Common Trees of Bainbridge Island, a Booklet

Published at 11:37 on 25 October 2018

One of the reasons I haven’t been posting so much recently is that I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a booklet I’ve self-published, Common Trees of Bainbridge Island.

I’ve yet to distribute what hard copies I’ve had produced. Until then, soft copies may be downloaded from this Web site:

  • Here is a PDF suitable for viewing on-line as an ebook.
  • Here is a PDF intended to print as a booklet (two-sided, landscape mode).
  • Here is a PDF of a cover for the above booklet (separate in case you desire a cover printed on card stock).

I plan to print and self-publish more booklets in the future.

And Now He Appeases the Saudis

Published at 13:39 on 18 October 2018

I don’t know what’s more remarkable—the galling nature of Trump’s submissiveness to foreign tyrants, or that his followers still manage somehow to reconcile said weakness with the mythos of being an “alpha male” who puts “America first.”

Cliff Mass Is a Dishonest Crank

Published at 09:48 on 16 October 2018

Remember when the last carbon tax, I-732, was being voted on? The one whose corporate-funded Big Green backers failed to consider the wishes of tribes and minority groups? The one that those of us on the left, by and large, held our noses and voted for despite its warts? The one that Cliff Mass dishonestly blamed the left for its failure at the polls?

Fast forward to the present moment. There’s a new carbon tax measure coming up on the ballot, I-1631. You’d think that maybe Mr. Suck-it-up-and-compromise (in relation to I-732) would be advocating people who share his center-right politics to suck it up, compromise, and support I-1631 even though it has a laundry list of lefty things in it?

Ha, ha. Think again.

Probably nobody knows more about local weather patterns than Cliff Mass. His blog and book have significantly helped me understand the complex weather patterns of this region and why forecasters often fail to accurately predict what’s going to happen (although on that latter point, their accuracy has improved significantly in the decades since I first moved here).

But when he comes to politics, he’s a total crank, a complete victim of his own strong emotions and biases.

Elizabeth Warren Is Being Very Stupid

Published at 07:53 on 16 October 2018

First, she orders a genetic test.

Then, she loudly trumpets the results.

She chooses to do this in October of a critically important midterm election year, when it is important to stay on message as being a responsible check on Trump.

She chooses not to first run this harebrained scheme past Native Americans (i.e. known Native Americans, with more than a minute trace Native American blood in their veins) first.

Now it’s all predictably blowing up. She has effectively handed a gift on a silver platter to the fascist side.

And she’s trying to portray herself as having the sort of judgement it takes to make a good president?


Paper Matters

Published at 16:19 on 9 October 2018

Apropos this, it also really helps to spend a bit more per page and opt for a smoother, higher-grade paper that can take toner more evenly. It is not necessary to splurge and use the finest grade of coated paper; simply spending 2¢ more per sheet and getting the next level up from the default paper grade was enough to make for a dramatic improvement.

I was hoping it might, and today I was pleased to learn it does. I’m finally getting the print quality and overall effect I envisioned on the trees booklet I am putting out.

It’s really no big surprise, as advances in paper quality (and the resulting image resolution) were one of the things modern serif fonts were designed to show off.

Finding Your Strengths Can Be Difficult

Published at 08:46 on 9 October 2018

I remember when I first figured out I was naturally good at discrete math, probability, and statistics. It was in a probability theory class, which up to that point had been easy. Then came the unit on Bayes’ Theorem. Up went a welter of new and confusing notations on the board, accompanied by a confusing, mind-numbing, and nonsensical welter of jargon. For the first time in the class, I was lost.

The end of the class came. Unexpectedly, the teacher assigned a problem which to my eyes had nothing to do with all the confusing mumbo-jumbo of the past hour. Moreover, the apparent answer was so cryingly obvious I couldn’t fully understand why the professor would ask anyone to solve such a self-evident exercise. Hoping to clarify the past hour of confusion, I blurted out a question to the effect “Well, offhand, the answer is intuitively (some number), because the second event is a sub-event of the first, and that’s a product of the two probabilities, but I’m not sure that’s right by the theory you just discussed.”

