Friday, July 31, 2015

Musical Interlude: Kevin Kern, “Another Realm”

Kevin Kern, “Another Realm”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Almost every object in the below photograph is a galaxy. The Coma Cluster of Galaxies pictured above is one of the densest clusters known - it contains thousands of galaxies. Each of these galaxies houses billions of stars - just as our own Milky Way Galaxy does. Although nearby when compared to most other clusters, light from the Coma Cluster still takes hundreds of millions of years to reach us.
 Click image for larger size.
In fact, the Coma Cluster is so big it takes light millions of years just to go from one side to the other! Most galaxies in Coma and other clusters are ellipticals, while most galaxies outside of clusters are spirals. The nature of Coma's X-ray emission is still being investigated.’

The Poet: Rachel Sherwood, “The World in the Evening”

“The World in the Evening”
by Rachel Sherwood

"As this suburban summer wanders toward dark
cats watch from their driveways — they are bored
and await miracles. The houses show, through windows
flashes of knife and fork, the blue light
of televisions, inconsequential fights
between wife and husband in the guest bathroom

voices sound like echoes in these streets
the chattering of awful boys as they plot
behind the juniper and ivy, miniature guerillas
that mimic the ancient news of the world
and shout threats, piped high across mock fences
to girls riding by in the last pieces of light

the color of the sky makes brilliant reflection
in the water and oil along the curb
deepened aqua and the sharp pure rose of the clouds
there is no sun or moon, few stars wheel
above the domestic scene — this half-lit world
still, quiet calming the dogs worried by distant alarms

there — a woman in a window washes a glass
a man across the street laughs through an open door
utterly alien, alone. There is a time, seconds between
the last light and the dark stretch ahead, when color
is lost — the girl on her swing becomes a swift
apparition, black and white flowing suddenly into night.”

Chet Raymo, "Sic Et Non"

"Sic Et Non"
by Chet Raymo

"I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing,
and that is that I know nothing."
- Aristotle

"Richard Capobianco's explanation of what philosophers do- or should do- strikes me as on the mark. So, to put it simply, good philosophy keeps our unknowing in view, and therefore keeps us thinking, keeps us questioning, keeps us wondering. Good philosophy keeps us unsettled in our knowing.

Yes, it would be good to have a department in every college and university whose function is to remind us of the limitations of our knowing. There is enough dogmatism to go around, enough pompous posturing, even in philosophy departments. Maybe the "wisdom" we should all learn to "love" is the possibility that we might be wrong, and that the answers to some questions might be beyond our grasp.

Legend has it that the 12th-century philosopher Peter Abelard's last words were "I don't know." He was best known in his time as a charismatic teacher and provocative thinker who was not adverse to challenging the smug certainties of the establishment - and his rambunctious young students cheered him on. Systematically applied doubt was his "master key to wisdom." Eventually he stirred the wrath of that other great charismatic of his time, Bernard of Clairvaux. Their epic confrontation* in 1121 can be taken as a classic expression of the tension that still resonates in our culture between dogmatic belief and doubt. The controversy, for all of its theological nitpicking, came down to a matter of temperament. Bernard liked answers. Abelard liked questions. I take it that Professor Capobianco stands with Abelard."
* "Peter Abelard wrote that he wished to provoke his young readers to the greatest exertion in the search for truth. Saint Bernard was convinced that the ‘dialectical method’ was a complete challenge to the teachings of the Church." For the tale of their famous confrontation please go here:

"Peter Abelard: Discoverer of Individuality in the Feudal Age"

The Daily "Near You?"

Arvada, Colorado, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"It Is Our Fate..."

"Well, it is our fate to live in a time of crisis. To live in a time when all forms and values are being challenged. In other and more easy times, it was not, perhaps, necessary for the individual to confront himself with a clear question: What is it that you really believe? What is it that you really cherish? What is it for which you might, actually, in a showdown, be willing to die?...I say, with all the reticence which such large, pathetic words evoke, that one cannot exist today as a person – one cannot exist in full consciousness – without having to have a showdown with one’s self, without having to define what it is that one lives by, without being clear in one’s mind what matters and what does not matter.” 

- Dorothy Thompson

"Helpless People..."

"Almost all Americans have had an intense school experience which occupied their entire youth, an experience during which they were drilled thoroughly in the culture and economy of the well-schooled greater society, in which individuals have been rendered helpless to do much of anything except watch television or punch buttons on a keypad.

Before you begin to blame the childish for being that way and join the chorus of those defending the general imprisonment of adults and the schooling by force of children because there isn’t any other way to handle the mob, you want to at least consider the possibility that we’ve been trained in childishness and helplessness for a reason. And that reason is that helpless people are easy to manage.

Helpless people can be counted upon to act as their own jailers because they are so inadequate to complex reality they are afraid of new experience. They’re like animals whose spirits have been broken. Helpless people take orders well, they don’t have minds of their own, they are predictable, they won’t surprise corporations or governments with resistance to the newest product craze, the newest genetic patent — or by armed revolution. Helpless people can be counted on to despise independent citizens and hence they act as a fifth column in opposition to social change in the direction of personal sovereignty."
- John Taylor Gatto
“Some Reflections on the Equivalencies Between Forced Schooling and Prison.”

And so it is...

"5 Emotional Vampires and How to Combat Them"

"5 Emotional Vampires and How to Combat Them"
by Therese J. Borchard

"I thought you'd all appreciate some vampire talk. In her book, "Emotional Freedom," UCLA psychiatrist Judith Orloff identifies five kinds of vampires that are lurking around and can zap our energy if we're not careful. Here is an excerpt adapted from her book: 'Emotional vampires are lurking everywhere and wear many different disguises - from needy relatives to workplace bullies. Whether they do so intentionally or not, these people can make us feel overwhelmed, depressed, defensive, angry, and wiped out. Without the self-defense strategies to fend them off, victims of emotional vampires sometimes develop unhealthy behaviors and symptoms, such as overeating, isolating, mood swings, or feeling fatigued.' Here are five types of emotional vampires you're likely to encounter, and some "silver bullet" tips for fending them off.

