Monday, October 31, 2011

Costs vs Benefits vs You Shouldn't Do That It's Bad For You

I've recently taken up cigar smoking.

I'm doing it properly, so I -only- have to worry about mouth cancer, not lung cancer.  Only.

But y'know what?  Fuck it.  I like it.  I like nicotine - I discovered it first smoking a cigar in Las Vegas, and moved on from there to chewing nicotine gum, and cigars taste better than the gum (and give more nicotine, and are cheaper).

I like the taste.

I like the fact that my duster is going to smell like smoke and becomes an effective hippy repellent.

And I like the ritual of it.

The benefits of cigars outweigh the risks, and more broadly the costs, to me.  If I would live forever if I didn't smoke cigars, sure, maybe not, but I'm not going to - I'm going to die no matter what I do, and in the meantime I'd rather live on my terms.

"You shouldn't do that" is a cost-centric way of viewing the world; it ignores the benefits.  "You shouldn't do that" is the habit of people who have no sense of Other; they cannot comprehend that other people would or should have different values than they do.

It is the habit of both the Right and the Left, and it is the habit of authoritarians exclusively; it is to some extent necessary for authoritarian beliefs in an otherwise moral person, because it enables them to make dictates which they believe everyone fundamentally agrees with, but that some people are simply too weak of character to go along with.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I am... atheist.

I most definitely am not agnostic, although I am what is referred to as a "weak" atheist (There is no god because there is no proof of god, rather than there is no god and there is proof that there is no god), which some people sometimes classify as agnostic.

But bloody hell am I tempted to label myself agnostic sometimes.  Self-described atheists, by and large, are evangelistic -assholes-.  They worship harder and louder than most the religious I've encountered.

(Agnostics are rather preachy too, actually, load of stuck-up gits.  But they're less irritating about it than the atheists are, at least thus far in my experience.)

I attended a "humanist" meeting.  Once, and only once.  It is essentially an atheist meeting, only they call themselves humanists because... I don't know why.  There's probably a clever historic reason.  Or not so clever.  I'm curious, but not so curious to go and find out.

There was some interesting discussion, and one older atheist, who was facing death by cancer, asked the group for advice on how to handle dying.  It was rather sad.

But more attention was paid to an atheist who wanted the atheists in the group to distribute atheist literature on streetcorners and a rambling woman who apparently had a PHD in neuroscience who spent a half hour basically saying that religion was a mental disorder.  I stopped listening there.

That was the first humanist meeting I attended.  It will be the last.

Christians are right about atheists.  And "secular" by and large means atheist, not areligious.

It's my experience moreover that atheists replace faith in god with faith in something else, quite typically in government or Science with a capital s, which is to say, the institution rather than the process of science.  I'm frequently enough accused of being anti-science because I question the conclusions of scientists that I've ceased to be fazed by it.

And anymore I prefer the religious.  At least they aren't arguing for the wholesale destruction of the most potent intellectual process ever devised.  That's what every atheist shouting down the questioning voice of the skeptic is really arguing for, after all.

Creationism in schools is harmless by comparison to doctrinal "science," which does more to destroy scientific reasoning than any force I have yet encountered.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quantum Mechanics

I've fiddled with these thoughts for nearly a decade now.  I've considered their value, and if I'm correct, it's inestimable.  If wrong, well, nothing lost.  I'm bored with them, however - if I AM correct, I'm too far ahead of modern physics to be able to do anything meaningful to advance the ideas.  I need more anomalies.

So, Orphan Wilde, who makes no claim to being a studied physicist, on quantum mechanics.

First, it's not the observed which is uncertain, it's the observer.  The earth isn't the center of the universe, nor is the sun, nor is our galaxy; nor are we the center of certainty.  Our minds behave the way they do because they are four dimensional - and one of the products of this is that our observations are skewed across a chunk of probability-space.  We can't isolate these values because they can't be isolated; the particles are real, Einstein was correct, we're just observing a larger bandwidth of them than the single probability-moment that we think we do, which leads us into crazy conclusions about the way matter "really" works.

The process of observation represents a movement of our minds, not the universe.  Relativity and causality are maintained.

