As if proof was needed

Scientists confirm existence of ‘old person smell’

It is not all old people that have a particular smell about them, but quite a few really do seem to have an air of decay. I have found a lot of old people have a sickly sweet cloying aroma about them that seems to permeate the space around them such that it takes days sometimes to air the place out. Maybe it is just around nursing home ‘inmates’, though it is certainly stronger in some places than others. The article sounds like it is focusing on ‘generic’ old people, rather than nursing home ‘inmates’, so perhaps not even addressing the smells I recall.

Frightening places, nursing homes. Just like the roach motel, people check in, but they never check out!

After waiting 7 years they will get less than $720

Nearly $43 million settlement proposed over FEMA trailers

This highlights the pointlessness (unless you are a lawyer) of class action suits. The article says that perhaps as many as 60K people are eligible for the settlement, which according to my calculator works out to be $716.67 a person. I feel quite sure that that amount is meaningless to those that suffered and while it might be a nice surprise check in the mail for the non-sufferers, it is also quite meaningless (though a wee bit of stimulus for the economy).

I also have a massive objection (in principal, I didn’t follow the details) that FEMA is not picking up the tab. Unless the materials used were illegal (which, to my knowledge, they were not, just like the whole silicon breast implant debacle), how can the companies be held liable for wrong they didn’t do? I am sure that the company’s insurance companies are just doing a settlement to be done with the issue, but FEMA made the decision to order these units and I have no doubt that the companies involved were simply doing their jobs.

Ain’t America Grand?

But he is assuming it isn’t supposed to be that way

SEC: Taking on Big Firms is ‘Tempting,’ But We Prefer Whaling on Little Guys

Matt is a great guy and I love his articles, but in this case I think he just doesn’t get it. Probably because he wants to hold on to shreds of hope that our government is actually for the people. The SEC is taking on the little guys and ignoring the massive criminal cases of the big entities because that is exactly what the people involved were hired to do! It is no coincidence, not related to fear or anything, it is simply because until the oligarchy gets the silly-assed laws repealed the oligarchy goes through the motion to create the smoke screen that our government actually has a purpose beyond (further) enriching the oligarchy.

Poor Matt! I wish I could offer him some uplifting advice, but I am quite sure things are going to get way worse before there is any chance that things will get better.

The new normal

How extremism is normalized
The Obama administration has converted once unthinkable government claims into permanent political fixtures

More bla bla bla police state bla bla bla, but it is important to try to get the word out. Since my readership has skyrocketed to 20 or so per day I figure I might as well bring up some of my old tropes in the hopes of stirring some interest.

Our “Constitutional Scholar” President, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, has made it an uncontroversial bipartisan situation that our government no longer honors the Constitution under which it nominally operates. That appears to be OK with most people; we are all frogs sitting in a pot slowly being brought to boil. I smell frog stew!

I am not sure this is a good approach, though

Our Imbecilic Constitution

There are problems with our government implementation, but I am pretty sure that this is not the best solution. While I agree that our Constitution was meant to be a living document and I think that the GOP ‘purists’ are idiots (that these same idiots also think that the King James version of the bible is God’s word probably plays into it as well), I don’t think that the appropriate approach is to trash the thing and start making changes willy nilly. I think it should be difficult to make permanent changes to our government structure, not trivial, and I think laws should be easy to overturn, not difficult. Though our current government is made up largely of gridlock on a lot of issues, that is because the oligarchical power behind the ‘throne’ wants it that way, our government has no problems at all prosecuting idiot, unfunded wars or removing the last scraps of regulation in our run-away ‘capitalistic’ society (we are no more capitalists than we are a democracy).

My number one complaint about the electoral college is not that it ‘unfairly’ bolsters low population states (each state gets a minimum of three votes, one each for their senators and representatives), but that the votes are awarded in a winner-take-all manner when I think it should be proportional to the popular vote.

I do feel that there are massive problems with our government, but I don’t think we have massive problems with our Constitution. Lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater! Instead, lets get rid of the monied special interests (of course, that is really a joke, since there isn’t a damn thing ordinary people can do about the current situation). Rather than making it _easier_ for the oligarchy to control our government, as the author champions, we should make it _harder_ by forcing actual representation.

More of my thoughts on these sorts of things can be found by searching here.

An explanation for the other 50%

Earlier I had a post about the cheating gene. This is a post that talks about its opposite, the monogamy gene…

Study traces origins of monogamous coupling
From an evolutionary standpoint, the key players in the mating game were males with poor fighting skills and females faithful to them.,0,7040060.story

Monogamy is really the core issue that really begs for explanation. Cheating is more or less what is successful in the bulk of the animal world and as mentioned in my previous post, even presumed mated-for-life pair bonds have been shown (through DNA) to be far from monogamous in reality.

Just as there are survival reasons for cheating (access to better genes _and_ better providers in the case of women and higher likelihood of ensuring your genes make it to the next generation and wider variety of partners for the men) there are survival reasons in monogamy for the ‘little guy’. Several DNA studies have bolstered the observational studies that show the non-dominant males can often slip a bit of gene transfer (sex) in on the side when the alpha male is battling it out with some other dewd. This behavior has been seen in many different species (not just mammals, but fish and insects as well), so clearly it is well established. As for why pairbonds are successful one need only look at it as a way to help ensure that the weaker male’s genes are passed on. If he stays with the female until his children reach reproductive age, he can be sure his genes have made it (as long as he keeps a close eye on his girl, of course). This is the most popular explanation for human pairbonds and one that also handily explains the relative lack of physical differences between men and women (meaning we men aren’t 3-4 times as big as our women).

For any activity to survive multiple generations it has to have some sort of payoff to the individuals who exhibit the activity. Just like cheating, monogamy has to have a payoff else it wouldn’t remain such an integral part of our behavior.

