Archive for December, 2011

Genius of Iowa Caucus

December 30th, 2011 Comments off

I’ve been saying (into whichever aether I’ve been swimming in) that the Republican Primary Race has been a great Reality Show production.  The Iowa Caucus race is prime tool of the production.

Republicans know that they will get media attention from any foment in the race. They get the attention of every media-eyeballing citizen.

Every time there is a new contest, everyone watching can’t help but consider (in her own mind), “Who would I vote for now?”  Time and time again, as first one candidate, then the next, falls and a new candidate is raised up, so theat the viewer is, in his mind, is choosing again and again between two different Republican candidates.  Note that each time, he is voting for a Republican!

So here’s your average (Independent?) voter, time and time again mentally choosing a Republican candidate.

The simple heuristic of familiarity insists that, in the voting booth in the national election, he’s more likelly to vote for the one he’s already voted for in his mind, and that will be a Republican.

The voters’ minds have alreadty been set up to be responsive to a Republican candidate.

It will take an incredible amount of work for this prediliction to be countered by the Democrats.

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Explosions Around Us

December 29th, 2011 Comments off

We were in CostCo the other day before the New Year, buying supplies, when a terrifically loud noise happened right by us.  An employee was removing the items from our cart, one of which was a bottle of Prosecco (Italian version of champaign); the bottle exploded in his hands.

My first reaction, was to shout “Jesus Christ!”  Obiously, as a swear word, not as an invocation.  I take it that this was a response prompted by what Kahneman would call my System 1 mind; an automatic response.

My second reaction, almost immediately thereafter, was to ask the emplyee “Are you all right?”

I’m so pleased that that reaction was not, “Take cover!”, or “IED! IED!”, or even “I may have been hit!”

If a gunman with a high-power rifle had been standing near the tire section, taking random shots toward the check-out counters, one of the latter might have been appropriate.  I’m glad not one of those was my response.

To Double-space or Not?

December 9th, 2011 1 comment

There’s someone on Slate, and hence on NPR, who insists that it’s improper to double-space between sentences.  Although we were all taught in typing class that we should use two spaces between sentences, that’s only because we were using a mono-spaced typeface; the way real type is set, he said, is with a single space between words and between sentences.

Like, what does he know?  Has he ever set type?  I have.  as early as in Junior High School, I took Print Shop, and was taught: between words, an en space; between sentences, an em space.

“En” space is the space used up by a lower-case n character.  “Em” space is that used up by a lower-case m character.  Look at them closely: an m takes up twice the space as an n.  Note also: an M is twice the space as an N.  An M is also called a “quad”, because it is square, or quadrangular.

Categories: Language, Uncategorized Tags:

“No Spaces, Please”

December 8th, 2011 Comments off

What pisses me off?

When you are asked to enter your credit card number (or any other long series of digits), and the instructions are:  Without Spaces.

Those long numbers are separated by spaces for a reason: to make them easier to read, and easier to remember.  It’s a psychological thing called “chunking”.  Easier to member several chunks than a long, long string of numbers, or letters, or what-have you.

And it would be so easy for the programer to remove the spaces.  One simple php or c++ function would do it!

Can you tell me why they make life so difficult for us?

Categories: Language, Uncategorized Tags:

Foreign Languages…A Lot!

December 7th, 2011 Comments off

A class should be taught of foreign languages.  Foreign Languages 101.  The class is not about any particular language; it’s about languages in general. How to read them.  How to pronounce them. How they differ, from each other and from our own. (How many american kids are even able to think of English as a foreign language, even to a foreigner?)

  • The Cyrillic alphabet: Do you know how to read it? How to pronounce even one letter? If you suddently found yourself in Sarajevo, how could you identify a street by its sign?
  • How to pronounce French.  To pronounce Italian.  To pronounce German, Dutch, Spanish.  they all use the same alphabet (mostly), but pronounce their words completely differently.  but not completely: what are the differences? What are the similarities?  And why?
  • Chinese, Japanese: How do idiographs work? What’s Kanja?
  • Esperanto:  How come?
  • Sanskrit, the mother of Indo-European: how to pronounce devnagari.

Can you read aloud a sentence in Polish?  Hungarian?  I know I can’t.  Wish I could.

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Open Letter to Ed Schultz

December 6th, 2011 Comments off

Dear Ed,

Love your show, and your down-to-eath presentation. Seems to me, though, that lots of folk out there don’t understand the basics of economics. “Trickle Up Economics” chart does a great job, but there are so many more ideas that need to be made clear.

  • What is a bank?  How does it work?
  • What does GDP mean? or GNP?
  • How does capitalism work?
  • What is socialism?
  • Why regulation?
  • What’s the Euro? (soon to be huge)
  • What’s a Board of Directors?
  • What does ‘Incorporation” really mean?
  •  The difference between TARP and the Stimulus

I’m not suggesting you start a classroom going–that would be really dreadful. But every day, one of the above or a similar economic question comes up, or is caused by one of the above subjects.

So why not have your staff you surely have a competent staff) prepare a whole variety of answers to such questions; then, if there’s a bank failure, say, you can talk for a few minutes about how banks work. Or Congress is passing a national debt constitutional amendment, explain how the national debt works, and why that’s different from the deficit.

In other words, devote a portion of each show explaining the economic (or governmental) underpinnings of the issues the rest of the show deals in.

Just a suggestion; I look forward to seeing its implementation.


