My Best Teaching Is One-on-One

一対一が僕のベスト

Of course, I team teach and do special lessons, etc.

当然、先生方と共同レッスンも、特別レッスンの指導もします。

But my best work in the classroom is after the lesson is over --
going one-on-one,
helping individual students with their assignments.

しかし、僕の一番意味あると思っている仕事は、講義が終わってから、
一対一と
個人的にその課題の勉強を応援することです。

It's kind of like with computer programs, walking the client through hands-on.
The job isn't really done until the customer is using the program.

まあ、コンピュータプログラムにすると、得意先の方に出来上がった製品を体験させるようなことと思います。
役に立たない製品はまだ製品になっていないと同様です。

Monday, May 4, 2020

Vector Multipliers

I guess I'm being too oblique.

My cousin just shared this on BassHook Facebook:

https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-05-03/what-do-you-do-with-a-billion-taters-and-the-folks-who-grow-them?

(If you load it too many times, it'll throw up a paywall.)

Billions of potatoes, no place to put them.

What is missing from the picture?

Similar volumes of lettuce, cabbage, wheat, rice, corn, soybeans, ..., beef, chicken, ...

All of this food must be moved from the source to some sort of consumer, or they will spoil. (Yes, with our current methods of production, we are going to have to slaughter a lot of meat that will not be going to the usual markets.)

Spoil? Is that so bad? Lakes of vodka, whiskey, .... What can be bad about that?

If only the spoilage would be so tame.

Rats. Flies. Fleas.

Germs. Bacteria.

More virus.

How did this pandemic start?

Well, let's look at history for clues. Spanish flu? Going back even farther, the black death and the bubonic plague?

It's rather simple. (Yes, I'm repeating myself.) When you get too many people in one place without proper hygiene, with too much stress from overwork, in too close quarters with the cattle, various biologically active material brews up disease vectors. Then the vermin (Remember, everyone is too busy to be clean.) and cattle spread those vectors every direction they go.

Why do people live in such conditions? Because there's no room for them on the planet?

No, there is plenty of empty space on the planet, if we used it well. They are just too poor to go there, or their governments (or pseudo-governments) are too unwilling to let them go, or both.

But overpopulation!!!!!

... is also primarily a feature of large populations without sufficient material means, and many of the reasons for that are known.

And, as I say, overpopulation is more a problem of people in power being unwilling for the poor to go away, because they depend on the population of the poor to prop up their illusions of power.

We live in one of the most materially productive periods in history.

How productive are we?

Even without the problems of having no market to sell potatoes and other products, we, as a planetary society, dispose of enough product to feed all the poor people on the planet, and then some.

If I have not mistaken the math, even with about half our total population not being directly involved in producing the basic material necessities of food, clothing, shelter, and medicine, we are productive enough to feed, clothe, shelter, and medicate twice the current population, if we were only effective at distributing it all.

In spite of that level of productive, our leaders in the industries are still engaging us in a race to the bottom, still trying to raise production levels so that they can compete for even more power (as they imagine it).

If you think that your politics is clean from this, look again. Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, Communists, Socialists, everybody is in on it.

Why? politics requires power. Power requires profit. Profit is most easily generated in a hurry by a race to the bottom.

I commented earlier that the universal pseudo-quarantine had some good side effects, in terms of giving families time to get acquainted with one another again. It was a good thing, for a week -- or even a month. We could have recovered from it at that level.

Now farmers, who can least afford it, are paying from their own pockets to move the potatoes, not to the usual markets, but to anyone who will claim them. This is actually not a bad thing, if the lenders come to their senses and accept responsibility for creating the situation that requires this in the first place -- if they will simply accept the right and proper financial burden of their own fixation on hyper-competition.

How can we prevent the coming pandemic aftershocks? How can we stop the death toll at the current projection of 350,000?

Let's be serious.

The current supply chains are rather pathological. They rely on unbalance and excessive consumerism.

We are the most productive this planet has ever seen, but a huge piece of our production is wasted moving product halfway around the world. (Or farther. We are really, really inefficient.)

We are the most productive this planet has ever seen, but well more than half of us are suffering from lack of material necessities and, at the same time, suffering from overwork.

We are destroying enough product to provide for everyone on the planet, and yet we are still trying to find ways to work harder.

And we are squelching the planet's ability to be productive. See the lakes drying up, etc.

What is wrong with this picture?

Could we provide enough if we depended more on local production?

Would the current pandemic have spread so much if we weren't ordering things from all over the globe?

My current job is delivering things. If I have a symptom-less case of the 2019 version Coronavirus, I'm going to bring something like a hundred households a day into contact with the infection vectors.

After the first week, the universal pseudo-quarantine has actually been magnifying the epidemic.

Does this mean we should have lots of raves?

Does this mean we should give up the sudden shift to education methods that are more home-centered with on-line support and reporting?

Does this mean we should go back to sixty-hour work weeks? Or even forty, when twenty will do plenty?

Twenty hour work weeks would give us time to learn the things that will help us avoid the next pandemic, you know. From history.

Twenty hour work weeks would also give us time to learn about the traditions we have received from our ancestors, and honor our ancestors by learning to keep the good traditions and discard the bad ones.

Twenty hour work weeks would put less pressure on us to try to force ourselves and our families to conform to meaningless norms.

Twenty hour work weeks would give us time to work on the supposedly non-profitable problems, like reducing the negative ecological impact of our economic activities.

In the immediate cause, twenty hour work weeks would give us time to help farmers move excessive potatoes from the places where they are going to cause problems to places where they can be usefully and meaningfully consumed.

And twenty hour work-weeks would give us time to learn how to take care of the basics of nutrition and hygiene, the lack of which is one of the reasons the virus spreads so easily in the first place.

Twenty hour work weeks would give us more time to make life meaningful, and would still leave us producing enough for other people's needs.

How could this be done?

Speaking in the ideal, Bill Gates is easy to pick on. I'm not going to enumerate his sins here, but he clearly made excessive profits on his ephemeral products. He should not be "donating" hundreds of millions to charities (mostly profitable to himself). He should not have that money, period. And he should have gotten himself out of the way long ago, so more talented men of better vision than he could have advanced the information industry much, much farther along than it is today.

