Backtalk, Part 3

The Thinker by Rodin

Time for more belated replies to dated comments.

  • To C.R. Lea on Thoughts on Buddhism, Part One. My study of Buddhism is somewhat superficial, but I don’t believe that Buddha claimed God had told him to tell others about his thoughts. Buddha likely did believe in reincarnation, as did the Hindus whose community he inhabited. I am guessing that living in 500 B.C. was more strife than sorrow, and thus the thought of endless reincarnation on earth was not necessarily a pleasant one. In any event, as best we can tell Buddha never wrote any of his teachings down, so anything we do know about him is shrouded in mist at best. It is likely that we lost many of Buddha’s teachings and picked up other things that he never said, but were inventions of those building on his philosophy. Just as most Christians would not recognize Jesus if he walked among them, it is likely that the real Buddha bears scant resemblance to his legend.
  • To tag1555 on Greater national dysfunction dead ahead. I will grant you that our national economic recovery is painfully slow, particularly when it comes to regaining the jobs we lost, but I just don’t accept that by cutting the size of government and thus our economy we will make things better in the short run. Something transformational is underway in this country, and I doubt we will emerge a heartier and healthier country. As for divided government, if it leads to political accommodation it might be good. I see little evidence of that happening at present.
  • To deanna on Will my daughter be gay? And does it matter? Over the last two weeks, we hosted a newlywed lesbian couple for a few days. Now that I’ve observed it close up for a period of time, I really cannot tell the difference between romantic homosexual and heterosexual love. I see exactly the same needs, the same relationship problems, the same strengths and the same weaknesses as in heterosexual relationships. I wish them well but I am confident their odds at maintaining a long-term marriage are no better nor worse than mine. (And yes they are legally married, not here in Virginia of course, but in Germany.) As for your daughter, I wouldn’t worry too much. People take relationships at different rates, and not all feel the pull toward higher degrees of intimacy. As for my daughter, as best I can tell she is more heterosexual than lesbian. Only time will tell. Like your daughter, she may opt to be “none of the above” and avoid intimate (i.e. soul baring) relationships altogether.
  • To Elli D. on Moving day. What a difference ten months makes! For a couple of months I was pretty disturbed with my daughter being far away from home in a strange city with a reasonably high crime rate. Now I hardly give it a thought, in part because I so often see her online and that helps me relax. I enjoy seeing her when she comes for visits, but I rarely worry about her anymore. More and more I am as happy to see her go when her visit is over as joyful when she arrives. Separation is not only necessary for both parent and child, at a certain point it is healthy.
  • To Kara and Rage on Michael Jackson: Pedophile. I am sorry Michael Jackson met a premature end, and I agree that he is not legally guilty of pedophilia. I still feel he engaged in it, given there is so much evidence anecdotal and otherwise that he was drawn to close relationships with children. No child of mine would have come close to the man, no matter how much charm and money he threw our way. He was clearly addicted to various drugs before he died, and I have to wonder if his chronic insomnia might have something to do with a guilt that gnawed at his soul. I hope I am wrong but my gut instinct suggests I probably was not. In the past, it’s been a reliable barometer.
  • To Michelle on Real Life 101, Lesson 13: Great sex is not pornography come to life. Thank you belatedly for your complement. Pornography in whatever form is like a sugar high for the libido, but it is a poor guide to having a meaningful sex life and may actually retard the likelihood of having a good one. Unfortunately, when modeling how a sex life should be, most youth model what is readily available, and pornography tends to be readily available.
  • To homeimprovementninja on The dangers of deficit fever. Is it possible we both live in our own delusions? Why are your reference sources any inherently more trustworthy than mine are?
  • To Jonathan on Kindling in search of a spark. Let me assure you, I have no interest in ruling your life. I believe the Civil War answered the question of whether states’ rights triumph over federal rights, and such rulings that have been reaffirmed many times by many conservative justices. Ironically, in a unanimous ruling today by the U.S. Supreme Court, the court reaffirmed that the EPA can determine acceptable greenhouse gas emissions, not the states.

Backtalk, Part 2

The Thinker by Rodin

Time for more belated replies to dated comments.