Vampire 1: The Narcissist: This vampire is grandiose, self-important, attention hogging, and hungry for admiration. She is often charming and intelligent - until her guru status is threatened.
Self-defense tips: Enjoy her good qualities, but keep your expectations realistic. Because her motto is "me-first," getting angry or stating your needs won't phase her. To get her cooperation, show how your request satisfies her self-interest.

Vampire 2: The Victim: This vampire thinks the world is against him, and demands that others rescue him.
Self-defense tips: Don't be his therapist, and don't tell him to buck up. Limit your interactions, and don't get involved in his self-pity.

Vampire 3: The Controller: This vampire has an opinion about everything, thinks he knows what's best for you, has a rigid sense of right and wrong, and needs to dominate.
Self-defense tips: Speak up and be confident. Don't get caught up in bickering over the small stuff. Assert your needs, and then agree to disagree.

Vampire 4: The Criticizer: This vampire feels qualified to judge you, belittle you, and bolster her own ego by making you feel small and ashamed.
Self-defense tips: Don't take what she says personally. Address a misplaced criticism directly. Don't get defensive. Express appreciation for what's useful. Bounce back with a massive dose of loving-kindness.

Vampire 5: The Splitter: This vampire may treat you like his BFF one day, and then mercilessly attack you the next day when he feels wronged. He is often a threatening rageaholic who revels in keeping others on an emotional rollercoaster.
Self-defense tips: Establish boundaries and be solution-oriented. Avoid skirmishes, refuse to take sides, and avoid eye contact when he's raging at you. Visualize a protective shield around you when you're being emotionally attacked."

Judith Orloff, MD, is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA.
Her book, upon which these tips are based, is
"Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life."

"How It Really Should Be"

The Economy: “China Losing Control As Stocks Crash Despite Emergency Measures”

“China Losing Control As Stocks Crash Despite Emergency Measures”
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

"Chinese equities have suffered the sharpest one-day crash in eight years, sending powerful tremors through global commodity markets and smashing currencies across East Asia, Latin America and Africa. The Shanghai Composite index fell 8.5pc despite emergency measures to shore up the market, with a roster of the biggest blue-chip companies down by the maximum daily limit of 10pc. The mood was further soured by news that corporated profits in China are now contracting in absolute terms, falling 0.3pc over the past year.

The violence of the moves unnerved investors worldwide, stirring fears that the Communist Party may be losing control after stoking a series of epic bubbles in property, corporate investment and equities to keep up the blistering pace of economic growth.

Brent crude prices slid to a five-month low of $53.34, re-entering a bear market. The DB-UBS commodity index fell to 2002 levels, obliterating the gains of the resource "supercycle". The FTSE 100 fell 1.27pc to 6.497, dragged down by mining groups and energy companies. All of the year’s advances have been wiped out.

Mark Williams, chief Asia strategist at Capital Economics, said the Chinese authorities appear to have been testing the waters to see what would happen if they stopped intervening. The market verdict was swift and brutal. “They have got themselves into a very difficult situation. They have put a lot of credibility on the line to shore up prices and this credibility has been badly damaged,” he said.

The Shanghai index looks poised to test its 200-day moving average, now just below 3,600, a crucial support level watched with trepidation by China’s authorities.

The Chinese media reported on Monday night that the state regulator is ready to intervene with yet more stock purchases. It has already bought an estimated $250bn of equities and has borrowing lines for a further $450bn if necessary. Western banks say they are coming under heavy pressure from Chinese officials to refrain from negative comments. They are effectively gagged if they wish to do business in China. “Large parts of the market are closed, and those stocks that are still trading are selling off regardless of support measures. Clearly something very serious is happening,” said one economist.

The long-standing assumption that the Chinese authorities know what they are doing has been shattered. The government’s heavy-handed measures include a ban on short sales and on new share issues, as well as pressure on the 300 largest companies to buy back their own stock, and forced purchases of stocks by brokerage houses. Many investors are effectively trapped with margin debt used to buy the stocks. These liabilities cannot be covered without selling the stocks. The longer the market remains partially frozen, the more likely it will lead to extreme stress.

David Cui, from Bank of America, said $1.2 trillion of stock holdings are being carried on margin debt. This is 34pc of the free float of the Shanghai and Shenzhen stock markets. “When the market ultimately settles at a level that can be sustained on fundamental reasons, we expect that the financial system may wobble, due to high contagion risk,” he said. “Most leveraged positions may suffer from losses ultimately, likely in trillions (of yuan). The risk is that the unwinding of the leverage will be disorderly: due to implicit guarantees behind most shadow banking products, investors could easily panic,” he said.

Mr Cui said the brokers and trusts have barely 1.6 trillion yuan ($260bn) to absorb losses and may be overrun. “Given the particularly thin front line of the financial institutions, we suspect that it’s a matter of time before banks may have to face the music,” he said. This in turn risks setting off a “bank run” on the shadow banking system as investors lose trust in wealth management funds, fearing that their deposits in the $2.1 trillion industry no longer have an implicit guarantee. Bank of America said the Chinese state may have to swallow the losses from the stock market fiasco in the end but this would have a clutch of toxic side-effects.

The authorities still have a nuclear trump card up their sleeve. They could cut the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) from 18.5pc all the way down to 5pc – as in the banking crisis in 1998 – or even to zero. This would allow the big state banks crank up lending, injecting $2 trillion to $3 trillion into the economy, putting off the day of reckoning with another cycle of growth.

