Uncommon Sense

June 11, 2021

Betcha Didn’t Know

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:59 pm

It seems that Asian-Americans are getting some time in the spotlight and it also seems as if people still don’t know how to handle that. The biggest problem is thinking of them as a monolithic block of people when they can trace their ancestry back to myriad countries and cultures.

One misconception repeated ad nauseum I can clear up. It is that “Asian students” are like the best, ever. Like many an academic meme, this one has reasons that are not what people think. In a study about why Black students at US Berkeley were doing so poorly in Calculus I classes, a survey was taken of the faculty as to why.

Go ahead and see what you come up with for reasons why UCB Black calculus students did so poorly.

<insert Jeopardy theme music here>

Every faculty member surveyed was wrong.

The reason was actually that almost all of the Black students were trying to succeed on their own. A project that taught those students how to form groups and study in groups resulted in the GPA of Black and Asian students in third semester calculus being identical.

So, back to the original question: why are Asian students such great students?

Whatever you answer, you are probably wrong.

An extensive study of high school students in Wisconsin and Northern California finally winkled out the reason. Are you ready? The reason Asian students are so good is cultural, is not that they are smarter, is not . . . etc., it is: time on task. In other words, they outwork the competition. When a white high school student gets an after-school job, for every hour at work, there is exactly one hour of study that is lost. Not so for Asian students, who often are required to work in family businesses.

So, the reason students of Asian background outcompete others (White, Black, Brown, etc.) is that they espouse that good, old fashioned Anglo-Saxon work ethic. Which, I suspect is why they are despised so. (WTF?)

Interestingly enough, after several generations of being American, the Asian Student Effect wears off. Third and fourth generation Asian-Americans are fully acculturated and behave just like all of the other Americans. Shows you the power of American culture.

There is a cultural effect. When White kids whine to their parents that they are “no good at math” or whatever, they often get sympathy in the form of “Oh, Sweetie, I wasn’t either.” Recent Asian-American students don’t get that, they get that they are now expected to work harder. But this is not the major contributor to student success; good old-fashioned hard work is.

June 4, 2021

Ever Wonder What Proofreading a 550 Page Book is Like?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 1:38 pm

If you have, you probably are stranger than I thought you were.

The photo shows what a printout of the layout on this book looks like. The stack is twice as high as the book will be thick because there is one page printed per sheet of paper where the book will have two pages printed on each sheet. But still. . . .

The painful thing is this is my book and it is a collection of posts from my archery coaching blog. So, I wrote those posts once before (or twice, if they were adapted from a magazine article), then I had to read them to see if they were fit to go into this compilation, then I had to edit each one (350+ of them), then I had to lay out the book, adding photos, captions, photo references, etc. And now I have to proofread the layout.

You know the saying that a lawyer who represents himself in court has a fool for a client? Similarly in writing: a writer, shouldn’t edit his own work, certainly not copy edit it, and well, proofreading is something we do do. All publishers want authors to proofread the final galleys so that is there are any mistakes they can blame the author (no, not really, but it is a quality control measure).

The problem is that our publishing company, Watching Arrows Fly, has a staff of two. And the other one don’t wanna do no stinkin’ proofreadin’.

Mind you, I have always been a “do-it-yourselfer,” but . . . I am tired.

“Call it a day, you should.” Shut up, Yoda!

June 3, 2021

W.C. Fields, a Great Comedian/Philosopher

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment,Philosophy,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:20 am
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I was reading a blurb for a book featuring some of W.C. Fields great lines. Fields created a persona of being a lush, which would not fly now (but did in my youth, thank you Foster Brooks). The blurb writer did not include my favorite Fields quote, which was his take on “spirituality.” I believe it went “Everybody ought to believe something. I believe I’ll have another drink.”

I think comedians are modern day court jesters, and since we govern ourselves, they send their barbs toward all of us. I miss George Carlin. There was none better at that role.

June 1, 2021

Spirituality: Are You In or Out?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:39 am

I was reading a post on Medium just now (Can Religions Be Objectively Disproved? (first posted October 19, 2020). Here is a taste:

Even if science continues to dramatically outperform spirituality in explaining and predicting reality, it may never be possible to fully disprove the idea of a spiritual realm.

The idea of spirit is so indefinite that no matter how far we explore with science, it can always wiggle down into deeper crevices. You can’t grab hold of it for long enough to say whether it’s there or not.

And you know what? I think that’s OK. There’s no need to eradicate the idea of spirit. A lot of people seem to need it in one way or another. (Later the author states: “The magic of spirituality adds texture and meaning to the lives of many.”)

I just don’t see how people can claim that “spirituality” is harmless. First it harms the individual, when feeling powerless they appeal to the imaginary for help.” That may feel “good,” having someone/something to appeal to but doesn’t result in actual help. Appealing to real people who might help is far more productive.

It is also harmful in the dogmas embraced by various spiritual organizations. These lock in people’s thinking in ways that aren’t helpful.

And if need “spirituality” to add meaning to their life, they are indeed sad human beings. When has embracing fictions as reality ever lead to a more meaningful life?