  • To Kim, on my post Psychiatrists agree: Republicans are insane. The title of this post could perhaps be improved because insanity suggests randomness and a lack of culpability, not deliberate malice. In this latter sense, I don’t think Republicans are insane. I wrote another post suggesting that Republicans were sadists. This is closer to the truth. I went further on Facebook and suggested Republicans were “a bunch of filthy sadists”. Perhaps the truest thing that can be said about them is that they are almost wholly lacking in empathy for anyone not like them. Inability to feel empathy also suggests a psychopathy. This was borne home to me yesterday in conversation with my wife, who recently saw her ophthalmologist. Her ophthalmologist was promoting the ideas of Rep. Paul Ryan, specifically his suggestion to reform Medicare by giving senior vouchers to provide health insurance. She was all for it, and cared not a whit if it didn’t buy them the services they needed. I guess the Hippocratic Oath is now optional reading in medical school. Sadly, I suspect she is representative of most physicians I have interacted with. If anyone should care about relieving suffering, you would think it would be a physician. I fear for our nation since it is full of people in charge with such callous and cruel natures.
  • To bruce, on my post The potential of Google Visualizations. The technology is very neat but I am sorry to say it is not catching on, which is a shame. What is catching on is jQuery, arguably a more generic approach. jQuery graphics is just one aspect of using this Javascript framework. We (the unit I manage) are betting on jQuery, in part due to its wide use and endorsement by Google, and are embedding it into our user interface.
  • To spleeness, on my post Rep. Chris Lee fails Infidelity 101. I think politicians by their nature are drawn to risk, so I am not surprised the hornier of them are drawn toward infidelity. Like Las Vegas gamblers, most assume their skill and charms will allow them to beat the odds. Until, as in the case of John Edwards this week, infidelity not only becomes immoral but also could land you in prison with a felony.
  • To Dave Gunderson, on my post The View at 54. I am now less than a year away from being able to retire. All civil servants should be very nervous about their retirements and pensions, old CSRS types like us included, and plan a second career after retirement, for you are likely to need the income. My feeling is that we are going to have the rug pulled from under us, and soon. I am asking my financial advisor to let me know how my retirement would look like if my pension were reduced by a quarter. I can easily foresee the day when, using the excuse of our indebtedness, a Republican Congress and President declares the country bankrupt and all federal pensions null and void, treating us just like autoworkers. Keep putting as much money as you can into the Thrift Savings Plan and other investments, my friend. I get the feeling that whatever budget package results from deficit talks that are underway, federal workers will be considered the most expedient to hit. Expect taxes to rise for federal workers under the guise of pay cuts and being forced to contribute more toward your own retirement. There may be pension cuts as well, including for those already retired.
  • To Anonymous, on my post The rags to riches myth. If I could rewrite the post, I would add a few asterisks. Like all myths there are germs of truth. Oprah Winfrey, for example, defied virtually all odds. However, she is one in three hundred million Americans; you have much better odds of winning the lottery. President Abraham Lincoln beat the odds too, but you can rest assured that he would not today, and the Illinois Supreme Court will not give an uneducated person a law license by simply appearing before them and looking intelligent enough to practice law in the state. No doubt, they want an endorsement from the American Bar Association today.
  • To Erik, on my post Psychiatrists agree: Republicans are insane. I believe in karma, and the United States will pay in lives, treasure and possibly in the loss of our nationhood for the harm we inflicted in so many places, including most recently Iraq and Afghanistan. I’m selfish enough though to hope I’ll be dead before then, but I think it is already underway and is being evidenced, in part, by our declining standard of living.

Backtalk, Part 1

The Thinker by Rodin

Perhaps one of the reasons I get so few comments is because I rarely reply to them. It’s either that or that most of my topics are not perceived as very interesting by the public. I often get comments on posts I made years earlier. I think I hit some sort of record last week when I received a comment for a post I made in December 2002, when my blog was new. I find it hard to comment on something I wrote many years ago. When I pick a topic, I give it my all, and then generally purge it from my brain.

I need to reply to your comments but given that some of them are for posts made so far in the past and they are so scattered across topics, at least for a while I will take comments sequentially, starting with the most recent comments. To expose my comments, I created a new comment listing tool that allows you to see comments chronologically, either going forward in time or back in time. Periodically I will review comments, in some cases left many years ago.

