Uncommon Sense

January 30, 2022

The Repair Shop

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 8:27 am

I have been binge watching episodes of the BBC’s series “The Repair Shop.” In this show, set in a homey setting in England, Brits bring their family treasures to a very talented crew of restorers for restoration. If you haven’t noticed, I am a flaming Anglophile. “Hi, Steve!” (Ignore them, those are members of my 12-Step group.)

I relish, however seeing hordes of “my people” on the show. Then tend to around my age, painfully white, and are quite typically British: bad hair, worse teeth, tremendously sentimental, and emotional about their “treasures.” They seem to be both surprised and somewhat embarrassed by their emotions. They also seem to be having an ongoing battle with the letter H. They pronounce the H, for example, in words like heirloom (hair-loom”), but we do not (“air-loom”). Yet they drop H’s from a great many words, e.g. “ow’re you doing?) I wonder what H did to them? Hmm.

And they give names to almost everything (toys, musical instruments, pieces of furniture, etc.). When I was growing up, our cars and many other possessions had names, just like the Brits did and still do. (My father was of Spanish heritage, my mother of mostly British heritage.)

I enjoy each and every episode as nice stuff gets restored. I like to repair things, although I am not in their class. It is interesting, also, how attached we get to our physical possessions. Possibly that is because emotionally we control both ends of the relationship, so such are not as messy as the human-human relationships in our lives.

This show is on the Discovery Channel currently although I was already aware of it, so some episodes had already been shown on some other channel some time ago. I find myself even rewatching episodes I had already seen as “good” is always being done by and for nice people. The BBC doesn’t charge for the restorations, so some of these gifts are quite lavish.

Lovely people, lovely things, how can you go wrong?

January 28, 2022

Just What Does That Mean?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 10:35 am

The most quoted Bible passage in the U.S., at least at football games, is John 3:16, to wit:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, translations vary).

This seems to be an important saying to evangelical Christians but what does it mean? I understand the basic premise, but what exactly does “whoever believes in him” mean?

I understand “whoever believes him” as a phrase, but what does “whoever believes ‘in’ him” mean?

Another common phrase used by evangelicals is “you must accept Jesus in your heart as your Lord and Master.” Now that sounds far too slavish for me, walking around calling Jesus the Christ “masser.” Yes, Masser Jesus, no Masser Jesus . . . sounds too demeaning (to us both) to me. Why would an exalted spiritual being desire to own slaves?

So, that is out, but to “believe in him” is a possibility, if I only knew what it meant.

And it sounds like too much of a bargain. Believe “in” this guy, that he exists and you get to live forever. Sounds like a trick. Maybe living forever is a torment. I am already having trouble remembering things. Add a few thousand years and I won’t remember my own parents.

The entire quotation is fraught with strangeness. God loves the world? Doesn’t he love all his creation? Otherwise there are some parts he loves and other parts, well, not so much. But it is all his creation, no? And he declared it all good, right? Maybe that declaration was premature because when he caused the Great Flood, he admitted he regretted creating humanity (and apparently all of the other plants and animals that were wiped out). And this means that this god is not omniscient, or he would have seen at all coming. Actually Genesis, the first book in most Bibles tells us that he is neither omniscient nor omnipresent. For example, if he had been omnipresent, he would have been there when the serpent was tempting Adam and Eve and could have nipped it in the bud, or been there when Eve plucked the fruit, etc. So John is just reinforcing what we already know from reading Genesis.

Actually most of this confusion can be laid at the feet of the Apostle Paul, who completely distorted Jesus message, actually replaced it with one of his own. Jesus’s message was simple: repent, admit your sins, then love God with all of your heart and obey his commandments. He added that time was short, so there was some urgency, although he admitted he didn’t know when the curtain was to close upon this age. So, according to Jesus, you had to repent, give up your sinful ways (by following God’s commandments) and you shall be judged by what you do, by your acts, aka deeds or works. He said nothing about believing in himself, although he said some things mysterious, such as the only way to the Father was through the Son, but these “recordings” of what Jesus said were written by either Paul himself or Paul’s followers, so we do not “know” anything Jesus actually said, we only know what these writers claimed Jesus said and there are enough contradictions to bring their authenticity into question.