But Bill Gates is only one very prominent among many.

No one is justified in amassing more than enough to retire five times over. When you have that much, you should boot yourself out of the industry you made your money in and devote the rest of your life to service without remuneration.

That would leave men of better vision than you (because they are not buffered from their lacks by excessive money) to take the lead.

Masks, Protection, Courtesy, and the Virus

I learned the custom of masks here in Japan about 40 years ago, back when it was definitely an unfamiliar sight outside Japan, and when many fellow 外人 (gaijin)  here made fun of the practice.

The first guy who explained it to me was my trainer as a missionary. As most missionaries are, he was not perfect, but his explanation was later confirmed by Japanese people I trust. This was not one of the things he misunderstood.
The mask is a custom of courtesy, less to protect the wearer than to provide partial protection for the people around him or her.
(I mention the fact of his misunderstandings because it is a fact of life, as a stranger in a strange land, that one must assume that information is, at best, incomplete, and often wrong. I guess it's even more of a fact of life when you think you are not a stranger.)

I am not an expert. I know what I'm talking about, but there are many things I don't know. Nonetheless, I think many people are operating without even this much knowledge about masks.

One, they are not, by any means, perfect protection.

Even the best masks, the ones used in surgery when the patient is immuno-compromised, are not much use long-term. Just as needles should never be re-used, the masks worn in surgery should be disposed of after finishing the surgery (and sometimes replaced periodically even during a single surgery).

[JMR202005261910 added:
I had a surgical nurse tell me I'm wrong about the above. I guess she wasn't in the operating room where I was operated on. Not every operation requires the same level of protection. But she does acknowledge washing her mask daily.
]

Why? Spattered blood or other body fluids quickly soak through the mask. Likewise, moisture, spit, phlegm, etc. from the breath of the person wearing the mask soaks through the other direction.

Faces itch under the mask, and the mask slips, so the mask tends to be touched by either the wearer's hands or an assistant's hands. This offers opportunity for transferring biologically active matter both ways across the barrier.

(Biologically active matter -- virus particles, bacteria, infected body cells, etc.)

Ordinary masks are much more porous than surgical masks, and the wearers tend not to replace them every fifteen minutes to half-an-hour. (That would be rather difficult, really, both economically and logistically -- and ecologically, come to think of it.)

[JMR202005261925 added:
I know I'm speaking in extremes in the above. The point I'm trying to make is that masks are not magic shields that block all the bad stuff and let the good stuff through no matter how long you wear them. Don't go to a rave wearing a mask and expect the mask to protect you.
]

Using terminology from information security, masks are a low wall or a speed bump.

Like the low wall and the speed bump, they can actually make problems worse when we refuse to use sense when we use them.

So why wear them at all, other than wearing true surgical masks in surgery?

[JMR202005262020 added:
Someone might bring Japan's infection and fatality rates up as empirical evidence. Yes, it is evidence, but you should understand that Japan has a long tradition with masks and other habits than help to limit the spread of aerosol spread diseases.

You do know about bowing instead of shaking hands, right? Well, even that is not that simple, but it's there. You aren't getting the whole story about Japan in the news.

Japanese people have been effectively voluntarily limiting a lot of the more dangerous activities.

Yes, there was an order, but it had, in the western mode of expression, no teeth -- other than social pressure, which is pretty powerful in Japan. Many of the less necessary businesses have been shuttered for the last couple of months, and, while there were a couple of the "live events" that Japanese entertainers, artists, comedians, etc., sometimes hold in the days after the order, people came away infected, and that fact was heavily reported and made the topic of talk shows and comedians' acts. Serious social pressure not to hold any more.

Sumo and professional baseball put on hold. The national high school baseball tournament, which is as big as the Japan Series in the fall, canceled for this year. (Probably. It might get revived if things go well now the order has been lifted.)
]

Japan is a country of mixed-mid-to-high population density.  Masks tend to be used more commonly in population centers.

Close quarters requires building walls that don't make sense in less densely populated places.

Many of Japan's differences in customs have to do with common-sense differences between low-density environments and high-density environments.

Many of the common-sense customs have been altered against reason and sense over the last three-quarters of a century, and here is one. Wearing a mask and going to work is actually a self-contradictory behavior. If you need to wear a mask, you shouldn't be going to work, whether you are trying to protect yourself or your co-workers.

Well, unless your job is important.

(Ahem.) Unless your job is especially important, because every job is important. And unless your job is not so important that passing a common cold among your co-workers would be a bad thing.

Hmm. Maybe I'm getting sidetracked, doing a bit of hand-waving at topics this post doesn't have room to tackle. Back to the point.

Okay, so the traditional use of the mask was for cases where you were a wee-bit sick, but your need to be at work or to go to the market outweighed your need for rest and isolation. (And outweighed their need for you to be getting rest and isolation.)

Wearing a mask every day, long term, was neurotic behavior, but your friends would put up with it because they had their times of paranoia and neurosis, as well.

And, here's the kicker: Even though the mask can be counter-effective if you misuse it, for such things as the common cold, the speed-bump has regularly helped slow the spread until everybody developed resistance. This is repeating in the current case.

What kinds of behavior are counter-effective?

Counter-effective mask behaviors include such things as when you fail to wash your washable mask at least once a day, or dispose of your disposable mask in an appropriate garbage pail. Or regularly take it off and set it down where it can aid in the spread of germs.

Or such as wearing a mask so you can go out when you're coughing up so much that it gets soaked by your phlegm before you get home. Or decide that, because you are wearing the mask you don't need to wash your hands or stay home from work or stay away from public places like the market.

[JMR202005262040 added:
And there is also the recent news from China about a couple of students who were made to wear masks while they were given exercise tests, who died from respiratory/circulatory failure which was likely induced by the high-filtration masks. Wearing a mask with excessive filtration is another mistake.
]

(Masks can be good while you're sleeping, to keep the throat and sinuses moist -- until the mask slips down, anyway, and if they aren't too tight to let you sleep. And if you aren't reacting to the inevitable lint. In this particular use, it's good to get the mask wet before you go to bed.)