Premier Li Keqiang is clearly reluctant to pull the credit lever again. One of the reasons why Beijing talked up the stock market was to try to shift reliance from debt to equity, though the policy got out of hand as margin accounts flourished. The debt to GDP ratio has already doubled to 260pc since 2007, reaching $26 trillion, more than the US and Japanese commercial banking systems combined. Credit is stretched to dangerous levels and is losing its potency. Wei Yao from Societe Generale said it took $2.50 of credit to generate $1 of extra GDP before the Lehman crisis. This has jumped to $5.50 as the economy reaches credit saturation. This is very little gain, at great risk.

Ray Dalio, a long-time China bull at Bridgewater, issued an extraordinary mea culpa last week, saying he had misjudged the Chinese boom and viewed the equity crash as a turning point. “We did not properly anticipate the rate of acceleration in the bubble and the rate of unravelling, or realize that the speculation in the markets was so big by the established corporate entities, as well as the naïve speculators. We should have,” he said.

Mr Dalio said the stock market crash is in one sense a minor matter – given that most Chinese do not own stocks – but it is coming at a very delicate moment, and has been a psychological shock. The combined effects of a bursting property bubble, an equity crash and a wave of debt restructuring at the same time have reached critical mass. “Negative forces on growth are strong and self-reinforcing,” he said. It has hit at a time when the Chinese exchange rate is soaring - due to the dollar peg - and may be 15pc overvalued.

There are still optimists. Wendy Liu from Nomura said the boil has been lanced and Chinese equities are now cheap. “This is the best time to buy. It looks like an ordinary correction to me,” she said. She compared the sell-off to the mini-panic in June 2013, when Shibor interbank rates soared to 30pc. “Everybody was bearish on China and thought it was going to blow up. I think we are going through a similar situation,” she said.

For the rest of the world, it is a tense moment. China consumes 50pc of global coal, 43pc of industrial metals and 23pc of grains, according to World Bank data. Brazil, Russia, South Africa and a string of commodity states face a double-barrelled stress test. The Chinese are freezing imports just as the US Federal Reserve drains worldwide dollar liquidity and prepares to raise rates, calling time on emerging markets that have together borrowed $4.5 trillion in US currency. The Brazilian real fell to a 12-year low of 3.38 against the dollar on Monday. The South Africa rand hit a record low of 12.69. The Russian rouble flirted with the danger line of 60. It was the same story across much of the emerging market nexus.

“One by one the dominoes are starting to fall,” said Societe Generale.”
Yes, I know, "That could never happen here..." Really?

“The Windows 10 Disinformation”

“The Windows 10 Disinformation”
by Karl  Denninger

I really dislike lazy journalists- like this one. "By default, when signing into Windows with a Microsoft account, Windows syncs some of your settings and data with Microsoft servers, for example “web browser history, favorites, and websites you have open” as well as “saved app, website, mobile hotspot, and Wi-Fi network names and passwords”. Users can however deactivate this transfer to the Microsoft servers by changing their settings."

More problematic from a data protection perspective is however the fact that Windows generates a unique advertising ID for each user on a device. This advertising ID can be used by third parties, such as app developers and advertising networks for profiling purposes. Let's demolish this one at a time, because I just got done upgrading two machines here.

First, you do not need to sign into a Microsoft Account to use Windows 10. In fact I was not even asked when I did my upgrades, but then again I had not previously used Windows "Live" services (nor will I be in the future!)

If you want cross-device sharing of things like your favorites list then how can this be done without that data going to Microsoft's servers? It can't - but yes, if you do allow that free service to be provided to you then Microsoft will by default share that data for advertising purposes.

Once again, if you take the Express button during the setup you're going to turn on a lot of data uploading to Microsoft and you have to assume they will use it for advertising purposes. This is the new model of Windows- you're not buying the software, but nothing is "free"; Microsoft assumes most people will take "Express" and with it allow them to advertise. But you don't have to. When the "Express" button comes up to the lower left of the screen is a clickable link that takes you through two full screens of clickable "switches" for data that can be sent (or not) off your machine. Yes, IMHO most of those should be off, and yes, they all default on. So don't do that. If you already screwed up left click the Start button and select "Settings" then "Privacy." Turn off the things you don't want on. That doesn't erase what is already sent, but it does stop future transmissions.

"Also, when device encryption is on, Windows automatically encrypts the drive Windows is installed on and generates a recovery key. The BitLocker recovery key for the user’s device is automatically backed up online in the Microsoft OneDrive account."

Again, false. Bitlocker asks where the recovery key is to be stored. Your can upload it to OneDrive, but while it's damn convenient it's also not very secure! The other two options are to save it locally (E.g. to a thumb drive) or to print it (to a physical piece of paper.) The recovery key is your only way back into that drive if the primary key is lost.

Incidentally, for those of you with a TPM in your computer (laptops, primarily) using a TPM only to secure Bitlocker isn't very secure. While in theory TPM modules are secure they can be tricked into divulging the key. The primary value in a TPM is that if someone simply removes your hard disk they're hosed as the TPM won't unlock the key if it detects that- but if the machine is willing to "believe" you are the person with it (e.g. via your fingerprint, BIOS password or even simply turning it on!) the TPM will be happy to release the key and unlock the disk, at which point your data is available.

Far better is to use both TPM and a password; to enable this use "gpedit" (as an Adminstrator.) You only need to do this if you have a TPM in your computer, and you must do it before enabling Bitlocker, as by default if there is no TPM you will be asked for a password when you set up encryption. The options are here:

Click image for larger size.

Then select "Operating System Drives" and set the appropriate options as shown below:

Click image for larger size.

