Archives for category: Chance

“The Texas educational system inundates the children with the almost mythical stories of Sam Houston, Stephen F. Austin, and other Texan heroes. This perpetuates the feeling that Texans are superior to others. Social Identity Theory claims that in-group biases are a direct need to feel superior to another group. By reinforcing such ideals of Texas history at an early age, they are indirectly making Texans feel superior to other states.”

Don’t mess with Texas, Justin R.Erenkranz, retrieved on February 18, 2021

In fact, Texans are so proud of their state, and so confident in themselves, that their power grid, run by ERCOT – Electric Reliability Council of Texas, has no connections linking it to the outside world.
Yes, your eyes are OK. Texas – most of it, anyway, cannot import electric energy. No matter what!

For those who know anything about power management, this is insane.
For the rest of the people, this sounds like gibberish.

Who cares where the power comes from?!?

Until it stops coming… exactly when you need it most!

Texas produces and consumes more electricity than any other state, but it is the only state in the continental United States that runs a stand-alone electricity grid, which was designed to keep the state’s energy system independent and isolated from other markets.

‘OK. But surely, there are also other systems which are independent. And isolated. What about Hawai’i? It’s too far away to connect itself with anybody else and it’s doing just fine.’

True enough. And I can name a few more, easily. Only most of them are independent because they are isolated, not by design.
And, exactly because they are isolated, they are run with utmost care. More precautions are taken than in ‘normal’ situations.

‘Precaution’ meaning, in this case, spare capacity.
The responsible people running those systems make sure that, when push comes to shove, somebody is there to deliver the goods. The megawatts of power.

Since 2010, ERCOT’s reserve margin – the buffer between what it can produce vs. forecasted demand – has dropped to about 10% from about 20%. This has put pressure on generators during electricity demand spikes, making the grid less flexible, NERC said.

NERC stands for North American Electric Reliability Corporation. Which corporation, in December 2020, had released “a long term reliability study” maintaining that “ERCOT’s market and system operations have been successful over the last several years even as demand has continued to rise in Texas“. It was the same study which had mentioned that the grid was becoming “less flexible“….

SEC Rule 156 requires mutual funds to tell investors not to base their expectations of future results on past performance before they invest.

Oops…

Reality is an Acquired Taste.

Past performance is not… John Brown, Forbes, 2016

Maybe we need to reconsider our infatuation with ‘just in time management’.
While ‘just in time management’ maximizes profits by streamlining inventory, it works its magic only when everything goes according to plan. And the stricter the streamlining, the harsher the consequences of anything not going according to plan!

As people in Texas have just learned.

And there’s something else which bothers me ever since I’ve started writing this post.
How much sense does it make to be able to pipe oil all the way down from Canada to the refineries lining the Gulf of Texas when you end up freezing to death because you don’t have enough electricity to operate those refineries?!?

And no, I’m not making fun of the ordinary people who suffer the consequences!
This being the moment when I feel the need to remind you that the author of this blog – that’s me, tries to asses the consequences of our limited consciousness. Of the fact that none of us knows much. And, furthermore, that very few of us admit that!
Which consequences might be – as too often are, tragic.

Specially when those who are not aware that their knowledge is limited happen to be invested with critical decision power.

“How absurd to imagine that something we can make could actually deliver us from problems we could not free ourselves from!”
Dr. Allen Ross, Dead Idols or the Living God

According to Abraham Maslow, people’s lives are ‘staged’.
During the first four, each individual ‘must’ – ‘inside’ whatever circumstances Mother Luck had granted them, provide for their ‘needs’.
Only after they had reached the fifth stage, individuals have the opportunity – but no ‘obligation’ other than that each of them impose upon themselves, to ‘reinvent’ their own personae. Maslow had used ‘self-actualization’ to describe the process.

In religious terms, the whole thing is known as ‘coming to peace with oneself’.

No more ‘absurdity’ here!
There’s so much each of us can do in order to move ‘forward’…

‘And where is this famous ‘forward’?!? How are we, individually and/or collectively, to determine which is the ‘good’ direction?!?’

Is our ‘imagination’ good enough to come up with a solution for the “problems we could not free ourselves from”?

The carpenter measures with a line

    and makes an outline with a marker;

he roughs it out with chisels

    and marks it with compasses.

He shapes it in human form,

    human form in all its glory,

    that it may dwell in a shrine.

He cut down cedars,

    or perhaps took a cypress or oak.

He let it grow among the trees of the forest,

    or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.

 It is used as fuel for burning;

    some of it he takes and warms himself,

    he kindles a fire and bakes bread.

