and when being questioned, saying "Car, what car ? I'm moving, aren't I ?"
We are STILL products of our ancestor's beliefs, so, in my book we are better off learning about these beliefs in order to be able to more or less "choose" in an informed manner.
Fast forward.
When he was fourteen years old, Adolf Hitler's poor father left home (a small town or village) with a bundle on his back and headed for Vienna in hopes of finding work. Vienna then was an extremely cosmopolitan BIG CITY, and the young man after several hardships managed to get a job with the government bureaucracy as a customs official, and headed back to his home (border) town, proud of having made something of himself. When he got "home", nobody remembered him. Trauma. Major trauma.
When Adolf set off for Vienna about 40 years later, the city had changed a lot, and the worst of industrialized evils had created the massive unemployment which is looming before us even now. On the streets in Vienna, the young Adolf saw what the young Debra saw on the Champs Elysées thirty years ago : throngs of anonymous faces of every color, people of every shape and size, speaking every language imaginable. Where Debra was fascinated and impressed with cosmopolitanism at 25, Adolf was overwhelmed with estrangement at 14 (admit it, he was a little young to be all on his own...). (And it was not a piece of cake, this rootlessness for Debra at 25 either...) And Adolf could NOT manage to make something of himself like his Daddy had. Because of what/who HE was. But also because of what Vienna had become. And... this rootlessness is a major factor in what happened after...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tragedy of the Commons (part 3)

HA !!
I bet Thai never thought that I would invade the territory of his game, but I am doing it NOW.
In my own fashion, with my own method, and observations, but I am doing it. (And... when will Thai invade MY territory, lol... ?)
As always with me, let's start with the... clinical examination.
Yesterday I headed off on my bicycle to do my bi-weekly shopping at the farmer's market (there is a post here on the farmer's market, my first, for Street Dog, if he is interested. End of ad.). I have enormous bags fixed to my bike so that I can haul up to 30-40 kilos at any stretch, so it works well for not using that... polluting four wheeled vehicle.
Three quarters of the way down the little semi dirt track that the local town hall installed for the Dubai folk in our commune (off limits to through traffic, only the OWNERS have access, you call that democracy ???), a man was rapidly approaching on foot the barrier that blocks car traffic, and that I had to get through in order to continue.
He was.... walking in the middle of the road, just... RIGHT to block my passage.
So I cheerfully called out "beep beep" (I no longer have an official "bell", I don't like them, and think it's kind of fun to produce my own sound effects...), and he moved over, grudgingly, and telling me off, even though (I think...) I thanked him for doing so.
Comment :
Why do people walk in the middle of the road ?
They do so, because WHEN THERE IS NO-ONE ELSE THERE they move out to occupy all the space (or territory...). Why... cramp yourself in when you can spread yourself out ?
But when an incident happens like the one above, all of a sudden, territory gets.... redistributed.
If the situation had permitted it, I would have taken several deep bows, said "excuse me excuse me, I would like to get around you in order to continue moving on my bike", but... you can guess that the situation DID NOT permit that kind of social sniffing.
So he was peeved. He felt that my "beep beep" was an offensive INVASION of his (drum roll, here comes the BIG word) INDIVIDUAL RIGHT to occupy the whole road the way he wanted to.
He was incapable of seeing that my "beep beep" was intended to help BOTH OF US find a suitable compromise that would permit BOTH OF US (individuals) to continue moving without sacrifice on either part, within the PUBLIC realm of the commons.
This incident is, of course, symptomatic of what is going on at all levels in our society these days.
Tragedy of the Commons is the tragedy that Rousseau got the best grasp on (sorry Thai, don't scream...).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's all in your head (stupid)