For the individual, wearing a mask probably does not stop you from getting infected. It does slow the infection process down enough that your body can often fight it off, or you can get by with just catching a mild case.

(In surgery, if a doctor has symptoms, he or she is going to postpone the surgery or get someone else to do it, instead of depending on even surgical masks, etc.)
[JMR202005262045 added:
Related information, one medical study estimates that the rate of asymptomatic infection of SARS-CoV-2 in Kobe is probably 3%.
]

In groups (in the calculus of social behavior), having many speed-bumps and low walls helps slow the rate of spread down enough to prevent an epidemic. (Or slow down an epidemic to prevent it becoming a pandemic.)

If people behave sensibly.

If and only if people behave sensibly in the aggregate.

Aside from such things as cancelling raves and other high-attendance, close-encounter activities, what kinds of behavior are the common-sense behaviors I'm talking about?
Well, I've posted twice on this, if you want some more light reading:
[JMR2020052055 added:
For what it's worth, I wear a mask when I'm out working. (I'm currently working as a long-term temporary postal delivery person for Japan Post.) It is required for the job, but I do not wear it because of the requirement, and I do not wear it because of social pressure.

I wear it for courtesy.

I recommend wearing masks for the duration, in general. I do not recommend trying to force everyone to wear them. Too many people have problems with masks that they are unable to express or explain.

If masks cause you problems, I recommend restricting your close-quarters contacts as much as you can.
]

In summary, masks are an example of the fact that individual behavior does matter, and that being courteous does come back to you.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Non-medical Opinion on How to Protect Yourself from the Virus

I am not particularly qualified to make this observation, but I will.

My wife works on the other front line of this war: retail marketing in a store which has not been required to close (a home center). She mans a cash register four hours a day. Traffic has more than doubled, and has been ceaseless since the stay-at-home orders went into effect.

She has regular customers who live nearby who have been tested positive shortly after she has helped them shop -- like the next day. These customers were demonstrating symptoms in the store -- coughing, etc.

She has not yet demonstrated symptoms.

Fatigue, yes. But running a cash register non-stop for four hours wears you down a bit.

Mild sinus, yes. It's one of the hay-fever seasons here.

No loss of taste.

No persistent cough.

No fever.

We hear on the radio things like how a famous baseball player had only loss-of-taste as a tell-tale, but tested positive, and has been indicated as a possible course of infection for some others.

(My wife does wear a mask, and the company has installed clear vinyal shields, of sorts, between the customer side and the cash register side.)

Why doesn't everybody get sick?

Well, we know one reason. People with immune system issues tend to pick this virus up.

I have immune system issues. I have been exposed. I have not developed any more symptoms than my wife.

My wife is actually a nutritionist by training, and she keeps the family menu properly balanced.

People who get enough balanced nutrition tend not to get this virus.

People who get enough rest tend not to get this virus.

People who get enough exercise (but not so much as to mess up their health) tend not to get this virus.

So, how should we protect ourselves?

Continue this charade of universal quarantine?

Actually, many people who have been working too hard and not getting enough family time are now getting plenty of family time and plenty of time to take care of their own health -- as long as the money holds out.

This is a good thing.

So, here's what to do.
  • Don't get back on that treadmill. I'm not talking about work, I'm talking about meaningless competition.
  • Get enough rest. Enough varies from day to day and person to person, five hours today, maybe six tomorrow, maybe seven yesterday for me. Probably not the same for you.
  • Get enough nutrition. Balanced nutrition.
Balanced nutrition means
  • green and other colored leafy vegetables,
  • and other vegetables (stem and root) of various colors,
  • also, tubers (potatoes, etc.) of various shapes, sizes, and colors, 
  • a variety of grains, 
  • enough protein from both animal (meat, fish, etc.) and plant (legume, etc.) sources,
  • natural sources of unrefined sugars,
  • and liquids that aren't mostly sugar.
  • And clean, natural sources of minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, etc.).
(Tubers. Not you-tubers. Don't eat you-tubers. That's not healthy. It will tend to throw your nutrition way off-balance. It's also more than a little into the extremes of anti-social.)

What to keep on hand for early unclear symptoms?

Supplements may help, but preferably of digestible, natural source.

Then there are things like one of my favorite decongestants --
  • a tablespoon of cinnamon
  • a tablespoon of fresh ginger root
  • a cup of 100% apple juice
Boil it together, let it cool, drink it together. (Careful, it's addictive. Also, don't drink it hot enough to scald your throat or tongue. That does not help your immunity. Patience.)

Another tea-like thing that can help, my sister likes an infusion of sage. Powdered sage from the spice rack helps, but don't just sprinkle a little into a cup of boiling water. At least a teaspoon per half-cup, and, again, boil it together, let it cool. Squeeze some lemon in. Again, be patient enough not to scald your throat or tongue.

Tea? Stay away from commercial teas. Likewise, coffee. The stuff you buy in the store is made to make you buy more, which is actually an attack on your immune system. That's why they say you're supposed to drink it hot enough to scald your throat and tongue.

Stay away from commercial tobacco, too, for similar reasons. And commercial alcohol.

If you have to have those, get tobacco that isn't sugar-processed. Steep your own teas from the leaves and your own coffees from the beans, etc. And get wines and beers that haven't had all the good esters, etc., removed.

Marijuana? See above about tobacco. Grow your own if you have to have it, and don't process it for strength.

Coca? Get the leaf. If you can't get the leaf, do without. Coca products, especially when you buy them on the street, have everything good processed out, and all that is left is stuff that attacks your immune system.

Cacao mass, on the other hand, is good, if it isn't loaded down with refined sugars. Chocolates generally have sugar in them. Get pure cacao mass, instead.

Poppy seed? See above about coca.
Synthetic stuff like LSD and just about everything that "alters your mood" also wreak havoc on your immune system. Find healthy substitutes.

Substitutes for those stimulants and mood-altering substances --

Yes, get pure cacao mass instead of chocolates and coffee. If it's too bitter, eat raisins and other dried fruit with it, or fruit in season.

Poppy seed, you can buy. Sesame seed works well, too.

