Uncommon Sense

December 30, 2021

I Know It is Quirky . . .

Filed under: Entertainment — Steve Ruis @ 10:13 am

I know I am quirky in that I never read just one or two books at a time. Last night I looked at my eBook reader and I noticed that I was actively reading about four dozen books. This is because I get bored, or the book is taking a direction I don’t like, or the damned thing is really, really long, or . . . whatever. I also have a half dozen paper books I am currently reading (actively).

With the advent of cheap eBooks, I bought and started and abandoned a great many books with no intention of going back to them. (The danged e-reader doesn’t allow me to delete them or file them away.) This is why I included the word “actively” in describing books in progress. Note: before eBooks, I never had more than a dozen books actively being read. An eBook reader allows me to switch books with a few taps of a finger, instead of having to rummage through a bedside stack.

Anyone out there like me? Or am I all alone in the universe?

December 29, 2021

Jack, The Most Interesting Dog in the World

Filed under: Culture,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 1:27 pm
  1. A portrait of Jack, in progress

    He sings, but only baracarolles
    2. His breed is barcalounger because when he isn’t barking, he is lounging.
    3.  He never barks up a wrong tree; he has staff for that job.
    4.  Unlike the other presidential candidates, he can scratch his ear with his hind leg.
    5.  When he goes to Spain, he chases the bulls.
    6.  Once a rattlesnake bit him, after five days of excruciating pain, the snake finally died.
    7.  His tears can cure cancer. Too bad he never cries.
    8.  The dark is afraid of him.
    9.  He once taught a German shepherd how to bark in French.
    10.  He has taught older dogs a variety of newer tricks.
    11.  He can kill two stones with one bird.
    12.  Whatever side of the tracks he’s currently on is the right side, even if he crosses the tracks, he’ll still be on the right side.
    13.  The police often question him, just because they find him interesting.
    14.  He won the same lifetime achievement award . . . twice.
    15.  When in Rome, they do as he does
    16.  Presidents take his birthday off.
    17.  He is considered a national treasure in countries he’s never visited.
    18.  He never says something tastes like chicken, not even chicken.
    19.  His pillow is cool on both sides
    20.  He is the life of parties that he hasn’t attended.
    21.  He has never filled up on chips.
    22.  He once won a staring contest with his own reflection.
    23.  Presidents celebrate his birthday.
    24.  In a past life, he was himself.
    25.  On multiple occasions, he has vouched for himself.
    26.  His morning breath has notes of cilantro and sweet potato.
    27.  He once had an awkward moment, just to see how it feels.
    28.  Sharks have a week dedicated to him.
    29.  Roses stop to smell him.
    30.  His cereal never gets soggy; it sits there, staying crispy, just for him.
    31.  Cars look both ways for him, before driving down a street.
    32.  He has crossed the point of no return – on several occasions.
    33.  UFOs report sightings of him.
    34.  Jesus wears a bracelet asking “What would Jack do?”
    35.  He doesn’t always carry on, but when he does he keeps calm.
    36.  When a tree falls in a forest and no one is there, he hears it.
    37.  Time waits on no one, but him.
    38.  His friends call him by his name, his enemies don’t call him anything because they are all dead.
    39.  He lives vicariously through himself.
    40.  Nobody dares to rub him the wrong way.

Only In the American South

Filed under: Culture,Education,Politics,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 1:10 pm
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I just read a news tidbit regarding legislation pending in Oklahoma: “You know how Texas has turned everyday folks into anti-abortion bounty hunters? Oklahoma saw that and thought, why not do the same thing, but for books? The state’s Senate Bill 1142, if passed, would allow any public school parent to demand that a book they don’t like be removed, assuming the book relates to, as the bill states, ‘the study of sex, sexual preferences, sexual activity, sexual perversion, sex-based classifications, sexual identity, or gender identity or books that are of a sexual nature.’ And if the book isn’t chucked within 30 days? The parent gets $10,000 … per day until the book is removed.” (source: The Morning Heresy)

Trying to see both sides of this “desire” on the part of parents (if any were actually involved in the creation of this legislation) to have some control over what their children are exposed to in public schools, I could envision a system in which a parent could supply a list of the books currently available in their child’s library which could then be flagged whenever their child seeks to check out a book, so that they could not check out books objectionable to his/her parents. This legislation, however, seeks not to control just one parent’s kid’s reading choices, but all kid’s reading choices. Control your own children’s reading all you want, but this legislation denies not just your child’s choices but my child’s choices, too.