Dring... the experiment is beginning.
After at least two years on my loony forum of desperately trying to break through to my loonies, in missionary fashion, as to WHY their ideas about the mind/body relationship are tainted by the eternal prejudices of our time, I have decided to see if... YOU GUYS, the cream of the crop, the medical elite, the A+ students of top American colleges will... GET it better than "my" loonies do.
Here goes :
A little background. A week ago I got pounded into the ground following a news post about a chiantific experiment highlighting the... nocebo effect. You know, the... nocebo, which has the opposite effect of a placebo.
I found that.... really really interesting, and proceeded to tie this reaction in to my all favorite anecdote about the power of.... NEGATIVE thinking, to be found in Dale Carnegie's little treasure, "The Power of Positive Thinking", book number one in the endless series of management books that has since hit the racks.
You know, the story about the guy who gets locked into a refrigerator wagon, and, after scribbling on the wall that he is expiring from the cold, promptly proceeds to freeze to death in a... disconnected wagon.
I presume that my readership here is already acquainted with this rather... remarkable incident which has no... RATIONAL explanation.
Freezing to death in a disconnected refrigerator wagon throws a loop in our carefully constructed prejudices about just HOW our thoughts manage to translate themselves into our bodies.
When Freud began opening his mouth about psychoanalysis, he had been working with hysterical patients. Mostly women. And along with Charcot, he had made some rather interesting observations.
Observation one : (this one is for the ophthalmo...) Hysterical blindness exists.
Hysterical blindness is blindness for which the doc can find no LESION. (Not finding lesions didn't stop Freud from finding other things. He found : thoughts, memories which the person had translated into corporeal language.)
Blindness exists also which is the result of organic lesions.
Now we get to the clincher...
If YOU'RE BLIND, and there is no lesion, YOU CAN'T SEE.
someone who has an organic lesion can't see.
So... if BOTH people can't see, then.... why the fuss about the lesion ?
Could it possibly be because... if there is NO LESION, then we say... "it's all in your head (stupid) ? (We also say this when we can find no EXPLANATION for a phenomenon.)
Freud and Charcot both discovered that people suffering from hysterical complaints had their suffering discredited/ignored/belittled by the medical caste. And they discovered this at a time when docs were doing autopsies at record paces in the attempt to LOCALIZE psychic disease in the body and brain. And... when the docs did those little autopsies on their hysterical patients.... AW SHUCKS, they just couldn't manage to find them littl' ole lesions. (Some people are still looking, by the way, or they are trying to localize in other manners...)
As it turns out, as I mentioned over here a while ago, the current DSM has totally bottomed out the diagnosis of hysteria, which is really not surprising, considering that... the epistemological position of the people who came up with the DSM leaves them with a MAJOR blind spot (hé hé...) concerning hysteria, since the PURPOSE of hysteria is to... challenge an all-knowing, all-powerful (generally masculine) MASTER, and... this is precisely the position of the DSM.
So... since there is NO lesion in your body that means that... it's all in your head (stupid).
You might think that since we came to the realization that the brain was commanding most of what is going on in our bodies, we could admit that, to a certain extent EVERYTHING is in your head, but...
This would be too easy. The logic behind this illogic goes like this : if you have a lesion which can be localized, then, you are on the side of truth. But, if you don't have a lesion you are telling a lie, you're a fake, you're a simulator, etc etc.
(And docs know just how exasperating hysterical patients can be, they are just not GOOD, REWARDING patients that you can tinker with in erector set fashion, do a little bit of manual fiddling, chop off a this, extract a that, and illico presto, magic, the person is CURED !! Good doc, good boy, you've done your job, thank you, a million thanks)

Now... since I KNOW that every advantage has its disadvantage, and every disadvantage has its advantage, I cannot say in honesty that I think that it is MAJOR PROGRESS that we have now decided that for every corporal problem there has to be an EXPLANATION of the lesion type. No. I don't think that minutely scrutinizing everybody in hopes of finding the elusive (illusive ?) lesion (or the "faulty" genome, while we're at it...) is necessarily the answer to our problems.
Can you believe it ? In the good old days, before we had all this modern medicine, Freud was such a savvy clinician that he could do an excellent clinical exam and determine whether the patient was suffering from a hysterical complaint, or not.
Don't you wish we had clinicians like that these days ? I sure do... It would save us all a lot of filthy lucre.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thought of the day

Being angry at a central bank is like being angry at your spinal cord while you cliff dive.

"How dare you be so presumptuous as to allow me freedom of motion" laments the diver as (s)he hurtles towards the rocks below.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Free for all

HA !!!
It was not initially my intention to use this expression, but the "free" in free for all is very appropriate to my observations about the pressing social need for gratuity in our filthy lucre obsessed society. But, I'm not going into that now ; that will be the subject of another post that I MAY or may not eventually get around to doing.
As promised to Street Dog, my latest poem (sorry you guys, you're going to have to do a crash course in French, as I hate translating myself...)


Etranger !
Reste où tu es
Ne bouge pas
Laisse-moi approcher
De toi
Whoah, n'aies pas peur mais
Tiens-toi bien en laisse
Ne bouge toujours pas
Je dois te flairer
Renifler ton être.

Si tu es bon
Je tendrai ma langue
Je romprai ton pain
Avec mes dents délicates
Essaie de pas bouger
Et ta douleur te sera

Quand j'aurai mangé ton pain
Viens me flairer et
Manger le mien et
Nous pourrons parler ensemble.

