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outlier_lynn: (Default)
Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 04:57 pm
When I hear someone say, "I don't know what to do!" My first thought recently has been, "Put your right foot in. Put your right foot out." And I've come damn close to saying it twice in the last several days.
outlier_lynn: (Default)
Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 08:00 am
At the very time when young brains are gaining mass and learning new skills like judgment, our school system is primarily interested in having students memorize facts that they will probably misremember for the rest of their lives. This is a very bad model of education. Early schooling is all about building skills in language and math. But we shift the focus from skill building to fact accumulation by high school.

Here is the result: We have two or three generations of citizens who can't see what should be a very obvious scam if it sits on their nose. Thousands of Americans give up their banking or PayPal credentials at the merest suggestion in phishing scams, or install malware on their computers by clicking links in bogus email.

Yes, some scams are better than others. And the really good ones fool some pretty savvy people sometimes. But most of the scams are obviously bogus. Scams at a glance that should only take in folks with serious mental deficiencies. The sad truth is that many average Americans lose a lot of money to ripoff artists.

All through adolescence, when the brain is developing critical thinking skills, we leave our youth to fend for themselves in this arena. We teach them superstitious nonsense, wildly inaccurate history, and inadequate sex education. There emotional selves are riding a roller coaster at breakneck speeds with no one but each other for support.

This is a communal failure rather than a failure of individual parents and it has been going on for a damn long time. The writing is on the wall and we are crawling along the floor never looking up. All the while, hoping things will work out. But they won't work out all by themselves.

The powerful forces in society have a vested interested in status quo. The education "system" resists any change at all regardless of the body of evidence pointing out the problems and providing solutions. Businesses built on a gullible public do not want an entire generation who are not easily manipulated. Religions do not want critical thinkers running around loose.

What would the world be like if we raised a generation of skeptics who demand evidence for the long-term effectiveness of social programs? What if every program is experimental until it has enough evidence of success to become a norm? And only remains in place while it is effective. What would it be like if short-term wins were not the measure of success, but long-term gains were?

Maybe it is the nature of human beings to be short-term. A part of our primate nature. But we do not have to live at the mercy of our ancestral natures, we developed a strong ability to be rational and logical. Those are the traits we should be skill-building in high school.

Let us reexamine education from the prospective of building fundamental skills that match the developmental position of the students. Very young, build skills in manipulating the environment, abstracting, solving puzzles. And each step of the way, they learn "facts" needed to master the skill at hand. By the time they are 18, they will be very skilled in detecting BS and very knowledgeable in broad range of topics. And never board out of their minds for 6 hours a day.
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Monday, July 9th, 2012 07:33 am
People have raved about the HBO series, Game of Thrones so we cued up the series at Net Flix. Watched episodes 1 and 2 this weekend, won't be watching the rest. The story has plenty of intrigue and magic and so forth, but I am sick to death of make believe worlds in which women are evil, brainless, sex objects or property.

Let's see, we have the queen and her son. The former evil, the later evil and stupid. We have the "rightful heir" who is evil, stupid, and arrogant to a fault. His sister who has been sold to the barbarian for an army. We have the older sister from the north is all a flutter of the stupid son of the queen. And the youngest daughter from the north is plays the part of a warrior son. And the whores. And the obsessed and worried mother.

And we have the men. WAR, we want WAR and power and sex and money and property. And we want to join secret warrior clubs because we are a bastard son.

This show seems to be a teenage boys wet dream. But it is BORING and predictable. With a couple of minor exceptions (for the shock value), everything was telegraphed is dreadfully obvious ways. And the sex scenes are pathetic. I mean, if one has had sex, one would not be able to suspend disbelief.

I suppose if we really had story line set in a world in which the difference between the sexes was almost entirely which one gave birth, it would be so different that people would not be able to identify with the characters. Too bad, but can we at at least stop giving young men these kinds of role models?
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Monday, October 31st, 2011 07:45 am
We have dug ourselves into a self-serving hole in America over that last 90 years. Before I get to the specifics of this commentary, I want to point out that we collectively can't get enough of what we don't want.

