... seeking simple answers to complex problems, and in the process, disrupting the status quo in technology, art and neuroscience.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

No Perfect Newtown Solution

Like most of the world, I've been horrified by the Newtown shooting but was curious when I encountered this link on Facebook:

McArdle Wins Worst Newtown Reaction Award

I'd never heard of McArdle but was curious what the WORST idea in the world might be.  

It turns out this worst idea was to "gang rush" the shooter, which (unless you're 20 six-year-olds) isn't such a bad idea.  It's actually worked to various degrees on many similar occasions, as well as being a successful  Japanese war tactic.  But that's not what this post is about.  It's about drilling beyond media distortion.  

If you ONLY read the link above you will have missed probably the best post-Newtown analysis to date.  

And yes, it's the very column in question:

There's Little We Can Do to Prevent Another Massacre

Yes, it's long and involved, but it's also based on some excellent research and logic.  If you can't take the time to read it, I'll summarized in a more generous fashion than Jonathan Chait:

1. Understand the shooters motive (or lack thereof).

2. Understand what has work in the past (and what hasn't).

3. Understand what CAN be done (and what can't).

4. Not all problems have a perfect (or even good) solution.

That didn't do it for you?  Sometimes you just have to do your homework.  Now go back and read her column.  It's worth your time.  And even her follow-up defense of the last two paragraphs (out of 57) is worth thinking about:

Now, does Megan McArdle deserve the award for the WORST reaction?

Or congratulations for the most rational thinking so far presented on the topic?  

And why does Jonathan wish to take her analysis SO out of context?  Where is HIS actual rebuttal as opposed to simple reaction?  Where is HIS solution?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sudden View Reviews

I just ran across this and decided I need a place to collect feedback on my text editor:
Jason Scott's Review of Sudden View

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Obama Didn't Win - He Just Didn't Lose as Badly as Romney

Here's an amazing bit of election data that is being utterly ignored: America stayed home on election day.

The democrats don't want to admit it, and the Republican's are still trying to figure out what happened.

Sure, we've all heard about how the RATIO of blacks, Hispanics and women still favor Obama, and how that likely made the difference.  But what's being ignored is how many people DIDN'T vote for Obama this time around.

In 2008, a total of 69,498,215 Americans voted for Obama, but last week only 63,512,486 returned to the ballot box to do the same thing.

Why did almost SIX MILLION 2008 Obama supporters refuse to vote for him again?  And what does that say about America's opinion of his job performance?  Finally, why couldn't virtually ANY Republican take advantage of such dissatisfaction?

Was America looking for REAL hope and change, but got the same old crony-capital team delivering the same result: milk the populace through more spending for government unions and Wall Street, who then contribute back to the politicians?

Normally, a desertion of almost 10% of your followers would spell defeat, but in this case Romney did even worse in 2012 than McCain did in 2008 - 59,668,347 to 59,948,240.  A net total of 279,893 McCain supporters stayed home too.  So was America pleased with the alternative the Republican put forward?  Hardly, just more of the same.  OK, maybe a little bit worse.

In fact, this election could be seen as a negative election, one where more people voted AGAINST the other guy, instead of voting FOR someone.  America didn't like Obama's track record, but they apparently liked  the Republican position on social issues even less.  And that dynamic reflects the way campaign money was spent; it was all about the negatives.  History shows negatives tend to dampen turnout.  It all makes sense.  Unhappy Americans stayed home in droves.

So was this "win" a mandate for the Obama platform?  Hardly.

He just didn't get defeated.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

Seriously, I couldn't have said it better myself, so I won't.  Instead, here's the link:

Why Most Published Research Findings Are False

Keep it in mind when you read the headlines.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Few Words about Monsanto

Though I don't agree with all his fear theory, this excerpt is an excellent example of Porter Stansberry's research in which he takes a rational position in the face of overwhelming cultural backlash. You can read all of his work here:

Stansberry & Associates Investment Research

A Few Words about Monsanto...

By Porter Stansberry

I'd like to take a moment to write about Monsanto... a stock recommended in my newsletter, Stansberry's Investment Advisory, and one that has a uniquely bad reputation among some of our readers.
For those of you new to the story, Monsanto is the world's leading producer of GMO seeds – genetically-modified organisms. The company speeds up the evolutionary process by applying genetic engineering to seeds. It says the resulting foods are better than their naturally occurring rivals in important ways.