An explanation for investor herd instinct…

Thou can’t not covet
Wanting what others have may be hardwired in the brain

I tried to make a case for investor herd behavior when I was in my finance class, but was pretty roundly jeered by my professor and his fellow finance students. I remain (as is so critical to my core personality) stubbornly convinced I am on to something as the behavior of the market, to me, anyway, remains impossible to discern unless one accepts irrational behavior on the part of the investor community (increasingly, it is necessary to account for fraud and criminal activity as well, witness the Facebook IPO). The above mentioned article provides an argument that this sort of behavior is hard-wired into humans and the idea that there are not any rational humans might result in the end of the study of economics (which, as far as I am concerned, has teetered on the verge of irrelevance for its entire existence, since at its core it assumes that humans act rationally).

I can imagine that if one were to accept that humans behave irrationally, have ‘herd instinct’ and often act contrary to their own best interests, one could make a killing in the stock market. I have tried a number of times to find backers to build a genetic program-based machine learning algorithm to predict market movements, though in recent years I had come to accept that the market is really random, thus not subject to prediction. I am re-thinking, though, that since it is almost always possible (though, since humans are meaning making machines and are so good at lying to themselves, it might all be smoke and mirrors) to retroactively look at market behavior and add-in some psychology and ‘predict’ (wouldn’t that be post-dict?) the behavior, perhaps my program might be able to anticipate the idiot decisions humans make and produce a mint’s worth of money.

Too bad I have never been able to get any backers for my project…

For some, climate change is about the lack of cold

Delay of bloom blamed on climate change
Flowers that fail to open early in spring may be taking cue from previous autumn

Those of us who try to create orchards know that certain fruit trees won’t even bloom if they didn’t have a long enough, cold enough winter. It turns out, rather expectedly, that there are plenty of other plants that are not orchard fruit trees that also require that cold signal. So, as the winters get warmer on average, certain plants will dramatically reduce their seed production, which means that they will not be replaced when they die, so in the long run these species range will move north (and higher in elevation, where possible) to compensate. The biggest loss to humans, though, likely will be that many fewer spring flowers to enjoy. Of course, as the plants to the south experience the same effect, they will migrate north also, so I guess overall we will see a similar variety of flowers, just a different collection.

Long weekend

A bit quiet on TFOUI… We took last Friday off to make the weekend 4 day to try to get some visible progress done on our greenhouse/pool project. Man was it hot! I have never been a ‘veritable whirlwind of activity’, but this weekend I was slow by my standards and it took a while to figure it out. I have to recover my summer-time heat adaptation, lost these many mild (or cold as hell) months. I did learn by Monday that by simply spending a few minutes in the shade made a huge difference to my ability to work and I think my over-all productivity picked up a bit. Doggedly insisting on working through the sluggishness didn’t seem to have any payoff.

So, we removed a bit of rock and concrete from a couple of the footers so that the drain pipe on the outside of the pool will drain to the sump we installed last fall. I was intending to wrap the pipe with the filter fabric and bury it in gravel until I realized that doing so would make it difficult or impossible to put the posts in, so we switched to post installing mode. We got all the 8 ft intermediate posts done (I was able to do most of them by myself since they were light enough for me to maneuver) and all the 16 ft posts along the pool (still four more outside of the pool), but need help putting in the 20 ft posts and Wade, the guy who has been very handy for this project, wasn’t available this weekend. Next weekend we plan on beginning the beam building process and I figure there is a decent chance that we will have the roof sheathed by the end of June. That will give me some more shade to work in.

My wife has developed an interest in archery fairly recently. We got a real cheap Wall Mart version a year or so ago and she made enough use of it that its limitations became clear, so we got her a new bow over the weekend. All told we wound up spending over $600 (though we did get the boy a new cheapy bow as well since the initial one had a very ineffective way of holding the arrow), hopefully she will make regular use of it. She looks great pulling the bow back (but of course I think she looks fabulous at any time, but that particular pose is quite sexy), though she is all worried that her shoulders will get big. The draw weight of the bow can be adjusted and is currently pretty low (27 lbs, I think), but I can adjust it up to 70 on this particular model.

We (or rather I should say my wife’s cousin Carlos) planted the garden last weekend and it was immensely gratifying to see that practically everything had sprouted over the intervening week. Last year I think we planted too early and the ground was too cold to promote germination properly and we got very spotty results. This year we could probably have planted a few weeks earlier (though we were pretty much spot on based on the calendar), quite a few locals had done so (in some places the corn is already 1-2 ft high). We still need rain, though. We are more than 4 inches short on the year, though we have had just enough to keep the young trees and shrubs (well, all but one, a scarlet maple I planted last fall up and died on me) going. It is so hot now, though, that without rain soon they will start to get seriously stressed and will stop growing. I would water, but it would take most of the weekend just to do so, though one of our goals with the construction is to have a bigger pipe from the well so we can fill our water tank faster, so we would have a practical option (with an electric pump attached to the tank to expedite the watering of the plants) to water if we like.

I hope all my reader(s) had a great holiday weekend!

Old conservatism

My break with the extreme right
I worked for Reagan and wrote for National Review. But the new hysterical right cares nothing for truth or dignity

Perhaps I have not grown as ‘liberal’ as I had thought, given this author’s rant. Certainly he is someone I feel I could develop a lot of ideas with, ideas that could be implemented with predefined achievement targets and built-in exit strategies if the targets are not realized. I guess I was a RINO as well since I think that revenues need to be associated with expenditures on average, but that the government should spend more (going into debt) during economic down-turns and then pay that money back during economic up-turns. Such silly ideas today.

Anyway, I thought my more conservative (RINO) reader(s) might appreciate the rant.