When I was a child I read the bible, and loved it.

As an adult I read the bible and loved it.

Didn’t for a second believe the stories in it, but loved it.

I Didn’t think it was true, I thought it was symbolical, but loved it.

I loved the ideas, I didn’t agree with all of them, actually, every single story made me think, and many I found problematic. But I loved it.

I don’t follow the bible. But I learnt a huge amount from the experience of reading it. Much of what I learnt, taught me to question all religion. And maybe that is the point of the bible.

There is no book in existence that shares so many ideas.

It’s the one book everyone should read. And in reading it, make up their own minds as to what a morale code should be, and maybe it will influence how they live their lives.

Some will find God, some will find a morale code, but everyone will find a lot about the history of mankind.

You don’t need to read the bible to have a morale code, and you don’t need to read the bible to accept or dispel the idea of God. But it will influence your opinion.

There is nothing as powerful as knowledge.

(308)

Deficit, Debt and Income – What every household knows.

Imagine this situation; you’re working hard every day at your job, but your wife continues to spend a huge amount on clothes and shoes. She’s uses the credit card and while you pay the interest every month the principle keeps rising.

What do you do about it. Well firstly you stop buying shoes and dresses, and instead pay down on the credit card. Well at least you try, but your wife is so addicted to zappos that she can’t go cold turkey and still buys stuff, just at a slightly lower pace.

So you pull in the belt everywhere else you can. Go out a few less times and get that cheaper cut of meat. You do whatever you can to balance your income with your outgoings.

And of course you ask your boss for a raise.

That’s the only choices any of us have.

1. Spend less (block zappos on the home computer).
2. Pay down your debt as quickly as possible (to lower your monthly outgoings).
3. Make some more money.

Now I use the example of a wife, and I can think of very similar examples where it’s the husband. But the principle is exactly the same.

The conversation that needs to take place between the one acting like a drunken sailor and the one charged with fixing the issue will always be painful, but a practical way of dealing with the issue.

It seems to be that the federal government needs to take the same stance. The only issue is that there is no stable group that wants to stop the crazy spending. Every politician just wants to stop everyone else spending while they continue their addiction to spending like a drunken sailor with the black amex.

They (the government) need to do three things.

1. Stop spending beyond their means (turn a deficit into a surplus)

2. Pay off the debt (either print more money or negotiate a creative new model whatever just pay down on the debt to ensure lower (over time) interest payments)

3. Make some more money (increase the income from taxes by increasing tax rates and increasing the number of people paying taxes).

That means those who have more pay more. Those who has less pay something and that who have nothing are helped to the point where they can be active positive members of the “have something” group.

If you are rich and you are campaigning to get more for the rich, there needs to be a rail, tar and feathers in your near future.

If you are making it, but see this as a time to demand more, then you are mistaken. This is a time to invest in the future.

If you are not making it, and need assistance to survive, then you should expect to see a change in your life, retraining, a lot of hard work, but with a light at the end of the tunnel. You should see a time where you can have a place to live, a job, basic healthcare and a plan for your life.

Anyone who doesn’t think that those with less than you need assistance have not listened to the greatest role models in religious texts or from history. You are part of a problem.

(499)

What is your favorite type of extremism?

I consider myself a moderate, but others may see me as an extreme moderate.

I personally find all forms of extremism abhorrent.

Religious extremists (who come in a multitude of varieties) are all dangerous. Those who believe that the word written in any book is the perfect word of their deity, have to ignore all evidence of contradiction as well as the thinking of their own religions historical record of the creation and modification of their books. Blindly following any leader with an archaic costume is always dangerous.

That is not to say that the meditative qualities of group introversion and chanting are all bad. Many people use the concepts taught through their religions as a way of living their lives within a morale code and they enjoy the power of ceremony, cultural memory and ritual to great benefit.

But most of these people do not take the direction of their religious group leaders as absolute, and make personal decisions as to which things to follow and which to not follow. Most people will not cause harm to others just because their religious leaders demand it. Actually most religious leaders won’t even ask their followers to cause harm to others.