When we recommended the stock back in November, we inadvertently kicked a big hornet's nest. A sizeable industry exists to oppose GMO seeds. Many people who wrote to us went so far as to suggest they believe Monsanto is intentionally poisoning the world's food supply in an attempt to engineer a massive holocaust.

I can't recall ever receiving so many angry – and even disturbed – e-mails about any other topic. (Not even when Dan insulted the Catholic priesthood...)

Here's a brief sample of the hundreds of angry letters we've received...

I have never been so angry and appalled... Monsanto is The most treacherous, selfish and ultimately without-scruples-or-morals corporation in America. Do you have any idea how many farmers they have ground into the dust and destroyed with their self-serving corporate policies? Are you a paid crony FOR Monsanto? This is VERY suspect. Your last email rebuttal against the person raising concerns about Monsanto sounds like it was written BY Monsanto. Lets see if you publish this! Farmers are not "flocking" to their products! They have been systematically FORCED to use there products or face lawsuits and loss of there family farms.

For the love of God pull your head out and take a look. Just go to you tube and take a look. The truth is there – you won't find it in the mainstream media or in Monsanto's PR bullshit. You of all groups should Know better. I am appalled. Standing up for Monsanto is no different than standing up for JP Morgan. Get a clue! Either publish a confession of the true and morbid facts about Monsanto, or some kind of retraction within the next 30 days or I will cancel my subscription. I know many, many others on my email list alone who would do the same.

GMO food is a crime against humanity! Jesse Ventura did a show on the Bilderberg group wanting to cut down on the world population. A friend told me he woke up one night in 1992 at 2am and that was the discussion being had on national TV. There are powerful people that want to cut down on the population as they feel we are putting to much pressure on the worlds resources...

Not all the people who wrote letters about Monsanto were full of piss and vinegar. Some thoughtful people sent sincere letters merely to caution us that our knowledge of the company's technology seemed incomplete. For example, paid-up subscriber Dr. Gregory Rodgers (MD) wrote:

I am a recent Alliance member and a long time subscriber. Your company, its writers and specifically you have influenced me greatly on investing and true free market principals. It was with much dismay that I saw your most recent recommendation was Monsanto in the most recent issue of your newsletter.

Reading your body of work over the past several years, I get a general sense of the man you are and the values you hold. To state it simply, you are a patriot and a freedom lover. So how in the hell do you justify having your subscribers buy Monsanto? It may be profitable but to support Monsanto with a BUY recommendation is like imaging Ron Paul on the board of IG Farben in the 1930s era. It just does not compute.

Now I recognize trading Monsanto stock, or derivatives of it, is likely to be profitable and that you have a duty to your clients to make research recommendations that will make them money. I also get that buying shares of Monsanto in the secondary market, no money goes directly to Monsanto, however the increased share demand does influence the share price and sends a message to the corporate leadership that the market tacitly approves of their attack on our food supply, our farmers and our health. I also get that a company is not and cannot be evil but only reflect the underlying characteristics of the men and women that steer the corporation.

We appreciate notes like these. As we are fond of saying, "God does not whisper in our ear." We do not know everything and are always willing to learn. So when we first saw these notes flooding our mailbox several weeks ago, we printed some of them and asked for Monsanto's critics to provide us with the data... We wanted to see scientific studies proving Monsanto's products are harmful or dangerous. By "scientific" we mean independently produced studies, conducted on a double-blind basis, that are repeatable. We didn't get any. Not one.
As Warren Buffett has mentioned over the years, when you tell people you're in the market for a poodle, people will send you lots of cocker spaniels. And so in reply to our request, we got dozens of references to the same three "scientific" sources: a website called Mercola, a book called Seeds of Destruction, and various YouTube videos by the author of Seeds of Destruction, Alex Smith, who seems to have built a successful promotional company around his thesis that Monsanto is evil.

All these materials suggest foods made from genetically-modified seeds or hormones are extremely dangerous and cause allergies, infertility, infant mortality, immune dysfunction, and even death. These are serious allegations, and we haven't ignored them. Let us be perfectly clear: We remain willing to review any evidence that these allegations are true. But to date, we've gotten only "cocker spaniels" – no poodles. We have yet to see any evidence that any of the anti-Monsanto allegations are true. That doesn't seem to matter to the anti-GMO crowd, which appears built around the promotion of fear in an effort to sell books and videos. (And yes, as publishers we certainly know a little about how that works...)

But what about the science? Well, Europe has banned most GMO foods and seeds. Various European governments have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on research, conducted by dozens and dozens of independently organized and managed scientists, most of which had a bias against Monsanto, as an American company. Surely the Europeans found something truly dangerous about GMO seeds?