I am very happy with this poem. It is very very audacious...
Thai, while I applaud your extreme self restraint in refraining from giving in to Marcus's provocations, I definitely enjoy unsheathing my claws from time to time in an agreeably mindless fashion. Call it my... man eating tiger act (although I personally think that my provocations are rather sophisticated next to the trolling that I have seen in cyberspace for several years now). Man-eating tigers treat their human prey the way that unman-eating tigers treat their prey, and the way that Tabby, your cat, treats HER prey too, if you have ever bothered to watch...

And NOW, it's free for all (as if anybody on this blog ever needed reminding that the comments are.. free for all...)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Neural Remodeling

So here's the dream I was just having.

I was is a bathtub. Something dropped in the water (a bottle of shampoo or something) and I fished it out. But there was still an identical bottle of shampoo of shampoo in the tub. So I got it out too. This blip in physics intrigued me, of course. And then human greed instinct took over and I took off my wedding ring and dropped it in. Two rings. I dropped both back in and took out four rings. I paused to think and plan. Somehow I instinctually understood that there were rules (as oftened happens in dreams, the surreal seems "obvious"). 1) this would only work while the water was warm, 2) I couldn't add more hot water, 3)I had to be in the bathtub and the new matter couldn't cause the water to overflow 4) at some point the "magic" time would end and unless I was clever all my gains would disappear. I hollered to <1/2 to grab something valuable. My explanation only illicited boredom with a mild disdain for my childish greed; time would be better spent out of the bathtub doing real work around the house. So I am alone again making handfuls of rings trying to think of a way to keep them in the real world once the time is up. It seems I may have come up with a way to keep about 4 or 5 rings around, but compared to the potential value of gold piled up outside the tub it didn't seem impressive. Certainly not worth getting into a panic so I worked at a fairly leisurely pace dropping and harvesting rings. 1,2,4,8,16 *yawn* better start finding them all....

And upon waking I knew that this was Thai's fault. Not because of the recent bat porn link, but because of the ongoing quest to get me to see that the laws of conservation apply to human perception. I may not be all the way there, but it makes sense that an idea that challenges the mind's current and long-term concept of "The Way Things Are" would take some time to build.

I think the warm water was "focus" or "attention" or "awareness". Which we can only sustain for limited amounts of time (the NPR Virginia Wolf thing...). While we have our awareness focused we can imagine and "play" quite a bit, but we have to have a secondary awareness observing the imagination play to act as "scribe" or what-have-you so that when the magic time is over you have some recollection of the event stored in memory that you can access again. And perhaps act upon to bring into the "real world" (example: an artist imaging a new painting has to remember their "play" to later actually put on a physical canvas).

Honesty, I don't see why people feel the need to take drugs when the natural mind is capable of such weirdness on its own.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Our "civilization" is... flushing itself down the toilet