The professor scowled at me, because I had just ruined his homework assignment by answering it and explaining the logic behind it, and he now had to cook up another one on the spot. It was then that I thought back about times I’d run across sets of math problems in puzzle books: generally difficult, but with a few mysteriously easy probability or statistics ones thrown in for some reason.

It dawned on me: those “easy” problems really weren’t intrinsically easy; I was gifted at solving them. The problems just seemed easy, because they were easy… to me. In the absence of any data on how challenging those branches of mathematics were for others to understand, I had been operating on unrepresentative information and laboring under the misconception that my level of talent was representative.

That latter assumption is usually a valid one, of course. In most things, talent is distributed according to a bell curve, and odds strongly favor one being somewhere near the middle of it. The rub is, usually and always are not the same thing.

Nearly everyone has at least some areas where they excel far above the norm, but the principle above can make it difficult for one to realize those strengths. For those trying to assess their strengths, or to build a career based on them, this can make that task difficult.

For those trying to advise others, it can render their advice far less useful. Consider this article. It’s a common thread I’ve run across: just follow your passion and everything will sort itself out.

Sorry, wrong. No, it won’t—not unless you’re very lucky and by random chance happen to choose something that’s marketable. I speak as someone who pissed away four years of his life doing just that sort of passion-following and hoping for something to come of it. Nothing ever did.

You see, that author has innate entrepreneurial ability, and I do not. While he was “simply following his passions” he was also filtering them for marketability without even realizing it, or at least without realizing how difficult that can be for others not so gifted as he. He simply assumed he was normal and virtually everyone else shared his special ability. He wrote a whole book on helping the innately entrepreneurial make careers for themselves while believing he was writing a book useful for everyone.

The New NAFTA Is a Steaming Load

Published at 07:28 on 8 October 2018

Some examples:

  • It forces a restrictive intellectual property rights regime on all signers, making copyright law significantly more oppressive in Canada and Mexico,
  • It expands patent protection so that US-owned drug companies can gouge the ill and desperate for a longer time,
  • It contains exemptions for the oil industry, to protect it from attempts by Mexico to re-nationalize it, and
  • It enshrines the concept of corporate personhood.

See here and here for details. Carp on these, and the Democrats have a good pretext for deep-sixing it.

Even Establishment Pundits Are Using the I-Word

Published at 08:14 on 7 October 2018

Earlier I wrote:

Even if no other allegations surface and it becomes increasingly clear that Kavanaugh lied to the Senate under oath to secure his approval, we’re still talking about impeachment material. Perjury is a crime.

Now even some Establishment pundits are starting to say the same thing.

It’s sort of a lost opportunity at the moment. I firmly believe that the perjury (and Ed Whelan slander conspiracy) lines were more powerful ones to pursue than the Ford allegation ones. As much as the Ford allegations are a big red hot button for anyone with feminist sensibilities, they did still allegedly happen over thirty years ago, when Kavanaugh was in high school.

Both factors served to dilute the force of the allegations. (What would liberals think if Republicans blocked a liberal Supreme Court nominee because of what he might have done in High School? Think about it.) By contrast, the alleged perjury and slander conspiracy happened this year. That makes them much more relevant as an insight into Kavanaugh’s character, particularly when coupled with Kavanaugh’s outbursts before the Senate committee. Would it have been easier to make a few GOP senators waver if those allegations were the ones that had been carped on? We will now never know.

It’s a pity, really. Tom Nichols and other anti-Trump conservatives were pointing this out. Some prominent liberal voices like Dana Milbank were saying the same thing. But it generally was considered somehow politically incorrect and disrespectful of women to aggressively pursue the slander and perjury lines—as if someone cannot continue to believe Ford and believe it is politically more strategic to pursue a line that’s more likely to win you a few crucial allies.

