Sunday, February 16, 2020


According to one commentary, the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes is an attempt to help folks better face the trials of old age and death.

However, after reading it again, it seems more to me like the "wisest man on Earth", after a lifetime of foolish decisions, particularly about women and worship, proves he's learned nothing from all his long life experience except bitter cynicism at what he's done to himself, lacking even the real repentance for his faults shown by his father.

In modern terms, Solomon was perhaps the Obama of his day (as in given everything in both wealth and praise for merely existing rather than via personal effort, making endless mistakes, but never admitting any nor learning from them, and ending up bitter as everything he ever did was immediately reversed by his successor.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Bayes Theorem and Red Flag Laws

I'm currently reading a lot about Bayes Theorem in the book "The Master Algorithm", so was interested to see Bayes is also relevant to the current debate about red flag laws. Here's the link.

"That’s where the debate should really focus: the rate of false positives and the cost of those false positives vs. the benefits of true positives (which would represent mass shootings avoided). What Bayes’ Theorem implies is that for an act that someone is extremely unlikely to commit, that false positive rate is likely to be extremely high. It also implies that debating in terms of P(X|M) provides very little insight.  P(M) is small, and for any fairly common characteristic, P(X) is fairly large, so P(X|M) has relatively little impact on the rate of false positives.

Again, what Bayes’ Theorem tells us is that for a rare event like mass shooting, vastly more innocent people than true risks will be red flagged. The costs of restricting those who pose no risk must be weighed against the benefits of reducing modestly the risk of a very rare event. Further, it must be recognized that implementing red flag rules are costly, and in these costs should be included the invasions of privacy that they inevitably entail. Yet further, red flag rules are certain to be abused by those with a grudge. And yet further, many of those with characteristic X will escape detection, or will be able to evade the legal restrictions (and indeed have a high motivation to do so).

In the aftermath of mass shootings, there is a hue and cry to do something. The hard lesson taught by Parson Bayes is that there is not a lot we can do. Or put more precisely, those things that we can do will inevitably stigmatize and restrict vastly more innocent people than constrain malign ones."

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Here's advice I can use.
First, relax physically:

“Sit back in your chairs and put your feet flat on the deck. Knees apart, your hands limp on the inside of your lap. Now, close your eyes and drop your chin until it rests on your chest.
Let’s breathe slowly, deeply, and regularly. Take all the wrinkles out of your forehead. Relax your scalp. Just let go. Now let your jaw sag-g-g. Let it drop open. Now relax the rest of your face muscles. Get the brook trout look on your face. Even relax your tongue and lips. Just let them go loose. Breathe slowly.
Now, let’s go after the eight muscles that control your eyes. Let them go limp in their sockets. No focus, just let them go limp. Breathe slowly.
Now drop your shoulders as low as they will go. You think that they are low, but let them go more.  Did you feel the muscles in the back of your neck go limp? When you think you are really relaxed, let them go even more.
Now, let’s relax your chest. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Exhale and blow out all your tensions. Just let your chest collapse. Let it sag-g-g. Imagine you are a big, heavy blob on the chair, a jellyfish. Breathe slowly. When you exhale, release more and more of your tensions.
Let’s go after your arms. Talk directly to your arm muscles. First, talk to your right bicep. Tell it to relax, go limp. Do the same to your right forearm. Now to the right hand and fingers. Your arm should feel like a dead weight on your leg. Repeat the relaxation process with your left arm. Breathe slowly.
Your entire upper body has been exposed to relaxation and a warm, pleasant feeling comes over you. You feel good. A sense of well-being invades your body.
Now for your lower body. Talk to your right thigh muscles. Let them go to a dead weight on the chair. Let the meat hang on the bones. Go through the same routine for the right calf muscles. Then all the muscles of your right ankle and foot. Tell yourself that your right leg has no bones in it. It is just a flabby, heavy weight on the deck. Repeat the process with your left thigh, calf, ankle, and foot.
At present you are all relaxed physically, or think you are. For a little insurance, let’s take three deep breaths and when you let them out, blow out all the remaining tensions, one . . . whoosh, two . . . whoosh, three . . . whoosh.”
Next, relax mentally:
“First, we want you to fantasize that it is a warm spring day and you are lying in the bottom of a canoe on a very serene lake. You are looking up at a blue sky with lazy, floating clouds. Do not allow any other thought to creep in. Just concentrate on this picture and keep foreign thoughts out, particularly thoughts with any movement or motion involved. Hold this picture and enjoy it for ten seconds.
In the second sleep-producing fantasy, imagine that you are in a big, black, velvet hammock and everywhere you look is black. You must also hold this picture for ten seconds.
The third trick is to say the words ‘don’t think . . . don’t think . . . don’t think,’ etc. Hold this, blanking out other thoughts for at least ten seconds.”