This sounds like just another Trojan Horse issue dreamt up by Republicans to distract their state’s citizens from what their real mission is (to make the rich richer).

December 19, 2021

Ye Shall Reap . . .

Filed under: Business,Culture,Economics,Education,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 9:32 am
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For several decades now, teachers have been demonized as the source of “the problem.” The problem, basically, is why students are not getting better. This problem is rather strange. Why would a, say, new crop of fifth graders do better on a standardized test than the previous group? It is not the same group being retested, it is a new group, being taught much the same way by much the same people. Surely this is a manifestation of the old saw defining sanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Makers of sausages, for example, don’t expect each batch to be superior to the previous batch. In fact their quality assurance systems are set up to ensure that each batch is at least as good as the last batch . . . as good, not better. “Better” only comes from research and development and in the case of sausages, test kitchens.

Nonetheless, teachers have not only been targeted as the problem but also not part of the solution, a second insult. Then some states have stripped collective bargaining rights from teachers. Some have hired Teach for America “teachers” rather than fully certified teachers, even in violation of state law. Many places have instituted “charter schools” and “voucher schools” in which the normal labor protections of the state do not apply and unions are blocked.

And then teachers asking for wage increases have been characterized as “greedy” and not caring about “the kids.”

Many of these “movements” have been supported by corporate America and then when the inevitable happens, those same people stand gobsmacked and don’t understand what happened.

What is the inevitable, you ask? Good question.

Well, let’s see. Enrollments of college students in teacher preparation programs have plummeted. Teaching is not being seen as a desirable, or even stable, profession. School districts all over the country are reporting higher rates of “retirements” and teachers just quitting. And many districts are reporting extreme shortages of teachers when trying to hire them.

This is what you get when you piss in someone’s pocket and expect them to thank you for the warm feeling you just shared with them.

The Illusion of Control

Filed under: Philosophy,Reason,Science — Steve Ruis @ 9:27 am
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There is a current Medium.com post entitled “Are You in Control of Your Mind? ‘No,’ Says Neuroscientist Sam Harris.” Which stimulated this post on human illusions. That article is part of the ongoing free will discussion . . . of course.

We all have these desires: desires for being sure, for being in control of our lives, for finding the true meaning of our life . . . and those are all illusions. Think about control. What does it mean to you? Think about being in control of your life, or being out of control of your life. What feelings are evoked?

People who have “lost control” of their lives, possibly for no fault of their own, possibly for indulging too much in illicit drugs, whatever are disparaged. They are pitied and often despized. We all tend to think, unlike the despised ones, that we have control over our lives, I suggest considerably more than what we really have. Consider that Stoic philosophy is based upon the claim that “we cannot control what happens to us, we can only control how we respond to it.” And this is a philosophy, currently undergoing a renaissance, that is over 2000 years old.

But we dreamily go through life, making plans, and feeling as if we are in control. How many people do you think, God-fearing Americans, planned on opening a small business and jumped through all of the hoops, had the right advisors, reasonable capitalization, etc. and opened their doors in the Spring of 2020? Boom, whap! The COVID pandemic shutdown crushes their dreams and their business slowly or quickly circles the drain. Were they in control of that? Should they have planned for that? Could they have planned for that?

Being in control of your mind is a fantasy. Nobody, not Newton, not Einstein, not Aristotle was in control of his mind. That is not what minds are for. For example, a common question is “where do thoughts come from?” Thoughts pop into your mind consciously seemingly at random. We do not know how these thoughts are created by why they happen seems evident. One job of your mind is to anticipate the future. Ordinary animals just wait for things to happen. Humans are constantly anticipating. I suggest that is what the power of imagination is for, and why it evolved (it helped us survive). We can anticipate events, at least things that might occur, and prepare to face them ahead of time, rather than simply react to what is happening now. (Those advising you to “live in the present moment” are suggesting that you throw away this valuable tool, rather than learn to harness it.)

