Saturday, July 26, 2008

Alieness (Uniqueness)

Julie had an interesting post about loneliness. I left a comment that we are never truly alone. We are connected to one another at many levels, from the atomic to molecular and likely even at the spiritual level - the level of Consciousness. From my perspective, I've always never fit in. My thinking and behavior is at odds with most of my peers. Part of it is my innate intelligence, part is cultural. I grew up in an isolated small town, mostly growing up ignorant, and yet blessed in having a foreign mother and family overseas. I was broadened culturally at an early age without consciously knowing that fact.And as smart as I am, there seem to be far smarter people than me running around. Whether that is due to confidence or craziness, I am not sure. I've met both types in academia. Business doesn't seem to attract smart people so much as ruthless people, at least at corporations. Ron Paul is correct when he states that Corporate America for the most part is fascist. It is fascist in the sense of authoritarian governance. It is fascist in the single-mindedness of its greed for profit and market share. I work at a corporation. I feel alien there. In most of my interactions with people, some people "get" me and others do not. Those that "get" me are usually the bright ones. I realized yesterday that I will never be promoted to management because I am smart and single. All of the lower level managers are married family men who are risk averse and toe the corporate line. This spills out into the rest of my life as well. One of the things that I've learned is that people don't like very intelligent people. They feel intimidated. Perhaps it could be summed up as people don't like other people who are different whatever that difference is. What I want to know is what "normal" is? That word seems meaningless to me since every individual is unique - genetically, behaviorally, mentally, etc. So, for now, I'll remain an alien, a misfit, and revel in my uniqueness while I find my own way. But I am never truly alone.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Population Growth Curves

Living organisms exhibit exponential patterns of growth given ample supplies of food and living space.

Here's a simple curve for bacteria:
Bacterial population over time

Wikipedia:Bacterial Growth

Here's an oscillating curve based on the number of pelts from the Hudson Bay Trading Company:
Hare and lynx populations over time

Courtesy of Duke University's Math Dept.

Here's the human population curve:
Human population over time

Courtesy of the United Nations and the University of California at San Diego's Jim Moore (no relation)

Here's another teaching link from the University of Michigan.

There has likely been no sustainable human population in human history. This is due to climate change, predators, catastrophes, and disease. In other words, up until the last 250-300 years, the environment has controlled our numbers. This will not change over the long haul. Scientists don't know the carrying capacity of the Earth, but we are now seeing signs that the oceans are stressed on a global level. Fisheries (cod and salmon) are collapsing and unprecedented jellyfish blooms are two indicators that fish populations are being depleted. With a warming planet, whether it's due to excess carbon dioxide or increased solar activity, likely fresh water shortages will occur first if agricultural irrigation practices are not optimized to conserve water. Currently, they are not. However, people die in less than a week without water. A person can live for three weeks without food - longer with suboptimal rations. Now the water shortages to come can be lessened with the solar distillation of seawater or vapor compression distillation. (If your water is polluted with light oil or petroleum distillates that have a lower boiling point than water you are screwed.) Such water won't be cheap, but a thirsty man will pay for it. But all of this is beside the point. We are approaching a point in time where the human race will face a population limit due to the lack of either fresh water or food. If we act wisely, we might be able to create a steady state population sort of like the stationary phase that bacteria have. If we don't act wisely, we will likely have a huge population crash due to famine and disease. The Black Death killed over a third of the human populations it affected. (Then again, from the planet's perspective humanity could be seen as an infectious disease that is out of control akin to a bacterial infection. I wonder what antihuman mechanisms Nature will use to eradicate this infection.) Which would you choose, bacteria or lynx? The only difference between the curves is the length of the stationary phase.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On the Bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

On Paulson bailing out those two institutions, Bear Stearns, etc.:

"He steals from the poor and gives to the rich - stupid bitch!
Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb"

The Monty Python Dennis Moore sketch


Sunday, July 13, 2008


At Errata Security, you'll find a tip about Gmail. It turns out that you can check what IP addresses are using your Gmail account. If you can't pinpoint where you've been using Gmail, then you better change your password at a minimum.

I went to and bought two boxes of Advion(TM) bait gel for my friends' apartment. It wasn't cheap, but it's cheaper than the alternative. The stuff appears to be working. I've never seen roaches lap up a bait like honey, but a few minutes after applying the gel, that's what I saw. The bait seems to be thinning the population significantly. According to ScienceDaily, you can kill three generations of roaches in one application which is unheard of to my knowledge. As a matter of fact, I googled for "Advion" after reading the ScienceDaily article and that's how I found the online website that sells it. There's probably a cheaper retailer, but I didn't hunt around for the best deal. My friends' place is heavily infested and I've been looking for something that would clean out the critters for some time. I really dislike roaches. I do not like them at all.


Being Wise Instead of Foolish

From DailyZen:

Moonlight and the sound of pines
Are things we all know
Zen mind and delusion
Distinguish sage and fool
Go back to the place
Where not one thought appears
How shall I put this
Into words for you?

Han-shan Te-ch’ing (1546-1623)

In other words, when I am not mindful, present, or in Zen, I am being foolish or stupid.



Well, I was agonizing about how much to give to two charities, and Unfortunately, one of my friends just got laid off. I have had to give him $600 to pay bills and put a new battery in his car. Loan isn't the right word, because there's practically no way he can pay me back unless he wins a lottery. I would say hold up a bank, but I doubt any of them have any cash on hand the way things seem to be going. So for now, unfortunately, the poor cats will have to wait.


Get Your Dog While It's Hot

According to the BBC, China is banning the sale of dog dishes at the 112 official Olympic restaurants. Nothing was said about cat being taken off the menu.


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Resveratrol and Vitamins

I haven't written much lately regarding medical matters. There is some new research confirming that one of several beneficial compounds stimulated gene expression and retards age related physiological declines. The links are here and here. It portends a long quality of life for some of us. You need not wait for the pill, just drink grape juice or red wine. You won't live longer, but you'll live better. This latest news is just confirmation of previous research. If you start caloric restriction, you'll get 20-30% longer life, but most people can't handle the diet, so this is the next best thing.

Another study found that a small fraction of the population have one or more enzyme variants that misfold and do not function. However, when supplements such as vitamins were added, the enzymes folded properly and functioned. In this case, the vitamin wasn't just a coenzyme. It is acting as a scaffold or mold to help the protein fold into its proper 3 dimensional shape so that it will work. This is a case where phenotype masks genotype. It's due to a conditional mutation which affects protein folding. The reason why it's not serious is because without the specific vitamin (an environmental factor), the enzyme wouldn't work any way even if it were properly folded and otherwise functional. What it means though, is that certain people have higher dietary vitamin requirements than others.

Here's to the grape! Cheers!


A Moment When Humanity Came Together Briefly

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.
Lao Tzu

When we got back from the Moon, we were sent on a world tour. Everywhere we went, people didn't say, "You Americans walked on the Moon". Everyone we met said, "We did it!" That was a very ephemeral moment.
Michael Collins

I can't think of a better tribute to John F. Kennedy and the aspiration he set for this country and for humanity; and for NASA and its astronauts who sacrificed much to make landing on the Moon a reality. In another year, the 40th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing and Moon walk will take place.


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