Friday, March 8, 2019

Tips to Keep You Away from the ER
1  Never, ever say “hold my beer and watch this!
2  NEVER drink and drive. Same with drugs. Except for Tylenol. And Motrin.
4  Don’t tell your significant other your life is no longer worth living
5  Shoveling the roof is overrated.
Your motorcycle? At least wear a helmet.
7  Do not, stick your hand in your snowblower to clean it.
8  If you’ve been coughing for a week and you smoke, go buy honey.
    Don’t come to the ER unless you have fever, you’re short of breath or have chest pain.
    You’ll cough at least three weeks.
9  Your twelve-years-of-God-awful-back-pain?
    Unless something’s really different today, the ER is not the place for it.
10 If you have an appointment with your doctor, don’t cancel to come to the ER
11 Don’t separate fighting dogs with your bare hands. Use a prop.
12 Don’t throw gasoline on an open flame
16 Coming to the ER for a second opinion won’t help.
17 Unless you’re actively trying to reproduce, use condoms.
18 Get a flu shot.
19 If you walk with a walker, avoid ladders.
20 Turn off your oxygen tank before lighting up. Even better, stop smoking.
21 Don’t eat spicy food if you have diarrhea. Diarrhea is when you run out of TP;
22 Vaccinate your children.
23 Use protection. Use the guard of your saw. Use safety glasses when you’re welding.
24 Don’t hold your chainsaw between your legs to start it.
25 Same with pouring hot coffee. Set the cup down.
26 Don’t put on mascara while you’re driving.
28 Don’t leave your meds around for your toddler to sample.
29 Fibromyalgia is seldom lethal for patients.
30 Get a doctor.
31 Help others. Focus less on yourself and more on others.
     It will make you happier and healthier.
32 Get rid of your trampoline.
34 Overweight is bad. Walking is for the dogs. Get one.
35 If you’re calling the ER to ask how busy we are, you don’t need to come.
36 Get a dentist.
37 Stop smoking!
38 Don’t lock your children in the car. Same with pets.
39 Don’t fry bacon naked.
40 Don’t ride your bike while you’re walking your dog.
41 Don’t keep shampoo bottles on the floor.
42 Don’t keep bleach in soda bottles.
43 Invest in a cock-ring with a release, and a butt plug with a wide flange.
44 If you can’t control your anger, punch a pillow.
45 Never wear flip-flops to run, walk your dog or climb a ladder.
46 Power tools, tree stands, and ladders don’t mix with alcohol.
47 Same with anything fire related: Fireworks, fire pit, bonfire.
48 Take your meds as prescribed.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

My Google+ posts

With Google+ soon going away, here are all the links I'd posted there that still work and still seem relevant:

Interesting article on how progressive ideas for California actually result in the opposite of their desired results:

Interesting explanation of what may cause empires to grow and decline, with implications for our own country:

Excellent post on why Jesus isn't a Democrat.

Two good cautionary essays on the coming of hereditary aristocracy to America:

Interesting suggestion that the US may now have castes similar to the traditional ones in India:

This illustration is apt, but the article is even better. Read the whole thing.

Excellent explanation on how faith-based global warmism almost collapsed America's highest dam two winters ago:

Not exactly my story, but close enough...

There's some truth to this:

This sounds like good advice to me (so it will likely be ignored):

"Scientific" tips on how to please a woman...