Cute title, huh ?
Over there on my loony blog, there is a link to an animal site (this takes place in the States, I can tell from the accent...) where you can watch a cat play for at least five minutes with a flush toilet. You can see the little wheels turning in its brain along these lines.... : WHAT is going on here ??? WHY does the water churn and swirl that way (we'll leave the answer to our favorite fractal expert...) ? WHERE does it disappear to ? And, cool, you can do it again and again...
Actually that cat is pretty smart to display its perplexity the way it does. If WE were a little smarter, and LESS denatured by the HABIT of living with flush toilets (there is a book out somewhere about the history of how we dispose of our... FIRST PRODUCT (Freudian lesson NUMBER 1, that's kind of cute, I didn't intend to make that pun, but since it works, let's go for it...)), we COULD ask ourselves lots and lots of questions about just WHAT they MEAN.
In the midst of my BIG existential crisis three years ago (my, how time flies...) it smacked me in the face just how... OBSCENE the idea of magically washing away our shit with drinking quality water is.
I NEVER use the word "obscene" lightly. It is an important word that packs lots and lots of judgment in it, and making judgments, while necessary, is fraught with peril.
Freud was mystified in the 19th century by our relation to our shit. He did NOT take into account the already pathological evolution that that relation had undergone in Victorian society. (Yeah, Thai, I'm saying pathological here. I'm not sure that there are REAL advantages to THIS alienation, and I see tons of disadvantages. We may not have a zero sum issue here, in the long run..)
The problem of shit is one that separates out... the COUNTRY rats from the... CITY rats. And this is very important. My grandmother (1888-1973) used an outhouse for a good part of her life, my mother (1920-1995), too. It was part of rural living. And when I came to France, I STILL saw people in the country using outhouses in.. 1985 or so.
No more outhouses, even in the country now.
So, what's the big deal ?
When you have an outhouse, your not so sweet smelling shit is CONSTANTLY there, reminding you that... there is a RELATION between you and your shit, and your body produces that shit, JUST THE SAME WAY THAT WHEN YOU DIE YOUR BODY IS GOING TO DISINTEGRATE INTO SOMETHING THAT SMELLS EVEN WORSE THAN SHIT BUT...
THAT REGENERATES THE EARTH, and ensures that future generations can continue to produce with/from the earth WITHOUT exhausting it, (and without having to whore oneself to that mega whore, Montsanto while buying lots of toxic products).
And... this takes place IN YOUR BACKYARD, not in some far away place (like a prison for the "evil doers" of this earth...) that you can conveniently NOT THINK ABOUT because, as we all know... out of sight is out of mind, and that's an incredibly NORMAL way for human beings to react.
So... in my book, as you can tell, flush toilets are a symptom of our incredibly twisted, neurotic relations to our bodies. And... while neurosis is NORMAL for us, and lots of shrinks spend time congratulating themselves that they are ONLY neurotic and not spychotic (not me, I've given up on that little consensual game) it wreaks havoc on our relationship to our bodies, and as a result, our relationship to nature. Neurosis is a sign of our incredible DIVORCE from our bodies, and higher up the line, from nature itself.
And you know me, (right Thai ?). It ALL hangs together.
Just a little example : I have been composting for more than three years now.
I collect my "shit" (vegetable decay...) for a period of about 1-2 weeks under the sink before mixing it into my big compost collector outside. It decomposes BEAUTIFULLY under the sink. (I keep the lid on, of course...)
When I did a little presentation to people to show people about composting, the reactions were... "Ew, yuccky". But.. it smells awful. (Actually, a well tended compost heap smells... better than your flush toilet when you've finished depositing your number 1.) That was their IDEA, their... PREJUDICE if you like. They were unbelievably surprised to realize that compost did NOT smell the way they thought it would (like THEIR number 1...) And these prejudices are keeping us from renewing the Earth the way that we USED to do before the industrial revolution society took over.
When you think about it... even the IDEA of shitting is on a par with.. ORIGINAL SIN for us. And we COULD be using the idea of shitting as a convenient ideological equivalent for original sin because now, y'all remember every disadvantage has its advantage, and although the idea of original sin humiliates the more rational of us, it was meant to keep us together, in line, and with a necessary dose of HUMILITY in our lives. Now, we no longer make the distinction between humility, and humiliation, and are little atoms which are light years away from being able to cooperate in meaningful ways...
This is not good for us, collectively. Believe you me.

By the way, I am (almost) the only one posting over here again, you lazy louts.
I know you're working and I'm not, BUT...

P.S. LOOK, yet another example of what I'm talking about. BLOGGER censured my title...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

What is your College English lit major good for ?

My regular readers perhaps have in mind that scene that I think I reported here where I was staying in an Albuquerque REAL youth hostel (you know, the kind of place where you can find real drifters, marginal people, some crazies, in addition to the hordes of scrubbed, fresh faced, sweet smelling, identical looking youth from all continents now that youth hostels (hotels ?) are SUPPOSED to attract...) two summers ago, to the despair of my younger bro who seemed to think that over 50 year old me could either get raped or have my head sawed off by a pen- knife-wielding, Greyhound-bus-traveling schizo.
Whew, that was a long sentence. Are y'all still with me ?
Anyways, I spent an evening rocking on the porch with a 40 year old unemployed man with a chip on his shoulder and a "why me" whine in his voice who kept telling little ole serene me that he just couldn't possibly understand how ANYONE could consider an English major, and subsequent unemployment, to be GOOD for anything. (But.. what's it GOOD for, he kept saying stubbornly..) And I obligingly repeated that an English major in the humanities was, in my book, the entrance to that select club of.. civilization.
You just can't EXPLAIN to some people why it's better to be civilized than it is to be... a barbarian. (Note : Do NOT presume that my definition of "barbarian" follows any predictable configuration... I had this discussion the other night with some bourgeois colleagues who seemed to think that cannibalism was that fine line that separated the barbarians from the civilized, and they did not seem particularly fazed when I pointed out that it was OUR "civilization" that had come up with industrialized death camps...)(Note 2 : Do NOT presume either that the syllogism English major= civilization morphs into.. -English major = -civilization...)
So... today I have been messing around on the Internet, and fell into the black hole of's literary criticism section. (Actually that's a euphemism for "client appreciation". Everybody knows that literary criticism died years ago.)
And discovered WHERE all of us English majors are hanging out these days...
WE are doing literary criticism (online reviews..) for FREE, for !!!!
(Gratuity is the future for mankind, trust me on this one.)
I could spend hours reading some of those reviews which are really really excellent.
Sigh. As irony would have it, the most intelligent reviews, the ones REALLY written by all of us unemployed intellectuals often get one or two stars because "WE'RE" so intellectual, so passionate about what we're doing that the average reader gets bored and zaps.
Back to the drawing board, and my next Amazon review.
(Incidentally, the FRENCH are so much less generous on this subject. NO online reviews, or almost none, and don't hold your breath thinking that there are fewer unemployed lit majors over here, because that's a lie. They're just... less generous, that's all.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

So our next topic of conversation

This video was left on SD

It is long and you can watch it all if you want to (if you have not already) but I am really more interest in talking about time 9:45 onwards.

