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Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
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  1. NATO - A lot of citizens have heard that NATO membership is being offered to Ukraine but do not know what those letters represent so here is a short primer. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) began as an alliance of twelve world-war-2 countries to offer collective protection (an attack on one of us will be assumed to be an attack on all of us) against a military attack by Joseph Stalin.  Stalin died in 1953 so NATO switched over to offering collective protection against an attack by the USSR. The USSR was dissolved in1991 but NATO was not disbanded. This has made many people question if NATO is now just an outlet for the military industrial economy of NATO members (USA, Britain, France, etc) especially since NATO membership was offered to countries no connected to the Atlantic Ocean (Turkey for springs to mind). Up until 2016, no Western politician was ever allowed to question NATO but after presidential candidate Donald Trump referred to NATO as being obsolete, I cannot get the idea of NATO being a disabling force out of my brain. Since 2016, we learned from Wikleaks that Obama's Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, privately took credit for the NATO attack on Libya in 2011. Libya never really recovered and that part of the world has been unstable ever since.Anyway, everyone should now recall the exit speech of US President Dwight D. Eisenhower Dwight who might have seen some things not visible to the rest of us. Anyway, Winston Churchill was once quoted as saying "Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war" so let's hope that a diplomatic solution can be found to this crisis in the making.
  2. The next American civil war? comments:
    This debate reminds me of an article I read in Der Speigel more than a decade ago. Here is one of many.
    Drop this text "der spiegel" "american civil war" (including double quotes) into a google search for more articles.
  3. A new eye on the universe: In early October, a cargo ship steered to starboard, leaving the Atlantic Ocean off the east coast of South America and entering the muddy waters of the Korou river. It was the final phase of the voyage and no effort had been spared to protect the prized item on board. It was housed inside a specially designed case to keep it safe from the pitch and roll of the waves. The river had been dredged to ensure the ship didn’t get stuck in the shallows. Even the exact date of the voyage had been kept secret, to avoid the attention of pirates. The precious cargo was the James Webb Space Telescope, perhaps the most hotly anticipated scientific instrument ever. Known as the JWST, the telescope has been more than 25 years in the making and its launch has been delayed countless times. But it has now completed its voyage to the launch site in French Guiana and, if all goes smoothly, it will finally leave Earth in late December. “I still haven’t wrapped my head around it,” says Torsten Böker, deputy project scientist for the JWST at the European Space Agency (ESA). “It seems a little bit unreal.”
    continued: newscientist.com
    update: the new launch date is 2021-12-25 (Christmas Day). Read more at the Guardian
    update: the launch was successful; now watch this video: JWST engineering
    live updates: www.space.com/news/live/james-webb-space-telescope-updates
    NASA blog: https://blogs.nasa.gov/webb/
  4. A hacker perspective on: Nuclear Power
    comment: apparently Germany did not learn a single thing about CO2 at COP26 just two months ago
  5. A hacker perspective on: Viruses and Vaccines affect Aging
  6. the Lunatic Fringe is an expression that has been floating around North America for more than 120 years. Quote: is a reference to is a term used to characterize members of a political or social movement as extremists with eccentric or fanatical views. Theodore Roosevelt is widely credited with having popularized the term, which he used with gusto
    • "There is apt to be a lunatic fringe among the votaries of any forward movement."
    • "Then, among the wise and high-minded people who in self-respecting and genuine fashion strive earnestly for peace, there are foolish fanatics always to be found in such a movement and always discrediting it — the men who form the lunatic fringe in all reform movements."
    comment: apparently nothing has changed in the past 100 years. In fact, the political world now seems crazier than it ever did. The second comment now seems a little anachronistic since this kind of thinking now seems to also affect women.
  7. John F Kennedy on peace (1963-06-10): I have, therefore, chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived--yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace. What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? Not a Pax Americana enforced on the world by American weapons of war. Not the peace of the grave or the security of the slave. I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children--not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women--not merely peace in our time but peace for all time. I speak of peace because of the new face of war. Total war makes no sense in an age when great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. It makes no sense in an age when a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War. It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn. Today the expenditure of billions of dollars every year on weapons acquired for the purpose of making sure we never need to use them is essential to keeping the peace. But surely the acquisition of such idle stockpiles--which can only destroy and never create--is not the only, much less the most efficient, means of assuring peace. I speak of peace, therefore, as the necessary rational end of rational men. I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war--and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.
    full text: https://www.jfklibrary.org/archives/other-resources/john-f-kennedy-speeches/american-university-19630610
    comment: if Kennedy was planning to pivot to peace, it got him killed (58 years ago) by people who think that war is more productive. History informs that Kennedy had instructed McNamara to begin the American withdrawal from Vietnam whether they could win or not. This policy was reversed by Johnson months BEFORE the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident
  8. Carl Sagan in 1985 speaking on the topic of Climate Change to the US Congress.