Tips on making friends quickly:

My favorite economist retired. Here are some of his best quotes:

Interesting possible example of the total security state being hoisted by its own petard:

Finally, a credible explanation of the purpose of virtue-signaling:
And as the computer explained in the movie War Games, and Donald Trump proved in the 2016 election, "The only way to win is not to play."

Finally, something I agree with on Yahoo:
"If you’re looking for the simplest rule of thumb, follow Mozaffarian’s golden rule: 'Eat foods that give rise to life.' Nuts, nut butters, seeds, seed oils, olives, olive oil and avocados all fit the bill.

“It’s also crucial to point out that the benefits come from replacing carbs with healthy fats,”

I'd like to think America is still in the top ranks of both economic opportunity and personal freedom. Sadly, two articles I just read both agree we've now lost those honors - to Canada. Too bad Canada doesn't have full freedom of speech, but then the way things are going, we may not either for much longer.

Here are the links:

Here's an official answer to a timely question I never thought to ask:
"'What is the proper and legal solution to being faced with a potentially violent mob when they block the roadway?' I asked a cop, and he said that the minimum speed on the freeway system is 45 miles per hour, so I should slow down to 45, and swerve to hit as few as possible. And once a safe distance away, I should stop in the emergency lane and call 911."
--Commenter Michael Litscher on

To this I'd add it's likely best to drive predictably - in a straight line and at a steady speed, so long as the only barrier in front of you is humans. That way anyone trying to thereby trap you will have the maximum possible time to realize and recover from their error in judgment before being hit by your car.

This is related to how I try to behave in traffic in any vehicle - the more steady and predictable my movements, whether on foot, bike, Segway or car, the less likely another driver will guess wrong and hit me. I also try to be as aware as possible of all their movements, to make it as difficult as possible for them to hit me, no matter how badly or inattentive their movements. When approaching pedestrian children and dogs on my bike or Segway, I always assume they will dart directly in front of me at the worst possible time, and plan how to avoid them even then. Far too often, that's exactly what they do, so best to plan a way around it.

Makes a strong case:

Interesting explanation of why we still do a lot of what we do that no longer helps us:

Excellent explanation of why we shouldn't block faster traffic in the left lane of a multi-lane highway, even when we are driving at or above the speed limit.
I haven't figured out how to handle this when we are in the HOV lane yet, with nowhere to go to legally get out of the way of a fast car behind us.

Interesting explanation of why family and national fortunes tend to rise and fall within 3 generations: Briefly, the first generation builds something. The second generation enjoys it. And the third generation tries (but eventually fails) to prevent anyone else succeeding at their expense.

Interesting defense of Vladimir Putin:

Lifelong Democrat, who voted for Obama twice, and Bernie this spring, explains why he voted for Trump in 2016 (and surprisingly, he makes a whole lot of sense.):

Gun homicides aren't an American problem, they're a cities run by corrupt Democratic machines problem: "The urban ghetto kill zones all have the same thing in common – run by liberal Democrats for decades, with poverty created by their welfare policies, dreadful public schools, and a black population who don’t work and take no personal responsibility for their lives or their children."

Interesting argument against fiat money:

"It’s attention to what we have in common that bring us together—not attention to what makes us different."

Some regulation is needful. Too much is harmful. Problem is that eliminating even the single worst one would break someone's rice bowl, and they will fight to the death to protect it. Only way forward is to break all the rice bowls at once.

