Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Key Issue in Discipline and Training - For All Ages

You have never realized your emotions can block you from learning.

There is a comedy routine by Kevin Hart in which his mother is shouting at him - roughly, "You cannot be this stupid, Kevin! One plus one! Tell me, what is ONE PLUS ONE!"

Although Mr. Hart is storytelling, the reason his stories have an audience is that they are credible. I don't think he realizes just how important this routine is.

In that skit, his younger self is paralyzed with fear of his mother. We can see the sweat on him as he desperately tries to please Mom with the answer to a simple problem in arithmetic.

Have you ever noticed that this level of stress can do the same thing to you today? If your spouse is screaming at you, or the truck horn is signalling your immediate and fiery death, you can't do arithmetic. Damn, you can't even text and drive, much less do that arithmetic - not even "one plus one…".

Now for the big reveal: have you ever noticed that children have no experience with training and reason? Just how are you to penetrate the consciousness of a misbehaving child other than pain?

Yes, this is the answer to the question, "Do I have to spank?".

Most Americans struggle with manufactured questions about child discipline. Somehow, we are incapable of noting the difference between smacking a child as summary punishment and child abuse - the infliction of permanent injuries. Yet, that sentence in bold up there has always been true, and it is the reason that if little Susie or José is throwing a fit, reasoning fails to bring them out of their internally manufactured acute outrage.

Politicians know that if they can engage your emotions, they can get you to do things you wouldn't let farm animals get away with in the light of reason, and you're an adult. Before you grew up, you didn't even have a chance at logic.

Calm down, and remember that.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Difference Between Faith and Expectation

You Can Cripple Yourself Without Knowing It

Many times over the years, I have been asked about faith. Very rarely has the person asking intended to talk about anything but their own.
Yet a quick look at Adherents.com reveals that almost no one has the same idea about what constitutes faith. Most have no idea, even, what other people take for granted as “true”, and fewer still realize that this word, "TRUE", has a logical definition.

So, I find it necessary to distinguish between faith and expectation - and then, between directed and non-directed faith. Yep, these things exist. Here’s how:

Expectation signifies a process by which cause and effect can be shown to produce generally repeatable results. For instance, when ordering a pizza, one can find a number in a phone book for a physical address you can actually visit; when calling the number, someone who actually handles pizza answers specific questions. Other people can do this too, with very few prerequisites. You can find someone who has actually ordered pizza and gotten it. When you call, you have the expectation that the process will be successful in your case because it has been demonstrated, and conclusively. You are not surprised at success, AND you can obtain redress for poor service.
Gee. You go in person, and you can see all of this happening for yourself!

Faith has no such structure. A promise is made that a particular result will follow an action on the part of the person expressing faith, such as a prayer, but the promise is not made by any person cited as responsible for results; actually, no one in sight of the supplication has ever seen effect follow cause. In short, pizza is promised by someone who has not only never seen the pizza delivered, he cannot say where it is coming from, or even what it looks like; having no solid definition, anything which is delivered is declared, "pizza", also without regard for the delivery method. Of course, there is always a ready answer if this figurative pizza does not arrive. Perhaps you did not perform the necessary prerequisite actions, or they were in the wrong order, or you didn't really mean to call for pizza.
Gee. There is NO WAY for you to observe any of this process...

Faith has its own, extremely potent irony: it is not possible to have faith in something which can be shown to exist. This is the Irony Of Belief. Are you carrying a bowling ball with the thumb and fingers of your right hand? The answer is simple, and it is never a time for faith.

There is a difference between directed and non-directed faith.

In directed faith, a particular deity or agent has focus in the supplicant’s wishes for peace and success. The individual prays to God™, Jesus™, Allah™ or another entity in particular.
A less-focused version of directed faith is often expressed that a particular governmental agency will "take care" of us. 
Non-directed faith - far more widely practiced, since everybody does this - is the expression of hope that the uncountable external forces which surround us do not interfere with our progress and/or health. This hope is actively coupled with denial that anything bad could happen in the near future.

This has nothing to do with the magnitude or value imagined by the faithful. Each of these above illustrate this:
The Utility of Belief
A belief is a sort of stepping stone, on which one can stand long enough to get on with life. Never dependent on logic or reason (careful - do NOT use colloquialisms for "logic" or "reason"), a belief generally has as its major component an emotional commitment. This is due to its being a tool to counter fear of the unknown. It is constantly reinforced by the feeling of comfort it awards - thus, there is no immediate reward for abandoning that apparent shelter. Yes, the faithful engage in things to obtain immediate gratification, because...