In December, the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, published a book that collected and summarized ALL the GMO research commissioned by the European Union since 1982. The book presents 25 years of research, involving more than 500 independent research groups working on grants totaling more than $300 million. This is the most comprehensive publication ever produced on the safety of GMO foods. The most restrictive government in the world on GMO issues published it. And none of this funding came from Monsanto, which is widely hated in Europe. According to this book:

There is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.

If you want to read the entire book, you can get a free copy. It's 268 pages long. Please read it before you send us another angry letter.

Does this mean Monsanto's products are definitively safe? No, of course not. They may yet be proven dangerous. New technologies always involve unknown risks. For example, even if Monsanto's seeds are safe, if every farmer begins to use Monsanto seeds, there could be a problem from the resulting lack of genetic diversity, which might cause our food supplies to be dangerously vulnerable to disease. These kinds of risk are still unknown. On the other hand, you can't forget the food supply faces known risks if we don't use high-tech seeds – like a worldwide food shortage if crop yields decrease.

Regardless of what we say on this matter, once someone has made up his mind about something as new and complex as genetically modified seeds, there's almost no chance additional facts are going to change his mind. On the other hand, we have always been compelled to compile evidence for our beliefs. We also have always been willing to change our minds when we encounter new evidence. We remain so on this issue. We hope that if you disagree with us, you'll at least respect our willingness to consider all of the information that becomes available.

One final note on this matter. You might wonder if we got any letters in support of Monsanto's products. We did... and from a surprising source – farmers. Yes, that's right. While hundreds of subscribers have claimed that Monsanto is evil and "enslaves" farmers, the farmers who read our newsletters wrote in to say nearly exactly the opposite. Two examples are below:

You are right on in your response to the criticism of GMO technology in crops and seed production. If we did not have the development of GMO, food prices would be much higher and starvation in the world would be much more widespread. I know many depict Monsanto as the "evil empire" and as I farmer, I do not like their over priced tech fees, but the reality is that they are the leading edge in preventing run-away food prices in the world. If all producers were forced to go "organic" we could not feed the world. I have organic farming neighbors, and know for a fact that their crops produce from 50% to 75% of what conventional farming produces next door. Reduce production by 25% and you would have world-wide rioting for food. Furthermore, no science has ever shown that GMO food performs or reacts any different in the human body than organic produced food. A lifelong agricultural producer and steward of the soil. – Paid-up subscriber Roger Aberle

I'm a farmer/rancher in Montana. I certainly agree with Porter Stansberry's position on Monsanto seeds. A major part of their seed offerings are "Roundup Ready" seeds. The desired plants that grow from their seeds can be sprayed with Roundup, without any damage, while the Roundup kills the weeds. If Roundup wasn't used in this kind of seeding, the farmer would likely use 3 or 4 other herbicides, and not end up with fields so clean. Much better product, easier to use, and increases desired crop production. Beyond that, Roundup is a systemic herbicide that must be taken up through the entire plant to kill that plant. Once it hits the ground, it's essentially an inert substance, harmless to anything, I do believe. – Paid-up subscriber TMC

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Sam Harris: Science CAN Answer Moral Questions

This is an impressive guy with excellent critical thinking on a very difficult topic.  TED is doing a great job of finding not only those who have considered challenging topics, but also those who can express themselves well. 

This presentation has a lot to say about impact of culture as contrasted in Sex at Dawn.  It's worth a watch:

Sam Harris: Science can answer moral questions

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Stone Soup to the CORE!

What : Stone Soup to the CORE 2012
When : July 20th, 21st & 22nd, 2012
Where : PermaBurn - north of Madeline, California - 60 miles north of Susanville

Purchase Ticket

Stone Soup Event List

Only two days to go but the projects list is still growing.  If you're joining us, make sure to click "Share" when you see Stone Soup FaceBook posts.  We have plenty of room.  :)

We also now have tentative plans for three music venues, a cafe, a pub, two chill spaces, a kids camp and maybe even a radio station!  Here are the details.  Please contact these people directly for info or just get your ticket and join us:

Art - Mindy Look will be hosting Burner movie night on Friday

Art - James Bahr of RedlightSF will be doing something with red light?

Music - Joe Wight and crew will raise a third dome for music - DJs invited - contact Joe directly on FaceBook

Club - Todd Shimkus will present Café Diem

Radio - We have a rumor of PermaBurn's first radio station.  Details to follow.

