Perception of Blue is a Recent Skill

No one could see the color blue until modern times. I’ve always suspected that our language affects how we see the world, and this is a great example.

Posted in Language

Our beliefs resist new facts

Mother Jones has a really interesting article on how our beliefs block new information:

  • Pre-existing beliefs, far more than new facts, skew our thoughts.
  • Feelings arise before conscious thoughts and color them.
  • Confirmation bias gives more weight to facts that match our existing beliefs.
  • Beliefs are adjusted to match the audience.
Posted in Politics, Science, Society Tagged with: ,

Encode your IP as a haiku

How eccentric and cool:

There’s also a Python port:

Posted in Humor, Poetry, Programming Tagged with: ,

Right-wing commentator tilts left!

David Brooks is the token conservative on the New York Times OpEd page. He replaced the insufferable William Safire, but has still been reliably conservative.

But something has happened as of late; he has been writing columns displaying empathy, such as one eschewing vengeance in response to ISIS. The one that really amazed me was yesterday’s essay on PTSD. Buried inside that was this:

war — no matter how justified or unjustified, noble or ignoble — is always a crime.

Amazing because for the longest time he was a noted war hawk.

Posted in Peace, Politics Tagged with: , ,

Ten Years!

Today is the 10th anniversary of this blog, so I’ll celebrate with a bunch of random items.

Posted in Humor, Science


Sometimes we just want to be alone,
to meet the self, to commune with nature,
to hope to glimpse that ineffable;
to let our thoughts run shouting
down halls that we’ve never seen,
unthreatened by the jaws of other peoples’ arguments.

Our soul is set free by our heart’s acceptance
that alone is not lonely,
and graced from guilt, goes ranging far and wide
until the human world attracts once more.


Posted in Poetry

Sharp knives

In my woodworking days I learned how to sharpen knives on a stone, so when invited to Thanksgiving or Christmas, I would offer to sharpen the host’s knives. The offer was always well received, but such a high proportion of cooks promptly cut themselves accidentally that I now don’t offer, or add a severe caveat.

I conclude that the canard about blunt knives being more dangerous is wrong. The logic is that blunt knives cause people to press harder, but I think the added sharpness of a sharpened knife far outweighs the added force applied to a blunt knife.

Posted in Science Tagged with: ,

Split Infinitives

I’ve always had a secret liking for split infinitives. Today I found a perfect example.

Therapists are trained not to tell you exactly what to do, no matter how much I ask.

I would much rather see (using brackets to indicate a sentence component)

Therapists are trained to [not tell you exactly what to do], no matter how much I ask.

To my ear, the original sentence implies a logical construction like this

Therapists are trained not to tell you exactly what to do, but to reflect your actions back to you.

Posted in Language

Modern-day Feudalism

Here’s what the corporate state has come to:

  1. You need a college education to get a job;
  2. You have to pay for it;
  3. You can’t escape that debt (it’s high interest, and not dischargeable in bankruptcy);
  4. Therefore you have to work for us until it is paid off.

Ergo: Capitalism has reinvented the feudal system.

Posted in Society Tagged with:

Five Ways America is a Faux Democracy

The existence of elections, civil law and free speech gives the appearance of a functioning democracy, but in practice they are not acting as intended.

1. Voting is not Representative

Voting is skewed in America in many ways.

2. Justice is Unequal

There are very visibly two standards of justice.

3. Political Protest is Suppressed

The net result of these distortions can be measured, and the results show that democracy is largely an illusion:

1. Budgets do not Match How People Want the Money Spent

People from both left and right want a budget that is well to the left of present allocations. A Program for Public Consultation report found that Republicans would cut defense spending by $56bn and Democrats by $131bn for an average cut of 18%. The public would increase energy conservation and renewable energy by 110%, job training by 130% and college financial aid by 90%.

2. The Wishes of the General Public are not Carried Out

A recent study by Gilens and Page analyzed 1,779 policy outcomes and determined that when a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose.

“the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

The preferences of economic elites carries 15 times the weight of ordinary citizens.

A statement like this usually ends with a call to action.
I will leave that for another day, and instead make this a call for awareness. Tell your friends. Pass this on.
When enough people understand how they are being fooled, change will happen.

Posted in Politics, Society Tagged with: ,