Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Long Tail

Completed the subject book by Chris Anderson on my recent fishing trip. The graphic shows the statistical "long tail" from which the book gets it's title. The old 80/20 rule and a number of other statistical models net a graph where a large number of products, people, profits, or something else are crowded in the head of the graph and then a "long tail" of diminishing numbers heads off to "infinity" on the right of the graph. However, if one can negotiate it, there can be similar, or even more demand in the long tail than in the traditional "hits". The future according to this book is "selling less (units) of more things".

Anderson argues that the long tail in markets is an aberration of the last hundred years of technology. The rise of national newsprint, movies, radio and TV all led to "scarcity marketing". The number of hours, stations, and pages of mass market advertising capability was "scarce" (at least limited), and so was the carrying capacity of even the biggest stores. We became a "hit driven culture", where we all wanted to watch the same shows, see the same movies and follow the same suburban "ideal lifestyle". Everything became about "star power" in people, products, or ideas. He feels that culture peaked somewhere in the 50's - 60's, but then started a slow decline.

The internet has created a tectonic shift, and the "mass culture" is radically changing very rapidly now, and headed toward a "niche culture" where the majority of products and even ideas are out in "the long tail". Amazon, iTunes, Google, eBay, Netflix, Blogs, Wikipedia, and a host of others are all raised as current examples of "connecting with the tail". Amazon and iTunes have nearly infinite "shelf space" and little or no cost of inventory. He points out how Google and other search technologies provide the "filtering capacity" so the infinite choice of the tail can be effectively navigated. Interesting contrast to "The Paradox of Choice" here, partially because the Paradox failed to recognize that the new world of the net also provides more powerful tools that allow the choice to be managed. People that never left their home town had no use for maps and celestial navigation skills. Once a set of people begin to travel, those tools become critical. So it is with the new world of "infinite choice", attempting to deal with it without the tools doesn't work.

He ends the book with some key rules for business in the long tail, the two key ones being:

1). Make everything available
2). Help me find it

For those that have used Google and Amazon, most of the other items are "obvious", but that book is worth a read as a pretty good summary of a major change that seems to be going on the world, even though it doesn't really predict where that change will end up, the information on how to deal with it will no doubt make it one of the key business books.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Paradox of Choice

Paradox of Choice: Why Less is More, Barry Schwartz

I finished up the subject book a week ago, but am up at Williams Narrows Resort on Lake Winnibigoshish in Nothern Minnesota for a few days fishing and have been lazy on the Blog. The first couple days the weather was great and so was the fishing. Decent numbers of fish from the 14" inch size up to 20" on the rockpiles along the N side of the main lake along with some success on crankbaits in Cutfoot Sioux. Yesterday the weather changed and so did the fishing, it has been slow since, but we have still been able to pick up a few, so not the complete drought. It has been nice to have a top for the boat since last night as there has been a good deal of rain.

I really enjoyed the Paradox book, even though I tend to think that the author misses the fact that humans and technology tend very much to adapt to problems. Yes, "too much choice" CAN be a problem, but it doesn't HAVE to be. He points out how all the available choices that we face today can cause anxiety, and regret as we realize that "wow, I could have had a V8!" after having mere tomato juice, but it doesn't have to be that way, and the alternative (not enough choice) is not really that good.

His point is that as the number of available choices rises, the ability of any consumer to select the "best alternative" becomes more and more difficult. Worse, with the increasing rate of change and the available mass information, a consumer is going to see and be able to compare themselves with many others, and are likely to be aware when they make a poor choice. This leads to a greater "decision cost" as they try to decide, and for many consumers it means that they are less satisfied with what they purchase, as they either have specific evidence (or are at least suspicious) that they didn't select the best alternative.

He goes deeper to correctly lament the effect of "loss of values". He uses the example of marriage as a case where people that for religious, cultural, or personal reasons are able to simply decide that "they are married for life" have a happier marriage. It turns out that "always being in the market" creates dissatisfaction and tends to lead to a series of divorces, none of which produces a marriage as happy as the person who "limited their choices". He goes on to talk a bit about how "on average", the Amish are happier than the rest of us, and their lives are simpler and they have less choice. He somehow seems to miss the concept that they also believe in more than a material world and pure consumerism being the basis for a happy life.