Gate - I (Rod Coleman) will be managing the gate - volunteers needed for two hour shifts

Placement - Keith Wheeler will manage art / project placement - see him at the gate as needed

Onsite - Mindy Look will handle PermaBurn Onsite Communications - FaceBook her for last minute project coordination.

Porta-potties - Greg Glover, you're the shit for "handling" this issue. :P

Music - Fresh from LunarBurn, Olen Eagler with be performing and managing the main music dome.  Coordinate your sets with him:


Pub - Zeke Chaparral will again build and host PermaPub, where Burners can share drinks and good times - contributions needed - it's a gift economy!

Food - Intro to Polyamory Potluck - Saturday evening at 6:00 PM in the big kitchen dome - food and relationship discussion

Art & Chill - Harlan Emil will present Sapphire Portal Center transporting us to where our souls belong - http://www.transportals.org

Music - Open Mic Rock'en Blues Jam Session hosted by and featuring Kathy and JB - Fri & Sat evening - bring your instruments

Kids - Kids Camp is being organized by Michelle Leutzinger.  FaceBook her directly or contact me for her email

Lifestyle - Poly Puddle, join the cuddle - open 24/7 -  hosted by Polyamory Camp

Art - Lead sparkle pony - Kimberly of course!

We still need leads for Rangers and Leave No Trace.

If you have any other project plans, post to the PermaBurn FaceBook page or directly to me:


Here's a song written about PermaBurn at LunarBurn:


Stone Soup to the CORE!

Summer's here and it's time to BURN!  Theme camps are planning their resources, artists are prepping their projects, and the weather's getting hot - it's time for our unofficial Reno / Tahoe Burner camp-out.

It's time for Stone Soup at PermaBurn!

What is Stone Soup?  Just like the story, that depends on you.  Stone Soup is what you bring to this old fashion Burner event (the Ten Principles Apply), with few restrictions.  Dirt bikes - fine.  Quads - fine.  Dogs - keep them under control.  Shooting Range - yep.  Music - as you like it.  Naked - optional.  Fire - per state regulations at the time.  Anything else - within state and federal law, but this is a private venue.  The event will not be patrolled except by PermaBurn Rangers.

Stone Soup is ALSO our opportunity to make sure the Reno CORE makes it to Burning Man.

What's CORE?  CORE stands for Circle Of Regional Effigies each of which come from around the world to be burned on Thursday night at Burning Man, creating the largest intentional burn on record.  And for the first time, Reno is fielding an entry.  With Stone Soup, you can help make this happen.

Also, some of you may have heard about the most recent event at PermaBurn.  Yes, over 700 showed up for LunarBurn, and we had an excellent weekend.  There were projects and Burners from all over California and Norther Nevada.  We had beautiful weather, lots of choices for music and one astounding laser show.

Here's a link to some more photos:


Yes, LunarBurn took resources.  Heavy equipment was brought in and the roads freshly graded.  You can now drive any vehicle to the site.  And yes, these things cost money.  LunarBurn charged up to $75 dollars to attend.

Fortunately, we won't need to charge that much for Stone Soup, and of course, PermaBurn members are free.  Yes, Greg has paid for power and potties in the past, but the scale of the event has grown.  We now need to be responsible and cover our own costs.  The good news is, if you commit early, it's less expensive.  We'll keep the on-line ticket price at $20 until July 18th at noon.  After that, pay $30, cash only at the gate.  These proceeds will first cover direct expenses.  What's left will be split between PermaBurn for improvements, and the Reno CORE Project.

So click through and get your tickets:

What : Stone Soup to the CORE 2012
When : July 20th, 21st & 22nd, 2012
Where : PermaBurn - north of Madeline, California - 60 miles north of Susanville

Purchase Ticket

Then email:


Or post your project plans to the FaceBook page so others can get involved:

PermaBurn Group on FaceBook

How to get to PermaBurn:

Thanks to CyberBiker for providing this Google Map link..

If you haven't been out, there is 5 miles of gravel road, some of it has dips that would challenge anything with a flat exit angle, such as a long over-hang RV.   But there have been trailers as long as 24 feet, a full-sized Greyhound bus and one fully loaded Geo Metro.  With the recent grading any normal car or truck will have no problem.

(click to expand)

How to get to PermaBurn...

Take 395 60 miles north of Susanville to Madeline, California
(the 395 junction is just east of Susanville).

Go 6 miles north of Madeline on 395 to the 134.92 mile marker at 41 7'43" 120 30'0".