Now when you set up Bitlocker you will be given the option of using a password along with your TPM. That combination is extremely secure; you need both the undoctored TPM and the password. Oh, and don't upload that recovery key to OneDrive. No, no, no and no.

As for Cortana, all host-based speech recognition engines have this issue. Siri anyone? Google's (or for that matter BlackBerry's) "Assistant"? Same deal; your voice is uploaded to their servers and analyzed and you give them permission to do that as an inherent part of the computing power they give you without charging you for it directly. If you're uncomfortable with this then do what I do- don't use those infernal things. Cortana is trivially easy to turn off, incidentally.

Yes, Microsoft gives you the ability to shoot yourself in the head, along with giving them access to all sorts of data they can and will use to advertise to you. But they don't appear to require it, and if you pay attention to what you're doing there does not appear to be more going on in Windows 10 in this regard than there was with other, previous Microsoft OS releases."

"PS: I'm no particular fan of Microsoft, but if you're going to take a shot at them do it over something they have actually done or are doing!"

The Universe

"Don't be afraid. You needn't slay the beast or scale the entire mountain. That's not how it's done. You only need to move through today. Think of the distance you've already covered. Focus on your strengths. Let each new step remind you of your freedom. Let your every breath remind you of your power. Seek out friends and guides; they're anxious to help. 

You're not alone. You're understood. This road has been walked before. Dance life's dance, just a few steps at a time, and in the wink of an eye you will wonder to yourself, "What beast, what mountain? Was I having a dream?" 
"Love you," 
    The Universe

"Thoughts become things... choose the good ones!" 

Greg Hunter, "Weekly News Wrap-Up 7/31/2015"

"Weekly News Wrap-Up 7/31/2015"
By Greg Hunter’s 

"The deeper Congress digs into the deal to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions, the worse the deal seems. When Secretary of State John Kerry, the key negotiator for the US in this deal, was asked about the secret side deals in Congress this week, he said he “did not have access to them.” What? You do not have access to details of a deal you negotiated? Kerry also says this deal must be passed by Congress, otherwise, he says, “our friends in this effort will desert us.” Now, details come out from a top French diplomat, who was also in on the negotiations, and he contradicts Kerry. French Senior diplomatic advisor Jacques Audibert has told Congress that if the deal is voted down, that eventually, they “could get a better deal.” When Kerry was asked about continued chants of “Death to America” in Iran, Kerry said he knew of “no plan to actually destroy us.”  

Meanwhile, the Iranians are saying, once again, that the Obama Administration is misleading Americans about the deal in order to “calm opponents in the Congress and Zionist lobbies.” Congress has 60 days to vote yes or no on this deal. There is no doubt the majority, and that includes some Democrats, are going to vote no. The only question is can Congress override a veto by President Obama?

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia’s reaction to the deal is to ask for more patriot missiles. It is reported that the Kingdom is requesting 600 new Patriot missile helicopters. It is estimated that this deal alone is worth $5 billion, and sources say many more allies in the Middle East are seeking arms because of this deal. My prediction has been and remains that this deal will ramp up an arms race and speed up the war prospects in the Middle East.

Things are also heating up in the South China Sea as China claims the US is ‘militarizing’ the South China Sea. It is reportedly angered by US flights and patrols in waters it claims as its own. A Chinese defense spokesman said he wondered if the US wanted “nothing better than chaos.”

The spin doctors have revised the GDP in the first and second quarters. First quarter revised up to 6% after originally being negative, and now, the second quarter is revised up to 2.3%. Who knows how the more that 7% decline in new home sales were accounted for? According to, there was also the steep second quarter decline in durable goods. Economist John Williams says it’s the steepest since the 2008 economic collapse. So, is the Fed going to raise rates or not this September? I think we are getting to the real fork in the road, and that is if they raise rates, they collapse the markets. If they don’t, then the Fed and the dollar loses credibility and we still get a collapse, just a little later on. My friend Gregory Mannarino of tells me he thinks there is a plan to destroy the middle class because that’s where all the wealth is. In the end, there will be a two tier system consisting of the wealthy and all the rest of us. Mannarino contends when you are poor, you are easier to control.

USA Today finally responded to my asking why the allegations of Planned Parenthood were not covered much in their operation. They told me “USA Today has in fact covered the controversial video and claims made against Planned Parenthood” and sent me 11 links to their website. One of those links was an Op-Ed piece, so that does not count as reporting. Six of the ten were done in the last three days, and none of the stories they sent me appeared in the Gannett flagship enterprise USA Today newspaper. On the USA Today website, you had to search for any story on allegations of Planned Parenthood selling baby body parts. (Planned Parenthood continues to say it has done nothing wrong.) There were more than 40 other stories highlighted on their home “News” page when I looked. Front and center was the story about “Cecil the lion,” but the alleged misconduct and gruesome details about a federally funded institution selling baby body parts did not rate as high as the murder of a lion in Africa. This is too stupid to be stupid, and in my estimation, this story is being buried because it makes their far left liberal buddies they identify with look like medical Mengele monsters.

"Join Greg Hunter as he talks about these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Vangelis, "Come To Me"

Vangelis, "Come To Me"

"A Look to the Heavens"

"The most distant object easily visible to the eye is M31, the great Andromeda Galaxy some two and a half million light-years away. But without a telescope, even this immense spiral galaxy - spanning over 200,000 light years - appears as a faint, nebulous cloud in the constellation Andromeda. In contrast, details of a bright yellow nucleus and dark winding dust lanes, are revealed in this digital telescopic image.
Click image for larger size.
Narrow band image data recording emission from hydrogen atoms, shows off the reddish star-forming regions dotting gorgeous blue spiral arms and young star clusters. While even casual skygazers are now inspired by the knowledge that there are many distant galaxies like M31, astronomers seriously debated this fundamental concept in the 20th century. Were these "spiral nebulae" simply outlying components of our own Milky Way Galaxy or were they instead "island universes" - distant systems of stars comparable to the Milky Way itself? This question was central to the famous Shapley-Curtis debate of 1920, which was later resolved by observations of M31 in favor of Andromeda, island universe.”