It seems he manages to point out some items that are likely obvious to all but the most jaded pure materialist consumer, but misses the idea that deeper meaning doesn't depend on growing a beard, wearing black and living an agrarian lifestyle. For a man of ideas, he seems to miss the fact that ideas are way more powerful for humans than "things", and it is quite possible to realize that while living at even the forefront of the technological world. He also seems to somehow miss the fact that much of the "noise" of the modern world of choice can be filtered with variants of the very same technology that has created it. "Google" being a primary example, but there are countless others. In the area of electronic gadgetry for example, I like CNET for advice. I've decided that I will voluntarily limit my choices to some of their top picks, rather than do all the research myself. Therefore, no matter how many choices there are in the real world, my set of choices is small.

There is a lot of "left world view" in Paradox. I'm often struck by how the far left eventually decides that the "masses" can't be left with the full choice of the market economy, and "something must be done". It is also interesting how frequently they are drawn to the fringes of traditional isolated religious groups like the Amish to attempt to make their point. The left is often driven by envy to such a degree that they become fixated on even the idea that "someone may have chosen better", or "be happier", or even be "enabled" to POTENTIALLY make "better choices" or "live a better life". They tend to have an extreme problem though in their definition of "better". They seek to view economic choices in terms of "objective measures" like income or assets. They then seek to quantify "happiness" in the same way with some sort of "survey says" mentality.

To those who already see life as more than just a materialist chase, it becomes very evident that the "Paradox" thinking has completely missed most everything. A combination of sadness and the danger of the left is very visible as one realizes that once they have completed their "objective analysis", they see "no other alternative" than to forcibly limit choice for ALL in order to "increase happiness" by the measures that THEY choose.


PB Article

The son of a long time friend from work and fishing started up a Podcasting company on his own at age 15 and sold it this summer for $200K in stock and a $40K a year part-time salary to continue working on it. Small part of the opportunity in the new economy that gets not a whole lot of media attention. Note that while his monetary gain is much greater than other teens, he didn't "take anything away" from other teens working at local burger joints or stocking shelves. The value he created is new value, value that didn't exist prior to the innovation of creation of the company. While the left tends to look at all business as a "zero sum game" where when one succeeds, others are forced to fail, MOST of the modern information economy is not this way. New value is created and the entire market rises with the addition of the new value. The left will of course lament that the value creator usually benefits the most, but being on the left means that it is very hard to be happy about anyone doing well, because you have allowed envy to become your dominant thought vs appreciation for the success of others.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hearts, Minds and Calcium

In the process of my physical for age 50 I was treated to a Cardiac CT scan. The procedure is relatively easy as medical tests go. You lay on a slab that moves you in and out of the big CT donut with some leads attached to your chest. The technology allows a calcium score to be calculated that is considered a new indicator for the potential of a cardiac event. Calcium in the arteries is "atherosclerosis" or "hardening of the arteries". It ISN'T "blockage", but they believe that it is a precursor to blockage. I managed to fail it very well with a score for my age that would put only 6 people out of 100 being worse off.

The test was a week ago Thursday, with the results the following day, so I got a full week to enjoy "limbo" relative to how bad this really is. Friday AM I took a stress test, which fortunately I passed with flying colors. A good hour was spent in the PM talking to a couple of I'm sure very high priced Mayo cardiologists. The bottom line is "it is another risk factor, but it is too early to give a solid % of exactly how bad it is". What it means for sure is "Lipitor, low cholesterol diet, lose weight, more medication to reduce blood pressure and be sure to keep up all the exercise".

Interestingly, we don't really have the technology to predict "sudden death heart attacks", although the Cardiac CT is often oversold as just that. At least at Mayo, the next test after the Cardiac CT is the stress test, and they have no inclination to do a Angiogram where they put a probe into the heart unless there is chest pain and/or a negative indicator on a stress test. Putting a probe into the heart is not without risk, and unless someone is 50% blocked or greater, they aren't going to stent it anyway. They will proceed with the same drug therapies that I'm now on in hopes of some level of reversal, or at least slowing the deposits so that the rest of the population catches up with the patient.

Everyone over "40 or so" carries around an increasing risk that "something will go wrong" and a piece of plaque (that nearly everyone that age has some of) will break off and lodge in the wrong place. When it does, things go bad in a hurry and life is in danger. They have a lot of theories about the mechanism; inflammation is a leading guess, and they check the blood for something called "C-reactive protein", yet another risk factor which was fortunately normal in my case.

