A Study in Cyberpunk Economic Philosophy

Saturday, 11 February 2017 09:11 by The Lunatic
There is a common theme in cyberpunk fiction stories: a monopolistic “megacorp” run by a [More]

The Arbitrary Nature of Rules and Regulations

Thursday, 11 August 2016 18:24 by The Lunatic
Here’s a question to ponder: Why do we set our kid’s bedtime at a nice round number like [More]

I Believe That Belief Is Irrelevant

Tuesday, 15 April 2014 16:44 by The Lunatic
In a previous article titled I’m a believer!, I proposed we should swap the traditional definition o [More]

The Lunatic’s take on Daylight Savings Time

Sunday, 4 November 2012 08:24 by The Lunatic
Twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, we move our clocks either forwards or backwards to accommodate the change in Daylight Savings Time. And twice a year, there are the requisite news articles written about Daylight Savings Time, explaining to everyone why we go through all this hassle. Then there are the cutesy and often misguided Facebook posts with statements like: “only the government would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.” (which is what prompted me to write this particular article in the first place!) So let’s get to the bottom of what Daylight Savings really is. First of all, however, we have to understand what midnight is. That’s right: midnight, the time that we’ve decided each day should start. Technically, midnight is the time that is halfway between sunset and sunrise. It’s simple enough, but that definition needs some clarification. As the Earth revolves around the Sun, the Earth’s tilt causes daylight hours to shift with the seasons. A better definition is that midnight is the time that is halfway between sunset and sunrise, at the equator, on either the fall or spring equinox (the only two days of the year when the sun is directly overhead at the equator). Now we’re getting somewhere, but there’s one more wrinkle in this definition. You see, the Earth is just over 24,000 miles around and More...

Raising Kids To Be Good Eaters

Friday, 4 May 2012 01:00 by The Lunatic
When my kids were born, in 1999 and 2000, I decided to conduct some scientific experiments on them. Oh, don’t worry, it wasn’t anything too gruesome; all their limbs and internal organs are still intact. I just wanted to put some personal child-rearing philosophies to the test and see if I could turn them into healthy and conscientious eaters without any odd phobias or irrational dislikes of certain foods. Fundamentally, I believe that kids’ eating habits are mostly formed between the ages of two and five, and having a pro-active methodology to respond to the typical food related tantrums that every kid goes through would help get through those critical years and make them better eaters. Primarily, my belief was that all kids naturally go through short cycles of not wanting to eat certain foods, not liking certain flavors or spices, and that many times (not always) this is due to external influences – not being hungry, tummy upsets, a particular mood, or just being enamored with something that tasted good last week and not wanting anything else. One of the key ideas is that these usually are “short” cycles of likes and dislikes, but having an inappropriate response can extend the cycles or even artificially create a lifelong dislike of one certain food. What I wanted to avoid was the typical parental response of coming to the conclusion that “my kids don’t like ... xxx”, when “xxx” really isn’t the problem. When parents come to the conclusion that “my kid doesn’t like xxx”, they usually stop giving their child that particular food and let everyone know at school and at play dates that their kid won’t eat it – or they make a big deal about it at home and try to forcefully cajole their kid to eat the food in question. Both responses perpetuates the cycle and just makes it worse. Furthermore, I truly believe that it gives positive reinforcement and the child realizes that they get extra attention when they don’t like something. So I would never say “M... [More]

I'm A Believer!

Friday, 27 April 2012 07:39 by The Lunatic
There is a pervasive and somewhat lopsided tendency in our society to separate fellow humans into the categories of being either “believers” or “non-believers”. The not-so-subtle implication is usually that there is something wrong with you if you are a “non-believer”. Let’s play a little game; I’ll take the position that there really is something wrong with non-believers. But first, let’s swap the traditional idea of who is a believer and who is a non-believer. For example, if I have a ball in my hand and I hold my arm straight out from my body and I drop the ball, I believe that the ball will always fall “down” – towards the ground. In our game, non-believers are the people who will say that god can make the ball go up, or sideways, or turn into a flying cheeseburger and flap its wings at the moon. If we get all the non-believers on Earth to PRAY really hard, and ask god to make the ball go “up” when I let go of it, I still believe it will go down. If you ask a believer why the ball will go down instead of up, the typical explanation you will get is that “gravity is a force that attracts two objects proportional to their mass”. In general, the answers that believers give you will have something to do with gravity, and the answers will be relatively consistent on average. Without some external physical force (a blast of air, or someone swatting it with a tennis racket for example), believers will say that the ball will drop “down” even if you conduct the experiment hundreds of billions of times, as long as the Earth and the ball have mass. However, if you ask all the non-believers why praying to god doesn’t ever change the fact that the ball goes down when dropped, you will get a bunch of different, inconsistent, and largely contradictory answers. One of the answers you might get is that ‘god doesn’t work that way’. I love that answer, I hear it all the time. I keep asking all the non-believers how god does work, and no one really seems to know. ... [More]
Categories:   Religion | Science | Social Issues
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An Apology to Mother Gaia