“12 Cliches to Live By"

“12 Cliches to Live By"

"1. It ain't over till it's over. 2004. Red Sox down 0-3. If Mariano Rivera can let one slip, think how your buddy Phil's bladder quivers as he prepares to shank the serve on match point. On the flip side, when you're 1 point from victory, it's no time for experimentation. End it.

2. Do unto others. It doesn't guarantee reciprocation, but you'll never lose. No one's going to scoff, "You delivered as promised? Congrats on being elected mayor of Chump City!"

3. You can't save someone from himself. You can try - and you will - but you'll fail. Your belief that you know what's best will always be trumped by his belief that he knows better. Treat his crash-and-burn like a good New Year's party: Enjoy the carnage, but offer to stay and help clean up afterward.

4. Always consider the source. So Captain Bitter calls you a suckbag behind your back. Go ahead, internalize. Worry that he's right. Always a good use of your energy. Or realize that he's just trying to find someone to hang out with.

5. Life isn't fair. If it were, the boss's kid wouldn't have been promoted to Senior Executive Suckbag, and John Mayer would in no way be bigger than John Hiatt. But it's not, so the only thing to do is...

6. Shut up and play. Vent? Sure. Reflect? You bet. Whining has never been a "turn-on" choice in an online-dating profile for good reason. Everyone, though, clears a path for the guy who makes Plan B look better than Plan A.

7. Surround yourself with good people. Bad taste in pants can be forgiven. Bad taste in friends cannot.

8. Sh-- or get off the pot. There's nothing less captivating or inspiring than watching a man ponder. Heck, even Thoreau eventually stopped staring at the pond and wrote a book.

9. Think before you speak. Five seconds. 1... 2... 3... 4... 5. Just turn over a thought and inject it with a trace of reason before you open your mouth (or hit send, for that matter).

10. There's no pleasing some people. These folks also take no joy from air hockey, puppies, or Spinal Tap, and should receive minimal contact.

11. Get over yourself. The curing-cancer story is a nice résumé builder and good for about 5 minutes of party talk. After that, all anyone wants to hear is a good joke.

12. Die trying - to put your teeth back in after sex with twins at your 100th birthday party."

"In The Time Of Your Life..."

"In the time of your life, live - so that in good time there shall be no ugliness or death for yourself or for any life your life touches. Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding-place and let it be free and unashamed. Place in matter and in flesh the least of the values, for these are things that hold death and must pass away. Discover in all things that which shines and is beyond corruption. Encourage virtue in whatever heart it may have been driven into secrecy and sorrow by the shame and terror of the world. Ignore the obvious, for it is unworthy of the clear eye and the kindly heart. Be the inferior of no man, nor of any man be the superior. Remember that every man is a variation of yourself. No man's guilt is not yours, nor is any man's innocence a thing apart. Despise evil and ungodliness, but not men of ungodliness or evil. These, understand. Have no shame in being kindly and gentle... and have no regret. In the time of your life, live - so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it."
- William Saroyan, "The Time of Your Life" (1939)

Chet Raymo, “Squaring The Circle”

 “Squaring The Circle”
by Chet Raymo

"Here is a little story about the best and worst of Western civilization. It can be summarized in one word: square. Yep, that's right. Square. The ninety degree corner, the plumb-bobbed line. Forget the squiggle, the wiggle, the curlicue, the arc. We're talking orthogonality here. We're talking perpendicularity.

I was flying across the country the other day at 37,000 feet. From the Mississippi to the Rockies, for a thousand miles, as far as the eye could see, the land was ruled into one-mile squares, as neat as the tiles on your kitchen floor. 

It's the Western way, begun by Greek geographers and perfected by the philosopher-scientist Rene Descartes in the 17th century. Cartesian coordinates: that's what we call his method of plotting the world on a rectangular grid.

In 1785 the young Congress in Washington, at Thomas Jefferson's request, decreed that public lands west of the Appalachians would be surveyed and sold in squares. Six-mile squares called townships. Each township divided into 36 one-mile squares called sections (usually bordered by roads). Sections divided into four quarters. Bingo! The checkerboard grid I observed from 37,000 feet. The 1785 survey plan ignored natural contours of the land, the sinuosity of shorelines and watercourses. Congress had one thing in mind: the efficient distribution of land. Esthetics didn't enter into it. The goal was not to embellish nature, but to subdue it.

What I saw from the airplane is a classic example of Cartesian efficiency. One million square miles of geometric utility. A geographic straightjacket of mathematical lines. The rule of the square. We are richer and more powerful for it, of course, richer and more powerful than those cultures that are still "bogged down" in squiggles and curlicues. The squaring of the circle is the secret of our presumed success- the best and the worst of Western civilization.”

THe Daily "Near You?"

Barkerville, Ontario, Canada. Thanks for stopping by.

"People Who Don’t Get It: Living with It"

 "People Who Don’t Get It: Living with It"
by Madisyn Taylor, The DailyOM

"When dealing with people who seem very unaware, remember that everyone must find their own way to awakening. You may be someone who understands the true nature of reality, perceiving deeply that we all emanate from the same source, that we are all essentially one, and that we are here on earth to love one another. To understand this is to be awakened to the true nature of the self, and it is a blessing. Nevertheless, people who just don’t get it are seemingly everywhere and, often, in positions of power. It can be frustrating and painful to watch them behave unconsciously. We all encounter individuals of this bent in our families, at work, and in all areas of public life. It is easy to find ourselves feeling intolerant of these people, wishing we could be free of them even though we know that separation from them is an illusion.

