Saturday, February 12, 2011

3260 Thoughts on Egypt

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I tried to be good, but I got bored.


They're nowhere near finished yet.

I've been reading internet reports, and listening to talk and news radio, and there seem to be conflicting opinions on the relationship between the protesters and the military. Some commentators think the military is with the protesters, holding the same opinions as the protesters. Others see something more sinister going on.

I'm with the latter camp. I'm worried.

Mubarak gained control through a military coup. The country has a constitution and legislature, and all that, but has been under "emergency", i.e. martial, law for the past 30 years. Mubarak had been able to maintain control all that time through the support of the military commanders, the top brass, with whom he has been sharing the largess, and who actually run the country. They've been very well paid to stay loyal. (The rank and file soldiers did not share in the booty, so they were not as supportive of Mubarak, and that's why they were liked and appreciated by the protesters.)

However, I think there was more going on than shows on the surface. I think the top military commanders decided that protests served their own purposes. Mubarak was starting to loosen some of the military's grip on the country. No military man would like that. And if they could get rid of Mubarak, that eliminates one major level in the distribution of booty. Yummy. More for themselves.

They're still in charge. They are now running the show. I do not for one second believe that they will give up power from some burst of social conscience or respect for the constitution or fear of another protest display.

The second thing that worries me is that the protesters wanted Mubarak gone immediately, because having started the protests, the organizers were now in mortal danger. If Mubarak were allowed to hang around until September, that would give him time to run a (mis)information campaign, and to "mysteriously disappear" all the organizers, so that when the September elections had him win by a huge margin, even as a write-in, those with the courage to protest would be all gone, and the rest would be too afraid. The organizers and anyone else with a known name or face would be dead men walking as soon as the square emptied.

So, Mubarak is gone immediately. But persons who perhaps want to assume Mubarak's power are not only still there, they are in charge of everything. They had their own reasons for getting rid of him. And if they want to ensure that the election goes the way they want, and that no one objects publicly, organizers might start disappearing. All it will take is a few "accidents" befalling second-level organizers to get the message across. And the next set of protests might not be met with such a blasé attitude from the military.

Egypt still has some storms to weather.

3259 Can't let go of twist ties

Saturday, February 12, 2011

If you don’t know who the “mark” is at the table, it’s you.


Sometimes I just can't let go of old annoyances. I wish I could. I wish I could find the magic key to make them go away.

I just got some walnuts out of the bag in the refrigerator. When I put the bag back, I twisted the tie once holding the bag, then flipped the bag to put a second twist in, and that was it. It was one of those very long ties reused off some other bag.

As I put the bag back, I felt an immediate flash of annoyance at Ex#2.

He used to twist the ties all the way out to the end! It didn't matter how long the twist tie was, he twisted it all the way! I'd get extremely annoyed when I had to untwist forty thousand times just to get a slice of bread. I explained over and over to him that two twists were sufficient to keep a tie tight. It made no difference to him. Next time, he'd twist all the way to the end again.

I can't seem to let go of it.

The trigger for my flash of annoyance at him was the twist tie, but I suspect the real problem was that he ignored what I said, what I asked of him. My words had no weight with him, and the twist tie was just an example of that.

I'm tired of having those flashes.

A psychologist might say that I am still annoyed at him because I am still feeling ignored in my current life, but that I can't put it on the current source, so I'm putting it on him. But I'm not sure that's true, because all the flashes that went back to Ex#1 stopped as soon as I discovered he died a while ago. He died, and things stopped triggering annoyance at him. All the triggers stopped being triggers. So maybe if Ex#2 died, I'd stop being annoyed at him over the twist ties.

Maybe what I'm really looking for is an apology. Or validation. Maybe what I really want is for Ex#2 to say to me, "You know, you were right about the twist ties." (Or any of a hundred other things....) But I know he's still twisting the damn things forty thousand times, and that's incredibly annoying.