Why do we think that Employers owe us (the workers) anything outside the purview of business. I can understand vacation time, I can understand holidays. I do not understand PAID vacation time and PAID holidays. I do not understand Employer paid or partially paid health/dental/vision care plans or Employer paid or partially paid retirement plans. Or rather, I do understand how it all happened, but, for Pete's sake, enough! The one thing Unions seem to have gotten right (at least on paper) is Union retirement/disability. That is certainly more rational that Employer paid. Employers have the incentive to have a regular turn over of employees so that the older ones (that cost a lot more money in pay and benefits) are laid off. We have laws about that, but we only need those laws (mostly) because the current system is too fragile and far too irrational.

Government, single-payer health care. Taxes sufficient to pay for it. Regulation sufficient to keep costs rational. My notions go far beyond these, but I would incur the wrath of everyone if I denoted them. Let me just say, "rational" should always win over "emotional" in the delegation of health care services. Limited resources and all that. If I, at sixty, were diagnosed with a serious cancer, for instance, that had a very poor prognosis, and, I had a complicating issue of congestive heart failure, I don't want anyone spending tens of thousands of dollars making my remaining time miserable in the off chance that I might get a couple more years. Put that replacement heart in a better candidate, save those limited chemo drugs for a better candidate. Really, I will be pissed if resources are wasted on me because of some emotional, irrational desire. The Terry Schiavo case is an excellent example. The woman was dead in every way that mattered except for the emotional lunacy of Robert and Mary Schindler. All the damn way to SCOTUS!

Forced retirement plans in which the government collects a percentage of gross income and hands it to the 401K (or similar vehicle) of your choice. You would get to say how your money is invested, but not IF it is invested. A modified Social Security system. Actually, an unmodified SS. Lets go back in time when SS was JUST retirement income. No payments to the children of dead people just because the dead person died. I think disability retirement should still count, but some rational idea of what disabled means. Differently-abled is not the same as disabled. It was not all that long ago, that retirement was or or less an euphemism for death. The whole idea of living a life of travel and golf (or whatever dream you might have), is NEW and generated by ADVERTISING to sell Sun City in Arizona. I remember that ads. I remember my father saying that it was a giant scam.

Tax fairly (that really does mean progressively) with few, if any, deductions. Tax on gross income. Other forms of tax and use fees should be severely limited. Tax those things we want less use of and don't tax things we want more use of. For example, booze tax, tobacco tax, gasoline tax and no tax on renewable energy. Do away with the whole notion of tax credits. Further, do away with the tax break deals that local governments give to businesses to "bring jobs" to their area.

outlier_lynn: (Default)
Monday, October 17th, 2011 07:57 am
I'm generally a slow adopter of anything and everything. And, often, the advertisements for TV shows tend to make me not want to watch the show.

Take the TV show 24. I thought the idea of a season of shows representing each hour of a day from midnight to midnight was really good, but I was not interested in a show that glued me to my TV. I thought it would be problematic to miss an episode. I was right.

Stacey and I are streaming the first season on Netflix. We are about half way through. It is clever and suspenseful. The only way to see this series, for me, anyway, is to have the DVDs (or equivalent). Half way through, and I am starting to correctly guess what's next. "Starting" as in I have been right one time on what is really a very minor development.

I do have issues with the series, though. There overall tech-talk and computer usage is really, really BAD. At one point they have tied into private security cameras and at another point they can't triangulate a cell phone call. Two different bits of "encrypted" data is being decrypted a tiny little chunk at a time (so they can get partial clues).

My biggest issue with this show, though, is political. We are inside the Counter Terrorism Unit supposedly cheering them on while they are stomping the Bill of Rights into dust. The lead character, Jack Bower, is committing a felony an hour and, because there are seven more seasons, will be forgiven all by the end. Where the hell is Due Process? I guess the 14th Amendment doesn't count either.

Still, I like the show and will finish this season and start the next. We will see if it can hold me for all eight streamable seasons.

It certainly isn't Dr. Who. :)
outlier_lynn: (Default)
Thursday, October 6th, 2011 08:02 am
This morning, on my way to work, I passed a new, $70 luxury sedan with a perfect symbol of irony on the trunk near the license plate. A silver-colored representation of a fish with a cross where the eye would be.

The 2000 year history of the religion named for the character in the four Gospels has almost nothing to do with the reported teachings of this character.

Oh, there are small pockets of Christians who, more or less, follow in the philosophical footsteps of their charismatic cult leader; i.e. the Brethren, Quakers, and Amish to name a few. Mostly, though, Christians are products of their greater society.

One of the many translations of Matthew 19:24 reads, "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” I am confident that the driver of that sedan is convinced that his place in Heaven is secure.