But he also fashions a god and worships it;

    he makes an idol and bows down to it.

Half of the wood he burns in the fire;

    over it he prepares his meal,

    he roasts his meat and eats his fill.

He also warms himself and says,

    “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”

From the rest he makes a god, his idol;

    he bows down to it and worships.

He prays to it and says,

    “Save me! You are my god!”

Is ‘induction’ a comprehensive enough solution?
Or ‘too much of a good thing’ will never fail to become ‘bad for you’?

Confused?

Let me put it another way.

‘One size fits all’.
How many times have you been really satisfied by such a ‘solution’?
Do you really think an ‘idol’ fashioned by a carpenter – by the most talented carpenter, even, will ever satisfy the needs of at least one blacksmith?

‘But how about the idols fashioned by Plato’s king-priests?’

To answer this question – this excellent question, if I may say so myself, we must turn back to Dr. Allen Ross’ Dead Idols. To the difference between the Dead Idols and the Living God, to be more precise.

‘Criterion for what?’

If you pay close enough attention to what’s written above, you’ll notice that not passing the falsifiability test doesn’t mean than an assertion is false! Far from it, actually!
Not passing the falsifiability test – ‘if a claim is compatible with all and any states of affairs’, only means that that claim is both ‘true’ and unscientific! Simultaneously true and not scientific!

‘And what has any of these to do with God?!? With the Living God or with any of the Dead Idols humankind has built for itself? And later discarded?’

I’m afraid you’ll have to come back for the answers.
Or, to put it differently, I’ll gladly welcome you back!

According to Alan Hayek – the guy who claims the copyright for the relevant entry into the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the wager doesn’t make any sense unless you consider that God is, however remotely, possible.

Now, that I grabbed your attention, let me point it to the subject du jour.

The face mask!

To wear or not to wear one…

Strangely enough, many of those who believe in God are adamantly refusing to wear a mask.
They don’t actually see God yet they find the world as THE argument for His existence.
And, at the same time, they refuse to acknowledge the seriousness of the Covid 19 pandemic. Which had already killed, or hastened the death of, more than 1.2 million people worldwide.

OK, almost no mask – specially the ones worn by us, civilians, is 100% fool-proof.
But wearing one is far better than none at all…
OK, most of us would weather the infection with relative ease.
But some would die!
Then why spread it around?

For that, if you didn’t already know, is more than half of what the masks do!
They make it harder for those of us who already have it – but don’t know it yet, to spread it around.

Help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by protecting yourself and others. Keep in mind that you may have the virus even if you don’t have symptoms.

You still consider it to be a muzzle?

Why? Only because it is mandated by the government?
And you don’t trust your own government? While living in a democratic country?

But since when do you rely on your government to tell you which is the sensible thing to do?

“Every morning, the CEO of a large bank in Manhattan walks to the corner where a shoe shine is always located.

He sits on the couch, examines the Wall Street Journal, and the shoe shine gives his shoes a shiny, excellent look.

One morning the shoeshine asks the Executive Director:

– What do you think about the situation in the stock market?

The Director asks in turn arrogantly:

– Why are you so interested in that – that topic?

“I have a million dollars in your bank,” the shoeshine says, “and I’m considering investing some of the money in the capital market.”

– What your name? –Asks the Director.

– John Smith H.

The Director arrives at the bank and asks the Manager of the Customer Department:

– Do we have a client named John Smith H.?

– Certainly –answers the Customer Service Manager–, he is a highly esteemed customer. He has a million dollars in his account.

The Director comes out, approaches the shoeshine, and says:

– Mr. Smith, I ask you this coming Monday to be the guest of honor at our board meeting and tell us the story of your life. I am sure we will have something to learn from you.

At the board meeting, the Executive Director introduces him to the board members:

– We all know Mr. Smith, who makes our shoes shine in the corner; But Mr. Smith is also our esteemed customer with a million dollars in his account. I invited him to tell us the story of his life. I am sure we can learn from him.

Mr. Smith began his story:

– I came to this country fifty years ago as a young immigrant from Europe with an unpronounceable name. I got off the ship without a penny. The first thing I did was change my name to Smith. I was hungry and exhausted. I started wandering around looking for a job but to no avail. Suddenly I found a coin on the sidewalk. I bought an apple. I had two options: eat the apple and quench my hunger or start a business. I sold the apple for two dollars and bought two apples with the money. I also sold them and continued in business. When I started accumulating dollars, I was able to buy a set of used brushes and shoe polish and started polishing shoes. I didn’t spend a penny on entertainment or clothing, I just bought bread and some cheese to survive. I saved penny by penny and after a while, I bought a new set of shoe brushes and ointments in different shades and expanded my clientele. I lived like a monk and saved penny by penny. After a while I was able to buy an armchair so that my clients could sit comfortably while cleaning their shoes, and that brought me more clients. I did not spend a penny on the joys of life. I kept saving every penny. A few years ago, when the previous shoe shine on the corner decided to retire, I had already saved enough money to buy his shoeshine location at this great place.