So, I embark on an attempt to radically change my weight profile ... even though a relatively svelte Moose at 6'4" 280lbs, it is time to work toward the lower bounds of "lost Moosehood" in the lower 200lb register. Some nut claims that even for 6'4" and "massively boned" (size 14 ring) something like an anorexic 240 is "obese". "Living" seems a better idea than "living large", so a smaller feedbag is already in evidence.

Certainly I would have preferred a great score and no need to make any changes, but being given the opportunity to make changes and hopefully avoid a heart attack seems like a blessing that should be looked at positively. The "easy week" of weight loss is behind me with 6lbs down. It ALWAYS seems easy for the first week ... but when 10% of your bodyweight is 28lbs, it ought to be ;-(

I'm thinking that the logical thing is to "blame the skinny" and lay some sort of a "skinny tax" on them. I've seen some of those high metabolism types eat like there was no tomorrow and not put on weight. Such things are simply "not fair", and any decent Government would find some way to put those folks in their places as fast as possible! It must be Bush's fault that it hasn't been done already!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Will On Wal-Mart

George Will does a few great columns every year, this one is one of his best and WAY worth a read all the way through. Showing my ignorance of how long things live on the Internet, I'm going to both copy it in here and link it. Take your pick, the link is likely prettier, but once it is in here it gets copied to my e-mail, so it goes up in my 2.7GB free Google archive, which means I sure hope it lasts "forever".

I often comment on the nature of what I see as a "looking glass world"; we all have a remarkable tendency to exhibit the same traits or thoughts that we abhor in others in some form that is shifted from the original we think we hate. Like a mirror shows a reversed image. Many times those "shifts" are not as precise as a mirror, but they can be close; a person that constantly harps on greed is easy prey for its mirror, envy. Unfortunately, none of us is exempt from this human trait, and maybe the best we can hope for is awareness, but like awareness of many other things; say aging and death for example, mere knowledge does little to avoid our peril.

But potentially awareness can at least reduce our certainty. The religious can often fall prey to fundamentalism where whey believe that they have discovered the full truth of God and lose their humility. For liberals, typically lacking any God but man, there seems to be no choice but fundamentalism. The must believe in the rightness of their truth, since they have manufactured it, and have no higher power to appeal or bow to. Thus, condescension is pretty much a way of life for the left, and Will captures a piece of it very well here.

Liberalism As Condescension

September 14, 2006
Liberalism as Condescension
By George Will

EVERGREEN PARK, Ill. -- This suburb, contiguous with Chicago's western edge, is 88 percent white. A large majority of the customers of the Wal-Mart that sits here, less than a block outside Chicago, are from the city and more than 90 percent of the store's customers are African-American.

One of whom, a woman pushing a shopping cart with a stoical 3-year-old along for the ride, has a chip on her shoulder about the size of this 141,000 square- foot Wal-Mart. She applied for a job when the store opened in January and was turned down because, she said, the person doing the hiring "had an attitude.'' So why is the woman shopping here anyway? She looks at the questioner as though he is dimwitted and directs his attention to the low prices of the DVDs on the rack next to her.

Sensibly, she compartmentalizes her moods and her money. Besides, she should not brood. She had lots of company in not being hired: More than 25,000 people applied for the 325 openings.

Which vexes liberals like John Kerry. (He and his helpmeet last shopped at Wal-Mart when?) In 2004 he tested what has become one of the Democrats' 2006 themes: Wal-Mart is, he said, "disgraceful'' and symbolic of "what's wrong with America.'' By now, Democrats have succeeded, to their embarrassment (if they are susceptible to that), in making the basic numbers familiar:

The median household income of Wal-Mart shoppers is under $40,000. Wal-Mart, the most prodigious job-creator in the history of the private sector in this galaxy, has almost as many employees (1.3 million) as the U.S. military has uniformed personnel. A McKinsey company study concluded that Wal-Mart accounted for 13 percent of the nation's productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s, which probably made Wal-Mart about as important as the Federal Reserve in holding down inflation. By lowering consumer prices, Wal-Mart costs about 50 retail jobs among competitors for every 100 jobs Wal-Mart creates. Wal-Mart and its effects save shoppers more than $200 billion a year, dwarfing such government programs as food stamps ($28.6 billion) and the earned-income tax credit ($34.6 billion).

People who buy their groceries from Wal-Mart -- it has one-fifth of the nation's grocery business -- save at least 17 percent. But because unions are strong in many grocery stores trying to compete with Wal-Mart, unions are yanking on the Democratic Party's leash, demanding laws to force Wal-Mart to pay wages and benefits higher than those that already are high enough to attract 77 times more applicants than there were jobs at this store.