And Matthew 19:29, "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life." Does this not describe clearly a cult? For 2,000 years, the cult of Christianity has grown in wealth and power. Its history is one of terrible violence, war, and general intolerance.

It has little to do with the values preached by its original leader.

There many examples. I am reminded almost daily of the oppressive nature of most religions and, particularly, Christianity.

This morning it was a rich man claiming for himself the earliest symbol of the Christian church.
outlier_lynn: (Default)
Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 11:05 am
In this RSA video Professor Renata Salecl shows that individual choice is rarely based on a simple rational decision with a predictable outcome. More than that, though, she points out the downside of being presented with an overwhelming set of options.

I have personal experience of this issue. I have been practicing make decisions quickly and without "full information" for inconsequential matters. As an example, when I go to DZ Akins, a local Deli, I look for one small section of their huge menu, then pick one of three items. I had discovered that my agitation level would go up in relation to the number of options available.

My latest agitation-reduction action was to close my facebook account yesterday. Facebook just made it impossible for me to keep up with changes. Well, not impossible, but far too time consuming. Facebook makes its money by keep users' eyes glued to their pages (and by selling user data). It is in facebook's best interest to keep changing things so that people have to spend more time working things out.

It will be a good thing for me, I think. Why? Well, I'm verbose. I don't want to have to limit what I say to a short paragraph. It is extremely difficult to communicate nuance in 500 characters. I sometimes use my writing as a "thinking out loud" practice to refine my "beliefs" about one thing or another. Without fb, I might be spending more time posting here.
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Friday, May 27th, 2011 08:34 am
I read a LA Times story headlined " Judge strikes down Wisconsin's anti-union law."

The article gives short shrift to the story opting to fill the column inches with loose background information. The average reader of that article isn't going to understand a damn thing about the judge's decision. The Judge did merits of the law, but rather the manner in which it was passed.

And that points directly to a concern I've had about America's schools. Somewhere around the 2nd or 3rd grade, we go right off the rails.

In the beginning we teach skills like reading and simple arithmetic. Then we start in on facts. And that is the end of education in America. Grades 4-12 are mostly a waste of time. Still some skills, but mostly crap. Really good teachers find a way to put skill building into their classes, but most teachers don't because they aren't well educated either.

And we don't teach what is important. It is important to know how our governance systems work. It is important to understand the criminal and civil justice system and appellate system work. It is important to be able to read a decision from an appeals court or the Supreme Court and understand it. It directly affects our liberties. Nothing has a more lasting effect in American freedoms than SCOTUS decisions.

The law has a profound effect on every single American and we teach rarely teach anything about it in most schools through college. It is a sad state of affairs.

It can not change, though. It is not in the interest of the political parties and those who control them to have an educated electorate. How could the tea party exist if Americans understood America? It could not.

We don't teach our children how to discern fact and fiction (opinion). We don't teach how to tell when rhetoric is empty and when it isn't.

Americans are woefully ignorant about those things that are vitally important but don't involve immediate response. It is pitifully low-brain existence.

Wake up and smell the manipulations, lies, deceits. Learn to spot malefactors. Learn to tell stupid from ignorant.


outlier_lynn: (Default)
Thursday, May 12th, 2011 08:22 pm
Here are the "birth rights" a person has. Ready? Okay. A person lives until they die. That's it. No more birth rights. The only right one has by virtual of where they are born or to whom they are born is to live until they die. Privilege of "developed world" or wealthy parents does not convey rights.I hear you churning up for an argument. Anything other than than that is a different kind and is necessarily a creation from nothing.

Natural Rights. Natural rights are the rights owned by virtue of thinking and doing. If we can dream it up, we have the right to pursue the dream. Groups, communities and cultures limit natural rights for various reasons, but no authority can grant a natural right. It exists by default.

Human rights. Human rights are granted by authoritative fiat. Collectively (more or less), the human community has agreed upon a minimum set rules of conduct for governments in regard to its citizens.

Civil rights. Rights granted to citizens that governs the conduct among citizens and spells out what the government can do to enforce and protect those rights. These are rights granted by the constitution or statute law and enforced by the courts. Included in civil rights are protections from the government and from other citizens.

Now, let's look at Health Care. If one defines health care as a right, in which category is it going to go? That's right. At best, health care is a civil right. Mostly, though, it is no right at all. It is not possible to have access to technology be a natural right. A natural right does not grant one the right to someone else's technology. The UN has some health care provisions in the Charter of Human Rights. Mostly pertaining to children.