Finally, three months ago, my sister, who was a whore in Chicago, passed away and left me a million dollars.”

Somebody sent me this as a Whatsapp message.
I looked it up and shared it with you for a very simple reason.

We all know Mr. Smith, who makes our shoes shine in the corner; But Mr. Smith is also our esteemed customer with a million dollars in his account. I invited him to tell us the story of his life. I am sure we can learn from him.

One of the best examples of professional grade propaganda which had recently crept up on my FB wall

As always, the ‘gaslighters’ use ‘the obvious’ to get inside our heads.
Once there, they actually twist our minds.

In fact, the professional propagandists act like viruses do.
They use the internal mechanisms of the target to alter its ‘software’. To ‘convince’ the target to act in a manner favorable to the ‘virus’ rather than in its own interest.

And the fact that both sides – or trolls embedded there?!?, use the same ‘tools’ only makes it harder for the targets – for us, really, to defend ourselves. To maintain our sanity.

Let’s go back to the example at hand.
Yes, it’s ridiculous to blame this child for Pearl Harbor. This is the evident part of the meme.
Only it’s very legit to blame those who deny that Japan attacking Pearl Harbor was ‘murder’. Legit enough to become a must.
Just like it’s a must to blame those who deny the Holocaust.

Same thing with slavery. And with other crimes of the past.
Blaming people alive today for what their ancestors had done in the past is ridiculous. Just as ridiculous as denying that past crimes had consequences. Some of which continue to pull us down today.

Present day colored people in America – and Roma people in Europe, continue to suffer the consequences of having been enslaved for many generation.
Denying that only burdens entire societies.
It burdens the colored people themselves and, on a way larger scale, it burdens the rest of us. The colored people having less opportunities than the rest of us is a waste for the society at large. The disproportionate number of crimes and felonies perpetrated by the colored people are a cost shouldered by all of us.
Meanwhile, the blame is not entirely ‘theirs’. Had they been ‘defective’ in any way would have prevented any of them from ‘prospering’. Hence we’re dealing with a rather ‘cultural’ thing. Which cultural thing has appeared at the intersection between us and them. We had enslaved them. We had kept them at arm’s length until not so long ago. So many of us continue to look down on them.
We consider it’s their individual responsibility to pull themselves up!
And how are they supposed to do that? Statistically speaking, and in the present conditions, not only the most talented and the very lucky among them….

How are we going to proceed? Continue with the blame game – and play into the hands of those who want us weak, or attempt to do something about it? To find a real solution?

Albert Einstein, a physicist, had noticed that observations are relative to the “frame of reference” where the observer happens to make his observations.

Humberto Maturana, a biologist, has reached the conclusion that consciousness – or ‘self awareness’, as he prefers to call it, is a personal trait which is developed by individuals living in concert.

Blending Einstein’s and Maturana’s ideas, it is easy to ‘see’ that observations made by human individuals depend, simultaneously, on two referential systems. Or frames of reference, in Einstein’s terms.

On the actual, ‘geographic’, ‘place’ where the individual makes their observations.
And on the ‘cultural place’ where the conscience – inner referential system, of the observing individual had been ‘shaped’.

Otherwise put, nobody can see things which are not there. Nor ‘see’ – a.k.a. understand, things which are too ‘distant’ from what that person already ‘knows’. Accepts as being ‘normal’. Feels like being ‘right’.

To make things just a tad ‘clearer’ – ‘nature versus nurture’, we must consider the vagaries of individual ‘biology’. Some people see/hear/smell/feel differently than others. And even ‘think’ differently.

And my point is?

Maturana made it before me. The ‘other’ – the more different, the better, is a source of richness. IF we treat each-other the right way. If we help each-other by ‘concerting’ our observations about what we have in common.
The ‘place’ we observe. Einstein’s referential frame. Where we ‘happen to stand’. Together.

And there’s something else I’d like you to read.

“J.K. Rowling Writes about Her Reasons for Speaking out on Sex and Gender Issues”
https://www.jkrowling.com/opinions/j-k-rowling-writes-about-her-reasons-for-speaking-out-on-sex-and-gender-issues

What if our self awareness, otherwise known as conscience, has evolved in order to understand, accept and mitigate randomness?