Watch for the orange or pink or mylar tape from this point on.  If you go to Google map you won't find any names on any of these roads, but the mile marker is past Sage Hen and before South Fork Mountain Road.  On the ground, the key is the mile marker and tape at each junction.

You have five miles of gravel road to go.

Take a left onto the shortcut to a gravel road.

Take another left to go south on this gravel road.

Go 0.1 miles till you reach the green gate.  Open the gate and go through.  Please leave it open or closed as you found it.

Go 0.4 miles until you see a second green Gate on the right with orange tape.

Turn right through the green gate, again leaving it open or closed as you found it. 

Cross the yellow cattle guard about 30 feet beyond the gate.

Go 2.4 miles up some hills and across a flat.

You will see a sign for the reservoir to the right - stay to the left.

You will also see another yellow cattle guard and orange tape.

You are at 41 6'45" 120 32' 6".

Go just BEYOND the cattle guard, and take an immediate LEFT turn on the dirt road on the other side of the fence.  Turn left just AFTER the cattle guard, not before!

Climb 2.2 miles south on the newly graded dirt road.  Watch for rocks.

You will reach a couple of trees which is the entrance.

Welcome to Permaburn!

Welcome to Stone Soup!

Where to Camp

There are two ponds on the hill with some trees around them.  Unfortunately, this is also where some free range cattle come to drink and find shade,  AND leave their droppings.  There were only a few mosquitoes last year - not really a problem.  But to minimize all of these factors, we will be setting up Center Camp along main street a quarter mile back in the lower valley.  You can of course camp where ever you choose but we'd like the significant performance camps along main street if possible.

What : Stone Soup to the CORE 2012
When : July 20th, 21st & 22nd
Where : PermaBurn - north of Madeline, California - 60 miles north of Susanville

Then email:


Or post your project plans to the FaceBook page so others can get involved:

PermaBurn Group on FaceBook

See ya at Stone Soup!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Linda Allison Declares World Peace

While I don't agree with the "science" of "I Declare World Peace", I do believe world peace is inevitable for other reasons.

Supposedly, the newest threat to world peace is cyber-war between China and the west.  This idea is simply mapping old motives over new technology without understanding the impact of that technology.  China does not want war with it's biggest market.  World war no longer makes sense.  There is no land in cyberspace. There is no clear us versus them because where you live matters far less than who you are and what you think. There are now millions of various groups each doing their own thing. Nationalism is melting away.

Fortunately, war has had it's time in human history.  While there was almost certainly fighting over limited resources before agriculture, its fixed nature created a permanent focus for war about 10,000 years ago.  And these wars scaled up until they involved the entire globe.  But the highest values are no longer focused on land or even limited resources.  The greatest value now is information, which has fortunately been set free.  War is now dying out like the echo from that bomb on Nagasaki.  We are finally on the verge of living out the promises of enlightenment.

Sure, the next decades will be filled with small religious and wars of democracy where despots and doctrine of our past will continue to play out in waves as various groups gain power in each region.  But something new is happening.  Information is out-running politics.  New ideas are out-running religion.

This trend actually started back in the last century when as Rolling Stone put it, "The Sony Walkman and Levis jeans brought down the Iron Curtain".  Their point then was, that competition in culture between east and west were the real driving forces in the new political landscape.  Only a place as isolated as North Korea can stand against these forces, and then only for a while.  Once the internet arrives, hope for war is lost, peace has won.

Think of the last couple of centuries as voting by migration.  America was populated by the most adventuresome seeking political and religious freedom, and the process continues.  Millions have died leaving locations where old ideas dominated to seek new homes where ideas and freedom thrive.  Any government which does not subscribe to the pursuit of  happiness is a lost cause, it's just a matter of when they realize it.

The enlightenment ideas of the 18th century are clearly out of the box and won't ever go back in.  From now on, jurisdictions will more aggressively compete for citizens with the resources they have at hand - geography, tax rates and freedom.  Communications is the grease that will allow the machine of peace to work.

Governments that don't compete will simply find themselves more and more marginalized and isolated until new management is installed, as we are seeing with the Arab Spring.  Such transition is even now finding it's template.  And those that once again revert to feudalism will simply have to do it all over again in a few years.  At some point those in power will get the message and compete for citizens seeking personal freedom.

Even North Korea shall be free in less than a generation.

Linda Allison has declared world peace.

She is right, even if for the wrong reasons.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Martin Jet Pack

Yet another way to move through the air:

Martin Jet Pack