It helps sometimes to think of us all as different parts of one psyche. Just as within our own hearts and minds we have dark places that need healing, the heart and mind of the world has its dark places. The health of the whole organism depends upon the relative health of the individuals within it. We increase harmony when we hold onto the light, not allowing it to be darkened by judgment, anger, and fear about those who behave unconsciously. It’s easier to accomplish this if we don’t focus on the negative qualities of individuals and instead focus on how increasing our own light will increase the light of the overall picture.

When dealing with people who seem very unconscious, it helps to remember that every one must find their own way to awakening and that the experiences they are having are an essential part of their process. Holding them in the light of our own energy may be the best way to awaken theirs. At the same time, we are inspired by their example to look within and shed light on our own unconscious places, sacrificing the urge to judge and surrendering instead to humble self-inquiry."

Psychology: "Stop Paying Attention: Zoning Out Is a Crucial Mental State"

"Stop Paying Attention: Zoning Out Is a Crucial Mental State"
 by Carl Zimmer

 "I am going to do my best to hold your attention until the very last word of this column. Actually, I know it's futile. Along the way, your mind will wander off, then return, then drift away again. But I can console myself with some recent research on the subject of mind wandering. Mind wandering is not necessarily the sign of a boring column. It's just one of the things that make us human. Everybody knows what it is like for our minds to wander, and yet, for a long time psychologists shied away from examining the experience. It seemed too elusive and subjective to study scientifically. Only in the past decade have they even measured just how common mind wandering is.

Some of the most striking evidence comes from Jonathan Schooler, a psychologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara who is one of the leading researchers on mind wandering. In 2005 he and his colleagues told a group of undergraduates to read the opening chapters of War and Peace on a computer monitor and then to tap a key whenever they realized they were not thinking about what they were reading. On average, the students reported that their minds wandered 5.4 times in a 45-minute session. Other researchers have gotten similar results with simpler tasks, such as pronouncing words or pressing a button in response to seeing particular letters and numbers. Depending on the experiment, people spend up to half their time not thinking about the task at hand - even when they've been told explicitly to pay attention.

Psychologists have also discovered ways to increase and decrease mind wandering. Jonathan Smallwood, a colleague of Schooler's at UC Santa Barbara, instructed subjects to tap a key every time they saw a new number appear on a computer screen but to hold off tapping if the number was three. The more quickly the numbers came, the less often the subjects' minds wandered. But as people practiced the task and became more familiar with it, their mind wandering increased. Smallwood has also found that mood affects mind wandering: If he showed people a short video about a sick dog before they performed the task, for example, they spent more time mind wandering than did a separate group that had watched a comedy clip.

Alcohol tweaks mind wandering in a particularly interesting way, as Schooler and his colleagues report in a new paper entitled "Lost in the Sauce," published in Psychological Science. The psychologists ran the War and Peace experiment again, but this time after serving their subjects some vodka with cranberry juice. Drunk readers actually reported less mind wandering than sober people did. That does not mean that you should swill vodka if you want a laser focus on Tolstoy's deathless prose, though. Schooler has shown that there are, in fact, two kinds of mind wandering: mind wandering when you are aware that you're thinking about something else and mind wandering without awareness. He calls this second kind "zoning out."

To determine which kind of mind wandering people experience, Schooler and his collaborators told the participants in the War and Peace experiment to report their own drifting but also asked them every few minutes if they were thinking of something else. If people responded to those questions with a yes, that meant they weren't aware enough of their own minds to report their mind wandering on their own. These experiments show that we spend about 13 percent of our time zoning out. But when we are drunk, that figure doubles. In other words, inebriated subjects report less mind wandering only because they are less aware of their own minds.

When our minds wander, we lose touch with the outside world. We don't actually black out, of course, but we are more likely to make mistakes, fail to encode memories, or miss a connection. Zoning out makes us particularly prone to these errors. Schooler and Smallwood, along with Merrill McSpadden of the University of British Columbia, tested the effect of zoning out by having a test group read a Sherlock Holmes mystery in which a villain used a pseudonym. As people were reading the passages discussing this fact, the researchers checked their state of attentiveness. Just 30 percent of the people who were zoning out at the key moments could give the villain's pseudonym, while 61 percent of the people who weren't zoning out at those moments succeeded.

These results are shocking when you stop to think about them. Each of us has a magnificent hive of billions of neurons in our head, joined to each other by trillions of connections. The human brain is arguably the most complex organ in the natural world. And yet studies on mind wandering are showing that we find it difficult to stay focused for more than a few minutes on even the easiest tasks, despite the fact that we make mistakes whenever we drift away.

Neuroscientists are investigating this paradox by searching for the signatures of mind wandering in the brain. To that end, Schooler and Smallwood recently ran yet another experiment - this one in collaboration with Alan Gordon of Stanford University, University of British Columbia neuroscientist Kalina Christoff, and Christoff's graduate student Rachelle Smith. The researchers put people in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner and gave them the standard press-a-key-unless-you-see-three test. From time to time they asked the subjects if they were paying attention to the task; if they hadn't been, the researchers asked if they had been aware that their mind had wandered. The subjects reported mind wandering 43 percent of the time they were asked. In nearly half those cases, they said they hadn't been aware of their inattentiveness until the scientists asked.

Later, the scientists pored over the scans, looking closely at the activity in people's brains right before they were asked about their state of mind. Overall, people who said they were mind wandering had a pattern of brain activity quite different from those who were focused on the task.