So lets be careful about slinging around "human rights" and "birth rights" like we are suppose to have access to anything at all simply be virtual of being alive.

There is no such thing as a free lunch.
outlier_lynn: (Default)
Wednesday, May 11th, 2011 12:48 pm
Oh for heaven's sake, people. Can we just get a bit of prospective on the "privacy" concept, please. The California PUC has proposed "strong privacy protections" regulations because Smart Meters transmit usage patterns to the utility company.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is upset about it.

"California's PG&E is currently in the process of installing "smart meters" that will collect detailed data of energy use —750 to 3000 data points per month per household—for every energy customer in the state. These meters are aimed at helping consumers monitor and control their energy usage, but the information that is collected can reveal much more about a household's daily activities: when people wake up, when they come home, when they go on vacation, and maybe even when they take a hot bath."

What bullshit. From the data points, they can tell my usage pattern. They cannot tell what I'm doing with the electricity. They don't know when I get up or take a bath. They don't know if I'm home or not. They just know my usage pattern.

If I could stop advertisers from sending me junk mail or throwing their adverts onto my driveway, I would. I can't. So, go ahead, utility company, gather my usage sell it to anyone who cares.

Go ahead, Google Maps. Take a upteen pictures of my house and put it on the Internet. Go ahead facebook, collect all my "personal" data and sell it to the highest bidder. Put all the targeted ads you want on my facebook page (I use adblock so I don't see them). Go ahead, Home Land Security. Collect all the data on me that you want. It's not the data you have but the actions you take that I'm interested in.

So, can we just tighten up the definition of privacy, please.

The notion of a right to privacy is another failing the Warren Court.
outlier_lynn: (Default)
Wednesday, April 27th, 2011 11:56 am
The It Get's Better is a disempowering load of crap.

Really? Is the message for our bullied youth "We know you are helpless, so just sit it out and hope it gets betters some time in the future if you haven't been beaten to death in the meantime!"? I don't think so. Why isn't the message something like this, "Organize, document, demand action."

When I was in eighth, ninth, and tenth grades, I was bullied in school. Even had my arm broken by the bully in eighth grade. (No action was taken against the bully.) I could see no options at all. No options were offered up by the adults charged with my education and protection. In those days, there were no "tolerance" clubs or school activities promoting tolerance. Mostly, the authorities chocked it all up to "boys will be boys" and "they will grow out of it."

RARELY do bullies stop bullying. I haven't been physically attacked by bullies in 50ish years. That does not mean I haven't been bullied and gay bashed. Unsurprisingly, the bullies always have the same adolescent swaggering and language. (Read the signs held up by the WBC idiots to see my point.) Waiting it out is not a solution. It is depressing as hell. Wait it out? Most teens -- in fact, most people -- have the subconscious view that the way it is now is the way it will always be with a faint hope that something might change. Waiting it out, as a response, just makes the helpless feelings grow and grow.

The solution is to teach, mentor, and encourage young people HOW to take responsibility for the circumstances in their lives. In the case of bullying, and other forms of discrimination, one solution is for the bullied to band together, organize, document and demand action.

How much history do we need to study before we figure out that oppression never changes without significant ACTION by the oppressed. It does not get better until the victims of bullying and abuse stand up in mass and do something about it. Telling our stories to each other might feel like action, but it accomplishes little. You want bullying to stop? Stop being bullied. Get loud enough and bullies might hear something that changes their attitudes. Maybe. But they aren't going to have any revelations on their own.

Organize, document, demand action. Add that to "It Gets Better" and I'll be more inclined to play in that game.

In the meantime Center for Partnership Studiesl
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Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 08:24 am
This morning on NPR there was a story about firing all the everyone at some failing school. It's all a part of the overall "No Child Left Behind" scheme. As I listened to interviewees on both sides of the debate, I came to realize (probably again) the piece that is missing in all the hand wringing over the state of public education.

Here's the way of things. If you insist on No Child Left Behind, no child will excel. If you insist on lock-step, age-based, information absorption, our child will not be educated. The proof? Well, ask the folks running colleges and universities about the trends around how well their freshmen are prepared for the course work.

The age-based grade system is an absolute failure. Lets go back to a system in which people work on the skills until they master the skills. And when someone demonstrates that they cannot master the skills, shift their educational goals.

What the hell is wrong with leaving some children behind?