Substitutes for Coca? Ginger root and cinnamon can substitute for certain things, but, surprisingly, so can mustard greens and cabbage leaf.

Substitutes for tobacco and marijuana? Collard greens are good. Likewise cabbage leaf and chard.

Just, don't smoke the greens, and be careful about chewing the raw leaf. Much better to cook the greens like spinach, or mix it into your stir-fry. Collard goes well with pork and beef. Mustard greens go well with fish and fowl. Experiment to taste. Both go well in noodle soups.

And garlic. Garlic is actually a great mild stimulant and mood altering substance, and it goes well with lots of foods, including soups, both cooked and raw. Fresh garlic, of course, is best, whether you cook it into a dish or mince it raw into your salads.

Soups.

Salt. Unless you live in west Texas or Arizona or other desert-like places, ease way back on salt, add more vegetables instead. Most of the nutrients in soups are in the broth. That's why chicken noodle soup is good for respiratory problems. So, when you make a soup, keep the amount of salt minimal enough that you can drink the broth instead of throwing it away (and all those good nutrients with it).

Likewise other things that you salt, then throw away because it's too salty to eat.

Sugar. Quit adding refined sugar to things that don't need it. Sugar in soups binds the nutrients and makes them far less available. If you want to sweeten the soup, add corn, carrots, sweet potatoes, and other things with plentiful natural sugars.

Oatmeal in soups is really good, and so is barley.

Oats. Quit buying the quick oats. The difference between a minute in the microwave and three is not worth the reduction in nutrition. Rolled oats are best, although they do take three minutes or more.

Fruit. You know the white pulp that surrounds the juicy parts of oranges and lemons? It's good for you, and you can actually learn to like it if you learn to cut the refined sugars back. (The full rind is also good, if you know that the fruit has been grown without insecticides.)

Microwaves. I've recently discovered the 200 watt setting. Doubles the time, but the cooking is more even, and the nutrients don't tend to get cooked out as much.

Ways to alter your mood?

If you want to alter your mood, learn how to meditate. If you believe there is a god, learn how to talk to the god you believe in. Prayer and meditation can both be healthy mood altering habits, if you learn to clear your mind of the influences that try to profit by making you feel bad about yourself.

If you can't stand to be alone enough to learn how to pray or meditate, at least find good friends, friends with whom you can have fun without imbibing unnatural stimulants. (Finding good friends works better when you try to be a good friend.)

What am I saying?

Healthy living is a good way to protect your health.

Is it such a surprise?

(I guess I should forestall the complaint that some will have, "What about people who are living healthy and get sick anyway?" No, there is no 100% promise. But you've got much better chances of not getting sick, and much better chances of recovering, if you live healthy to start with, and that does include this current pandemic.

And to those who will complain that I seem to be saying mean things by omission or whatever about the immuno-suppressed, and others who are already fighting with other influences that are attacking their immune systems, I beg the contrary:

The more people there are who don't get sick, the less of the virus itself there is to spread, and the less danger there is to those who, for reasons beyond their control or not, don't have as strong immune systems to depend on. It is rather the more offensive to fail to live as healthily as you know how.)


Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Lessons from the Virus

Number one:

The world does not come screeching to a halt any time you get out of the squirrel cage.

Number two: 

The world does not come screeching to a halt even if hords of people decide to take a health break all at once.

Number three:

Well, number three is controversial, so maybe I shouldn't post it.

Uhm, okay, I'll post it anyway.

Too much running on the treadmill makes everyone sick.

You don't believe me.

Where do the viruses come from?

They make the jump in places where too many people are packed too tightly with pigs and other small cattle, without enough time or room to keep things clean, without enough nutrition, without enough rest.

If you have the means to be reading this little rant, you probably aren't poor enough to have been where the mutated virus made the jump this time.

But essential parts of whatever device you're reading this rant on were made by people in such conditions, and the ones you've thrown away are being recycled crudely, with few-to-no safety precautions, by people in such conditions.

-- because recycling is perceived to have no clear connection to monetary value.

And your hyper-competitve economy is being driven by the race to see who can move the centers of production down the farthest in the economic pecking order.

-- race-to-the-bottom.

I don't think I really have to spell this out for you. I'm sure you know it already. But you're too scared to get off the treadmill because there are guys in fancy suits who tell you the only way to make that money is to work that treadmill hard.

And you believe them. After all, they are working that treadmill hard, too, right? Crossing the street on a red light is safe if you have lots of company?

Those guys in the fancy suits, those are the guys who want to make money telling you how to make money by working too hard.

Think about that for a minute. They make their money by convincing you to -- voluntarily, no less -- keep on that treadmill.

What is money?

Money is at best a proxy for value. At best.

But it's a rough proxy. And it's a captive proxy in our current economy, requiring you to go to the masters of converting value into money -- those guys in the fancy suits -- for the conversion.

What is the most valuable thing when there's no food?

Food.

What about when there's no housing or food?

Food.

What about when there are no clothes or food?

Well, that's a tough one, but, when it comes right down to it, food.

What about when there are no books or food?

Food. (Yeah, even 'though I'm an author. Maybe because I am a technically unpublished author.)

Medicine? Yeah, but if the medicine cures you or fails to cure you, if there's nothing to eat after you take the medicine, it's the same end: Food.

And so on.

A house is valuable, and so is food. But their value is different. Books are valuable, too. But the value is different. Medicine, clothes, everything that has value has value in its own dimension. 

Prices are the ratio of value to money for different kinds of value. This is similar to the projection onto a single axis of vectors in a plane or a space. Money is one-dimensional. Value is multidimensional. Let's take a look at something easy, like nutrition:


Here it's quite clear that value has more than one dimension.

This is true in other dimensions than nutrition, as well -- health, education, rest and relaxation, etc., each of those categories with subcategories, each of those dimensions with sub-dimensions.

There is not much that is more valuable than food, but, in our society, food prices are one thing that inflation cannot be allowed to touch. Why?

Pretty simple.

People who produce food tend to not mind sharing.

Sharing food undermines the power of those guys in the fancy suits to control prices.

Why do we allow them to control prices?