The big-hearted progressives on Chicago's City Council, evidently unconcerned that the city gets zero sales tax revenues from a half a billion dollars that Chicago residents spend in the 42 suburban Wal-Marts, have passed a bill that, by dictating wages and benefits, would keep Wal-Marts from locating in the city. Richard Daley, a bread-and-butter Democrat, used his first veto in 17 years as mayor to swat it away.

Liberals think their campaign against Wal-Mart is a way of introducing the subject of class into America's political argument, and they are more correct than they understand. Their campaign is liberalism as condescension. It is a philosophic repugnance toward markets because consumer sovereignty results in the masses making messes. Liberals, aghast, see the choices Americans make with their dollars and their ballots, and announce -- yes, announce -- that Americans are sorely in need of more supervision by ... liberals.

Before they went on their bender of indignation about Wal-Mart (customers per week: 127 million), liberals had drummed McDonald's (customers per week: 175 million) out of civilized society because it is making us fat, or something. So, what next? Which preferences of ordinary Americans will liberals, in their role as national scolds, next disapprove? Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet?

No. The current issue of The American Prospect, an impeccably progressive magazine, carries a full-page advertisement denouncing something responsible for "lies, deception, immorality, corruption, and widespread labor, human rights and environmental abuses'' and of having brought "great hardship and despair to people and communities throughout the world.''

What is this focus of evil in the modern world? North Korea? The Bush administration? Fox News Channel? No, it is Coca-Cola (number of servings to Americans of the company's products each week: 2.5 billion).

When liberals' presidential nominees consistently fail to carry Kansas, liberals do not rush to read a book titled "What's the Matter With Liberals' Nominees?'' No, the book they turned into a best-seller is titled "What's the Matter With Kansas?'' Notice a pattern here?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

9-11 +5

Like most things these days, I'm late with my 9-11 post. I'm sure there will be more on that later, but work, health, my school board job, and a few other odds and ends keep me slowed down on writing.

Five years have passed since 9-11. I remember the day well, I was in a meeting with a guy from Haifa Israel whose sister worked at the WTC (she got out OK). How many Americans can honestly say that they would have believed on this day 9-11-2001 that we would not have been attacked in the 5 years following? I'd assume very few, and that would include me. We had been attacked with relative frequency somewhere in the world during the '90s; the first WTC attack, Kovar Towers, the USS Cole, and other smaller attacks. It was only reasonable to assume that we would have more, and likely greater attacks. 9-11 taught most of us for a few weeks, and some of us for our lives that there was no limit to what these people were willing to do. The current Iranian president is on tape saying that if they attack Israel with enough nuclear power to kill the Israelis but Israel gets off enough to destroy Iran, it is still a "victory". Israel is gone, and billions of Muslims live on. The US and world press ignores this, as they did all the signs leading to 9-11.

The reason for not being attacked seems obvious. We went on offense. We are fighting Al Quaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan with relatively large military forces. We are fighting them and other groups around the world with CIA and other intelligence services. They are forced to hide for their survival, their funds are cut off, their communications are monitored and when caught, they are incarcerated for long periods of time with the best modern methods of interrogation. Their lot is much worse than it was prior to 9-11. Were the Democrats in power, we can be sure that the MSM would be telling everyone these facts, and calling them "success".

Who would have thought that our economy would be comparable to even better than it was during the late '90s after the dual shocks of the Internet bubble recession that started in 2000 followed by the 2001 shock of 9-11? Virtually nobody I'd suspect, it seemed flat out impossible. Add in a few huge hurricanes and oil price shocks, and it would have seemed ridiculously optimistic. We couldn't possibly be experiencing moderate to high growth in incomes and jobs and low inflation in that kind of world could we? Well, we are, but again almost nobody knows it.

The MSM has a HUGE problem that something like 1/2 of Americans will still indicate the Saddam had WMD. He only used them in the late 80's, and we found 500 rounds. Nope, that is the WRONG ANSWER, the right answer is "no WMD were ever found" ... because those 500 rounds were much less than expected, so they just don't count. However, on the economy something like 65% of Americans think it is "bad" which would mean that we only had a "good economy" in like '98, '84, and '53. Things have just been bad in this country most all the time by that logic. That however doesn't bother them, they are quite happy that the sheep got that one right!