3258 Despair

Saturday, February 12, 2011

T-shirt: “If I’m mean it’s because you’re stupid.”


I am very discouraged. if anyone should be aware of the power of words and the importance of using the correct word, it's journalists. I can be forgiven errors. Journalists cannot.

I read the following statement in a "U.S. News & World Reports" article credited to Rick Newman, about Mubarak's wealth:
Other Mubarak funds are reportedly sitting in British banks, and Mubarak was no doubt wily enough to squire away some cash in unlikely places.

I read that and my brain froze. The mental picture didn't work. "Squire"? Did he really escort the money to the unlikely places? Perhaps he also gave it a corsage? Or maybe he carried the money's shield? Perhaps the word should be "squirrel"? He squirreled the money away? (Mental picture is now one of a squirrel burying nuts. Yeah. That works.)

I guess Mr. Newman has heard the expression, misheard the word, and used what he thought the expression was without wondering where it came from or what it meant.

I've almost given up reading comments on articles. The average "U.S. News & World Reports" reader isn't exactly in the same league as "Wall Street Journal" readers, but should be at least a few notches above tabloid readers. But the comments on this article had me searching the pantry for peanut butter cups.

Friday, February 11, 2011

3257 Things I found out today

Friday, February 11, 2011

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see."
-- Arthur Schopenhauer --


The only things my warranty/service contract on Hal doesn't cover is windshield wipers and tires. Today I found out what a BMW tire for Hal costs. $407. That's for ONE tire. Plus more for labor.

Driving back from the old house on Monday night I hit a deep New Jersey pothole. You can't see the fool things at night. Wednesday, Hal started complaining that his passenger side tire was low. Thursday I took him to the BMW dealership. Today they told me the bad news. The tire had developed an irreparable "blister", whatever that is. I needed a new tire.

$407 dollars worth of tire.


Remember the mouse that had taken up residence in Hal? I asked the service guys to check and see what other damage the mouse may have done, and to please explain how he got in in the first place. The bits of chewed up paper in the trunk, the passenger cabin, and the glove compartment! meant he'd had access to the entire car.

They found that he'd chewed through the microfilter, which gave him access to the ventilation system. I needed a new filter.

I wonder if my insurance would consider a mouse a vandal?


You know all those dead birds turning up all over the country? Turns out the USDA, and others licensed by the USDA, are killing them. They kill millions of birds every year, and have been doing so since the early '60s, to protect grain put out for cattle feed.

Search "dead birds USDA", and you'll get lots of hits, most of which contradict each other. Like, the USDA says they are responsible for only one killoff in the mid-west, but in another article they also take credit for a mass kill near my old house. And they have no idea how many kills are from those licensed folks, or from farmers just doing it themselves. Nobody's counting those dead birds.

The attitudes of the farmers and of the USDA are rather cavalier. Farmers: "They're just birds." USDA: "They're starlings. European starlings are a pest, and they're not native, they're invasive."

Um, they're also killing red-winged blackbirds by the millions, too, and they are definitely native. Whether the birds are native or not has nothing to do with it. They're poisoning any birds that feed in flocks, which are often varieties of blackbirds (red-wings, crackles, cowbirds, starlings).

How has this been going on for 50+ years, but we knew nothing of it? Can't farmers do something else to protect the grain they put out for dairy cows, like, oh, cats or dogs? Or covered feeding? Do those birds really have no other value? They do eat bugs, too, you know. How many carnivores have been starved out by these killoffs?

Next time you get bitten by a mosquito, or lose your tomatoes to Japanese beetles or your kitten to a hawk, blame the USDA.

General info:

The kill near my old house:


On his 74th birthday, a man got a gift certificate from his wife. The certificate paid for a visit to a medicine man living on a nearby reservation who was rumored to have a wonderful cure for erectile dysfunction.