Paul made up this cockamamie idea that the path to salvation was through faith, alone, faith in Jesus, no “works” were necessary. Now faith can be translated as “trust,” so this could mean you have to trust Jesus, but I think that misses the point. What Paul was selling was an easier path to “salvation,” because it only required “faith,” which cannot be examined, instead of “works” which can be. The required faith was small, but the “works” were great. So Paul was in the business of selling salvation cheaply.

Now why Paul did this, we do not know. Maybe he had a mental breakdown and believed all that he said. Or maybe he was a con man looking to built a power base to establish his worth in his world. But it is clear that Paul won the battle and Christianity has almost nothing to do with what Jesus seems to have preached, at least according to scripture, and everything to do with what Paul and his followers preached. Including John 3:16, whatever that means.

January 26, 2022

Theists—Stop Trying to Convert Atheists

Filed under: Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:26 am
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On the Quora.com site, I see theists asking questions of atheists, ad nauseum. Especially irritating is that they are lazy. They do not check to see if their question has been asked before so we see the same question asked over and over and over . . . ad nauseum.

But the Law of Unintended Consequences also applies here. By demanding that us atheists account for our stance, or explain how A or how B could be the case without a god, or asking why we are so hateful, or asking what we would do if we died and ended up at the Pearly Gates, or. . . , you are sharpening our arguments and making us better at debunking your whacky ideas.

Sun Tzu said it best “Convince your enemy that he will gain very little by attacking you; this will diminish his enthusiasm.” By attacking atheists and showing them that you are easily defeated, you are only strengthening and emboldening them. Possibly all of this heckling is what is creating the rapidly increasing numbers of atheists and “nones” here in America. Is that what you want? Maybe the aphorism that applies is “let sleeping dogs lie.”

Just sayin’.

January 25, 2022

WTF, NBA Fans?

Filed under: Sports — Steve Ruis @ 8:56 am
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Now that the NBA season is fully under way there is, of course, talk, talk, talk about who is worthy of certain awards: Most Valuable Player, Comeback Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, etc. And when comparisons are made, I often hear the phrase “in the modern NBA” which seems to equate to “since the NBA has been on TV a lot.”

The reason for this is clear. If a modern players stats are compared with all players across the board, they don’t look so good.

For example, in Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie season, 1959-60, he averaged 37.6 points, 27.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 72 games. He was selected to play in his first All-Star game. He won the Rookie of the Year award and his first MVP award.

In his career, he is also the only player to average at least 30 points and 20 rebounds per game over the entire course of his NBA career. He clearly stated that he stopped trying to be a leading scorer later in his career because his team needed other things. So, Wilt became the only center to lead the league in assists for a season.

Wilt also averaged over 48 minutes per game in a single season. Wait, how many minutes are there in a game? (Answer: 48, not counting overtime minutes) Some wags attribute Wilt’s incredible stats to his large number of minutes played, but they have that point backward. If any “modern” player were to play that many minutes, what do you think the result will be? I will tell you: injury, lower performance, etc. Wilt was not only the strongest player in the NBA when he played (possibly so far), but he also had the most stamina.

Some go so far as to claim that the level of competition was lower “back then.” Well, there were far fewer teams. As a result, because Wilt and Bill Russell were both in the Eastern Division for much of their time they met a whopping 94 times in the regular season. In the playoffs, they added another 49 matchups. Imagine having to play against the best center in the league that many times. (Wilt said that Bill was the best center he ever played against. Bill said that Wilt was the best center he ever played against. I have them ranked 1a and 1b all-time.)

And, Wilt Chamberlain averaged 30.0 points, 28.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists in those 94 games versus Bill Russell. And, Bill tells the story of when he watched the greatest rebounding game in NBA history. Wilt grabbed 55 rebounds in one game. Bill says he had a great seat to see this happen, as he was the opposing center. Imagine setting the all-time record for rebounds in a game while being guarded by one of the greatest defensive centers of all time. (Bill averaged 22.5 rebounds per game for his career. And you might want to note how many the “great” rebounders average now . . . 15-17.)

And to top off the whole argument a fan observed about 120 games Wilt played in and counted the number of shots he blocked. (Blocked shots did not become an official stat until later.) In those games Wilt averaged over eight blocks per game. Currently the NBA leader is averaging just under three blocks per game. And, in addition, I have seen film of Wilt blocking the unblockable shot, Kareem’s Sky Hook.