Well, there's a lot of history, sociology, religion, and other stuff mixed in the reasons we allow them to control prices. Even though, in most modern, ostensibly free countries they are not the government themselves, they have entangled themselves in the government in ways such that it is rather destructive to simply boot them out.

They are the marketers. Their job, their value to society, is to guide products to markets. (Even if the market is the market of political discourse. Especially if the market is the market of political discourse.)

Without them, we would mostly be satisfied to have enough product for our own needs, today. With them, we can see that other people need what we make, so we make more than we ourselves need.

When they do their job well, they help us be sure there is mostly enough to go around, even in emergencies.

When they start syphoning off some of that value to make their suits fancier, there isn't enough to go around, and the segments of the population that have needs grow.

And the larger those needy segments grow, the more destructive the inevitable disasters and emergencies become, because the needy segments are the least able to prepare, protect, or defend themselves.

Unfortunately, some of those fancy suits have convinced themselves that it is the fanciness of their suits that motivates us. So they think they have to syphon off more money to make fancier suits. And that seems to become their excuse to think they have to control what we are doing. The marketers become marketeers and power-mongers.

(Skipping a lot of stuff about scarcity economics here because I know it sounds to some people like conspiracy theory.)

Otherwise, as they seem to think, society will fall apart.

One thing I have learned from the Libre Software movement, there is nothing further from the truth.

Open Source is not true Free-as-in-Freedom, but it is close.

In both Open Source and Libre technologies, the origin of innovation is a personal itch.

Somebody needed something for themselves.

In the metaphor, they had an itch and they scratched it. In scratching their itch, they found something of value they could share. They perceived value in sharing, so they worked out how to make that something-of-value available to others.

The scratching was not work, but the next step was. But no money was involved.

In other words, they work to make their creations available without requiring others to scratch and work so much.

Then others find that if they scratch a little, invest a little of their own work, the something-of-value can be improved. And value comes back to the original creator who shared.

No money is involved until the something-of-value becomes productized. Turning it into a product that the general public can use requires a lot of mundane work of the sort we call grunt-work. Why? Somebody has to advertise. Somebody has to handle feedback from people who don't want to know how to get their hands under the covers, or don't have time to do so. Etc.

And this is where the people in the fancy suits got brought into the loop.

I'm not sure it's a bad thing, in and of itself, to have marketing involved.

But I want to note something here. If we each could-and-would take the time to understand how to use the things we share with each other, we wouldn't need people who are paid to do nothing but guide product to market. We could produce what we need locally and be done with it, except for extreme cases.

And I think we would be happier, because there is satisfaction in making things that work.

If we did this, what would the marketers do for work? Well, on the one hand, I think they could find something other than marketing to do.

On the other, what they do is not wrong, just done too much and in the wrong way right now. What they facilitate is communication, and communication is necessary.

No, we aren't going to get beyond the need to move some products from the place they are produced to the place they are needed. Or, when we do, we will have solved the hardest social problems already, and, yes, there will be other work that the marketers can do.

For now, what we need to know is that every minute we spend on the treadmill is a minute we could have spent scratching other itches that matter and thereby contributing to society in ways that are presently going wanting.

And every minute we spend on the treadmill is another minute making us more vulnerable to things like the virus.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

オーバーシュート (Ōbāshūto)? Not Overshoot (COVID-19)

I'm generally not too fanatical about insisting that people use the exact same language as I do. But ordering people to "HEAR WHAT I MEAN!" can be confusing, and sometimes fatal.

Witness "overshoot" and COVID-19.

(This is a meta-linguistic drift in semantics, actually.)

I've been hearing the term "overshoot" on my wife's talk radio programs here in Japan quite a lot recently in the discussion of our collective response to COVID-19. Well, not exactly "overshoot", but 「オーバーシュート」(ōbāshūto).

I had initially assumed that Japanese media had picked up the term from misuse in the west, but I didn't have time to check it out until today. I'm not finding western sources, so it may be one of those completely Japanese-origin wasei eigo terms. (Or the persons responsible for the mis-coinage may be ducking for cover.)

The context is the so-called ōbāshūto occurring in countries such as Italy, where inappropriate social response has failed to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Here's what overshoot is:


In other words, if there is overshoot, there was a response which had a target, and the target has been missed in excess.

Undershoot would be missing the target in the opposite direction. Let's look at another example:

Graphic by Joel Rees and Wikimedia Commons user Krishnavedala.
Sine Integral function definition courtesy of Krishnavedala.
Reuse permitted under Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike 3.0 license.
See https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sine_integral.svg.

This is a curve often seen in electronics, where a sudden energy surge pushes the potential too high, and reactance (capacitance and inductance) in the circuitry causes decaying "ringing" oscillations above and below the target.

In terms of a virus outbreak, overshoot and undershoot would be about our response.

An example of excessive response -- overshoot -- might be use of medicine that is too strong, resulting in people dying or suffering unnecessarily.

And example of undershoot might be the failure to use enough medicine, again resulting in unnecessary death and suffering.

Undershoot in government response would be what many people are accusing Trump of doing. I'm not there, I don't know what all he has said when. All I get is second-hand news. But a lot of my friends and relatives accuse him of saying, "Don't get excited, don't go to the doc, just keep working and washing your hands, this will all be over in a few weeks."

Extreme overshoot in government response would be ordering an entire country into house-arrest, so that no one can legally go to work and produce essentials.

If I correctly understand the opinions I have been hearing on ABC (AM 1008 KHz) and MBS (AM 1179 KHz) stations, ōbāshūto is understood to be about the contagion, about the spread of the virus beyond our ability to control it, rather than about appropriateness of our response.

(I may be misunderstanding. My Japanese is not perfect, yet.)


And we can talk about wa-sei Eigo and about how the meanings of words change when they are adopted into other languages, but this one is going to cause confusion, even in Japanese. Ōbāshūto is clearly derived from overshoot, and the media here is talking about it as if the government therefore needs to clamp down even further.

Has overshoot occurred in Italy?

