Archive for January, 2013

Why is God a He?

January 24th, 2013 Comments off

The other day I was asked (well, not me particularly; it was a rhetorical question, made to the group, but still), “Why is God always ‘He’?  Why does god have to be masculine?”

Good question, and one with an answer.  Or many answers.

The sun was no doubt the first thing to be worshipped.  And rightly so, as we depend so much upon the sun: for heat, for light, to make our food grow, to power our solar cells… And the sun has always been represented  as masculine.  In Taoism, the sun is yang, the moon is yin; brightness versus dimness, hot versus cold.  In languages where nouns have gender, the sun is masculine: il sole, el sol, le soleil.  Even in English until about the seventeenth century, the sun was masculine.  Shakespeare, “the sun his glory, the moon her circl’d orb.”  The moon is Diana, the sun Ra, Helios, Apollo.

Categories: general rant, Language, Uncategorized Tags:

Sea of Cameras

January 21st, 2013 Comments off

Watching the presidential balls, when the president is dancing with Michelle, the foreground is just a sea of smartphones taking movies.

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Someone Should Tell the Republicans

January 18th, 2013 Comments off

From Wapo:

The progressive project of building a decent welfare state is giving way to the more technocratic work of financing and managing it. How government is run, more than what exactly it does, seems set to be the main battleground of American politics in coming years.

Unfortunaely, a certain element of the Republican Pary doesn’t agree: they want to dismantle the social welfare safetynet.


Categories: Economics, politicas, Uncategorized Tags:

The Problem with Kindle

January 16th, 2013 Comments off

I like my Kindle.  I read stuff on it all the time.

Problem is, you can store tons of books on the thing, but no one will know!  No one can look at your Kindle and say, “Wow, Tom, you’re a really erudite person.”  No one can be impressed that you’ve got a library on an arcane subject.

Just as we walk upright and wear 501’s for genital display, so too we display books on our bookshelves to impress and intimidate others.

Kindle just fails at that.

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Why Any Debt Limit Negotiation?

January 16th, 2013 Comments off

Headline in WaPo Wonkblog:

Top Bush administration economists: Don’t default. Do use the debt limit negotiations to rein in deficits.

Why should there be any ‘negotiation’ at all?  What’s to negotiate?  Raising the debt limit is not about spending more money; it’s about paying for what’s been spent, paying the bills.  Negotiation is when there’s a question of how much should be spent; but the debt is money we owe.  We can negotiate about how much should be spent in the future: that’s called the ‘budget negotiations,’ and that’s sure to be a doozy of a session.  We can also argue about how much to restore of the funds in the ‘sequester’.  But the debt ceiling?  Not open to discussion.

Categories: general rant, Uncategorized Tags:

More on Fracking

January 14th, 2013 Comments off

Well, we can use the Bayes Probability Theorem to figure out how likely is is that fracking will pollute our water supply.

Suppose the probability of fracking polluting the water supply in any one spot–say, within 500 yards of the fracking site–is originally estimated, before any evidence of pollution has been found, to be only 0.5%.

Now an event happens, such as the real event: water coming from a tap in a house, which draws its water from a well, starts to ignite when an open flame is brought near it.

What are the chances that the fracking caused the pollution?  We can estimate that there is about a 40% chance that fracking is the cause.  We can also posit that, without the fracking, natural causes might cause the water to become polluted; but it’s very rarely that a water supply spontaneously becomes flammable, so let’s put that possibility at 0.05%.

Plugging these values in to the Bayesean Theorem; x=.5, y=50%, z=0.05%

Bayesean Theorem:  P = xy / xy + z(1-x)

Solving for P :  There is a 83% chance that fracking will pollute the water supply.

That is not a trivial possibility.

You can play with these figures, using my Bayesean Calculator, at .  In any case, you will not find the possibility of pollution from fracking to be anything but frightening.

Hey, nothing wrong with that, right?

Bayesean Calulator

January 14th, 2013 Comments off

Entitlement Reform?

January 13th, 2013 Comments off


When politicians talk about cutting old-age entitlements, they are really talking about denying health care and social security benefits to poor old women.

Dr. Robert N. Butler, quoted in Never Say Die by Susan Jacoby


January 9th, 2013 Comments off

From Krugman’s blog

 Rationality has a well-known liberal bias.


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