Learned a few things about IRAs three years ago:
1) Once you take an IRA distribution, it's ALL taxable, and as ordinary income, because it went in pre-tax.
2) If that makes you want to undo the distribution, a) you must do so within 60 days, and b) you can only undo 1 IRA distribution per 365 days.
3) There's no longer multi-year income averaging for anyone but farmers and fishermen.
4) You can only deduct up to half of your adjusted gross income as a charitable contribution in any one year. (The rest can be deducted in a future year.)
5)This is not a problem when you rollover money from one IRA directly to another IRA, even with different companies.
6) It's also not a problem with Roth IRAs, which are taxfree when distributed. (However, unless you need the money, a Roth may be even more useful as a way to benefit grandkids.)
7) Once you reach age 70-1/2, you have to take a required minimum distribution, but you can take it from any of your IRAs, so long as you take enough to meet the requirement for all IRAs (about 3.65% in the first year, rising slowly thereafter under an IRS-supplied formula.)
8) If you don't need part or all of your RMD, you can have your IRA donate it directly to a 501(c)(3) charity, which
a) avoids all taxes on up to a $100K donation per year for both you and the charity, and
b) cannot also be declared as a tax deduction (because it's not part of your income.)
9) The charity you can designate for this may NOT be a donor-advised fund, such as or T Rowe Price's
Long story short: For the past three years, "The Strasma Family Fund" at has now existed as a way to help our church and favorite charities benefit more, both now and into future generations, while lowering our tax bracket from a too-large initial IRA distribution that can no longer be undone. Last month, it moved on to the next generation as my son's family added to its assets and made their first grant from it.
Yep, this is deep stuff, covered nicely in a "It's Your Wealth" class a neighbor and I took at the local senior center sponsored by I only wish I'd known all this before taking any IRA distributions. Oh well. "Too soon old. Too late smart."

Interesting analysis:
"Bullying is good when it is done to oppressive assholes who won’t respond to logic, reason, or decency. It cows them, and prevents their despotism from rising to the point that they need to be killed to be free of them."

Not a new problem, but still very important. Adam Smith also railed against crony capitalists, and it's one reform both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street should agree is needed:

Excellent rebuttal by Charles Murray, showing his still-controversial best-known work aged well:

Interesting article about corruption. Surprised by the example of the New Deal as getting rid of prior corruption in giving aid to the poor in the U.S. Makes sense, but had not heard of it before, and may now have gone too far the other way, with civil service corruption having replaced spoils system corruption.

Good insights into parallels between the Garden of Eden and two other Old Testament stories: Noah's drunkenness, and Joseph's pursuit by the wife of Potifar:

Helpful nuance:

This version of "the talk" got its author banned from writing for the New Republic. A better idea would have been to push back on aspects he got wrong.

MLK on Marxism. I agree with him entirely:

Turns out protecting a neighborhood in time of trouble is more complex than I'd expected:

Well what do you know? There may be a scientific consensus about global warming after all, but not the one alarmists claim there is:

Instapundit nails it again:
"See, if you can’t call Republicans a bunch of old white people — because, you know, that’s the Democratic field this time around — you call them race traitors, a term with a long Democratic Party history. . . .
All leftist affinity groups care more about leftism than affinity, when push comes to shove."
Insty is too polite to remind us all the ways the Democratic Party history hurt minorities (pro-slavery, Jim Crow laws, KKK, etc. -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Republican for just such reasons.)

This is troubling:

All the Muslims I know personally are lovely, peaceful people, who get along fine with all cultures. Even so, there is unfortunate important statistical truth in this article:

Interesting new take on an old parable:

When choosing a college today, families should look carefully at 3 statistics not often revealed:
1) Freedom of speech (measured by a Green rating from
2) Due process for the accused in allegations of sexual offenses
3) Viewpoint diversity among the faculty

Real science is NEVER settled. And as Glenn Reynolds likes to say, "I'll believe global cooling/warming/climate change/etc. is a real crisis when those who claim it is a crisis ACT like it's a crisis."

Thus far, I have yet to meet such a person whose carbon footprint is less than my own. Meanwhile, faking statistics to pretend things are happening that are objectively NOT happening does not add to my trust in the claims of those faking data.

One of the hard things about being a serious environmentalist in California is that still puts me to the right of Attila the Hun compared to the average self-declared "environmentalist" in California. After years of draught, with all the water in the world just off-shore, building desalinization plants is the obvious solution, so naturally the movement is agin it, sad that San Diego will get a plant, and determined to keep one from nearby Huntington Beach. They have excuses for opposing the plants, of course, but until Hollywood stars stop watering their lawns and topping off their swimming pools, desalinization is a vastly better solution than trying to steal even more water from the parts of California that actually have any.