You all know I am not a conspiratorialist, and yet as Deb reminded us during the discussion on child (shall we say) injuries, our thoughts and sense of damages on any given subject are highly influenced by the degree to which others in society weigh their significance.

If society is nudging us towards a "world community", is this a problem?

Even if this causes Americans to lose some national identity (and you all know I tend to think of myself as a "patriot" in the traditional sense of the word), does the loss of this part actually matter?

What battles are worth sacrificing to win a war?

But what is the war?

Some manifolds just piss me off...l and yet I have to admit they exist.

Some people's morality filters are just broken and need "readjustment" ;-)


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mad Men : The Carrousel

A new Heathcliff anonymous (or is it yoyo in disguise ???) put in THIS link on the last post :

(How about that, Thai, I am inviting you to dinner...)

I have never watched Mad Men, and had never heard of it before. I am... back in the Stone Age as far as American TV is concerned, in fact, as far as MOST TV is concerned.

This scene is particularly interesting when juxtaposed with... scenes from Nodame Cantabile (see previous post).
It is a moving scene. Sentimental, to a certain point without being maudlin.
In my mind, this scene is as American as... apple pie.
It illustrates just what being American IS, what the national aura or myth or whatever of American is :
A nice, earnest,honorable, honest young man in love with his wife who wants to do good in the world. (Hint : ALL of those words are weighted and mean something in this little equation...)
Why take exception to that ? WHO could possibly take exception to that ???

The underpinnings : this nice, earnest, etc etc young man is in an advertising conference. He is talking about.... how to EXPLOIT human psychology in order to SELL a product. (Yeah, I know, we all have to put our food on the table somehow, right ?)
So... is there something wrong with USING what we know about human psychology to SELL something ?
A lot of that depends on what kind of value/interpretation you put on the act of selling something to someone, right ? And on... WHAT you're selling ? If you're selling SHIT, and you know you're selling shit, then... the act of selling becomes a way of...duping, tricking another human being into doing something that he would NOT do if he were properly informed. And, YOU are deprived of the life sustaining possibility of.. believing IN what you're DOING (i.e... SELLING) AND the commodity/object/service that you're selling.
Along the lines of what I said in the last comment, WE have added another manifold (ah hah, Thai, I think that I have FINALLY used your word correctly, you may applaud...) when we step back to see the dimension of human spychology to incorporate it into our TACTICS, strategies, whatever, to obtain what we want. And this is NOT innocent ; there is a price to be paid for this new manifold (cynicism, insincerity, suspicion, paranoia, lots of things come to mind).
Back to apple pie.
This young man is so... EARNEST. I identify. This scene is... like well, Hemingway when in one of his novels he has a male character say to a lover, following lovemaking :"did the earth move ?", or something along those lines.
You just want to punch this character and say : lighten up !!! The sky is NOT falling ; the sun (also rises) tomorrow morning !
Which is where Nodame Cantabile comes in. You would NOT see this kind of scene in Nodame, which is fraught with emotion, sentiment, whatever. The characters may take themselves seriously, but... the SHOW does not take ITSELF seriously.
We are a very very complexed nation, in my book.
God, I went through 20 years of psychoanalysis to attempt to escape from Apple Pie.
Sometimes I think that I will be eating it.. in my grave...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Things are more complicated than you think...

This one is for the "evolutionists" in our midst, probably everyone, I think...
Patience. You'll have to wade through my introduction.

For the past four years I have participated in a psychoanalytic group where we read the (Jewish...) Bible together, Genesis. Last year, I abruptly pulled out of it, due to my... disaffiliation with... psychoanalysis, AND with... Judaism, which, in my book, remains predominant in our Western world, in the disguised/diluted form of Protestantism.