There’s no evolution – hence no life, without randomness.
Yet life, anyway you look at it, is about maintaining a certain degree of order.

Whenever there’s so much randomness that life can no longer adapt to it… evolution stops.
Whenever structures become so big/rigid that they find it harder and harder to evolve, they eventually succumb to an otherwise survivable amount of randomness. Dinosaurs and too big to fail corporations versus mice and flexible operators.

In a nutshell, self-awareness is about not being ‘fooled by randomness‘.

And to avoid the deepest pitfall we’ll encounter during this never ending journey – randomness will always be wider than our individual ability to encompass it, we must keep remembering that conscience is selfish. Untrained, it is more about protecting itself than about helping the entire ‘individual’ to survive.

‘What?!?’

Yes, it’s hard to believe!
But what other explanation is there for so many of us continuing to smoke after finding out, the hard way, that this habit might actually kill us?
I use this example simply because I still remember the cigarette I smoked when I last visited the grave where rests a woman I loved dearly. And who is no longer with us because of lung cancer.

Too often our conscience will prefer to rationalize away new information than accept that past choices could have been better.

I’m certain all of you are already too familiar with ‘confirmation bias‘.

Messages which are knowingly incomplete, false or both at the same time.

Why?

Because they have no alternative, want to achieve something or need to survive.

As soon as a person achieves a certain level of self-awareness – read consciousness, they realize that no ‘communication event’ will ever be complete. That nobody will ever be able to communicate everything they know, about the most insignificant subject, to anybody else.

Then what? Stop talking?
Or assume personal responsibility for everything that leaves your lips?

As soon as a person achieves a certain level of self-awareness, they realize there’s more in life than mere survival.
As soon as their consciences bloom – in concert with the accrued influence exercised by the ‘environment’, individuals set goals for themselves. Which goals become integral part of the ‘ongoing project’. Of the self-actualizing conscience. Achieving, or failing, each of those goals leaves an indelible mark on the conscience itself. On the manner in which each individual relates to their environment.
Since achieving is far more ‘satisfying’ than failing, conscience is naturally biased towards ‘achieving’. If the ‘environment’ ‘allows’ it, the bias becomes more and more ‘slanted’.
The messages used by the individuals – by their conscience, to be more precise, will increasingly serve the purpose of achieving goals rather than the purpose of ‘honest communication’.

As soon as a person achieves a certain level of self-awareness, that conscience wants to survive.
Mind you, not the person but the conscience.

‘?!?
Conscience cannot exist without the mind/body which supports it….’

OK, tell that to people who believe their souls are going places after their mortal bodies expire. Then try to demonstrate to yourself, honestly, that those people are wrong. That there’s no chance for their belief to be ‘true’.

But metaphysics are hard.
Let me give you a far lighter example.
Smoking. Or drinking. Driving fast. Eating that extra piece of chocolate…
Don’t tell me you never did anything ‘foolish’. That you never lied to yourself: ‘This cannot happen to me. Chances are so small that … Only this time….’

‘But otherwise nobody would ever be able to ‘leave their houses’. We’d be all completely paralyzed with fear…’

Yeap! That’s exactly what I mean. Conscience needs to lie to herself in order to remain functional. Otherwise she would not allow the physical body who sustains her to assume any risk.
They would both suffocate.

Everything which has a temporal dimension – movement, transformation or both, incurs costs and produces consequences.

From a rock sliding down a slope to me writing this.

The difference between these two being the simple fact that no rock has ever had any goal.

You see, the rock looses some energy and mass while sliding down. It accelerates at first but since no rock has ever slidden for ever.
Only rocks never do anything on their own. Something has to happen to them first.
They do bear the costs – they wear down, break, etc., yet they don’t mind. For they are not, at all, aware of what’s going on. And, anyway, completely unable to do anything about it. Hence not at all ‘responsible’ about any of the consequences produced by whatever they had been involved in. Happened to them, actually.

Fast forward to me. I’m not only alive – hence reactive to whatever happens to me, but also aware. Aware of my own awareness even.
I notice the costs I have to pay. Hence I try to minimize them.

And here’s the gist of the matter.
My awareness drives me to minimize the costs I incur during my life AND to be very careful about the consequences of my endeavors.

Theoretically, at least…

Let’s face it. The homeless are ‘survivors’ who don’t pull their weight as members of the community. They live ‘off the land’ – but the land they use to live off is us, and they don’t give anything back in return. Except for the garbage they leave behind…

Hence we have a problem.
Which we might choose to ignore. Or to solve.