So, your brain is taking in sensory information and whipping scenarios out so you can be prepared for what might happen. Do you really want to be in control of that process?

Similarly, someone calculated from the numbers of nerves involved in sensory activities the amount of information, bits if you will, that our senses pull in every minute. The amount is staggering. What happens to most of this information? It is discarded. For example, I am sitting in a chair as I type this. If I focus my attention, I notice the pressure I feel from the seat of the chair. I can feel the fabric of my pants against my skin. A couple of minutes ago, I noticed none of that. What happened to those sensations a couple of minutes ago? They were discarded. We can direct out attention . . . somewhat . . . which determines to some extent what sensory information makes it through the winnowing process but that cannot be an exclusive process. Overrides are built into the system, like when I cut my finger when cooking (I did this a couple of days ago) and boy, my attention got placed on that cut with no effort on my part (ow, ow, ow, ow).

And the flaw in almost all of the free will discussions is that they focus entirely upon conscious free will. But, our lives are dominated by unconscious and autonomic processes. Consciousness is used for a small subset of our activities. Philosophers shy away from addressing the idea of unconscious free will because that smacks of determinism to them. That sensory or other forces cause the unconscious “us” to behave in certain ways, which makes us slaves, robots to those data inputs. Our behavior is determined by whatever inputs come into the system. (“Determinism, determinism! . . . imagine this sung with “Fiddler on the Roof” bravura.)

But we know less of the unconscious functions of our brains than we know of our conscious minds. Why couldn’t our unconscious minds exert our will freely? Why does our will necessarily be conscious?

Consciously we create ideas that just don’t exist. Absolutes don’t exist. Perfect control of anything doesn’t exist (if you think it does, consult NASA, they will disabuse you of any idea of being in control of complex systems). Being sure doesn’t exist. Being sure is dangerous. And free will is not a “yes-no” question.

The Internet and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 8:47 am

“Even though every individual possesses the truth, when he gets together in a crowd, untruth will be present at once, for the crowd is untruth.”—Soren Kierkegaard

With all of the wonderful attributes the Internet possesses and from which we benefit, one that was not anticipated was that it basically is a crowd-forming system: crowds of climate change deniers, Holocaust deniers, anti-vaxxers, COVID skeptics, Flat Earthers, chem trail claimers, all manner of political bullshit spreaders, etc.

December 16, 2021

Blatant Restriction of Personal Freedom by Government

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:35 am

With so many claims flying around regard mask mandates and vaccination mandates being restrictions of personal freedom by governments, we totally ignore the greatest freedom grab of governments.

Children are forced to go to school by government, taking the right to choose what your children do and learn away from you. Before this freedom destroying imposition by government, may I say totalitarian government, parents determined what their children did every day of the week. There were chores to do, inside the house (typically for girl children) and outside the house (typically for boy children) and it took a lot of effort to get those done.

Then government came along and said that it, not we, controlled what those children did for a large part of each weekday. They decided to teach them, teach them to read and cipher, even the girls! And parents could not say no because that made their children truants and subject to arrest, and them as well for not complying with government regulations.

Tyranny, I say!

Parents need to reclaim their freedoms from totalitarian government. They should be the ones teaching their children, not some government bureaucrats. Imagine having your children home all day long. Imagine all of the household chores they could do. One of the parents can stay home to supervise the kids while the other goes to work to support the family. This used to be normal, sheeple! You don’t need that second income, with its wages largely sucked up by government taxes to support unneeded things, like schools.

Freedom! Freedom! Rise up and reclaim your children!

Equal Protection Under the Law

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion,Science,The Law — Steve Ruis @ 11:32 am
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Conservatives, especially conservative SCOTUS justices, would like nothing more than to repeal Roe v. Wade and turn the issue over to the states.

They are claiming this is the “democratic” thing to do.

Political cartoonists are our modern court jesters, but that doesn’t mean they play fair.