The price of awareness is discontent - a price many will simply refuse to pay in full. Yet it is necessary to take on part of that burden of awareness, and that depends on reason. Author J.M. Straczynski said it well: “Faith and Reason are like the two shoes on your feet: you can go farther with both than with either one.”
But you have to be careful about those definitions. Confusing faith for reason, and vice versa, will strand you as you build a false foundation for yourself, and leave you vulnerable to truly tragic disappointment.

You can still dream, but the plan for getting to the land of your dreams depends on reasoning.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Minimum Wage Debate: You Have Never Thought About "One Hour of Work"

If you think raising the minimum wage  - or even the existence of a minimum wage - is a good idea, think again.

Maybe you should realize this first: The USA has an illegal immigrant problem because of minimum wage laws.

Consider the cost to YOU, an employer, if you hire someone under those laws:
• you must identify an employee as yours

• you must keep track of their hours to make sure of their status w/r/t medical care
• you must insure them 
• you must provide a workplace free of hazards per OSHA
• you must keep payroll information
• you must show that they are legally employed
• you must withold taxes properly
• you are directly liable for their performance.
Or you can hire somebody "under the table". The work gets done.
Yeah, I thought so.

But let's talk about money, since it's the cry of people who think their first job should be their only job. Whenever a hike is mentioned, pundits actually ask a very good question:

Why not make it $20 an hour? $100 per hour?
Have you answered that? Because that's only a matter of degree. It's logical to ask that.
The fact of the matter is that there is an effect on cost that is invisible unless you know how the market for labor works.  
When you hike the minimum wage, you devalue the dollar immediately. 
This is because there is no change in the amount of work obtained for more dollars!

Let me spell this out for you.

The DOLLAR is a marker, which people use for trade. Left to themselves, people decide how many dollars are appropriate to trade for a product or service. There is always a ratio of the number of dollars needed to obtain a product or service, and this ratio is established by the customers. It is known as "what the market will bear".
When speaking about a service, that is, labor, there is always a unit involved:  
One Hour Of Work.
Now, there is a fundamental quality to this which no one seems to realize. One Hour Of Work cannot be changed by anyone - not government, not an individual... and satisfactory work always has the same quality to it: the Hour Of Work produced the desired result.

Now, here comes a government agent, who or which has decided that the long-term effects of legislation are insignificant next to the good will and votes available by appealing to that mysterious demographic, "the poor", and people sympathetic to their plight. Somehow, it is impossible for an American to "earn a living wage" without government action.

 (You MUST IGNORE the success of immigrants for this case)

The agent declares, by law, that One Hour Of Work must cost at least X dollars. Now, the ratio of the number of dollars needed to obtain a product or service is established by the government.

The law has just set a number of dollars as being worth One Hour Of Work. 
When that number is increased - by the SAME entity which establishes "full faith and credit" for those dollars - the actual value of each dollar is immediately decreased.

Glue this to your forehead if you will forget it - legislation cannot change an hour of work. It can only change the number of dollars required to pay for it.

Maybe I should say that again for you, since a lot of people don't seem to get it:  legislation cannot change an hour of work. It can only change the number of dollars required to pay for it.

And have you noticed this? "Government", or the employer, is not paying the unskilled worker more - YOU, the Customer, ARE. It is always the customer who pays the cost of any business. You are not changing this, either.

Want a great example? Look at any Federal facility, like Savannah River Site. Workers there make quite a bit more than minimum wage, which you might grant because of the hazards of handling radioactive waste -- but will you get more work if you raise their pay? NO. The work is determined by the process, not by wage legislation. If they - I - were granted a raise, you, the taxpayer, would pay more for the exact same tasks.

How do you like that idea?

Here's what happens in the workplace, courtesy of Andy Puzder, CEO of Carl's, Jr:
“For example, Apple did $39.5 billion in business last year, and only has 97,000 employees. So they made about $407,000 dollars per employee, which gives you a lot of latitude to increase wages, if you want to do so.
In the retail segment, if you take all 22 retailers on the Fortune 500 and add them together, they did about $34 billion in business last year, and … made about $6,300 dollars per employee.
Now if you give a minimum wage employee an increase to $12 dollars an hour, rather than making $6,300 dollars an hour on employees, you lose about $1,100. If you give them a raise to $15 dollars, you lose about $6,000 dollars per employee.”
It doesn't matter if we talk about Andy Puzder or you: you must make money to keep your business open.