After being persuaded, he drove to the reservation, handed his ticket to the medicine man. The medicine man slowly, methodically, produced a potion, handed it to him, and with a grip on his shoulder, warned, 'This is powerful medicine. It must be respected. You take only teaspoonful, and then say '1-2-3.' When you do that, you will become more manly than you have ever been in your life, and you can perform as long as you want."

The old man was encouraged. As he walked away, he turned and asked, "How do I stop the medicine from working?"

"Your partner must say '1-2-3-4,'" he responded, "but when she does, the medicine will not work again until next full moon."

The old man was very eager to see if it worked so he went home, showered, shaved, took a spoonful of the medicine, and then invited his wife to join him in the bedroom. When she came in, he took off his clothes and said, "1-2-3!"

Immediately, he was the manliest of men.

His wife was excited and began throwing off her clothes, and then she asked, "What was the 1-2-3 for?"

And that, boys and girls, is why we should never end our sentences with a preposition, because we could end up with a dangling participle.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

3256 Its time

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A ship is safe in port, but that’s not what ships are made for.
-- Admiral Grace Hopper --


I get annoyed when people say things like, "Jazz was the top music of its time", referring to The Jazz Era.

Duh. Anything is the top whatsis of its time. Otherwise it wouldn't have been its time, right?

(I am the most famous femme fatale of my time. My time just hasn't arrived yet.)

3255 Tests - Medical and Turing

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"When you are a minority voice, you begin to doubt your own competencies."
-- Catherine Orenstein, on the fact that only 13% of Wikipedia's contributors are female --


I got a call from the doctor's office. The blood and urine results are back.
  • I do have a UTI, and they'll phone a prescription to my local CVS.
  • Glucose was 100 mg/dL, but since I was not fasting, that's ok, I guess.
  • Vitamin D was low, so I'm to add a D supplement, twice a day.
  • Total cholesterol was a bit high, so I'm to add flax seed oil. (but the ratio is low - in the very good range. The medical community differs on what that means, but it's been like that with me for ages, so I figure it must be ok. Besides, I don't know how I can possibly cut any more fats from my diet.) I was taking flax seed oil for a while, back when, but it makes me burp. Oh, well. I'll try again.
  • Triglyceride is 99.
  • And the real shocker - thyroid stimulating hormone is normal. Huh?


I was reading an essay on the Turing test ( That's the dealy where a tester converses with a human and/or with a computer, and attempts to determine whether what he's conversing with is human or machine. The author participated in a test, and began to wonder what makes someone recognizably human.

An interesting observation was in the area of arguments. Humans, when arguing, tend to devolve into verbal abuse, and to begin simply reacting to the last statement, without regard to the full context of the argument, ignoring previous statements.

That kicked off thoughts. I hate arguing with people, precisely because with most people, that happens. They want to turn it into a sniping match, and I just won't do that. For that reason - that I keep going back to the initial disagreement, and ignore and won't react to sniping - they seem to feel that I don't argue fairly. I don't get it.

Think about the last argument you've had. Did you get off track, and just snipe?

To quote from the essay:
...argument is stateless—that is, unanchored from all context, a kind of Markov chain of riposte, meta-riposte, meta-meta-riposte. Each remark after the first is only about the previous remark. If a program can induce us to sink to this level, of course it can pass the Turing Test.

Once again, the question of what types of human behavior computers can imitate shines light on how we conduct our own, human lives. Verbal abuse is simply less complex than other forms of conversation. In fact, since reading the papers on MGonz, and transcripts of its conversations, I find myself much more able to constructively manage heated conversations. Aware of the stateless, knee-jerk character of the terse remark I want to blurt out, I recognize that that remark has far more to do with a reflex reaction to the very last sentence of the conversation than with either the issue at hand or the person I’m talking to. All of a sudden, the absurdity and ridiculousness of this kind of escalation become quantitatively clear, and, contemptuously unwilling to act like a bot, I steer myself toward a more “stateful” response: better living through science.
A slimmed-down version of the "most human" computer winner of 2010 is online, and you can chat with "him" at I've had a few conversations, and very often felt like I was talking to a human. Warning - Cleverbot can get a bit naughty.