And an interesting side effect of this is that our brains are effectively quantum computers.  Cool, huh?  Also, free will is a product of this.  But don't expect that to mean anything to you; your past choices are permanent. And if that statement makes sense to you you should see a shrink.

Second, gravity is a wave.  It's a wave which propagates along space-time it has already bent, more; this produces a steeper gradient closer to mass, and a shallower gradient further from mass, producing the illusion of a wave which slows down as it escapes matter.  This is the grand unified theory, in case you're wondering; gravity is one side of this gradient, the cosmological constant is the next side over, when the gradient is positive.  Atomic configurations are the product of gravity flipping one way and the other.  It also produces bizarre space-time curves around black holes, but that's nothing new.

Third, quantum mechanics is fundamentally wrong; energy doesn't come in discrete packets, it forms a continuum.  The finite set of stable configurations of matter in a closed system produces the illusion of discrete packets; until and unless energy accumulates in sufficient quantities to shift to another stable configuration, the configuration remains identical.  Shifts from one stable configuration to another produce predictable energy emissions, producing the illusion of discrete packets.

Fourth, entropic interactions reverse themselves according to the direction of gravity.  Five years ago I had a clearer idea what this meant.  Today I'm less certain; it was an important idea to me then, however, so I'm writing it down.

Fifth, the big bang never happened.  I don't have any evidence of this, but it seems a natural progression of the past thousand years of science, in which each center of the universe in turn was proven to be just another unexceptional point.  Anytime somebody claims there's an exceptional spot in the universe fix them with a steely gaze and ask "Really?  Another?"


I encountered an article arguing for racial profiling on, among other grounds, the following: Minority drivers are significantly more likely to be pulled over at night.  (The difference is apparently more pronounced at night than during the day.)

...I'll wait for a moment while that processes.

Minority drivers are most likely to be pulled over when it is least obvious that they are a minority.  Setting aside one person arguing that police use military infrared binoculars (really?) to target minorities, this strikes me as a very interesting bit of information.

I'd like some real statistics on the matter, however, rather than taking an unsourced article at its word (even if it is using the data to argue the opposite point I would make).  Anybody encounter statistics like this?

I'd love to get my hands on some raw data including vehicle models, as well.  (Gang activity in a five mile radius of the ticket location would be too good to be true.)

In case it weren't obscenely obvious enough, this article piqued my interest on the matter of racial profiling, and I'm considering doing some work to see if the data supports the theory of racial profiling as neatly as it is represented to do so.

My suspicions are that, if you isolate the variables, there's actually going to be a substantial negative racial profiling mechanism at work, as a result of police sensitivity to racial profiling and the fact that non-racial profiling - targeting high-crime neighborhoods and certain vehicle makes/models - produces nontrivial racial bias in the data.  I base my suspicion on the belief that racial profiling in addition to nonracial criteria should produce substantially greater divergences in traffic stops and penalties for minority drivers than is actually the case.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Do Police Civilize Society...

...more than they uncivilize it?

First, an understanding: The justice system doesn't exist for the benefit of the general public, but for the benefit of those specific members of the public accused of crimes.  We're very good at vigilantism, not necessarily good at vigilante -justice-, and from what I have personally seen, 90% of what police do is discourage vigilantism; I think the death penalty results in fewer vigilante killings than it involves in executions, particularly in states like Texas.

Understanding that the justice system doesn't exist to protect the unaccused innocent, but rather the accused innocent, a lot of what goes on makes a lot more sense.  How many people have you encountered who "Just needed killing?"  Whose sole claim to life is that a penalty exists for taking theirs?

I'm not talking about people who talk too loudly in a theater.  People who engage in what I'll call petty violence; lawyers who file frivolous lawsuits, for example - who use the law both as a shield -and- a club, who let the thugs of government legally do what they themselves could not get away with.  Or burglars in states without the right to protect your property.

Are the police making things better, there, by enforcing rule of law - or worse, by protecting people who turn rule of law into a weapon?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Protests... New York, by liberals.

Okay, guys, let me explain something to you: The conservatives don't care.  At best for your cause they're irritated at the naivety of it.  At worst they're rooting for you.