Tom Bentley
Simpsonville, SC

Categories: Economics, politicas, Uncategorized Tags:

Black Beans with Rice

December 6th, 2011 Comments off

I’m making black-bean soup with rice.  Taught to me by a Mexican-American friend in Denver, Colorado. Like his mother used to make.

I started at 11:00 in the morning; we usually eat around 2:00 in the afternoon. It’ll be very ready by then.

I chopped up into small pieces:

  • 1 medium sweet onion
  • 2-inch piece of sweet potato.  Should really be a piece of pumpkin, but any kind of squash will do.
  • 1/4 of a green pepper
  • 3 cloves of garlic

In a deep-sided skillet, I made a sofrito (sautee) of the garlic and onions, then added the pepper and squash.  To this I stirred in a good portion of dried oregano (mine is Mexican from Penzy’s), a large pinch of red chili flakes, a pinch of salt and of pepper.  Get these things working all together, so the onions are soft, and then dump in two cans of black beans.  You could cook your own black beans from dried, but that would take another day.

Add some water–about 1/2 cup or so.  Then add about the same amount of red wine.  Don’t worry about the alcohol, it will all be cooked away.  But worry if you must…just use a good red wine, not one of those horrid “non-alcoholic” types.)

Let it all come to a boil, then turn the heat down to real low, so that the stuff is just barely bubbling. Don’t let it boil over the sides.

Stir it often. When it sits their simmering for a while, you’ll get a skin on top; just stir it back into the mix.

Taste: if too mild, add some (1/4 tsp) of Sriracha.  Stir it in.  Add some sugar to bring out the vegetables’ flavors (1/2 tsp).

When the beans are done, the squash or sweet potato will have bocome really soft or even unidetifiable, same with the green pepper, or at least able to be severed with the edge of a wooden spoon. The soup will be thick and dark with the black beans, not watery.

I just checked mine–it’s 12:30, and doing great.  When we eat, in an hour and a half, we’ll each get some  in a bowl, and sprinkle a generous portion of rice on top, and also a lot of raw, finely-chopped sweet onion.

Categories: food, Uncategorized Tags:

My Commie Pinko Past

December 5th, 2011 Comments off

When I was a senior in high school (1959), as a good little politico (I was raised  a Republican) I wanted to know more about the political action of the day.  So I subscribed, through free offers found in the back of  The Saturday Review of Literature ( the “New York Review of Books of its day), to four publications, two ultra-liberal, and two ultra-conservative.

The two conservative were the newsletter of the John Birch Society, American Opinion, and the National Review, just started up by William F. Buckley.

The two liberal were I.F. Stone’s Weekly, and The Weekly People, an organ of the Socialist Workers Party.

After my sophomore year in college, I applied for the U.S. Navy’s “NavCad” program–I wanted to be a fly-boy (years before Top Gun–no, I didn’t just want to get into a cockpit with Tom Cruise). Despite a morbid fear of heights, I wanted to serve my country.

I went through all the aptitude tests, and intelligence tests, and was waiting for the results of the physical, when I had a visit at my home from two FBI agents.

The blue-suited, white-shirted agents came into my parents’ living room, and started questioning me.  Why was I getting all this commie socialist literature?

They were very insistent.  I explained about how I was curious about the political extremes. I pointed out that I had subscribed to right-wing, as well as liberal, publications; but that fazed them not at all.  They hadn’t even known about the John Birch Society connection, or Buckley’s rag–they were just out to get us commies!

I’d re-enrolled in college before the Navy accepted me, so in the end I declined to sign up. But I’ll not forget my FBI caper.

Read more…

Categories: Personal History, Uncategorized Tags:

Coming Out

December 4th, 2011 Comments off

I’ve heard a number of coming-out stories at the Non-Theists meetings; here is my story:

More than coming out atheist, but coming out gay.

I entered college, (long ago in the Dark Ages) as a pre-theology student.  It took me almost two years to realize that the “calling” I had felt was really just a warm and fuzzy feeling, with no real belief.

At the same time, I was growing up, maturing, and discovering myself.  After I left my sophomore year of college in complete confusion, my parents sent me to a psychiatrist;  I guess they thought he would “cure” me; he ended up confirming me in rejecting the opinions of the world, and relying upon myself.

Over a year later, I came out as a gay man, at least to myself.  I could never talk about it with my folks, but I knew myself.  After graduating from college, I moved to New York City, where I opted out of the draft and got a job writing advertising copy, and led a life of freedom.

Nine years later, I was living in an ashram (ever the seeker) in Denver, but restless.  One evening I was going with my friends down to a gay bar, and with us came Avis, with whom I fell in love, and then married.

Coming out as a gay man, in my youth, was a difficult thing; coming out as a married man to my gay friends was not so hard; there’s a certain understanding and acceptance of ‘differentness’.

Now, I am apalled at the difficulties my brothers and sisters here, in Greenville, have with coming out with their own non-belief in a god.  It’s almost as bad as coming out gay was back in the 1960’s.

In 1962, I commuted to college from my parents’ home, and drove every day past a gay bar; that bar was raided by the police, and every patron was arrested, finger-printed, and their names, addresses, and employers were printed in the Chicago papers; several of my professors were among them.

My senior year in college, it was discovered that there was a special “dean’s list” of ‘suspected homosexuals’, and I know I was on that list. Kind of intimidating.

So, I sympathize with my brothers and sisters here in Greenville, who are struggling to come out as non-believers.  For many, just admitting to a non-belief in religion is a struggle within their own minds; and to have to deal with disapprobation of society adds tremdously to the pain.

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