    comments: Politicians had all the facts back then but did absolutely nothing about this problem so I wonder if they will ratify anything agreed to at COP26. Let's hope that this quote from Winston Churchill is true: You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else.

    Carl Sagan (last interview - 1996): https://charlierose.com/videos/9094

    recent: I just heard some recent news stating that the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case, West Virginia v. EPA, challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants (read more about it here). While it is one thing for US politicians to blame the lack of agreements on China and Russia, the whole world knows the US is one presidential election away from a 180-degree flip as Trump did when he exited the Paris Agreement of COP21. On top of that, many Americans are treating the current world-wide climate crisis the same way they treated the COVID-19 crisis. Many will deny the problem exists at all while others will claim changes will violate their personal freedoms.

  9. More than 50 percent of us are as dumb as rocks. I enjoy listening to the radio program and pod cast Under The Influence about commercial advertising. During episode S10E14 the audience learned about the marketing success of McDonald's Quarter Pounder along with the marketing failure of the Third-of-a-Pound Burger by A&W. During the post failure analysis, marketers discovered that more than half the people in the focus groups questioned the price of the third pounder. They wanted to know why they should have to pay the same price for a third of a pound as they did for a quarter pound at McDonald's. They said A&W was overcharging them. People genuinely thought a third of a pound was less than a quarter pound because 3 was less than 4.
    comment: makes we wonder how much of our Neanderthal DNA is active. Please think about this the next time you decided to pontificate on subjects like politics, the economy and vaccines.
  10. China in the news
    This video shows China moving forward on many Chinese infrastructure projects while we watch vested interests in the North American fossil-fuel industry doing their best to maintain the status quo.