Politics is war by other means, and in war you don’t have the luxury of ignoring information just because it’s not as fun for you to pay attention to it as it is to pay attention to other information (or because you don’t admire the bearer of it as much as you do the bearer of other information). Not, that is, unless winning the war is important to you. Here’s Saul Alinsky writing in Rules for Radicals:

The basic requirement for the understanding of the politics of change is to recognize the world as it is. We must work with it on its terms if we are to change it to the kind of world we would like it to be. We must first see the world as it is and not as we would like it to be.

Here’s Sun-Tzu in The Art of War:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

So here we are. Now what? Above, I’ve shown how ignoring voices on the moderate Right hurt the fight against Kavanaugh. Now we’re in a place where ignoring the insights of the radical Left will most hurt the fight. There is no inconsistency here; in fact, there is a consistency: ignoring relevant information hurts the struggle, no matter where that information comes from.

Congress, even a Congress with a Democratic Party majority in both houses, is highly unlikely to do so much as lift a pinky finger against Kavanaugh unless forced to by pressure from below. Impeachment is merely a tool, nothing more. The tool is now usable. The real battle must move to the grassroots: create organizations capable of disrupting the status quo, then at strategic times disrupt it, and do it in ways that offer the ruling class the hope of less disruption if they use impeachment to remove Kavanaugh.

I’ve written here time and time again how history shows ruling elites (and the Democratic Party is merely one wing of the ruling elite Establishment) almost never do a damn thing for the masses unless forced to. Either way this thing ends up playing out, we are about to see another example of this.

Cut the Naïve Europhilia

Published at 10:19 on 5 October 2018

American liberals and European social democrats look just so stupid when they post things like this.

It does such a good job of pushing all their buttons and pandering to their preconceived biases of how the world is that they don’t stop to kick the tires on the premise and ask how well it explains how the world actually is. Answer: not so well.

Just consider how well fascist politics is selling in their beloved Europe at the moment. Fascist parties are actually in power right now in both Hungary and Poland. OK, but that’s Eastern Europe, you say. Well, in Western Europe, a basically fascist party routinely gets about 50% of the vote in Austria, the AfD is growing by leaps and bounds in Germany, the now-rebranded Front National is a a perennial force to be reckoned with in France (and has been for decades), and Berlusconi ruled in coalition with fascists for years in Italy. That’s just to pick a few examples that come to my mind off the bat; give me a little more time and I could probably rattle off at least as many more examples.

Or consider how much better the USA respects the liberty of children than most of Europe, where children are compelled by law to be confined inside authoritarian classrooms for longer hours with less vacation time. While being so compelled, they are often subject to batteries of standardized tests that are used to constrain their futures and career options for the rest of their lives. That, while they’re not even in their late teens yet!

I’ve even heard liberals more than once bemoan this state of affairs, and wish wistfully that the USA could be as authoritarian and domineering towards children as Europe is. All in the name of “helping” them get a “better” education, of course. Maybe they should look at the Nobel Prize list and see which country is by far the leader when it comes to the number of its citizens which have received them. I suggest that this is no coincidence, and the greater amount of free time American children experience is tied directly to a greater propensity to develop unconventional and original ideas later in life, some of which prove to be quantum advancements in knowledge.

Yes, there’s no shortage of awfulness and hypocrisy about the USA. That doesn’t mean the correct response is to idealize Western Europe. No hierarchical society, anywhere, is worthy of such idolatry. All have closets full of skeletons, just like all have areas where they are doing things better than the norm.

It’s Looking Like NAFTA Might Not Much Matter

Published at 11:42 on 2 October 2018

One day on, and not much attention is being paid to it. That’s the case even amongst the pro-Trump crowd, as one can easily ascertain by visiting Fox News; here’s a shot of what their site looks like this morning (caution: large image). There’s a lot of taking partisan sides in the battle over the Kavanaugh nomination, but nothing on the successful NAFTA renegotiation, despite the latter being an indisputable accomplishment.

So we’re apparently now at a stage where even Trump’s supporters are not paying attention to his accomplishments. A certain four letter acronym comes to mind.