One of the big learnings of the past decade is that there is no longer any such thing as a shovel-ready government project, due to the ability of NIMBYs to tie up every such attempt for years or even decades thanks to excessive regulations and too many bureacrats standing in the way of any possible progress.

Interesting article on how to align spending with beliefs. I particularly enjoyed the bit about noticing when ideological opponents do something with which you agree, and thanking them:

I love this discussion about faith and war:

"nearly every shooting in Wikipedia’s 2015 ‘list of U.S. school attacks’ involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married"

Or as Pogo would say, "Don't just do something. Stand there!"

Good review of a book I enjoyed reading:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" sums up my view on such issues. However offended I am at what folks say in free speech, I'm more offended when other folks try to get them fired or killed for it. I stopped using Firefox when they fired tech wizard Brendan Eich for having donated to a CA initiative on traditional marriage years earlier, back when Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were making similar statements. Now they want to fire another employee for having another troublesome opinion off the job. I deleted Firefox from my system entirely, replacing it with Brendan EIch's new Brave browser. Too bad. Firefox was good software, but they clearly learned nothing about the importance of tolerating free speech by opponents, and really, who else IS there we need to tolerate?

Fast-moving bad news builds prosperity:

Definitely on a roll here: "Liberals are more upset over the death of a freaking lion than Planned Parenthood running a baby chop shop" and "why are liberals more concerned about the death of Simba than future generations?" and "Remember, the millions of lives taken by the abortion giant don’t matter to Democrats. Only Black Lives Matter (though, not the lives of black babies, apparently)."

Premature, but hopefully ultimately to be proven correct: "The decline of the Left as a political force in America coincided precisely with its shift from a politics of individual freedom to that of tut-tutting politically-correct nanny-statism." - Glenn Harlan Reynolds in 2005.

"The ultimate irony of the Obama Presidency very well may be the fact that large numbers of black voters correctly see how voting Democratic, even for a black Democrat, changed nothing in their lives." - commenter Benjamin Rand on Instapundit

"Fear nothing. Hate no one. Stick to principles. Unchecked borders are dangerous not because Mexicans are evil but because evil thrives when good men don’t stand guard. Poverty programs are misguided, not because the poor are undeserving criminals, but because dependency on government breeds dysfunction and more poverty. Guns save lives and protect liberty. Property rights guarantee liberty. Religious rights are essential to liberty. Without liberty we are equal only in misery." - Andrew Klavan

Interesting. I agree with all 10:

Her reply:

Depressing article: Why corruption is wining, and neither liberals nor conservatives can fix it:

Interesting that this started within a mile of our Illinois home, while we lived there, and this was the first I'd heard about it. Some good things still start in Illinois.

Another inconvenient truth and wasted opportunity:

Solution for picky eaters: Not just whining about the problem, but actually gives solutions that I remember working in my childhood family.

Why would they need it? Robots have neither free will nor original sin.
I read somewhere that there have been two technological revolutions in my lifetime:
1) personal computing. Example: a Casio calculator watch has more processing power than the first mainframe computers.
2) personal weaponry - the amount of damage that can now be done by one person with stuff they can carry.

Lately, it seems to me the revolution in personal weaponry is overtaking the one in personal computing. And that's even before a third revolution (in personal manufacturing via 3D printers) fully takes off.

This has huge implications for how long the rich and powerful can now expect to get away with treating the rest of humanity unjustly.

I have no cure to offer beyond avoiding predictably-crowded places, and treating others well. These genies are all well out of the bottle, and unlikely to be soon corralled by government.

My overall impression of Greenpeace is that they are neither green nor peaceful. They also seem to care a lot more about first world lives than third world ones, based on their long opposition to the use of Golden rice anywhere, even though it would save lots of lives in poor countries.

Good reminder: "it is precisely when the alleged crime is so heinous, and the accused unpopular with those in authority, that we must guard against emotion-driven efforts to bypass fundamental due process.” - University of Virginia professor Robert F. Turner and his son, Thomas E. Turner, a junior at the university