It may have. If so, it would be something like this:
  1. Government understands that the virus is extremely contagious. So they order complete shutdown of all non-essential services and 24-hour curfew.
  2. Italian people can't figure out how to stay alive if they can't leave the house at al.
  3. Italian people consider cousins family, so they go over to the cousins' house for staples and information, and a drink.
  4. Italian families are big, so this actually increases exposure over normal daily activities.
  5. Virus spreads even faster.
If overshoot has occurred in any place, the appropriate government response is not to tighten controls recklessly. Somebody has to provide essential services, and those somebodies are just as capable of being infected as those who don't provide essential services.

The cure for overshoot is to remove the inappropriate responses.

Unfortunately, trying to decide what is appropriate response and what isn't requires us to make stronger effort to develop some agreement about what essential services are and who should perform them. This is one of the essential arguments between liberals and conservatives.

Unfortunately, the government defining these things top down is the tried-and-true way of the bad-old-days in the Soviet Union, China of a previous era, current North Korea, Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and so forth. It is precisely the approach that will produce overshoot, and if there is no correction, then there is no ringing response.

With top-down control and no feedback, overshoot just goes out of control:


Ultimately, non-governmental people, ordinary, everyday people will start figuring out what their own responses should be and that's when the overshoot and undershoot die down and the virus gets contained.

If I can offer a final thought, big industry and big society significantly increase the exposure of individuals, because essential services are provided by a small cadre of usually underpaid individuals who have to move long distances every day.

Those individuals have a very high exposure profile because of the number of people they have to serve.

Then they return home and expose the people back home.

Big cities were where plagues have traditionally been incubated, predominantly in the slums.

I'm not going to connect the dots beyond this, because I believe that people who connect the dots themselves will be more likely to act.

(I did write up a little English conversation example on the subject in my Random Eikaiwa blog, though.)

Food for thought: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Andromeda_Strain

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Beauty Is Personal.

Tweeted this response to a tweet today:
Still, thirty-some-odd years later, hard to understand why people who would choose to go to BYU would choose to buy into the looks competition.

I'm not just talking about the women who get too caught up in making themselves look unnaturally Aryan or Greek or oriental or whatever, I'm talking about the men who seem to think commercial ideals are better standards of beauty than what their own hearts tell them.

Perceived aesthetics is originally and ultimately completely personal. Letting other people tell you what's beautiful is a sure way to be unhappy.

(Whatever your gender.)
Yeah, I'm taking tweets too seriously, but I wish every Christian understood this:

No aesthetic other than perceived aesthetic is real.

Absolutes of aesthetic are all illusion.

No matter how trite it seems, no matter how much you think you have to doubt words of solace, Beauty is in your heart.

You are already beautiful to the people who matter to you.

No other standard of beauty counts in any real sense.

Monday, February 24, 2020

What Is Sexuality?

I ranted yesterday on physical gender and drew the conclusion that government institutions which insist on recording gender should only record declared gender, and record it as
  • Female,
  • Male,
  • Intersex, or
  • Undeclared.
I am now going to be even more foolish and try to tackle sexuality.

Several years ago, a friend (I hope she still counts me as a friend.) told me she was gay.

At the time, she identified as male.

I told him (as I supposed at the time) that he wasn't gay. I said it a bit too emphatically.

Transitioning gender is a life-changing decision, at least in the present world, for at least three reasons.

One, it can not presently be fully completed. You can't go from being physically able to induce conception (male) to being physically able to conceive (female). Transitioning is only relative to the sex act, not to having children. Sure, you can still adopt or take foster children, and those can be good things to do, too, but, for the foreseeable future, you do pretty much end your opportunities to add to the genetic pool of the human race.

Two, it can not presently be undone. Once you've transitioned, you can't go back. Even vasectomies and tubal ligations have a better chance of being reversed, if you do the full transition.

The third reason, I'll have to hold off on explaining until I've laid some groundwork.

I do not intend to attack her for her decision. She evaluated her options, consulted with people she trusted, and approached the operations carefully. My inconsiderate exclamation was not her only reason, and I understand it was not even close to her primary reason. She did a lot of research. She chose what she considered was her best option, and, as a friend, I have to respect that.

I do intend to attack the social institutions that seem to me to have pushed her to first think she was gay, then to consider transitioning. But not here. Not today. At least, not directly. 

Transitioning may have been the right thing for her. I can't judge that, it's not mine to judge.

But there is too much social dialog in the current milieu that treats transitioning too casually, and there is too much that treats sexuality as a cure for ills that have other causes and better cures.

Considering the topic, I hope you will pardon me for exposing you to frank and explicit monologue below.

***** somewhat explicit content *****

When I was a kid, back before elementary school, a neighbor family introduced me to sex. I won't go into the details, but coercion, deception, and seduction were all involved. This applied against a kid of four. I did not learn sexual promiscuity from the experience, but I did learn solitary masturbation. It should not be necessary to learn that when you're only four.

Shame? Yeah. I felt that, too.

I also learned not to trust my friends too far.

When I was in elementary school, there were guys in the locker room who compared the size of theirs with the size of others', and teased the boys with apparently small endowments, then teased them more if the teasing caused (as is often the case) their endowment to suddenly become bigger.

***** end of somewhat explicit content *****

If it excited you, you must be gay or queer.

It was never stated explicitly in the locker room (or anywhere where teachers would hear about it), but, if you admitted you were excited, they came after you after school for various favors related to the ad-hoc power structures they were trying to establish among the students, and sexual favors (male-male rape) were involved.

These guys who engaged in the teasing, who were telling kids they were gay and/or queer were alpha males.

The teasing was predatory. It was their intent to groom less-alpha males to their service, both sexually and otherwise.

They were the ones who would publicly disparage, insult, and bully people for being gay or queer, but their hidden behavior was pretty much exactly what they disparaged, insulted, and bullied people about (and into).

When I was in high school, there sure seemed to be a lot of people who acted surprised to find out it was often the alpha males who were most gay. Well, we would say bi, now, I think.

Not all alpha males are predatory, nor are they all bisexually promiscuous. But a lot of them are.

I had already learned other meanings for the words "gay" and "queer".

"Gay" was ostentatious, liberal, flamboyant, creative, enjoying physical pleasures and the things of this world. But it didn't have to have a sexual implication.