    comments: this video was created by Bloomberg and is titled Why China’s Lead on EVs Has Been a Long Time Coming. Even if you disagree with the title, this video shows that a significant change is already taking place in the world's most populated country. China is no longer a country of bicycle riders. I am sometimes shocked when I see modern video from places like Japan, South Korea or China where their societies seem to be moving in the direction of The Jetsons while everything in the North America seems to be decaying.
  11. Two Tribes are really Four? While western society appears to be locked in an endless 'two tribe' battle between the political left vs. the political right, a new study from researchers at King's College London (working with IPSOS) indicates there are really 'four tribes'. They are: Political-Right (1/4), Political-Left (1/4), the Moderates (1/3), followed by the Disengaged (1/6). But here's the kicker: one third has never heard the term 'woke'; and those that have are split as to whether it is an insult or a compliment.
    comment: so perhaps this "woke" stuff is just another distraction created by that internet megaphone known as social media.
  12. Six Tribes? In this interview with Jimmy Kimmel, Dr Katherine Hayhoe (climate scientist at Texas Tech University) tells us that there are six tribes when it comes to environmental issues like climate change:
    1. Disengaged (7%) no opinion
    2. Dismissive (7%) these people scream that everything is a hoax
    3. Doubtful (11%)
    4. Cautious (20%)
    5. Concerned (28%)
    6. Alarmed (26%)
    She goes on to mention that the sum of Concerned and Alarmed constitute 54% (if climate change policy was democratic then we would already be working on a solution)
  13. Electoral Reform. The two largest Dominions of the British Empire were Canada and Australia so I wonder why Canada stayed with first past the post elections while Australia, and most others, transitioned to proportional representation
    1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dominion
    2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_electoral_systems_by_country
    3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Proportional_representation
    1. The first chart in the article under link-3 uses Canada as an example of what went wrong in 2015 where Liberal votes (39%) were "over represented" in parliament while all others (61%) where "under represented".
    2. It appears that Canada and India might be the only ex-Dominion countries still using first-past-the-post. Perhaps we Canadian are just too stupid to change; or too influenced by American-sourced news.
    3. History shows that costly bad decisions are usually associated with "majority wins" because fewer people are involved in decision making. Food-for-thought: British politicians of all parties agreed to work together quietly under Churchill until the conclusion of WW2; everything went well (politically speaking) until the war end when party bickering resumed. If Britain had adopted proportional representation then I suspect:
      1. Britain would have joined the EU in 1952 rather than 1962
      2. there would have been no Suez Canal crisis which means the British pound might still be used as the world reserve currency.
        BTW, Anthony Eden won a majority government in 1955.
      3. there would have been no Falklands War
        BTW. Margaret Thatcher won a majority government in 1979
      4. there would have been no BREXIT
        BTW, exiting the EU began with a Conservative Majority
  14. Don't tell me about 'your' lost rights.
    One: I haven't heard whining like this ever since tobacco smokers were banned from smoking in public places (smokers lost the rights to infect others; non-smokers regained the right to breath smoke-free air). For me, COVID-19 is a lot like second hand smoke. You are free to do whatever you wish with your body and your health but if you do not want to get the jab then I prefer you keep your (potentially) disease ridden body away from me and my family and friends.
    Two: There have always been complainers. Seat belts had been installed in new autos since the mid-1960s but when the province of Ontario made seat-belt use mandatory in 1976, I recall hearing a lot of complainers bellyache about government interfering with their personal freedom. People were luckier back then because that "complainer megaphone" that we call the internet was not yet available to the common public.
    Three: If we were living in a Star Trek future then I'm certain that Doctor McCoy would simply recommend the jab as an obvious prophylactic while Spock would say "the needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few, or the one"
    Four: Many people who don't know a damned thing claim that "any vaccine mandate is unconstitutional" so think the issue should be taken to court. Well, I'm not sure how far we (society) are at this point, but a pandemic could be declared a national emergency in which case everyone's rights will be legally curtailed (i.e. your rights are conditional - not absolute). This has happened many times before (usually during times of war) although I do recall it happening in Canada during the FLQ crisis (1970). So for you conspiracy theorists out there who are worried about a government control, you should take the jab now so the government will not have any justification for invoke something like a War Measures Act or Emergencies Act
    Five: Speaking of conspiracy theories, I am still shocked about how many idiots claim that a chip is begin injected with the jab (er, vaccine) to track you. First off, you are just not that important to be tracked. Secondly, how would a small chip be powered? (if tiny battery then the transmitter would have only a tiny amount of power). Thirdly, if the government wanted to track you then they are already doing so though your smart phone (so be sure to disable both the GPS and Bluetooth interfaces).
  15. POLIDIOT (political idiot) is a label applicable to both citizens and politicians who insist their "political option" is superior to "empirical fact". Have you noticed that political pundits are already reciting their favorite economic sound-bites while pretending the COVID-19 crisis (and associated economic recession) is over? To those people I present this quote from 1936:

    will work for food"The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. There are not many who are influenced by new theories after they are twenty-five or thirty years of age, so that the ideas which civil servants and politicians and even agitators apply to current events are not likely to be the newest." --- John Maynard Keyes