But this is not the issue. The issue is whether there is equal protection under the law. If this issue is detailed to the states the following scenario is very likely to happen. In one hospital, a woman receives a safe abortion, paid for by her medical insurance, and is released into the care of her family. Twenty miles away, a doctor giving a woman an abortion is arrested and charged with murder. So is the woman who hired the doctor to do the procedure, so is her husband for driving his wife to her medical clinic.

The difference? In the twenty miles separating the two facilities is a state border.

The federal government has stepped in over and over . . . and over, to make policies consistent across state lines to ensure “equal protection under the law.”

There are only a few issues over which it has demurred, e.g. capital punishment, although it has restricted the methods by which capital punishment can be imposed.

Surely the legality of the procedure is a matter of interstate commerce, no? Can a legal procedure in one state carry a death penalty in another?

Instead of turning it over to the states, we would be much better off to do what Canada has done; it forbade legislation on the matter, declaring it a personal matter, not a public matter. Canada has no laws, other than the health and safety laws governing all medical procedures, on the topic . . . none. And I just can’t believe that all Canadians are going to Hell because of their sensibility.

December 13, 2021

Beyond Space and Time?

Filed under: Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:39 am
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I am sure you are aware that Judaism was under heavy Hellenistic influence in the first centuries BCE and CE. Since Plato was such a towering figure in Greek philosophy Platonism got into Jewish thinking at this time.

Here is a comment made about the Epistle to the Hebrews a ways back:

“I will quote Marcus Dods from his 1910 commentary on Hebrews in the Expositor’s Greek Testament, for he lays out the Platonic principle very succinctly: (The author’s focus on the “heavenly” represents) the contrast of this world and heaven, between that of the merely material and transient, and the ideal and abiding. Things of this world are material, unreal, transient; those of heaven are ideal, true, eternal. Heaven is the world of realities, of things themselves, of which the things here are but copies.” (Source: W. Loftus, John; M. Price, Robert. Varieties of Jesus Mythicism: Did He Even Exist?)

So everything in Heaven is perfect? This seems to be the opinion of most Christians. Aye, there’s the rub.

If everything is perfect, then there can be no time. For if time passes, things change; if something which is perfect changes it can only become imperfect, hence there can be no time.

Similarly there really can be no space, either. If you are in Heaven and want to move, even slightly, say to get a better view of those being tormented in Hell, then the view you had wasn’t perfect, which it must be. So movement cannot be allowed in a perfect Heaven because there is no need of it. One place cannot be better than another and everything be perfect.

And, atheists, like me, have scoffed at the “God is beyond space and time” trope, but if it is true, would you want to be there with Him? Not only would there be no time or space, there would be no movement, no change, everything is perfect, remember.

Heaven would be as boring as all get out, and the miracle of it is that this god would not allow you to recognize that fact, because if he did, He would be admitting that Heaven was not perfect.

So, why did Jews and Christians chase this particular rabbit down this particular rabbit hole. It doesn’t end well, certainly. Oh, not to worry? It is all made up. Ah, now it makes sense. Nonsense made up by people chasing their own tails, producing tales that millions of “believers” chase today. Hmmm.

But Will They Listen?

Filed under: Culture,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:34 am
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I don’t imagine any of the usual evangelical culprits will be commenting on what could be a biblical tornado swarm, including what may be the longest persisting tornado in U.S. history, having left a trail of destruction from Arkansas to Kentucky, part of a vast storm front that it is feared may have killed over 100 people.

The states most heavily affected were Indiana, Missouri, Kentucky, and Arkansas, all states which voted for Donald Trump. It is clear that God is punishing those states for continuing to cling to Donald Trump, a false Messiah, if not the anti-Christ.

It couldn’t be more clear. It is not like the tsunami that killed thousands in Indonesia when it was claimed by many preachers and prophets that that event was God’s punishment for us embracing homosexuals. Why the Indonesians were punished for our deficiencies is unknown.

But this is clear. No blue states suffered much of any damage.

Ever Trumpers need to get back into God’s good graces, otherwise it is just going to get worse.

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