From the Cleverbot site:
A special version of the Cleverbot application has won the BCS Machine Intelligence Competition 2010, after taking part in a quick-fire Turing Test.

Cleverbot was running with notably more power behind it than is possible for the online version, with 24 separate instances conferring on their answer.

10 volunteers talked for 2 minutes each using a plain text interface, and the whole of the event audience voted on 'how human' each conversation appeared to be.

Cleverbot achieved an average rating of 42.1% human!

I believe that means 42.1% of the testers thought Cleverbot was human (as opposed to the real human competing against Cleverbot), and that means it actually passed the Turing test.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

3254 Short trip north

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

We kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong.


I used to watch Antiques Roadshow a lot. Now I catch it occasionally, accidentally. I think the British version is more interesting. I noticed a telling difference between the "tone" of the American and the British versions: the American appraisers tell the people what they could get for the item if they sold it; the British appraisers tell the people what they'd have to pay to buy a replacement, therefore what they should insure it for.

Actually, that's a cultural difference. It's a subtle difference in the way we define value.


The only prescription I take is Synthroid, 50 MCG. Under my prescription plan, I have to get them through the mail. I get a three-month prescription with three refills. When I get down to the last 10 pills, I go online and tell MedCo to send the next three-month batch.

Early last month, I went to the website to order more, and discovered there were no more refills. I need a new prescription.

I don't have a doctor here yet.

So I called my old doctor and asked if they could please send me one month's prescription, and that would give me time to find a doctor here.

No go.

She said I hadn't had a physical exam in two years, and I'd have to come in. Period.

I was a little confused, because I remember a LOT of blood drawn last year about this time, lots of visits, but she said yes, but that didn't include a physical. The next appointment I could get was February 7th. That meant no Synthroid for at least three to four weeks. My other choice would be to attempt to find a doctor here who is not only taking new patients, but would accept a new Medicare patient, and then I'd still have to get a physical and wait for the TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) blood level results, blah blah.

So, yesterday I drove the 2.5 hours north for a physical.

My appointment was at 1 PM. I got to the village at 12:25, so I stopped in to see Piper and his daughter. I figured I'd get to the doctor's office at 12:50, since I wouldn't have to fill out any papers or anything.

Surprise. Sometime in the past several months, my doctor's group merged with another group, and they have a new computer system. I had to fill out the 10 pages of "past surgeries, dates, all vitamins and supplements you take, insurance numbers, emergency family members, family medical history" - all that crap detail that I don't carry around in my head and hadn't brought with me.

Hey, folks. All that stuff is in your old database, AND in that paper folder you keep looking in. Couldn't you find some nerd to write a simple program to transfer data from the old to the new database? Couldn't youse guys input from the paper folder when you knew I was coming? At the very least, will you let me look at the paper folder, and just copy the crap onto this new form, instead of wracking my brain trying to remember?

No, no, and no.

I've got strong pulses in my hands and feet, good reflexes, nothing weird about my skin (except that it doesn't fit very well any more), no chest noise, no lumpiness anywhere, etc., got a PAP, and paper to take somewhere (where?) for a bone density scan and a mammogram. Blood was taken for I don't know what besides the TSH level, and they gave me a prescription for another year's Synthroid. I mentioned that my morning urine has been smelling very bad, so they're going to culture it. Pending the blood, urine, PAP, bone density, and mammogram results, I was declared in marvelous condition for such a decrepit old bat.

Then I went to the old house. I had the little BMW, not the van, because freezing rain was predicted for overnight, so I couldn't bring much back, but I picked up a few things I had been missing, like more dishes, my moisturizer which I haven't been able to find around here, measuring cups, some books, etc. I turned the well pump off, just in case. And I set some mouse traps. That may have been a mistake. If I don't get back there soon, everything might smell of dead mouse. Well, that's not an odor I haven't dealt with before.