April 16, 2021

A Retitling of this Blog

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 8:28 am

When I started this blog I was most focused upon the class war, a war we have lost.

The Republican evil geniuses offer no new ideas because they’ve long since succeeded at achieving their three big structural goals — minimizing taxes on the rich and business, minimizing the regulation of business, and minimizing the power of workers. (Kurt Andersen, Medium.com “Why the Republican Party is Doomed”)

I have less and less to say about this topic and find myself writing on different topics and still, from time to time, on the class war.

The new title I have chosen, Uncommon Sense, harkens back to the pamphlet Common Sense, “a 47-page pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1775–1776 advocating independence from Great Britain to people in the Thirteen Colonies. Writing in clear and persuasive prose, Paine marshaled moral and political arguments to encourage common people in the Colonies to fight for egalitarian government.” (Wikipedia)

I am also advocating for egalitarian government, public education, plus common sense, which seems all too uncommon of late.

Part of the problem is that the internet has expanded greatly the sharing of ideas that were hard to find audiences for in the past, The “keepers of the gates,” the magazine and book editors of days past have been bypassed and we are being inundated by a veritable flood of words, blogs being one form of which requires no vetting before being published.

Realizing that I am my own gate keeper, I will strive to maintain decorum, if that is possible, and also welcome opinions that differ from mine.

March 20, 2021

At War With Their Own Scripture

Filed under: Religion,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:07 pm
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For people who claim to believe that there are no contradictions in Christian scripture, Evangelicals sure work those contradictions like rented mules.

“What can be known about God is plain,” since God’s eternal power and divine nature have been “clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” (according to Romans 1:19–20)

Yet, Evangelicals are at war with the scientific study of nature, which they refer to as God’s Creation, as being flawed, even though according to scripture it is “what can be known about God.”

In 1 Corinthians 7:29–34: “the appointed time has grown very short; from now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none . . . I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.” Thus, “he who marries his betrothed does well; and he who refrains from marriage will do better” (7:38).

So much for conservative “family values.” (Defintion: A marriage is between a man and the Lord . . .)

And how would you characterize someone who “is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord”? Sounds like a toady or possibly a slave to me. So, our true purpose in life is to become a toady or even a slave, forever and ever, Amen?

January 19, 2021

Pre-Inauguration Playlist

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:30 am
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The Trumps will be exiting the White House tomorrow before the Bidens arrive, like thieves in the night (as usual pissing on tradition). Mr. Trump is very fond of pomp so I thought I would come up with a list of appropriate songs to send him off. Maybe we could get the marine Band to play for him.

Let me now what you would add to the list.

Na, Na, Hey, Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye) (Steam 1969)
(Just for the chorus)
Na na na na, hey hey, goodbye
Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye

Hit the Road, Jack (Ray Charles 1962)
(Just for the chorus)
Hit the road, Jack
And don’t you come back
No more, no more, no more, no more
Hit the road, Jack
And don’t you come back no more.

These Boots are Made for Walkin’ (Nancy Sinatra 1966)
You keep lyin’ when you oughta be truthin’
And you keep losing when you oughta not bet
You keep samin’ when you oughta be a’changin’
Now what’s right is right but you ain’t been right yet
These boots are made for walkin’
And that’s just what they’ll do
One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you
(Damned prophetic if you ask me.)

Bye, Bye, Bye (‘n Sync)
Bye bye
I’m checking out, I’m signing off
I don’t want to be the loser, and I’ve had enough.

See You Later, Alligator (Bill Haley and the Comets, 1957)

I’m Still Standing (Elton John 1983)
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind.

Another One Bites the Dust (Queen 1980)
How do you think I’m going to get along
Without you when you’re gone?
You took me for everything that I had
And kicked me out on my own.
Are you happy are you satisfied?
How long can you stand the heat?
Out of the doorway the bullets rip
To the sound of the beat look out!

I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor 1978)
Go on now, go, walk out the door
Just turn around now
‘Cause you’re not welcome anymore.

December 22, 2020

Scum of the Earth You Are

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 11:20 am

I still love learning things and, having lived a long time, the things I learn often resonate with many other things already learned. One such tidbit I learned yesterday is the subject of this post.

Teachers, especially chemistry teachers, are somewhat well-known as sources of lame jokes. (Sometimes this is deliberate. A joke very lame can also be hard to forget and so becomes a mnemonic device.)

One of mine was that when the planet Earth first formed, it was almost entirely molten. As a consequence, the elements that were most dense, i.e. iron, nickel, etc. sank and today form the bulk of the Earth’s core, and the less dense elements, i.e. silicates, aluminum, carbon, etc. floated to the top and formed a scum. It is from those elements that people are formed which is why they are referred to as “the scum of the Earth.” <groan>

What I learned just yesterday, that all of the very dense elements, e.g. gold, platinum. etc. also sank due to their density, but also due to being dissolved in the liquid iron. It is a chemical truism that the best solvent for a substance is a liquid version of a similar substance, so liquid metals are excellent solvents for other metals and liquid salts are excellent solvents for other salts (which is how aluminum became cheap, but that is another story).