The first year, I immediately took exception with the biblical status alloted to... the animal world. A cursory examination of the creation story (and in the group there are no Bushies, ok, these are psychoanalysts who do NOT even believe in God, if you please ; France is a very secularized, atheist country...) allows you to perceive that... the status of animals is UNDER the status of human beings, and, THUS, MAN IS NOT AN ANIMAL, he is not included in the animal world for the Jewish religion. This point of view is fundamental to Judaism, as seen in the texts. Now... a "Jewish" person (what does that mean ???) MAY tell you that he believes in... evolution, BUT... IF HE IS JEWISH, he DOES NOT BELIEVE THAT MAN IS AN ANIMAL. Period. This is... the logical conclusion which imposes itself from the creation story : "God brought forward all the animals on the earth to the adamah, and... the adamah stuck names on them (sigh, that good old classification game..)." You have to wait for... the creation of "isha", woman (not Eve...) for the adamah (like a generic name for the species...), for "Adam" to find an help meet, an aid, but the text suggests that for "Adam", even the woman is not a real partner, someone to talk to, and not... AT, or ABOUT, at first.

This is a little more subtle than you might imagine. Because, you can scoff at the literalist ideas that the world was created in 6,000 years, that man was created by God, etc, etc, and think that the literalists are from another planet (which my Lacanian psychoanalyst friends do, by the way, just like many liberals in the U.S....) BUT... STILL reason like... man is NOT an animal.
AND... this is precisely what my shrink friends do when they say... but... we talk, we have language, OUR language says so much more than all of the other animals, we know what death is, we dig graves, and have funeral rites, and THUS.... WE ARE NOT ANIMALS (like the others...)
But... if you say this, then... how can you be a GOOD DARWINIAN like you think you are ???

Next point : IF we are animals, then... our status in our own eyes is going to depend heavily on... JUST HOW we perceive animals. AND... how we perceive animals has a history in our civilization. It depends on... (you knew this was coming...) the biblical creation story, AND, Descartes, animals as little machines, 18th century classification and reductionist thought, and the whole bit.
So... if we think that animals are shit, are little machines that we can stick into classifications, and manipulate, use for chiantific experiments, park in enclosures, send off to the concentration camp feeding lots/slaughtering houses, just HOW are we going to see ourselves ?
My shrink friends do NOT see the conflicts in their beliefs.
They STILL want to be human exceptionalists.
But... they say they believe in evolution.
Complicated, huh ?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Nodame Cantabile

Last night my reduced family (child one has flown the nest and is living as a couple in town, that's the fourth year med school student, TOO SERIOUS, TOO ERECTOR SET, but, time will tell...) spent two hours in front of my daughter's computer watching Nodame Cantabile (my husband too, by the way...).
Many thanks to my 19 year old daughter for introducing me to this little gem in 12 episodes, two special episodes, and two films that will come out toward the end of the year (in Japan, of course). It is the second Japanese series that I have fallen in love with in a year, and I told her : "Whoah, not too many series" because I don't want to become a no-life...(Some people would raise the question as to whether I am not ALREADY a no-life. If I am, my no-life is not FILLED with the computer, but with many alternative activities...) In Japanese, a no-life is a "okuyu", if I remember correctly.
I gave up on American television when I was 19 because... I found it boring, stupid, whatever. Even public TV had some kind of aura that just couldn't capture the interest of someone who was reading Thomas Hardy, Alexander Pope (link back to Hell...), sci fi. American TV was monumentally shitty.
And when I came to France, and discovered the TV of 1979, whoah, I fell back into it, because French TV at that time was CLASSY CLASSY. When Mitterand handed our first network over to the private sector in 1982 or so, it went downhill really fast, and I will no longer watch it either.
But... back to Nodame Cantabile.
I am putting my human ethology hat on, for a few comments.
The series is about a group of kids in a music academy. There are the "normal" kids : competitive, little robots that are on a running track to fame and fortune in an orchestra, or as soloists. They get along well in an elitist world where they are ground into the ground by the competition, pushed to the limit in... the world that WE have created in OUR vision of the way things... SHOULD BE. (You know, the best of the best, etc, you KNOW the dominant ideology these days, don't you ? If you don't, just take a little stroll on... Sudden Debt, and you will see it playing out...)
And then there are the... NOT normal ones. The sensitive ones. The.... EXTREMELY gifted ones who don't survive OUR ideology. They CAN NOT or WILL NOT become little submissive robots, evacuating all their emotions. BUT... their gifts are tremendous.
And the series shows what happens when... the not normal kids are ALLOWED to BE WHO THEY ARE, to do things THEIR WAY, to develop at THEIR pace, and not at OURS, at the teachers' pace.
It also shows what happens when the "normal" and the not normal get together.
EVERYBODY gains from this experience.
And another thing : the series shows people who are feeling and expressing emotions : tenderness, pain, love, people who can openly express their... fragility, (not weakness...).
They/we must recognize OUR interdependance.
Nodame is a joy, because the series is joyful and not cynical. The characters are HUMAN, not... robotic. And... it WILL transform Japanese society. BECAUSE : when we see people behaving this way, even if it is a fiction, we identify with them, we share their emotions which become our own. And the MORE we see people feeling and expressing emotions like tenderness, the more it will become ACCEPTABLE to feel and EXPRESS publicly these emotions.
And... our society will CHANGE, as it MUST, on this point.
Last comment : I am sharing Nodame with YOU, and with other friends, but NOT... my spy friends. These people are... forensic pathologists who snip and clip, peel back the skin, and DISSECT, DISSECT EVERYTHING.
I'm... tired of dissection. It was a family... trait that I no longer want to continue.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Make Of It What You Will

