“Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius

We live in the best time in all history. Note that it is not the best possible time in all of history — only that it’s the best time ever but better times are yet to be. You could have lived, say, 200 years ago; then you would not have had access to all the wonderful ideas and things that humans have discovered, invented, learned about after that time.

Now is better than any previous moment in history because humanity’s understanding of the world increases monotonically. Humanity has been accumulating wisdom for thousands of years, and what’s even more marvelous is that we have instant access to all that wisdom, ancient and modern, provided we wish to learn. Buddhas have walked this earth before us, and no doubt there will be future buddhas even more enlightened than those that went before. Continue reading

Sundance & Matsuri by Kitaro

I first heard Kitaro in the mid-80s. We used to go to Tower Records in Mt. View to buy CDs. Tower Records is now only an online store. But Kitaro’s music lives on. I even got to see Kitaro in concert at the Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley. 

Wiki describes it as “a multi-venue performance facility on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, completed in 1968. The facility consists of two primary performance spaces: the 1,984-seat Zellerbach Auditorium, and the 500-seat Zellerbach Playhouse. … suitable for dance, theater, and opera, and has a built-in concert shell that provides an excellent acoustical enclosure for symphonic and other classical music performances.” Continue reading

The Beginning of Indefinite Economic Growth – Part 2

Why do some people claim that the end to economic growth is over or very near? One popular explanation goes this way. Economic growth requires the use of natural resources. On a limited planet, resources are limited. Therefore, when we have used up all our natural resources, economic growth will come to an end. QED.

That explanation belongs in primary school children’s books with illustrations that include smiley faces, but is not suitable for children past their 10th year.

Though quite popular among many biologists (Paul Ehrlich), politicians (Al Gore), gurus (Sadhguru Jaggi), engineers (pick your favorite), and other assorted crazies, that explanation is wrong. The idiotic notions underlying the false explanation were laid to rest by Julian Simon and others many decades ago. But few people have the patience, the capacity or the desire to read Simon. Continue reading

The Beginning of Indefinite Economic Growth

Repent! The end (of economic growth) is near.

Just kidding. That’s just Homer Simpson-esque paranoia. His elevator doesn’t stop at all the floors. He’s a can short of a six-pack. A few sandwiches short of a picnic. He’s working with an unformatted disc.

Unfortunately, Homer is only one of the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people who have been declaring that end-of-the-world emergency since time immemorial. No doubt the 5000th Anniversary Edition of “The End is Near” will also be a hot bestseller.

Predicted apocalypses have consistently failed to happen — evidently so since we are in the here and now busily calling bullshit on the doomsayers. But why do they produce the bovine feces so consistently, and why do some of the general public consume it so eagerly? Answer to both questions: basic stupidity, ignorance, and an extreme inability to reason. Continue reading

How Sewers Work

Life expectancy at birth used to be a dismal 30 years or so not too long ago. Just about 10 generations before ours, child mortality was terrible. Tim Worstall notes in HumanProgress.org — 

The usual estimation is that half of all children died before adulthood in archaic societies, one quarter before their first birthday and another quarter before the age of 15, which is the end of puberty and our reasonable definition of becoming an adult. That seems to hold over all societies examined, including the Roman Empire, 18th century Britain, and all other groups of humans over time. (It is also, roughly speaking, true of the other Great Apes.)

This sorry state of affairs was brought to an end in three stages. The first stage was the discovery of infectious disease. John Snow, for example, showed that cholera cycled through the sewage and water systems. His discovery led to the single greatest aid to human health ever: the development of proper water systems, which provide fresh water and carry away sewage. Essentially, drains were the first step in reducing child mortality. Continue reading

Cucurrucucú Paloma

Years ago in Berkeley, I watched this Pedro Almodóvar movie, Talk to Her. My advisor and I would go to the movies every so often. In one scene, Caetano Veloso sings this song, Cucurrucucú Paloma. I don’t understand Spanish but I do know that paloma means dove. The song is heartachingly beautiful. The voice conveys so much loss and longing.

Rising Equality

I can justifiably claim that equality is rising in the world. Meaning, the world used to be less equal than it is today, and that in the future it will become more equal than today. The reason that claim appears to contradict reality is that I have not specified the dimension for the comparison implicit in any measure of equality. When it comes to comparisons of material wellbeing, there are three distinct dimensions — consumption, income, and wealth.

My claim is that consumption equality is increasing, not wealth or income.

Here’s a trivial case that illustrates what I mean. Warren Buffet’s income and wealth is six orders of magnitude greater than mine. Meaning his wealth is measured in units of “000,000,000” and mine is measured in units of “000.” Billions as opposed to thousands. Similarly his income per year is measured in billions and mine in thousands. Certainly, compared to Buffet in terms of wealth and income, I am dirt poor. But I am not dirt poor compared to Buffet in consumption. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, America! and President Calvin Coolidge

United_States_Declaration_of_IndependenceThe American War of Independence, aka the American Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775 – September 3, 1783), was fought by the thirteen colonies of British America against the British Empire then ruled by King George III. 

On July 2nd of 1776, the Second Continental Congress, a meeting of delegates from the thirteen colonies, voted for independence from Britain, and two days later, on the 4th of July the Declaration of Independence was adopted in a meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thomas Jefferson was the principle author of the declaration. 

“By the time that the Declaration of Independence was adopted in July 1776, the Thirteen Colonies and Great Britain had been at war for more than a year. Relations had been deteriorating between the colonies and the mother country since 1763. Parliament enacted a series of measures to increase revenue from the colonies, such as the Stamp Act of 1765 and the Townshend Acts of 1767. Parliament believed that these acts were a legitimate means of having the colonies pay their fair share of the costs to keep them in the British Empire.” [Wiki.] Continue reading

Speaking out Against Fascists

My favorite bit of the US constitution is the Bill of Rights. It’s that bit of the constitution that puts chains on the government. For instance, the US constitution does not “grant” the freedom of speech because the freedom of speech is prior to any constitution. The 1st amendment, among other things, restricts the government from passing legislation that restricts the freedom of speech.

Here’s an example of a citizen exercising his freedom of speech.

I like the way he calls the school board “Benito.” The board is Mussolini’s spawn.