Modern NBA, my ass.

Crypto—Digital Greed

Filed under: Culture,Economics,Reason,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 8:52 am
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You have probably read here that I think capitalism needs to be on a leash, a leash held by government (of the people, by the people, for the people). If the leash is absent, capitalism is very, very destructive. Why? Because greed, that’s why. Capitalism places no limit on human greed.

You may also have read that the stock markets are a negative drain on the economy. The reason for that is that most sales are of already existing stocks, so the sales are based upon speculation, what the economist call “rents.” You take your money and let somebody else use it and you charge rent, interest, or whatever you want to call it. The problem is that nothing of value is being created, it is pure speculation, e.g. “buy low, sell high.”

Precious metals are often the subject of markets. When you buy a precious metal, such as gold, silver, palladium, etc. your are making the purchase in the hopes that the value of that material will go up, again speculation. Some buy gold as a hedge against inflation, that is they think its value will be eroded less than other assets, but again, this is a speculative endeavor. Nothing new is being created.

But at least gold and silver and whatnot have some pragmatic value. I have gold and silver both in my teeth right now. And this computer has connections that are gold plated. Of course, the adage that you can’t eat gold applies, but that can also be applied to some foodstuffs. (We all know what a lousy cook Grandma was.)

Then along comes cryptocurrency, or “crypto” in the jargon. This is a digital currency not tied to any government, so possibly it appeals to anarchists, but it is clearly a speculative endeavor, solely a speculative endeavor. There is no pragmatic function that it provides.

What it does provide is the speculative gambler’s rush thinking about how much money one could make buying and selling “crypto.” There is even a lampooning commercial now of a crypto holder thinking he is a millionaire and ten minutes later he is dejected because he is not a millionaire. This happens again and again. Wow, the experience of being a fat cat without needing a fortune to experience it! (The commercial is for a tax preparation service.)

So crypto, underneath all of the other justifications is just a rentier’s casino, allowing the little people to get in on the rich people’s game, making money without creating anything of value to society.

Interestingly, the religious people who are constantly bemoaning the values of our culture sinking into the cesspool of time, are completely quiet about crypto.

And why are economic endeavors that create nothing of value used so frequently in discerning the “health” of economies? The economy would be stronger, much stronger, if these endeavors didn’t exist.

Middle American Anger

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 8:49 am
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I have been reading Allan Lees’ book: The Praying Ape: How Evolution Explains the Strange Phenomenon of Religious Belief. And two short passages resonated deeply with our current state of politics.

Here they are:

“Why should religion be a particular source of violence? Simply because religion presents an all-or-nothing view of the world and demands of its believers that they accept all the propositions that are presented to them. If you believe that one or more magical creatures created the universe you can’t pick and choose which religious dictates to obey. Who would have the temerity to argue with a god?

“Religionists experience significant mental tension on a daily basis because religious ideas are essentially frozen in time whereas the real world moves on and requires adaptation and flexibility. If I believe that my magical creature created everything and laid down hard-and-fast rules then I must cleave to those rules regardless of the world around me. As society evolves and changes, my beliefs inevitably become more and more disconnected from reality. This leaves the religious person feeling disoriented, unless they are so ignorant and obtuse that they are largely unaware of the disparity between their myth and the reality in which they live their daily lives.”

Even ignoring the fanning of the flames by self-serving agencies (War on Christmas! Society’s morality going down the drain! Crime is rampant! etc.) it is fairly easy to see why the U.S. religion crowd are feeling they are “under attack.”

Recently I have seen posts on surveys showing the numbers of people feeling religion plays a large part in their lives is decreasing, rapidly, and posts on religious leaders supporting vaccinations (and some not), science articles on evolution being treated as factual (Gasp!), and article after article saying our democracy is failing or near failure.

It is clear that awfulizing, the characterization of everything happening as being “awful,” sells well in “the news.” I stopped watching TV news years ago, stopped watching polarized news comment shows too (MSNBC lost a loyal viewer with their 2016 presidential campaign coverage) after that, and then gave up on both my local newspapers and the NY Times as being quite useless. And I can still sense the same messages these religious folks are receiving.