The regions of the brain that become active during mind wandering belong to two important networks. One is known as the executive control system. Located mainly in the front of the brain, these regions exert a top-down influence on our conscious and unconscious thought, directing the brain's activity toward important goals. The other regions belong to another network called the default network. In 2001 a group led by neuroscientist Marcus Raichle at Washington University discovered that this network was more active when people were simply sitting idly in a brain scanner than when they were asked to perform a particular task. The default network also becomes active during certain kinds of self-referential thinking, such as reflecting on personal experiences or picturing yourself in the future.

The fact that both of these important brain networks become active together suggests that mind wandering is not useless mental static. Instead, Schooler proposes, mind wandering allows us to work through some important thinking. Our brains process information to reach goals, but some of those goals are immediate while others are distant. Somehow we have evolved a way to switch between handling the here and now and contemplating long-term objectives. It may be no coincidence that most of the thoughts that people have during mind wandering have to do with the future.

Even more telling is the discovery that zoning out may be the most fruitful type of mind wandering. In their fMRI study, Schooler and his colleagues found that the default network and executive control systems are even more active during zoning out than they are during the less extreme mind wandering with awareness. When we are no longer even aware that our minds are wandering, we may be able to think most deeply about the big picture.

Because a fair amount of mind wandering happens without our ever noticing, the solutions it lets us reach may come as a surprise. There are many stories in the history of science of great discoveries occurring to people out of the blue. The French mathematician Henri Poincaré once wrote about how he struggled for two weeks with a difficult mathematical proof. He set it aside to take a bus to a geology conference, and the moment he stepped on the bus, the solution came to him. It is possible that mind wandering led him to the solution. John Kounios of Drexel University and his colleagues have done brain scans that capture the moment when people have a sudden insight that lets them solve a word puzzle. Many of the regions that become active during those creative flashes belong to the default network and the executive control system as well.

Of course, being permanently zoned out has its downside. It is one thing to drift away for a few lines of War and Peace. But if you're pondering where you'll be in five years as you drive through a busy intersection, you may not be around in five years to find out. Our brains delicately navigate between near-term and long-term thinking, monitoring our own awareness to make sure that we are not missing something vital. Perhaps, Schooler and Smallwood argue, the secret to a good life is finding the balance between the two, the rhythm that brings harmony to the different timescales at which we live.  And if you are staring at that last sentence and wondering what on earth I'm talking about, you might want to scan back a few paragraphs to find the spot where you zoned out. Honestly, I won't mind."

The Universe

"The Evolution of a Dream" 

"Dream is implanted into brain. 
Dreamer becomes thrilled. 
Dreamer becomes terrified. 

If no action is taken, terrifying thoughts grow into flesh-eating monsters. Dream is considered unrealistic. If action is taken terrifying thoughts are revealed to be paper tigers. Confidence soars, miracles unfold, and dreamer begins to saunter. The difference taking action will make in your life is more than can be comprehended. But, of course, this is also true of inaction.
Either way, nothing remains the same." 
    The Universe

"Thoughts become things... choose the good ones!" 

"How It Really Is"

The Economy: Gerald Celente, "Panic In The Markets, Panic In the Air"

Gerald Celente, "Trends In The News": "Panic In The Markets, Panic In the Air" 

The Economy: "The War On Cash: Why Now?"

"The War On Cash: Why Now?"
by Charles Hugh Smith

"You’ve probably read that there is a “war on cash” being waged on various fronts around the world. What exactly does a “war on cash” mean? It means governments are limiting the use of cash and a variety of official-mouthpiece economists are calling for the outright abolition of cash. Authorities are both restricting the amount of cash that can be withdrawn from banks, and limiting what can be purchased with cash. These limits are broadly called “capital controls.”

Why Now? Before we get to that, let’s distinguish between physical cash — currency and coins in your possession — and digital cash in the bank. The difference is self-evident: cash in hand cannot be confiscated by a “bail-in” (i.e., officially sanctioned theft) in which the government or bank expropriates a percentage of cash deposited in the bank. Cash in hand cannot be chipped away by negative interest rates or fees. Cash in the bank cannot be withdrawn in a financial emergency that shutters the banks (i.e., a bank holiday).

When pundits suggest cash is “obsolete,” they mean physical paper money and coins, not cash in a bank. Cash in the bank is perfectly fine with the government and its well-paid yes-men (paging Mr. Rogoff and Mr. Buiter) because this cash can be expropriated by either “bail-ins” or by negative interest rates.

Inflation and Negative Interest Rates: Mr. Buiter, for example, recently opined that the spot of bother in 2008–09 (the Global Financial Meltdown) could have been avoided if banks had only charged a 6 percent negative interest rate on cash: in effect, taking 6 percent of the depositor’s cash to force everyone to spend what cash they might have.

Both cash in hand and cash in the bank are subject to one favored method of expropriation, inflation. Inflation — the single most cherished goal of every central bank — steals purchasing power from physical cash and digital cash alike. Inflation punishes holders of cash and benefits those with debt, as debt becomes cheaper to service. The beneficial effect of inflation on debt has been in play for decades, so it can’t be the cause of governments’ recent interest in eliminating physical cash.

So now we return to the question: Why are governments suddenly declaring war on physical cash, the oldest officially issued form of money?

Why They Hate Cash in Hand: The first reason: physical cash has the potential to evade both taxes as well as officially sanctioned theft via bail-ins and negative interest rates. In short, physical cash is extremely difficult for governments to steal. Some of you may find the word theft harsh or even offensive. But we must differentiate between taxes — which are levied to pay for the state’s programs that in principle benefit all citizens — and bail-ins, i.e., the taking of depositors’ cash to bail out banks that became insolvent through the actions of the banks’ management, not the actions of depositors.

Bail-ins are theft, pure and simple. Since the government enforces the taking, it is officially sanctioned theft, but theft nonetheless.