On top of it all we have over 100K troops in Iraq, and have lost 3k military lives in defense of the country since 9-11. Name wars in which it took 5 years for the military losses to equal the civilian losses on day 1. Stumped? One; the Current War on Terror. That isn't really a war though, that is some sort of an action for "political benefit". It is politics of the oddest kind though ... again, something over 60% OPPOSE the war, and the MSM that often wants to claim it was all "for political purposes" expects a Democrat rout this fall because of an "unpopular war". The MSM keeps trying to make it into "Vietnam". Well, I guess Al Quada is telling America to "give up and go home" now and N Vietnamese used to do the same thing. Somehow though, I don't see these guys as the sort that are likely to have Jane Fonda come over and sit on a gun, and I don't think they are going to operate many prisons for US prisoners. One would think that the left would find Muslims that provide zero rights for women, pray 3 times a day, stone gays, and cut peoples heads off to be somewhat unappealing, but it goes to show that any group willing to fight America is popular with the left and the MSM.

Just like most anything else that happens, 9-11 pretty much just made everyone more of what they are. The right has more resolve to stand and fight for America and freedom around the world. The left has found a new ally in the never ending fight of anger and rage to "tear it all down". The battle is always here, it just looks a bit more stark when the issues are brought to the surface by an event like 9-11.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Working for Rove

I spent a couple hours Saturday AM working at the local Republican headquarters on one of the "Karl Rove evil secret mechanisms". The awful secret consists of a phone list, created from who knows where with a canned set of questions as a "survey" that are mark-sense for later reading into a computer.

You call the party, indicate that you are "taking a survey", and then go through a series of questions. Taxes, Gay Marriage, Gun Control, Abortion ... then you ask "party preference". Only if they specify Republican do you ask the next questions about registration and interest in volunteering. In any case, you remain polite and thank them for their time.

Depending on how they answer, even if they are Democrat, Independent, or "don't care", they will get targeted mailings. Democrats and the MSM find this "evil" ... Republicans should NEVER raise the issues of "God, Guns and Gays", since those issues are "unimportant". Of course, if the issues are "unimportant", then one would think that Democrats would just be willing to agree with the Republicans on them and get them off the table? No? Hmm, maybe they aren't THAT unimportant.

Prior to the time when I'm sure I exited 95% of the Democrats lists by making contributions to republicans large enough to show up on public lists, I'd get calls with questions like "Are you in favor of clean water", or "Do you think the rich should pay their fair share of taxes". I'd bet dollars to donuts that they were doing the exact same thing, but no doubt that was "grass-roots political action", and the folks thinking of it and carrying it out were to be admired from the perspective of the MSM. It really is all a matter of perspective.

Certainly not "fun or glamorous work", but I suspect it is the kind of work that if done over and over for years builds up the kinds of mailing lists and information that helps win elections. I suspect that I'll put in a few more hours this fall just out of motivation from the MSM telling me that any hope for Republicans is a lost cause. They may always be right, but it is fine with me to do my best in a lost cause.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Hollywood and Truth

We have no less a symbol of truth than Bill Clinton out telling ABC to "tell the truth" about 9-11.

We also have Harry Reid, Senate Minority leader in a letter to ABC not being too subtle about threatening their license:

Presenting such deeply flawed and factually inaccurate misinformation to the American public and to children would be a gross miscarriage of your corporate and civic responsibility to the law, to your shareholders, and to the nation.

The Communications Act of 1934 provides your network with a free broadcast license predicated on the fundamental understanding of your principle obligation to act as a trustee of the public airwaves in serving the public interest. Nowhere is this public interest obligation more apparent than in the duty of broadcasters to serve the civic needs of a democracy by promoting an open and accurate discussion of political ideas and events.

We urge you, after full consideration of the facts, to uphold your responsibilities as a respected member of American society and as a beneficiary of the free use of the public airwaves to cancel this factually inaccurate and deeply misguided program.

Hmm, lets see. Does anyone remember Fahrenheit 911? A guy named Michael Moore? A movie that re-defined "inaccurate", was praised in the press as a "Documentary", and Moore sat next to Jimmy Carter during the '04 Democrat Convention.

"Inaccurate"? Republicans didn't even threaten CBS license when they ADMITTED that they put on a NEWS STORY multiple times that was based on FAKE DOCUMENTS! If they had, there is a word that would have been all over the MSM. That word is "chilling". It shows up every time Republicans question the accuracy of any media creation.