But there are a small number of religious leaders who do advocate causing harm to others. Every day we see some of these on the news, be it the leaders of some sects of Islam, leaders of certain mid-western churches, or Hasidic Jewish leaders in Israel who advocate throwing stones at people who drive on the Sabbath. Most of the people who listen to these outlying religious leaders choose not to do what they are being asked. But too many people don’t do enough to act against those who do choose to follow those aggressive points of view.

When a politician is unwilling to take a stand against a fundamentalist view they become part of the problem.

When a republican chooses to not say they accept the theory of evolution as a scientific principle they increase the issue.

When a politician is not willing to denounce an extremist left wing group who have used violence to further their goals they are part of the problem.

When people in a pub playing great music put a coin in the bucket collecting money for those who use violence, they are part of the problem.

The power of billions of people who try to live a moderate life can be countered by just a few who wish to live a extreme violent form of a fundamentalist life, if those billions chose not to stop them.

Actively denouncing extremism in all its forms is a fundamental requirement for the world to be a better place. Does that view sound too extreme?

(518)

Televisions – getting below the hype

I’m sure you have noticed that TV’s have got significantly thinner and wider over the last few years. The old glass cathode ray tube has now (almost) entirely been replaced by flat screen TV’s and there are actually three different categories of flat screen available.

The first ones that became popular were the plasma screens. These are glass screens filled with a gas that glows when energized (ie the gas goes to the next physical state called plasma). These screens are very bright, and are excellent when placed opposite a window. The issue with plasma screens is that they are really heavy, and use a lot of power. Early plasma TV’s used to suffer from an issue called burn-in, and this meant that if a stationary image was displayed in the screen for an excessive amount of time, it could be burnt into the screen, meaning you would see that image as a ghost image even when the TV was turned off, or showing other images. Burn-in is mostly an issue of the past, but people still worry about it.

A lighter option is the LCD TV, and this uses a matrix of dots that can be transparent or opaque allowing them to display an image. Rather than transmitting light the dots actually block the light, so LCD TV’s have a bright even light source placed behind them. This makes them a little thicker, and not quite as bright as plasma. But they are much lighter and use a lot less power. Some people say that the speed of refresh of LCD isn’t as good as plasma, and you can sometimes see a blurry image when there is fast movement on the screen. This issue has been resolved in modern LCD TV’s and the refresh rate is many times the refresh rate of even the most whizzy movies, so it’s not really an issue for most people.

Some people prefer LCD and some prefer plasma. The colors displayed can look a bit vivid on LCD, and a little bright for some on plasma. But most TV’s have so many configuration settings that you can normally resolve any image to the conditions of your viewing room and personal preference.

A new version of LCD is called LED, and this used an array of light emitting diodes (LED’s) as the light source. This is much thinner than the light source used in TV’s called LCD. This means that LED TV’s that are mounted on the wall can be as thin as a picture frame. LED TV’s definitely are the cool option for those who are style conscious.

There is another choice on TV’s, and that is 3D. 3D TV’s come in a number of different standards. Technically they all work the same way, presenting 2 different images, one that is sent to the left eye and one that is sent to the right eye. In my opinion every available 3D TV option is total rubbish. There are several reasons why they are all useless.

Firstly they all require special glasses, none of these glasses work terribly well. The quality of the resulting 3D image is very low, and is very dependent on the viewer sitting very still.

Secondly movies made in 3D all suffer from two key issues; they fail when the action exits the screen and the frame rate is too low to avoid flickering.

The third issue is a technical issue with camera technology. Cameras require a point of focus, so when you look at the screen, you need to look exactly where the director planned for you to look, as everything else is in soft focus, this is okay for 2D, but is very unnatural for 3D.

So overall 3D TV’s are a technology looking for an application that has been taken up my marketing people to create a reason to charge more. The technology lags the marketing to the point of being stupid.

If you love the idea of 3D go to a full size Imax viewing, and watch a pure CGI (computer generated image) movie. These seem to be the only movies and the only environment that does the technology justice.