"Queer" was strange, edgy, non-conformist, interested in things that many people found unpleasant. But, again, it did not have to have a sexual implication.

I still resent that those meanings are not available in the current vernacular. I guess that makes me an aged snowflake.

I had very strong reasons for rejecting the sexuality philosophy that recognizes some people as sexually homosexually inclined. The whole concept of another sexuality was promoted by the very people who disparaged it, and their purpose was not to find homosexual love, it was to establish bisexual power structures.

I still have those reasons, but they are moderated by my desire to recognize other people's attempts to understand themselves and the world around them.

My studies of cosmology, metaphysics, origins, ethics, and morality (ergo, religion) open me to an idea that many people today seem to find bizarre.

Sexual fidelity is a good ideal, a good goal, a good principle. It does not tend to evil.

Why?

Sexual interaction has always exposed the participants to more microfauna and microflora than refraining from sexual interaction. Many of these germs, bacteria, molds, etc., tend to be harmful to the health of those who have not developed immunity to them. Developing immunity to them can damage the health, as well.

I say, participants, but I mean to include unwilling participants.

I'm refraining from using the word "dirty" because it has unfortunately been traditionally generally associated with shame (hypocritical shaming, yet). Especially when used in the context of sex, it has been associated with damning shame. Sex is not necessarily dirty in that sense.

(Rape is dirty in this sense of shame and damnation, but it is the rapist, not the victim, who is ultimately defiled and damned by the act, regardless of how confused society tends to be when interpreting physical effects and results. The inversion of culpability in cases of rape is one of the major sins of society, throughout history.)

This is no small part of what being intimate means, exposing the other person to those things which, out of courtesy and caution, we usually protect external society from, and protect from external society.

The pill? It may protect a woman from pregnancy at better than 90% rates, but, at the same time, it can both subtly and drastically alter her hormonal balances in detrimental ways. And the pill is no protection from diseases. (The pharmaceuticals companies don't want people to know this, but the effects are not uncommon.)

Condoms? Condoms and other physical barriers aren't 100%. Pinprick holes from manufacturing and sexual exertion, slippage, failure in the heat of the moment to remember to use them, etc. No, they are not 100% prophylaxis. There is no such thing as 100% prophylaxis.

The larger the group of people you are sexually active with, the greater your chance of catching some very dangerous, debilitating, and damaging disease. HIV is not the only sexually transmitted disease, nor is it the only one for which the cures can also cause permanent disability.

Even disregarding unwanted pregnancies, sexual activity is dangerous.

No matter how good sex can feel, it is dangerous, and having multiple sexual partners is much more dangerous.

I'm going to go a little further and point out that sexual activity is emotional and psychologically intimate, as well. The act of mutual stimulation exposes many things about your non-biological self to your partners -- things that you protect general society from, things you protect from general society, and for good reason.

Some seek a sex partner with whom they mutually refuse to share names, but there really is no such thing as anonymous sex.

And there is no such thing as safe sex.

This is not the government's fault, although the government can exacerbate the problems.

It is not society's fault, either, although society can also exacerbate the problems.

Likewise the church or any other human institution. The institution can exacerbate the problems, but the institutions are not the fundamental cause.

If you have to blame someone for the problems, blame God, if you dare.

No, do go to God and complain, if you believe in God. Or if you don't believe in God, go some place you can face nature alone and raise your voice to the wind, for a bit.

Then sit down there where you complained, and contemplate the alternatives. Some things about reality do not bend themselves to human convenience.

Even though promises can be broken, promises (covenants) of fidelity are much more protection from sexually transmitted diseases than lack of promise. Statistically, it turns out that those seemingly flimsy promises are better protection than condoms and medical treatments. And refraining until you can find a partner you can trust yourself with is also effective protection.

Even talking about sex can be stimulating, and may involve unnecessary emotional intimacy. (Yeah, there is a bit of irony in me blogging about it. I recognize that.)

What about sex feels so good?

One of the things that scientists have found is that sexual activity can induce the release of natural drug-like chemicals such as endorphins in the nervous and endocrine systems. These are natural substances that act a lot like certain drugs. Being natural, they tend to be safer even than the drugs you can buy over the counter.

But they can also be addictive.

Endorphins are also produced as a result of running, and you've heard about people who run themselves to death, right?

Not really?

Well, okay, how about people who get so into running that they overdo and do harm to themselves?

Still not so much?

Heh. Running can be hard enough to discourage overdoing.

We can find ways to make sexual activity too easy, though, and, yes, that leads to compulsive behaviors, including obsessive-compulsive disabilities.

However, there are plenty of other ways to get those endorphins and other natural substances that make us physically and emotionally feel good -- if we will go looking for them.

Many of them, like dance, running, and other exercise, and volunteering at the homeless shelter, are quite socially acceptable.

***** somewhat explicit content *****

What about sexual activity with only oneself as a way to refrain from promiscuous sex? Masturbation has a number of problems, too, especially if you let yourself get carried away, or end up developing compulsive behaviors. Sex toys, especially, tend to accumulate dirt, germs, bacteria, molds, etc.

Sexual self-control is a topic for another rant, but I'll note that, if the choice is between masturbation and promiscuous sex, masturbation is much less likely to cause either yourself or others hurt or damage, no matter what the alphas say.

I won't be more specific here for the same reasons I am not specific about what people do when having sex with each other.

***** end of somewhat explicit content *****

What about pornography as a way to refrain? Maybe it is biologically and physiologically safer (as long as it doesn't lead to playing with sex toys), but I don't believe it is psychologically safer.

if you believe in the Bible, consider Matthew 5: 27-28. No, even if you don't believe the Bible, consider these verses:
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
When you use pornography to stimulate yourself, you are essentially having psychological sex with the entire company of people who produce the pornography, from the people who let their pictures be taken to the photographers, to the artists who air-brush all the images to erase all the (intimate, but) non-ideal details and morph the images into something that will excite as wide a range of audience as possible, to ....

Anyway, empirical evidence indicates that pornography is much more addictive, and tends much more to OCD behaviors than even simple masturbation.

Also, it tends to pervert your expectations about intimacy.