    comment: no one "likes" the idea of printing up money but you would not like the alternative. Recall that very little was done after the crash of 1929; this resulted in a decade of hobos (homeless men looking for work), soup kitchens, and people wearing signs reading "will work for food"
  16. COVID-19 and two decades of misinformation
    the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse Misinformation 1: The Republican-dominated Congress of 1987 eliminated the FCC Fairness Doctrine citing a violation of the right to free-speech by corporations. This enabled politically biased outlets like Fox News (Cable TV) and Rush Limbaugh (Syndicated Radio). Modern Americans seem unaware of the fact that one-sided political propaganda in Germany resulted in world-war-2
    Misinformation 2: The internet (1969) enabled the world-wide-web (1991) then mobile social media (2007). These technologies have enabled an ever increasing amount of medical and scientific nonsense (vaccine hesitancy is one example) from non-experts on both sides of the political spectrum. They also bankrupted many respectable newspapers as advertisers moved their money online. Recall that "newspapers could be sued under libel laws" so they employed editors and journalists to provide "best effort reporting" of fact-checked information. Alternative media sites are protected from lawsuits under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (created in 1996 to help the web get off the ground) so they check nothing:
    The information Age: Evolution by natural selection is a scientifically proven fact. Five years after Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species, Herbert Spencer published Principles of Biology containing the phrase Survival of the Fittest. A full year of COVID-19 deaths, combined with people still questioning science, caused me to wonder: what will human society look like when this is over? We now live in the age of Survival of the Smartest and every citizen needs to be able to separate fact from fiction (or political opinion). Because many prefer information from politically-biased ALTERNATIVE STREAM MEDIA rather than neutral MAIN STREAM MEDIA, a lot of people are going to die (they will think they are "politically right" but will also be "dead wrong"). These deaths will not change human biological evolution since many who will die have moved past their reproductive years.
    COVID-19 stats: Misinformation-3: The total number of daily American deaths are always higher than state tallies (~ 25% are always missing). We know that the governor of Florida has ordered that death stats cannot be published without a death certificate (no certificate = no death). Florida death certificates are eventually published and the death stats are backdated. I thought Americans believed in "government of the people, by the people, for the people" but hiding stats seems to be putting the interests of politicians, and their parties, ahead of all else. Another empire in the process of collapse?
  17. Ontario COVID-19 "ICU" Patient Numbers: An ICU ("intensive care unit") is a hospital bed associated with a full-time nurse and a ventilator (people who lived through the Polio crisis would be more familiar with the phrase "iron lung"). Premier Doug Ford announced a province-wide shutdown starting April-03 because the ICU patient count was 421 but projected to hit 800 by the end of the month (PROBLEM: there are only 800 ICU beds in the whole province).
  18. Sea-level rise is rising faster: One proof of climate-change is the increasing rate of sea-level rise. Most climate-change skeptics stand down after they see the graphs showing average annual sea-level rate of rise doubling from 1.7 mm per year (averaged: 1870-1990) to 3.4 mm per year as measured by modern weather satellites. Multiplying by 100 yields 340 mm (13.4 inches) per century. But the contents of this recent scientific paper from Denmark ( https://os.copernicus.org/articles/17/181/2021/ ) are even more troubling. The first line of the abstract reads "Recent assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) imply that global mean sea level is unlikely to rise more than about 1.1 meters within this century but will increase further beyond 2100". This statement infers that one meter (39 inches) is within the scope of possibility.
  19. Commenting on Huawei: It appears to me that western society only supports capitalism "when the west wins". When a Chinese company, like Huawei, becomes the next Nortel, then ridiculous conspiracy theories are invoked. Huawei was one of many companies that bid on the sale of Nortel's intellectual property, as did Apple, Microsoft, Sony, RIM (Blackberry), Google and others. Huawei was not one of the winners which forced it to increase its own R&D operations (estimates put Huawei R&D in 2019 at a massive 40% of net income) so it should come at no surprise that Huawei is 18-24 months ahead of their competition in the field of 5G wireless. Simple logic shows that Huawei could only achieve parity if they were stealing I/P. Did I mention that their 5G hardware is 90% less expensive than anything from their competition?