Some of this is due to the rate of change, at least that which is reported in the various media. I can see how people look at this as their “way of life” being ground under the wheels of “progress.”

“A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.”― William F. Buckley

But too much of this is fueled by things unseen, which the religious are primed to accept. They talk about how “all the immigrants are taking their jobs” at the same time as “all of the immigrants are living off of welfare,” two ideas which at best conflict. And there doesn’t seem to be much local news to stem the tide of nationwide lies. The jobs immigrants take are generally jobs that Americans do not want. (If you think otherwise, spend a day working the fields as an agricultural worker in Southern California, or Texas. If you survive, you can share your experience with others, about how good American jobs are being stolen by immigrants.) Also, immigrants are not living the life of Riley on welfare. If the immigrants are undocumented/illegal, they don’t dare apply for welfare because they are likely to be caught and deported.

Being trained from childhood to believe ridiculous things and then told over and over one is a “good boy or girl” for believing the nonsense, sets people up as perfect pawns in the game being played.

So, who benefits from the outrage felt by the religious in the center of this country? Clearly it is the powers that be, the rich people running the country right now. Because all of the problems fueling the outrage are made up, those people of good will trying to serve the people well are exhausted fighting those made up issue battles. Because of that, they don’t have the time or energy to go after the real criminals, the wealthy assholes that are gutting our country for their personal gain.

January 20, 2022

Are You a Free Market Advocate?

It has been tried.


It was a unmitigated disaster.

Then, why are these ideologies still being preached here? Well, in Chile, some billionaires got everso much richer. Pssst . . . follow the money.

January 18, 2022

Why All the Bullshit?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 10:37 am

Why all of the bullshit? We seem to unavoidably create imaginary realms and then claim that we have lost contact with them: Mount Olympus, the Elysian Fields, Heaven, Plato’s land of absolutes, the spiritual realm, etc.

I was reading a post on Medium that included the following:

“All human beings are descendants of tribal people who were spiritually alive, intimately in love with the natural world, children of Mother Earth. When we were tribal people, we knew who we were, we knew where we were, and we knew our purpose. This sacred perception of reality remains alive and well in our genetic memory. We carry it inside of us, usually in a dusty box in the mind’s attic, but it is accessible.” – John Trudell


I think it is unfortunately true that we have lost touch with the sacred dimension in ourselves, in nature and the cosmos, and I agree that that one fact empties life of its meaning as well as its mysterious beauty (emphasis mine).

How Mr. Trudell knew this about us when we were “tribal” I shall set aside for now, but human experience explains much of this. As a primitive people, having little knowledge of the world around us, we experienced death of people close to us. So, an understanding of death came to us. It fit right in with the deaths of plants and animals all around us and made the point that we were part of the totality of existence. (“We are one with nature, Grasshopper.”) Then we experienced the loss of a loved one and receive visitations from that loved one over and over, in our dreams. That we construct our own dreams from memory and imagination was not knowledge available at the time, so it appeared that our loved one was still alive, but when we woke in the morning or abruptly at night, they were not there with us, so they must be somewhere else. Our vivid dreams gave us the impression that those we knew were dead were still alive and since they were not here, our wishful thinking had us believing they were elsewhere. If memory serves, at one point the Celts believed that when we died, we went to another realm, and lived there much as we lived here, and when we died there, we were transported back here (lather, rinse, repeat).

In that same post, the author goes on to say “Underneath the cluttered surface of our minds lies another dimension, one that animals and nature live in without struggle.” Apparently this person is so divorced from nature as to not know that struggle is an integral part of all animal’s lives. In my last home in California, it was very quiet where we lived (out in the boondocks, as it were) and occasionally, as we were falling asleep we could hear what sounded like screams, which were the initial cries of rabbits being eaten alive by coyotes and foxes. All predators eat their prey, often before their prey has died. This hardly describes a “another dimension, one that animals and nature live in without struggle.”

Is this just a case of the world not being as we like it so we invent another, much like C.S. Lewis’s “Boxen” a land inhabited and ruled by animals? If one found relationships with humans difficult, one could retreat to a place where humans were not in charge?