As a consequence, all of the gold and platinum and other very dense elements we have access to here on the surface of Planet Earth, came as parts of meteorites after the crust of the Earth solidified enough to bear them up.

You learn something new every day . . . or at least it is worth trying for that.

November 4, 2020

Jesus From Outer Space, Richard Carrier, Ph.D.

Filed under: Reason,Religion,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:36 pm
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This is Richard Carrier’s latest book. In it he vents his spleen on the people opposing the Jesus myth hypothesis. And, being Richard Carrier, it is methodical, pointed, and devastating.

His subtitle is “What the Earliest Christians Really Believed about Christ” which tells the tale. The earliest version of the Jewish cult of the risen Christ (Christ meaning “anointed one,” and so there have been many, many of these—often they were kings who were anointed as a matter of course . . . in a theocracy) can be found in the writings of the Apostle Paul and in the Book of Daniel. Jesus was an archangel who descends to the realm of Satan in the lowest realm of Heaven. There he is crucified and killed and then resurrected. By tricking Satan into sacrificing this most favored son of god, he breaks the hold of death on humanity and allows them to live forever.

Now this story is nonsense, of course. Yahweh doesn’t need to trick Satan into anything as he can kick his ass in a fair fight, but myths are myths. The key points here being that Jesus, like so many other gods, is a celestial god, residing only in the Heavens. His normal home was the high heavens but he descended into Satan’s realm, which is the lowest Heaven, being between the Earth and the orbit of the moon, hence Carrier’s title (which I think is unfortunate as he is trying to gain respect for the myth position and the title probably won’t help, even though it is perfectly accurate). These people also believed that everything on Earth was but a poor reflection of the more perfect versions in the Heavens, so the Garden of Eden was up there, as was Jerusalem, etc. i.e. “as in Heaven, so below.”) There were trees to crucify Jesus upon, and graves, and everything else.

Now, before you get to the gospels and Acts, all of the earlier writings of Jesus hewed to this narrative. Paul’s authentic writings never mention Jesus being on Earth. He doesn’t mention a “second coming” only a “coming.” He doesn’t mention Jesus mission on Earth, or any of Jesus’s teachings, or the disciples, or anything covered in the gospels.

This was Christianity pre-gospels.

This was exactly like the vast majority of religions in the wider region. All of the gods start out as celestial beings and later, interestingly enough, all of them get historicized, that is they are claimed to have existed upon Earth. This is the normal progression for celestial gods. Carrier gives example after example of other gods that were so treated.

In my last post, I mentioned Carrier’s argument regarding the letter of Pliny, the Younger, in 112 CE that makes the point that Christianity was almost nonexistent, but was spreading. Converse to “Church histories,” Christianity didn’t grow like wildfire from the get-go because of a basic flaw. The only contact anyone had with Jesus was through revelations (dreams, delusions, imaginings, etc.). And, old Paul wasn’t in any place to declare others were worthy of such revelations as he, himself, was a nobody in the so-called story. This is why virtually every celestial god gets historicized, because while revelations can still occur, there are people who interacted with the real, historical god who can claim special knowledge. And a religion can be built upon this special knowledge. And a religion built solely upon revelations has no control of where it goes. The Catholic Church masterfully built its version of Christianity upon both scripture and “church tradition” which is anything they want it to be, but always trailing back to people who were known associates of the god on Earth.

While carrier does refer to Bayes’ theorem probabilities, he avoids all of the math so prominent in his previous books. He speaks about probabilities and possibilities in general terms, so if all of the Bayes’ Theorem mathematics put you off then, they will not here as they aren’t presented.

I was going to supply a few quotes but I highlighted so much of the book, I found I could not select out just a few which were representative. (I felt like the dog with too many tennis balls and too small a mouth . . . this one, no this one, no. . . .

If you are a supporter of the Jesus Myth hypothesis and love to see its opponents eviscerated, this is the book for you. Carrier is taking names and kicking asses. I highly recommend this book to all, from the merely curious about this hypothesis on up to people like me who are already sold on it. I give it Two Thumbs Up, wishing I had more thumbs to give.

Currently the book is only available in Kindle and hardcover versions. I assume a paperback is to follow.

October 30, 2020

The NRA Spikes the Ball in the End Zone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 10:18 am

If you ever wondered why a political party would drum up hatred and violence and, most important, fear, the answer is almost always that it is good for business.

According to an article in The Guardian, “Americans have bought nearly 17m guns so far in 2020, more than in any other single year, according to estimates from a firearms analytics company.” “‘By August, we had exceeded last year’s total. By September, we exceeded the highest total ever,’ said Jurgen Brauer, the chief economist of Small Arms Analytics, which produces widely-cited estimates of US gun sales.”

Imagine Wayne LaPierre, in his rumpled three-piece suit,  doing a little end zone dance and then spiking a football. This is how far the NRA has fallen, from a respected sports and safety advocacy organization to a shill for the firearms manufacturers. And, of course, the NRA supports Donald Trump.

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