  • To Kyrsten Bean on my 2002 post, Intimations of Immortality: Kyrsten, I still get déjà vu from time to time, but less frequently than I used to. Every time it happens, it feels less novel. I read recently that we always live in the past because what we perceive never happens instantly but instead has to filter through the brain to give it meaning. The brain is also always multitasking. Some part of your brain lives in the present, some part is always anticipating the future, and some part is remembering the past. The experience of déjà vu might come from the future part of our brain drawing and filing imaginary scenarios. When a future projection just happens to occur in the present, this may trigger the phenomenon. While we like to think we live in reality, when we dream we are wholly absorbed in a complete virtual reality where the laws of time and space are easily transgressed. It may be that it is our ability to create a virtual world through sleep that feeds our feelings of immortality. Or it could be more than that. Dying could simply be the surrender of a physical life for the choice of the soul/spirit to return to a completely virtual life. There we could stay until we find an interesting enough reason to invest our time and energy to experience life inside of a new body. After all, if your soul can slip up and down the time stream, it can anticipate a good match based on whatever experiences your soul needs.
  • To Harry Potter on my recent post, A Primer on Restroom Etiquette: we live in an environment that is constantly swarming with microbial life, so a certain amount of risk is inevitable. Certainly restrooms get more than their share of nasty bacteria and viruses, but many of them are at least cleaned regularly with industrial strength disinfectants. Some caution is in order when using restrooms, but I don’t share your sense of paranoia. Urinals can be flushed using your elbow instead of your hand, or you can grab a paper towel to avoid touching it directly. Unless the plumbing is under repair or a restroom is out of soap or paper towels, other than laziness there is never an excuse for not flushing or washing your hands. Many restrooms now have faucets that detect the presence of a hand and jet water. I prefer these restrooms because touching faucet handles is likely an easy place to pick up and transmit a nasty germ.
  • To Socratus, who used my Boldly exploring the HD Radio Universe post to discuss the mathematical underpinnings of the principle of Occam’s Razor: I excelled in math and even took two calculus courses, but frankly I cannot follow your math or logic. I’m glad it makes sense to you.
  • To suicide blonde on my post Who Wants to be a Millionaire: I learned recently that having a net worth of a million dollars or more is no big deal. One in fifteen Americans fall into this bracket, which explains why I hardly feel rich. If it makes you feel any better, stocks slipped a bit recently so for the moment I am probably not a millionaire. It sure is not as exciting as being on the game show.
  • To George Coventry on my post If Aubrey fought Hornblower, who would win? I read Hornblower as a teen and found it a reasonably challenging read as I had never been on a sailing ship. I strongly suspect if I had started with the Aubrey-Maturin book instead, I would have never finished the first book, as I would not have had patience. About 10% of the book consists of confusing nautical terms that a landlubber needs a specialized nautical dictionary to understand. What I really craved as a teen in a good sea novel was adventure and Hornblower delivered with a character I could easily relate to. However, if I had spent my formative years sailing from time to time and had picked up much of the lingo, I might well share your feelings that O’Brien’s books are the better set.
  • To Norm on my post Requiem for a Feline: The more time I spend with pets the more I feel guilty for being a carnivore. We are surrounded by sentient beings, some more closely aligned with humans than others. Cats and dogs come very close. Cats are every bit as intelligent as humans, but have chosen to optimize their intelligence in different ways. I was blessed to have my cat Sprite for so many years and now, five years later, I am blessed to have my cat Arthur as well. If Arthur did not have the trauma of being a stray as a young cat, he would come close to matching my beloved Sprite. My condolences on your loss. I can absolutely empathize.
  • To left on my post Infoworld peers ten years out into the technology future: The prediction for shock #5 (Smartphones) are about halfway to being fulfilled, not bad a mere year and a half later. So I’ll probably be proven wrong on that prediction. Shock #7 (perfect image recognition) probably won’t quite get there, but this technology is maturing quickly. A 95% confidence level is probably doable now within ten years. For now, I figure I’m batting .800.

I’ll comment on my next 20 comments in future posts. Thanks for the comments and sorry about the belated replies.