The non-ideal about a person is precisely the part that is most intimate, and the intimacy is no small part of what makes sex feel good.

What are other good non-sexual ways to achieve intimacy (that I didn't mention above)?

Watching football or other sports on TV with your buddies (depending on how long they can go without talking about sex, perhaps).

Playing card games or board games or on-line games.

For some people, studying arcane mathematics and similar kinds of activities can get those endorphins going. Writing a novel can, also.

Participating at church and in other service organizations, if not done as some sort of social competition, is also a good way to get those natural euphoriants working in our systems.

And there are many other ways to be more intimate than riding the train with other people but less intimate than having sex. There are many kinds of intimacy that don't involve sex or imply sex at all.

Okay, various individuals react differently to different things. A chaste hug, for instance, might be completely asexual to one person, but be sexually stimulating to another. We are individuals. Or, for the same person, it might once be completely free of sexual implication, yet, at another time, feel sexual. And the difference might be a difference in the attitude of the giver of the hug or the receiver. In fact, the giver and the receiver may well not feel the same way about the hug.

Appropriate intimacy in a supportive setting is part of what makes sex feel good, and we don't have to take our clothes off, talk about sex, or do anything related to sex to share some level of intimacy.

Okay, I've spent quite a few words selling the idea that sexuality is not the only way to find happiness and fulfillment. Haven't done nearly as good a sales job as I wanted, but it's the best I can do for now.

Thus, I can approach the third reason I said I above that I would postpone.

I do not consider LBGQT issues to be physiological issues. [JMR202003072214: That is to say, I consider intersex issues to be separable issues.]

I do recognize that they can be socio-psychological issues and emotional issues. Where I once was emphatic that the gay movement was much ado about nothing, I will admit that the "nothing" can be pretty substantial, because of cultural biases we have inherited from Freud, Machiavelli, and much farther back, including the philosophies and religions of every part of the world.

What kind of cultural biases am I referring to? Consider Janis Ian's "At Seventeen":

...
That love was meant for beauty queens
...
A lot of people are deceived by this message promoted by various sectors of our society. (Beauty products? Politics? "Women's" magazines? "Romance" literature? ...) When Ms. Ian penned those lines, she knew better, but the lyrics acknowledge the length of time she labored under that misconception, and the troubles it caused her.

And elsewhere in the lyrics of that song is another of those cultural lies:
...
At ugly girls like me
...
There are no ugly girls. Nor boys. Only people who have been brow-beaten by predatory alphas into believing that they are ugly, and therefore not worthy of real love.

That's a lot of momentum, even if I am right that it is far more cultural than physiological or biological.

And I acknowledge that there are physiological ambiguities, such that we really should not, as a society, but making such a big deal about the whole thing. As long as a person is not forcing him-, her-, or (missing-intersex-pronoun)-self on others sexually, the gender a person assumes or presents in private or public should not be a matter of contention.

But I am convinced that it is mostly cultural.

We have currently, as a society, way over-sold the Disney ideals of romance, so much so that even minor variance from norms becomes a social impediment. That, of course, results in a backlash to invent new social norms.

I have personally observed a number of times, people convincing themselves that they must be homosexual, or there that there must have been a biological mistake when they were born, when the root of the problem seemed to me to be in what they were letting society define for them as legitimate intimacy, legitimate love.

*****

For those of the cultural group that has often been referred to as Mormon, I want to put it this way:

You were born with a set of talents. These include strengths, weaknesses, and attributes that may be better left uncategorized. These are gifts from God, even the ones that sometimes may make you question whether you chose right in choosing to be born.

Your gender is one of those (sets of) attributes. It may not be ideal. No, it is almost guaranteed to vary from the ideal, to some degree. Some men have, for instance, a low count of viable sperm. Some women's hormone system gets in the way of conceiving children, or even makes pregnancy an extremely dangerous activity. There are variations that our human culture defines as more extreme. It is still a gift from God, no matter how far from human ideal it varies.

None of your talents or attributes are reason for you to accept shaming from others.

What you do with them may be reason for you to repent -- no, we all make mistakes in our use of talents. Therefore, shaming each other is evil, even if the target of our shaming needs to repent.

If you have been shaming someone, back off and let that person talk with God in peace, to figure out what that person needs to do. It's not your business.

If you are letting someone shame you, turn your back on that person, as long as is necessary for you to be able to get enough privacy to talk with God.

God loves you. He/She/They want you to learn to use your talents/attributes for good -- in ways that will make you and others happy.

It may take some struggling. In my experience, it required me to adjust my understanding of what God wanted of me -- to begin to reject the extreme interpretations of doctrine that once made living as a human almost impossible for me. That was a huge struggle for me, figuring out that the line is only ever approximate, in the view of mortal humans.

We misjudge things far too often.

Treat your talents with gratitude and respect.

In the same way that I would not suggest that someone who was born blind should automatically reject surgery that could safely correct the blindness, I would not suggest that someone who was born with some gender condition that makes it hard for them to function in some necessary way should automatically reject surgery that could safely correct the condition. Nor is it my place to say that such a person should automatically accept such surgical help.

Such questions are between a person and God, and possibly close family and sometimes people outside the family that the person feels can be trusted.

*****

For people of every cultural background, you are a bundle of talents and attributes that you have received from whatever you consider created this universe and this world we live in. Things that many people call weaknesses, if applied in appropriate places and ways, often turn into strengths. 

Don't automatically assume that something about yourself that gets you ridiculed and shamed is really bad. And never ridicule others or shame them for things that make them different from yourself.

All these differences can work together to make the world a more beautiful, more varied, more functional place.

There are hard attributes and talents to deal with. Sometimes they are too hard, and the best thing is to try to find some way to correct them. Sometimes they seem too hard, but, by accepting them, we find a way to help others and to improve the world.

Usually, we kind of struggle our way through them as best we can, and eventually find something more important to move on to, whether we were able to take corrective action or not.

For those that are convinced that homosexuality is not a thing, and for those that are convinced it is, at least consider that others may have found a different way to deal with the same sort of issues as you, and let them be.

As the old saying goes, let's get back to living and letting live.