Freedom as Physics

Nobody asked but …

I must share this quote with you:

Freedom is the capacity to pause in the face of stimuli from many directions at once and, in this pause, to throw one’s weight toward this response rather than that one.
— Rollo May

This has a physical truth to it.  Even if only one task can be done at a time, the collision of possible tasks can be overwhelming.  To the extent that one is overwhelmed, the more it may seem that events are conspiring to remove one’s choices.  Dr. May’s observation, however, gives one hope that the crush can be separated into pieces to which one can respond.  Stimuli are opportunities for response.  Every stimulus is different — of each itself and of the combination of stimuli with which it impinges.  Freedom is the optimization of prioritizing the stimuli to which one will respond.  In a perfect world, the stimuli would space themselves so that one could respond rationally and interactively to each in isolation in the best way.  But the world as we get it is clamorous and random.  Our freedom depends on optimum response.  “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” — Leonard H. Courtney

— Kilgore Forelle

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Back from The Canyon

I doubt anyone noticed my absence, but I was away from “civilization” for a few days.

Upon my return Monday evening, I was disheartened to see that there’s still no civilization back here in “civilization.”

The archators are still arguing over ways to violate you and me. Not that I really expected anything different.

While I was off wandering, I did see a “state police” pickup cruising around when I came in for meals. The occupant losers staring intensely at everyone they passed, hoping to break their boredom by seeing some excuse to molest someone. But otherwise I was pretty much able to forget that such bad guys exist. I didn’t waste my time thinking about archators, with the exception of overhearing someone make a dumb comment, that I got off my mind by making a short video.

Instead I did useful things. I mindlessly wandered wherever the whim took me. I looked at animal tracks and watched some tracks being made. I nibbled weeds. I took my daughter along to show her some of the things I found. I talked to a lizard sunning on a rock, and I petted a big centipede. Just normal things.

I also worked at teaching a young boy the art of making fire without matches- with his mother’s informed consent. I told her I am not responsible if he burns down the house. His patience level is probably going to have to increase before he’s too much of a danger in that regard, but you never know.

Anyway, it was a nice, badly needed break. But I’m back and ready to write.

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Reliable Sources

Nobody asked but …

Where do you go to get reliable accounts of news, weather, and sports?  I recently surveyed my students in 4 computer literacy classes regarding this information.  On reviewing the results, I stressed to them that a “good” source was no better than its reliability, and furthermore its alignment with the goals of the seeker.  Sources should be tested against reality on a regular basis to determine if they are reliable for the uses to which they are put.  My students seemed to prefer local TV channels for a reliable mix of local, state, national, and international news — they also felt that most local stations did not have a hidden agenda.  I told them a good place to begin elimination was with any sort of cable news.  As far as weather is concerned, the pick was the Weather Channel’s web page, but I didn’t get much argument when I suggested that weather was a hit and miss proposition.  Recent hurricanes were examples — mainstream weather reporters underestimated Harvey and overhyped Irma.  I also saw reports that perhaps the criteria for adjudging storm severity were off kilter.  Most of the determinants on hurricanes are related to overwater characteristics, but not much overland metrics apart from storm surge.  Lastly, there was nearly unanimous selection of ESPN.com for sports.  People liked the breadth and depth.  I can even learn of rugby results at ESPN!

— Kilgore Forelle

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Words Poorly Used #105 — Insurance

A substantial part of my jagged career was spent in the vineyards of the property and casualty insurance business.  I learned that, in its principled form, true insurance was only possible where every unit was equally exposed to a loss.  The textbooks told me that flooding was not an insurable peril because only the people who expected flood would buy it.  The private sector insurance industry, therefore, does not voluntarily underwrite flood insurance (they do, by the way, cover non-flood water damage — anybody’s pipes can burst).  The politicians, for the sake of euphemism, call flood reimbursement “insurance.”  It is actually subsidy of reckonless risktaking.

— Kilgore Forelle

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Absurd Reactions to Disasters

Imagine that, following the earth being hit by a giant asteroid, the government mandated that every person must wear a helmet and carry a shield whenever they were outside of a building as a means of protecting themselves against the threat of future asteroid strikes.

This absurd reaction would cause incredible inconvenience and expense and would require a massive enforcement effort, yet it would still be more logical than the government response to 9/11.

It would be far less costly and less deadly than the trillions of dollars and millions of lives sacrificed to the great farce that is the “global war on terror.” It would be less intrusive than the wiretapping of the entire world. It would also have a greater chance of actually protecting people from the impact of an asteroid than does the TSA of protecting anyone from a “terrorist.”

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