And the last thing I’m going to mention is apps. In theory apps should be awesome, allowing you to do many internety things directly on your TV. But there are too many issues today. Every app enabled TV seems to have different apps. The TV remote is not the perfect way to control internety things. And rather than the cost of an app enabled TV, you can consider a roku or apple tv box (each about the same price as adding app functionality to a TV), these seem a lot better as they allow you to upgrade to a different one in a year when the technology is more stable. While having a TV with all this built in means you are relying on the likes of Sony or Samsung to get their act together. It’s like having a HD DVD player built-in , just as Blu-ray wins the standards war.

My choice is a LED TV without 3D or Apps, and add a roku or apple TV along with your cable or satellite box. And much to the chagrin of every bestbuy or pc richards sales person I know that the cheapest HDMI cable gives you a perfect picture.

HDMI is a digital standard, what this means is the cable is used to send a very low power, low voltage signal. Technically this means that resistance, impedance and capacitance can be right at the edge of the specifications tolerance and cause no issue at all. As long as the cable is wired correctly from one end to the other every cable will work. I use a 45 foot HDMI cable from a no-name company and send a signal at 1080p and at 120Hz to the TV with perfect results. Your local TV retailer will stock a wide range of cables ranging in price from a few dollars all the way up to several hundred dollars. And they have been trained to sell you the most expensive ones they can. They will tell you about pure copper cores, oxygen free, gold contacts and many other cool sounding technical features, when you hear them, image that salesman standing on the back of a cart pitching you a special oil made from a snake that will cure all known illnesses…. It’s the same story.

If you buy a cable and it ends up not working, it’s because it was a faulty cable or you have some source of interference in the path of the cable. 99% of the time the lowest cost cable (even the one that came for free with you cable box) will work perfectly. Not just work well, but work perfectly.

And lets not even get started on the extended warranty. Tech is designed to last well beyond even the extended warranty period, and for a box your sticking on the wall and will never physically touch the chance of a failure is small, very small.

So that’s modern TV’s!

(690)

Is Apple getting boring?

Is it time to see apple as “that company that used to amaze?.

It was amazing when apple introduced the ipod, the imacs were really cool. I loved it when they introduced the iphone. The ipad was game changing. I even loved the airport extreme, and the apple tv (version 2) changed how I use my TV’s and computers.

But now it’s just a case of twice a year; thinner, faster, bigger, smaller, wider, taller and longer lasting.

Has apple become the new sell-a-vision. Rather than keynotes are they now really delivering 30 minute ad’s prompting how their new feature will change our lives , but hold on order now and get two for the same price , just pay separate shipping and handling.

I still love their products, but it feels like the innovation has slowed down considerably.

Compared to others in the space of ergonomics of consumer IT, they still suck least. But surely that’s not what we have come to expect from Apple.

Information Technology still sucks in so many ways, and there are still huge empty spaces for creativity and game changing innovation.

Apple don’t let the death of your autocratic founding genius be the reason why you stagnate and become part of the homogenous mush that is the rest of tech.

Some of the Android-y companies and even Microsoft seem to be showing signs of getting ready to take the creative high ground. I suspect they will continue to break as much as they fix, so apple you have a chance to stay as the leader of the cool pack. But that chance is getting smaller every day.

(565)

Is Marriage a Homonym?

There are many words that have multiple meanings.

I picked up the leaves vs. I hate it when he leaves the seat up.

He rose from his seat vs she was very pleased with the rose he gave her.

They got engaged vs she was very engaged in the conversation.

Words with different meanings are technically called homonyms.

And I think that the fact that the word marriage is used for two very different meanings should also be addressed in the same context.

Religions (all of them) recognize the importance of marriage, as a gate two people take in confirming their relationship to their congregation and to their faith (god, spirit or code). When a religion recognizes a marriage, it is saying that the participants have agreed to abide by the rules and edicts set down by the precepts of that religion.

So why is marriage a homonym?

Well it also turns out that there is a legal contract that can be undertaken between people that is recognized by law. This is very different than the religious term marriage, as it sets out a legal framework that people entering the contract have with each other. This framework extends to taxation, end of life decision-making, and legal confidentiality in cases of giving public witness as well as the disbursement of assets and responsibilities if the marriage were ever to be terminated either by a divorce or death.