In response to Deb's comment about schizophrenics accepting the diagnosis or not

Here is the data I've compiled; make of it what you will. You may question the quality of the research, the method of analysis, and the logic of the conclusions. It is your choice whether to perceive it as your reality or not.

Your perception is yours alone to manage. Its a huge, unwieldy responsibility. There are certain default mechanisms available if you prefer autopilot. I wish you luck.

Hmmm. This seemed important enough for its own post at the time, but now it seems short and weird. This seems to happen to me frequently after I wake up

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dover Beach

This is my second attempt to post this. We have been having connexion problems, and I see spectres of the zero sum problem involved in the fact that it is at this very moment in time when we have the technological means to reunite us all, all over the planet, that our tendencies toward individuation and privatization can sap this very achievement in the very same movement. Is this clear to you ??

Matthew Arnold, the late 19th century author of "Dover Beach", one of the greatest, and best loved poems in the English language, was a very modern man. He lived through.. what WE are living through (there really is no excuse for our constant exceptionalism, the human condition has remained the same for millenia now...). He was a poet, a critic, a genius. And... Dinky, there is NO WAY to prechew poetry, unlike philosophy, history, and the rest...

"The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits -- on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone ; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night air !
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen ! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery ; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another ! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain ;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night." 1867

Samuel Barber set "Dover Beach" to music, and Fischer-Dieskau recorded it. I can not read the poem without hearing the music now, but... no matter. Both music and poetry are beautiful.
If you read the third strophe aloud "the sea of faith...", you will notice that it is in two breaths, and that at the end of the second breath, you will be dying for air, and will be forced to inspire on.. "ah love". Very well done, that. Try reading the poem aloud. Poetry is made to be read aloud.
Thai, this poem structures Ian McEwan's book "Saturday", about a day in the life of an eminent London neurosurgeon, a day during which his assumptions about his world, his work, his ethics, everything, are put to the test. You would enjoy this novel, I think. It would... challenge you.

This is not zero sums, but... I think that it is fair to say that historical apres-coup, the fact of looking back on our collective history has the effect of convincing us that the world in which our predecessors lived MUST HAVE SEEMED less confusing, less problematic, more simple, sometimes BETTER to THEM than ours does to us...
This is sheer delusion...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Need For Interns

(In a previous post I lamented that I needed interns to delegate some thinking to. This is what the title alludes to.)

1) Creatures have evolved many different mechanisms for eyesight. Is the same true for consciousness? Or do we all have the same mechanism, but at varying degrees of depth? I've observed my pets stopping to reflect before taking action. Something is going on in those little heads.

2) Can we tell which neurotransmitters are evolutionarily the oldest? To reverse-engineer something as complex as the mind/brain it seems best to start with the basics. Do "lesser" mammals have as many types of neurotransmitters as humans? It seems counterintuitive, but then I've been surprised before (i.e. we don't always have more genes).

3) What is currently the most self-sustaining community on the globe? What is the most nutritional dense crop that can be grown in WA soil? Is it more efficient to have crops for goats in this climate? How (and how fast) can soil be created? What is the best way to desalinate/purify water?

Sorry for the survivalist motif of the last one, but I get edgy when the price of gold spikes.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


This post is the first of two. Since we are a spin off of a financial blog, and in keeping with my last post, I am giving you the etymological history of the French word for money : "argent".
My idea is to compare this etymology with the one I will trace out in the next post on "money", courtesy, once again, of the OED, so we can see how two different societies have constructed their language, their attitudes about filthy lucre.
This text is MY translation of an entry in "Le Robert, Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Française" (historical dictionary of the French language). In what follows, I will lace French terms with the English translation.