They don't care if you shut New York City down.  They'd love it if you succeeded, if you kept succeeding, if you drove business out of the liberal bastion of the east coast, and drove it to failure.

I'm kinda rooting for that too, but more because I think the era of the skyscraper has passed, and I think businesses are holding onto outdated business models you're going to help them to overcome.

This is like the communist version of the tea party; no cohesive plan or set of ideas, just opposition to everything the right stands for.  So hey, I'm kinda for that too.  The more browncoats, the more people who stand -against- government policies rather than -for- them, the better.

Pity you're so small and insignificant.  Your dear leader's ineptitude has possibly led to the downfall of the left, and it looks like we're going to need some substantial brakes to put a stop to whatever the right has in store for us now.  You guys won't cut it.

Relationships as Transactions

One of the regular criticisms of Ayn Rand is that she had a transactional view of relationships, which seems more like a lazy way to use economic models to interpret relationships than an inherently productive view of them; it isolates relationships in terms of some universal currency and then assigns values.  She didn't; a transactional view of relationships would isolate relationships down to a currency that is paid back and forth.  Her "currency" was "values," and was functionally rooted in the idea that relationships are an end product of two people's moral systems, independent of what they do for each other.  You can't make a relationship better by sending somebody flowers; you send them flowers because you want to give them flowers, not to try to heal a cracked relationship.

Try applying the transactional relationship model to a train and you quickly see the problem: You can't compensate for a cheap engine that can't pull a train by installing very expensive chairs for the passengers.  There's no exchange rate in the world that can convert comfort into horsepower.

Likewise with relationships, which are abstract enough that it can almost seem like it could work, until you actually get into the specifics.  People who focus on some central value repository - frequently called love, although depending on circumstances it can get called many different things - miss the point.  A forgotten anniversary doesn't subtract ten love points, and flowers and a handwritten apology letter don't add six back.

The transactional model Ayn Rand was criticized for seems more prevalent in the general culture than in Objectivists; people don't choose money as their store of value, but they do try to invent a store of value, and it doesn't really work.  There isn't some pot called love that you can pour a little water into every day, and simply being kind to somebody, or sending them flowers every day, isn't going to make them love you.  At best these are signaling behaviors, indicating some quality about yourself, which you are demonstrating/proving to the other person; it is that quality that they will love, or not love as the case may be, not the act of giving flowers itself.

Ayn Rand described relationships in transactional terms - as being value for value - but the values she refers to are non-transactional; you cannot give somebody your virtues, nor do you trade virtues; you value your mate for their virtues, and they value you for yours, but in no sense does this make a relationship a transactional experience.

Exercise Progress...

Hit week 6 of the 5k in 9 Weeks program tomorrow.  I think at this point I am actually done with the program, insofar as the elliptical goes; I "jogged" another three minutes past what I needed to for the program without issue, and only stopped because I had run out of time.  I'm now doing what I'm hoping is the jogging equivalent for 23 straight minutes; I'm probably not going to aim for the full thirty minutes as yet, and will just eat into the warm-up and cool-down periods to fill in the excess.

Jogging is a joy again, in the brief moments I've done it outside the gym.  I think I've hit the point where it's all downhill (except for what's literally uphill, anyways).  I don't know that I've hit the point I was at last time I was jogging, when I could jog between phases of running to recover, but I am at the point where I can enjoy the act itself, the joy of motion and speed, without my attention constantly drawn by pain in one part of my body or another.  If I can keep my shin splints from coming back, anyways; staying on the elliptical for now, and am going to increase the tension through the end of the month instead of switching back to jogging.

Doing maintenance and endurance exercises on my triceps now (at 285 lbs, which seems incredible to me), and shifted my workout emphasis to my biceps.  Keeping a journal now as well, as I am having trouble remembering each session what I achieved the last session.  (I could probably gain strength considerably faster if I went with the maximum I'm able to lift instead of steadily increasing numbers, but I prefer the steady gain over erratic; it means I'm less likely to injure myself.)

The last month and a half hasn't been easy, exactly, but it hasn't been nearly as difficult as I expected it to be.  Let's see how the next month goes.