Many of the terms of a legal marriage can be decided on between parties in other forms of legal contract, but not all of them. Some of the terms are unique to a legal marriage.

It is possible for people to enter into a legal marriage without entering into a religious marriage, as it is possible for people to enter into a religious marriage without entering into a legal marriage. They are separate forms of the same word.

I fully accept that any religious organization can choose to vilify, ignore or disown anyone or group of people they choose. I personally don’t subscribe to the idea that my religion or any religion is any truer than any other religion, and I prefer to not hate anyone based on any single aspect of his or her makeup (I base any hate I feel on a more complex mix of emotions, attitudes and actions).

If religions choose to limit their religious marriages to any specific sub-group, that is of course their prerogative. But that just proves that the word marriage is a homonym.

When people choose to legally bind themselves under the terms of a legal marriage that is an acceptance OF the legal aspects of society BY those people.

Under the law their can be no discrimination, while religions are free is discriminate as they see fit.

Legal marriage is a great thing for society, and religious marriage is a great thing for religions.

And that is why marriage must always have two meanings and been seen as a homonym.

(629)

An analytical thought on healthcare

Today the cost of healthcare in the US is higher than in any other western country, while the delivery of this healthcare is limited to only those that can afford it (or are old or very broken).

There is clearly no perfect model for healthcare, because there is not an infinite amount of doctors, pharmacists, scientists and support personnel available to deliver it, and of course there is a limited amount of money available to pay the people that are delivering health-related services.

So there is a choice that always has to be made to balance the use of resources against the need.

In the US today the choice that has been made is to charge each individual directly for the health services they consume, effectively meaning that those who are richest get most health care.

In other countries the choice has been made to deliver the available health services as broadly as possible, so as to maintain the health of whole nations.

Both models have pro’s and con’s.

The US system means that the wealthiest people will most likely live longer. Since wealth is (often) a consequence of many attributes that do progress all of society, there is a case to be made that keeping the richest alive longest is Darwinian in nature.

Conversely distributing the available health resources amongst the whole population should increase lifelong productivity for the largest possible number of the population. When more experienced people are able to work longer this should provide a great return on investment.

What is clear though is that there is a limited resource, which is outstripped by demand, and so choices will always have to be made.

When a limited resource is made to be as efficient as possible, by rigorously implementing best practices it can be made to go further.

The US model today is one where health providers generally get paid per-service delivered, as opposed to health outcomes.

In business it can be seen that outcome based remuneration is always preferential to activity based remuneration. If you pay a bricklayer for each wall built, you will get a lot of walls built, but the quality may suffer. While if you pay that same brick layer for each brick laid, you will get a very different outcome (very thick walls). But if you measure both the quality of the wall built as well as the number of walls built, that same bricklayer will really think about how to built the most efficient and effective set of walls.

In business if you paid someone for effort and not results, you would see huge inefficiency. Today that is exactly how healthcare works in the US.

Health insurance companies can offer some economies of scale, and the bigger a network is, then the larger the economies of scale.

Now add to this model outcome based charging and the whole model will be about keeping everyone who is insured as healthy as possible.

And then add it some balances to ensure that sick people are not just dumped from the program to keep costs down and you have a basic working health system.

What is eminently clear though is that the more people in a network, the better the overall efficiency can become.

So why not have everyone is a single healthcare system?

Well the only argument against this is that simply what is the motivation for that healthcare system to get better. But that is an issue that over time can be fixed by clearly defining the reward system for those who work in the healthcare system. We are not there yet, any it will take a lot of smart people a long time to work this out.

Healthcare is expensive, limited and emotive, there is no perfect system anywhere in the world. But that does not mean we should stop trying to be the best we can be.

(705)

It’s time to call BS!

Solving the US (and thus the worlds) economic woes

There is a ridiculous public discussion going on about this politically driven concept called the fiscal cliff. And I’m calling bullshit on everyone on this one.

The concept is that if the different arms of the US federal government cannot negotiate a compromise then a huge amount of bad things will automatically happen. These things include the removal of some previously negotiated tax discounts along with a wide range of arbitrary budget reductions.