I’ll presume we want to solve it.
First step to solving any problem is, of course, to understand its nature.

So, what is bothering us?

The garbage they leave behind?
The sore sight they offer each time we see them?
The danger they represent for public safety?
The fact that they occupy public property? And prevent the rest of us from using it?
The fact that they don’t contribute?
The loss of their creative potential?
The bad example for our children?
They are a reminder of what could have happened to any of us?

Second step, the ‘how’ of the matter.

What caused such a number of able bodied people to live in the streets?
Why do so many of them use drugs? And alcohol?
Why do so many of them refuse to be helped? By the institutions which care for them?

I don’t have a real answers for any of these.
The first category of questions depends on each of us while the second on each of the homeless.

Nevertheless, I would like to point out a few things.

Very few of the homeless have been born on the street.
Most of them have been educated into the values of the society to which each of them belongs. Very few are recently arrived immigrants, at least in the US.
“we found that the longer that immigrants had lived in the United States, the greater their risk for homelessness. This is a unique finding that has not been reported before and suggests that immigrants are more likely to shed previous practices and attitudes from their origin countries over time as they live in the United States, which can put them at increased susceptibility to mental illness, substance abuse, and other factors that can increase homeless risk.This idea would be consistent with the literature finding that the health immigrant effect declines for immigrants in the United States as they acculturate and develop habits and practices similar to native residents”. J. Tsai, X.Gu, Homelessness among immigrants in the US

Why do I bother? Specially if I don’t have any answer?

The way I see it, each society is a social organism.

This image had been labeled ‘misleading’ by the Reddit users who cared enough about the subject. And rightly so. “This data is incredibly unreliable. It spans from 2009 to 2015 in different countries and has different criteria for defining homelessness.”
More about how this kind of data is been gathered and why it becomes misleading can be found in the OECD report on the subject. Click here for the 2019 one.

And what might we learn from this? Leaving aside the ‘vagaries’?
That New Zealand has way more homeless people than Japan?
And why nobody knows anything about the New Zealand homeless – or about those in the Czech Republic, but all concerned netizens are horrified by the manner in which the US are treating their homeless?

“”Where are we going to go now?” Denver closes park near Capitol, clears homeless camp citing rats, health hazards.”

For starters, and given the relative size of the US population, there are way more homeless in the US than in the rest of the OECD. Roughly counting, of course.
Secondly, the US is the wealthiest country in the world. And the one which used to describe itself as being the place where all dreams could be fulfilled.

Then, and this is only a hunch, there is the ‘small’ problem of the ‘native citizens’. Oops… not a mere hunch anymore. “In 2013, 12,754 Māori were homeless, comprising 32% of the homeless population compared to comprising just 14.9% of the total population” Same considerations may be taken into account when evaluating the situation in Australia and Canada while Europe has a rather consistent Roma population. Many of whom continue to live in a ‘traditional’ manner.

So, after all, is there anything to be learned here?

Actually, yes.

That luck does play a huge role. It makes a hell of a difference being born a Maori in New Zealand or a billionaire’s child in California.
And that becoming acculturated in the US actually increases your chances of becoming homeless.

What?!?

Have you already forgotten? 😦
“we found that the longer that immigrants had lived in the United States, the greater their risk for homelessness. This is a unique finding that has not been reported before and suggests that immigrants are more likely to shed previous practices and attitudes from their origin countries over time as they live in the United States, which can put them at increased susceptibility to mental illness, substance abuse, and other factors that can increase homeless risk.This idea would be consistent with the literature finding that the health immigrant effect declines for immigrants in the United States as they acculturate and develop habits and practices similar to native residents”.” J. Tsai, X.Gu, Homelessness among immigrants in the US

The way I understand all this is that there must be a link between homelessness and the intensity, and character, of the social interaction prevalent among the members of any given society.

People in the West, and specially in the US, see personal success as paramount. And personal failure as … well… something to be shunned. Simply because it reminds us of what may happen to any of us.
Specially when taking on the risks we must assume if we want to really succeed. As we are pressured from early childhood.
The risks the immigrants grow accustomed to the longer they live in the US.

I’m afraid I was that close of forgetting a point I planned to make.
Why so many of the homeless use drugs and have an alcohol problem.

“The new study, led by NIDA’s Dr. Marco Venniro, required rats to choose between social interaction with another rat or access to a drug (heroin or methamphetamine). The animals consistently chose social interaction when given the choice, and this was true when they were first given access to the drug or when they were experienced drug takers.”

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