Negative interest rates are another form of officially sanctioned theft. In a world without the financial repression of zero-interest rates (ZIRP — central banks’ most beloved policy), lenders would charge borrowers enough interest to pay depositors for the use of their cash and earn the lender a profit. If borrowers are paying interest, negative interest rates are theft, pure and simple.

Why are governments suddenly so keen to ban physical cash? The answer appears to be that the banks and government authorities are anticipating bail-ins, steeply negative interest rates and hefty fees on cash, and they want to close any opening regular depositors might have to escape these forms of officially sanctioned theft. The escape mechanism from bail-ins and fees on cash deposits is physical cash, and hence the sudden flurry of calls to eliminate cash as a relic of a bygone age — that is, an age when commoners had some way to safeguard their money from bail-ins and bankers’ control.

Forcing Those With Cash To Spend or Gamble Their Cash: Negative interest rates (and fees on cash, which are equivalently punitive to savers) raise another question: why are governments suddenly obsessed with forcing owners of cash to either spend it or gamble it in the financial-market casinos?

The conventional answer voiced by Mr. Buiter is that recession and credit contraction result from households and enterprises hoarding cash instead of spending it. The solution to recession is thus to force all those stingy cash hoarders to spend their money. There are three enormous flaws in this thinking.

One is that households and businesses have cash to hoard. The reality is the bottom 90 percent of households have less income now than they did fifteen years ago, which means their spending has declined not from hoarding but from declining income. While corporate America has basked in the glory of sharply rising profits, small business has not prospered in the same fashion. Indeed, by some measures, small business has been in a six-year recession. The bottom 90 percent has less income and faces higher living expenses, so only the top slice of households has any substantial cash. This top slice may see few safe opportunities to invest their savings, so they choose to keep their savings in cash rather than gamble it in a rigged casino (i.e., the stock market).

The second flaw is that hoarding cash is the only rational, prudent response in an era of financial repression and economic insecurity. What central banks are demanding — that we spend every penny of our earnings rather than save some for investments we control or emergencies — is counter to our best interests.

A War on Cash Is a War on Capital: This leads to the third flaw: capital — which begins its life as savings — is the foundation of capitalism. If you attack savings as a scourge, you are attacking capitalism and upward mobility, for only those who save capital can invest it to build wealth. By attacking cash, the central banks and governments are attacking capital and upward mobility.

Those who already own the majority of productive assets are able to borrow essentially unlimited sums at near-zero interest rates, which they can use to buy more productive assets. Everyone else — the bottom 99.5 percent — is reduced to consumer-serfdom: you are not supposed to accumulate productive capital, you are supposed to spend every penny you earn on interest payments, goods, and services.

This inversion of capitalism dooms an economy to all the ills we are experiencing in abundance: rising income inequality, reduced opportunities for entrepreneurship, rising debt burdens, and a short-term perspective that voids the longer-term planning required to build sustainable productivity and wealth.

Physical Cash: Only $1.36 Trillion: According to the Federal Reserve, total outstanding physical cash amounts to $1.36 trillion. Given that a substantial amount of this cash is held overseas, physical cash is a tiny part of the domestic economy and the nation’s total assets. For context: the US economy is $17.5 trillion, total financial assets of households and nonprofit organizations total $68 trillion, base money is around $4 trillion, and total money (currency in circulation and demand deposits) is over $10 trillion (source).

Given the relatively modest quantity of physical cash, claims that eliminating it will boost the economy ring hollow. Following the principle of cui bono — to whose benefit? — let’s ask: What are the benefits of eliminating physical cash to banks and the government?

The benefits to banks and governments by eliminating cash are self-evident:

 • Every financial transaction can be taxed.
 • Every financial transaction can be charged a fee.
 • Bank runs are eliminated.

In fractional reserve systems such as ours, banks are only required to hold a fraction of their assets in cash. Thus a bank might only have 1 percent of its assets in cash. If customers fear the bank might be insolvent, they crowd the bank and demand their deposits in physical cash. The bank quickly runs out of physical cash and closes its doors, further fueling a panic. The federal government began insuring deposits after the Great Depression triggered the collapse of hundreds of banks, and that guarantee limited bank runs, as depositors no longer needed to fear a bank closing would mean their money on deposit was lost. But since people could conceivably sense a disturbance in the Financial Force and decide to turn digital cash into physical cash as a precaution, eliminating physical cash also eliminates the possibility of bank runs, as there will be no form of cash that isn’t controlled by banks.

So, when the dust has settled who ultimately benefits by this war on cash? Government and the central banks, pure and simple.”

“Really Microsoft?”

“Really Microsoft?”
 by Karl Denninger

“You gotta be kidding me... “Starting today, Microsoft is offering most Windows 7 and Windows 8 users a free upgrade to the software giant’s latest operating system — Windows 10. But there’s a very important security caveat that users should know about before transitioning to the new OS: Unless you opt out, Windows 10 will by default share your Wi-Fi network password with any contacts you may have listed in Outlook and Skype — and, with an opt-in, your Facebook friends.”


You got to be kidding me; oh yeah, Microsoft claims this is "securely done" but that is not the point. Many machines are connected to confidential WiFi networks such as corporate ones, even if they're personal computers, and not all corporate networks are 802.1x secured either. Sending those credentials to your "friends" by default is an outrage. Where did Microsoft get the idea that they had the right to steal the data (in this case, an encryption key) from your computer and give it to other people?
"Windows 10 Shares Your Wi-Fi With Contacts"
Heh Microsoft...You have to love this crap. Attempting to grab the ISO (or to a USB stick) update, which has been available for the last day and change, and you get this....

Well, some people get this. I'm getting this from a number of different machines, all Windows-licensed at present. I have give Microsoft credit for the "wonderful" error message. No, in fact, something did not happen. That's the entire problem; something was supposed to happen, but it did not."