ARGENT : a masculin noun from the high period (881), from the latin argentum, which designated the metal, (silver), silverware, and starting from Plautus, coin/currency. This noun, part of a vast series, is derived from arguere, "brightness, splendor, whiteness", whence the verb arguere, in the archaic sense, "to make shine, to give light", later giving rise to "to prove, demonstrate, convince", in the figurative sense (i.e. argument). The metal is called "the shiny", as "or" (gold) is called "the yellow". This appellation can be found in Greek, in the Celtic languages... It is perhaps an appellation borrowed originally from an Indoeuropean word.

IN FRENCH, "ARGENT" refers to IN ITS FIRST SENSE, and STILL TODAY, the precious (white) metal (silver). (My emphasis, you guys... YOU GUESS WHY !!!)...Since the 12th century the word has a particular symbolic meaning (blason) : it symbolizes whiteness, and splendor.

The meaning "monnaie métallique" (currency) appears early (1080), first for "monnaie d'argent" (silver currency), then in the XII century for all metal currency. The "ideas" attached to the word become more and more abstract as currency increasingly detaches itself from PRECIOUS (me again, ha !) metals : "billets" (bank notes) REPRESENT (me...) "argent" (metal) and ARE... "argent" (currency). However, starting with Old French, the means of payment was designated by a word initially concrete (deniers, pécune) (and not "ARGENT"me). The fact that the word "argent" has been substituted for these CONCRETE words, or "or" (gold) in modern French can be attributed to financial history which accorded the greatest importance to "argent" (more coins in silver minted, I think...) Usage has also played a great role. "argent liquide" (cash) "argent comptant" (immediate payment, cash or check) "argent de poche" (pocket money)....
The word "argent" is one which has the greatest number of slang, and familiar substitutes.

Comment : I LIKE THE FRENCH. Look, the PREDOMINANT sense of the word STILL is... the precious metal.
The process by which the word "argent" came to represent "currency", in French, is an example of what linguists call "metonymy". That means that since the greatest number of coins were initially made of silver, the meaning "currency" was derived from the makeup of those coins. Another example : in French we say "boire un verre", to drink a glass. Of course... nobody drinks a glass, you drink.. the contents of the glass. But if you think about it, NOBODY talks so precisely as to eliminate metonymy. You would sound really weird if you did...

Friday, October 2, 2009


You guys asked for this one, so you're getting it. First observation : I am a dictionary dog. I dig into the dictionary like a dog digs into a bone. When I was in fifth grade, my spinster home room teacher had "pink tea" for those students who misbehaved in class. Pink tea meant staying after class and copying entries from the dictionary. Guess what ? I loved it !!!! Like I loved that teacher...
Second observation : it really is buttwork giving you guys this number, because I am currently manipulating the OED, that's short for the Oxford English Dictionary, in two HUMUNGOUS volumes that you have to consult with a magnifying glass. This is very awkward going, so I hope you appreciate...

1) The method of digging silver ore. Obsolete. The sole sense recognized in English dictionaries down to, and including Todd, 1818. (I think that you can appreciate the terrible irony in this. WHAT was silver ore dug for, among other principle reasons in 1818 and before ???? if not.... FILTHY LUCRE, that pale drudge twixt man and man, as Shakespeare so aptly puts it.)
2) Chem : the method of handling apparatus in experiments, Pharm, the preparation of drugs. 1828
3) General : the handling of objects for a particular purpose, manual management ; also, making motions with the hand. 1840
4) The act of operating upon or managing persons or things with dexterity especially with disparaging implication, unfair management or treatment (of documents). 1864.

The verb "manipulate" was constructed using "manipulation" as its point of departure.

Commentary : (Geez, I really love this type of stuff, it gets my imagination riled.)
First comment : this is essentially a 19th century word, coined (lol) with the industrial revolution. AND... it is a word that has semantic links to filthy lucre, as stated above.
You will notice that INITIALLY this expression is NOT abstract ; it deals with an action done by the HAND, a part of the body. BUT... we could say that the more ABSTRACT this noun becomes, the more it detaches itself from the physical body, the more it takes on a pejorative sense, and persecutory connotations.
How about a little history here ?
What is happening to THE HAND as an "object" that is not an object to us in the 19th century ?
What kind of "manipulation" is it doing ?
Compare factory work (taylorized) with string instrument making.
The HAND is not doing the same thing at all, is it ?
And, we SHOULD know that our brains, our minds, our intelligence, are intricately tied to WHAT OUR HANDS ARE DOING.
And when our hands are not doing beautiful, meaningful, creative things, or creating beautiful objects to last and be cherished, well then, maybe the road is just paved for that last sense of manipulation, where our lost dexterity comes around to persecute us ?

(This number was brought to you by... the OED, and NOT Wikipedia, if you please...)

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