The idea was to put a chunk of things on the table, that the negotiating groups all found unpalatable, in the hopes that they would then work together to avoid these things happening.

Of course the underlying issues of incredibly favorable contracts between government and a plethora of huge companies, that have driven social, legal, fiscal and security policies over decades are not even being discussed.

Here’s the thing, government seems to have become bought. The issue is that every new regulation that has been introduced over the lifetime of nearly everyone on earth today came with strings attached. These strings continually move money into large businesses at the expense of delivering the services that are needed. Some would call this the inefficiency of government; I on the other hand call it utter Bullshit!

There are many legitimate things that government needs to manage. These are the things that create a safe and viable society. Things like transportation infrastructure, education systems, security and a legal framework. But it seems that in every single area these processes of government are clearly contaminated by undue influence.

Yes, Medicare and Medicaid are too expensive, but everyone agrees that the ideas are sound, we need to take care of people. So where is the honest discussion about reducing the cost of delivering the services while actually making them better. It seems that hospitals don’t wont to be paid less for the things that they do (quelle surpise!), and would prefer to see people actually pay more for health and not less. The medical industry pays a lot of money to lobbyists to ensure that healthcare stays expensive. And this money is spent by these lobbyists to influence politicians.

Education is no longer about preparing children for the real world, by giving them grounding in the skills needed to learn new things and interact in society. Instead education is now about passing a test. And to make sure that every child can pass the same tests, huge amount of services have been centralized to re-train teachers to get children to pass tests. These services are run by networks of bureaucrats who report every possible metric to each other at immense cost. This cost is covered by delivering less teachers, less schools and less overall frontline services to children.
And what is the response when we see children leaving school without the ability to live in the real world, lets do more of the same, more rules , more tests, and actually lets move even more of the money into the hands of for-profit systems. Because clearly people motivated to be rich will be able to teach better than those motivated to teach.

When bridges collapse from disrepair, lets outsource roadbuilding to a private company who can charge $20 to drive on their new road. When the US rail system becomes the laughing stock of the world, lets just increase the prices and give the additonal money to private companies.

Wars are the best way ever discovered to move money from tax payers via the government to large companies. It’s very simple, wars need weapons, armor, transport, communications – tents, tanks, trucks and guns. It’s all-good for business. And if your friends are running the government then it’s easy to get a no-bid contract to deliver products at maximum profit. They will even ensure that taxes don’t go up so the average voter doesn’t know how much it all costs until it’s spent.

This might sound like some kind of lefty rant, but it is not. I am not blaming either of the two incumbent political parties here. This is a game played equally by both parties. The spin that each party puts on the game is just their way of winning a bigger slice of the pie for themselves and their friends.

There is so much money in politics today; it makes me sick to my stomach.

The average worker, be that a unionized worker, a sweatshop worker, a burger flipper, a business executive, a bank manager,a CEO, a teacher, fireman, policeman, soldier, a carpenter, plumber or anyone else, works damn hard everyday and is careful to live within their means. We – the working people are innovative, ethical and all have desires we strive to fulfill.

We all need government as a safety net and as a provider of key elements of the infrastructure. But it is wrong for the government to live by different rules. Politicians that make a living by taking money in exchange for influence are unethical and their behavior should be illegal (as it has been in the past and still is in other countries).

It’s easy for politicians to pander to the prejudices of the proletariat. Some people (many) hate paying taxes; others hate people of other religions, skin colors or sexual preferences. Others hate to see people with more than themselves. It’s easy to point at any group unlike you and see them as the problem, and it’s very easy to create passion against any other group.

Great leaders throughout history have been able to bridge these gaps and move forward. While despots have used these differences to create their own personal powerbase.

For a while it sounded like the tea party movement and the 99% movement both were making the same point, but quickly they both seemed to get overrun by extremists.

Plato

There are some great politicians out there that have the skills to get above the bullshit and actually solve the big issues. They are quite likely distributed amongst both of the political parties in play today, and even outside of them. I want and need to hear them calling out the bull-shit’ers and taking a stand.

(546)