Then I went back to Piper's office to finish the earlier conversations. They had a meeting at 4:30, so I left at 4:15, and that's when I realized that if I headed south then, I'd be getting to The Oranges at about 5:45 - a very bad time, traffic-wise. So I decided to go to the diner for something to eat.

I hadn't ordered yet when my phone rang. It was The Hairless Hunk. He said he'd seen a little black convertible go by, and figured it had to be me. "Who else but you would drive a beautiful little car like that on this sloppy salty road?" The phone conversation was getting long, and I was uncomfortable talking in the diner, so I invited him to the diner for coffee.

As usual, we talked. And talked. I don't know if he's starved for conversation, or if he's always like that. It's amazing how much time we can talk, and never seem to run out of topics. We were still at the table three and a half hours later. Yeah, I kind of miss him. I don't want anything beyond a mild flirtation, but I really do like talking with him. Plus, he's pretty. Plus it's a boost to my ego to know that he finds me .... interesting. My daughter finds me boring.

It did rain on the drive back south, but it didn't freeze.


When I was standing at the window in the doctor's office, a woman was talking to the other receptionist, and was annoyed to discover that her 1 o'clock appointment was at the other office, not this office. The two offices are about 5 miles apart. The receptionist said, "Well, if you just go there, you'll be only 5 minutes late. They won't mind." The woman snapped, "Oh, I don't care about their time. It's MY gas!"

I'm sorry, but I couldn't help saying to my receptionist, "I just drove 2 and a half hours for this appointment, and all I want is a refill of my prescription."

I'm unsympathetic.

Mainly because I don't believe their insistence on my coming in was for my health. I suspect they held my prescription hostage for their bottom line.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

3253 A political observation

Sunday, February 6, 2011

"Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal."
-- Albert Camus --


From, on March 22, 2010. I find it interestingly prophetic.

Another striking thing about this Obamacare story is what it says about the difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to the wielding of power. This is an oversimplification I know, but the basic difference is that Democrats believe in the value of government and campaign so that they can win elections and then do things to improve government and run it competently. Republicans, on the other hand, don't believe government has any value and so campaign so that they can win elections so they can do the things necessary to win more elections and consolidate their power. This was summed up nicely in Gingerich's remarks about health care just before it passed in the House, "[If Democrats pass health reform,] they will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years [by pushing civil rights legislation]." Not only was he saying that Democrats had just done a foolish thing by passing a bill that hadn't been polling well, but he was also implying that their passing the Civil Rights Act had been foolish because it hadn't been in the service of holding onto power. These guys are all completely Machiavellian, and it's great that we have days such as today when their masks are ripped off and we are shown, to be frank, how evil they are.
This was brought to mind yesterday by all the Regan-worship going on now. His record has been whitewashed. I was there. I remember. And Field remembers, too. Read


Some things kinda neat, but not covered in the news reports from Egypt:

You know how praying Muslims form lines and blocks? We see them praying in the square in Cairo in news reports and photos. What we haven't seen is that during prayer times, Christians, non-Muslims, and others have been forming shoulder to shoulder protective rings facing outward around the ones praying.

Also, shoulder to shoulder protective lines are circling the museums.


When I saw "The King's Speech", it didn't occur to me then, but later I realized, "Hey, the wife was the Queen Mother! Wow!" I was once about five feet from her. The real Queen Mother, I mean. Not the actress.

3252 Repeating an old post

Sunday, February 5, 2011

A relationship is about give and take. Love is all about giving.


This post is originally from Sunday, August 7, 2005

#320 Musings on the Paranormal

All those who believe in psychokinesis raise my hand.