I understand this being the response of a child in that I experienced this myself. But do we not put away childish things when we become adults?

Apparently not.

People are Good? Stop the Madness!

Filed under: Culture,Morality,Reason,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 10:28 am

An orthodox rabbi made an astounding proclamation recently, but the good man, Dennis Prager, will set him straight.

The Rabbi claimed that . . . wait for it . . . that people are good. Oh, the perfidy, the obtuseness, the betrayal of Judeo-Christian ethics and morals!

Accord in Prager:

With regard to Judaism, the Torah completely rejects the notion that man is basically good. God Himself states that “the will of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21) and that “every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5).

For a rabbi to assert that man is basically good is to assert that God was wrong. I am used to secular people saying that, not Orthodox rabbis.

Ah, preaching to the choir, again, Dennis. But Genesis also said other things. For example, at the end of the sixth day of creation, the Torah says “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Every thing, that phrase includes the people He had made, no? How did they get from being “very good,” noy just “good” mind you, in chapter 1 of Genesis to being the bearer of only evil thoughts in chapter 6? How is Yahweh not responsible for His flawed creation? Why is he blaming everyone around him, but not Himself?

And why is Mr. Prager, along with all of the other “religious authorities,” claiming that the evil characterizations of scripture are valid, but not the good characterizations? Gosh, do you think they have an incentive to promoting the disease they claim only they have the cure for? Do you think?

January 15, 2022

Voter ID Laws

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:34 am
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An author supporting voter ID used this story in support:

A young man who looks like a teenager walks into a liquor store and pulls a bottle of cheap whiskey off a shelf. He puts it down at the checkout counter and pulls out his wallet. The clerk at the counter looks at him skeptically. “Can I see your ID?” he asks.

“Yes,” says the young man, who instantly takes his driver’s license out of his wallet and hands it to the clerk. The driver’s license indicates to the clerk that the customer in front of him had turned 21 two months ago. He sells him the cheap whiskey.

Then another young man walks into the store. He grabs a bottle of very expensive champagne and puts it on the counter. Once again, the clerk asks the young man if he has an ID.

“No,” says the young man.

“Then I can’t sell you this champagne,” says the clerk.

“You have got to be kidding me,” says the young man. “I am 22 years old.”

“Then prove it,” says the clerk.

“I left my driver’s license at home,” says the young man.

“Then go get it,” says the clerk.

This is the classical argument based upon needing to show a driver’s license when pulled over by law enforcement, or an ID to buy liquor, or a medical ID card to get insurance coverage at a medical center. But let us reframe this a bit.

If the second person’s “buy” were covered by the same rules as voting in the states I have voted in, it would have gone this way:

Then another young man walks into the store. He grabs a bottle of very expensive champagne and puts it on the counter. The clerk asks for the buyers name, which he supplies, The clerk then consults a list or computer containing the list of people who have registered to buy alcoholic beverages. In that registration process, the person registering has to show that they meet the requirements to purchase alcohol.

If the clerk finds his name of the registration list, ka-ching, the purchase is authorized. If not, the clerk says “Sorry, I can’t find you on the list, so no deal.“

In some states, you can register on the date of the purchase (same day registration!), and if the clerk is certified, he can take the young man’s ID and fill out an online form and register him right there, as well as sell him the champagne.

Even the cop who pulls you over and asks for your ID will not haul you to jail if you say “Damn, I forgot my wallet!” They will consult their computer records, using the car’s driver’s license and if your name is attached to that vehicle, will look up whether you have a current license to drive it. If so, they can write you up a ticket for driving without your license, or they can let you go if they are feeling good that day.

I am not for Voter ID requirements for several reasons. For one it can be very difficult for people who do not drive to get such an ID. Some states have restricted the IDs they will accept as a form of voter suppression. Second, voter fraud is not a popular crime. Very, very few cases of voter fraud have been identified, a very tiny fraction of one percent of all votes cast, and most of those are mistakes rather than attempts to rig the election. Third, checking IDs will slow down the voting in person process even more than it has been. This would require additional voting polling places and poll workers and is another point at which voter suppression can take place. And fourth, there is no reason these proposals are being put form now other than to provide a particular political party with tools to suppress voting of people they do not like. There are no data supporting the need for Voter ID.

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