Remember asking when you would ever use algebra in the real world? Well, here you go: what happens when you add the same amount everywhere? Yes, when you hike everyone's pay, nobody is better off. They just feel that way momentarily because they see a bigger number on their paycheck.

Go look on the shelf at the supermarket, at the gas pump, in a jeweler's cabinet and see what you're supporting by way of price hikes. It's not "them" - it was you, supporting minimum wage. One of the reasons illegal immigrants are here and textile jobs are overseas.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What Do You Really Know?

I am so sorry - your school hasn't taught you everything, because it couldn't.

Now that Facebook has allowed the speedy delivery of idiocy and nonsense from all over pop culture, I thought it might help if we all had somewhere equally speedy to look to figure out if what is posted is "the real deal". So, in addition to Snopes.com, here are a few links to help you figure out if your buddy's ladder has a top step:

Engineering Issues:
Now and then, somebody will post something nuts about how human artifacts are built. Try The Engineering Toolbox
Few things online indicate the advanced state of the scientific arts better than this page from the National Institute of Science and Technology...
Keep in mind that technology is not a thing - it is the process that allows things to be made!

You might have a problem with statements about air travel.
The ultimate crash data center is the Joint Air Crash Data Evaluation Center
A ridiculously complete photographic archive - of everything that flies! - is at Airliners.net
If you want a pilot's perspective of how the aircraft industry is run, including some observations about the current state of American airline security, you can Ask The Pilot

Ahh, yes, the subject best not mentioned in polite company!
Here's a list of most of them, along with summaries of their tenets and popularity by sect.
Hope you picked the "right" one... not much in that list is logical, and what they claim is surprisingly limited once you realize how much real study goes on elsewhere. In a world populated by those who can measure currents under the surface of the Sun and detect atmospheres on planets orbiting distant stars, there are those who haven't learned very much. Here are a couple of eye-openers that challenge some of the assumptions religious people make without really thinking about them (take a deep breath, these are serious articles!):

Earth Studies:
There is a HUGE amount of material to study at Darwiniana . In case you have a problem with the title of that Web site, well, you can independently find many of the same things by going to:
If you'd like to see photo-detail of the Earth itself, few things are as fun as Google Earth. The Moon and Mars are also shown in detail there courtesy of the Lunar and Mars Reconaissance Orbiters. Also, you can actually get Google Street View to show you what the Martian landers are seeing!
There are a couple of other places to find amazing photos. Take a look at Mars and Saturn while you're browsing. Those Cassini probe people have a lot for you.

Public Issues:
"News" vs. the law: You should know the difference between such editorial content and the information source. Do you know where to find the actual content of legislative bills?
Right here: The Library of Congress 

Nuclear Weapons: You might not know how many atom bombs the USA has tested, much less how many have been tested elsewhere; did you think that Iraq had no WMD program, because you forgot that the Israelis bombed it? Anyway, here's a fascinating report on those weapons: The Nuclear Weapons Archive

Crime is one of those things that everybody thinks they know about, but don't, because it depends on definitions. "Evidence", for instance, is only what is presented to a jury when you speak of a trial - it is NOT what you see as a spectator. I bet you think you saw evidence in OJ's trial. Nope.
I hope you have more sense than Cheez Whiz and can look up the laws of your state, rather than counting on hearsay or Facebook. Need crime statistics? Here's the Bureau of Justice Statistics page. No, some people are not being picked on by police.

Discussion Tool:
A fallacy is a statement containing a flaw which immediately invalidates that statement. Here is a list of those fallacies. If you want to make a point and make it true, you don't have a choice - you MUST avoid these! (No, really - you don't have a choice. The law of cause and effect extends from the real world into logical argument!)

If you're looking at this material, take a minute, sit back and relax, and then marvel at something almost invisible: there were thousands of discoveries, moments of inspiration and connections between investigations to produce what you see. There are people at the store now who have no idea where meat comes from.

Now, you can find out. We have something in common here!