I have no idea if the ABC show is accurate. I don't have any real problem with Democrats not liking the show and wanting parts or all of it pulled. A threat on the broadcast license seems like a bridge way too far, but it is FINE that they want to have their say about the program.

BUT, just look at the MSM! When Republicans had something to say of the proposed Reagan mini-series, we say "chilling" and worse all over. We heard of suppression of "free speech", and how "artistic freedom" was being abridged. Where is that talk now? The MSM CHEERED Fahrenheit 9-11 in an election year, and it wasn't a matter of a "couple scenes", the whole movie was complete propaganda.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

MPR On Rumsfeld

I got to hear a few minutes of a great example of MPR "journalism" today on their "Mid Day" program. They opened by saying they were going to "discuss" Donald Rumsfeld and the Democrats moves to try to get him removed as Secretary of Defense. They introduced Joseph Galloway, and then "in the interest of full disclosure" announced that he has been trying to get Rumsfeld removed for THREE YEARS. To cover the other point of view, they had NOBODY! They didn't even manage their usual capability of covering both the left and the FAR LEFT. They just had one stooge blathering about how bad Rumsfeld was supposed to be.

As the Zen Masters say, "What is the sound of one hand clapping"? Yes, the general media and certainly Public Radio are in full "kill all the Republicans, take over both houses of congress and impeach Bush" mode. Of course, it may work ... it ALWAYS looks like it will, this was about the same time as the Dan Rather debacle in '04. They are going to try everything they can. Something like 65% of people are sheep enough to think that THIS economy is BAD. If they had seen Jimmuh Carter they would have just a tiny clue what a bad economy is. This economy is the best since the 80's , now better than even the Fornicator in Chiefs Internet bubble.

It is a real privledge to pay taxes for the Public Propoganda Station ... one would think they could put on somebody that even CLAIMED to be somewhat unbiased. Guess not, it is time to get all the sheep riled up and charging for the Democrat cliff. I imagine that the typical MPR sycophant ate it up like truth from on high.

In case you like pure rancid bias, or don't and want to see how the easily led think what they do, take a look at this. The picture pretty much tells the story without even listening.
The Drivel

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver

I finished the subject book by Richard Weaver over the weekend, and have to say that "The Closing of the American Mind" has a solid, and I think better pre-cursor in this book. Published in 1948, the VAST oversimplification of it is:

1). Once Transcendence was abandoned in the 14th century, we started down the road that has left human thought cut off from the greater reality of at least history, and to the best of an intellectual understanding, reality and truth itself.

2). The core reason is that once the higher function of "universal types" and "pure intellect" is given up, all that is left is material and supposedly objective measurement. The senses (that which does the measuring) take over, and there is nothing to stop the descent until it ends at "man is the measure of all things".
"The issue ultimately involved is whether there is a source of truth higher than, and independent of man; and the answer to the question is decisive for one's view of the nature and destiny of humankind. The practical result of nominalist philosophy is to banish the reality which is perceived by the intellect and to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses".
Two elements in the book that give strong pause to me personally. One is the assertion that the reformation unleashed the forces that led to the decline and eventual at least effective loss of Western civilization. Being a Lutheran and a conservative, it gives one pause to consider that essentially such a combination can't exist in at least one intelligent world view.

The other areas are the related items of capitalism, technology, science, money and comfort. First, it is hard to argue that science and technology has not been a strong ally of the move to materialism and the worship of man. As a computer scientist and technologist however science and technology look much different from the inside. Yes, our modern tools have great leverage, but they fall far short of ultimate ideas and truth. However, is it practical to continue to advance technology and expect the bulk of mankind to be able to grasp true transcendent knowledge and truth? Not an easy question to answer, and Weaver would certainly answer it "no".

With no transcendence, man is left thinking that "comfort is happiness", and finds himself on an endless treadmill of competition to acquire the next convenience to give him comfort, until he ends up on a cruise ship, and bliss is achieved. Just joking ... ends up on a cruise ship with a book, and then ... ok, seriously.