Tuesday, 12 July 2011 12:42 by The Lunatic
For the past billion years or so, every animal on Planet Earth has been in danger of being eaten by some other animal at one time or another. Humans aren’t immune from the risk, of course; just because we’re at the top of the food chain doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be a tasty treat to something else. A hiker was eaten by a bear in Yellowstone park just last week, and a few times a year we hear about sharks that feed on an unlucky swimmer. So I get a little perturbed by folks who tell me I shouldn’t eat meat because it’s unethical, or because we’re “exploiting” animals for our personal gain. Frankly, if every animal on the planet stopped eating other animals, all species would die out. The “Circle of Life” would come to a complete halt. Someone asked me if I’m a vegetarian and I said, “No, but I mostly eat vegetarian animals!” Granted, in our modern society, homo sapiens (especially the ones living on the North American continent) should cut back on meat consumption. But from a health standpoint, completely eliminating meat from our diet is going too far in the other direction.  We are omnivores and always have been, and we require a balanced diet. Unfortunately, some people balance their diet about as well as they balance their checkbooks and they end up overweight AND broke! Even though I’m certainly not a vegetarian, I do have many issues with our “factory farmed” meat production. Not just because it might be considered “cruel” to animals, but because we are getting increasingly isolated from our food supply.  In the past 100 years, we’ve become the very first humans in history where the majority of the population doesn’t know where our food comes from, or how it’s grown and processed. As long as the grocery store is fully stocked and the local restaurant can serve a hot dinner plate in a timely fashion, we’re happy.  We don’t want to think about where it comes from – and if we watch a video of a butcher at work, it’s considered “gross” for some ... [More]

Americans and their Guns

Wednesday, 8 June 2011 20:20 by The Lunatic
I’m really tired of seeing these news stories, pretty much every single week lately, about some kid (usually under age ten) who gets their hands on a gun and accidentally shoots themselves, a parent, sibling, or their best friend. It’s not so much that I’m against guns; but I’m certainly against the American attitude towards guns. Everyone is so concerned about their “right” to own a gun. But with rights come responsibility. The question shouldn’t be “do I have the right to own a gun?” – the question we should ask is “am I willing to bear the responsibility of owning a gun?” Pro-gun advocates often invoke references to Switzerland as a country where gun ownership is high and crime is low. I lived in Switzerland for a year and just recently moved back to the USA. In Switzerland, every adult male must serve in the armed forces for at least two years, and those that have received combat training are considered “reservists” – and as such, they are required by law to keep their military issued service arms at home in case of an attack by a foreign country. The difference is the Swiss attitude towards the firearms. Gun ownership is for the protection of the country; it’s not for personal protection, not an item that is brought out and shown off to all your friends, not something that is brought along to the bank or grocery store, not something that you can buy and sell at a flea market or local shop, and certainly not something that is left lying around for kids to pick up and play with. It is not a “right” to own a gun in Switzerland, it is a responsibility, which they take very seriously. The Second Amendment to the US constitution states: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. I know the issue has been bashed to death by the courts, and everyo... [More]
Categories:   Politics | Social Issues
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Government Debt and Rising Interest Rates – A Dangerous Combination

Tuesday, 17 May 2011 05:41 by The Lunatic
Everyone knows that our national debt is completely out of control. But there’s an important issue that the press seems to be ignoring: the potentially devastating effect of rising interest rates. The Federal Reserve is responsible for implementing our fiscal policy, but the Fed can not “set” interest rates – the overall market does that, based on supply and demand.  However, the Fed can influence rates by increasing or restricting money supply.  At the moment, just like in Louisiana and Mississippi, the floodgates are wide open. The bond market is awash in “virtually free” money, which is artificially keeping interest rates at historic lows. But here’s the crux of the issue: with the floodgates open, the reservoir will eventually run dry – and the expectation is that interest rates will then rise. What happens to our federal budget when rates go up?  It could get really ugly really quickly. Here’s why: If you look at the chart in my earlier post, Trying to Make Sense of the Federal Budget, (the second chart, with the Social Security and Medicare numbers removed), you will see that interest payments on the federal debt clocked in at $218 billion in 2010, or 11% of our federal budget: The weighted average interest rate of all the US debt currently runs about 2.07%.  Shorter term debt has a lower interest rate – less than .25% – and longer term debt has a higher interest rate – approaching 4.375%. When longer term debt is more expensive than short term debt, we have what is referred to as More...

Yet another blog article about Osama Bin Laden

Friday, 6 May 2011 04:36 by The Lunatic
It’s only been a few days since Osama Bin Laden was killed, and I can’t even count the number of news articles, opinion pieces, interviews, historical retrospectives, biographies, rants, and random comments I’ve read. Most intriguing to me is the question of whether or not we should be celebrating someone’s death.  I’ve read a couple of interesting postings specifically on this subject, but it brings up some larger questions about humanity. I’ve always considered the human race to be one big organism. Each individual person is like a cell in the human body, with their own specific job in life. But the overall total is what makes up the “body” of humanity. Some people do the majority of our thinking, some people do the majority of “manual labor”. Some people make it their life’s work to heal others, some provide food, and – just like the cells in our body – some handle the unpleasant tasks like hygiene and waste disposal. And some people are like cancer. They grow up with the specific intent of killing others. Some of these cancers are so insidious that they actually threaten the existence of all of humanity. Our cells do fight back when threatened, and if they can’t handle the attack on their own, the heroes of our our body – the white blood cells, for example – come to the rescue. But sometimes, even more drastic measures are required. If a patient has to undergo surgery to remove a cancerous tumor, the surgeon needs to cut out a little more around the tumor – removing some healthy cells in the process.  Consider that to be the equivalent to “collateral damage” in war (see my previous posting, Wrestling the Anaconda, for a humorous view of the “margins” that a surgeon needs to remove from around dead tissue during surgery ...) Ok, it’s not a perfect analogy, but you get the idea. The removal of Osama Bin Laden from the human collection was an extremely precise, laser accurate surgery – with very little collateral damage.  But 1) we left a lo... [More]