    Deng Xiaoping (pronounced "dung chow ping") once said "The Middle East has its oil, China has rare earth". Since modern electronics is dependent upon rare-earth materials then it should be no surprise that Chinese-made electronics is much less expensive. Speaking of Deng for a moment, in 1985 I was attending school in Boston where it appeared to me that Chinese students were everywhere. Apparently, Deng had sent 1.3 million Chinese students out into the world to receive a top-quality western education paid for by China (one of my more-gifted Chinese classmates was accompanied by "two minders" who were there to ensure that he returned to China). Unlike Mao, Deng saw great value in education and realized that this was the best way forward for China. Thirty five years later, China has moved more than 350 million Chinese citizens from poverty into the middle class. This number is greater than the total population of the USA so is it any surprise that China is doing well? Meanwhile, there is a tendency amongst some westerners to label "an educated person" as "an elite". It seems to me that the world has flipped.
  20. Our culture is awash in lies, dominated by streams of never ending electronic hallucinations that merge fact and fiction until they are indistinguishable.  We have become the most illusioned society on earth.  Politics is a species of endless and meaningless political theater.  Politicians have morphed into celebrities.  Our two ruling parties are, in reality, one party - the corporate party.  And those who attempt to puncture this vast, breathless universe of fake news, designed to push through the cruelty and exploitation of the neoliberal order, are pushed so far to the margins of society, including by a public broadcasting system that has sold its soul for corporate money, that we might as well be mice squeaking against an avalanche, but squeak we MUST
  21. A conservative friend of mine was fond of asking me political questions (I am a centrist) then would cut me off mid-sentence before I finished answering. Apparently he was the only conservative among his family of brothers, sisters and parents but had no problem thinking he was right (er, correct)  while they were wrong. How could this be? This thought rattled around in my mind until I stumbled across a book titled The Republican Brain which was positively reviewed by liberals and conservatives alike. The book contains several points which I will pass along here:
    • Size differences in two brain structures, the amygdala (larger in conservatives) and the anterior cingulate (larger in liberals), bias human perspective of the world.
    • Conservatives see most issues as "black-and-white" (or good-and-evil) and are more pessimistic while liberals see "shades of gray" and are generally more optimistic
    • Conservatives are more fearful of others so are more easily encouraged to vote for POPULIST issues like "building the wall" or BREXIT (funny point: Britain had the lowest number of per-capita immigrants but had the highest political reaction against them)
    • Conservatives play politics as a team sport so will almost always "vote their party" while Liberals will split their vote choosing alternate parties (not very smart in first-past-the -post)
  22. Philosophical razors
    • Occam's razor: Simpler explanations are more likely to be correct; avoid unnecessary or improbable assumptions
    • Hanlon's razor: Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity
    • more examples: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophical_razor
  23. When I was young, everything I knew about politics and economics came from secondary school so found myself reading books recommended by others which included The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek. Then when I heard Marget Thatcher quote the book, I wondered if she was reading a different translation since her quotes bore little resemblance to the book I read (was Thatcher paraphrasing?). I recently stumbled onto this gem which was also written by Hayek which I only pass along as food-for-thought. It is titled Why I am Not a Conservative (whoa! this article is an excerpt from a 1960 book titled The Constitution of Liberty - I wonder if Thatcher knew about this)

Current Items: continued here (more sciency stuff)

"2001: A Space Odyssey"
A mysterious monolith awakens the imagination of humanity's distant ancestors.
A second monolith awaits humanity's giant leap to the moon. And in orbit around Jupiter,
a third monolith beckons humanity to transcend beyond the limits of of body and machine.
Click: 2001: A Space Odyssey @ Wikipedia
"a Feynman Diagram"
Feynman Diagram (animated) Feynman Diagram (static)
"All forces in the universe are mediated by particle exchange"
This "Feynman Diagram" (of electron repulsion) depicts the movement of two electrons (1 to 3 and 2 to 4) in space and time. A virtual photon transfers energy between them (5 to 6) causing them to repel each other.
To learn more:
1) brief explanation
2) detailed explanation
Legend: Y-Axis (up-down) is time while X-Axis (left-right) is space

Neil Rieck
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Yes, this is the old "Laptops and Lederhosen" site
Hosted here: ionos.ca (on a virtual private server)
  • Humanity's coming Dark Age
  • STEM Book Recommendations - Dark Age antidote?
  • Thomas PaineThomas Paine (1737-1809) wrote about many modern topics including "racial equality" (he proposed "abolishing slavery" 100 years before Lincoln). The following three titles are a "must read" for all modern citizens:
  • Adam Smith (1723-1790) professor of "moral philosophy" (economist) developed economic theories with the intent of redistributing wealth to workers who were about to be displaced by the industrial revolution. Anyone reading Smith's books will come to the conclusion that American capitalism is based upon a synthesis of Adam Smith and Charles Darwin to produce "survival of the greediest". Many things Americans attribute to Adam Smith are not found in his books (the 'invisible hand' is mentioned only once in a revised edition of WoN). I wonder what would he think about 'hedge funds' and 'activist investors'?  
  • The $6 Trillion Dollar War by Joseph E Stiglitz (nobody ever says 'we can't afford that war')
  • Comparative Anthropology
  • the Enlightenment (my favorite topic)