James Randi is out to debunk all claims of paranormal abilities. The James Randi Educational Foundation offers a one million dollar prize to anyone who can prove that they have such abilities, and can demonstrate them in a two tier test designed and administered by the foundation. They claim that "To date, no one has ever passed the preliminary tests." Details at

Some of my friends are gloating that the most recent candidate ( failed miserably, having performed at even less than what random probabilities would predict (which is not an accurate statement, because given the design of the test, there could be no prediction, but anyway....) Results are at I'm not surprised either, but not because such abilities cannot possibly exist. I'm not surprised because of the conditions of the test, and because, well, the test subject may have been a bit deluded.

In my opinion, there are four classes when it comes to paranormal phenomena:
1.) Disbelievers of the "I have an open mind, I'll believe it when I see it" persuasion.
2.) Disbelievers who reject even the possibility, and who wouldn't believe it even if they did see it.
3.) Believers who are whacked out weirdoes who will believe anything they want to believe.
4.) Believers who are so because they have experienced it for themselves.

At the risk of ridicule, I will state that I am frankly and firmly in the fourth group. That doesn't mean I will believe any claim that comes down the pike. But I do believe there is more out there than we know right now. Call it another dimension if you like. Fairies. Whatever.

I have experienced very detailed precognitive repeating dreams that scared me. It happened. I experienced it, and yes, I did tell people about the dreams, and when they then came true, right down to the details, the precognitive aspect was independently verified.

On many occasions, I have experienced the disembodied voice in my head that told me something I could not have known otherwise, and I did in fact mention it to others, and it was verified. One example of what I mean: We had adopted a beautiful pregnant little Russian Blue. I was holding her on my lap one day, and I said to Ex#2, "I wonder how many kittens she's going to have?" and the phrase "Three and two" popped into my head, in a voice different from my normal "thinking voice".
I repeated it aloud: "Three and two."
Ex#2 looked up and said, "What?"
Me: "Three and two. It just popped into my head."
He: "What does that mean?"
Me: "I don't know. I think it has to do with Suzy's kittens." A few weeks later, Suzy gave birth to three female and two male kittens. Ex#2 was a little bit afraid of me because of stuff like that.

I scared Jay's father one time by slowing down before a curve on a hill one night, and creeping around the curve. When I slowed down, he asked "Why are you stopping?", and as we crept around the curve, a herd of about 20 deer came down the hill and crossed the road. It was not a deer crossing zone. He looked at me in shock and said "How did you know?" I always know when there are deer in my path. I also always know when there is a patrol car hidden nearby, long before I see it. (Ex#1 found that very useful. He was too stupid to be afraid of it.)

I've had a three-year-old tell me detailed stories of a prior life in another culture, in a very much older voice, using terms that were not a part of her vocabulary. All the descriptions, the terrain, the animals, the clothing, the food, the family relationships, the homes, the customs, all, all fitted together. She described daily items like a clay beehive oven, far removed from her three-year-old experience. She referred to her "Before-Mommy". ("Before mommy?" "Yeah. My mommy before you.") She described her previous death from pneumonia at age 12. All this from a child at an age where what exists in the now is and was and shall ever be as it is.

Lots more.

So yeah, put me firmly in group four. Although I have no command of it. And as I get older, it happens less and less. I think life has closed my mind more and more. It's harder to be open.

I'm not surprised that the candidate failed the test, even if I assume he's not in group three, because Randi's Foundation is frankly negative. They make it clear from the start that the test will be adversarial. The observers/judges start out negative. Even if the ability exists, and even if it can be done on command, I suspect negative energy interferes, and the foundation is relentlessly negative. So I don't think the foundation is proving anything (even though it is impossible to prove a negative anyway) because it's not a fair test. Everything about it conspires to ensure failure.

As an example, I can debunk your claim that you can start a fire with kindling, flint, and steel. You just have to play by my rules. The test will be conducted out of doors, with no cover, in a driving windy rainstorm, using the wet kindling at hand. That's pretty much what the foundation does to their candidates. They rain negativity.

(Plus that I suspect most of the candidates are nuts, but that's beside the point.)

There are those who will believe only what they see, and those who will see only what they believe. The potential for reward is far greater if we are neither.