I'm not going to claim that I've got this whole book wired, but it seems to me that there is nothing in science / technology / economics / etc that prevents SOME people from deciding that there ARE external perfect forms (eg God and religion), and "reaching ground" at some point for which the cruise ship or even a decent US middle class home close to a WalMart would be a justifiable point to declare the race to the ultimate comfort is now over, and it is good enough to consider THIS the equivalent of enough food, clothing and shelter to cover "primitive" materialist needs". Then we can light up the fireplace, open a Bass, and declare the search for real meaning in session. (yes, that is flip ... this line actually DOES give me pause, so I'm being flip)

BUT, he doesn't go there, and maybe he doesn't go there because I'm missing some impossibility. He seems to be a bit more hyper-smart than I'm going to grasp on one reading, but that is OK. I need to have some set of books that I hunt to the ends of the earth to get leather bound copies of (or try to talk my Sons into doing that for me some day). Somehow I think that particular consumptive paradox might be one that Weaver would approve of ;-)

I imagine that I'll try multiple blogs on this book, but in the meantime, this is on my philosophical "just buy it" list. Unless you are a raving liberal, and then you might just blow a gasket reading it!

The First to College

Saturday we took our eldest Son off to school a mere hour away. We carried the stuff to the room, put it all together, said our goodbyes, and headed home with hearts turning to lead. As plans are now, he will return in two weeks time for the weekend. He has been gone for nearly two weeks on trips away from home before, and there have been times with back to back Scout and Church camps that we have seen very little of him for longer than that. Intellectually it ought to be easy, but the emotions don't seem to agree.

At the bottom of it all, it is clear that he is no longer "ours". That has of course been less and less true the last few years, but his home was still here. We generally knew what he was up to pretty much all the time, and he was part of our life mostly on a daily basis. If not for the next week or two, then "pretty soon", and he would be back. He may yet be back again for the summer, but there is the knowledge of the transition. Not the same. It ought to be better, and it likely will be, but the arrow of life goes only one way. A point has been crossed and so much is now clearly only a memory not to be repeated.

Were he to still be here and wanting to "spend some more time", we would no doubt support him in that as well, but there would be tension. When the chick is grown too big for the nest, it is time to leave. Life lived the best it can be is at best "bittersweet" at times. The very lucky watch their children grow to go and live wonderful lives of their own on their own. We have been among the most lucky, and are well aware. Sometimes after a wonderful break we joke that "we ought not have so much fun, it makes it hard to come back to the real world". Love less and wish for less blessings?

No solution there. There is no real alternatives, certainly not desired ones, but love isn't one of those things that allows the heart to feel like the head knows it should sometimes. Loss, pride, concern, wishing, hoping, missing, Christmas is over, vacation is over, and the family pet died. Complaint? No, only reality. Our lives and our times together with all in all situations are timed. We live in time. One of the likely meanings of "eternity" is "outside of time". The idea of temporal and "it is over" is just not present. Easy to see Heaven and Hell in that definition.

We know of our blessing and good fortune, and no doubt in a few days or weeks our hearts will catch up to what the head knows is right. There is another Son to care for each day and hopefully not smother with the reaction of overcompensation. No doubt there are moments of bittersweet for the luckiest people in the world. We ought to know.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Rich get richer

That was the top headline in our local paper here. The completion would be of course "the poor get poorer". The media expects their gullible public to be just like Pavlov's dogs ... "What goes up"? ... well, of course "must come down". But what did the article REALLY say?

Well, it said that there are MORE "rich". Households earning $100-150K went from 4,444 to 7,409, and those earning over $200K went from 1,397 to 2,399. But wait, it DOESN'T say that "the rich got richer", it says there are "more rich". How about at the other end? Well, here they do some slight of hand, so we can't really know. They DO say that there are LESS in the under $10K category. 2,580 in '99, dropped to 1,985 in '05. Wouldn't that be GOOD news? One would think so, because it would seem to be that their implied headline is completely false, the poor DIDN'T get poorer, which of course they ONLY implied, not said.

The median income locally went to $57,667, it went to $52,024 in MN, and $46,242 nationally. I guess is it is "bad" that both MN and the local community have higher incomes than the next level of comparison. Would it be better if MN was LOWER than the national, and we were lower still than the state? I suspect not, I guess it is just "bad no matter what".

They did say that "the % of families whose income was below the poverty level" went up from 3.8 to 4.9%, BUT, they fail to mention what that level is, I imagine because that level almost certainly went up. They also don't mention "why", which looking around locally is almost certainly due to immigration which they are strongly in favor of. There are more immigrants, they generally take lower paying jobs, so the % below the increased poverty level goes up. We can't know that from their story.

Bias is a wonderful thing. A story that essentially all good news is characterized as bad news. Other than the obvious political reasons, what purpose does that serve?